DEATH IN JUNE – Douglas P. Questions Obsküre Magazine
The last time we spoke (it was for D-Side, for the Rule Of Thirds album I believe), you seemed decided to put Death In June’s live appearances in the fridge. Do you still feel in the same mood nowadays? Is it something programmed as a long-term plan in your mind, something established?
When I decided to retire from live performances after the last World tour in 2005 I felt this was a permanent decision. All those reasons that led me to that decision then are still relevant today. It’s freed up so much time that you need only look at what has come out from Death In June since in terms of new material such as ‘The Rule Of Thirds’ or this new ‘Peaceful Snow’ single and album or the luxury ‘boutique’ re-issues of some classic DIJ titles like ‘The World That Summer’, ‘Brown Book’, ‘Symbols And Clouds’ etc. Touring took so much time and energy away from me that if I’d continued I’m sure that much of the above would never have come to fruition. However, I realize that for many people throughout the World seeing me perform and seeing each other at DIJ performances was more like an International social event or ritual gathering and meant a great deal more to them than merely seeing a live performance. I miss those people as I’m sure they miss me and each other and depriving them and myself of that aspect does make me sad and wonder. But, those shows were of their time in Death In June, especially between 1991 – 2005, and now I/Death In June are in another place, another zone in DIJ’s existence.
Have you at a moment thought that this choice could bring you to put Death In June on rest too? Have you been tempted to quit for some other musical countries than the “Death In June ground” these last years?
Never! As I’ve always said and always will Death In June is my Life, My Love and My Art. Regardless, of not performing live anymore it still occupies every moment of my working day. And, besides overseeing certain projects like the Down In June ‘Covers,…’ album or working with Boyd Rice again on 2 new tracks that I trust will be issued at Yuletide to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the release of ‘Music, Martinis & Misanthropy’ I have no real interest in doing any new side projects. At this stage in my Life that’s too distracting and uncalled for.
The new album Peaceful Snow reveals a very sensible and renewed approach. Who’s playing the piano on this record, how have you known this person?
The pianist is a Slovakian called Miro Snejdr and he was brought to my attention via some fans who had seen/heard his work on YouTube where he did a few instrumental cover versions of some Death In June songs from ‘The Rule Of Thirds’. Several of the fans on the DIJ Yahoogroup managed to get me in contact with him in April, 2009 and we discussed the idea of putting out an entire album of what I heard as Death In June ‘Lounge Corps’ classics instrumentally interpreted this way on the piano. However, it was when I was listening to some of this material that the words for ‘Peaceful Snow’ and ‘The Maverick Chamber’ began almost writing themselves in my head. I was a bit taken aback by this rekindling of the creative muse in me so over a couple of days in September, 2009 in the Fort Nada office, a place I never usually write creatively, the words came together for the first 2 songs.
Had you imagined this kind of record recently or a long time ago?
It really started to come to fruition from that moment in the Fort Nada office staring out at the much damaged garden. Late Winter/early Spring which is August/September in the Southern Hemisphere, had brought some bad storms to the Hills and we’d lost 8 large trees over several weeks. We were lucky the house itself wasn’t damaged and no one killed but I think it was that destruction that triggered the full ‘Peaceful Snow’ album. Up until then it was going to be an instrumental album, then it was going to have these 2 new songs added and then I started writing new material as I felt the time was right and the nausea of creativity had descended that accompanies a new Death In June album. I quickly flew off to several cities where I have favourite hotels where I know I can shut myself away and write songs and after a couple of trips had 5-6 new songs written and the album truly underway.
Does this renewed approach symbolize a certain “weariness of the guitar” for you, a new beginning, or do you simply see Peaceful Snow as a moment in time?
It’s the continuation of my stripped back acoustic ‘Totenpop’ theme I had started some years ago and was demonstrated on ‘The Rule Of Thirds’ album. This time I decided to take even my own guitar playing out of it, add someone else’s interpretation on a completely unfamiliar instrument and limit my own contributions to my voice and the effects I could get with it. It was a strict discipline, challenging to work within but one I think did work and gave rise to 13 new ‘Totenpop Torchsongs’. A new musical genre and sound, perhaps? Rufus Wainwright for the Nasty Neo Folk Generation? Who knows! Regardless, the original songs were created on guitar and I’m not weary of it being my favourite instrument but it was not suitable for this release. ‘Peaceful Snow’ is a moment in time but haven’t other Death In June albums always been so?
