Tell me a little about the first time you visited Australia. What led you to the decision to move here?
The shortened version of a long and complicated story is that back in London in 1980 I fell in love with an Australian who completely altered my way of looking at and appreciating the World. And this came at a time when I was already re-evaluating absolutely everything in my Life as Punk had died, Crisis, my first group had split up in May 1980 after performing with Magazine and Bauhaus and I was on the verge of forming Death In June and the social/artistic/cultural Zeitgeist in the UK was so much in flux and that everything already felt so unsure and unstable. Then, to cap it all, after living in England for 28 years he suddenly decided to return to Australia in 1981 just over a year after I’d met him! That came as a shock to the system to both of us. After that all roads, for me at least, were meant to lead to Oz and eventually I visited this country in early 1989 shortly after completing ‘The Wall Of Sacrifice’ album which I thought was going to be the final Death In June recording. I had finally managed to find the time, the money and the space to be on the otherside of the World not beholden to anything other than my instincts and I followed those blindly. After being here for 3 months I knew this was the place I was meant to be and when I returned to London every action and every gear was set in place for me to eventually achieve that goal. There was no other goal. I was dead in England but in Australia I could resurrect myself and live. It took a few more years and a few more visits but finally things fell into place for me to set up a base here in S.A. I then commuted back and forth between hemispheres and homes/hotels doing tours until I decided to retire from live work in 2005.
I went to a strict Lutheran high school, which was divided into two “houses” – red and blue, or Leidig and Kavel respectively. August Kavel was apparently one of the founders of Hahndorf. Could you tell me a little about the town? Is the European history of Hahndorf an important aspect as to why you have settled there?
I actually live in another township about 10 minutes from Hahndorf although I have and do spend a lot of time there. I feel comfortable there and of course I appreciate the Euro-feel of the old town. When I first settled in The Adelaide Hills most of the area’s shops and restaurants, such as they were then, closed at 5 p.m. and Hahndorf was the nearest place to go out to for an evening meal etc at the old German hotels that date back to early settlement in the mid 1800s. However, in the past few years that has totally changed probably due to the tunnels being cut through a section of the Hills that has vastly improved the Freeway link to the city of Adelaide. This in turn led to a demographic shift of who actually lives up here and more tourists from the city visiting. Many of the other nearby townships now have gourmet cafes and restaurants and more have opened in Hahndorf itself. It’s a nice mix of old and new and still very European Australian.
How do you spend your days in Hahndorf?
Normally eating and drinking! But, if you’re asking about what I do where I really live on my Fort Nada property then most days are filled with all things Death In June. Whether that be doing interviews such as this or writing new songs/lyrics, dealing with enquiries from fans, maintaining my relationships with my record distributors around the World, organising photo shoots, working on artwork for new releases or re-issues of the Death In June etc back catalogue and so much more. The list could go on and on. With the exception of my partner, who has been the main photographer for Death In June the past decade or so and who I’ve just returned with from a 2,000 km road trip to Victoria taking photos for the new DIJ album ‘Peaceful Snow’ I’m a one man show and rarely interact with anyone else other than my studio engineer or anyone I’m musically collaborating with. And whilst that’s pretty much been the case since 1985 it seems even more time consuming these days. To continue and maintain a presence in such rarified air that Death In June occupies it takes a lot of time and attention to detail. On top of that, of course, ‘normal’ Life has to be looked after and there is always work on and around the property that needs seeing to. Finding a balance between dealing with fallen trees (last year alone we lost 8 mature gums and wattles due to severe storms) and waxing lyrical over a new Death In June album can be difficult and a certain amount of schizophrenia can come in handy. Luckily it runs in the family so,….all well and good on that front so far!
Have you travelled north through central Australia? Have you visited Uluru and Kata Tjuta?
I did all that when I first visited this country in 1989. Ayers Rock was a really good experience as it had been raining heavily before I’d arrived so had these pools of water on top of it that small ‘rock schrimps’ of some sort lived in for a brief period of time until the water disappeared. It wasn’t until the next heavy rainfall that they, or their offspring, existed again. It had been years since they were last seen and that made the spectacular experience even more special. Climbing the rock was really great and more difficult that I thought it would be. I always remember that at a certain point where there are chains to help you pull yourself up several people stopped, broke down and couldn’t go any further. One Japanese girl was in tears. The climb up was too much but equally the descent was also daunting. It’s not surprising more than a few people have died there. The Olgas were surrounded by floods so we couldn’t visit those but I took a light aircraft trip around and over them. My main memory of that was how many Aboriginal sites were nearby – all distinguished by wrecked cars, burning tyres and the general look a slum encampments. Ah, the noble savage!
Adelaide is known as one of Australia’s strangest cities in terms of it’s social climate. It seems to be fiercely conservative, yet there stems a subversive element which is sometimes rooted in episodes of bizarre violence. Are you familiar with a man called Bevan Von Einem and the folklore surrounding what has become known as “The Family”?
Adelaide is one of the most liberal cities I’ve ever been in and doesn’t seem conservative to me in any sense.
If “The Family” ever did exist then its members are now either dead, imprisoned or too old to do anything to anyone. It’s more of an interest to those outside the city/State rather than South Australians themselves. There are far more real threats such as the so called Gang of 49 which is a apparently made up of young, violent Aboriginals and a few honky dysfunctional side kicks who specialize in random violence, car jackings, robberies etc and the perpetually warring bikie gangs. However, unless you happen to get in their way the bikies are more concerned with trying to kill each other rather than anyone else.
