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Larkin Grimm accuses Swans’ Michael Gira of rape & harassment, and Thomas Sayers Ellis of sexual harassment

photo: Larkin Grimm @ Knitting Factory, 2010 (more by Lori Bally)
Larkin Grimm

photo: Michael Gira @ Bowery Ballroom, 2012 (more by Fred Pesaro)
Gira

In a lengthy, harrowing post on her Facebook today, Larkin Grimm accused her onetime collaborator, Swans’ Michael Gira, of rape and sexual harassment. “My story with Michael Gira is an absolute tragedy that I have kept secret for too long,” Grimm writes, continuing, saying the incident happened in 2008 while making the album Parplar which was produced by Gira and released on his Young God label:

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.

Grimm said she spent the following six months in a suicidal depression, and was creatively blocked for many years after, but continued their working relationship though had to fend off further incidents. When she finally confronted Gira about it, Grimm says he dropped her from Young God. “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,” she wrote.

UPDATE: Michael Gira denies rape accusation

Earlier in the day Grimm also took to Facebook to tell a similar story about Thomas Sayers Ellis of her now ex-band Heroes are Gang Leaders. She references that story about Thomas, an African American man, in her posting about Gira (“He’s a white guy”):

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.

In the comments of the Gira post, Grimm says she finally decided to write about the Gira incident when Extra Life/Psalm Zero’s Charlie Looker, condemned his bandmate Andrew Hock’s behavior, saying “I have no desire to hurt MG. He is the type of person who punishes himself pretty harshly anyway. But it made me sick every time another rape or harassment story came out, that I was keeping this secret.”

Read her entire two posts below…

—-

POST 1:

Please share this with anyone who has experienced harassment in the music world. I experienced a traumatic incidence of sexual harassment in my band Heroes are Gang Leaders on February 6th and 7th. The band leader, Thomas Sayers Ellis, threatened to hurt me further if I called him out publicly, so I have spent the last few weeks thinking it over, looking at my options. Many cases like this have been shared on Facebook and twitter lately. I do not believe in Facebook witch hunts or mob justice, and that is why I decided to take this issue to a government agency that is supposed to protect women from sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. It turns out musicians cannot file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because we are freelancers. Maybe this is why rape, assault, and sexual harassment are so common in the music world. The representative of the EEOC, who I spoke to at length, said, “It’s true. This is an unfair situation for musicians and other freelancers. You are being left out in the cold as far as justice is concerned. I urge you to get a group together, contact your congressman, your senator, and see if there is anything you can do to help us protect women like yourself.” Twitter justice is not justice, y’all. I saw this man, whose sexual advances I had been calmly brushing off for months, abuse his girlfriend in front of 12 band members at Rutgers University in Newark on the night of february 6th. I went to speak to him afterwards wondering if he had gone insane. This was a man I loved and admired. The next day, I was publicly humiliated in front of our audience at The Firehouse in Brooklyn on February 7th right before the show, verbally abused and threatened, and kicked out of a band that I loved. Both these events had many, many witnesses. What I would often say to Thomas and to Devin Waldman, my ex who was also in the band and contributed to a hostile work environment, was, “Please, please just let me do my job. Stop hitting on me and let me do my job. I am good at this job.”
I must add that retaliation was threatened if I shared this story, so if you read any crazy things about me understand that this is an attempt to undermine my credibility as a victim. Under U.S. law I would be protected from retaliation under EEOC rules if I were considered an employee of Thomas Sayers Ellis or Fast-Speaking Music, but because of the way this field works, I have no protection against this. Nobody is perfect and please remember your personal experience with me and my work before believing any harmful nonsense or judging my character.

POST 2:

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.

UPDATE: Michael Gira denies rape accusation

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