Death in June
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Death in June
|Genres||Neofolk, gothic rock, folk rock, industrial music experimental, martial industrial, post-punk, darkwave, coldwave|
|Past members||Patrick Leagas|
Death in June are a neofolk group led by English musician Douglas P. (Douglas Pearce). The band was originally formed in the United Kingdom in 1981 as a trio, but after the other members left in 1984 and 1985 to work on other projects, the group became the work of Douglas P. and various collaborators. Over the band's three decades of existence, they have made numerous shifts in style and presentation, resulting in an overall shift from initial post-punk and Industrial music influence to a more acoustic and folk music-oriented approach. Douglas P.'s influence was instrumental in sparking neofolk, of which his music has subsequently become a part.
Pearce formed Death in June in 1981 in England, along with Patrick Leagas and Tony Wakeford. Pearce and Wakeford had been members of the political punk band Crisis, which formed in 1977. Crisis had gained a substantial following in the UK punk subculture. Crisis performed at rallies for The Right to Work, Rock Against Racism, and the Anti-Nazi League.
Early Death in June (1981–1985)
Death in June soon left the punk scene behind and began to infuse their sound with electronics and martial style drumming, combined with a Joy Division-influenced post-punk sound. Then a few years later to the synth-heavy folk stuff with acoustic guitar. The synths were phased out. The later stuff had atmospheric sound loops, dialogue samples, industrial beats, etc added. Their lyrics maintained much of the poetry and political urgency of the early Crisis recordings. Tracks such as the early single sides "Holy Water" and "State Laughter" demonstrated an ongoing fascination with political systems. The new name of the band comes from an in-studio mishearing of "death and gloom," and is not simply an allusion to the "Night of the Long Knives", when Adolf Hitler had the main members of the SA arrested and some executed by the SS. Douglas P. explained on his website, "Death In June was named after I thought I heard a colleague say those words during our first recording session in 1981. It was an accident of mishearing. I have said this in countless interviews over the years since. It is merely post-rationalization to assume it refers to any one particular event, historic or otherwise." Further on, Douglas P. would abandon any overt interest in politics in favor of a more esoteric approach to his work.
Introduction of folk music
For 1984's Burial LP, Death in June began to adopt a more traditional European folk sound, using more acoustic guitars, references to ancient and contemporary European history, and combining heavy percussion with electronic soundscapes and post-industrial experimentation.
Nada! flirtation with dance music
The Nada! (1985) LP introduced a temporary dance sound to Death in June accompanied by other tracks with the previously introduced folk elements. Douglas P. would later state this period was brought about by Patrick Leagas, which is further justified by Leagas' other work as Sixth Comm and later by his joining Mother Destruction, where he would further explore themes of Germanic paganism and historically-inspired music.
Patrick Leagas departs
Patrick Leagas abruptly left the group in April 1985 after a tour of Italy, resulting in many cancelled shows in the UK and Europe due to follow that tour. Leagas, who began calling himself Patrick O-Kill, later formed Sixth Comm. Thereafter, Death in June has consisted solely of the work of Douglas P. and various collaborators.
Mid-period Death in June (1985–1996)
Creation of World Serpent Distribution
In 1991, Douglas P. named and helped form World Serpent Distribution; a British distribution company that specialized in esoteric, experimental and post-industrial music, which would distribute his NER releases until the late 1990s. During this period, Pearce collaborated with many artists who also had material distributed through the company in various ways.
Collaboration with David Tibet
David Tibet formed Current 93 in 1982. After being introduced to Douglas P. by Alan McGee of Creation Records at the Living Room Club, London in 1983, Tibet eventually began working with Death in June. Upon meeting Tibet, Douglas P. began to devote more of his time to a new circle of collaborators, who introduced him to various Thelemic, Satanic and Hermetic disciplines that markedly affected his approach to composing music. Familiar with the Runic alphabet, Douglas P. introduced them to Tibet. Tibet similarly had been long interested in magic and religion and implemented these concepts in his early recordings with Current 93.
Douglas P. introduced a folk influence to Current 93/David Tibet, who in turn contributed to Death in June's Nada! (1985) LP and its remix version titled 93 Dead Sunwheels (1989), as well as the albums The World That Summer, Brown Book, and The Wall of Sacrifice. He continued his work with Death in June, ending their collaborations with a contribution to the (1995) LP, Rose Clouds of Holocaust before their eventual split.
