Douglas, half a year has passed since the release of “The Rule Of Thirds”. How was this album received? Are you happy with the reactions?
TROT was received extremely well, has sold very well and I’m happy and surprised by most of the critical reactions. I thought it would be a ‘difficult’ album for a lot of people at first listen but I had faith in it, like previous Death In June recordings and that was more than enough. In fact, new listeners have been gained and I’ve been reviewed favourably and interviewed in music papers around the World that haven’t mentioned Death In June in a long time so,….?
Let us start with the lyrics of The Rule of Thirds One of the first things I noticed listening to them is they no longer have this straight expression and simple language, they follow more the subtle style of earlier recordings. I think a certain symbolism fits far better to a concept like yours. Can you share this point of view?
I’ve never been aware that Death In June has ever used “straight expression and simple language” so that comment confuses me as I’m often accused of using too much symbolism and saying ‘this’ when people say I really mean ‘that’! So, either way TROT is what it is according to me, according to you, according to whoever….according to the time of day.
The lyrics deal a lot with disappointment, treason and farewells in many ways and show a certain degree of hate against people. Lines like Ive not forgiven or forgotten or The rule of thirds dictates my life or We go to sleep with the perfume of traitors etc. show your frustration/doubts/disappointment about how it went for you in the past few years.
Those words don’t necessarily reflect how I’ve been feeling regarding what has been happening close to home in my Life but more as a microcosm of other things in the World, as well. I think the 21st Century has seen a terrible amount of deception and lies resulting in a very bloody birth to this so far very unhappy Century. Death, Love and betrayal – The Rule Of Thirds!
In how far do you write about personal set-backs and how much do the troubles concerning Death In June inspire your lyrics? Is there a basic topic?
The very basic topic, or source of inspiration for TROT, has been the recent dawning of my own mortality in my own consciousness. Where before I thought I was immortal and invisible to Death itself I now know I’m not. It was something I had put to the very back of my mind but recent near death experiences and my turning 50 in 2006 had a profound effect upon me. As they would anyone! I did the last tour in 2005 having said ‘Good Bye” to my loved ones in case I didn’t make it back home. The thought of my imminent demise and that I was very, very in Love had an effect on every waking moment of my day. It still does. I’ve/We’ve survived 3 more years but, how much longer I have I don’t know. I will never see my 52 years again, that’s certain!
With such a pessimistic album, how do you see your masquerade currently: are you hiding with it from the world or are you hiding the world with it from yourself?
It’s never been a “masquerade”. I live in a self-created Death In June World most of the time and try to keep the other world at bay as often as possible. It’s a mish mash of dodging and diving, ducking and weaving “hidden amongst the leaves”.
Sometimes I ask myself in how far you actively seek loneliness. Since years we know phrases you used (and still use) like It is the fate of our age that we fight in isolation or solitude is not given it is earned (I am a bit unsure about the last one) Are you just cynical or do is it the natural result of a life like yours?
It’s probably the natural result of the Zeitgeist but, also of being the character I am. I’ve only ever had a very small circle of friends and that works for me. I’m not a party animal like some people. I don’t need to drunkenly dance naked on top of tables shouting “look at me!” I don’t like a lot of people around me. It was one of the problems about performing live that it brought me into contact with so many strangers. Luckily most of them were great and some became good friends and allies but, putting myself in a public arena where the public could actually get to me wasn’t a natural thing for me to do. In fact, it was a very uncomfortable thing for me to do. However I did, and luckily have few regrets about that matter. But, there are 1 or 2 I know I could have done well without in my Life that only got close to me because I let my guard down via the live arena so,….? We learn by our mistakes and I’m still here to learn from them.
When I listened to Truly Be I felt like you are addressing people following your way in one or another way: I pity those behind me, self-centred and too late. Who really is behind you and far too late and in what sense?
It’s strange that you should choose those particular lines as they were definitely inspired by my thoughts about one particular individual as I stared out on a very grey, bleak Winter’s day in the Adelaide Hills in 2007. I remember Boyd Rice telephoning me up after he’d received a copy of TROT and saying immediately who he thought that was referring to and he was correct. He also said that he knew of only Morrissey and myself that could use the English language in such a way! Boyd really likes TROT and I’m extremely flattered to be compared to Morrissey but, I’m equally surprised those few lines stood out. Obviously they do! For me, they were simply the final dismissive of a very disappointing, treacherous character who got far too close to me and mine. Dangerously so, in fact. Throw away lines for a thrown away person!
Can it be you also speak about people who copy your style of music and/or artwork. What do you generally think about the scene and its development? Do you rather feel honoured by these bands or are they also “self-centred and too late”?
As I’ve said before I am genuinely flattered by most people/groups who have copied, or been inspired by my style or approach to whatever aspect of art/music etc you speak of. I am in the fortunate postion of liking most of the material and groups involved so, I have been amazed at my influence. However, that has left me in the position of ‘where to next?’ as so many are doing what Death In June already did, so well.
I don’t really concern myself with any ‘scene’ per se as I’ve never thought of Death In June as being of any particular ‘scene’ other than of its own making. But, I do sincerely think that ‘all style and no content’ is of no interest at all.
