Swoan was the first serious rock-band I played in as a late teenager. We were active from the mid 90s to almost the end of that century.
I was extremely lucky to be in a band where I could make good sounding music, with best friend quality band-mates.
During the existence of the band, we were mostly active within the independent local scene of the french speaking part of Switzerland.
For the five or so years we were together, we released one album, one seven-inch, and a three song demo-tape… (yesss, a K7!!!). We were extremely lucky to open for acts like Mogwai, Royal Trux, Drugstore, The Godfathers, dEUS, and more. We were supposed to open for Arab Strap, but someone from the band broke an arm or a leg during the tour, and our show with them got canceled. It was a huge disappointment of course. I still happen to think about it once in a while, since for the past 20 years, I’ve never stopped listening to Arab Strap.
In September 1998, thank to our indie record label “Noise Product”, we had the opportunity to book some studio time with the recording engineer David Weber at the “Studio des Forces Motrices”. The actual studio was and still is located in the “L’Usine” building. If you are not familiar with Geneva, “L’Usine” is a self managed alternative place, where all kinds of creative and social projects are taking place. The actual building used to be an old gold roughing factory, located in the very heart of the city.
I was a bit too young to go to “L’Usine” during the 80s. That said, I may have attended my first show over there in 89. From what I could witness, the 90s were a sort of a golden age period for “L’Usine”, and probably for the entire alternative scene in Geneva as well. There was a lot going on in the city and in that big ass building. Just to give you an idea: There were two separate concerts rooms, a record store, a record label, a recording studio, a movie theater, a real theater, a booking agency for indie bands, a restaurant, a hair dresser, and many more alternative associations, and businesses calling “L’Usine” home, and cohabiting together under the same roof.
It took us about a couple days to record two songs: “City” and “Mondragón”. The studio sounded great, David Weber knew what he was doing, and we had a great view on the Rhône river from the studio’s windows. I have some vague, and less vague memories of the recording session. I remember David Weber being a bit pissed at us at times, because we were talking too much inside the control room, while he was trying to mix our songs. I remember our first day of recording being the day after, flight 111 of Swissair accidentally crashed in Canada. I have vivid mental images of a couple Big Muff, and SansAmp guitar pedals laying on the studio floor. I also remember being super exited to record some new material with the band, and being at “L’Usine” to produce some music. At one point during the session, I realized that our record label, our booking agency, and now the recording studio, were all sharing the same building, and interacting with one an other to promote us as a young Swiss band. We would also play shows, buy records, and hang out at “L’Usine” quite often. On top of the potential of our music being maybe marketable outside of Switzerland, having this incredible support behind us, reinforced the idea in my head, that the band may actually have some sort of a future.
Well, I was dead wrong.
A few months following the recording session, we abruptly disbanded. Since Swoan wasn’t anymore, there was no point in releasing the two songs. I had my copy of the single-album burnt on a gold color Kodak CD-R, that I kept in a box with all the physical releases I had played on.
Despite us parting ways, and pursuing our individual rock n roll adventures separately, we’ve always maintained our strong friendship. Even during the entire time I was living in San Diego, we’ve always kept in touch. A couple years ago, we got digital distribution for “In Love” (our only officially released physical album). Not long ago, we decided to release the two songs for the first time. Now the single-album is out, and can be streamed or downloaded from all the major digital platforms.
What makes this release even more spacial; as a guest star we had my very best childhood friend and blood-brother Atsushi, who did the vocals in Japanese on “Mondragón”. He happened to be in Geneva around that period. He even performed “Mondragón” on stage with us, during a live show at “L’Usine”. I remember his performance being the highlight of the show. He had gone under brain surgery several weeks earlier. He had about 25 visible stitches on his skull, forming a “L” shape flipped on the side, going from the back of his neck to his temple, sort of semi-circling his right ear. He was wearing a dark green military jacket, similar to the ones worn by some US veterans. When it was time to play Mondragón, Atsushi stepped on stage and walked to the mic stand, and started to perform his vocals.
The combination of the music, the lights, and the mesmerized crowd, with the presence of our guest-star, made the show gain in intensity. With Atsushi joining the band on stage, my imagination started to interpret the actual happening as a post-apocalyptic scene from a sci-fi book. As if, Atsushi was the last survivor of a town decimated by aliens, and telling the crowd the story of what had happened. Or maybe, telling us what the aliens wanted us to hear, thank to the micro-chip they had placed into his brain.
Mediocre personal sci-fi perceptions of reality aside, I truly think that something unique was taking place in that room from the moment when Atsushi joined Swoan, for a mere 5 minutes and 34 seconds. I had to focus on playing my bass, but sharing the stage with Atsushi was an emotionally strong moment for me. When we were kids, before I started to rock for real, I would play a lot of air-guitar at home on my parents’ couch, serving as a fictional stage. My imaginary band was made of my best childhood friends. Atsushi was always a member of that imaginary band.
I still have my gold color Kodak CD-R with “City” and “Mondragón” on it. I am glad to not have to insert it into any antique CD player anymore, nor having to click on dull .wav files to play the songs. Now that the album has a digital covert art, and is available online. I’ve been enjoying streaming 2/20 from the various platforms already.
Two days to record, twenty years to release. It will take you about 11 minutes to listen to 2/20 by Swoan of Geneva Switzerland. Thank you if you’ve made it this far in reading the story, and thank you for giving a listen to the single-album. Enjoy the sound of 90s! I think analog sounds great, and David Weber rules!