1.) DEATH IN JUNE have ever since been a topic for numerous discussions about how far art can go in its imagery. With putting “Rose clouds of holocaust” on the German index of publications dangerous to younger people end of last year it has become a legal matter for the first time. When did you hear about these things first? Did you have an idea what it can mean being put on this index?
I was first told in about August, 2005 that after an official complaint had been filed with the Brandenburg police about 2 of the songs on the album, ‘Life Books’ and the title track, there was going to be an official enquiry into that album which would involve it being reviewed by a committee of 11 representatives of the German Police, youth groups, Jewish organisations etc. that would decide whether or not these musical works represented a danger to German society.
Even though apparently only 9 of the committee members bothered showing up for the meeting it was decided that a ban would be imposed at the end of 2005 and as far as I understand as I write that ban includes adults as well as minors (under 18s)
2.) After the “Rose clouds ” was put on this index you published an open letter containing some facts already known to people, but then again also some surprisingly very clear statements. Over the years you mostly denied to explain DEATH IN JUNE which fueled the wild speculations about what the band could be really about or not. Finally this lead you at least in Germany in this dead end street where it is really hard to get out again. Don’t you think it was a mistake to push this playing in the twilight that far? Would it have been not possible to avoid all this by taking out tension far earlier?
Absolutely not! I feel this is tantamount to saying that all art should be for simpletons and for simpletons only. Everything should be laid out on a plate, explained from A-Z and then left for polite consumption? How revolting and ordinary!
I find the whole idea of censorship in the arts abhorrant especially in a Western democracy and especially where an official government agency is involved. I find that kind of approach more akin to the old German dictatorships of the past or the Islamic states of today. So, in the Europa of 2006 you mustn’t lampoon a religious figure in cartoons based on some very dangerous and real stereotypes for fear of deaththreats and riots, which only serve to confirm how close these cartoons are to these stereotypes, and you cannot publish music that may or may not be interpreted in as many ways as there are colours of the rainbow? What kind of country/continent is that? One whose eyes are gradually closing to the true horrors that surround it in the hope that when it decides to open them again the horrors would have all disappeared? They won’t have, they’d have only got worse!
I’m not in a dead end in Germany – Germany itself is in a dead end if this ‘Index’ decision isn’t overturned. In fact, the whole outdated and outrageous bourgeois idea of the ‘Index’ should be overturned.
3.) As far as some people have an understanding for your position can you yourself sometimes understand people cannot cope with DEATH IN JUNE? E.g. I interviewed Patrick Leagas and he said he could understand those people being upset about a DEATH IN JUNE gig in Bologna in the eighties where a serious bomb attack organized by right wing forces had taken place before. He could imagine the people were seriously confused about the first impression they had of the band.
Patrick Leagas left DIJ in 1985 shortly after the Italian tour about which I have very different memories. We’ve worked together since 4 times in various live ‘one-offs’ for Death In June so I don’t think Pat is too concerned about confusing people. Certainly, all 3 original members of DIJ weren’t overly concerned about what people thought of the group especially as one of our early mottos was
We aim to please with constant unease.
But, as I say in one of my recent press releases “…there are limits to being misinterpreted especially when the interpretors become accusers, stone throwers and are from a German government agency!!”
That’s a whole different ball game involving the confiscation of people’s freedom of choice. People are free not to be able to cope with Death In June on all kinds of levels just as I’m free not to be able to ‘cope’ with homophobic, racist and murderous rap music by some black groups. I don’t listen to it and, naturally, I don’t buy it. But, I couldn’t give a damn about it being sold in the same record shops as my music is. It’s like the sad people who get offended by television programmes and feel the need to complain and moan about them. Hey, guess what, and it might come as a big surprise to these people, you can change channels or switch off if you want if that programme offends you so much. So why don’t they?
For some people complaining appears to be their very ‘raison d’etre’. It’s their only way of proving their existence – ‘we moan, therefore we are!!’
4.) Back in the seventies you were yourself an active member of the leftist scene and e.g. playing on Rock Against Racism etc. do you see differences in the leftist scenes back then compared to today? Would you have tolerated a band like DEATH IN JUNE in those times?
Well, I think the ‘left’ scene then was still very heavily influenced by the 1960s and the Situationists and also the 30 years that have past since those days sees Europa and the World in a very different light. Communism along with most of its advocates has been completed discreditted although there are naturally some die hards hanging on – especially in modern day Germany since reunification!
I can’t think of any music group that was like DIJ during those days which was another good reason why we had to invent it. But realistically we kept our attention focussed on political parties and personalities rather than David Bowie or Siouxie and The Banshees!
5.) You performed also in Israel. How were the reactions there? How do they get along with the imagery? Do they really understand e.g. the symbols you use or the camo you wear on stage is not just “any” camo?
