Balladeer of Doom – An interview with Douglas P., Part I
Written by Helene Burkholder
An interview with Douglas P., Part I
Put yourself in my shoes, if you will: I get to do my first interview ever (a nerve-wracking experience in itself), and it happens to be with Douglas P., the man derrière le masque of Death in June.
Preparing my questions, I had 517 butterflies (I counted them) in my stomach Im a huge fan of Death in June, albeit a more recent one, and I didnt want to appear too fangirl-like, or ass kissing, or fawning over, and so on. As it was done via email, at least I didnt have to worry about making poor first impressions, or badly messing up the English language, especially with my goofy accent. I was definitely worried that hed read my questions and think Ah what kind of amateur do we have here?!
Regardless of what might have transpired through with my questions, Douglas P. answered graciously, and succeeded in making this interview remarkably intense and heart wrenching. I am truly grateful and greatly touched by his openness and affability.
The past, or when all seems lost, something unexpected happens
I look at the music that came out around the time Brown Book did (Best sellers at the time were – Hold on to your pants-: George Michael’s Faith, Michael Jackson’s Bad, Def Leppard’s Hysteria) even on the alternative scene at the time, there were very few to almost no bands/people making music such as yours, or at least very few who have withheld the test of time. Pardon my French, but what was in your drinking water? 😉 What were your thoughts about the album you were creating? Did you have any concerns it would not find an audience?
[Douglas] It’s odd that you should mention drinking water because it was on a hot Summer’s day in 1986, not long after I’d moved into the library of David Tibet’s basement flat in Enclave Ex (Freya Aswynn’s large Victorian house in North London), I counted up how much money I had on me and it was just enough to buy a bottle of Perrier water. With that I walked up to nearby Parliament Fields overlooking London and sat there drinking, thinking and looking at that fantastic and intimidating vista and tried to figure out and plan where the Hell I was going. It was the spiritual start of ‘Brown Book’.
The writing and recording of that album came at a time of complete personal/spiritual upheaval for me. I was 30 years old which seemed ancient to me then, had left Jack, my partner of the past 9 years, had next to no money as I was waiting for royalties from the recently issued ‘The World That Summer’ album to come in, no prospects of a permanent roof over my head, I was undergoing a period of extreme occult initiation, was fanatical about my physical fitness whilst my mental health appeared at times to be in sharp decline – to the point where I thought I was literally going insane – and, eventually, I called on the services of an Occult advisor regarding those matters. Overall, prospects of me surviving this period appeared slim.
There was no concern about an “audience” other than one with the Gods who I knew had Blessed me and were seeing if I was up to their trials. I acted purely upon instinct during this difficult time in my Life, when I had the most to lose, if I was wrong and made a mistake, and the most to gain, if I had the strength and faith to persevere. I don’t think that somewhat ‘feral’ nature, that became extremely fine tuned during that Time, has ever, ever left me.
Whilst I really like, for a whole variety of reasons, George Michael and Michael Jackson the only sounds I remember from 1987, besides the ice creaking and cracking as it defrosted in ‘Herman’, my old leaky VW Beetle during late night trips back from the studio that very cold Winter of 1986 – ’87 were those of ‘Brown Book’ and Current 93’s ‘Swastikas For Noddy’, which I co-wrote for David Tibet at about the same time. Nothing else really mattered and touched me musically from that actual period, except perhaps a sneak hearing of the then unreleased ‘Fire’ album tapes from Charles Manson, The Smiths and The Pet Shop Boys, of course!
Brown Book (as well as The World That Summer) pretty much abandons the more ‘electronic-oriented’ sounds explored on NADA!, and replaces them with darker sounds (more ‘militaristic’ sounds and samples). Since NADA was quite a big seller for DIJ, were there negative reactions/comments regarding this change of sound and pace? Or were the reactions positive? Do you recall the reviews at the time?
[Douglas] It was at this time that due to my transient circumstances I gave up collating reviews/press cuttings etc and had by then anyway stopped supplying the mainstream British music press with promotional copies of anything I was associated with. I was totally bored with the overall triteness of them and abhorred having anything to do with the music press. Life/Existence/Death In June Itself was too serious. If there were any reviews, and I don’t think there were, they are now tucked away inside a box in an attic in Fort Nada in South Australia and haven’t been looked at for over 20 years.
Reviews and mentions of ‘Brown Book’ that I remember came a long time later, most noticeably in the European press, until it culminated a couple of years ago in Italy when it was deemed important enough to be included in the top 600 most important/influential albums of all time. It was odd to see the cover of it alongside those by The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Velvet Underground etc. It was odd – and good – at the same moment.
In truth, the only reaction about ‘Brown Book’ I really remember from when it was released was from the fans who universally disliked David Tibet’s vocals on it. I recall the word “decadent” often being used in a bad way – which to me sounded brilliant! At the time I really liked those vocals so, personally I didn’t agree with this criticism but, in the 20 years that have passed perhaps the fans were right and I was wrong……?
Either way, I feel the 2nd CD in the 20th Anniversary Edition of ‘Brown Book’ represents how I hear ‘BB’ these days and that doesn’t feature any lead vocals by Tibet.
The thought about not sounding like “NADA!” never crossed my mind as I could only sound like whatever I/Death In June was, at that particular moment in Time. That period was so intense for me that it would have been impossible to have been anything other than how it was. This was sort of Kampf Fire Music not meant to storm the charts but, The Soul. Those who got it did, those who didn’t were left in its wake and therefore didn’t concern me.
I was curious if Brown Book sounded more like what you really wanted DIJ to sound like, compared to previous albums (such as NADA, Burial and The Guilty Have No Pride). Did you feel more confident/comfortable with the end result? Was Death in June from then on ‘burned and reborn’?