And there does appear to be a tendency for that approach.
Having a foil-blocked, digipak, gatefold sleeve, embossed tin can of worms containing merely unmemorable “rock’n’roll” or easily generated “noise” is less than self indulgent bullshit. It’s merely desperate, cheap, floudering and exploitative. That approach pre-dates Punk and I’m one of those Punks who came to help sweep that meaningless emptiness away in 1977. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now.
When you talk about Considerable my power of destruction to my church in the same song and one thinks of the railroad track sounds ending the last song Let go, which remind me pretty much on the ones in your very first song Heaven Street I feel you put some musical brackets around Death In June. Also lines like 13 glasses and one last toast give hints for an end of Death In June showing through. Can it be this album is really a farewell or is it just a reflection on a probable end?
You have taken a line inspired by a Zodiac reading of my actual birthday 27th April, 1956. Basically people born on this day have the patience and power of Saints but when pushed too far, for far too long, they have the power within them to destroy Worlds, even their own. I don’t have a problem with this personal character trait. And, I draw upon it every so often. My World will not be threatened and abused. And, if it means me destroying my own World in order to destroy that of those who threaten and abuse me then I will. Willingly! But, I see other people’s worlds collapsing before mine. The railway trains come and go each carrying new passengers. Some get off. Some continue their Death In June journey. “With 13 glasses and 1 last toast”, we “Heilige…!” them all.
Do you basically still expect more of acceptance for your art or could you arrange yourself with the idea what happened can simply be the price for your provocative music? At least I found the line I was shown the door I was expecting which indicates to me you are not totally ignoring the probable reactions, especially in the context of Europe.
Well, you can interpret as you want that particular line but, I know exactly what beautifully inspiring moment inspired me to write it. I doubt I will ever experience again another moment like it in the Europa I once knew. It struck home. It touched my Heart and Soul besides my lips. It will never leave me. Even though I’ve left Europa. It was my last European Love. So,…”acceptance” or non-acceptance is irrelevant, as it’s always been to me/Death In June. I mean, what exactly do you mean by “acceptance”? Something like Gabrielle Cilmi or Das Ich? Merely a base entertainment form or commodity? Something that craves to be loved as stupid and as ugly and as empty as they are? Like greasy, fat schnelle Imbiss wurst which are bad for your health? Where’s the challenge or interest or longevity in that? Death In June has never been about merely entertainment or fast food consumption. To quote;
“We aim to please with constant unease!”
And, if it gives some people indigestion – tough! Go to the doctor!! Or, easier still, don’t eat that which they cannot stomach. Dine elsewhere!
Like on your last couple of albums the music on The Rule of Thirds is very stripped down, and even when there are backing vocals or keyboards etc. they are produced very carefully, so your voice along with the guitar is dominating the songs. Are you still fed up with opulent productions like on But what ends or Rose clouds ? And if yes, why?
It’s not a question of being fed up with these recordings it’s more of a question of me not wanting to repeat myself. Afteral, if you look at the time passed since I recorded those works then it’s the same time that had passed when I left school at 16 with my various certificates and 16 years later wrote albums like The World That Summer and Brown Book. They are literally worlds apart in terms of me and my experiences since and I don’t hear my work in my head like that anymore. Besides, there are already enough groups copying that ‘classic’ sound of DIJ without me adding to the confusion by ending up sounding like a group copying me and sounding like them! A nightmare pastiche stuck on ‘repeat’!
The last track Let Go is a bit outstanding in so far it has a bassline and the guitar is more a lead instrument. To me it indicates a very enchanting style which could have completed the other songs a bit more and would have shown a new musical path for Di6. What were your thoughts on the decision to put it like this and not record more tracks for each song?
It was a deliberate choice to end the album with that in that way because of its obvious symbolism. I originally was going to write more words but, then I thought “No, this says it all.” Especially with the same train sound I recorded at Waterloo Station in London in 1981 for our very first release ‘Heaven Street’ ending the track and the album itself. If this is the final Death In June album then Death In June is departing as Death In June arrived 27 years ago. But, probably from a different Platform.
The last gig of yours I saw showed some of your older songs gain more feeling when played unplugged, and some lose their typical mood like To Drown A Rose or Come Before Christ… which live a lot from the keyboards in the original production from that time. I spoke with some friends about The Rule Of Thirds of whom not few complained the songs would sound too similar on this album. Isnt that a disadvantage of such a reduced production?
I guess it’s a disadvantage and a challenge that artists like Bob Dylan and Donovan have experienced long before me. If they managed, so can I! Perhaps your friends should listen to TROT on headphones and they should hear that it’s quite an audio orientated album which I feel really does help make every track sound different.
In the past you worked with a lot of different musicians when recording a new album. Am I right, The Rule of Thirds is the one with the least input from other people?
