Interview for Polish magazine Gothica
1.Hello, Douglas. – it`s Your 30th anniversary with Death In June this year. I`m actually surprised that it`s so quiet around You now – no celebration so far. Is it a silence before the storm? As far as I know you had quite a few plans…
Yes, you are correct that as I write this in the middle of 2011 it is the calm before the storm. There are many projects planned for the rest of 2011 which even range outside the usual scope of Death In June. But, I don’t believe in tempting providence by actually mentioning them. In fact, I’m rather scathing of people who do. That’s how so much gets talked about but, so little gets done and becomes reality. So, with that in mind I cannot reveal too much about plans for the next 6 months. All I can say is that there are many, and there will be some surprises. However, as people have already seen, the long deleted super 2 CD compilation ‘DISCriminate’ has recently been reissued with expanded artwork and rare photos etc as has a completely revamped version of one of Death In June’s most acclaimed albums, “NADA!”. This is now “NADA PLUS!” on a limited edtion 2 x CD + DVD as well as a double LP and USB which contains everything and more! Besides all the official recorded material from that time, 1984-85, there are extra bonus versions of “NADA!” tracks re- recorded in 1989 and 2005, plus a rare bootleg recording of Death In June in 1984, PLUS a video recording of the 20th Anniversary performance of most of the “NADA!” material recorded in London in 2005. That features patrick leagas and myself reunited for one evening and performing together for the last ever time. That’s been a very long and exciting project to get off the ground but the 30th June, 2011 seemed a good a time as any.
2. It`s no mystery, that such round anniversaries are good for a little “summary”. It could be said, that at the beginning of Crisis and bit later with DIJ You was a rebel in some way –and Your music expressed that. It was quite violent and aggressive time in Your – a left wing, gay and uncompromised by nothing punkrocker- life. How do You feel about those early times?
Well, those early Crisis days you speak of were 34 years ago and really nothing but a stepping stone to Death In June. It’s almost the difference between the pre- 9/11 World and the post- 9/11 World. Unless I’m being asked about a reissue of some Crisis material then I never think about that time except that it seems so very long ago. I don’t feel you can confuse the 2 very different groups and times in any way. I was 20 in 1977 when I first started to think about forming what became Crisis, I was 24 in 1981 when I formed Death In June and now in 2011 I’m 55. It’s only natural that there have been some changes, in artistic/creative approach if nothing else, along the way. If I was still a “violent and aggressive” “punkrocker”, as you put it, at my age today then all I could realistically say would be that I had failed on my Life mission and was a completely frustrated idiot and total loser. And, with that in mind, I doubt whether you would be wanting to interview me.
3. Do You consider DIJ nowadays “neofolk” at all?
I never did consider Death In June “Neo Folk” because it was a term that didn’t even exist when DIJ was founded in 1981. But, apparently I inadvertantly invented the genre somewhere along the way together with david tibet of current 93. As david tibet and I were very close friends and writing for both groups at the same decisive time of 1984-88 and, to a lesser extent, for some years beyond I think we both, to a greater or lesser degree, have to accept our responsibility for that birth. In those days we ‘fucked’ each other in a good, creative way and our child was something that grew healthily, globally and eventually grabbed a Life of its own. However, that ‘love affair’ didn’t last and it just became tibet trying to ‘fuck’ me! Sad, but true. But, as regards bracketing Death In June into any genre that was made up by shopkeepers to help sell our strange and new sounding records? I don’t know! The last Death In June album ‘Peaceful Snow’ (2010) is so different from ‘Brown Book’ (1987) as that was so different to ‘The Guilty Have No Pride’ (1983) as that’s so different to ‘All Pigs Must Die’ (2001) etc. The journey of Death In June has been a long one with many different stops along the way. If nothing else, I learnt from the original Punk movement in the UK in the late 1970s that the willingness to invoke, confront and accept change was essential to a healthy Life and survival.
4. Leaving memories and difficult topics a little behind – I read quite a few bad reviews for “The Rule Of Thirds” album., even among my friends – longtime fans. To be honest, even I was somehow disappointed with it when it came out. Many people straight away said that DIJ is finished with that material – and that it started to eat it`s own tail… How do You feel about this album now, after some time passed? You had any thoughts that it could be done better, or You are just proud of what You have created?
Perhaps it didn’t suit Polish tastes back in 2008? But, in truth, outside of one infamously bad American review that was printed on the internet within seconds of ‘The Rule Of Thirds’ album being accidently DIJitally released prior to the actual release date, all the reviews I’ve seen are very good. That particular review had obviously been pre-written without even hearing the songs on the album so as to deliberately try to sabotage sales. It’s the World Wide Wank and the misinformation highway, afterall! But, anyone in their right mind could see that. ‘The Rule Of Thirds’ was even the first Death In June album since 1985 that got into the mainstream British music press and actually got a good review when it did. So, I don’t know what your hangup is about TROT. I think it’s a great album regardless of what reviews say – for good or bad. I wouldn’t have released it if I didn’t think so! At the time I couldn’t have tolerated hearing another DIJ album with trumpets, big percussion and keyboards etc. I needed to hear everything stripped back to the acoustic guitar and vocals and raw sounding. It’s how I hear mainly Death In June these days anyway and have done for over 10 years. For me ‘The Rule Of Thirds’ perfectly crystalized that sound, vision and approach.