[Douglas] I was metaphorically burned and reborn and Phoenix-like I luckily arose from the ashes! However, there was a definite chance that would not happen but my fanatical approach to matters and with much needed help from some friends, most of whom are now dead or estranged from me, I got through a very strange and tough Time. “Confident/comfortable” definitely weren’t words in my frame of reference during that period. Being ‘Blessed’ by Wolves was the only certainty and I had to trust that was a good sign of an eventually good outcome – rather than a complete mental breakdown. But, there were certainly very lonely nights when I wept, and was almost crushed by circumstances.
Brown Book’ sounds like it does because it couldn’t sound any differently. It’s a very special album. I know that. But, I wouldn’t like to relive those days of thinking I was going mad in Enclave Ex, or of complete desolation and misery when I was a live-in security guard and sole occupant in an isolated house on Salisbury Plain, not far from Stonehenge, very aware that the house’s many antiques, which I was there to protect, were much sort after by some hardcore criminals who had a habit of setting their victims on fire if they didn’t get what they wanted and that the owner, who was away in Egypt, and who had become a lover before he left, was under investigation for murder and there was a very long Winter ahead of me where I started to suffer the first signs of frost bite and hypothermia and I could barely feed myself! And, and, and, and, …….. Panic Stirred The Will!
I was also curious if, at the time, you ever looked for a bigger record company to back you up? Were there people who were interested?
[Douglas] I was then manufactured and distributed by Rough Trade Distribution which was the biggest and best independent music distributor of its day and they were very sup portative and I was very satisfied with the arrangement. The thought of going with a major company never crossed my mind and I’m sure it’s never crossed their mind either! It caused some financial difficulties in terms of finding the money for recording but when push came to shove I made whatever I had to happen, happen. And, that shall be the whole of the law!
In an interview on Compulsion Online dating from 1991-1992, it is mentioned that The Wall of Sacrifice was ‘regarded as possibly being the last LP’ from Death in June. This really surprised me, especially considering how DIJ continued to bloom wonderfully afterwards. How close were you to actually calling it quits?
[Douglas] After the trials and tribulations of ‘Brown Book’ the writing and recording of ‘The Wall Of Sacrifice’ was like the agonising pulling of teeth. It was recorded in 1988/89 and released in early 1989 and was definitely viewed as Death In June’s swansong and as I didn’t do any further recording until 1992, I was more than “close” to calling it quits.
To me it was my version of Lou Reed’s ‘Metal Machine Music’ which, although I hadn’t heard – and still haven’t – had become a cultural myth in my mind of how to say “Good Bye” to everyone in one’s Life or, at least aspects of it.
I then went to Australia for the first time in March, 1989 with the intention of seeing more clearly and/or reinventing my Life on all levels. 3 months later when I returned to England I was in a state of shock regarding where I was going but ‘But, Ends When The Symbols Shatter?’ had, unbeknown to me, already started to take shape in my head, and eventually emerged 3 years later.
So, Death In June continued and was about to enter one of its best periods, both professionally and personally. When all seems lost, something unexpected happens.
The Present, or Following a Dream
The 20th anniversary re-edition of Brown Book is absolutely superb. How did the whole process of re-releasing it go about? Did you design the box and contents? Logistically, it must have been extremely difficult to coordinate
[Douglas] First of all, I design and always have done, 90% of all Death In June/NER releases. Soleilmoon in America have links to manufacturers of stone items so I was immediately attracted to the idea of reinventing some of the DIJ catalogue along those lines. Between us we came up with the stone box 20th Anniversary Edition of ‘The World That Summer’ in 2006 and in 2007 this great stone circle release of ‘Brown Book’ 20.
Was it difficult to find the right people to manufacture the boxes and patches? I’m asking because, since you are having problems with the album to Germany, did you have problems finding manufacturers to make and ship those items?
[Douglas] There were no problems of which you allude to. Between the manufacturing firms involved in India, the Czech Republic and the USA it eventually all came together very well. However, there were times when there was a lot of hand wringing and general fretting! Luckily, it was all worth it when it did all fall beautifully into place! It is a really brilliant piece that surpasses my expectations both visually and audibly. The 20th Anniversary Edition of Death In June’s ‘Brown Book’ is something I’m very impressed with and proud of. Anyone who owns a copy should be too.
And speaking of Germany (*sigh*) Brown Book was placed on the B List (which means no import, no export, no promotion, no sales authorized) in Germany. Would you mind explaining to our readers how this happened What did the authorities base themselves on to reach this decision? Was this the case with the original album when it came out in 1987?
[Douglas] Early in 2007 I was told that ‘Brown Book’ had been placed on the B list of banned artworks in Germany known as the ‘index’. Having had no direct contact with the German government on this particular issue – as legally it is seen as being completely separate issue from the ‘Rose Clouds Of Holocaust’ case – I don’t know the actual reasoning behind this decision so can only guess that someone complained to a state authority about its content and that state authority was obliged to investigate how corrupting, or dangerous or politically unacceptable ‘Brown Book’ was.
Certainly when it was originally issued in 1987 after a few weeks Rough Trade Deutschland returned about half of their initial order of 1,000 copies to England because they thought they would get into legal difficulties. At their request I wrote a letter of explanation to aspects of the album that seemed pertinent to the then West Germany and after they presented this they were then told by the authorities that ‘Brown Book’ was deemed ‘art’, they had nothing to worry about and they re-stocked their quantity and went on to order a lot more copies besides. So,…?
What happened in between then and now was the reunification of Germany and since then there have been a never-ending stream of problems concerning censorship in one form or another that don’t appear to go away. It is, after all, naive to think that everyone was happy with the dissolution of the communist state of East Germany and all those members of the communist party, the secret service Stasi, the red youth and whatever other parts of that repressive regime didn’t simply disappear overnight. Germany has been at war with itself politically since 1918 and Death In June got caught up in that.