Collaboration with Boyd Rice begins
Experimental musician Boyd Rice was a friend of the group and had documented one of their earliest performances back in 1982. He was later invited to contribute a spoken word piece to The Wall of Sacrifice LP. From then on, a long series of recording collaborations continued between Boyd Rice and Douglas P. which included the albums Music, Martinis and Misanthropy, In the Shadow of the Sword, Heaven Sent, God & Beast, Wolf Pact, and finally Alarm Agents. Douglas P. also made a small appearance acting alongside Boyd Rice in the film Pearls Before Swine.
Collaboration with LJDLP
Les Joyaux De La Princesse collaborated with Douglas P. on the Östenbräun double cassette release. Douglas P. sent LJDLP source material, which LJDLP would remix and send back. Douglas P. would later appear live with Les Joyaux De La Princesse for a joint show in 2001.
Collaboration with John Murphy begins
Douglas P., having moved to Australia, came back into contact with John Murphy of Knifeladder and previously of SPK. Murphy began playing live percussion with Death in June during tours from 1996 onwards. From 2000, a period of very stripped down, largely acoustic live performances for Death in June began up until Douglas P. announced no further live shows in 2005. In September 2011, a European tour was announced commemorating the 30th anniversary of the group's foundation in 1981. However the tour started off in Sydney, Australia without the actual inclusion of John Murphy; Murphy died on 11 October 2015.
Contemporary Death in June (1996–present)
Collaboration with Albin Julius Martinek
After queuing to meet his idol Douglas P. backstage at a performance in Munich in December 1996, Albin Julius Martinek of Der Blutharsch later collaborated and toured throughout Europe between 1998-2000 with Death in June. Together, they produced the albums Take Care & Control and Operation Hummingbird, as well as the live album Heilige!. In comparison to previous Death In June works the material on these albums is primarily sample based, building on musical motifs from the likes of Richard Wagner, Franz Schubert, French 1960s pop icon Serge Gainsbourg, amongst others. The two albums mark a significant departure from previous or subsequent Death In June material, featuring very little by way of Pearce's guitar, and could be classified as a part of the martial music genre. This is itself a genre which Pearce had arguably invented in 1986 on The World That Summer album with tracks like "Death of a Man" and again in 1989 on The Wall of Sacrifice album with the title track and "Death is a Drummer". Pearce wrote a song loosely inspired by an untitled Der Blutharsch song for the Fire Danger Season Der Blutharsch tribute compilation. The track title was later created/revealed as "Many Enemies Bring Much Honour", which also appears on the rework and rarity album Abandon Tracks!.
Demise of World Serpent Distribution
The late 1990s marked the beginning of a court case between Death in June and World Serpent Distribution regarding payment and distribution issues with several other artists that were then on the label. This led to many artists that had sided with or had a similar experience to Pearce's leaving the distribution company and largely moving to Tesco Distribution Germany, as well as other then well established labels such as Eis & Licht. Eventually, Pearce was issued an out of court settlement for the case, which, according to him, led to the demise of World Serpent Distribution. This led to reissues of most of the major albums in the Death in June discography being made freely available, with overhauled, deluxe packaging and a considerably cheaper price.
Collaboration with Andreas Ritter
On the All Pigs Must Die LP, Pearce was assisted by Andreas Ritter of the neofolk group Forseti who played accordion on a few tracks on the first half of the LP. This marked a return to the previous folk sound of Death in June. Death in June have also appeared live with Forseti and Pearce appeared on Forseti's Windzeit LP.
After Andreas Ritter suffered a stroke and subsequent loss of memory and ability to play musical instruments, Pearce contributed acoustic versions of Death in June songs to a tribute album to Ritter entitled Forseti Lebt released in August 2006.
Collaboration with Boyd Rice ends
After completing the Alarm Agents LP, Pearce announced it would be his final collaboration with Rice, citing the decision as having been mutually decided during the recording of Alarm Agents in a studio situated in a valley in Wellington, New Zealand as helicopters flew beneath the two of them. Pearce recalls: "We turned toward each other and said, 'This is going to be the last collaboration. It can't get better than this.'" In 2013, in order to dismiss all speculation and questions about future collaborations between Pearce and Rice, Rice announced via Facebook that he had severed personal and business relationships with Pearce.
Collaboration with Miro Snejdr
In April 2009, users of the Death in June Yahoo Group pointed the YouTube videos from pianist Miro Snejdr doing covers of classic Death in June titles: "I watched the videos Miro had posted on YouTube of instrumental songs from Death In June’s The Rule of Thirds album and was very impressed. Courtesy of these members of the DIJ group we were put in contact with each other." Consequently, the piano-based album Peaceful Snow was released in November 2010, with rearrangements by Miro Snejdr of Douglas P.'s guitar-based demo recordings. Those original recordings were later released on the album The Snow Bunker Tapes in 2013. Since 2012, Snejdr is also performing live with Death in June, either on piano or accordion.
