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Michael Gira Issues PIAS Statement
The Quietus , August 11th, 2011 11:11

Swans man clarifies position

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Yesterday, Twitter got quite het up after many people (including ourselves) misunderstood a statement that Michael Gira from Swans had made about the PIAS fire. Gira has got in touch with The Quietus to issue the following communique:

"It has come to my attention that, in a stunning display of literal-mindedness, a comment I made on my Facebook page has been completely misinterpreted and blown out of proportion. Now, I certainly don't mind causing offense, and in fact i'm tempted to do so again, but in this case I'll refrain and simply clarify my ironically intended original statement. The original statement was a response to a posting at Tiny Mix Tapes, a blog/website that i often find amusing for various reasons, about the burning of the Pias warehouse. Here is a link to the story.

My response/posting on my facebook page read this way: "oh wait! i thought anarchy was good! anyway, music should be free, so what's the problem? " Looking at this statement again now, I'm still astounded it was taken literally, but ok, I'll explicate: This part of the statement "oh wait! i thought anarchy was good!" might have been better written "oh wait! i thought anarchy was supposed to be good!", meaning that lots of people talk about anarchy, and perhaps even feel that property is theft etc, and perhaps these same people also feel it's fine, even their right, to steal recorded music or other property (more on that later), but this kind of thinking has consequences.

In essence, to ruin the friction inherent in the original statement, I am saying that this is what anarchy really looks like (you armchair ninny), or at least the violent kind (perhaps there's a more bucholic, eden-like version of which I'm unaware), and so, I am saying: anarchy= bad (or at least this form of it). duh. And please, no (!!!!!!), because I now say (provisionally) anarchy=bad, please do not now completely misinterpret this statement and assume I am somehow right wing or fascist. ha ha! Sadly, I could see it happening... As to the apparently horrific second part of the statement "anyway, music should be free, so what's the problem?", this, I admit, is a shamefully cynical take on the real-life tragic event, the burning and complete destruction of the Pias warehouse, containing the much-vaunted "physical product" (a distinction that, for some reason, people seem careful to make) of the hallowed greats of the independent music world.

OF COURSE IT IS BAD AND STUPID AND SENSELESS THAT THE WAREHOUSE WAS BURNED. I'm sure a lot of people lost their jobs because of this (to be clear: Job loss=bad). I am also acutely aware that each item, each "physical product" is not just a piece of vinyl or other plastic material, valued nominally for the cost of the material itself and the cost of manufacture, but moreover is the product of numerous hours (often hundreds and hundreds) of labor - in the writing, rehearsing, recording of the music, in the paying of the recording engineers and the mastering engineers, in the paying of the studios one uses, in the rental of a rehearsal space etc etc etc (the costs go on and on) - and so this artifact, in the form a "physical product" or a digital entity, is typically grossly, and increasingly perversely, monetarily undervalued. On the other hand, vinyl is fetishized, CDs dismissed as trash, and digital copies of music now assumed to be everyone's right to have for free (ubiquity and easy access negates any moral implications of stealing, I suppose). So NO, I do not think "music should be free". In fact I feel decidedly the opposite about the issue. THE STATEMENT WAS INTENDED IRONICALLY.

Over the last few years I've been in countless arguments with various assholes around the globe who have espoused just that - "music should be free" - and have given up even talking about it or thinking about it. I've closed down my label except for releases of my own music, and am busy trying to figure out how to survive as a musician, when the vast majority of people now feel it's their right to steal the product of my (and my fellow musicians) labor and love. To employ a disgusting phrase: It's the "new paradigm". In truth, I view the burning of that warehouse as a sort of living metaphor for what those of us who have dedicated our lives to making music now face. I am not being cavalier about this terrible event in the least. But I have found it a bit hypocritical to see the same (usually anonymous) oracles at various music websites, who often entertain the view, subtly or explicitly, that it's OK to steal music, now weep sanctimoniously over the loss of these supposed indie treasures. It's been going on for years! ... Anyway, this is the last statement I'll make on this "issue". I'm going back to work.

- Michael Gira / Swans / Young God Records

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Aug 11, 2011 3:22pm

Well said that man.

