Recently published in an Hungarian magazine called ‘Fossilia’ is an extensive interview that took place over several weeks in early 2006. Over the next few days I will be posting my replies, some of which have the questions included but, not all. Those segments that don’t have the questions – such as this one – I’ll leave up to your collective imagination regarding what I’m talking about:
1. Much of what I’ve released in this decade has been retrospective as, after I departed world serpent distribution in 1999, I was forced to reinvent my catalogue of works. Having said that I suppose the latest 3 releases do have another more intimate, perhaps even introspective, feel about them and I see them as a natural tidying up of my past. And, I have 29 years of ‘Past’ in the world of alternative music! With my 50th birthday coming up in April, 2006 a certain amount of personal retrospection does inevitably take place. It has been a brilliant Life but, I will never see those days again. I only hope whatever is left remaining of my Future is as great on all levels of My Love, My Life, My Work as it has been up until now!
2. You’re right ‘3’ is an important number in my Life. I even live in a house “Fort Nada!” whose street number is ‘3’ and my last place of abode in England had the number ’13’ so,….I believe in Destiny and its signposts and if you really lead your Life as you should ‘meaningful coincidences’ happen time and time again. They should become a constant. And, they have! They’re like God patting you on the back and saying “Well done, Son.”
3. In truth the CD/LP compilation of rarities, unreleased songs, etc ‘Abandon Tracks’ was the only one of these past 3 releases that was my idea.
In September, 2004 I was in New York City working on the soundtrack of a still yet to be released DVD of a Death In June performance in that city when Darryl Hell who recorded that particular night suggested we do an interview documentary. We had been talking in the studio about Life and Everything when he said this conversation would make a great personal interview documentary. He had done something similar with Genesis P. Orridge of Throbbing Gristle/PTV fame which had been screened as the ‘support group’ at one of DIJ’s shows in New York and which I really liked so I agreed.
In January, 2006 when I was flying from London back to Australia via New York we scheduled a time to film this ‘Behind The Mask’ documentary. The day after I arrived, and within hours of our starting to film, the worst blizzard in 60 years hit the Eastern seaboard of the United States and began to immediately have its effect. New York effectively began to close down and all our outside shots had to be cancelled. Even when we went out onto the roof of the skyscraper we did most of the filming in we had almost total “white out” and couldn’t really get good shots of The Empire State Building in the background for the interview. However, being forced to do almost everything inside probably added to the atmosphere of the DVD which I’m very pleased with.
The idea of the Crisis compilation CD ‘Holocaust Hymns’ came about when I was approached by Apop Records in America in early 2005. When Death In June then later performed in Austin, Texas which was part of a bigger American tour in April, 2005, there were 2 friends/colleagues of the owner of this record label in the audience. We spoke and I liked them and after comparing notes about the interest in Crisis, my first group, I decided it was indeed a good idea to resurrect that Punk group’s catalogue. So, really the “looking back” you refer to was on the whole courtesy of others.
4. I’m not sure if I agree with you about interviews being “self-interviews” because I’ve often been asked interesting questions that I would never had asked myself in my own inner monologue. I take interviews very seriously and I appreciate it when the interviewer does, too. In the musical genre within which I work advertising is minimal, to say the very least. Outside of the recording itself and performing live, from which I’ve retired, the only other way of promoting oneself is therefore the interview format. Shortly after doing Crisis’s first ever show in England in 1977 I was in Los Angeles being interviewed by important American music magazines. In early 2006 I’m now sitting in my house in South Australia doing an interview for a magazine based in Budapest, Hungary. I take interviews very, very seriously.
- After a while, just like you, Glenn Gould retired from live performing. In his point of view the true interpretation of music can only happen in a studio. What were the reasons for your retirement? What is your opinion about Goulds idea?
Death In June started out as having that attitude. None of the 3 original members wanted to perform live very much and thought that the true experience of Death In June was only available via our recordings. But, in retrospect we were wrong and that attitude probably worked against DIJ in terms of making the group more ‘popular’ than it became. However, over time I changed, along with of course the personnel of the group, and I decided that more live shows should be performed. Our live performances were always a unique experience for both the members of the audience and group. Death In June has toured extensively in about 25 different countries since 1981 and for the best part of the past 10-15 years I’ve taken 3-4 months of every year out of my Life to travel around the World doing these performances and everything associated with them. For the sake of finding the time to do all the other things I want and need to do with DIJ that had to stop. The last tour of March/April/May 2005 was one of the best I feel I had been associated with in terms of performance and atmosphere etc so I knew in my heart of hearts this was also going to be ‘The Last Farewell’ to live work. The future will see more releases of historic live performances on DVD so people will have the chance to view us in that way if they missed us in the flesh!