Compared to other albums that came out at the time (as previously-mentioned), Brown Book has majestically held the test of time. It doesn’t sound like ‘an album of the Eighties’, you know? You must be incredibly proud of this achievement
[Douglas] I’m proud of it regardless of whether or not it did sound like “an album of the Eighties'”. But, in truth, it has to be – it was written between 1986-87 and so I think it can’t but be influenced by its Time and surroundings. Perhaps it’s a truer vision for some people? Some late nights or early mornings when I was driving back from Alaska Studios listening to cassettes of cabaret songs from the Weimar Republic I’d see groups of American GIs in full camouflaged combat gear walking through the streets of London. It was really weird, as I was normally dressed then in a uniform of a different Time and place, and I wondered if I wasn’t seeing some sort of speed/hunger/lack of sleep hallucination of my own making! As it turned out they were extras from ‘Full Metal Jacket’, the latest Stanley Kubrick film being shot somewhere in the wastelands of the capital. That was my 1980’s London when I was recording ‘Brown Book’.
Do you still live in the Riverland area of South Australia? It seems like a very laid back, bucolic way of life. What is a typical day for you?
[Douglas] I wondered if anyone would pick up that location reference when I was doing that particular interview. In fact, when I was answering those questions I was holidaying on my partner’s brother’s property in the S. A. Riverland which is about a 4-hour drive from Adelaide. This property is so big I can drive around it on a motorbike when I need a break from doing DIJ work/’family things’! I actually live in the S. Adelaide Hills about 20 minutes from the city itself.
The idea of “a very laid back, bucolic way of life” where I stroll around the garden strumming the guitar and being the Balladeer of Doom is an ideal I can only strive for! I’d love it to be a sort of Beatles in Rishikesh retreat, and sometimes it has been but, on the whole the closest I get to that are the vegetarian meals.
There is no really ‘typical’ day at Fort Nada! However, most days would begin between 8.30 – 9.30 a.m. with a strong coffee and viewing what problems await me on the internet, my least favourite form of communication, followed, at least during the Spring, Summer and early Autumn by a 250 metre swim in the pool that Albin Julius and Boyd Rice know so well. After that, I deal with business via the computer or my writing desk or recording/designing/plotting/scheming new projects or general day-to-day work around Fort Nada. It’s a large property that needs constant attention in one way or another. The days go quickly and after my partner and I have eat between 6 -7.30 p.m. I have about an hour’s sleep and then stay up until normally Mid Night – 2.30 a.m. usually ending it on the internet dealing with whatever’s come in since the morning. The time differences around the world guarantee perpetual correspondence.
From what I understand after hearing you describe your early years on the DVD Behind the Mask, it seems that your life now in Australia is a million miles away from your life in England. Would the Douglas of ‘the Brown Book days’ would have believed it if you had told him ‘You’ll be moving there later on in life’, or was this something you already had in the back of your mind?
[Douglas] First of all, I think you have to view it like this;
I have always known Australians and they have figured large in my Life from the earliest age, I have never felt at home in England, and at the age of 17/18 I thought I would move to Paris to live. But what happened was that I eventually ended up living in Amsterdam for several months until I had a spiritual Epiphany on LSD, all my belongings were stolen and my money ran out and I went back to England to work towards what I truly wanted to be. In the early 1990s I lived on and off in the EUR district of Rome that, coincidentally, Mussolini built and eventually I found ‘Fort Nada!’ by randomly driving around the Adelaide Hills during Yuletide 1993/94 in search of something I wasn’t sure of – until I found it. Then I saw it and it, and everything else, fell into place! It was really following a dream, or slightly unclear vision, on pure instinct. Over a period of time the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place and gradually, over a period of a few years, Life began to make sense. Or, at least more sense than it had done in decades. And, achieving that was always in the back of my mind.
The future, or making waves big enough to drown most fishwives and their acolytes
I was re-reading the Death in June entry in Wikipedia the other day (Like millions of others, I waste too much time at work clicking from one entry to the next ) and something jumped out at me, which I hadn’t noticed before: It refers to The World That Summer, Brown Book and The Wall of Sacrifice as “a triptych”. Is this indeed how you see those albums? And if so, is there the possibility of a 20th anniversary re-release of The Wall of Sacrifice? 2009 will mark the 20th anniversary for this album
[Douglas] Personally I’ve always seen ‘The World That Summer’ and ‘Brown Book’ as brother albums and ‘The Wall Of Sacrifice’ as standing on its own. That’s certainly how it felt at the time but, I realise over the years other people have perceived these 3 albums as a triptych, perhaps representing ideas along the lines of ‘Hope’, ‘Struggle’ and ‘Resignation’. Certainly things changed for me on all levels after those last albums of the 1980s. Nothing would be the same again.
Realistically 2009 is a long way away so who knows what’s in store for that year for ‘The Wall Of Sacrifice’. 2008 has only just begun!
The new DIJ album is coming out in the next few months! This will be first Death in June new material since your participation on Alarm Agents in 2004. What can you tell us bout it? Do you have a release date?
[Douglas] Really I feel it’s the first Death In June album proper since ‘All Pigs Must Die’ in 2001 as I didn’t write any of the lyrics for ‘Alarm Agents’. I let Boyd Rice do all of that and concentrated on the music for ‘Alarm Agents’ which was great and I’m very pleased about. With ‘The Rule Of Thirds’, however, I do everything and there are no guest musicians with the exception of my sound engineer Dave Lokan who helped out with guitars on one track.
‘The Rule Of Thirds’ should be out in March, 2008. The general consensus between those select few around the World that have so far heard preview copies of it is that it sounds like me but, doesn’t sound like me and is really stripped back to the most pure Death In June. So,…. who knows? I feel all that – and more!
I hate asking this question, but here goes: Do you see a day when you will retire completely from the music scene?
[Douglas] When the blood sucking negatives of this ‘business’ (as opposed to those who want to be involved at any cost in this true art and contribution to Euro-culture) continue to abuse their relationship with me and relentlessly nag and snipe there are definitely days when I feel like shutting up the Bunker forever. But, realistically after 31 years of making waves big enough to drown most fishwives and their acolytes I’m only too happy to continue to outlast them all. Especially after recording ‘The Rule Of Thirds’!
