Swans' Michael Gira Cancels Aussie Tour Amid Rape Allegation

29 February 2016 | 6:00 pm | Staff Writer

The veteran musician has vehemently denied the accusations

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Veteran musician and Swans frontman Michael Gira has cancelled his impending Australian appearances amid growing attention over a rape allegation from singer-songwriter Larkin Grimm.

Gira had been scheduled to perform a series of shows next month at venues including the Melbourne Recital Centre, Brisbane's QAGOMA and Sydney's Carriageworks; however, the Recital Centre event page now says that Gira's gig on 8 March has been cancelled "due to circumstances beyond the Centre's control", while QAGOMA and Carriageworks' event pages are blank.

The cancellation is punctuated by the news of the allegations against Gira, which, as Pitchfork reports, date to 2008, when Grimm was recording her album Parplar for Gira's label, Young God. Grimm says that, when she confronted Gira about the alleged rape after the fact, she was summarily dropped from the label. Gira has consequently denied the allegations, dismissing the incident as "an awkward mistake".

The allegations only came to light at the weekend, in the wake of Grimm posting about a separate alleged incident involving Heroes Are Gang Leaders' Thomas Sayers Ellis. After facing accusations of "lynching" the muso from online commentators, Grimm elaborated with a harrowing Facebook post explaining her reasons for levelling allegations at Ellis and, consequently, Gira.

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"I will give you some history about why I am sharing the story about Thomas Sayers Ellis's abusive behavior now," Grimm began her explanation. "I didn't always stand up for myself. Rape is a loaded word.

"No man wants to be a rapist. It implies cowardice as well as violence. It undermines the sexual power and magnetism that every man would like to have. No woman wants to be known as a rape victim, either. I want to be known for my strength, intelligence, and talent. Not known as a victim.

"My story with Michael Gira is an absolute tragedy that I have kept secret for too long. I am only speaking of it now because after being accused of 'lynching' Thomas, I cannot ethically keep Michael's secret any longer. He's a white guy, and his crime was far worse than what Thomas did to me..."

Grimm goes on to recount how, after an alcohol-fuelled night out with Gira and his friends, she was invited to stay as a guest at the friends' house, an invitation she accepted in good faith.

"They said they had a bed for me and that Michael would sleep on the floor," she wrote. "I trusted them and agreed.

"At the apartment of Michael's friends, I crawled into bed without changing my clothes or brushing my teeth. I just passed out. A little later Michael woke me up coughing. he had bad asthma, and sleeping on the floor in the dust was aggravating it. I told him, slurred, half asleep, that he could sleep in the bed, just not to touch me.

"A little bit later I woke up with his penis inside me, no condom. As I opened my eyes, he said, 'Uh, this doesn't feel right,' and he pulled out."

The full post is immensely discomforting, as Grimm details her apparent ensuing battles with writers' block, suicidal depression and a series of allegedly "sexually charged" interactions that left the musician feeling "absolutely miserable".

"I stuck with this pattern for a long time, through my record release and the tours (with Michael!!) supporting it, but when it came time to write a new record, I found my creativity was totally blocked," Grimm wrote.

"I told Michael that he had had sex with me against my will and that I didn't feel safe with him any more. He then dropped me from Young God Records."

"Michael Gira, my producer, raped me and dumped me from his label when I confronted him about it, needing to feel safe," she concluded.

"What happened was awful, but as a prison abolitionist, an anarchist, and a nice person I didn't want to destroy his whole life with a rape charge. Looking back, he didn't think twice about destroying mine."

Gira has since fired back at Grimm's accusations, describing the claims on Facebook as "horrible and untrue ...[and] a slanderous lie".

"Re the horrible and untrue accusations from larkin grimm: I am completely shocked myself," Gira wrote on the Swans Facebook page. "This is a slanderous lie. I will respond vigorously to defend my name against this horrible slur.

"I trust in the intelligence of those who have followed my work and respect me as a person, to know this is NOT the person I am. The rumor mill/'confessional' Facebook post travels like fire - but this one is lies. More soon. This is an utter nightmare. thank you for your support. please spread the word. this is lies!"

An official statement for the artist (via Fact Mag) elaborated on Gira's position, describing the incident as the pair simply "head[ing] towards a consensual romantic moment that fortunately was not consummated".

"As she wrote in her recent social media postings about that night, I said to her, 'This doesn't feel right,' and abruptly but completely our only intimate encounter ended," Gira said. "It was an awkward mistake.

"Larkin may regret, as I certainly do, that the ill-advised tryst went even that far, but now, as then, I hold her in high esteem for her music and her courage as an artist."

Grimm has responded to Gira's statement in an interview with Pitchfork, arguing his words are both "an admission of guilt" and "a perfect example of why we need to have education about consent".

"In a gentlemanly move he admits the act happened but cannot conceive of himself as a rapist," Grimm said. "Thank you Michael Gira for your honesty. This is your truth as you remember it. Unfortunately, this was still rape."

"In the end, this is about business," she continued later. "Art is my career. I have worked long and hard for this career, making incredible sacrifices along the way to continue to make music.

"The fact that a man in power can throw a women's life and work away like they are garbage, simply because she won't sleep with him, is an immoral injustice that happens to many, many women in music.

"I won't stand for it and neither should you."

Please share this with anyone who has experienced harassment in the music world. I experienced a traumatic incidence of...

Posted by Larkin Grimm on Thursday, February 25, 2016

re the horrible and untrue accusations from larkin grimm:I am completely shocked myself. This is a slanderous lie. I...

Posted by Swans on Thursday, February 25, 2016

I will give you some history about why I am sharing the story about Thomas Sayers Ellis's abusive behavior now. I didn'...

Posted by Larkin Grimm on Thursday, February 25, 2016