- The Guilty Have No Pride (1983)
- Burial (1984)
- Nada! (1985)
- The World That Summer (1986)
- Brown Book (1987)
- Östenbräun (1989)
- The Wall of Sacrifice (1989)
- But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter? (1992)
- Rose Clouds of Holocaust (1995)
- Death in June Presents: Occidental Martyr (1995)
- Death in June Presents: KAPO! (1996)
- Heaven Sent (1996) (collaboration with Boyd Rice and John Murphy of The Associates under the name Scorpion Wind)
- Take Care & Control (1998)
- Operation Hummingbird (2000)
- All Pigs Must Die (2001)
- Death in June & Boyd Rice : Alarm Agents (2004)
- Free Tibet (2006) MP3 release only via official website
- The Rule of Thirds (2008)
- Peaceful Snow/Lounge Corps (2010)
- The Snow Bunker Tapes (2013)
- Essence! (2018)
Influences and aesthetics
Film and certain television programs have been a major influence on Death in June, sometimes being worked into compositions or referenced directly in album titles. Influential films and television shows include The World That Summer, Take a Closer Look, The Night Porter, The Prisoner, Night and Fog, and Come and See.
Pearce has cited Friedrich Nietzsche, the Norse Eddas, Yukio Mishima, Saxon poetry, and Jean Genet as strong influences upon his work. Although some of these influences have waned as the discography has increased, Genet and Mishima were quoted in the booklet of the rare track retrospective Abandon Tracks (2001).
Pearce has stated that Nico, Scott Walker, Ennio Morricone, Industrial Records-era industrial music, Forever Changes-era Love and traditional European folk music have all had a considerable impact upon his musical output.
Through his solo work as Death in June and central musical role in Current 93 through the mid 1980s – early 1990s, Pearce's influence was also instrumental in creating the neofolk genre. As Death in June has become more based around acoustic guitars (But What Ends When the Symbols Shatter? onwards), he has actively encouraged other acts playing this style of music whether it be releasing material on his NER record label in the case of Strength Through Joy and Somewhere In Europe or guesting with them as he has done with Forseti. He also, on Death in June's Brown Book, gave Fire + Ice's Ian Read his first exposure. Through work with former Death in June member Tony Wakeford's Sol Invictus and solo work in Fire + Ice, Ian Read has also become a significant figure in this field, as documented in Diesel and Gerich's Looking for Europe.
According to Pearce:
"[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."
Specific varieties of camouflage are regularly worn by Pearce and appear on various Death in June releases. Most commonly, the variety of camouflage used is the German World War II Waffen-SS autumnal Erbsenmuster/"pea pattern" (usually on original items) though sometimes the modern Bundeswehr Flecktarn or possibly the post-WWII Austrian Fleckerlteppich pattern is used. The subject of camouflage has also appeared in the lyrics of Death in June, notably in the song "Hidden Among the Leaves", a reference to the Japanese Hagakure.
A slightly grinning skull, framed by a circle and a small 6 in the lower right corner. Death in June has, since at least the State Laughter / Holy Water 7″, used variations of the Prussian Totenkopf or "Death's Head" symbol. Pearce has stated repeatedly that the symbol is not an endorsement of extermination camp atrocities and the symbol far predates the Third Reich, having been used by the Prussian Army under Frederick the Great. Although the particular version used by Death in June is a modified, faintly grinning version of the SS insignia, Pearce has stated the symbolism is clear: "The Totenkopf for Death, and the six for the sixth month - June."
A studded, gloved hand holding a whip surrounded by a circle and a small 6 in the lower right corner. This symbol has been used by Death in June since at least the She Said Destroy 7″/12″, stated by Pearce to signify control and relates to having the whip hand, a British expression. The hand is gloved, giving it both a medieval and fetishistic element, and is often used either in place of the Totenkopf or with it. This symbol was used later than the Totenkopf and is usually secondary to it. As with the Totenkopf-6, the 6 refers to June.
Three parallel, up-standing vertical bars accompanied by a small six in the lower right corner. Although a very basic symbol, this symbol likely originates, for the use of Death in June, from the 1943 Battle of Kursk version of the insignia of the 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf. This symbol was used as vehicle markings on the vehicles of that unit. It may have been used to signify the three members of Death in June at the time. Scantly used afterwards for the purpose of Death in June, it first appeared on the Lesson One: Misanthropy! LP and is rarely used when not referring directly to this period of Death in June.
