Swans - in context of last year's allegation (trigger warning)

Not quite sure where I’m going with this btw, but let’s see. There’s been a lot of Swans chat over in the artists it took you a long time to GET thread. I’ve found them impossible to listen to since the allegation of rape made by Larkin Grimm against Michael Gira.

At this point it looks unlikely that there will ever be any resolution on the truth of the matter. Clearly, this is nothing to do with me - the real impact, whatever actually happened, is on the lives of the people involved and those around them. I don’t want to debate the he-said/she-said of the situation. I guess I want to explore my feelings on how this does/should impact how I engage with Swans as art.

For the record, I adore the music Swans have created. Their entire discography is astonishing and they would be serious contenders for my top 10 bands of all time. So why can’t I listen to them right now? I think it’s partly because doing so is to tacitly brush under the rug the knowledge that so many rapes go unreported or/because the allegations can’t be substantiated. Because that’s what’s happening here, although Larkin Grimm is not pressing any charges in any case. Of course, this flies in the face of innocent-until-proven-guilty (but, of course, there are major issues with the way defendants are viewed and treated for this type of crime).

Then there’s the time element. What about all the Swans records from before the time of the incident? For argument’s sake, let’s assume the allegation is true. Should albums which were made 10, 20 years earlier be tarnished or off-limits? I’ve already bought them - it’s not like I’m throwing royalties towards (for argument’s sake) a criminal. Can I listen to the first portion of their career without feeling, for lack of a better word, guilty? And how does the allegation recontextualise that work? Can I listen to ‘Raping a Slave’ in the same way?

I’m rambling a bit now. I’d be interested to get others’ takes on this. I hope I’m treating the topic with due sensitivity - do call me out if I’m not.

Yeah same, i found his response to it really poor and now it seems to have been just brushed aside by most. Before it came out id already started getting bored by the new music so just dont really have much reason to listen to them anymore.


I have the same problem with a few artists, one of which is Azealia Banks. I really like her album and the first EP but she is a really terrible person and has said some horribly homophobic and racist things, sometimes just to get attention. I tried to ignore a lot of it but when she started racially abusing Zayn One Direction it was the last straw. I can’t really separate the music from the person with her. A lot of her songs use Lone’s and Machinedrum’s music anyway so I’ve ended up just listening to them instead.

I guess with older artists it can be a bit different for the same reasons that we look past some of the dodgier aspects of older TV shows and films.

Interesting question, I guess the short answer is I listened to The Glowing Man a couple of times, whereas I totally immersed myself in everything post comeback so I guess it has tainted my interest in his work.

Sidenote: Machinedrum’s solo work is amazing

I guess part of what I’m struggling with in the Swans case is the uncertainty. I can look at objective truths about what Azealia Banks has said and conclude without doubt that I don’t want to engage with her art. I can’t do that in this case.

A more recent response is here about 2/3 through the interview:

Yeah without knowing the exact details of what happened I’ve found myself not listening to swans since the allegations came out, after listening to them quite often before. There are loads of other good bands so it’s not a big issue for me

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Yeah, I recall you posting similarly to me on a few occasions. Has it tainted all their work for you or would you feel differently about listening to, say, Soundtracks for the Blind?

I stopped listening to them for the same reason. Even if it turns out he’s innocent, I find it hard to enjoy the music while there’s a strong potential for the accusations to be true. I guess it’s my inherent snowflake-ness, but there’s plenty of music I’ve stopped listening to because the artists were complete cunts.

At least I was never a Lostprophets fan, I guess.


Don’t really think you have to feel guilty listening to it. Ultimately, if you can separate the art from the person then I think that’s probably fine. If you can’t and it genuinely makes you uncomfortable then just don’t listen.

I can’t watch Woody Allen films because he makes it impossible to forget that he made them but I’m sure there must be examples where I’ll overlook things

shrugs It’s up to the individual really, I’ve reasoned that so many actors/filmmakers/musicians I like are complete dickheads so I’m going to hell anyway, so I’ll carry on listening to/watching their stuff. But everyone will have their own take on it.

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I’ve been a fan since around 2000 or so, so it’s fairly hard to give up on a band I’ve liked for so long. I wasn’t that keen on Gira’s response, but I’m not sure there was really any thing he could do to disprove allegations.

that said, while I acknowledge that rape statistics indicate that the likelihood that the assault happened is extremely likely, and Gira did at least admit something happened, I guess I also had a hard time believing Larkin when every single person she cited as a character witness all replied with “no, she’s crazy.”

you must see how dangerous that is though? they both acknowledge that it happened - he said it was consensual, and she says it wasn’t.


But if we all took more of a stand against those individuals…

But should we be striving to separate the art from the person? I mean, Gira’s a special case (a bit like Woody Allen) - he’s been the driving force behind a fairly unique (as far as these things can be) take on his art-form - it feels inseparable from him as a person, particularly given the subject matter he has covered.

well, it wasn’t so much “No, she’s crazy sex didn’t happen” as much as “no, she’s crazy, she’s thrown these accusations around pretty freely and has a vengeful streak.”

I admit this may be bias confirmation as nothing is being proving/disproving anything either way, but it’s hard to take someone serious when no one will vouch for them and they’re all basically saying the same thing.

Woody Allen is a good example. I really can’t go near any of his stuff now.


Like I say, I’m going to hell anyway. Especially since I still watch NFL.

Aye. I thought about that when I was writing in that other thread. Like, did hearing about those allegations put me off listening to the band? I remember being disgusted at the time of course. I felt very strange that folks I knew didn’t seem to feel any regret towards seeing Gira’s solo shows despite being disgusted also. I guess, I want to see Swans at the Trinity Centre. But I don’t want to see Swans at the Trinity Centre if the band includes someone who raped someone. And I’ll just debate that issue in my head until the gig has passed. And probably not bother getting a ticket.

This, really. Your reaction - the feeling that the art is tainted - isn’t necessarily something you can control and only comes about because whatever the unpleasant/unacceptable thing is about the artist has come to light in some way.

You’re probably still blissfully consuming art by loads of people who are really shady and/or have done some totally unacceptable shit that you’ve just never heard about.

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