5. And suddenly, awakening! “Peaceful snow” came out – amazing, beautiful and (what is important) different album. Different than any other DIJ piece released so far in so many ways! Can You find many similarities between Your last masterpiece and “old” releases?
As I said earlier, the journey of Death In June has been a long one covering many years and scenarios. Many albums are completely different to the others and that is one of the true constants of Death In June. From the very beginning the motto was :”We aim to please, with constant unease” which was inscribed on the run out grooves of the first album ‘The Guilty Have No Pride’. I think that explains more about Death In June than so many other words could.
6. Sometimes I have a strong feeling that cooperation with Miro – while working on the new LP – was a very good – and refreshing as well – thing to do. Do You feel that Miro put a lot of himself – his own spirit – into “Peaceful Snow”, despite it`s You who wrote whole music and lyrics?
Be perfectly clear about this – the only Soul or Spirit that has occupied Death In June, certainly since 1985, is mine! Miro did a great job of transferring my demo songs on guitar onto his piano playing in the Dirty Martini Studio in Europa and that’s exactly what I wanted him to do. But, I didn’t even request his presence, let alone his spirit. I know he put a lot of Heart into his piano playing. But his spirit? Death In June doesn’t need that.
7. Does “slow deconstruction of Death In June” – like You described it once – has it`s grande finale on “Peaceful Snow”?
I don’t know. At my age, sooner or later there will be the final recording from Death In June. It’s only natural. If ‘Peaceful Snow’ turns out to be my “grande finale” then it would be as good a way of saying Goodbye! as any. Certainly, almost 1 year after I stopped writing material for that album there has been nothing else declare itself to me that wanted to be created for Death In June. However, at the end of 2010 I did write 2 new songs for the 21st Anniversary edition 12″ celebrating the release of the Boyd Rice And Friends album ‘Music, Martinis And Misanthropy’. The songs ‘Boyd’s Lovely Xmas’ and ‘Happy Anniversary Daddio’ could turn out to be the last 2 songs I write the music to. Who knows? But, I really enjoyed writing those. I love listening to them. I used the same guitar, E-bow and tape recorder I’d used on the original album and the 2 new songs fit well atmospherically with the other 2 from the original 1990 album featured on the 12″.
8. Your latest album is the best proof and example how powerful media like internet or Youtube might be. I can imagine that 15 years ago You would have a great laugh on idea, that You will find musician for DIJ amongst Your own fans through video channel. And that You will find him thanks to other fans, on top of that!
Well it’s not that different from how I’ve met some other musicians I’ve worked with over the years. The 2nd lead singer of Crisis, Dexter, was a well known fan of the group. Patrick Leagas used to come to Crisis shows and I distinctly remember talking to him at one of our last ones in England in 1979/80 and in 1981 we were then in Death In June together! I met david tibet in 1983 via an introduction by the then totally unknown Alan Mcgee of Creation Records at a Death In June show in London and I was then introduced to Boyd Rice via david tibet some years later in Japan. With both tibet and Boyd I was already very familar with their work and likewise with Miro Snejdr as I had heard his piano versions of some songs from ‘The Rule Of Thirds’ on the internet. Ironic, isn’t it. ‘The Rule Of Thirds’ was the album that most moved Miro to do piano versions of some Death In June songs and also film accompanying videos. TROT affects different people in so many ways and that, in turn, led to Miro and I working together on ‘Peaceful Snow’. It wasn’t the internet that brought us together creatively- it was ‘The Rule Of Thirds’!
9. But then again You had that kind of (“paternal”?) relationship with Your talented fans before –DOWN IN JUNE for example. You even released their debut CD! Do You know what`s happening with the group nowadays?
They recently put out an excellent album under the name Lovac (which is Croatian for ‘Hunter’) called ‘Apes Of A Cold God’. I think they also write a lot of music scores for theatrical productions in their native Sweden.
10. You never wanted to drop DIJ name and start something new, under the new banner? After all You walked so many musical/artistic paths – and always as Death In june. Wouldn’t be easier for You to change the name of the project and carry on without the burden and long-time fans expectations?
