Interview:2006-The Eye

Full transcription from the Brainwashed video interview “The Eye”

I’m open to people’s interpretations, I mean it’s like for instance the name Death in June, they’ve been so many different interpretations, but I still think the most interesting, one which is one of the more recent in the past few years was that I was derived from the assassination of the Archduke Prince Ferdinand Sarajevo in June 1914, I’d never thought about that but of course it does have a relevance here. We live in a world shaped by what happened that day

My dad bought me an acoustic guitar made in Russia that was cheap in a place called Petticoat Lane in the Eastern London in a big market that used to take place on Sunday, but what I don’t remember him ever buy me was an instruction manual about how and what to play, and things like you actually have to tune this thing up. So I just used to play along one of two strings. I don’t think my technique has changed much, I’m still a very limited guitarist that made a go a long the way, but I got one of those very early and I remember doing a peak towns and whenever I was going to get older just going out to the garden and being so frustrated with it and smashing it to bits. But it did help in in the long run.

I eventually bought a proper guitar when I was 16 from ABC Music in Addlestone and it was the brother of one of the members of Manfred Mann, whoever was playing in at the timen he was working in there and he was quite helpful and he chose a nice acoustic guitar and gave me some hints on what to buy to help in terms of helping to learn. My first music lessons were at night school with nuns. It wasn’t really working out for me, but I was then putting the right dry directions.

I’d met Tony Wakeford a year or two before punk rock, probably in about 75 and we’d actually met on demonstrations at Anti Nazi League or Rock Against Racism, RAR didn’t exist it then, it was sort of antidemonstrations, England was a hotbed of extreme political views at the time, people were looking at different options, right and left, and we got on, and I knew he was playing bass guitar in group called Backwater which did sort of pop/ rock cover versions of groups songs such as Status Quo in fact and we’d met once or twice and he seemed ok. And then one day I got a phone call from him in 76 and he said “have you heard of punk rock?”, and I said yes I have, “do you want to form a group?”, yeah okay, cause he knew I was mucking around on the guitar.

So we got together with another person which never really got out of bedroom, it was named ASU which stood for Active Service Unit which the IRA were calling themselves in London at the time letting off bombs. And for me it’s kind of relevant because a few years before in 1974 I’d been blown out by the IRA in London and I was very lucky, I just walked past a shop doorway and WHACK it went off and I just forced along Oxford Street totally upright but all in slow motion, quite filmic in a way, once I’ve been shoved along god knows how many yards, you turn around, everything is in slow motion and the brains tries to cope with the situation and I remember these pigeons either stunned or dead just falling down out of the sky or from the windows. It was a lovely moment in a way and no one were kill that day, but people were getting killed regularly at the time, and so it seemed appropriate. But nothing was happening and then I went down to the West Country to a seaside resort called Minehead for a long weekend, probably in the spring of 77, and punk by then was really beginning to make headlines, and I picked up a newspaper, I was drinking my favourite beer, still is my favourite beer, Carlsberg Special Brew, and the newspaper headlines everywhere is crisis this, crisis that, crisis everywhere, in health service, ambulance service, in Northern Ireland, blah blah blah, and so that was the name. So I phoned up Tony I said we’ve got the name, and as soon as we had that name things starting happening, we got out of the bedroom really, the guitarist we were working with was dropped, people started to come across our hearts. The lead singer came out way. he knew what became the lead guitarist, lead guitarist knew what became the drummer, and we had a group, and then we performed our first show in mid-77 at a punk festival in Guildford which is just outside London, which we considered probably our main town and we immediately had success, we were lucky that in the audience there were reporters for Slash Magazine from America, which you may not be aware of but Search and Destroy and Slash were sort of main punky, newwave fanzines or whatever you’d like to call them, more like newspapers in the States. And they were impressed, interviewed us and things started happening, and said “you should come over to America cause the Americans will love you” and by then we started to get more regular performances in London, and in december 77 I did fly to America for a month, and things started to fall in place a bit more, within the papers such as Search and Destroy and meeting other groups in the LA punks scene like the Deals, the Weirdos, Dickies, or you know the Flesh Eaters, I remember seeing thir first show at the Mask in Hollywood.

