Transcription from the DVD :
Once you’ve truly looked into the abyss. You get a fit of the giggles.
Our family was a very unhappy dysfunctional family. I have to state that, you know, life didn’t change just where my father died. It changed as soon as I was born, that was, it was always going to be odd. They, my mum and dad pretty much hated each other and let the family know about it in an uncertain manner. So that kind of thing is, is always in progress. You’re never really sure where that’s going to take you mentally. As David Tibet said to me, years and years ago, I think it was when I was living with him in 1986 and we were very, very close. And he said to me that this art has probably saved you. If you were doing just what would be seen as a normal nine to five job, you probably would have some real psychological problems.
I was born in 1956 in a Southern suburb of London in what would be, I suppose, described in America as a white working class ghetto, a counselor state in the UK. My father was a career RAF, Royal Air Force, guy who, after living after the war, he’d been in the service before the war, joined, what became the OAC, which is now British Airways. So he was always involved in aeronautics. But then I suppose in his late forties by age now, he suffered the first of his heart attacks which diasbled him from work any further. And that was the case until he died. And his third heart attack when he was 56. So he grew up fairly poor. He died a week after I my fourteenth birthday. I have a younger sister and an older brother and an older stepsister. My father’s first wife was killed by a V2 rockets during the blitz. And that’s the beginning of where I am. I grew up in that environment. It was a very militaristic environment. My brother did go on to join the RAF himself, the right air force. I was destined for that but at the age of 18. I took off hitching around Europe. So several months, drops lots and lots of acid and came back a changed individual.
Most of my friends up until the age of 11 were locals, but I was one of three people that gained what they called the 11+, which is an examination before you went to senior school or high school that got me out of the estate. So it was only me and two other people managed to get to a better school rather than the estate school. So most of my friends then became outside the area and it was a dangerous area. The new friends, I went on to meet at the new school, their parents really didn’t even like letting their children come and visit me. So that was the situation there, you know, there was a gang going around with arms, sawing-off shotguns, baseball bats, land rovers, if you didn’t fit in, you were beaten up badly. Your family were terrorized. A lot of the area was based on crime as well. Which I later got into or involved in petty crime. It was a way of existing and surviving.
During my early years at school, which I loathed, my infant junior school days up until the age of 11, I’d run away two or three times. And I had learning difficulties. I eventually had to have special learning lessons to read. I didn’t manage until I was about nine. And from there I took off, I skipped the Johnny and John type of books. I went straight to the encyclopedias and history books, and that’s what I was fascinated with.
Certainly, I’m not sitting down thinking about what a miserable five-year-old I was, but it must come out somewhere because that five-year-old is living in a 48 year old man’s body these days. And those experiences I experienced today and tomorrow, yesterday are all colored by what that five-year-old was experiencing. I realized that probably more and more as I get older, and I’ve always been self analytical, but I’ve become more so hot late it’s possibly just a period I’m going through for a variety of reasons.
I had bronze aircraft of Spitfires that my dad had modeled last years rehabilitating during those those years. So it was really destined that we were probably going to join the RAF, his sons, which my brother did, disastrously. So,it’s not a good idea to try and follow in your father’s footsteps at the best of times. And, e wasn’t really cut out for that. Whether or not if my father had lived by the time I was 18, the pressure would have been on for me to have gone in. I don’t know, but my dad died a week after my 14th birthday. And I was really sort of sat on an independent course from there on. So you’re surrounded by war memorabilia. And, had a natural attraction to a lot of it, but what the term, my thought was I had a natural attraction to the side he’d been fighting against. Up until the time I started buying my first bits of military memorabilia with my paper around money. So I’d be about 12, 13. He sort of conceded eventually. He freaked out with the first thing I bought which is a Wehrmacht German army summit issue tunic, which I kept hidden in the gap in the sort of shed at the bottom of the garden for some time until he found it and went crazy and insisted on me taking it back to the place I bought it from. But because my obsession or attraction to these things were so genuine. Eventually he accompanied me up to Edgeway road in North London, which is filled with a lot of antique shops, where we found the oldest rustiest worst condition German helmet that could possibly be found. I think that’s the story was they just dug it out of a field in France only recently, very poor condition, completely covered in rust, no paint work at all. And he said, well, if you can refurbish that to usable condition, then I’ll be convinced of your sort of a keenness on the subject. So I did a very nice piece. I repainted, it got new deck holes to put on the side and sort of put a new liner in, and then he died, but he was convinced by then I was obsessed with the subject matter. I mean, my brother’s bedroom and mine were, the ceilings were covered in Moto aircraft whilst my brother came to the Spitfires and Hurricanes and Lancaster bombers, I think have the German side of things. It even did sell out in the end. Like my dad’s sort of was reconciled for the fact that I was slightly different from the rest of the family. I was the demon seed come to haunt him.