On The Scents of Genocide, you say : “As we all know, accidents begin at home”. This is a strange sentence and… mmmh, you know how doing this, playing on words… I mean the term “accident”… Where’s the “accident”? Where does it begin? Isn’t genocide a programmed thing, in a certain political context?
It dawned on me whilst listening through headphones to playbacks of the recordings at the end of every session that by accident rather than design I’d written an album that even to a native English speaker had many double entendres and word games going on. With that in mind I’ve decided that there will be no lyrics enclosed with the album and I’m going to let it breathe confusion – or contempt?
How do you imagine these scents of genocide, what’s this “perfume”? What does it evoke to you, in real? What brings men to do that?
I also say in the same song that “you can’t smell experience like that”! But, if genocide smells of anything it’s probably Nostalgia. Once men catch a whiff of that most will chase after it.
A songs like the eponymous Peaceful Snow seems to have been composed in a period of nostalgia but is also traversed by a certain light. How would you please describe your recent period of life?
I don’t believe I’m ever in a particularly happy place in my mind whenever I write a new album and I feel the past year has been a very pensive one for myself and my partner caused mainly by the destruction the property of our home Fort Nada suffered a year ago. A lot of charm, security and seclusion died during those stormy nights and whilst the repair work has been done and new trees planted it will never be the same again and we’ll be dead by the time the new trees would have grown to their full beauty.
Nascosto Tra Le Rune is an italian book reated to Death In June’s story. What brought you to give your time and some excerpts from your personal archives to this special project? I suppose it required a certain level of trust in the journalist having made this possible, Aldo Chimenti… What’s the story behind that?
I first met Aldo Chimenti during the fateful Italian “NADA!” tour of 1985 so have known him for some time but this project was first discussed probably in the late 1990s. Eventually in early 2001 a 9 year conversation began which led to the basis of the book. It’s the longest interview I’ve ever done! I knew Aldo was capable of doing something special and he, along with the publishers Tsunami and myself have together come up with something special.
Have you felt the need, at this moment in your life, to let an official and personal appreciation of Death In June’s journey, or do you think that without Aldo, it would perhaps have never come? Would you have done something like this alone one day?
Well, this started 9 years ago and I was in a very different place in my Life then than I am now so my needs now have got very little to do with it. I didn’t realize it would go on and on for so long but eventually this year seemed to be the perfect finishing point and I’m pleased that even the ‘Peaceful Snow’ 7” single is included in its contents. It’s as up to date about Death In June as any book can be. You must remember this is the 3rd book about Death In June and is a biography written from Aldo’s perspective as the other 2 were written from their respective author’s perspectives. It’s not an autobiography. That, I will have to do alone one day. If I decide to do it at all.
Is there an English translation in project for the book? Do you wish it?
There are several different language translations being discussed right at this moment and, naturally, I’d like to see it in English.
Among all the recent products released these last times or re-released around Death In June past works, we see the Some of our best Friends Live in South America/Sons of Europe (Slaughtered) 7″, @ Extremocidente. Some of its copies were signed by Tony Wakeford and you. How would you describe your current relationship with Mr Wakeford. Have you come closer time passing, or have you become a little strangers, one to each other?
Because of our association in Crisis and early Death In June we are in fairly regular contact regarding business and sometimes personal matters. Living at opposite ends of the World doesn’t really engender anything closer than that. When I still had my flat back near London Airport we would sometimes meet up for a drink and a curry but the last time that would have happened would have been 1998. We live, literally, in very different worlds.
A lot of labels are nowadays involved in the conservation of Crisis and Death In June’s body of work. Aren’t you afraid sometimes to lose control?
No. It’s easier now than ever. All the labels I have close direct contact with and all are very caring towards Crisis and Death In June.
What’s the near future for Death In June?
The new ‘Peaceful Snow’ double CD due out in November will not only have 13 new songs but the first 3,000 Worldwide will also have a bonus CD that contains the 17 Death In June ‘Lounge Corps’ instrumentals that helped gave birth to the idea in the first place. There will also be a double 10” picture disc and coloured vinyl version of the LP. Also scheduled for release just before this will be ‘boutique’ limited edition releases of the ‘Burial’ LP on picture disc which will also have a bonus picture disc 7” included of unheard versions of ‘Heaven Street’ and ‘Death Of The West’ and a picture disc and coloured vinyl 10” of the long deleted ‘Occidental Martyr’ LP which is one of my personal favourites. On top of that I’m presently working with an American fashion house on a line of Death In June inspired clothing for release next year in America and Japan to help commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the birth of Death In June. But, more of that and other things in 2011. Heilige! Douglas P. 30.IX.10.