- Your first band, Crisis (1977-81.) was one of the musical and ideological articulations of the punk era in the late seventies. Now, since the Crisis-catalogue Holocaust Hymns was issued, what, do you think, can the musical and ideological anger of Crisis (which can also be seen on the cover of the record: a skeleton policeman with a red background) give to todays generations educated on fashionable, sugary pink-punk bands (e. g. Greenday)?
The release of the Crisis retrospective ‘Holocaust Hymns’ merely gives people an historical background to Death In June. It has been over 7 years since the last retrospective ‘We Are All Jews And Germans’ was easily available and a demand for that history was there. I don’t see any equation whatsoever to the so-called Punk groups of today. Punk, in terms of music, died over 25 years ago and all that claim today to be ‘punk’ is merely a musical genre. An irrelevance.
- In Derek Jarmans cult-movie Jubilee there is a scene which we can be interpreted as criticism on the system, but also as criticism on the naivety of punk: in Paranoia Paradise recording studio we see a punk band during the process of recording. The singer, Toyah Willcox spits on the wall of glass wich separates the band from the producer and the director. So the radicalism of punk was incorporated into the system through record-business. As one of the ex-warriors, how do you construe the summer of hate period today? How do you see the role of Crisis in all that? What is your opinion about Jarmans above mentioned movie and scene?
Being in Crisis and my experiences during 1977-80 was my apprenticeship. It was my great learning period which showed I could stand on my own 2 feet, be independent in both body and spirit and most importantly survive with this approach intact. Jarman’s film is an art piece. An artistic impression of that period. I liked it but my actual experiences during those years were far more grubby. But, I don’t think that negates the film for what it is. The original ‘Punk’ thing was about so many things that Jarman’s film easily fits into the scene at the time.
- How did early post-punk oriented Death In June reflect on punk-rebelism? What happened to the anger of Crisis in you? (Warning! I dont think that DIJ is a softer band compared to Crisis!)
I think that depends upon how you interpret “punk-rebellion”. For me DIJ still did exactly what we wanted to do which I think was part of the early Punk movement and we succeeded despite all the odds against us. I think that took a lot of focussed “anger” I’d prefer to call Will. It changed my Life and that was definitely part of my interpretation of Punk – to be a Life changing experience.
First of all you are wrong to think that Dinko has ever been a collaborator in Death In June. He was a fan I met at a DIJ performance in Vienna in about 1990 after having been in correspondence for some years and was the man behind getting DIJ to perform in Zagreb in 1992 during the war there. Since then he has become a close friend and great help to me whenever I’ve been in Zagreb whether it was for a performance, or to visit the hospital I donated 20,000 GBPs of my own money to or simply for a holiday etc. Dinko might appreciate Death In June in the way you state but certainly T.G. was of no influence whatsoever to any original member of DIJ and with the exception of me putting out Gen’s Splinter Test ‘Sulphur-Low Seed Replication’ CD in 1995 there has never been any collaboration between any member of TG and DIJ. How DIJ came into being and how it presented itself was, and is, purely instinctive. It didn’t need any signposting. It was already part of our DNA, perhaps more so in me than the others as I’ve continued to carry the banner high. Certainly, I’ve set some traps for the self-righteous to fall into but, otherwise most of my inspiration is taken in a pure, sympathetic and loving way with a full understanding of the pathos of so much I hint at and allude to – which is far more in depth than most critiques of my work. But, What Ends When The Symbols Shatter? Perhaps Life’s restrictions??
- In ancient times war was sacred. The heilige tod, the heroic death was a sacrifice for the gods. The smoke of incense for the Odin hour. What do you think, how did the industryal development influenced the holiness of the war? Is the atomic bomb, the extermination camp also a symbol of heroism?
Please remember in ancient times we didn’t have television, pop groups, cinema, cars, supermarkets etc. Life was more of an actual day to day struggle of Existence so things like war naturally took on a sacred form. Of course, it still can if your back is against the wall and you are left with no other options. Regardless of industrialisation War will take on a Holy air again. It already has done. But for the wrong side!