As Borat, honorary member of the Englefield Green Posse, would say; “Why not? Is nice. Great Success!”
Heilige! Douglas P.
Interview:2008-Judas Kiss Part 2
Balladeer of Doom – An interview with Douglas P., Part 2
Written by Helene Burkholder
An interview with Douglas P (Death In June)
Part II The Return of the Runagade
Here is the second part of my interview with Douglas P. of Death in June.
Here, he responds to questions regarding his amazing new album, The Rule Of Thirds, and a few more regarding Death in June at this moment in time. Many thanks again, Douglas, for taking the time to answer my many questions; I am in debt to you.
When last we spoke, you said about Brown Book “There was no concern about an ‘audience’ other than one with the Gods who I knew had Blessed me and were seeing if I was up to their trials.”. How do you feel about The Rule Of Thirds, is it the same or are you now more concerned about your fans?
Douglas P: Its not a question of being concerned or not concerned about my fans I have to do what I have to do so my writing doesnt concern, on the whole, an anonymous mass but, me alone. If, after that process, other people then find aspects of that writing attractive or striking a chord within themselves then thats where the Magick extends and I trust spreads. I dont write albums to order and I dont think Id still be around if I did after so many years. Its a strange concept I cannot get my head around. Its not so tempting to repeat myself, regardless of what others may think.
The Rule Of Thirds Dictates My Life for the purpose of this album, what is The Rule Of Thirds? An aesthetically pleasing (yet edgy and out of the ordinary) way of living your life? Does it include Norse archetypal and/or other magickal beliefs?
[Douglas] For decades Ive had this photographic Rule Of Thumb, so to speak, in my mind. Being a keen photographer and arranging, or being involved in some way, behind the camera for almost 100% of Death In Junes photo sessions and artwork over the years its always been there but in recent years the term became to literally haunt me. I couldnt get the phrase out of my mind. And, I began to question why?
It very quickly dawned on me that Ive always lived in a house with the number 3 in it, there is the Holy/Satanic Trinity. The Earth is the 3rd planet from the Sun. There are 3 Aetts in the Runic Futhark, or alphabet. I form part of a 3 way relationship I have with my partner and our mutual lover/best friend. However, at the time of the conception of The Rule Of Thirds I must admit Id fallen in love with another man in England who provided me with great support, whether he knew it or not, during a 13 month period between late 2004 2005. Regardless, for those blissful months I then had 3 lovers in every respect of the word, and in different parts of the World, which helped me get through a very difficult period in my Life. And, besides when I realized what the capital letters of each word spelt TROT – I could hardly resist! On so many levels this album pays homage to my Past, Present and Future. The list of Thirds can go on and on. It truly dictates My Life.
If we focus only on the music, this album is almost oh, let’s start a new genre and call it ‘minimalist neofolk’. Acoustic guitar, guitar loops and samples, and scattered uneven claps in Forever Loves Decay. In a sense, it made me think of Nick Drake’s Pink Moon voice and guitar, no orchestral ornamentation added or required. All bells and whistles (or more fittingly all chimes and trumpets!) gone. Was this what you intended all along, or did time and/or circumstance play a role in how it turned out? Was it to bring your lyrics more to the forefront?
[Douglas] From the very outset I knew that there are so many groups around now that sound like Death In June that I didnt want to end up sounding like some group sounding like me a nightmarish pastiche or cliché of myself forever on repeat. So, with that in mind I decided to concentrate on what the songs sounded like in their raw form, yet still engender and encourage the classic atmosphere of Death In June which I dont think anyone else can mimic. There was a very special moment in our last mid-Winter in Australia on the Hay Plain, which is apparently the flattest place on Earth, when I was driving across it from South Australia to the Gold Coast in Queensland with my Lover. I had written and recorded 9 tracks of the album and I wanted to spend a few weeks off in a very different environment to S.A. to see if I could finish writing the rest of TROT. It was complete nothingness all around with the odd exception of another car every so often. We were playing rough mixes of what Id already recorded and on the horizon formed a double Rainbow highlighted by lightening bolts. It was a stunning sight and we stopped the car to take some photos. But, the CDr of The Rule Of Thirds was still playing in the car and I thought the sparseness was virtually perfect. I could have got the guitar out of the back of the car and began playing TROT there and then in the middle of this vast nowhere with merely the accompaniment of the far off thunder. You didnt need too much to embellish what was already there in the songs. The idea of other people being able to play these songs in forests, or on the beach etc so simply with perhaps some friends also appealed. A French Army officer used to be in contact with me a few years ago and he wrote that he would play Death In June songs on his acoustic guitar to his cadet soldiers at night. TROT is perfect Kampf Fire Music!
The bells and whistles might be gone, but there’s a recording of a bird singing! This and other choice of samples are very surprising at first listen. Where did you get them , how did you go about picking those, and know where to place them?
[Douglas] For years Id been recording films/documentaries etc on video cassettes and more recently DVDs without marking on their outsides what they were. In fact, Id been so busy I hadnt even watched most of them and there was a huge pile of unmarked tapes and discs around the TV set in Fort Nada that had been yearning for attention. After writing and recording the final tracks to TROT I decided to hunt for those extra little pieces that could help embellish the album and I decided this was the perfect time to watch and label all of that previously recorded video material. The whole process took a week and a lot of that time was spent fast forwarding, rewinding then randomly stopping to see what there was. It became a sort of video version of cut-up and some choice moments began to reveal themselves. These even included documentaries that featured the voices of friends and lovers of mine so it never lost its personal relevance. It was a delicate balance between dispassionate oddness that, after the usual post-rationalization, suddenly becomes filled with import and very personal references that then, perhaps, become meaningful on a grander scale of things to others? Either way, I feel I achieved what I set out to do. But, it was a time consuming process and I rarely record anything on video/DVD now. I couldnt stand facing a pile of tapes like that again. It stretched back to 9 years of material Id recorded between my house in Australia and my flat in England which I hadnt got around to collating. I still havent watched a lot of it in its entirety. I suppose most of it was only really meant for this purpose.
