Back in 1998, Michael Gira, in a unique method, announced the breakup of his cryptic alternative outfit Swans by issuing an anthology of its best live work under the clinical title “Swans Are Dead” — an epitaph if ever there was one. Then he split with his longtime bandmate-partner Jarboe, began signing artists like Lisa Germano, Wooden Wand and Devendra Banhart to his offbeat imprint Young God Records, and carried on for five albums with his next group, Angels of Light.
But only a year ago, Gira’s MySpace page bore an eerie message: “Swans are not dead.”
Voila! The rejuvenated Swans are back with “My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky,” Young God’s 43rd official release, and a tour that brings them to The City next week.
Gira, a New Yorker, has always been up for adventure. As a teenage runaway, he once hitchhiked across Europe. So his fans shouldn’t be surprised, he says, “that I just wanted to make this kind of music again, basically. I wanted to experience the rush of cataclysmic waves of sound again, so I re-formed Swans. And it’s my brand. It’s my life. So why not do it? And now I’m having the best time I’ve had in years, so it’s the best decision I ever made.”
Led by Gira’s always-spooky vocals, this Swans configuration combines new members and old alums. And “My Father” features strange cameos, like Banhart and Gira’s 3-year-old daughter on “You F------ People Make Me Sick.”
“I had Devendra sing the song, but as I was listening to it, I just thought that he needed a little company,” says dad. “And she was singing in the other room, like little girls do, and I thought, ‘Oh, what a charming, beautiful voice!’ So I had her sing on parts of it.” Again: Why not?
As his own boss, Gira, at 56, can do anything he wants.
To generate studio funds for “My Father,” he performed all of its songs on acoustic guitar, then released it in limited-edition form as “I Am Not Insane.” The basic CD sold for $20, a deluxe version, which included a book of his drawings, for $40. “And then you could also be an ‘executive producer,’ contribute what you wanted, and get your name in the credits,” he says. “And a lot of people went for that, over 140.”
What is Gira’s guiding philosophy? “Cynicism is death,” he says. “So despite the kind of music that I made and the kind of life I’ve had, I’ve never, ever been cynical.”
Where: The Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Contact: (800) 745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com