- How did the man became a machine for killing, a mass-exterminator of his own race (Holocaust, Drezda, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Stalins exterminations etc.) in the II. world war? What happened to the man between the I. and II. world war?
Technological advancement, plain and simple! If you can kill hundreds of thousands of your enemy at the drop of a bomb, a click of a switch why bother with a fist fight?
- Is the creation of music sacred for you?
Absolutely! It takes something special to move me to create music and when I do I know there are sacred experiences to be had for the taking. It can initially be a nauseating experience but after that the rewards can be brilliant and Life affirming.
- 4. From the beginning the language of DIJ is based on magical imagination. Citations, allusions, symbols (the Totenkopf is also an ancient symbol), ritual acts etc. How did you start to use the “marriage” of magic and music in your works?
It was always on my personal ‘periphany’ but after David Tibet of curent 93 gave me a copy of Crowleys ‘Book Of The Law’ in 1983 it acted as a catalyst and a natural ‘marriage’ between myself, my music and my own personal magick took place. We have been ‘married’ ever since.
- 4. Did you have this interest during the Crisis-period?
Yes and no but it didn’t lend itself very naturally to what Crisis was initially about.
- 5. You said once that the “‘Brown book’ is the purest realisation of Death In June’s vision”, and this is “probably the most ‘magically’ influenced record” you’ve done. Has this opinion changed through the years?
Yes! ‘All Pigs Must Die’ is the most successfully magickal of all of my albums. It was spot on! It was directed in the extreme. An extremely channelled work.
- 6. How do you see, for example, the latest DIJ studio-album with Boyd Rice (Alarm Agents, 2004) from that point of view?
Boyd wrote nearly all of the lyrics so outside of the personal magick that undoubtably exists between he and I, I could only say that ‘Magick’ is present within our instinctive personal co-creations in a non-defined way. But, it’s there nonetheless in my music and his text and our combined presence.
- 7. Can we consider that every DIJ’s live act was some kind of ritual, sacred performance or theater? Did you have this intention?
Yes! It became a self-generating force after a while.
- 8. For me it’s very interesting that many British bands in the late seventies and eighties had a big affinity for magic, subconscious, dark side of human nature etc. But I don’t have any idea for the possible reasons. What is your impression of that period?
We were and are ambassadors for the Zeitgeist of our Nation at that Time. The U.K. was a very particular place to be living in at that time and our upbringing had brought us to that Time for us to either articulate or not. Some of us chose to. I think it was part of an unconscious ‘Duty’ to our Land.
- 9. You’ve just reissued the first DIJ’s album (The Guilty Have No Pride) with a bonus live DVD from that period. Can this live-document bring back the ritual live-atmosphere? Will you release some other live rarities from other DIJ-periods?
It is now there for people to view and interpret, or be influenced or bored by as they, themselves see fit. Whether or not the live ritual is felt remains to be seen. And, there are always plans for future revelations.
- Some of your critiques (e. g. Stewart Home) claim that the early DIJ isunder the musical influence of Joy Division. Who was not inspired by them in that period? I don’t agree with those clever guys, because I think Joy Division was far different in bass-guitar melodies, gituar-sounds and rhythm-experiments. The character of Ian Curtis is totally different from yours. Maybe those critiques are under the influence of the Joy Division-music, when they cant recognise the differences between early DIJ and JD. How do you see those differences in music and image?
Stewart Home has made a career of sorts by writing the first thing that comes into his head about me regarding the content of his numerous books and anything else he thinks he can gain ‘kudos’ from re. so called critiques of Death In June and Crisis. I obviously ruined his life during his formative days when he would follow us around like a faithful dog so what more can I say? Sorry, Stewart! Of course we didn’t sound like Joy Division. The recent reissues of the early material “The Guilty Have No Pride” CD/DVD and the forthcoming “Burial” CD/LP show that.
- One of DIJs masterpieces, Nada! (1985) from musical point of view came totally unexpected: the progressive electronic is not just musical background, it has a leading role same as the visuality, the vocal and the lyrics. Is Patrick Leagas responsible for these inventive and radical experiments with electronics?
Not entirely. I very much enjoyed sequencing as can be heard on the album which followed “NADA!” (“The World That Summer”) which Pat was not part of so some of the electronic element is definitely me. The bit that was so elequently described in one review of “NADA!” as; “sounding like a ballerina dancing on a razor blade as she comes out of a musical box” I think best describes my “electronic” contributions!