By the way, the sound of the British Robin singing was downloaded for free from the BBC sound archives. That was the easiest of any of the samples although if you listen carefully to the Rose Clouds Of Holocaust album we also have a Robin featured on that as well. The bird was forever singing in the garden of Jacobs Studios when we were recording that album in 1994. With that sort of echo of the past I also decided to include the sound of the train we recorded at Waterloo Station in London in 1981 and begins the original 12 version of Heaven Street Death In Junes first release. Its now playing at the end of Let Go, the final track on the TROT album. You can read into that what you like. Theres also a reference to The Wall Of Sacrifice which was a ringtone on a toy mobile phone Strength Through Joy gave me years ago. I pay homage to myself in several places throughout The Rule Of Thirds.
One sample that explodes during the song Takeyya is a quote from The English Flag by Rudyard Kipling. This quote is “What should they know of England who only England know?”. Using this sample has no doubt deep significance to you and a Kipling quote comes as no surprise, as (I quote Wikipedia) “Many saw prejudice and militarism in his works, and the resulting controversy about him continued for much of the 20th century.” (…) “Many older editions of Rudyard Kipling’s books have a swastika printed on their covers associated with a picture of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha. Since the 1930s this has raised the possibility of Kipling being mistaken for a Nazi sympathiser”. (Apparently you cannot escape these associations! Hahaha!)
[Douglas] Well this came out of the weeks worth of video viewing and promptly declared itself to me. To tell you the truth I wasnt sure where the quote was from as, initially I thought it could be Shakespeare,(I was told by a German friend/fan in Hamburg that it was Kipling after he listened to a CDr of TROT) but the most attractive thing to me was the TV program I sampled it from. Ive no idea what it was called as it was one of those moments where the late night timings are out, probably because a golf tournament is running over time yet again, so all the other programs are out of kilter and I didnt get to record whatever I really wanted. However, the gist of this program was that there is a special British Police unit that does undercover work and one of the main characters is gay, middle aged but always willing to take risks! He infiltrates what is deemed a far right English group and finds out that one of its members plans a suicide bombing of a mosque. This man is eventually thwarted from doing this but still manages to blow himself up in the symbolic surroundings of the ruins of historic Coventry Cathedral. Its a brilliant cinematic moment made all the more poignant by the fact that it was filmed before 9/11, or the Islamic bombings in Madrid and London. Ive no idea what this series was called because the beginning wasnt recorded and the credits at the end were unreadable but, Id LOVE to find out. It had a great musical theme with a hypnotic bass guitar line. I assume the series was pulled from the airwaves due to it touching on sensitive issues. Ive since searched and asked in DVD shops about anything that looked or sounded similar to this TV show and no one knows what Im talking about. I guess that will never reach DVD. But, it was brilliantly ironic, and perhaps even prophetic, and I couldnt resist it.
The last ‘proper’ Death In June album dates back to 2001 with All Pigs Must Die. Since then, you’ve been very busy with other projects such as the Alarm Agents album with Boyd Rice, Death In June re-issues, touring, dvd releases, etc. Have you been writing The Rule Of Thirds for all these years, or has it been percolating for many years in your mind only to be written and/or finalised more recently? In what ways was it similar, or different, to writing your other albums?
[Douglas] Like most of my albums, whether Im aware of it or not, they always seem to be percolating as you call it, somewhere in the back of my mind. Im forever writing lyrics whenever/wherever they occur to me so Ive a surfeit of text written on the back of airline boarding passes, hotel note paper, menus etc, and I have a large plastic bag where they all get deposited until I feel the need to write a new album and I feel the Muses are descending. I then start wading through the lyrics and see what immediately jumps out. Theyre then put aside for future reference. That stage started to happen shortly after I returned from the last World tour in June 2005. However, it wasnt until I had to fly to Melbourne in September, 2006 to discuss the closure of NEROZ (relaunched as NEROZ II in March, 2008 with the release of the live CD Black Angel- Live!) that the first 5 songs were written in the hotel I was staying in and words began to form around them. With TROT I wrote the music to all the songs before looking for suitable lyrics. That in itself was a little unusual but it soon became the way for The Rule Of Thirds. Its a pretty mundane attempt at describing the artistic process but you cant really describe the moments when words come into your mind at 3 a. m. and you struggle to wake up from a twilight of slumber to get out of bed to write them down, or the mishearing of something in a restaurant, of the whisperings of a voice that isnt yours in the back of your head. The one constant that does continue is that the writing and creating process is a nauseating one. I feel quite sick when Im writing the material and its always a relief to record it and prepare for it to set forth in the World.
I’d like to delve deeper into some of the lyrics now. Death In June lyrics have always been remarkable and valuable (not to mention influential), but I think with The Rule Of Thirds you have really outdone yourself.
“I once was young and dark My Eyes bright grey blue But, now Time has tamed Me I’m as grey and white as You I look into the mirrorIn fear of only tears But, all reflection tells MeBeware those passing years…”
Here, you are facing yourself in all honesty (which I find a lot of songwriters don’t even do; their lyrical maturity stagnated long ago, and they just want be free and irresponsible forever). How do you feel about where you are now? Is the answer to be found in the song The Rule of Thirds (“Live, Love, Die: The Law? This has to stop!”) What are your thoughts about growing older?
[Douglas] Its strange that you should pick these words because they were the catalyst for the album as far as Im concerned and came to me complete as is at the bottom of the stairs in Fort Nada late one afternoon in 2005. I already had a chord sequence that fitted the words perfectly and whilst doing a recording session at Big Sound Studios of the stripped back acoustic material Id been playing on tour, and is yet to be released, I played what I had to my sound engineer and he remarked that it could be the cornerstone of a new album. It was! Those moments of having ones aerial that fine tuned are so few and far between that I cherish them dearly especially those words.