My older brother, who’s 10 years older than me, has long since disappeared off the map. And my older stepsister’s 13 years older than me. The last time I saw her would have been in May, 1970 at my father’s funeral. When I was 30, It was the last time I saw her and we’d never got on. We were like strangers, even when the family was living together. So, and because of the traumatic sort of upbringing where everyone seemed to hate each other, and it was a question of survival until you could escape. I treaded with a great degree of trepidation towards me to never again, but over the past few years, there’ve been a few letters saying I’m getting older, I want to meet. And which can be seen as the SPRAT that catch catches the macro. But so I was dubious about such a rendezvous, but everything seemed to be pointing in the right position this time out when I visited the UK. So via my younger sister we arranged a rendezvous. Equally I hadn’t seen my youngest sister for eight years, so we’ve all had disparate lives to fulfill and live. And it was like meeting a scary alien. There’s only, you only know there’s a connection because you’ve been told there’s a connection, you know, it from your past. But I’m very aware that the most important things are today and tomorrow, and the past was a long, long time ago and it’s left his legacy and it wasn’t as bad an experiences I thought it was going to be probably because I’ve experienced such a lot since I was thirteen, that it’s hard in the heart, but it’s completely the accident of birth as far as I can relate to it, that I have zero link with this individual.
He was shot down a couple of times and survived and then was put on to sort of ground forces. I always remember looking at him in the bathroom when he was shaving one day. And you could notice only in the mirror with the reflection that his face was slightly crooked. It was because he had been reconstructed after one of the two crashes. Otherwise you were just used to looking at him face on and that’s a bad look. He didn’t look abnormal, but you could see that he had a hard war as did my uncles, his brothers, they were all confined through the army. He was the only one in the RAF. And he’d in fact, been beaten up by his older brother, because it had been a long Pearce tradition to join the artillery in the first world war going back because he sort of dropped out of the tradition and he joined the RAF in 1936 years before the second world war, he was taken into the garden, beaten up by uncle George. I always remember that story.
I just had a natural call into history. In the late fifties, I was also very keenly attracted to music. There were a couple of shows on, on the British television called “Six Five special”, which was shown on five past six in the evening on Friday night. And “cool for cats”… And I’d be intrigued by all the sort of early rock and roll stuff that was coming along then and dance to it. I mean that my parents were bemused and perplexed by the fact that I was obsessed by these things. One of my early recollections was a sort of odd rendition of like a rubber ball, that would come bouncing back to you. And to this day, I remember this old studio setup of it where these sort of girls are in these really groovy dresses, bouncing red, rubber balls up against walls while the song was being played, it was the precursor to videos. You didn’t get the real American stars on there. It was just dance troops dancing onto the latest American hits. And I was so disinterested in academia until later that the arts just had a natural calling. My father was nothing less than supportive to me, but not in a direct way. It was just a little words he would say which would encourage that as bizarre as my behavior might be. He thought it was bearable.
I probably had left home before I’d even left home really. In reality, I, from about the age of 18, I was spending less and less time there. And either hitching around Europe, as I said, or staying at friend’s houses. When I came back from Europe after those three months in Amsterdam, the drug input was becoming such that my last trip in Amsterdam was a bad one that lasted for three days. I decided I had to get a job to make me enough money to buy the things I wanted for me to feed in the arts in some way. So you had to get cameras, you had to get amplifiers, to get guitars. I needed to do something that paid a lot of money in a quick period of time. So I actually became a postman and I worked all the hours under the sun. It was great for working overtime. So I was there, most of the time, rather than at home by first, and then if you want to say officially left home when I was 20, I had everything sort of in place by then. And I’d met a friend who became my first partner and he said, well, why don’t you just move in with me? So I did that. And shortly after I was in New York, so that’s how it all came together. It all happened apparently at the same time, along with punk rock.
It was about 1975 I’d realize that in being in Britain, there was a vast emptiness. There was a vacuum, there was, you’d gone through the sixties. Then you’d had the glam rock period for a while in Britain, there was nothing really outside of Dave Bowie or Roxy music. You could equate to that there was any sort of chance of being involved in, in a real way rather than just being a spectator. And so in 1975, I, I remember making the decision that one day I had hair down to almost my waist and the next day I had it all cut off and I started not wearing flares. I started wearing just all black and it was pretty much like a French existentialist look. There was a film called 400 blows, which that sort of look affected me. And I thought, no, that’s, that’s the way I want to be, this is dead. This is the past. I’ve gone through it. I don’t know where the future is going to be, but I do not equate to that anymore. What has been… And then the odd thing was I started noticing how the people dressing slightly differently in London. There was one occasion on the tube. I was walking around and there was someone else. He had short hair, he had drainpipe trousers, straight trousers. In those days in 1975 or six, it was impossible to get them. And I thought, we, you look, Oh, do you look different? He clocked me as well. He looked at me as we walk by each other.
And then you started hearing murmurings of this new thing, this new musical genre or movement, whatever you want to call them. And you started seeing the odd posters for the Sex Pistols concerts, which, you know, is going to attract your attention. It was what we called the gay cowboy poster with the two guys with the Stetsons and their cocks touching. There was one poster for them. Using that as an advert and that’s bound to catch your eye, you know there’s something different going on. And I’d met Tony Wakeford by then. We’d met on of all things on anti-fascist demonstrations, which should amuse some people. And we were the anti-fa of the day. But we’d been talking about other things. And I knew he played bass in a, what was basically what was called a pub rock group. And he knew I was learning how to play guitar. And then there was the moment when the Sex Pistols appeared on British television in late 1976, which resulted in the Filth and the Fury, that phrase that was coined by the British press the next day.
