Interview:2002-Edge of time
DEATH IN JUNE Europe Has Burnt and Burns Again [January 2002, by Audrius Ozalas, Zydrius, Ugne; intro by AO]
Death In June always has been something more than music. Since the beginning of the 80s, for many people it was the source of inspiration, for many it had changed the worldview, and for many it had changed the understanding of how the music should sound like. Call it some kind of religion, and maybe you will be right. Apocalyptic visions, magical symbols - the music of Douglas P., the man behind Death In June, has always been filled up with the feeling that you could not understand, but that could grab when listening to such tracks as “Golden Wedding of Sorrow” or “Rose Clouds of Holocaust.”
For some people it was only music. But even looking at Death In June from a strictly musical viewpoint, the band has composed probably the best moments in neofolk (or dark folk/apocalyptic folk if you wish). Albums like “But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter,” “Rose Clouds of Holocaust,” “NADA!”, “Brown Book” or many others (any Death in June album is a big moment of the genre) are true classics of the style. Maybe only Current 93 has given such a big impact to the scene as Death In June did. And namely two Death In June’s tracks “Little Black Angel” and “Daedalus Rising” afirst introduced to me this musical world, which still keeps me strong inside.
Douglas P. has always been the person that many talked about, but nobody could exactly say what kind of person he is. Some blamed him for his fascistic attitude (and Douglas P. explains once and once again that he has nothing in common with that, it’s only his interest in World War II), some said he is a magician, some said he is just a poet who composes strong music. But Douglas P., traveling “somewhere in Europe,” Australia or in England, still was a person you could hardly come very close to.
The last years were a turning point for Death In June. After breaking up with their label World Serpent Distribution, he composed albums which marked a new way in his creation. “Take Care And Control” and “Operation Hummingbird”, recorded with Albin Julius from Der Blutharsch, were more military than folky and more industrial than acoustic. The latest album of the band, “All Pigs Must Die,” recorded with the help of the controversial person of the scene, Boyd Rice, was highly allegoric and showed Douglas P. returning to more “traditional” music of Death In June nice acoustic music, growing to noisy soundscapes on the second part of the album.
All these factors were more than enough for us, living here in Vilnius, to leave all doubts behind, get in the car and travel hundreds of kilometers to Warszaw. Death In June, for the first time in their history, performed live in Poland at Modern Art Centre in Warszaw. We were lucky enough not only to see them, but also to talk with Douglas P after the show.
Glass of wine in his hand, acoustic guitar carefully packed by his side, traditional show-mask in his hands yes, he is the person, who changed a lot in music. “Where are you from? Lithuania?” asks Douglas P. after we arranged the interview with great difficulty. Probably the fact that we weren’t afraid to travel thousand kilometers just to see him was the main reason why he agreed to answer our questions. Edge of Time site is sponsored by DVS Records
So, did you like this gig?
It was interestingly powerful; it had great energy and atmosphere about it.
Do you feel any difference between the audiences of Poland, England, Croatia, and other countries?
Oddly enough, no. Wherever we’ve been in the world, I thought about this before, whether it is Japan or Croatia or England or Poland… It is my first time as I have never been to Poland before. There seems to be a type of audience where persons are interested, and it is a common theme that seems to be running throughout the world.
In which country do you have the highest number of followers?
Sort of all over the world. You can’t really pinpoint one particular country. There’s a nice general interest.
What about the United States?
It is exactly the same. I mean you have to remember it is a massive market. We did a very big tour four years ago and we got very big audiences. We were playing in Los Angeles in the club that Bob Dylan and Beck would play one week later. So you know…
OK, Douglas, “All Pigs Must Die”. What is the concept behind it?
One thing you have to remember – I never dissect my work. I never say “Rose Clouds of Holocaust” is about this or “But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter?” is about this or “All Pigs Must Die” is about this. But, generally, the theme would be a banishment and exercise in getting rid of rubbish in my life.
You mean it is very personal?
All my albums are very personal. They can’t not be very personal.
You know, many people understand Three Piggies, this metaphor, quite literally. Some people say it has to do with World Serpent Distribution. Is it true?
