The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


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

Swans man clarifies position

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