And everything changed for me. I thought I’d been waiting for group like, this is it, but how do I get involved in this? And very soon after Tony phoned me and said, Have you heard of punk rock? Yes. Do you want to form a band? Yes. And it started like that. We’ve gone up to see the Clash at one of these… It was a two night at a cinema that was run by Pakistanis. And it was a good meal made of what was punk rock then. It was, it was supposed to be Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Buzzcocks, the Clash headlined in both nights, other less known groups, like the Worst, one of the best groups I’ve ever seen. But it was, it was all a set up. We’d gone up to see the group and the place was just completely closed.
So we went to another pub called the Hope and Anchor in North London, just a place to go and get a drink. And there was a group playing there. I think he was, he was called Huey Lewis, but not the Huey Lewis and the News, it was another guy sort of more pub rock than punk? It was just one of the people that latched on to the movement, like groups like the Police would a bit later, but I’d never considered punk. There were sort of not even new wave. They were just guys in the waiting to cut patching new wave and come in. And it was that night I saw this guy walking around the audience with a grey RAF flight jacket on with, with on the back The Clash. And I thought that looks really like Joe Strummer. And it turned out to be Joe Strummer. And I said, hello, said we’d come up to see them. And he said, well, that was never conserved. It was just these guys trying to get people along to see their, what was, I guess, Bollywood films and kind of loaded people in once they took a look at us, they closed the place down. They weren’t expecting the type of people to turn up and he was there to see the shows. And that was the first show that I ended up an exchange for a set of Ernie ball, heavy gauge electric guitar, strings buying Joe Strummer, a pint of lager. I think that was the deal he said, can you buy me something to drink? I’ll give you these in exchange. That was the first punk rock then whenever that was late 76, early 77.
All these years on after 1977, it was a great learning period. I wouldn’t like to revisit it at all. And I got a bit sick reading of the sort of nostalgia that goes on about punk now. But to look back that far, when you were 20, 21 years old and now, I’m 48, is a little creepy. I have to say, I don’t ever think about it, but it taught me everything of how to survive in the music world when come 1980 when Crisis split.
The social situation in Britain at that time was odd. I think there’s, there’s no, it’s not by chance that groups like joy division had come to the fore by then. Although they were really beginning to make their name in the previous year in 1979. Most of the early punk concerts took part or took place in gay clubs around London. That’s where it really started, especially S&M clubs. Our first manager, Kevin St. John was basically a gay gangster. We got a contract with him. He was by then the manager of the Roxy. And we got that contract, not just because he thought we were a good group that would pull the crowds, but he fonded our lead singer at the time. And he wanted to talk to him alone. We all remembered that that evening when the contract was signed. And of course our suspicions about our manager liking our lead singer were confirmed after our lead singer came out of the office. So everything sort of voiced along those lines. And one night we turned up early, it was a Sunday night. We’d caught the train up to Waterloo station with our equipment, which we walked across the bridge with. We didn’t have a van, so it was all Palm pass or this sort of ethos of beer, just getting by and looking back on it. It’s quite romantic and makes a good story, but we probably didn’t like it too much at the time, pumping amplifiers and guitars across one of the bridges into which link Waterloo stations, Colin garden, where the club was situated. But we got there knocked on the door and interrupted a gay gangster evening. They were dressed in leather, Trilby’s pink shirts with unfashionry wide collars. Most of them were in their fifties and sixties. It was like a scene from a performance. And we were not welcome. They didn’t know how we were going to take it, but we were very cool about everything. However, we were rushed downstairs to where the groups played anyway. And then a guard who was sent down, who promptly pulled a hand gun from inside his jacket and slammed down the bond, stared at us for the remainder of the evening while the party upstairs came to a close and they emptied out, whoever else was in whoever we shouldn’t see. And the evening was geared up to the show downstairs, but fortunately not everyone left from upstairs. And these two guys came down looking like they were from the London equivalent of the Sopranos who were in their late fifties/sixties. And took a fancy to the lead singer of the support group who were then called Raped. And basically jumped on stage, poured his trousers down and tried to fuck him while the show was going on. It was one of those beautiful moments I think could only happen during those punk days.
A punk rock festival at Gilford university in Southern England. We were great and the audience were great. We were just meant for that time. And from there on, we had a very strong sort of following from the Southeast of England London. It started immediately. If you were there at the first thing you were doing, these things you’ve got that audience. You’ve got that to obsessive fan thing.