After the nine months break or approximately nine months break. I think a lot of things had personally happened in both Tony and I’s lives. And so when we did meet up, we were definitely slightly different to what we had been in Crisis, which was what we wanted to so, so this would be late 1980. And we started trying out songs together. I’d been, I’d written a few things and Tony obviously had, we were trying things out with other people like saxophonist or another man who operated drum machines. And it wasn’t really gel in at all. We knew that. And after some weeks of this or it might’ve been even months, it seemed to go on and on and it was getting interested, but we knew it wasn’t quite right by then, Tony had started working with another group called the Runners From 84 who were a punk group, but had been sort of changing and they’d been in the audience of Crisis and I’d met or at least knew one of them, Patrick Leagas, the drummer. He’d been at one of the last Crisis shows and he’d made an indelible impression with me because he’d had a dead seagull pinned to the back of his leather jacket in a sort of crucifix form. And I thought, well, that, guy’s interesting. And he via Tony would then came to see if he could play drums with Death In June. So we set up a rehearsal and I remember him arriving and he was driving a motorcycle at the time that he’d completely covered in fake leopard skin including his helmet says, so this guy turns up, he looks like an SS Stormtrooper getting off his bike. The bike’s completely covered in leopard skin saws. He, ah, Patrick still sartorially challenged anyway. And came into these rehearsal studios, which were called Cold Storage, which is in Brixton, which was run by a group called This Heat, the who hadn’t bothered showing us where any of the power points were at. We spent half the evening looking around to where we were going to plug in our amps. And eventually we did. And it was almost instantaneous, I think is the first track we did was Heaven Street, on the first song we started playing and Patrick just changed everything. We knew we had a group.

So that was the beginning of Death In June although we didn’t have a name for, for the group at that time. The name actually came when some weeks or months later it was getting close to our first performance in November 81 with the Birthday Party and Berlin based group called Malaria. And we thought, well, for that first performance, we should actually have a record out. And we were recording the 12 inch Heaven Street, three track. And I misheard something that Patrick said in the recording studio. And I thought he’d said Death In June, but he didn’t. But I said the name and it was instantaneous, it was like manna from heaven. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. We’ve got a name. And so we finally had the name, which everyone has a great time interpreting, but even us, it’s purely post rationalization. It was just my hearing. And things began to fall into place. We began to play more performances and we started to build a following. And at some of these early performances, we noticed that members of TOPY or PTV were turning up. And I was curious, cause I was aware of PTV. I liked Genesis and I liked what he was doing. And I was aware of David Tibet and his solo works with 23 Skidoo and his involvement with PTV. And of course I was aware of the, sort of the boys that were now in Coil that were, you know, like Sleazy had been in Throbbing Gristle. And so I was curious these people would come in to see us and I was making notes about this. I was actually keeping a file on David Tibet. Eventually at a show we did at the bottom of the post office tower in a club that was called The Living Room, which was run by Alan McGee, who was running Creation Records at the time. But it was absolutely minuscule. He’d only put a few singles out by terrible groups. And had his own fanzine, he was still working with for British (???), as far as I remember, and I knew Alan McGee from buying some of this stuff at Rough Trade. He introduced me to David Tibet and and we got on immediately that evening. Death In June was doing sort of two different shows at this club, different approaches for each. And I’d been thinking about working with someone else, cause Tony… I thought my working relationship with Tony Wakeford was coming to an end. I had a feeling, instincts were telling me, and this would be about 1983. And so as we got on like a house on fire, literally it was, it said, you know, we didn’t notice it in them turning up. And he said, you know, he’d like Crisis. It was like one of his favorite punk groups. And he was intrigued in what Crisis has become basically, or at least the main songwriters Tony and I becoming Death In June. And so we started communicating to that and he gave a whole list of sort of typed out lyrics. Some of which we started to culling words from the first one, I think was The Torture Garden, which was really Patrick choosing randomly some words from what he’d been given. And then for me was She Said Destroy which was pretty much, word for word, on Christmas day, 1983, became the song I set aside that day. I told my partner, I wouldn’t be going to dinner with him and his family that day. I would stay in and write this song. I had a feeling that it’s going to be important. So I wrote, She Said Destroy on Christmas day, 1983. And via that connection with Tibet, Tibet was sort of like the clearing house to post-industrial folk. He knew everyone. And so I started to meet people.