In a 2005 interview, Pearce states:
"I'm very happy about that because I see Death in June as part of a European cultural revival. I'm pleased that the Old Gods are being resurrected, for want of a better word. Old symbols. I feel very pleased that I am a part of that process and that I have had influence. At this stage in the game, so to speak, it's not false modesty to say that I am content with my influence."
According to Pearce:
"In 1986 whilst staying with Tibet in his flat in Freya Aswynn's house in north London over a period of 3 nights I dreamed I was falling in a sort of rain of indistinct runes. On each separate night I managed to concentrate enough on one particular rune to stop it from spinning and moving so I could actually see which one it was. When I awoke I made a note of it. After 3 nights the dream stopped and I decided to try and form an 'appropriate' bind rune from the original 3. This I did and after Freya saw it I basically was given a 'thumbs up' about the whole thing. It definitely does not refer to my name but it definitely does refer to ME."
The Odal rune has sometimes been used by Pearce. This can be seen very visibly on the Come Before Christ and Murder Love 7″ cover. The algiz rune has often been used by Pearce for non-album Death in June purposes, appearing sometimes with a circle around it as seen on The World That Summer 2×LP, on the official website and elsewhere.
The Southern Poverty Law Center considers Death in June to be white power music harboring neo-Nazi sympathies. Pearce has said, "At the start of the eighties, Tony and I were involved in radical left politics and beneath it history students. In search of a political view for the future we came across National Bolshevism which is closely connected with the SA hierarchy. People like Gregor Strasser and Ernst Röhm who were later known as 'second revolutionaries' attracted our attention." The SA were a paramilitary formation of the NSDAP, and Strasser and Röhm were Nazi leaders who vied for Hitler's power.
Protests have been staged and some performances have been cancelled due to these accusations. Justification for the cancellations stems from strong aversions to the Nazi-inspired symbolism of Death in June coupled with an interpretation of select lyrics as containing deliberate Third Reich-era imagery and tropes. When questioned about his interest in the Third Reich, Pearce responded, "I've an interest in all aspects of the Third Reich. It has had such a huge influence on the world, who could fail to be intrigued by it? However, I've still read more pages of Das Kapital than Mein Kampf!"
Banned in Lausanne, Switzerland
On 19 November 1998, Death in June was scheduled to play with Boyd Rice, Fire + Ice, and Der Blutharsch in Lausanne, Switzerland. A day prior to the scheduled show, Pearce appeared wearing a sign, restrained by two men (Boyd Rice and Albin Julius) in ape suits wearing Third Reich-era swastika armbands. He gave a press conference announcing that he had been banned for the first time from playing live. After pressure from a local activist group, the decision was made by the local chief of police Bernard Metraux, due to perceived ambiguity, to not allow Pearce to appear on stage. However, Rice, Fire + Ice and Der Blutharsch were allowed to take the stage. A petition for the resignation of Metraux circulated amongst concertgoers at the show and eventually equaled 184 signatures. At the concert, a man appearing to be Pearce took the stage and revealed himself to be Rice. Rice performed an altered rendition of Death in June's "C'est un rêve" to commemorate the event. This rendition of the song was later credited to "NON & Freunde", and was released on the Der Tod im Juni compilation. After the concert, a website was created by Swiss fans featuring photographs recording the event. Pearce later recorded a song about the situation on Operation Hummingbird in 1998.
In a 2005 interview with Pearce, he recalls the event: "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 cause 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 way."
Cancelled performance in Chicago, Illinois
The concert was scheduled to take place at a venue called The Empty Bottle on 13 December 2003, with Der Blutharsch and Changes. Initially, a group calling themselves the Center for New Community applied pressure to the owner of the club, Bruce Finkelman. Finkelman, who is Jewish, and his staff, which contains African Americans, initially decided the show would go on, feeling there was insufficient evidence to cancel the performance. Debate continued on The Empty Bottle's website, fueled partially by an email and ten-day telephone campaign waged by the Center for New Community to ban the event. Finkelman offered a compromise: He invited the CNC to distribute anti-racist information within the venue, as well as any other group that wished to do so, and offered to give the venue's proceeds of the concert to the Anti-Defamation League. The CNC refused. Finkelman, feeling the pressure, started to relent and decided to remove Changes from the bill. As the controversy mounted from complaints regarding the band due to the Center for New Community's campaign, he eventually cancelled the night altogether. Due to the mounting pressure and threats of violence by other groups, Finkelman expressed regret for this decision, describing the censorship as a "black mark on the arts community" and continued to encourage open discussion instead of censorship. The venue was moved to Deja Vu, another venue in Chicago that Saturday. Members of Anti-Racist Action began to gather at the venue. The concert was cancelled by the venue owners just before it was scheduled to begin, due to violence between Anti-Racist Action and fans of Death in June. Anti-Racist Action released a statement condemning the band on their website and after the show, which resulted in a critical response of Anti-Racist Action by a self-described African American fan.