Not really because since the original 2 other members left in 1984/85 respectively often there’s not been that much musical “input from other people” besides words on many Death In June albums in the past. People like david tibet or Boyd Rice brought their own words or sang mine, and then the rest in terms of music was left up to me. Both tibet and Boyd would also suggest some good samples but they never told me what to do musically in the studio for Death In June. Likewise, when working for current 93 or Boyd Rice I’d try to give them anything they asked of me in terms of sounds on guitars, keyboards etc. I obey their orders but, probably because I’m more musically inclined and can actually play instruments my input on their recordings is possibly more obvious.
What was it like? Do you usually appreciate the inspiration from other musicians or was this exactly what you wanted to leave out of the recording process?
The recording of TROT was like any other Death In June album since 1985 in that I relied upon myself and my sound engineer to get where I wanted to go. The only other musicians I can truly say that I’ve been musically inspired by, and that I’ve actually worked with, have been Tony Wakeford and Patrick Leagas, the 2 other original members of Death In June. They’re both multi-instrumentalists and lyric writers like myself and we had to keep up with each other. That was exciting but, it also had its problems obviously or we’d still be together as a group.
Someone bringing me a slowed down piece of Wagner or Mahler sampled into a tape loop or something else I wasn’t aware of stolen hook, line and sinker and then presented to me as something ‘original’ doesn’t inspire me. It simply allowed me time in the studio to write words and add my own distinctive brand of sounds and samples to make sure it’s a proper Death In June release rather than some poor imitation of Laibach, or something else more ‘jokey’.
Rhine Atrocity one of my favourites bears the line Something of the terror, its in our blood. So let the stormflower flow nectar from above. It is a statement on the evil in everyone like you find it again and again in different variations in your lyrics. What do you personally think is the evil in men, and where does it come from?
Surely, aren’t we beyond ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ and in the Zeitgeist of the Acceptance of the Now, as horrible as that may be?
And isnt it exactly this element of your art which leads to the rejection of many people when you show them the evil side of men? (If this was your aim)
I realise that for some people looking at their own reflection in the mirror is not an easy thing to do. It’s not my intention to make it any easier for them. I almost enjoy their discomfort.
Some people think your style of artwork since “All Pigs Must Die” has become more and more kitsch, where it used to be obscure, gloomy or very stylish in the years before. Can you understand those complaints?
This word “kitsch” to me means Roxy Music, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Weimar Republic Kabaret etc so, is this meant to be a bad criticism?
Personally, the only change I’ve noticed is that since 2001 we now use Nikon cameras instead of Pentax in our photo shoots and their lenses appear to give a warmer and richer colour result in printing?!? We have “kitsch” Nikon lenses, perhaps?
It seems you have recently quit the friendship with another artist you spend quite a while with and worked on some important albums. Your reaction was again very impulsive and you offered the recordings you did for free on your homepage. Is this the nature of yours or is it due to arguments in the background? Another option would have been to leave the common past as it is
On 7th December, 2007 I issued a statement (message # 31727 on the DIJ Yahoogroup to be precise) that the Death In June album ‘Take Care & Control’ would be deleted to commemorate it’s 10th Anniversary in October, 2008. I can hardly see that the 11 months notice that this work will disappear physically is an “again very impulsive” reaction to anything!?
In fact, the only response I got from this announcement was on the same day from a rather excited fraulein fan in Austria stating simply;
“at least better than do a birthday edition in a kitsch stone box..well…I think so.”
So, there’s that “kitsch” word again!
However, those words did make me think and so I decided that to make a complete change I would offer free downloads of several Death In June releases as part of the 10th commemoration besides ‘Take Care & Control’ such as the Live In Italy 1999 and Live In New York 2002 DVDs as well as the ‘Operation Hummingbird’ CD. I previously did this with the ‘Free Tibet’ material sometime ago and I feel that in such a normally mean-spirited world an occasional act of generosity doesn’t go astray or unappreciated.
As regards anyone, and I don’t care who it is, who compulsively lies, is drunk and has threatened and abused me on a year in, year out basis then they have an ‘AUSGANG’ sign neon lite hanging over their swollen heads from the very outset of such behaviour. It is only a question of time before the patience of this particular Saint snaps, I feel the urge to destroy worlds and they are jackbooted out of my Life kicking and screaming. Schande! But, that’s me. Love me or leave me!!
Have you got any plans for your near musical future? When can we expect the release of the CRISIS live album?
The CRISIS ‘Ends!’ live album has just been released which features the last show we ever did in 1980 and, of course, features some songs that were never released elsewhere including an early version of what was to become a Death In June song – ‘All Alone In Her Nirvana’.
Besides that a Swedish group called DOWN IN JUNE has just released a CD of Death In June cover versions called ‘Covers,…’ on NER which I think features some of the very best versions of DIJ songs I’ve ever heard. Real ‘Totenpop’ material. Depending on how that goes we hope to work together on an album of brand new material co-written together. I’ve already starting writing new songs for them in fact and the idea would be that I send them the words and chords and they arrange the songs how they want. It would be the final deconstruction of Death In June – that I don’t actually play on any DIJ album ever again. Instead, I write the material and let other people record it for me. As I’ve taken all the strings and the trumpets and percussion off that Death In June used to be so well known for I may as well take myself and the guitar off also and see how that sounds?