First label was a small, independent label that was started by a South London action group. I think it was, it was called Action Group records, which was really, they they’d seen us on a number of demonstrations mainly Right to Work demonstrations or Antinazi League demonstrations playing off the back of a truck or it to halls around the country. And this guy had a cause, he wanted to stop a town hall being knocked down in South London. And he said, well, if you could write a song about this town hall being demolished and a new one being put up in his place. I mean the most horrible sort of subject matter you can possibly get. You can put whatever you want on the B side. And we used that. Tony wrote this song called no town hall, which was actually sort of not bad for considering the subject matter, which in retrospect is highly embarrassing, but it was the way in, it sold thousands. We started to, when it was released, to already have a large fan base and the B side was really the thing that people bought it for. But in retrospect, the A side is actually quite well-written song. And that was the way in. And after a while, when whatever had happened that happened regarding the decision to the building or the destruction of this particular town hall in South London, the guy said that we can have the rights to the single and you can do whatever you want with it. But in the meantime, we’d already gained a session with the BBC via the John Peel show. The DJ that’s recently died, and that was another step up the ladder, the BBC sometime after gave us the opportunity to buy the tapes back. And we decided to assure on our own label. The road to the BBC started, were doing some demo tapes for a small independent company called Step Forward. They got some time for us in the studio where it turned out that the Police were actually doing some of their early records and not known to the Police we used their equipment. So I used Andy Summer’s guitar on these early demo tapes. And I think Sting’s bass was used as well. So perhaps we sounded better than we did at the time by using this much better equipment. Because we sent the tapes in, that came out of that and we got the offer to do a John Peel session for the BBC. So you’re given a date. You turn up at these massive studios in the native hour in North London and straightaway the difference was obvious. They had helpers there to get the equipment out of the van to help you set up in the studio. The studios were massive. They were keen to make you feel comfortable. It was very for the first time in our experience, you know, the oldest of us was 22, the youngest, 17 or 18,had been treated like this, that we weren’t being treated like an inconvenience, that you were worth something. And that attitude continued throughout the session. We cut the four songs, we recorded four songs that day. And then there was a break called by the studio engineer, the sound engineer who was co-producing the whole thing. And he said, we’re going to go and have dinner now in the BBC works canteen, which was really great. We had great food. Their cost is next to nothing. It was pennies, literally pennies. It was just a nominal amount. And over dinner, he and the two sound engineers that were working with us, discussed what we wanted and how best to get that out during the next period, which was to mix and produce the songs. And it was such a professional approaches. It was a pleasure to be in their company, and how they saw in a very old fashioned cliched way, they saw talent in you, they sort of knew about you, that they wanted to engender and did their very best to make you feel comfortable and to bring that out. So it was wonderful to be in that sort of environment, as straightforward as that BBC is, or was at least this is back in 1978.
Tony and I, because we’d been both involved in far-left politics to quite a serious degree, wanted to articulate some of that in a new, new left type of way. The new left were already old as far as we were concerned. And so Crisis is going to be an agit-prop type of group even more so than say the Clash who were out being heroes more than the Sex Pistols, although in retrospect, the Sex Pistols was (????????) came to America, I have to say.
Dirk Bogarde in Covent Garden one day, I think it was the 22nd of September, 1986 to be precise, in London. Yeah, that was good. He had a real thing about his eyes. He had special eyes, I’ll always remember that, we connected. And it was the day when he signed copies of his book Back Cloth for me. And “The world that summer” had just come out and I had some promo versions of that with me. And I gave him a signed copy of “the world that summer”. And it was the occasion where I asked him to, I went into a shop and bought another copy of Back Cloth. I thought I’m going to get this written to David Tibet. So, you know, from, Dirk Bogarde, but he didn’t understand me. The noise in Covent Garden was, it was, it was a noisy day. He was saying he hated the crowds. And I said, could you write it to Tibet, Dirk Bogarde, but he misheard me and just, he put T O B E T T E. So it was like “tobet”. So David Tibet has this peculiar signed copy of a Dirk Bogarde book, but written to some woman. As Dirk Bogarde said, “I don’t understand the code you’re using” then I tried to explain the situation. And that was, that was good. I appreciated meeting him. I’ve met, I’m less shy now about getting autographs because I used to meet a lot of people in airports doing such a lot of traveling that I liked. So I do have an odd boarding pass when I flew to Hamburg some years ago, this would be once again, the early nineties, I think, I was on the same plane as Ray Davis of the Links. And we were queuing up to go through customs and I got him to sign my boarding pass and he was very pleasant, always loved the Links and flying back I was on the same plane as the rest of the group and his brother who dislike each other so much, they travel separately. So on the same boardinh pass, I got Dave Davis to sign his autograph. So I’ve actually got the Davis brothers on the same thing, which I was quite proud of, or a Ralph Hutter of Kraftwerk. We were in the same restaurant in Sydney airport a couple of years ago. I’ve been in Sydney to actually see Kraftwerk play. And I went over and introduced myself, and almost stopped their table. Cause obviously Death In June meant something to these Germans and he signed everything I had of Kraftwerk. I had all my CDs in nice little case. I’d been listening to it in a hotel room. And I don’t know if it was out of fear that he obligingly wrote everything. And then the rest of the table just spent their time talking in German to each other. As I left and went back to my table, feeling very pleased with myself.
There’s three people that come to mind, or four people, or there’s probably been a few others, but I’m very pleased to know or to have known some of the other people I’ve mentioned. I mean, I think they are in their own right very, very special individuals. And I may not be close to them now, but when I knew them, they certainly were then. I’m very proud to have been part of that whole new movement of music, musicians, or artists or whatever you like to define them as that came out of that early eighties period in the UK and in America.
It wasn’t until punk rock came along and you could see that you could make this happen. My interest in music and photography could be channeled in that direction. You didn’t have to be a technical wizard musically to be in a group that was successful. It destroyed and deconstructed everything. It was my life saver, Punk rock was.
