Full response to Questions for interview/feature with Creative Loafing, Atlanta. 24.X.14.
1. First, can you please tell me about the material you will be playing when you come to Atlanta? Is it a comprehensive Death In June setlist, or will it stick to a particular era of your songwriting? Will you play any new or unreleased songs?
It stretches from the beginning to the present ; Heaven Street thru to Peaceful Snow/The Snow Bunker Tapes. There are no complete new or unreleased songs so they won’t be played. I retired from live performances in 2005 and only came back into the live arena again in 2011 to mark the 30th Anniversary of Death In June. The performances in Europe, the USA and Mexico since have been a continuing part of that celebration, not in order to support a new recording. Death In June hardly ever did that anyway. Now there’s a legacy to be heard and a lot of people around the World who weren’t even born when DIJ started out in 1981 appear interested in hearing what it now sounds like. But this isn’t going to be a permanent state of affairs so this Death Of The West Tour Mk III will be the last tour of the USA for the foreseeable future. For that reason I’m pleased we’re visiting cities such as Cleveland and Sacramento that we’ve never been to before and also cities such as Atlanta where we haven’t been for a very long time. My next priority after touring will be to start recording new material. I’ve fought that urge for a while but I know it’s time to start considering ‘What Will Become Of Us’ which is the working title of the new album. If it’s any good I can set the release of that to coincide with my 60th Birthday in 2016. There, you have an exclusive, Chad.
2. In his book Behind the Mask of the Horror Actor, Doug Bradley, who played Pinhead in the Hellraiser films, says, “Any person who picks up even the simplest mask and places it over their face has instantly become something new. If that person now animates themselves and speaks through the mask, it is no longer him or her that we respond to, but a new character created by the mask.” I bring this up because I want to ask: Is there a separation between the Douglas P. that we see on stage wearing the white relief mask or has hair hanging over his face versus the Douglas Pearce that lives his day to day life? Can you tell me about what sets these two identities apart?
I think that might be a slightly over dramatic, thespian way of viewing characters they have to portray in a typically Greek Classical view of theatre. I’m not portraying anything or anyone else other than Douglas P./Death In June. That’s multi-faceted and complicated enough. By the way, since the age of 19 I’ve never had hair covering my face – that was a snipers mask and those green/brown strands are made of cotton.
3. I am drawn into your songs by the guitar melodies and impressionistic voice and lyrics which, can be quite ambiguous. I hear beauty and celebration, melancholy and sadness, sometimes all in single melodic phrase. These emotionally mixed signals, coupled with your visual presentation — militaristic uniforms and the mask — are powerful, oftentimes unsettling, but ultimately the songs feel cathartic. Does your music bring you a sense of peace?
A sense of peace? Never. Quite the opposite, in fact. The groups early motto which was actually printed in small text on the back of the first LP The Guilty Have No Pride released in 1983 was “We aim to please with constant unease”! That ‘unease’ extends to this day in my Life and psychological make-up. It’s never not there. I don’t believe you can be an ‘artiste’ or creative individual of any worth without it. Writing some songs in particular or entire albums can be a cathartic release and the experience is a good one to have behind you once it’s complete but it’s been decades since I felt “a sense of peace”. In fact, I’m not sure if I ever did about anything except perhaps momentarily after orgasm with men I’ve Loved in my Life. Then a feeling of ‘oneness’ can descend and perhaps that is a major part of existence – to feel ‘complete’ to feel ‘whole’ but, at peace? That sounds like someone who is totally blind to the ways of the World, or dead!
4. Do you feel that there is a sense of humor in your work?
Never! Every word, note and chord obtained, every Death In June photo or sleeve design realized is like pulling teeth as far as I’m concerned. If you can see the joke in Death In June’s root canal work you’ll have to point me in the direction where you see it. I can’t.
5. In your 2006 interview with Occidental Congress (http://www.occidentalcongress.com/interviews/intdoug_06.htm) you are quoted saying: “Being gay is fundamental to Death In June since it became my solo project in 1985 and even before in the songs I wrote/co-wrote.” Can you elaborate on this statement, and how you feel it affects Death In June?
For years I’ve pointed in some directions of inspiration and I’ve codified some songs and imagery so that if you are “Gay” you could appreciate them on that level and therefore heighten your appreciation of whatever it is. It adds to Death In June. It gives it broader depth. Naturally, you don’t have to be gay to like DIJ. But, it does give it an extra edge. But heterosexuals are also welcome in the the Death In June congregation – we try to be a broad church of acceptance.
6. What keeps you moving forward, playing shows, and releasing music with Death In June?
Instinct, nature, compulsion, satisfaction, the need to constantly challenge, obeying my cultural imperative and heritage. All those things and more. I don’t really have a choice in the matter. It simply is!
7. How has your experience working with Miro Snejdr affected Death In June?
Miro was an extremely fortunate discovery via the internet and other DIJ fans telling me about his work in 2010. He’s an extremely skilled keyboard/accordion player. He’s given me the opportunity to not only do the Peaceful Snow album in a completely different way to what’s usually expected from Death In June but also have him reinterpret many of the Death In June ‘classics’ via the Lounge Corps albums and the Neo Kabaret material we now do live. It’s been a good experience and I appreciate it for as long as it lasts and is necessary. I think others should too.
8. During your interview with Brainwashed (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnXvjK_Zcok), you begin by saying you are open to other people’s interpretations of Death In June. Interpretation, for me, is a very compelling part of Death In June. I don’t know if it’s appropriate to draw comparisons to an artist such as Jandek, but it seems to me that, aside from the music, much of Death In June’s allure lies in how much the viewer connects the dots and reacts. When I announced your show on our Crib Notes music blog, I received a couple of angry e-mails. Needless to say, this is powerful stuff. How do you respond when people become confrontational in their reactions to Death In June?
The yapping dogs of this World rushing to the gate to bark at the stranger in strange dress walking by are too stupid to see or hear the real danger at the rear of their property breaking in. All they can hear is the sound of their own barking. I keep on my path and that yapping noise soon disappears into the distance.
Douglas P. 24.X.14.