|Death in June
HMS President, London
HMS President, an ex-naval vessel that sailed during World War 1 and now moored on the River Thames was undoubtedly an unusual location for Death In June's return to London following Douglas' vague insinuation that they would never play in the capital again. Fortunately this was not the case, and the audience who had gathered from all points of the globe were treated to a very special evening indeed. I guess, this could truly be referred to as DIJ unplugged. Tonight featured John Murphy on a variety of percussive devices from chimes and rattles to shakers while Douglas reminisced and divulged the history and genesis of various tracks from the vast canon of Death In June.
If it wasn't such a godawful miserable evening in terms of weather I wonder what the tourists would have made of the vast number of Death In June fanatics parading down embankment in para-military gear.
A number of excellent sounding acoustic based tracks from Alarm Agents, the forthcoming release from Douglas P. and Boyd Rice opened the evening. Ian Read of Fire & Ice then took to the stage to proclaim a curse. His strong solemn voice delivered 'Benediction', previously recorded on Current 93's seminal Swastikas For Noddy. Following his introduction John Murphy in hooded snow camouflage, and Douglas resplendent in army smock and sniper's veil took to the stage and launched into 'Ku Ku Ku Baby'.
The evening was a complete survey of the Death In June oeuvre, and it clearly demonstrated that the fanaticism Death In June evoke is deserved. Douglas P. did knowingly concede that most of the audience were probably not from the UK. It seems, as December's issue of The Wire testifies, that Death In June remain out-of-step with most tastes in the UK. There is no middle ground. Total commitment or total hatred. Besides, I'm sure Douglas P. wouldn't have it any other way.
The stage was bedecked with a large silver Totenkopf 6 (following an unfortunate detainment in Sweden) and two whip hands, while a table was strewn with more Totenkopfs. From his stool Douglas P. would effortlessly send out another missive - I can't quite recall all the tracks. Douglas requested that the audience accompany his delivery of 'Till The Living Flesh Is Burned' by stomping the beat on the wooden deck of the boat. Those at the front could clearly witness the muscular frame of Patrick Leagas, a founding member of Death In June bashing the rhythm on the stage floor. Patrick, who now fronts both Six Comm and Mother Destruction, would make a proper appearance later on in the evening. At times Douglas appeared nervous: a fluffed chord sequence for 'Come Before Christ and Murder Love' - "the first song I wrote" - forgotten chords for 'Hullo Angel' and the occassional lyrical improvisation but with little in the way of lighting or in fact distance between audience and performers it was unsurprising that Douglas P. was nervous. A couple of over zealous fans near the front were even freaking Douglas out, as their voices almost became audible above the group. Even the vegetarian buffet didn't appear too out of place. Nice idea, other venues may care to pick upon.
Patrick Leagas who was called-up with 2 days notice, appeared nervous but delivered an impassioned introduction to 'The Calling' indicating that it related to a close friend, an Afghan refugee, who had returned to die in battle. I may have picked this up incorrectly but I'm sure Patrick indicated that he too had fought in Afghanistan. It was a beautiful eulogy and in many ways helped explain in part the motives behind Death In June. This was the first airing of 'The Calling' in 20 years, and it was tremendous to witness, and Patrick didn't even need the hastily scribbled lyric sheet. Other special moments this evening included a Douglas lead version of 'To Drown A Rose' acoustic versions of 'Smashed To Bits (In the Peace of the Night)' and 'Kameradschaft' also sounded great free from Albin's military orchestrations. Now, wouldn't a mini-release of acoustic based versions of Operation Hummingbird and Operation Control tracks make a fine minor release?
It was particularly illuminating to hear Douglas speak so candidly about the lyrics to his songs, and though he was scathing about World Serpent and their directors - there was a schism that lead to legal action and an out-of-court settlement in favour of Douglas P. -, he spoke with a fondness for his former songwriting partner and friend, David Tibet. Douglas explained how 'She Said Destroy' was the first song he ever wrote developed from reams of words Tibet had provided. How 'Rocking Horse Night' was based on a childhood nightmare Tibet experienced in Asia, how 'Rose Clouds of Holocaust' was Douglas's articulation of Tibet's Auschwitz by the sea quip, in reference to the geothermal healing waters of Iceland's blue lagoon. I must amidst that I was quite amused to discover that both 'We Honour the Silence' ("He stood like Jesus" - indeed) and 'Hollows of Devotion' were based on sexual experiences.
A number of my favourite tracks were taken from The Wall of Sacrifice including 'Giddy Giddy Carousel' and 'Fall Apart'. Douglas even revealed how Alan Trench had suggested to Douglas that he may wish to do something with He's Able an album from Jim Jones ill-fated People's Temple Choir that World Serpent were looking to reissue. Dismissing it as one of the worst records ever Douglas's adapted a number of tracks into 'He's Disabled' and 'Little Black Angel'. Incidentally this was eventually reissued by Grey Matter, so I ask is there a World Serpent connection? The banishment and exorcism continued unabated as 'Tick Tock', 'Flies Has His House' and others all appeared linking in their own way Charles Manson, George Harrison and the piggy metaphor. 'The Golden Wedding of Sorrow' and 'But, What Ends When The Symbols Shatter?' sounded as stunning and vital as when first heard. 'Symbols of the Sun' was simply sublime.
The strength and beauty of these songs were revealed through simple melodies, combined with intricate percussion into the finest dark folk, some of which are over two decades old. The fanaticism they ignite is testament to the power of Death In June, and the talent of Douglas P. A total lack of guitar strings meant that the second half, again introduced by Ian Read, was kept slightly short, but encores were demanded and after a futile attempt at a guitar based version of 'Heaven Street' Douglas resigned himself to a bizarre acapella version, accompanied by the audience for the instrumental parts.
The evening was a true one-off, representing a stripping down, a sense of nakedness, an unmasking, if you will. Douglas P. came across as a genuinely nice bloke with an enviable collection of songs under his runic inscribed belt. Oh, you could moan the absence of Boyd Rice or the lack of kettle drums or whatever but in the final analysis this was a beautiful evening of wine and fine men.
Death in June - www.deathinjune.net
Tesco Distribution - www.tesco-germany.com or www.tesco-distro.com