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Aug 11, 2011 6:03pm

"Music is free you just pay someone for the convenience of writing, recording, packaging, and shipping it to you." - The residents.
That being said. I had to sell my entire record collection for food. I enjoy having music and art in my life, but I enjoy eating more. I live in a tent, I have an mp3 player. I love your music but I don't feel sorry for you. Its not stealing to listen to your music, because I will never have the money to purchase it. EVER. I am posting from the library my time is up. I have to go sell plasma.

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Ben G
Aug 11, 2011 7:33pm

All very well, apart from showing a deliberate ignorance of what anarchy (definition: "without government") and anarchism actually means. "This is what anarchy really looks like (you armchair ninny"). No, actually- this is what chaos and nihilism looks like. This is actually what capitalism in it's rawest state looks like- looting is the ultimate expression of the notion of every man for humself, get what you want by whatever means available. "Perhaps there's a more bucolic, eden-like version of which I'm unaware." Well, yes, there is- as shown by the communities across the country that spontaneously pulled together to clean up the mess and help each other through the morning after. That, Michael, is what anarchy really looks like.

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Aug 11, 2011 9:27pm

It was pretty obvious irony to anyone who is familiar with Swans/Gira - Quietus, Rough trade shops, Dorian Lynskey and others however missed it, and passed on their disdain via twitter, attaching epithets about Gira - calling him an idiot and a tool, thus casting doubt both on their musical knowledge and goodwill/decency and making me press unfollow buttons. These morons, spreading ignorance based tittle-tattle are just gossip mongers who should know better. Alex Petridis to his credit noticed the irony and stopped their flow... Rough Trade Shops could be so much better than it is.

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Aug 11, 2011 9:52pm

I find it hard to believe that by explaining how his quote was taken out of context, Gira further underlines the fact that he has no clue what he is talking about. Like many of his fellow Americans he actually seems to believe that 'anarchy' is all about "theft", burning property and blowing stuff up. Where does he get his definitions? Fox News? The Daily Mail? Exploited lyrics? "perhaps there's a more bucholic [sic], eden-like version of which I'm unaware". Which suggest that perhaps you should read some more books.

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Aug 11, 2011 9:53pm

In reply to Ben G:


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John Doran
Aug 11, 2011 11:11pm

In reply to stew:

Er, we asked if people thought he was being serious on twitter once, so no need to get your knickers in a twist. If I had have thought he was being serious we would have published a news story. I've been listening to the Swans since the 80s by the way. And yes, believe it or not, given that we've both interviewed Gira multiple times, we're well aware he runs a small independent label.

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John Doran
Aug 11, 2011 11:16pm

In reply to John Doran:

And also, no need to get so defensive on Gira's behalf, he's trolling people on a day when emotions are running high. He probably doesn't deserve as much high minded praise as is being heaped on him. It came across like an ill-thought out "quip" more than anything else. Still, if recent shows are anything to go by I can't wait for the live album and the new album - which according to their tour manager a week ago is 90% complete.

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Aug 12, 2011 3:03pm

In reply to John Doran:

He trolled people... on his own Facebook page?

Sorry, dunno why this one has wound me up so much, but seems like a case of everyone grasping the wrong end of the stick and then somehow deciding this was all Gira's fault.

I think he also probably has a fairly good understanding of 'anarchy' and the number of things that term can mean, although doesn't necessarily mean he'll want to walk through it for the benefit of an internet full of nincompoops.

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Aug 15, 2011 12:22pm

anyone who has ever bought a michael gira record at his label's rrp will know exactly how free he thinks music should be. hilarious quip. didn't misfire at all.

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Thief McGee
Aug 24, 2011 6:30am

Amen. (Firstly, well put. Sarcasm is often misunderstood.) On another note: Music thieves piss me off. Sadly, a lot of bloggers do this all the time. Sites like Some Kind of Awesome and Obscure Sound routinely steal music. For example: Some kind of Awesome actually posted Tom Waits' new song (and Pitchfork linked to it); and Obscure Sound will sometimes post five songs off an artist's record (trying to obscure the fact that it's stolen by making them all links to a soundcloud page run by ... guess who ... Obscure Sound.) People who steal are essentially spitting in the face of all these musicians' hard work. They don't like music. They're greedy bastards who only care about themselves. It's high time people call these folks out. And then there's the smaller bloggers who think their sites are something -- and they don't understand that places like Gorilla vs. Bear actually get e-mails and releases -- and they're not simply posting whatever they feel like.

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Taun Aengus
Feb 27, 2016 4:56pm

Michael, I stand shoulder to shoulder with you.

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