Update 8:52 p.m., Feb. 26: Gira seems to have backed off his initial, strong denial. According to a statement provided to the Voice by Howard Wuelfing of Howlin’ Wuelf Media, Grimm’s accusation is no longer a “horrible slur” but her view of a “consensual,” “ill-advised tryst.” In what we’re sure is a gesture of pure beneficence, Gira states that “[m]y hope is that Larkin finds peace with the demons that have been darkening her soul since long before she and I ever met.” Read his full statement below Grimm’s.
As Kesha’s ongoing fight to escape a recording contract with her alleged abuser continues, another woman has come forward to share her story of assault at the hands of an influential music industry man. Larkin Grimm, whose 2008 album, Parplar, was produced by Swans frontman Michael Gira, says Gira raped her the day the album wrapped while she was passed out after a night of drinking.
Grimm detailed her account in a graphic Facebook post, shared earlier today and copied in full below, in which she describes Gira as “my record label boss and producer, [my] beloved, trusted mentor, really my guru.” She alleges that, following the assault, Gira continued to sexually harass her over the phone and in person despite her refusal to engage with him, asking her not to tell his wife. He accompanied her on her album tour, and Grimm says it took her months to be able to recognize what happened to her as rape.
She shared her story four hours after posting another disturbing account of an assault earlier this month by Thomas Sayers Ellis, a respected poet and the founding member of the Heroes Are Gang Leaders, in which Grimm once played. Grimm alleges Ellis threatened her not to go public with the story, but that she decided to do so after speaking with a representative of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who pointed out that musicians and other freelancers are “being left out in the cold as far as justice is concerned” because they have no specific workplace through which to report sexual harassment complaints. In her post about Gira, Grimm explains she is “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 [others].”
Grimm ends her post about Gira on a note of solidarity with Kesha, and said in the comments that she only shared the post about Ellis — and thus, by extension, her story about Gira — after reading that Brooklyn experimental band Psalm Zero, who are fans of Swans, had fired a band member accused of sexual assault. It seems unlikely that these kinds stories will stop.
Update 11:52 p.m.: Gira has denied the accusations in a post on Swans’ Facebook page.
Grimm’s full account is below. Please note that it contains a detailed description of the alleged assault and the abuse Grimm says followed it.
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.
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.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 26, 2016