My thoughts about growing older are that Ive achieved much with my Life and all original goals, desires, wishes have come to fruition and in so many ways I couldnt be happier. But, also in many ways I couldnt be more unhappy, nervous and pensive. The price of Existence is eternal struggle and that never disappears so there are always irritants and woe just around the corner. There are always worms trying to nibble away at your body until they eventually do have my carcass. Im nearly 52 and I know Ill never see those years again and, realistically, what great years. But, .
The moment I heard you sing “Here comes that feeling again, Down on my life again And, I’m joyless again” I was startled. It was the auditory equivalent of looking in a mirror. It is the shadow of depression looming, a shroud of despair coming to envelop you unexpectedly. Is this something you’ve dealt with all your life?
[Douglas] All of my Life? All of our lives, surely? You cant really think that, regardless of personal concerns, in the World at large in the 21st Century there is much not to be extremely concerned about? Were on the precipice of a Third World War (that number again!) whose opening shots have already been fired. In a way, Im pleased to be around for it but it still doesnt stop me from being introspective on miserable Winters days in the Adelaide Hills where low cloud cover can descend for weeks on end and I see no way out of the fog of the World.
I love the song Idolatry. It appears to me to be the DIJ song that comes closest to being a ‘pure love song’. How did your partner react the first time he heard it?
[Douglas] Its not about my partner! And, he hasnt heard it!! In fact, Ive a golden rule that outside of the writing process, or when Im rehearsing with the guitar, no one that close to me ever gets to hear my work. In the 10 years weve been together hes seen me perform live twice and has only ever listened to a handful of Death In June recordings. It gets too claustrophobic otherwise and your closest friends soon become your next interviewers. Ive learnt from my past relationships.
Idolatry reminded me of Because of Him – the first time I heard it, I was floored by how courageous you were for writing it (It shouldn’t be ‘an act of courage’ in an ideal world, but in the world we live in now with still so much sexual repression and homophobia, it is courageous in my opinion). I love the fact that in your songs you were never ‘ambiguous’ about your relations, compared to lyrics of many other (gay) musicians. You seem to have absolutely no problem at all talking about you being gay. Have you always been so comfortable talking about it? This is obviously not the case with all gay/lesbians. How come you’re different? How do you feel about people/artists who don’t want to come out, or who, after 10 or 20 years in the limelight, finally tell the world about it?
[Douglas] Youre assuming that Because Of Him is a gay orientated song but at the time I wrote it I was prompted by distorting lyrics by the Reverend Jim Jones who probably wasnt gay and thinking about Saddam Hussein who possibly was – and it went from there. So,….?
Being gay to me isnt a big deal unless someone or thing/institution makes it so. And, it shouldnt be so. Ones sexuality should purely be rather than be a cause of ridicule, or threat, or subterfuge or even lifestyle etc. But ones liberation or emancipation begins with oneself and I think I was fortunate enough to become sexually mature during the early 1970s where people like David Bowie made it more acceptable and almost chic to be at least Bi-sexual. When I came out to my 2 best friends at the age of 18 it was a complete non-event. Id been wringing my hands fretting over how they would take it for some time. After all I didnt fit the stereotypical effeminate queer portrayed on the television etc so I even initially struggled with the idea that I was in fact gay. However, at the age of 17 I relented to my feelings and everything soon began to fall into place and I very quickly found out that the stereotype was merely that. An easily mocked, easily bracketed, easily contained and easily ghettoized stereotype. That wasnt me, or any of the men I was attracted to and involved with, and I felt the record had to be put straight, so to speak. I was fortunate to have broken the ice easily but difficult times were ahead and I, like so many gay/bisexual men, out, or otherwise, had to deal with a lot of unpleasant situations after I came out. My homosexuality wasnt even legal until I was 21 but Ive never really been one for taking much notice of what the law tells my dick to do. This could be the subject of a book and I could go on and on and still not cover all the bases. I feel one of the best places to look at on the internet that comes very close to expressing how I feel is Peter Tatchells website. Hes a very brave and articulate man mostly known for his association with OutRage and I agree with much he says here: www.petertatchell.net/queer%20theory/beyond.html
“We call angels, they come and go” this is something you’ve never hidden as well though you have a life partner, you’ve been very clear about how your sex life includes others. Personally, I would have difficulty getting into or maintaining such relationships, because loyalty and exclusivity is unequivocally part of the love I have for my husband/partner. How does this work for you? Also, some people (not me personally) would say that by being so explicit in your comments, you could be encouraging ‘risky’ sexual behaviour. How would you react to this?
[Douglas] Youre projecting onto me your own interpretation of Idolatry as though its gospel and asking me to explain it. I was, in fact, attempting to allude to the magickal summoning of Angels not telephoning dial-a-blow-job! And, I defy anyone to point out where Ive ever encouraged risky sexual behaviour!! I was introduced to the wonderful world of full-on sex and its inherent risks at the age of 18 one week after Id had my first fuck. I dont need to go into details but I learnt at an early age how threatening to health and dangerous having sex can be. But, in the 30 + years that have followed it still didnt stop me from taking calculated risks every so often which, in retrospect, were very risky. But, thats me and my choice! And I, and those very close to me, have to live with my conscience and its consequences. I flew very close to the Sun in 2005 and was very lucky but the risks were worthwhile and I was probably inspired enough to start writing a new album. But, it was a tough year on many levels for my close friends and some fell by the wayside.
“My tired heart” This sentence reminded me of a part of your personal life, which you shared on Behind The Mask: Your father passed away in his fifties of a heart condition. Now that you’re in your fifties, have you prepared yourself for this? Is this something you worry about, or do you feel you’ve taken care of yourself enough not to be too concerned?
[Douglas] The males in the Pearce family tend to die in their 50s and that genetic timebomb is never far from my mind these days. Regardless of however much time Ive bought by being a vegetarian most of my Life, or exercising regularly, you can only do so much to delay the inevitable. Hardly a comforting thought. Death has taken a keen interest in me during the past 3 years. I think about dying all the time and I know it will be sooner rather than later.
