From Death In June
HOMO CONTRA VULGUM
An interview with Douglas P. of Death in June.
Easter 1994. Somewhere in London. by Per Norstrom and Johan Birgander
When this interview was taped, the latest release from Death In June was the double CD "Something Is Coming" where the group had, as the first British act, played live in Croatia after the war had begun. Douglas tells us of his experiences from living nearby a hospital where patients were desperately trying to survive in conditions where over-crowding and lack of supplies was the order of the day. Despite this situation, the patients whom he met showed an admirable dignity and kindness. Moved by this, he decided to use the proceeds from his recordings to donate money to be used to buy equipment for the Bolnicki Clinic in Zagreb for the rehabilitation of those who have lost limbs in the war and to date he has managed to raise 20,000 pounds for this benefit. This money will be much needed since, at the time of writing, Croatia has once again gone to war against the Chetnik Serbs after the occupations of Srebrenica and Zepa and the atrocities which followed. Douglas also told us of his plans to expand the cultural exchange by founding a Croatian division of NER, something which has now been realised in the form of Twilight Command. This label will release a number of new recordings over the next few months including the debut album from TEHOM, a Croatian ex-soldier. Other releases include albums by the Australian group Strength Through Joy and Scorpion Wind, a collaboration between Douglas P., John Murphy and Boyd Rice. This is just the latest project from a man who for fourteen years has relentlessly pursued his own path and exorcised his obsessions through his music. The work of Death In June is in a high degree linked to the individual Douglas P. Though attracted to his words and music we feel that we do not fully comprehend the material, that there are hidden layers of meaning which, if unveiled, will further enhance our appreciation. So we approach the source of all this, the artist, to have everything explained. The problem with this is that when we have reached the goal, have identified all the references, we are left with_ what? Still our own highly subjective perception of the music. And so it should be. Death In June, in our humble opinion, is first and foremost about the Individual. Individuals making their own interpretations, using the recordings "as and how they want to". This is encouraged by Douglas P. himself in a number of ways. An early statement from Death In June read: "The music is the statement, there is no other statement, for only in their music will you find Death In June". Since the mid-Eighties, we find Douglas P. more and more often wearing a mask, thereby refusing to play the part of "star", a clown pandering to the whims of the masses. Everything points in the same direction; Make your own interpretations. Meanwhile, hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon fraire, there are still some people who insist on asking questions like:
Q: WHAT IS THE FILM "THE WORLD THAT SUMMER" ABOUT?
Douglas P.: It was a film I came across by chance when it was shown on TV one afternoon in the early Eighties. It is 1936 in Nazi Germany, I think it is based in Hamburg. It concerns a young boy growing up in those years. He is initially fascinated by the Olympics which are taking place at the time and then has to go to serve in the Hitler Youth. However, he is torn between his Jewish grandmother and his Aryan family and feels that he doesn't belong anywhere. In the end the conflict becomes too much for him and he almost negates himself to everybody and everything and becomes totally callous. He has this recurring image of himself being a crocodile devouring those around him. It's a fascinating story, fantastically acted. The film had a lot of ambiguities which attracted me and also because of my fascination with that period in history. There were some conflicts that were pertinent to some of the conflicts which were going on within me at the time.
Q: SO DID THE FILM DIRECTLY INSPIRE THE ALBUM?
D: No, not really. It was just that the album was written in the summer of 1985 and the work continued in the winter and came out in the summer of 1986. The summers of those two years were particularly strange.
Q: WHY HAVE YOU TAKEN SUCH AN INTEREST IN NATIONAL SOCIALIST GERMANY? DO YOU, FOR INSTANCE, QUESTION YOURSELF WHETHER YOU WOULD HAVE JOINED THE RANKS OR NOT?
D:Yes, naturally. It's been an overriding interest since I was very, very young. My parents used to be quite angry about the morbid fascination I had as a child for this part of history. In the end, though, they actually gave up on it because I was so sincere in my interest. It wasn't just a passing dalliance but an actual obsession and I seem to be quite knowledgeable in that area. Outside of that, what are the reasons for my interest? I think, overridingly, that one of the main reasons is that you can still communicate with people who have taken part in these events. You just don't have to read books or see films about them, these people are very much alive today.
Q: WAS THERE A PARTICULAR SOURCE OF INSPIRATION FOR THE ALBUM "BROWN BOOK"? WAS IT THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME?
D:The idea of "Brown Book" really came near the completion of the album. I wanted an ambiguous title and this was one suitably so. Not very far from here, I and David Tibet were sitting outside a cafe, when Steve Stapleton came along. He took out of his bag a copy of a book to show us, and it turned out to be a copy of the "Brown Book" which he had just found in a dustbin! He sometimes goes to the backs of book shops or studios to see if there is anything of interest that they have thrown away and he found this. The strange thing was that he didn't know that I was writing an album that was called "Brown Book"! A meaningful co-incidence! To this day that copy of the book is on my bookshelf at home. So he gave me an affirmation that this was the right path, a magical affirmative to what I was doing. Almost every Death In June recording has had magical connotations. If you want to call things "magical", then that was probably my most magical album. I was in a stage of extreme initiation into a variety of things. I was practising to an indulgent level and was making considerable progress.
