Here’s an interview I did for an Australian fanzine a couple of months ago.
Throughout Peaceful Snow, and indeed the entirety of your recorded output, there are continued allusions toward more ancient and mystical methods of decoding and understanding the world and the universe – runes, Norse mythology, extra-Biblical prophecy etc. Indeed it seems as though Death In June has constructed and woven a micro-mythology around itself by means of appropriation and redeployment of mythical images of the past. To what extent was this conscious? To what extent do you see pre-modern wisdom and mythology as being of use to people and musicians of today?
Everything from the beginning in 1981 with Death In June was instinctive. And it’s probably because of this that Death In June did create a mythology around itself over the 30 years of existence. Because so much of the group was natural and not forced, regardless of who the different prime movers in or around Death In June were at the time. Besides the fact that it obviously had something some people were looking for, yearned for and felt akin to. The bottom line is the music which enticed people in. After that anything else followed -or not! And, as regards wisdom, then surely that’s something that’s been necessary since the birth of time. Pre-modern. post modern – what does it matter? Is it really a matter of debate? As our ancestors found if a hairy mammoth is coming towards you, you either get out of the way or you kill it. Or, it kills you. You could say the same about so much today. Instinct is very important. Possibly more so than “wisdom”?
Do you feel that the modern preoccupation with rationality, pure reason, and by extension Democracy, has failed us?
The only thing that fails us is us. It’s got nothing to do with any supposition that we’re all preoccupied with the above. I don’t feel that I’ve “failed” and I definitely don’t over burden myself with being rational or reasonable or democratic.
You’ve spoken in interviews before of a “European Cultural Renaissance”. What frontiers do you currently see as being the most active in this Renaissance? And how does your relative geographical isolation in Australia affect your view of these happenings?
I can only speak for the frontier I form a part of and that is Music. I see and hear plenty of evidence of a Euro-renaissance in that field. Especially the Neo-Folk/Post Industrial one. And I don’t feel isolated from Europa in Australia AT ALL! In fact, in many ways I feel closer to it than when I’m back in Europa where I felt a total stranger in my own country the last time I visited. But, then I almost always did so,…….I’m not in Australia by some strange default.
Do you see Australia inescapably as an outpost of European colonialism?
As Dutch, British and French explorers literally put this Great Southern Land on the map it would be ridiculous to say that modern day Australia is anything other than a grand – and successful – outpost of Euro-colonialism and, more specifically Anglo-Celt British colonialism. It’s a fact of life like the Euro-colonization of the Americas etc. If it was an outpost of, let’s say, Iranian or Zimbabwean colonialism would so many people still be so desperately trying to get into Australia by any means necessary, legal or otherwise? It’s doubtful. Thank the Gods for Euro-colonialism!
Upon first hearing ‘Peaceful Snow’ and the move from guitar to piano the great song-cycles of Franz Schubert came to mind, in particular Die Winterereise. Did these types of European classical connotations, and more specifically the Romantic period composers, come in to your calculations directly when you decided to enlist Miro on piano or was it a more organic decision?
Very little classical music holds any interest for me so that had no influence whatsoever over how I should approach the writing of the ‘Peaceful Snow’ album. “Organic” is one way of looking at the fact that Miro Snejdr, the Slovakian pianist who plays his interpretations of my songs on the album, was pointed out to me by fans who said I should listen to some of his interpretations of Death In June songs on Youtube. From there everything else started to develop and fall into place. At first this project was going to be an album of instrumentals of old DIJ songs (this particular album is the ‘Lounge Corps’ bonus CD that comes with some copies of the ‘Peaceful Snow’ CD/USB) but then I started to write new material and I’d send my guitar/vocal demos to Miro for his re-interpretation. I then re – recorded my vocals over his piano and we eventually ended up with the ‘Peaceful Snow’ album. It was a little nerve racking doing it in this detached way across continents and we’ve never actually met or even spoken on the ‘phone but I simply didn’t want to do another album based around my acoustic guitar. But, suddenly an alternative was provided so, once again, it was an instinctive and unforced development with Death In June. The only allusion I can see to the Romantic period is the inner photo of the double 10″ vinyl release. I know it’s reminiscent of the Friedrich painting ‘Wanderer Looking Over A Sea Of Fog’ but for me it reminded me more of a painting Ian Read of Fire + Ice has in his house in London that was done by one of his partner’s children who committed suicide. It’s a very haunting and simple painting. One you don’t forget. I thought that was appropriate for ‘Peaceful Snow’.