You’ve mentioned in past interviews and on Behind The Mask your Epiphany on LSD I was curious if this is what My Rhine Atrocity was somehow about that after all, (black)birds are symbol of illumination and prophetic knowledge Is the use of drugs still a part of your life after all these years, or is it a case of ‘that was then, but this is now’?
[Douglas] No, the song you mention and my personal Epiphany in Amsterdam when I was still a teenager dont correlate. Once youve kissed God and have him whisper in your ear what Life has in store for you does one really need to go ask for further confirmation? Its tantamount to doubting the word of Life itself. The last days in Holland back in 74 had me bad tripping for 3 days, see all of my possessions stolen and eventually hitch hiking back to England via Belgium where I was deported when I was picked up by the Police and they found I didnt have my passport. I tried acid once more after that to see if I could handle it and I could and then again a couple of years later when I was on the verge of some very serious trouble. Theres been no need for it since. Drugs are very much part of yesterday.
The Rule Of Thirds offers the listener a clear view of your criticism towards organised religions. Their Deception and Takkeya, in particular, confronts the principle of Al-Takeyya.* *(The Arabic word, “Takeyya”, means “to prevent,” or guard against. Most religions, including Islam, forbid lying. However, the principle of Al-Takeyya teaches Muslims that lying is acceptable as a preventive measure against harm to one’s self or fellow Muslims. In other words, one has the liberty to lie under circumstances that they perceive as life threatening. They can even deny the faith, if they do not mean it in their hearts. Under the threat of force, it is legitimate for Muslims to act contrary to their faith.) I’m guessing that, with your history, the hypocrisy and deception of Al-Takeyya is not something you easily digest Do you believe that religions are and/or always will be a threat to a peaceful world? And aren’t you worried that with such songs you’re stirring up the old ‘DIJ is a racist/nazi/fascist group’ again?
[Douglas] What does it say about a religion that even has a specific word for an expedient lie to an infidel such as I? With 9/11, in New York, the Madrid train bombings, 7/7 on the London Underground and much, much more besides I think modern day fundamentalist islam has finally declared its intent in the West and, regardless of the invasion of Afghanistan and the stupid and unjustified invasion of what was basically a secular, Nationalist, Socialist Iraq, these events were always going to happen. They were merely waiting for the perfect excuses. To those sad political anachronisms that fret and fuss about neo nasties being threats to Western democracy, free speech etc and so on they should really get on board the 21st Century and open their eyes to the fact that given half a chance many of the local mullahs and mosques in their part of London, Paris, Amsterdam or Frankfurt etc will be having all women treated like slaves, gays and lesbians hanging from the nearest lampposts by their own entrails and anyone who disagrees with their generally primitive and intolerant approach to Life beheaded with a rusty knife, live on islamic approved Euro-television. Forget Big Brother this will be Big Mullah! Please lets be honest about this, fundamentalist islam is a reactionary, retrogressive, bigoted, expansionist religion whose main advocates revel in that fact and is Hell bent on terrorizing and subjugating anything in its way. For instance, since the so-called islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 a rough estimate of how many gay men have been executed there exceeds 4,000 which is a figure greater than the total deaths during 9/11. Thats outrageous and as a gay man its in my very basic interests that these revolting animals do not gain so much influence and control in the West, regardless of all their talk about being a benign import which is, going by the constant examples they present to the contrary, patently complete bullshit! Ask Ayaan Hirsi Ali the former Dutch politician, ex-muslim and friend of assassinated Theo Van Gogh for more information!! Christianity in its conservative form has been, and is, problematic enough and the struggle to get the West to a relatively liberal/secular position where thousands of heretics of whatever persuasion are no longer being burnt at the stake has taken centuries. Im very concerned about losing those gains and if that means I get accused of being a racist/nazi/fascist then so be it!
I found the seamless swap of the name ‘Jesus’ to ‘Judas’ in the song Jesus, Junk and the Jurisdiction very amusing. Could this song be another criticism of organised religion, or is this a direct pointing of the finger at a deceitful person who uses christianity to miraculously wash away their sins?
[Douglas] Like most Death In June songs JJJ is a far more complex affair. In late 2004 when I was back in England trying to renew some international visas a man came into my Life who was to have a profound effect upon me over the next 13 months – and possibly beyond. He had been a Court judge and a high ranking member of the General Synod, the law makers of the Church Of England, had become addicted to Crack/Cocaine, been subsequently imprisoned and was then, at the age of 57, a high class male prostitute going with both male and female clients. Thats how I met him, operating from an opulant flat owned by the Anglican Church near Westminster Abbey in Central London! We very quickly realized there was more than money involved between us and he became a necessary crutch for whenever I was back in London during that strange period where I felt I flew very close to the Sun and nearly got my wings burnt. He was both friend, lover and whore in England for those strange, sweet days but everything exploded when I suppose it was meant to. As far as I know after his activities were exposed in the press he was eventually made to leave this xtain owned apartment and is now a classical music critic in Scotland blissfully happy with a permanent boyfriend.
You have said in a recent interview that ‘All Pigs Must Die’ was “the most successfully magickal of all of my albums. ( ) It was directed in the extreme. An extremely channelled work.” The betrayal and, may I say, rage you felt then is palpable when listening to that album. The Rule Of Thirds covers those feelings too, but there definitely is a different magick at work it appears to me as being more mature, or more accepting of what has happened, as reflected by My Last Europa Kiss. On the last track you sing “Let Go” Have you let go of those feelings, even though you’ve “not forgiven or forgotten”?
[Douglas] I never forgive and I never forget my Hatred. Im the wrong person to cross and I go to great lengths to wreak vengeance on those who deserve it. But to preserve some forms of Love and Life it is occasionally best to let go. The Rule Of Thirds and All Pigs Must Die are completely different from each other as far as Im concerned.