I think he was on one particular recording session of “Happy Birthday Pigface Christus”, which was going to be a Current 93 12 inch. I went along to do some work on that, at Chokefarm studios in North London. And that day Jeff Rushton was there, or John Balance, whatever you want to call him. Bee was there from Into A Circle, Rose MacDowall was there, Steve Stapleton was there, of course Tibet. And the guy that went on to become… What’s his name… Bomb The Bass. He was there too. He’d come along from school. He was still at school at the time. And he knew Bee, I can’t remember his real name right now. And so it was full of all these interesting people. And we seem to all get on very well and that’s where that led from it, is literally a crossroads where we all seem to meet and started what we realized that we had, then at least, a lot in common and sort of common feeling. And we started working with each other. It was via Tibet.

Tim Simenon.

Tim Simenon. Yeah.

I think a sort of symbolism or at least contradictory, apparently contradictory symbolism started hitting me quite, quite early. And then once you started using them, you began to fine tune your approach to the use of anything. And then you start seeing it everywhere. Like I do constantly now, Boyd and have talked about this. And in fact that was Boyd was one of the people I left out, but it was via Tibet once again, I was introduced to him as a telephone call. I was a great admirer of Boyd’s work beforehand. And I was really loving the way he presented himself with the embossed black album with just NON written on it. And I loved that and that inspired the actual, the emboss writing for Death In June on the 12 inch. So it was that symbolic use there, but the way you use the end backwards. So it looked like a Wolf’s hook and stuff like that. And that got me thinking, and it was via a phone call to Tibet one day when I was living with Tibet 1986. And it was about his contribution to what was to become the Swastikas For Noddy album I first talked to, Boyd Rice. And was it introduced then via that, and we’ve discussed this whole thing. I mean, it goes, it goes haywire when we’re together, is good at the best of times, but when Boyd and I together, symbolism just gets, it goes out the window. We can’t order anything without getting 6 pounds, 66, come up on it until or 13 pounds or, or we see things. The first car we all see almost without doubt will be a car registration number with 666. It’s almost like “it’s okay boys we’re looking after you”. And you’re like a little pat on the head, and it becomes almost a joke, but you know, it’s even has a scene in the Pearls Before Swine film, but it’s true. I mean, you know, it is true all the time. So symbols are all around you. If you get fine-tuned into these things, you keep seeing them and reading whatever you want into them. And so people will read whatever they want into the symbols I use. But I certainly am not consciously on the lookout for it. They just come straight in, straight at you. I mean, I’ve already had it happen yesterday. The first day I was in Boston, I saw that sign. Hopefully it was a good sign. At least I survived yesterday. You see what happens today, so you get to use your skills. So creating them yourself and seeing how they can be interpreted.

I am fine with people close yet. You know, if I feel that they deserve it, I will wrap them around my little finger. Why not? I’m still here. After so many years, I can afford to play with people. And if they’re stupid enough to play alone, you know… But it really depends. Most people are fine and and I’ll give answers accordingly interesting or not.

With something that’s on my mind at the moment is definitely the effect of Jean Genet’s work on me because it was 20 years ago this month I was reading Funeral Rites, the first book I ever read of his in the back of the van touring in Italy, which was it, which turned out to be the last tour of the Patrick Leagas we did together promoting Nada!. And in a couple of weeks, we’ll be doing an anniversary show in London. Hopefully that will go as well but I had a terrible nightmare about it last night, but so it was Jean Genet definitely was inspirational. And the work of Yukio Mishima. And your thing about that is even on my mind now, it was because a few days ago in San Francisco, I met someone in a gay bar there, a Japanese guy who started talking to me and he was in this country doing some promotional DVD on health and fitness, and it turned out he knew Yukio Mishima and he used to exchange letters with him. And he was very very surprised that he’d met someone like myself who could talk to him about the books he liked and my respective favorite. So, so it’s all the things keep happiness in regards to my history at present to me personally. Outside of that, there’s been so many things, Joe Meek, for instance, sort of England’s answer to Phil Spector. The first record that was ever bought for me was by my father buying The Tornados’ Telstar. And I think that was such a strange record. I mean, Joe Meek was a totally interesting individual as well, and that had an influence upon others. I found inspirational, those kinds of odd sounds. I feel I could use in some way along the lines, I suppose I’ve used mine fair or sort open about sounds. As I said earlier, growing up in England, the early, you know, late fifties, early sixties, it was a course I must’ve been just sucking it up all the time. There was bits and pieces going on that left an indelible impression somewhere on the line. Listening to the Love album and Forever Changes and the album by Charles Manson years ago. I think that was courtesy, at least Love was courtesy of David Tibet. I’m realizing that you could use beautiful melodies with contradictory lyrics, so you can sing lovely things about the snot caking against your pants and you know, et cetera and so on. And the sort of moments that stand out in my mind, but it could be so many things.