Fortunately enough it was because everything was upside down. Everything was thrown into a new arena. It was completely accepted. I’d come out already before punk rock to my close friends. And then when punk happened, I was already on the cusp of having a partner who was, I was 20, he was 58. And we lived together for 10 years until we came to a natural separation. But he was very accepted at places like the Roxy club he used to have good conversations with Captain Sensible. I remember one particular deep one about the death of Mark Almond, uh, not Marc Almond, Marc Boland, he just died when he wrapped his Mini around a tree in England. And we’d gone up to the Roxy for something to do. And the Damned did an impromptu performance there. And he was talking to Jack, my partner then, and it was a very pleasant evening. We’d supported people like the Specials. That was the only concert I have actually missed because I was ill, but we’re always trying to get onto the support slot of the Buzzcocks. But for whatever reason, never managed to get on stage because of one riot or another, or just not getting on with the particular promoter who I nearly had a fist fight with at the stage door. So we had an odd reputation. I have to say that if anyone was cursed, Crisis w, he had an extremely violent reputation, which was one of the main reasons outside of the fact that by 1980 punk rock was well and truly dead that we decided to split it to. It wore you down. There was constant fights, not just with other people because punks in those days were sort of like a target to bull that it was, it was dangerous being a punk rocker in the UK or in Europe in between 77 and 80,there was also internal fights. I can only speak for most of the people that are around me who were disaffected, disenfranchised working class. And when Johnny Rotten sung No Future, there was no future in the UK in the mid seventies. There really was that feeling of hopelessness that I feel, I think in retrospect was a massive catalyst to do something because I distinctly remember being worried and living almost in dread about the emptiness that my life would be. How do you handle this? I mean, Christmas 1974, I contemplated suicide. I was 18 years old and thinking, this is going completely no way.
I told you I was ill. No, that’s just, it’s been done, I’m afraid. The comedian Spike Milligan (????). I thought about that. And I still get to come up with an answer. I distinctly remember being dragged around in the dirt of Vendell park, which is where we were sleeping and feeling the mud and the rain trickled down the back of my neck and thinking it didn’t matter any longer because I didn’t exist. But after coming out of that three days later and finding all my possessions stolen, I just had an empty rucksack and the clothes I was wearing, I didn’t even have my passport. I was later deported from Belgium when I tried to get back to the UK. There’s no chance of getting across that channel without having your document. So I was arrested by the Belgian police and deported. They were life changing moments I’m very pleased I went through. I’ve been dropping acid for two good years previous to that since I was 16. And this was the moment to really stop. I probably took it a couple of times after just to make sure I couldn’t handle it anymore again, and to control the situation. But it, it had shown me what I had to do. And I had to embark on the life I really wanted.
In 77, there was a seven inch single put out by Scritti Politti called Skank Bloc Bologna, which came, the sleeve itself was once you unfolded the sleeve, it gave you all the necessary information about how to manufacture and distribute your own record from, phone numbers and addresses of pressing plants, to how much roughly it would cost and what you had to do. And that was the way in and the guy that started the label that we put our first single out on used that as the basis. And then we did in turn, when he gave us sort of waived his rights on any future pressings of that first single. And then we started doing our own releases, that that was invaluable.
When you least expect it, something unexpected happens and it can sort of save your bacon for the moment till you get a clearer picture of the situation. Something came along that did change again. And that was the sort of epiphany I’d had with the LSD. I went to America for the first time in December, 1977, pretty much under the invite of Slash Magazine who had seen Crisis’s first ever performance, 1977. It was December flew over on a cheap flight from London to New York, with a Greyhound ticket to get to Los Angeles eventually, which took three days after a few days here and stopped in a variety of places. It was, it was good. I mean, I was a punk rocker at the time. So when I’m going into bars in Amarillo, they didn’t really know who I was, who bleached hair and black bondage suits, and probably got away with murder because it turned out there was, there was one guy who got on the bus. He was a black guy who just got out of prison in st. Louis. And he befriended us or we befriended him and he told us about how you get coconut oil to strength to straighten your hair. And he really got into straightening his hair and about stuff like that. And we went into a bar in Amarillo, in Texas. Remember it said on the outside “a nice place for nice people only”, and didn’t realize that was code. Cause I was with my partner at the time we walked in, there was like sawdust on the floor. The barmaid was called Marylou. And there were guns literally hanging up from behind the bar where you have to leave your gun holsters. And he disappeared. He was just gone, but, oh, well he probably didn’t like the music, which was like bluegrass and country. And I was digging the American experience, but he said to us after that was like a KKK bar that was just code for “no blacks”, “a nice place for nice people only”. So once we got on the bus again “Oh right”. And I was like standing there, I suppose I could have had an interest in time but I thought I’d probably just stepped off to the latest UFO and just leave him alone. You know, they didn’t really know about punk, that sort of happened after the Sex Pistols tour, which was just about to happen, all was happening at the time. I think after that became a national consciousness, you probably had a harder time with things.