- After the Nada! DIJ didnt use so much elements of dance-music. Why did you minimalize this expressional form?
I didn’t need it anymore and thought it was too similar to too much else at that moment in time. I was interested in taking DIJ in another direction that was less reliant on machines. At one of the last major performances Death In June gave in London in late 1984, when Patrick was still in the group, someone called out from the audience for New Order’s “Blue Monday”. I remember thinking that was a very real warning sign.
- Beauty had become a phantom this is one of the wave-sentences in Mishimas The Sea of Fertility. What are your emotions about his work? If you had a chance to speak with him, what would you ask him?
Mishima’s work was a beautiful and encouraging discovery and if we had the chance to speak – bearing in mind that he killed himself when I was aged 14 and I have lived 5 years longer than he did – I’d tell him as much and elaborate on the mystical way I was introduced to his work in July, 1980 and then invite him to sit down, have a martini and probably get drunk avoiding any further talk of each other’s work!
- On your personal altar which we can see on the beautiful cover of the re-issued The Wall of Sacrifice there is a picture of one another writer. One Hungarian movie-director, András Jeles thinks that hes one worm which perfectly knows that about himself, and that is what makes him different from the other worms which imagine that they are Snow White or Confucius. What is your impression about this statement and about Genet’s outsiderism?
Genet was a dishonest thief and liar even with his friends and not even particularly clean going by the state of his finger nails in one of the last video-taped interviews I have of him before his death. But, you need worms to work their ways around the soil to enrich it with their excrement so with all that worming around in the world of literature Genet did it’s not too surprising he was a bit unclean. But, his excrement was, indeed, more beautiful than most so-called literary masterpieces written by angels as pure as the driven snow and certainly more enriching.
- In one of your latest releases, in a abandoned, quite ironic track Unconditional armistice we can hear Humanity, Europe, Civilisation, awake!. But, when we awake we can hear one big laughter: Europa: the gates of Heaven and Hell. Are we closed between these gates, just like in Lars Von Triers Europe-train? Is there no exit?
Exit is a very good, inviting word. Whether it’s been blocked or not remains to be seen.
- Don’t you think that if aesthetics, and aesthetics interwoven with politics is privileged, the doctrine of art for arts sake is dangerous?
I’m unsure exactly what this question means. I prefer the 10CC line: ” Art for Art’s sake – Money for God’s Sake!” What is exactly “dangerous”? Surely 2 religious nutcases ruling over 2 countries like America and Iran comes more immediately to mind than art or aesthetics.
- Can the concepts of creativity, genious, eternal virtue and mystery on this basis lead to uncontrolled effects of playing with the fire?
That’s like saying that I am a creative genius with eternal virtue and mystery pervading every aspect of my very being. Perhaps they are, but I wouldn’t be so conceited to admit to that in public. How would I know! I can honestly say I have never thought I am playing with fire in any of my works – it’s too instinctive – it’s beyond my being able to analyse beyond my trying to ‘get it right’.
- If I look over our interview I find that you don’t like to explain your statements to go deep in the details. You like to turn your back to the world to stay behind the mask, Hidden among the leaves. Just as in your other interviews (except maybe the Behind the mask DVD-release). And this is also your position in a popular media-jungle. Is this an instinctual attitude? Did somebody abuse your thoughts in a wrong way?
I think that when the questions are more interesting than the possible answers then Death In June has succeeded in its presentation on all fronts audibly, visually, symbolically, artistically, personally, etc. Mission accomplished – almost!
- In some of DI6-relases we can read Death In June is Douglas P. Whats the difference between Douglas P. on the stage with the white mask on his face and Douglas in his everyday life?
None! I eat, drink, think, dream, breathe write, read AM Death In June. It’s a relentless interconnection – My Life, My Love, My Art.
- You are there. I am here. At this moment I feel apart. says Jean Genet in your Abandon tracks!. I think this could also be a motto for our endless conversation. But, what is then the purpose of any conversation?
Interviews are different to my understanding of what conversations are about. In all my Life I think I’ve only really had conversations with my Lovers or very close work colleagues. You are neither. This is an interview which by its very nature is an intrusive question and answer attempt at communication. Genet I’m sure understood this. I could have had a good conversation with him. But, this is an interview and that’s also been good in its own way.