Well, they can say things like that but if they want to go to court with World Serpent that’s their problem not mine.
Now your albums are distributed on Tesco. With Tesco and Australian company called NER. It means New European Recordings – Australia.
It is a distribution company and a label. So, half of my products that are available at present time are from Australia and distributed throughout the world from Australia, and half are from Tesco. When I split from World Serpent, the vast majority of my back catalog, all the albums and CDs, are still with World Serpent. I can’t get it through. So, you can’t get for instance “NADA!” or… “The Beauty Have no Pride”. There’s a lot that can’t be got. But now all my stuff goes through Tesco. Tesco is a distribution company. It is not a label.
Douglas, why have you chosen to live in Australia?
I’ve been living in Australia for over 10 years.
Yes, but before you lived in England.
I lived all over Europe. Actually, I lived for three years in Italy. I’ve not always lived in England. When I was 15 years old, 30 years ago, I first left England and travelled around Europe.
What is the idea of changing of places?
There’s no idea, it is just a natural instinct. It is an instinct for the swans to fly south in summer and fly north in winter. Or vice versa. For me it’s the same instinct.
Now it is very cold in Poland. Do you like such weather?
Yeah, I am fine, I am European. It is not an alien environment, not like another planet.
You have lived in many countries. Do you have any particular country where you feel like at home?
Yes, it is Australia.
Why not England?
I never felt at home there.
Ask God. It was just an instinct for me that I never felt comfortable there, not from the very first day.
What’s so different in living in Australia and in England?
Different attitude. In many ways, it is pretty European. Where I live it was settled by free settlers, while most of Australia was settled by prisoners, convicts, but my area is all free settlers from Britain and Germany. They came 150 years ago. It was a massive success of the area. It is really a different atmosphere. I love the Australian atmosphere with the eucalyptus trees, the flora and fauna. It is something unique that seems to portray it. In some ways maybe I am – because of my travelling – truly English, because of the centuries we have travelled, otherwise we wouldn’t have ever had the biggest Empire, we have a need to move and discover and find new things. If we all had felt that we should stay at home, we would never have had an Empire. So, perhaps I am the true Englishman. The Englishman that never felt at home in England.
On “Kapo!” album there are your words on New Jerusalem. What do you mean by these words? Zagreb?
During the war in Croatia it was referred to as the New Jerusalem. I mean “Kapo!” is really inspired of all the albums by the events that took place in the Balkans war. So that’s a fairly easy explanation for that album. They referred to it as the New Jerusalem. They were fighting for the New Jerusalem, which is an interesting way because England has always been referred to as the Jerusalem by William Blake, etc. It was just a curious little tying because I like Croatia very much. I will be in Croatia next week.
What can you say about the Nazi phobia in Europe?
Nazi phobia? I think the world goes through periods of world devils. In the 50s, it was homosexuals and communists. Now it is Nazis. Next week it could be Muslims… Well, it is almost now. So, it is the world devil at the moment.
So, who will win? Bin Laden or Americans?
I don’t think this kind of murderers of such degree without any sort of conscience… Well, sometimes you could refer like it to all the major powers of the world… but the events that took place in New York was something we haven’t seen in many years. I don’t think they should win. But perhaps they will, we’ll see. It is not an intellectual exercise. I think people like that shouldn’t win and shouldn’t be allowed to win but, unfortunately, I fear that the enemy is already within. Hundreds years ago you had the crusades where ostensibly you saw Europe trying to capture the Holy Land of Jerusalem. But really, in fact, in many ways it was a new imperialism from Islam as well because much of Europe was occupied by Islam. That’s why, for instance, we have all the troubles in the Balkans. Spain was occupied by the Moors for hundreds of years. So, it is not always the Europeans (Christians) invading other people, we get invaded, too. But people forget. And it took hundreds of years to get those people out. I think that Islam is actually in the new stage of Imperialism. And it has nothing to do with Palestinian rights, it has got nothing to do with America being in Saudi Arabia where mercury is… It has got everything to do with the fact that we drive West.