When I was going into bars in Tucson. They didn’t know what the hell I was. They just stayed clear of the guy with the black bondage uniform on and peroxided hair. I stayed in Los Angeles for most of the time in Santa Monica and hung out the sort of the American equivalent on the West coast of, I suppose, CBGBs here, which was called the Mask and the equivalent of the Roxy or the Vortex in England. And got to see some of the American punk groups from the West coast, like the Dickies, the Weirdos, the Screamers, who are the best group I think I ever saw. I’m sure I might’ve mentioned before during that period that never got around to releasing anything, they were just absolutely brilliant live, and had a really good time because of that. And being invited to parties of film directors and things, cause they were the people that seem to be into Crisis and then finding Elliot Gould, all his clothes on the scene in the shower, having a shower for some particularly yearly reason. I just thought I love America. I thought it was really groovy and interesting. And then on the way back, we would cross in one of the bridges. I think it was Manhattan bridge. It went into these port authority building anyway, the bus, the Greyhound on exactly new year’s Eve, 77, and then trying to keep awake all night long in the terminal and hearing sort of killers coming down from Times Square, talking about how they smashed a broken bottle and put it through a friend a guy’s neck out in the square and they make money. And for some reason we were invisible that night we stayed awake. The police didn’t harass us. No one else did except some strange old lady that kept talking to us and not none of the menagerie that was New York then, which I found genuinely dangerous and interesting place to be, bothered us. So in the morning when got the time to go and get the flight, cause these cheap flights, you could only buy the ticket. On the day we jumped on the tube subway system and went out to the place which is called Laker airlines. Freddie Laker on the plane bought our 50 pound tickets back to London and it was the end of an interesting month.
I think they don’t see the pathos and the ultimate tragedy of that period, which I have a natural equation for whatever reason. It’s always been there, perhaps because of my background at immediate post-war period of growing up. I’m unsure of myself. I’ve never pinpoint of it I’ve just learned to accept it, but it’s definitely to do “Tristesse”, I suppose the French would say an ultimate sadness in a waste, which is also attractive. Every war has its artistic consequences.
One of the things that all three original members of Death in June talked about when Death in June was in its formative days, possibly before we even had a name when we were still rehearsing,back in 1980,that we wanted to be the mirror image of most people’s ugliness. I think that the shared life experience that Tony Wakeford, Patrick Leagas and myself had had was that we didn’t like very many people and we were fed up with most people’s conceited natures of self-righteousness, especially for Tony and I coming from the far left background and had seen how the far-left had worked in such an unscrupulous and bad way of treating people realistically, that if this is what that is all about, we want nothing to do with it. And perhaps we’re going to show them their real mirror image.
A lot of people will probably point to “But, what ends when the symbols shatter?”, when that came out as being the first Neofolk folk-industrial album, but I tend to disagree. I think it started with Brown book back in 87 and the Current 93 albums Swastikas For Noddy. I think they were the two Neo folk post industrial folk or whatever you want to call it. I don’t put them in those ghettos. And we didn’t do anything deliberately. It was, it was, as I said, really natural. So whatever people are up to now, I’ve taken a side step out of that. I don’t know what people are up to. I know what the originators were up to all those years ago and I’m still in contact with one or two of those people such as Boyd Rice, but I don’t know. And I don’t care what’s going on. If something is meant for me to listen to it will come my way. I get sent a lot of stuff. And I’m pleased that some of the people I’ve inspired, some of the younger groups are actually good. I liked that there had been some groups have inspired me, however but I don’t foresee anything. I can’t, I don’t spend my time thinking about it. I’m too selfish and too involved with myself and those around me in my world to even possibly imagine where ever anyone else has taken anything. I’m too concerned with where I’m going to take Death In June and its survival to the ultimate end. So musical fashions may not.
Tony and I just, going back to the very, very beginning were rehearsing, but we still didn’t have a direction until Patrick Leagas came along. And during our first rehearsal together, very first drum beats he did to Heaven Street. I knew that was it. This is going to be a group. We didn’t have the name until we were in the studio later, but it dictated itself. All three disparate musical influences that were being put into the one hole, came out, sounding like that. And as the years went by and Tony left, then Patrick left, I was the sort of sole flag bearer of the situation and I’ve utilized my own musical tastes and what I’m capable of producing myself in what ever way necessary. And until you begin working on a project, you can never tell which direction it’s going to go. I had no idea that “The Wall Of Sacrifice” would be half industrial half, hal acoustic. And I thought realistically, it was going to be my answer to Metal Machine Music. So I thought it was going to be completely industrial sounding. But then I wrote some of the sort of acoustic songs I’m best known for on that album, such as Fall Apart or Giddy Carousel. That just came in, declared itself. But I remember the last night of mixing in the studio, John Balance from Coil had come along and David Tibet was there and they didn’t like the presence they felt in the studio. They left, they said, there’s something here we can’t handle. And they left and I knew exactly what they meant, but for me it embraces me and I embrace it. So until you start articulating something, it doesn’t say how it will be, but it will have that same equation to it. If you’re intent on keeping it pure to the theme or life force that is Death In June, which is a particular,thing in itself.
I like that anonymity. I appreciate it. I think you can do a lot of work behind the scenes. One of the Japanese warrior codes is Hagakure, which literally translates into “hidden behind the leaves” or “hidden beneath the leaves”, it’s camouflage, taken to the ultimate. This has been perfect for an artist or they’ll have to say my siblings haven’t been quite so lucky.