As I previously said, one of the true constants of Death In June is that you never really know what you’re going to get from the group’s Life Force and that even includes me. I was as surprised by “NADA!” (1985) as I was by ‘Brown Book’, ‘The Wall Of Sacrifice'(1989), ‘But, What Ends When The Symbols Shatter?'(1992) and ‘Peaceful Snow’ etc as anyone else was when they were released. Besides, over the years I’ve always had the outlet for working with people or groups like Boyd Rice or current 93 or Strength Though Joy, or Thomas Nola etc and those different experiences possibly kept any ‘wanderlust’ in check as regards changing the name of the group. But, in truth, that idea has rarely been thought about with any degree of seriousness. Death In June isn’t a burden, it’s a Blessing.
11. While speaking of expectations – Your fans probably never expected, that You shall become a porn-star, now did they?:)
It fulfilled my apparent constant need to diversify my talents! The 3 videos I’ve been in that were released on the Mature Aussie Network also apparently fulfilled some fans needs to watch me in ‘action’! I’ve always been very highly sexed and at the age of 49/50 when the videos were filmed I thought it was a good time to immortalize my sexual prowess on film. It was done for and with Gay Joy and Lust. Not for Love, nor money. And they were also done to show my complete disregard and disgust at any sign of a slow return to xtian or muslim etc, reactionary ‘values’ Worldwide. And be quite sure I view people like the present pope with as much disdain and revulsion as I do any islamic fundamentalist. They are both the enemy! And the videos sorted out the petty from the all-embrassing of fans. And, even former colleagues. I got some ridiculous emails during this period which made some former colleagues look more like bored, gossipy, old fishwives rather than anyone I would have chose to work with in Death In June. Goes to show how dull their suburban, bourgeois lives are now they are no longer associated with Death In June – ha ha!!
12. Controversy in many forms was for whole 30 years somehow linked with Death In June image. Was it intentional at any point?
Intentionally so? Yes, twice. Once in 1987 and once in 2010. The response was completely different on both occasions. I’ll let the readers guess which ones these were but Poland was certainly a feature in one. But, perhaps the Poles are too wise after being so long under the boot heel of communism/stalinism and that provocation didn’t turn out to be controversial at all! Normally I would consider intentional controversy to be trite and uninteresting but, I couldn’t resist on those occasions and I think I was correct in choosing to do what I did. Both were very tasteful, and one worked very well, especially in retrospect where you see so many people have fallen into a well laid trap I made in the 1980s.
13. What about this Italian biography of DIJ? Will it be translated to English at last?
Later in 2011 the French and German versions of ‘Nascosto Tra Le Rune’ (Hidden Among The Runes) are planned to be published and, at present, the English version is scheduled for sometime in 2012. DIJital versions of the books are also expected at some stage next year.
14. It`s huge shame that You backed down from playing live concerts. I`m sure the tracks from “Peaceful Snow” would sound amazing onstage, creating unforgettable atmosphere…
I doubt very much that even if I ever did return to the live arena that ‘Peaceful Snow’ would ever be performed on piano in that way. The cold, Wintery atmosphere that I love so much about the album would be very difficult to transfer to that of a live performance. It’s too fragile for a public airing like that. It’ll be like trying to capture a snowflake in your hand – it only melts as soon as you touch it.
15. Speaking of live acts… In early 80`s – if I`m not wrong – You supported onstage (as DIJ) no one else as Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds. Can You tell me something about the experience, the audience and Your contact with Nick back then? You still have a contact?
The first performance Death In June ever did was supporting The Birthday Party which was Nick Cave’s group in 1981. I’d seen them play several times before that and liked them so I was pleased DIJ could get to be on the same show as them. That group of his then mutated into The Bad Seeds which DIJ then also supported in 1984. I’ve always appreciated much of his work but never really got to speak to him. Doing one-off performances with other groups aren’t really the best place to get to know anyone and besides, those days were during his full addiction period so, he didn’t have much to say to strangers anyway. And Death In June weren’t ever the most approachable of bands, either. I really only remember him silent and almost catatonic backstage but, he sprang to life as soon as he got on stage. He always delivered ‘the goods’ when they were needed. And going by the last time I saw him with Grinderman a few months ago, still does. I had a chance meeting with him on a plane we were both travelling on and we had a brief conversation but that’s all. That’s how I ended up going to the show which I didn’t know was on in the city I’d flown to. He appears to be in a much better place in his life than he was all those years ago. He’s successful and appears to have kicked the bad habits he had. Good for him.
16. As we started to dig in the past a little bit again – do You have (two or three let`s say) most memorable moments in the history of Death In June? Or, perhaps, the ones that You really regret now?
Overall, Death In June has been a brilliant experience for me and it would be impossible to narrow it down to 2 or 3 moments. It’s almost insulting. There are far too many memorable moments. And, as regards regrets? No, not really. It would be like the film ‘The Butterfly Effect’. If I changed the one thing that I do find unpleasant then everything else would probably change and not neccesarily for the better. It’s all been meant to be.