There’s a lot more I could ask about the album and its lyrics, but I have stop here. I do want to ask you about a recent change for Death in June, and it can be summed up in one word: Tesco. What happened, what is going on?
[Douglas] Simple. As I left world serpent distribution in 1999 because, after 2 years of headhunting me, I finally accepted tescos better deal and way of working I have now left tesco for Soleilmoon for the same reasons! Besides, the united Germany of today reminds me far too much of the old communist DDR with all its forms of censorship and intimidation. I remember going into East Berlin for the first time in 1980 and the border guards at Alexanderplatz were having a field day searching fellow Germans entering that section of their country. An image that stuck in my mind was how they totally freaked out over a kid carrying a book featuring great West German footballers like Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller. For whatever reason, this was obviously completely forbidden or offensive and they went mad. They were shouting and hollering pushing the young kid about and waving the book in the air. I was eventually ushered through and left that behind me but those border guards are probably in government now! After all, the current leader, Little Red Angela is an ex-leader of the Communist Youth movement. Being with a company, where I had the bulk of my recordings and monies tied up, which is based in a country where artistic censorship now comes at the apparent blink of an eye, doesnt make any sense to me. Nor is it wise after the litigation Ive been involved in for the past few years with the German government regarding the censoring/controlling of my works that had previously been freely available for decades in Germany. For many good reasons it was time to move on and get the hell out of Dodge.
Last time we spoke you quoted Borat, which really made me laugh. What else in that same vein interests you? (I should just flat out ask if you like Little Britain, or if you find their portrayal of homosexuality, with characters such as ‘The only gay in the village!’, derogatory).
[Douglas] Little Britain is a work of total genius and Im certainly not so prissy as to be offended by the likes of Matt Lucas, a Jewish Gay guy, portraying a ridiculous charicature far more acceptable than the disgusting stereotypes so prevalent on the British television of the past. Other gems in that vein are The League Of Gentlemen, the 2nd series of Ricky Gervaiss Extras, especially the episode with David Bowie in, and an Australian series called Summer Heights High done by a very weird guy called Chris Lilley. His previous series called We Can Be Heroes is also a real oddity worth watching. Hes recently released a single called something like Mr G which I must try to listen to.
Most of your fans know of your past influences (movies such as The Night Porter, authors such as Jean Genet, etc). What would be more recent interests and/or influences (music, films, visual arts)?
[Douglas] Finding points of inspiration probably gets harder as you get older. The films or music or events and people become few and far between that make an impression. However, those that did at least create an impression in the past few years, and some were even inspirational, were the films Downfall in 2005 (thank you Merrick!) and Black Book, 23, Hitlers SS (an excellent English film from 1985 I recently discovered in a DVD sale) and Control in 2007 and more recently, and surprisingly, The Mist in 2008. Then theres been the recent Andy Warhol exhibition in Brisbane which surpassed anything else Id previously seen of Warhols work because not only was it far larger but it also embodied the time he spent with The Velvet Underground in a far more comprehensive way and the whole huge event had the feeling of a happening unto itself with a lot of interactive media, plus a lot of music and unseen video footage from The Factory and beyond. It was simply brilliant! I came away with a lot of new ideas in my head and felt revitalized.
Musically, I listened to very little last year, which is normal whilst I write and record a new album but, the few titles that did creep in before Fort Nada became a sonic morgue where nothing but Death In June demos and rough mixes get played included the creepily enjoyable The Good The Bad And The Queen (hats off to Damon Albarn, Paul Simonon and their producer Danger Mouse), Githeads 2nd album ( Colin Newman from Wire making the albums that Wire should be making) called Art Pop, the 2nd self titled album from Electric Music (the solo project of Karl Bartos, formerly of Kraftwerk, with no doubt more than a little help and inspiration from Johnny Marr) which took me 7 years to finally find in some cheap sell off of CDs in Tokyo but was well worth every minute of the search. Then theres a new group from the Blue Mountains near Sydney called Belles Will Ring and their album Mood Patterns which has very interesting lyrics besides being musically captivating. And last, but not least, Patrick Leagass latest 6 Comm offering Headless/Let The Moon Speak. I thought that was a great comeback after so many years away from music and it kept me company on many a late night in the office at Fort Nada whilst doing interviews or other such stuff on the computer. Its truly an inspirational piece by an unsung genius I was lucky enough to work with for a few brief years. I actually found that encouraged me to push on with The Rule Of Thirds. A bit of peer pressure, perhaps?
This question, the last question, might appear tremendously clichéd but I’m curious as all hell, so here goes: Would you share with us one thing about you that most people do not know and that would most surprise us? (i.e: do you excel in a certain cuisine, paint watercolours, sewing, horticulture, anything)
[Douglas] As this is probably the last English language interview Ill do for The Rule Of Thirds Ill share with you several things; Im a very good shot with a rifle so, considering my older brother was a sharp shooter in the Royal Air Force and his talents employed in the Mediterranean and Northern Ireland and my father was a fighter pilot during WWII I guess thats one part of my genetic inheritance which is pretty handy. My jump record for parachuting is also very good throughout. Im very keen on and engender native Australian flora and fauna and have some of the local cockatoos, magpies, kookaburras and even koalas, which I find totally surprising, literally feeding out of my hand. In fact, the local koalas frequently walk around the garden and swimming pool during the daytime apparently observing us and even stop to look at the television through the screen doors at night which is quite weird to see. Some years ago I did a whole load of canvas abstract paintings using the spare paint from all the work I was having done when parts of Fort Nada were being built, all with a faux Aboriginal touch thrown in for a certain relevance to my new surroundings. Ive been thinking of selling those soon. Im also considered by some who have had the pleasure of having dined at Fort Nada, or my old flat back in England, to be quite a good cook of thrown together vegetarian or seafood dishes. I never work from recipes. I find it difficult to obey any orders except my own, of course!
Is there anything Ive left out? Yes, definitely. Quite a lot, in fact. Heilige! Douglas P. 13.IV.08.
Interview by Helene Burkholder