In terms of literary piece of work. It would definitely be Jean Genet’s Funeral Rites, reading it in the back of the van tour in Italy in exactly 20 years ago in April, 1985. When we were touring Nada! It was an inspiration. I don’t know if it was influential, but certainly an inspiration. That’s the one that keeps coming back to me.
I still feel that people because of the unique packaging of most Death in June items, that people will still want to possess that piece of art, which is the way I see it. I like the fact that there’s a meticulous approach to the releases of Death In June, it is not just good quality music. You’re buying into a whole world, that the Digipack has got foil-blocking it’s debossed, it’s embossed. It’s beautiful to look at. It’s beautiful to touch. It’s very tactile. It’s great to listen as far as I’m concerned anyway, and hopefully thousands of other people still feel that. So you might be able to download 10,000 tracks on your iPod, but you still will find people out there that will need to physically possess those things, because that is a reassuring part of physical existence, that they will have those things they love around them they can touch. And it’s not just some sort of digital set of musical notes in a nice little pocket sized machinery. I think that is the thing that is, that will keep Death In June, hopefully alive. And I still love, I mean, I still love buying art books. I’m a sucker, right? You can’t take me into bookshops without me coming out with things and spending a lot of money on stuff. I still want things around the (…). I still like to touch them. I still like to look at them flip through those pages. It needs to be real with me. Computer imagery still doesn’t do it for me.
I’ve got these two ideas for books that Death In June scrapbook and an official biography more releases of back catalog, DVDs to maintain that. And in fact, recently I’ve even been approached about reissuing the Crisis material literally a few weeks ago by an American company of all places. So that looks like that could happen. There’s always the new album in the making, The Concrete Fountain, which is this nebulous thing that’s been hanging around my neck since 1979. But you know, it’s even on this tour, I’ve come up with some new things. So if it does happen, lyrically, at least it’s very, it should be very interesting. I hope it’s going to be okay, but there’s a lot of pressure on to make sure it is a really good album and to maintain the whole shebang really, which is quite widespread, but I don’t know if touring is going to continue too much because I could give you a real piece of cinema verite right now but I’m not sure whether or not I, I would, I would prefer to do that in complete private.
No, it’s been interesting. It suits the time as it is now. I think once again, it captures my personal Zeitgeist.
Where have you been going?
It started off in Australia in Adelaide and Sydney and they were great, but they’re really the warmup shows for America. And we flew into Seattle on the 29th and played a couple of days later and flew down to San Francisco, made amends for my last show, which was in June where I lost my voice completely. So at least they could hear me this time. And then we went to Portland, I think it was the best show so far as Portland and Seattle have always been good places for us.
Why do you think that is?
I don’t know. It’s something about the West coast that Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle are good places for us. You know.
What kind of venues are you playing out there?
All the usual kind of club type things becoming blur. I remember she said to me once, when are you going to get a proper job? And it was just like, forget it, you know, this is my proper job, you know, it was God knows, who knows, or clerical assistant or something like that, you know? I mean, yeah, it pays well and gets you to places. Doesn’t it? I mean, that was only really a fail-safe of about what else, how am I going to survive in this world? You know, that was, you know, I was good at what I was learning. I mean, history and economic and social history. And you know, if I couldn’t make the dream happen, then that would be like the ordinary existence for me. But I mean, I, after the epiphany really in Amsterdam, as I said, I was determined to make that dream happen. So, you know, make your life what you exactly want of.
In addition to the behind the mask interview, questions were sent online by audience and published on voidstore’s website. here they are…
Could you describe in detail the falling out of David Tibet and/or Jhonn Balance and how that has affected you personally?
[Douglas] To describe “in detail” the cumulative effect of the slow but gradual deterioration of our relationship would take too long and I’m past being interested in it, let alone concerned by it. Suffice to say that whilst I could live with Tibet using my name gratuitously on the credits of a homophobic album he released by Tiny Tim or him slamming the telephone down on me a couple of times in a fit of pique when I showed the temerity to actually disagree with him, probably about religious matters, I really couldn’t abide seeing his name attached to legal documents instructing people like Geff Rushton (John Balance) to get as much dirt on me as possible to help world serpent distribution in their legal case against
me. Particularly galling was that the instruction came with a note saying that those individuals concerned should be quiet regarding his secret instructions to them! Those actions were really lower than a snake’s belly and he sealed his fate as far as I’m concerned. No wonder he has gone on to even disown himself. He/current 93 ceased to exist from there on.
Death In June has largely been your personal project for over twenty years. A man’s life, thoughts and philosophies can undergo many changes in this course of time. Do you find that whatever inspired you at the inception of Death In June continues to inspire you today?
[Douglas] The inspirations that permeated every aspect of my Existence from. Say the ages of 20-30, still very much hold sway in my Life today now I’m approaching 50. But, once you have read the Highway Code you shouldn’t really need to perpetually return to it to know the rules of the road! Or, if you do you probably weren’t a very good learner in the first place. You adapt, adopt and improvise as the road becomes longer and longer, perhaps more treacherous. There’s no hope of ever having enough fuel to get back to
where you came from, anyway.
If the price was right, would you give my boyfriend and me piano lessons? If not, do you think David Tibet would be up for it.