After the September 11th events in New York, the attack on the WTC and Pentagon, some people automatically applied the title of “But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter?” album to those events. How do you feel about it?
I am very gifted.
Yes, they say you are a prophet.
Post-rationalisation is always very good, isn’t it?
What did you mean writing this title “But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter?” What is the answer?
If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t tell you. It is the question on what happened at that time. I was going through a particular period in my life. I underwent spiritual death. And for me personally the symbols were shattering. But then, of course, you can take that as a microcosm and see it in a bigger way that it is not just for me that the world is ending. It is like me singing that song in “Giddy, Giddy Carousel”: “And Europe has burnt and will burn again”. I did it years before all the wars in the Balkans and in the satellite states, or of the ex-Soviet Union… this is just a chance but it is also if you look at history it is probably nearly that it was going to happen. So now, I say Europe has burnt and burns again. It is just difference in tense. But I don’t feel a particular genius for that now.
So many coincidences…
I know. It is mystical.
What about “Rune Men”? Do you practice and use it?
Yes, it is for me everyday.
Is it personal?
Yes, everything. Whatever I have to do with it.
Are “But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter?” and rune magic from the same sphere?
I’ve been interested in runology for long years before I wrote “But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter?” So…
I would like to return to the ideology. Some say that you have ties with Fascist movements. How do you feel about those ties?
I think it is for them to talk for themselves. I have nothing to do with it. People can say whatever they want but it is… I have no interest whatsoever in people who bracket me because I don’t bracket people. But if they want me to bracket them, I will.
But how do you feel about it?
Nothing. I think they mean nothing to me.
But you have some problems with that. You were banned in Switzerland.
In the scheme of things, it is not a problem. In terms of my life, it is nothing.
Have there been any other occurrences of banning you recently?
No, the only thing that happened was in Switzerland. And this has to do with politics, not to do with me because they had a local election and they thought I was going to bring an army of skinheads to Lausanne and destroy the city. Because they’ve heard from someone in Germany who contacted a policeman in Bern. And the policeman in Bern contacted the authorities in Lausanne. This is like gossip. This is like fishwives. This is like old women. I don’t care about old women gossiping. If at the end of the day, it means I don’t play, good, I don’t want to play in the city of old women talking about people behind their backs. And they are so stupid they believe in all the rumours. When I had a meeting with the Council a day before the concert, they were absolutely petrified of me. I wanted to play the records and say ‘I am not going to destroy you’ but they were just so scared. Because they were worried about their political future. They were not thinking about Death in June as Being a Nazi group, they are thinking that I, Jean Pierre Nobody, want to be Mayor of this town and I must win the good citizens over of this town to my calls and, therefore, I will be a knight in shining armour, I will always stand up to those things that everybody hates. So, I will stand up to Nazi, skinhead hordes that are coming to destroy Lausanne. Of course, there were no Nazi, skinhead hordes and I didn’t play and they got elected. So, life goes on. The fishwives got their wave.
So, is “Gorilla Tactics” really a revenge for Switzerland?
Yes, because they just…
Douglas, this is very personal of course but tonight we listened to “But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter?” and symbols shattered indeed. “Golden Wedding of Sorrow”…
I couldn’t play it tonight because I cut my finger and it is really difficult to play, there was blood all over the place. I was going to play it. I would play for you now.
What is “Golden Wedding of Sorrow”?
How I got the title was… I was in Paris waiting for a friend and I looked out of the window of the hotel I was in and then the words “Golden Wedding of Sorrow” came into my mind. So, you interpret it. I mean I can’t… At that moment in time it was winter in Paris, my friend was late, I was wondering if there was a problem and then suddenly I look out of the window and it goes ding! “Golden Wedding of Sorrow”! So I actually sat down and wrote a song. I mean this is like… (sigh) acting like an aerial, for whatever reason sometimes these things can happen. You just are there at the right moment and then the thing comes in. But the “Golden Wedding of Sorrow”, when I actually analyse it, and cut it into pieces, I’ve no idea… It represents to me, all my songs normally represent to me many things. You tell me what to think, it is even more important.
