Interview:1997-Bats And Red Velvet Magazine #22

Death In June have been in existence since the early 80’s and are one of a family of groups including Current 93, Sorrow, Nurse With Wound and several others, ail of whom are based around the World Serpent record label. But you probably know that anyway. Over the years, a number of opinions have built up around the band, mainly by people who have rarely bothered to dig beyond the level of superficiality. Death In June’s sound is hard to define, but can be described as finely crafted music built over several layers of depth. It is not boring however! This interview hopefully makes some of the misconceptions about the band quite clear and should destroy the accusations that Death In June are a Nazi band. It was a postal interview with Douglas P. who is Death In June’s focal point. My thanks to Rose McDowall for making it possible.

Mike: After 14 years, how do you feel Death In June has progressed, and how do you see it progressing? What keeps you going, and do you have any regrets?

Douglas P: After 14 years I am very pleased with the outcome of Death In June. It’s done, and continues to do, what I thought it would. And, what I wanted it to do! In 1983 when the first incarnation of the group was drawing to a close, and the thought of asking Tony Wakeford to leave had arisen, I visited a library to see if I could find any books that would offer me some magickal advice on the situation. As soon as I entered the building I could see on the shelves at the rear of the library 3 books glowing. They almost looked like they were on fire! Two concerned the occult and the other history. All 3 gave me the advice and encouragement I was looking for. There’s been no turning back since then but, then again, there never was! The instinct to survive and fulfil one’s destiny is extremely strong.

As regards regrets, no not really. Perhaps there should have been more visual and/ or aurai documentation of Death In June in the earlier days but all members of the group had a real phobia about such things. We all felt, and still do to some extent, that there is an element of `bad luck’ about such things. I’d prefer to perform fantastic concerts live and let it disappear into time and memory chan have a mediocre one recorded for posterity.

Mike: There is a book available called “Death In June – Misery and Purity”. What was your input to this project and how does it feel to have your lyrics and quotes analysed in such a thorough and public way?

D: I’d already seen some of the original articles that inspired the book by Robert Forbes, when they were published in various English fanzines over the past few years. Given that they were reviewing my work in a very different fashion to most other articles I’d seen, I always found them quite interesting. I like their obsessive, almost fetishistic approach to what he considered important details. I also appreciated the fact that he always admitted that he could be completely wrong about what he thought may be the sources of inspiration behind various songs etc. In 1994 he made contact with me and told me about his idea of a book on DIJ. I told him that was okay, as long as I could read the manuscripts first, to make sure there were no factual mistakes about others who have been involved. I made no corrections to his creative impressions of the group. As it clearly states, these are his ideas alone and may not bear any resemblance to the reality behind DIJ’s inspiration. I like that very much. His dealings with me were very honest and, after checking the manuscripts, I gave him some private photos that he could use. “Misery and Purity” has had a satisfactory outcome.

In fact, this is the second book that has come out within the past 18 months about Death In June. A French company published one called “Le Livre Brun” in 1994 which came as a big surprise to me, as I knew nothing about it! They’ ve since been in contact and suggested doing an English translation but I’ve told them I would like access to the manuscripts first. I haven’t heard anything since!! However, what I have heard is that there is a Japanese one in the pipeline that is being written by an ex-private secretary to one of those ministers who had to recently resign over some corruption charges in Japan. It seems DIJ is being truly vilidicated on a global stage!

Mike: Although this type of questions probably annoys you, the continuai use of German National Socialist imagery in DIJ which has led to bomb threats etc. makes the subject inevitabie. What is it about the German Nation Socialist movement that appeals to or fascinates you?

D: I think it would be more correct to say European based imagery. Statues celebrating the 3rd French Republic or those which can be found outside a museum in Sydney haven’t much to do with German National Socialism. But people love to misconstrue!

Mike: You have expressed the importance of the individual. How then do you react to Hitler’s comment to the effect that the individual is nothing, the mass is everything?

D: To compare, or debate, questions like `individuality’ or morality with opinions supposedly held by someone/ thing like Hitler is negative in the extreme. I don’t wish to be compared with a ‘man’ who had one testicle bitten off by a goal – and not, heroically, by a French bullet as earlier presumed. If he got too close to The Beast, then that’s his problem, not mine! Ultimately he was a traitor but got his own way.

Mike: Are your attitudes to the individual influenced by Jean Genet, or were they part of what attracted you to Genet?

D: No, not really, I don’t rob from my friends although if they are over 45 and male, I do fuck them. Or at least, I try! Anyway, what kind of attitude did he have to the `individual’? Was it as a source of constant exploitation? His work for, and with, the Black Panthers and the P.L.O belies that. No, for me he wrote beautiful books that I found artistically, and spiritually inspiring. Reading bis book “Funeral Rites” in the back of a transit van touring Italy in 1985 was awe inspiring for me. I knew I was not alone! For 5 years I had known of him and his work, which had been introduced to me. strangely enough, by an Australian. Hoveever I had done nothing with it. It was just ‘there’. He was an acquaintance but not a friend. But, suddenly it hit me! Many thanks and much love go to David and Andrea, of the group Somewhere In Europe’, and Butch Calderwood.

Mike: For any who may still be confused, do you believe some races are more superior or inferior to others?