[Douglas] The only piano lessons I’ve ever had were sitting in front of a keyboard by myself and placing my fingers in positions where I thought they sounded pleasing. I suggest you save your money and do the same. David Tibet, to the best of my knowledge, can’t play any instrument. That’s the reason why he gets people like me into his group to write songs for him. Sadly, when his ego is threatened he will later deny they ever existed and attempt to write them out of history. He’s a better joker than musician and justly deserves to be remembered as such. You should pay to see his stand up routine but definitely not for piano lessons.
I know you never answer to questions about your lyrics but I still intend to try my question is about ‘rose clouds of holocaust’ my feeling about this song is that it is talking about the friendship between you and tibet.
I know it was written while you were still friends but sometimes art can show things that will happen in the future. the reason I feel this way is because I know the main line of the song is about a certain moment on the beach and another line ‘festivals end as festivals must’ can be also about a friendship that ended. maybe you can add something to this theory ? what do you think?
all the very best
[Douglas] “Festivals end as Festivals must” is actually a newspaper headline I saw in 1980 referring to Yukio Mishima’s suicide in 1970 at the Eastern Army Barracks in Tokyo. There was no beach in Iceland where Tibet and I discussed “Auschwitz by the Sea” at The Blue Lagoon in the middle of a blizzard. Only the bleak surrounding volcanic landscape. It was a momentary inspiration that led to ‘Rose Clouds Of Holocaust’. However, on that same album the song ‘Lifebooks’ does directly relate to probably the most intense and strange conversation Tibet and I ever had in a pub in the West End of London near Leicester Square in about 1993/94. I very much agree with your point that some art can mutate over the course of time as I find out with my own work. When I sing lyrics today I know where the original inspiration came from and realize how I can now put those lyrics in another context it really does make me wonder about the purpose of the original. It certainly is food for thought, Uri!
Hello, Douglas P. Please name your Gods.
Thank you, Michael Fay, California
[Douglas] Whoever answers my prayers in the most efficient and expedient way possible. My Gods are the ones that work!
here my question:
Has there been a time when you heard and maybe even liked the music of Pink Floyd or Roger Waters?
Thank you in advance and all the best for you and your work.
[Douglas] I loved early, Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. I bought the ‘Relics’ compilation as a teenager, became hooked and then bought the first 2 albums and Syd’s solo material. I never had more than a passing interest in the work that followed. I’ve never heard a Roger Waters solo album.
Comment interpretez-vous votre chanson “c’est un rêve”, que doit-on comprendre par “il est dans nos coeurs noirs (Klaus Barbie)?
(after a French to English translator, which is not exactly perfect,we get:)
How do you interpret your song “it is a dream”, which must one
include/understand by “it is in our black cores (Klaus Barbie)?
[Douglas] Klaus Barbie was only a symbol. Nothing special. The Balkans war in the 1990s, the genocide in Rwanda and our present war without end in Iraq all easily demonstrate this.The song was inspired by some performances in France in early 1984 where it was rumoured that DIJ had tried to make contact with him during our visit to Lyon where he was in prison. Naturally, it was only a rumour but, an inspirational one as far as my song writing was concerned!
I would like to know if you know anything about the work of chilean writer Miguel Serrano…some of his topics may be of your interest, for sure.
[Douglas] I haven’t read any work by Miguel Serrano but I’ve heard I should.
Hi, here’s my question:
Do you feel comfortable within thought-line of the european new right (being De Benoist one of its more recognised exponents, inspired by both left-right, influenced for the konservative revolution -Jünger, Heidegger, Spengler, Schmitt,..- and demanding a philosophical return to paganism), from a political (though is more about metapolitics than politics per sé) and philosophical point of view?
Sergio de Olivera
[Douglas] I truly only feel comfortable with myself regarding any ‘political’ trains of thought.
Thank you for this and hello Douglas.
‘Astounded to be celebrating 20yrs of the release of Nada! with you this month, what are your fondest reflections and bitterest memories of that inspiring period of DI6’s past?’
p6 (Scotland) x
[Douglas] I think the best memory is the dawn walk to the Thames Embankment near the recording studios at Waterloo for a Champagne breakfast. After we had finished the album we knew we had something special and that we should celebrate. The worst, at that time, was when Patrick Leagas went missing after our tour of Italy in April, 1985. I really had to think very quickly on my feet during that period but in retrospect it was all for the beast!
a thought on: “Why? & Why not?”
Do you care for the differences they distinguish…anymore?
[Douglas] I’m not sure if I ever did care about the differences. I act on instinct and never call that into question.
What are your biggest influences to you as a person. Things/people that effect your music, your morals, etc. what/whom effects you the most; literature, music, pop culture, etc. and any authors, musicians, politicians. etc, whom you feel a great sense of inspiration from?
Randy Fulgham, California.
[Douglas] How does one list so much without it sounding like a bland shopping list? I’ve said it all before anyway and I won’t demean all those important moments, works, people, loves, actions and feelings. I was born at 09.00 hrs. on Friday, the 27th April 1956 in a terraced council house on an industrial estate in Woking, Surrey in the South of England and I am now 49 years old writing this at 14.45 hrs on a citrus block acres and acres in size in the Riverland area of South Australia, Sunday, 28th August, 2005.
All of My Life and all that has come with it has been the inspiration.
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