How did you get this idea of wearing masks in your concerts?
Even from the very very beginning of Death in June, when there were three people – Tony Wakeford, Patrick Leagas and myself – we did not want to become a part of a normal rock n’roll thing. Pretty boys staring into the cameras with huge cocks and IQs of one million… It doesn’t work like that. It was embarrassing to be part of this thing in many ways, so we looked different onstage all the time. In fact, the first performances we played with our backs to the audience. And then we started having camouflage, net over the stage so that people could see us wearing different masks. Patrick Leagas, for instance, didn’t even want to have his photograph taken ever. And in “NADA!” we stand with our backs to the camera. But talking about this particular mask… We had worn masks before because we would go onstage with pigs heads on or gorilla heads and different things, SS uniforms. But this is different. I was walking 10 years ago in Venice, Italy, and there was a shop called “New or Old”. Then, through the window of the shop, there were all the usual Italian carnival masks like Suns and Moons, etc. but right through the shop I saw this one mask staring back at me. And that is the mask that now I wear. And so it just came straight in use as you were saying. And of course, it became indeliberately marked for the past 10 years with my career. But it was just a chance. I was in a right place in the right time. It was very mysterious, it was foggy… Have you ever seen the film “Don’t look now”? That’s how Venice was when I met the mask. You should see it, it is with Donald Sutherland. It is an excellent film. It is about his child who dies and he goes to Venice to repair a church and has all these visions, so it is really worth watching. If you ever see this film, which is widely available, that’s how I discovered the mask.
Can you live of your music? Can you manage it financially?
Yes. I have lived so for 20 years. I have been professional since 1984, with the release of “NADA!” we’ve earned enough money to live of completely. But we were earning money from our musical endeavours before. But when “NADA!” came out, it sold so many thousands, I mean, it is still the best selling album of Death in June. We could survive since then.
When you lived in London, there was a big movement, you, David Tibet and all the others…
Yes, in 1980s.
You were friends and then split. What are your relations with David Tibet now?
I have no relations with David Tibet or any other people. The relations were already strained before the split with World Serpent. After the split, anybody who has any connections with World Serpent I have no relations with. The other people who left like Albin Julius of Der Blutharsch, Boyd Rice, who left before me, they are my only friends. We left because we do not want to be with the corrupter regime of criminals. It taints us. You know, a man is judged by the friends he keeps or who he goes with. It is not for me anylonger and it was not for any others, too.
The word ‘criminal’ is quite a harsh accusation.
Truth often hurts.
What about a possibility to see you in Lithuania? How much it would cost?
I am not even going to discuss that now on recording. But I can tell you now that maybe at the end of this year I may not ever play live again. I will review everything at the end of this year. Because of the hard litigation I’ve been in for two years with World Serpent to try to free my past, this has changed my outlook on life in many ways and I feel that this is the most important thing that I must do. So I spend most of my time now with lawyers and solicitors. Next year, I hope, we will be heard in court and we will solve this. This is the priority now. Depending on what happens, maybe I will never play live again for a variety of reasons. So, if I am in Lithuania one day, maybe or maybe not. I will make my mind up at the end of this year.
Are you planning to record some new album?
Not at the moment because I’ve just released “All Pigs Must Die”. Just a few months ago. Then I did a project with Boyd Rice called “Wolfpact”. This year has been terribly busy. On a creative level well… I am still trying to deal with the subhuman level, the dirty level, the sort of sewage level of dealing with legal matters. Because it is a complete schizophrenia to use what was used earlier, my life is complete schizophrenia. I am not the sort of wandering minstrel thinking wonderful thoughts and writing ballads on beauty. I am doing some of that but also dealing with criminal matters and trying to get money back because my money, thousands and thousands and thousands of pounds… It nearly destroyed me, I have to live and this is my living, this is my job. And, you know, World Serpent have tried to do a very good job in ruining me. So most of my time these days is spent dealing with dirty people. I feel like a ratkiller.
That’s very sad to hear.
Do you think this litigation matter will be reflected in your creation?
I don’t know.
OK, we are not going to keep you any longer after this tiring gig.