D: Like Black Americans who proudly proclaim the virtues of being Afro-centric I consider myself Euro-centric. I have made my choice. Choosing one thing instead of another automatically discriminates against those left on the shelf. No amount of liberal, white-honky, politically correct double talk will change that. I demand the same amount of respect for my culture as is demanded from me for others.

Mike: Runes are of obvious importance to DIJ and whilst Pagan Norse elements are not as predominant as in, say, Current 93, they are still significant. What attracts you to this particular pagan tradition?

D: The Northern European tradition of the Runes is the one that most naturally declared itself to me. There is a blood link and it was called upon. I am obeying instinct. I follow my nature.

Mike: Would you describe yourself as a Pagan?

D: No, simply because of the embarrassing stigma that surrounds such a loaded’ word. People who unselfconciously call themselves “Pagans” tend to veer towards the eccentric or, at least, mentally unstable. They appear silly and I think it’s a far more serious matter. If one attaches another word to Pagan then it can become more palatable. For instance ‘Pagan Day’, which is extremely palatable.

Mike: The latest album seems, in part, to have been influenced by the wars in former Yugoslavia. Having visited the area and apparently finding nothing romantic about what is going on, how has it affected your feelings towards war?

D: I wasn’t consciously aware that the war in Croatia/ Bosnia-Herzegovina had influenced my work so I re-examined it and can see what you mean in a few places. I have the benefit of being able to get on a plane and fly out of that situation. Two hours later I am back in London. I am in no honest position to pontificate about War and my feelings towards it. It would be insulting to my friends who have to live it, day in, day out.

Mike: What other influences lie behind the new album?

D: The two and a bit years that have happened since “But, what Ends When The Symbols Shatter?” And all the years previous to those.

Mike: What contemporary music do you listen to?

D: Scott Wallœr’s ‘Tilt’ and the Pet Shop Boys `Alternative’. Outside of the small group of people I already work with, there is nothing else worth listening to. The Family is everything.

Mike: Can you comment on the relationships/ conflicts, as you see them, between the words; `Race’, Wationality’ and ‘Culture’?

D: Like a DNA helix they are ail interrelated and dependant upon each other. There is no conflict; there just ‘is’.

Mike: And the words; ‘Love’, `Life’, `Loneliness’?

D: A similar story. A balance has to be achieved.

Mike: How did you corne to the horses head used in the albums photos and what is it’s purpose?

D: They were bought very easily from a horse butcher in Brussels and cost approximately 40 Australian dollars each. The purpose of them was magickal. They are known as Nyding sticks and are the most potent of all wands used in northern occult practices. If you really want something to happen, if you really need something to corne about, then this is what must be used. The idea of the child’s toy called the Hobby Horse cornes from this artefact. The horses were bought back to life again and regained glory in their death.

Mike: How has living in Australia affected you, if at all, and what prompted you to move there (bearing in mind that you are part of an immigrant swamping of an indigenous culture)?

D: I live in Australia only part of the time and when I do, my aerials spread and I begin to breathe again. I have a particular soft spot for Australians and love them very much. Regarding the rest of your question which hints at politically correct, white liberal feelings, then all I can say is that it feels wonderful to have the boot on the other foot for once! In all honesty, I think spiritually the land of Australia belongs to the aborigines. Their ghosts and gods haunt the country in a very determined fashion. However, some places are worse than others. The European settler has a place. Our ghosts and gods gather also. Hopefully, fewer lies and more respect and integrity will help Australia’s survival into the future.

Mike: How does it feel that people will be listening to DIJ, to your voire, and reading your lyrics in say 100 years’ lime?

D: I would be satisfied if people were listening to DIJ in 100 months time. 100 years is too much to comprehend. I’m not so conceited.

Mike: Have you read any books or seen any films that have influenced you lately?

D: There has been nothing to read for years. However, sometimes a film does corne along that moves me rather than ‘influence’. “Reservoir Dogs” was one such. Also “The Sum of Us”, “Pulp Fiction”, “Natural Born Killers” and “Metal Skin” have all entertained me. But that’s a different feeling entirely.

Mike: Most people i.e., those intelligent enough to realise something is missing, seem to spend ages looking for something they can never flnd. Do you agree and why do you think this is?

D: The Hunt For Life is the Hunt For Fulfilment and Happiness. Only an idiot would deny these things in life. However, denials appears to be one way of the world, so the Hunt is always on.

Mike: Many ancient philosophers agree that it is better never to have lived at all. Many DIJ songs appear to link life with sorrow and bitterness. Do you feel that these philosophers may have a point, or is life a good thing?

D: In my darker moments I have to admit that this is how I have also felt. However, that which does not destroy you makes you stronger. The price of existence is eternal struggle. Take care and Take control.

Mike: What was your favourite period of your life?

D: The Bliss of The Now.

Mike: If you could visit any place/ lime, what would it be and why?

D: London, 1980, to see if, with the benefit of hindsight, I could have had more control over my meeting with God. I was unprepared for such an event – who isn’t? – and I would like to see if I could have made more of the situation. Perhaps `God’ is the wrong word to use. Life Force is probably more appropriate. I was pathetically unready and the part fifteen years have been a desperate attempt to catch up. You never can of course.