For over 20 years I have received a lot of fanmail from Israel, sold a lot of music in Israel and finally in June 2004 had the chance to perform in Tel Aviv to about 500 people. The reaction was brilliant! We had 3 encores and there was a stage invasion at the end of the performance. Asking if the audience for Death In June in that country really understand DIJ is rather patronising. Perhaps they understand better than most? At one of the Universities there is even a course that features a full thesis about the group that is apparently part of the curriculum.
6.) During a gig of yours in French Brest in 2005 someone entered the stage and removed the rainbow flag you had put there in the background. It is said you then stopped the concert saying you do not wish people in your audience who cannot accept what the flag stands for. After that you decided not to play live anymore. Can you describe in your own words what exactly happened and what you felt about it in this moment?
As always with almost anything I do an urban myth has grown out of a non-event.
I had approached the last tour of Australia, America and Europa in March/April/May 2005 as being the last Death In June tour. After spending 2-3 months of so many of the past years touring in over 25 different countries around the World I had decided it was time to stop and do other things with DIJ that I was finding difficult to find the time for. All the shows had been pleasing to me for all kinds of reasons and when I walked out on stage in Brest I announced this was going to be the last one – ever! The old name for Brittainny is Finnisterre which literally means “Land’s End” or “End Of The World” so it couldn’t be a better, symbolic place for Death In June to say Au revoir!
During one of the first songs and through the limited vision through the mask I wear I saw a guy walking on stage near the drums and I thought he must be a roadie adjusting some of the percussion as John Murphy was being especially violent with his drumming. However, I then noticed him walking off stage with the Rainbow flag which he then dropped on the front of the stage. Some people then picked it up and passed it over the heads of other members of the audience. Whatever song we were performing then came to a natural end and I walked over to the front of the stage and got the flag back and put it back in position. I then announced that if people don’t like it and the fact that I’m Gay (i.e.the overweight guy who walked on stage and took the flag) then that’s tough and they could always leave. Apparently the guy and his 3 friends did soon after.
That’s all that happened, and had no effect whatsoever on my decision to stop touring but, like anything rumours spread and it becomes something much more dramatic than the reality.
That’s Death In June for you!
7.) Was it the first time for you to recognize people in your audience who might be understanding your imagery on a political level and being attracted by this? I once read a concert report on a right-wing website which showed to me not only opponents of DEATH IN JUNE take the band for what they believe to see at first sight.
I don’t think the guy understood me on any level! You have to be pretty slow not to know after 28 years of me being publically Gay that in fact, I’M GAY!
But, as I’ve said in my recent public statements; “any form of art worth its salt is open to interpretation, reinterpretation and misinterpreteation…”
Once you put yourself into the hands of the public that will always be the way.
One of the most interesting things I read in an interview by George Harrison shortly before he died a few years ago was that to him one of the most depressing things about The Beatles was that despite all the millions of records they had sold and all the thousands and thousands of people they had played to he didn’t think there were more than 100 people in the entire World that really understood them and what they were about as a group and as people. If someone as huge as George Harrison or The Beatles is misunderstood then what chance Death In June?
8.) Your latest reaction to the situation was another open letter in which you call people to organize some kind of a charity concert of which the ticket sales could be used to help to pay the trial and where other bands can show their solidarity, because they might be the next to be banned as you said. I am a bit confused about this letter, because first of all the reason for the banning of “Rose clouds ” is a very specific legal thing that other bands cannot be accused of. As long as they do not break any laws why should their works be banned? So don’t you think this problem refers specifically to DEATH IN JUNE? And do you really think it is a good idea to play Germany especially now that everything is stirred up anyway? Have you been talking with TESCO about it before?
“As long as they do not break any laws…” is a telling remark. If this album, which has been around for over 10 years and has been freely available World-wide, selling tens of thousands of copies in the process, and up until now not apparently breaking any laws that I was aware of anywhere in the World can suddenly be stopped what is to stop the same thing happening to any of the works by any of the other groups that are related to this ‘scene’?
If you’re not breaking the law yesterday how come you are breaking the law today?
This is a dangerous development. The same people, courtesy of a malicious phone call, or a small demonstration, or a press article behind making a venue cancel a show here, or reschedule a show there, by any one of the number of groups concerned over the past few years have now changed their tactics. The end is still the same – artistic censorship – but with government backing – the worst pornography of all.
As this has happened in Germany, the real centre of this problem, it makes perfect sense for a Festival to take place there.
Tesco deal with the situation in their way and I in mine. Naturally, there are points of crossover but, as they rightly do not refer everything to me during their part of the battle I do not need to refer everything to them. We are separate entities with the same aim and hopefully a good outcome.
9.) Your latest open letter ends with the question: will “festivals end as festivals must?” Do you indicate to bury the band in case will not succeed?
No! This refers to the challenge of whether or not solidarity in this matter can be publically demonstrated. Death In June will continue regardless of any blinkered laws in Germany.