His name was Michael Gira and when he was fourteen he ran away from his father while they were on a business trip in Germany. He spent the next several years of his life panhandling his way across Europe, getting stoned, seeing Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd live, and eventually heading for Israel (where he would be kicked out). Somehow Gira wound up in Los Angeles where he entered the Otis Art Institute, but dropped out before collecting his degree and got involved with L.A. / NYC punk/no-wave scenes, participating in Hermann Nitsch aktions and eventually founding (in 1982) a band named the Swans.
It would probably be a gross understatement to say that the Swans had an influence on the New York underground of the Eighties — at least as big as Suicide had had a decade or so earlier. The comparison is rightfully earned. Gira admired Alan Vega enormously, and the sound the Swans developed drew inspiration from the same impulses: go to the edge of your experience and bring something back. They did, and the results have stood the test of time in ways that most popular music simply can’t. Read more