Singer and songwriter Larkin Grimm has accused Michael Gira of the band Swans, of sexual harassment. Grimm said she received the abuse in 2008, when Gira was producing her 2008 LP, Poplar. At the time, Grimm was on Gira’s label, Young God Records. After recounting the abuse she suffered at the hands of her current band leader Thomas Sayers Ellis, she detailed being raped by Gira.
I will give you some history about why I am sharing the story about Thomas Sayers Ellis’s abusive behavior now. 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 or Margaret.
Michael Gira and I had a beautiful, fruitful collaboration on my album Parplar. He was my record label boss and producer. He was my beloved, trusted mentor, really my guru. I lived in his house with him and his wife Siobhan and I babysat their daughter frequently in between working on new songs and incorporating Michael’s valuable input. I loved him more than I have loved just about anyone, but I did not want to have sex with him, and I made that very clear over and over. In the spring of 2008, on the night that we finished recording Parplar at Trout Recordings with Bryce Goggin, we went out to eat at a steakhouse. My friend Johnny Dido was our waiter. We were with Michael’s friends and they were drinking heavily and encouraging me to keep up with them. I’m a pretty lightweight drinker. At the end of the night it became obvious that I was too drunk to drive home, too drunk to even walk straight. Michael invited me to stay with his friends. They said they had a bed for me and that Michael would sleep on the floor. 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 next morning, Michael begged me not to tell his wife about what happened. I drove home, numb. Then I took my bike around the block and got hit by a car, injuring my hip. That day I wrote one of my best songs, “The Butcher, or Without a Body or a Numb and Useless Mind.” It was the last song I would be able to write for a few years. I spent the next 6 months in a suicidal depression. Michael would call frequently to talk about the progress on my record and to talk dirty to me. He would tell me he loved me and that he would leave his wife for me. I would refuse to talk dirty to him and try to bring the conversation back to business. When we met, the interactions were often sexually charged and I would squirm out of them as best I could. We never had sex again although he tried over and over, making me absolutely miserable. Mastering the record with Fred Kevorkian was particularly difficult. Michael took the opportunity to kiss me in the elevator, and I complied because I really, really, really wanted to be a successful musician. He’d often say to me, “I’m gonna make you a star, Larkin. You can trust me.”
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. 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.
Many people have assumed, over the years, that Michael and I had a love affair, and in a way, for a time, maybe we did. But I never consented to having sex with him. I wouldn’t have wanted to ruin such an important opportunity that way. Technically, he raped me. It took me a long time to admit that to myself. Years. Michael Gira, my producer, raped me and dumped me from his label when I confronted him about it, needing to feel safe.
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.
Sending my love to #Kesha I know how you feel. At least I got out of my record deal, though I was never offered another one after that.
Despite warnings from Grimm that clearly indicated she was not interested in Gira sexually, she claims to have been raped after passing out in a friend’s bed after a night of drinking. The result for Grimm was devastating aftereffects that included depression and thoughts of suicide. She claims that Gira would continue to call her to talk about the record they were working on, and then delve into more sexual discussion. After expressing to Gira that she did not feel comfortable around him, she was dropped from his label.
Grimm says she initially kept the incident of rape and the matters of sexual harassment a secret because she feared the repercussions it would have on both of their careers.
This unfortunate situation adds to the recent list of sexual harassment cases in the music industry, with others involving Kesha and Amber Coffman. Without question, there will be more to come from Grimm’s allegations, and given the recent cases of her peers, there will be plenty of reactions from fans and musicians alike.
Michael Gira’s wife has weighed in on the accusations, claiming she has proof that he did not rape Larkin Grimm. In the post she paints a picture of Grimm as a jilted artist who has harassed Gira via texts and phone calls, and alludes to having access to many messages sent by the songwriter to her husband over the past few years. She goes on to explain that she herself is a victim of rape, and that she empathizes with those who have experienced sexual abuse. Finally, she says she is being kept quiet by publicists, attorneys, record labels, etc., but that the truth will eventually come out and exonerate her husband.
Additionally, Larkin Grimm has made another post. In it she expresses a desire to open up a conversation about rape culture and teach not only women but men from a young age.
UPDATE 2/28/2016: Michael Gira has released an official statement through his publicist. In the statement, he admits having an attempted affair with Grimm, but makes it clear that it was a “consensual romantic moment” that was “fortunately” never consummated. While his first response to her accusations was to call them “slanderous lies,” he states that he holds the singer in high esteem and wishes the best for her.
Eight years ago, while I was still married to my first wife, Larkin Grimm and I headed 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. 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.
I long ago apologized to my wife and family and told them the truth about this incident. My hope is that Larkin finds peace with the demons that have been darkening her soul since long before she and I ever met.
Meanwhile, Grimm has responded to this statement with one of her own, sent to Pitchfork on 02/27. The most important piece of information from the statement is when she states “That night I was far too intoxicated to give you consent for any sexual act.” This is not a matter of “he-said-she-said,” but instead one of how and what rape is defined by. Grimm opens the statement by calling for better education on what is considered consent.
This is 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. Thank you Michael Gira for your honesty. This is your truth as you remember it. Unfortunately, this was still rape. I said no to you many times before that day, begged you not to interfere with me sexually, even made it a part of a verbal agreement we had when I signed a contract with you. I asked you to promise that you would never have sex with me. You assured me that I could trust you. That is about as clear a NO as I could ever cry. I asked for this because I had had other experiences in my music career and I KNEW.
That night I was far too intoxicated to give you consent for any sexual act. The psychological effects of this betrayal were devastating. Even worse, when I finally confronted you about what you had done, you terminated my relationship with Young God Records, damaging my career and leading people to believe there was something wrong with me or my music.
In the end, this is about business. 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.
The “Demons darkening my soul” are the men like you who interfere with my ability to do my work as a musician. This is a job I am good at. All I want is to be left in peace while I am working.
UPDATE 02/29/2016: According to Pitchfork, Gira has canceled his Australian tour, which included appearances in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. As of right now the tour will continue as scheduled on 03/30/2016 in London.
Michael Gira Tour Dates:
03-05 Brisbane, Australia – Queensland Gallery of Modern Art
03-08 Melbourne, Australia – Melbourne Recital Centre
03-09 Sydney, Australia – Carriageworks
03-30 London, England – Barbican Centre *!
04-01 Moscow, Russia – ZIL Culture Center
04-02 Saint Petersburg, Russia – The Place SPB Venue
04-04 Warsaw, Poland – Pardon, To Tu
04-05 Warsaw, Poland – Pardon, To Tu
04-07 Berlin, Germany – Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz
04-08 Copenhagen, Denmark – Jazzhouse
04-09 Oslo, Norway – John Dee Club
04-10 Bergen, Norway – Bergen Kunsthall at Landmark Bar
04-11 Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso Upstairs
04-13 Brussels, Belgium – AB Small Club
04-15 Paris, France – Le Point Ephémère