The Brauns joined The Del-Byzanteens (with future director Jim Jarmusch), then went on to form Deep Six. On the earliest material, the band started out almost as a straight no wave band, with Don Christensen of The Contortions on bass. The band was originally called Metal Envelope before Circus Mort. When the Brauns met Oller and Gira, they stepped in on bass and keys.
The sound was very raw but very intellectual and theatrical with song titles like "Updown", "Floor rising", "Excitement", "This Frustration" "Require, Require". The sound was a mix of punk and no wave, kind of like Wire. The band's original sound was quite unusual. At some point a friend of the band's manager, Susan Martin, suggested the band stop playing all in unison on every note and try some syncopation. The suggestion was disastrous: the band responded and quickly turned into a herky jerky Talking Heads-influenced embarrassment.
The band trudged on till one fine day Mike Pedulla (RIP), the second drummer decided to suddenly quit the band. When Kane showed up to audition. It was a revelation. The sound gelled instantly.
Kane brought out the ferocious nature of the band that is only eluded to on the only official recording of the band on the Circus Mort EP. During the recording of this EP, all five band members were snorting crystal meth for hours, that's why the speed is so ridiculous on that record. The producer was too busy eating sprouts and meditating to get a handle on this unwieldy crew. With the rawest of intentions, the band took off to Boston and played what was to be their last two shows at The Rat. Both sets were recorded and are nothing short of amazing.
The EP tracks played live have balls unimagined. The second set, the band was all tripping on very strong LSD. Songs like "Pig", "Sensitive Skin" and "Ribbons and Bows" were blistering. With material markedly more dance-influenced showing up on the EP, fans knew not what to make from this utterly nasty and powerful live band.
Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon were fans and would show up at the band's gigs in NY. The management obviously wanted a hit and hired a hippie producer who tried to neuter the band. Near the end, there was talk of changing the name of the bands to Swans. The band didn't care so for a few rehearsals, the band were now dubbed Swans. Shortly after, a huge gig was offered to them, opening for Mission of Burma at Club 57, then a tour of the west coast.
In spite of those two career-changing potential opportunities, it just fell apart. Two out of the four original members, Josh Braun and Oller wanted Gira out of the band; Dan Braun and Kane did not. The band broke up and Oller, Kane and the Brauns formed Pumping Jelly which only lasted 3 or 4 months. There were continued discussions about what Swans would be even after the demise of Circus Mort.
Mike asked Dan Braun to join and record on the first Swans EP which ended up not happening because Gira didn't want to collaborate. There were philosophical and theoretical discussions about what Swans might be, but Braun and twin brother Josh eventually moved on and went on to The Del-Byzanteens, Deep Six, T-Venus, Red Decade, Live Skull, Radio Firefight, etc... Dan Braun eventually came back and played with Gira, Sun Hanel, Kane, Roli Mossimann line up at CBGBs. Lydia Lunch was one of about nine people in the audience.
Those tracks show up on Body to Body, Job to Job. Dan Braun ended up playing in Glenn Branca's Symphony #5. Kane played with Rhys Chatham and La Monte Young. Gira, after Swans, formed the Angels of Light and was the founder of Young God Records.
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