Seeing Leni Riefenstahl films, for instance, for the first time, Triumph of the Will, or news documentaries. I mean, it was, it was also the Vietnam war was a huge thing on me growing up to that every day. So, you know, in television and then meeting someone in 1980, who’d been there from the very beginning, from 64 to 74. And I still know, he’s my best friend in Australia, who is an Australian who was in Vietnam and what he had to say about certain situations, and how much he missed Vietnam. He loved it. And he said it was the grooviest time of his life. People being honest about their experiences in those things. And meeting other people, meeting other people that were at the end in Berlin. I’ve just recently seen the Downfall – or Der untergang. Well, I know someone personally who was there, who, who’s lost battles were in the Tiergarden and the Villa Goebbels and the fuhrer bunker. And he survived. He was a private, but managed to get away when they were given the, you know, the orders to every man for himself, you’ve got to go now, he did survive. And he lives very close to me where I live in Australia. They’re sort of fundamental moments. He sort of helped keep me going when I met him in 1989, when I was really out, had undergone a spiritual death in the UK. And I didn’t think there was any future. He was part of my resurrection. So they’re just too many different things. I mean, it’s hard to say.

Have you found that you’ve had to sort of change the way you do business over the years?

I trust fewer people and I can read when there’s going to be problems and I know how people are going to react, make me lot more cynical. Yeah, unfortunately.

Other things you would have probably done differently?

No, I don’t have any regrets whatsoever. I think everything’s been brilliant. I think it’s all gone according to plan. I mean, I’ve got frustrated at some stages about certain things where you think no, that was meant to happen. It was meant to happen at that time to force an issue to have made it happen sooner. It probably wouldn’t have worked out as well. One of the best films I’ve seen recently, and it’s been certainly a lack of any films that have had any impression for me, it was… god, I’m trying to think of the name going straight out… The Butterfly Effect and it, and I thought not, that’s true. If you do change things, it can all go not according to plan. So I think it’s worked out, I’ve been constantly given signs that it is the right path. So don’t have any regrets whatsoever.

What is your idea of, of control, you know…

The will to power. I’ve been very good at it. And that’s why I have no regrets. I am living the life I want to live. I’m doing the job I’ve always dreamed of doing. I did do exactly what I wanted to do in life. I’ve seen the world. I had a very interesting life and I’ve done lots of interesting things. Met lots of interesting, lovely people. I mean..

Is there still stuff left to do? Is there anything, you know…

I would like to think so, but sometimes… I have had (…) recently. I think I’ve done everything. I just would like to spend more time with the people I love. And I really love the people I love.

Any any misconceptions about you that you want to, you want to clear up?


You like people talking about you, do you think that’s…

My ears burn constantly, I lie awake at night, two o’clock in the morning. I can tell my partner – something’s going on out there, somewhere in the rest of the world where it’s like mid day something is going on. And sure enough, I find out a few days later, I don’t mind that it’s like, you know, if it wastes people’s time that I don’t like that’s good, but if it enriches people’s lives that people that like me or I like, that’s good too. You know, it’s all part of the process.

Do you think there’s no such thing as bad publicity? Do you think publicity is something that…

I won’t go that far. I think there is publicity that can actually just ruin things, but it depends on how you handle it… So far, so good.