Federal restrictions in Germany
On 21 December 2005, the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons banned all sales and distribution of Rose Clouds of Holocaust to minors, which had been available to everyone in the country since 1995. Early in 2006, discussion on the Death in June Yahoo list resulted in a response from Pearce, who revealed that he had been asked several months earlier by his distributor, Tesco Organisation Germany (based in Mannheim), to explain passages of his work to the German government. Pearce provided his original response to the government, which featured, for the first time, Pearce's explanation for numerous aspects of Death in June, including lyrics, song titles, events and use of aesthetics as well as dates, people and locations. Pearce issued a second letter stating that Tesco Organisation Germany had filed an appeal against the ban. At the request of Douglas P., who viewed it as a demeaning waste of time and money, the appeal was abandoned in November 2007. A third email was sent regarding the ban, in which Pearce expressed concern for further arbitrary action by the German authorities in banning further albums and artists within the "Neo-Folk/Post Industrial/whatever you wish to label it scene." Pearce requested the organisation of a "Fighting Fund Festival" to help raise funds for legal support.
Meanwhile Brown Book has been banned as well, and selling it is totally illegal in Germany because it contains elements of the song "Horst-Wessel-Lied", which was the official anthem of the brownshirted SA. This happened according to Strafgesetzbuch section 86a, which outlaws "use of symbols of unconstitutional organisations".
- "Death in June Bologna 8/4/85". DeBaser (in Italian). Retrieved 10 August 2020.
- "Article:Statement1 – Death In June Archive". Retrieved 13 August 2020.
- Douglas P. stated in 2002, in a post on the official Death in June Yahoo group Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine: "In turn, I have sold back to world serpent distribution my shares in the company that I actually named and help form in early 1991."
- Interview with LJDLP via the French Raven's Chat webzine. Archived 20 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine it states: "First, it was only planned to edit an interview with Douglas P., the text for “Death in June Collaboration : Carried Away By Despair”, used as a womb, is gone after. Douglas was apparently very enthusiastic about the music I sent to him. At the time, he wrote me : “We have a similar path!..”. The use I was doing of the Poly-800 inspired to him, I think, like a kind of following to “The World That Summer”… This same keyboard was used as a base-line for the release of the double album but I learnt this after and in my ingenuousness, maybe, I had completed something! During this collaboration, at every musical as well aesthetic change, I sent it to Douglas… That took me a lot of time to have his entire approbation and his benediction when the product was finished." [sic]
- Heimdallr webzine, Death in June - Tribe of Circle - Les Joyaux de la Princesse - Der Blutharsch Brussels - 1st December 2001 live review
- Powell, Erin. 2005 interview with Douglas Pearce Archived 11 July 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Interview with Douglas P. and Miro Snejdr". Archived from the original on 8 July 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
- 2002 Edge of Time interview Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine with Douglas Pearce
- "interview with Douglas Pearce for Judas Kiss zine". Deathinjune.org. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
- "Response to question asked by fan in 2002, on the official Death in June Yahoo group". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 1 May 2007.
- "Statement regarding Soleilmoon Recordings and Death In June". Splcenter.org. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
- Misery and Purity: A History and Personal Interpretation of Death in June by Robert Forbes (Jara Press, Amersham 1995) p15.
- DeRogatas, Jim. "Nazis or not? Censorship keeps fans from deciding", Chicago Sun-Times, 17 December 2003.
- "1999 interview with Douglas Pearce by Russian webzine Achtung Baby". Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2006.
- "Online copy of the petition". Archived from the original on 17 October 2005. Retrieved 1 January 2006.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 October 2005. Retrieved 1 January 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- 2001 Gothic Info webzine interview with Douglas Pearce. Viewable online here: Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- "Infoshop.org". news.infoshop.org.
- "Infoshop.org". news.infoshop.org.
- http://chicago.indymedia.org/newswire/display/34629/index.php here]
- "Article:Statement1 – Death In June Archive". Deathinjune.org. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
- "Article:Statement2 – Death In June Archive". Deathinjune.org. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
- "Article:Statement3 – Death In June Archive". Deathinjune.org. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
- Pearce made this request via a fan-run discussion group here.