[Note: The Brown Book is a book printed in the former East Germany and lists Nazi war criminals working in West Germany in various sectors of society, from business and state administration to medicine. The Dachau camp doctor of yore could well be your friendly-old-dentist-with-the-peculiar-accent today!]
Q: WHEN YOU SPEAK OF MAGIC, DOES THIS INCLUDE YOUR INTEREST IN THE RUNES?
D:Yes, I'm totally attracted to the Runes. They have an inherent power that you can draw on. And it works, of that there is absolutely no doubt in my mind. This course of action is one way of living one's life or attaining or achieving things, but there are prices to be paid with that as well. I have reached a stage now where I'm not praying to an altar or invoking things. My life is totally magical anyway. I had a conversation with Boyd Rice about this in December when we were doing a German tour together and he had come to the same conclusion. You reach a stage where you never go back, a stage where everything you do, everything you think, everything you are is already part of that. You have stepped outside of that ordinary sense of being and it's now a part of everyday life.
Q: WHAT DREW YOU TO THIS, ORIGINALLY?
D:Just my nature. It has always been that way for me. I have always, for instance, seen it as a blessing that I was never baptised. My parents had moved down from London to a new area in the 50's and because the priest hadn't seen them in church before, he refused. My parents therefore decided that I could make up my own mind, so I remain untainted.
Q: WHAT IS THE POSITION OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND TODAY? DOES IT STILL HAVE ANY POWER?
D:Unfortunately, it still does. The higher powers have meetings with the church where the government do take notice. It is still a very reactionary force in this country, opposed to women priests and homosexuals, that will give affirmation to the reactionary forces in politics. These forces are inherent in British conservative politics, and by conservative I don't just mean the Conservative Party, but most British political parties.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON OTHER FORMS OF ORGANISED RELIGIONS?
D:Most of them are just despicable, reactionary and designed to suppress human beings. There is always this guilt that comes with everything. Guilt is meaningless to me. Life should exercised and exorcised for one's own pleasures. The nearest that I've come to anything that does make sense, although I'm not a Crowleyite acolyte, is "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will". Organised religions are just controlling and suppressing humanity and I think they are despicable. I hate them all, no matter how much people try to apologise with "Jesus really meant this, Buddha really meant that" I don't give a fuck what they really meant, you have to look at the reality of it!
Q: BUT WHAT IS THEN YOUR OPINION OF, SAY, LAVEY'S CHURCH OF SATAN?
D:I have read that stuff and I can't disagree with anything, though I wouldn't necessarily want to join the church. I think I'm already there , I don't need to join an organisation to be supported by other people, like Boyd Rice who is probably supported by the Church of Satan and is definitely one of the people that may take over the leadership when LaVey steps down.
Q: WHEN DID YOU MEET BOYD RICE FOR THE FIRST TIME?
D:Boyd and I had been in contact with each other via the post around '85, '86 for the making of Current 93's "Swastikas for Noddy". However, our paths had tried to cross several years before because we were due to play together in London but the customs officials wouldn't let him into this country. So he had to go on to Germany.
Q: WHAT WAS THE REASON FOR THAT?
D:I just think he opened his mouth when he should just have kept quiet! [laughs]. He didn't understand British customs officials. I have to lie just to get into my own country. They're very strict and being American he was being somewhat naive about what you say and what you don't say. I think you should just smile and act stupid and they will let you in! So we failed to perform then, but he had already been aware of me and I of him and his work in Non and eventually we started writing and finally met for the first time in 1989 in Tokyo when Current 93 wanted me to play with them and so did Non. So that's the first time I met Boyd and Michael Moynihan as well. We got on very, very well instantaneously.
Q: SO WHEN DID YOU START WORKING ON "MUSIC, MARTINIS AND MISANTHROPY"?
D:We started in Japan. Half of it was recorded in Tokyo in July 1989, and the rest of it was finished in February 1990 in Denver.
Q: WILL THERE EVER BE ANOTHER "BOYD RICE AND FRIENDS" ALBUM?
D:It is a possibility. There is talk of Boyd coming to live in England for a while. If he does, that would be more convenient. America has declined and this is affecting him more and more. Michael Moynihan has already come over and is living in Germany. They both found an escape in Denver for a few years but Denver has now inherited the problems that the East and West Coast have got. Already when I was there in 1990, it was beginning to change. There were gun battles in the street and it was beginning to get dangerous just to walk outside your door. Unfortunatel