Your work has drawn praise and criticism for varying reasons. Have you ever been the victim of physical violence stemming from your artistic output?
The time for all of that was in the late 1970s back in the UK in my first group Crisis which was militantly left wing. Being a Punk immediately attracted attention and often violence against you and being seen as being extremely left wing also caused a lot of problems from idiots out looking for a fight. With the exception of one or 2 shows in 30 years in America and Germany Death In June doesn’t attract that sort of thing although I’ve got a number of death threats over the years mainly for being gay! Most of those came after I said in a what had probably been a provocative German interview that I’d like to fuck the then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl up the arse whilst he licked his wife’s pussy. Apparently that angered a few less liberal thinking Germans! However, as I gave up dealing with most of the physical post in 1997 I no longer see those if there are any. The various DIJ websites are often being targetted with viruses and we’ve had a few problems with those over the years and I’ve been stalked and insulted on some of the gay websites that I belong to which I found amusing – a homophobe joins a gay site to tell me what a queer I am?!? Duh??? He must be bloody desperate for attention! Other than that, I don’t think there’s anything out of the unusual for anyone who is seen by some as a public figure. It goes with the territory.
Your fanbase in this country has grown considerably since your last performances here in 2005. Is there at all a chance that you will once again perform live in Australia?
It’s very unlikely although if I ever did change my mind Australia and New Zealand would be the first places I’d perform in. I’ve had enough offers to have toured around the World 3-4 times since 2005 but I think that mindset has disappeared for me. It did it for so many years it burnt a lot out of me and I’m confident I got out at the correct time. Everything seemed ‘correct’ to make that decision and I’ve managed to catch up with so much more that was being neglected on the Death In June front as well as the personal one. Spending 3-4 months away travelling and in hotels every year had its toll.
I’ve read about your appearance in a pornographic film. Would you mind telling me a bit about how this came about?
I’d known the maker of these films for some time and at the age of 49, with my body in pretty good condition for a man of my age and having just performed the last tour I thought it was as good a time as any to partake in such things. In fact, I’ve been in several since but it was the first one; ‘Vignettes’ that captured the pubic imagination! Besides, I’ve been openly gay since 1977 when I was 21 and I felt it was one more thing I wanted to do to help push the Libertine agenda of Death In June and perhaps help with a more open and acceptable attitude towards being homosexual. Regardless, I got to fuck a few guys I really fancied and made a few more friends besides.
Tell me about your earliest experiences with pornography.
Realistically, because I like the more ‘mature’ man of late 40s upwards I had to make my own ‘pornography’, if that’s what you choose to call it. At first, as a teenager in the early/mid 1970s I bought Naturist/Nudist magazines which featured such guys and then in the early 1980s I used a polaroid camera belonging to my then partner to make my, more ‘hardcore’, material. Much of which I still have to this day! My tastes have never changed. Who I fancied 30 + years ago I’d still pounce on today – if they were still alive, of course!
Do you think acceptance of pornography in mainstream media is creating an interest in sex at an increasingly younger age?
First of all I don’t think “pornography” is actually accepted in the mainstream media. Certainly not the tepid, flacid stuff I see on TV or, in most Hollywood films. Are you telling me that Harold Bishop, resurrected from the dead, has now been caught in an act of arse licking, deep throating cock sucking, pussy licking buggering on ‘Neighbours’ that’s somehow been seen as stirring the interest in sex of pre-pubescent Ozzie kids watching prime time TV whilst munching on their Veggiemite sandwiches? If only! I was consciously aware of sexual feelings and interest from the age of 10 and that only took being around men I came into contact with not the “mainstrean media”. Rupert Murdoch, despite his years, is definitely not a turn on for me. Never has been, never will be. Too scrawny!
Advances in technology have given people of all ages access to private information about one another. It has given us the opportunity to shape our own vision of ourselves and our desires. Recent years have seen an increase in self-shot adolescent erotica which, though intended for their peers, inevitably ends up online and public. Do you think that in coming years there may be enough people with nude or pornographic images of themselves distributed via the internet that society at large will cease to find such matters taboo, or do you think that the public thirst for sexual scandal will never subside? Will the celebrity sex-tape become passe or just the efforts of the obscurities?
You’ve obviously given this more thought that I! I don’t think advances in technology necessarily mean anything other than merely that. It’s not some act of mass liberation. We didn’t all become magickally enlightened after the invention of TV which made the World a smaller and more comprehensible place. We still continued to slaughter each other. And, why not? Some of the stuff you mention is really only the equivalent of people of my generation and older scrawling lude graffiti on classroom desks or the blackboard when teacher was out of the room. Now kids have access to the world wide wank they too will masturbate in public – and get all cutesy about it after. Zzzzz,….. If it was really seen as anything more serious it would be controlled, and possibly will be in years to cum. Afterall the Chinese government and others like it such as Iran and North Korea easily shut down internet access and facilities as and when they want to at this moment in time. The Australian government is even now entertaining ideas that will severely restrict access to so-called ‘pornography’. This is simply the situation of the ‘Now’ and you should enjoy it for as long as it lasts because it may not necessarrily do so for ever.
Favourite winery in the Barossa Valley?
I don’t have any. I gave up drinking white wine, which the Barossa is famous for, about 5 years ago after I’d stopped drinking alcohol for about 9 months. It just tasted like vinegar to me no matter how good the quality. Since then I’ve kept to Danish and Belgium beers and red wines mainly from the McClaren Vale and Coonawarra regions of S.A. Wynns and Zema are particular favourites. Heilige! Douglas P. 20.IX.10.