Guest Post by James Cavanagh
Of all the crimes, political and aesthetic, committed by neo-folk musician Tony Wakeford, surely the 1984 EP 'Songs of the Wolf' by his group Above the Ruins, released first as a cassette and later on vinyl and CD, has to be the most unforgivable. The utter dreariness of the music and the banality of the lyrical content are impossible to convey in words. Perhaps Wakeford intended to lead a great Fascist victory by simultaneously boring and depressing his opponents to death. Probably in June.
At the time of the recording of 'Songs of the Wolf' Wakeford was a paid-up member of the National Front and fronting Richard Lawson's Iona (Islands of North Atlantic) group. He was also following the same Fascist Gramscian cultural strategy that many suspect he still operates to this day. In his introduction to the Iona-published volume of poetry 1957: Before the Storm, by Paul Comben, (also published in '84), Wakeford opens with the following sentence: "The volume you are now holding in your hands is the first book to be published by 'Iona', an independent, non-political organisation dedicated to the preservation of our Norse and Celtic heritage." The term 'non-political' seems a little disingenuous, given that Iona is unequivocally described as a Nazi organisation by Searchlight magazine and others.
Wakeford's close friend Richard Lawson has a long history in British Fascism. He was a student organiser for the National Front in the late seventies, and part of the Strasserite faction that split with the NF and went on to found the National Party. He would go on to found the Transeuropa collective, attacked by Searchlight for anti-Semitism and for its entryist tactics in infiltrating the Green movement. In 1995 Lawson launched Fluxeuropa, and collaborated with Fascist activist and musician Troy Southgate on Alternative Green magazine. In 1997 Transeuropa launched Radical Shift magazine, whose raison d'etre according to Searchlight was to "delegitimise anti-racism, anti-fascism and liberal democracy in favour of... ethnic separation, bigoted regionalism and chauvinistic nationalism". Lawson was best man at Wakeford's wedding in 1998.
Wakeford closes his short introduction to 1957, Before the Storm with this sentence: "Above all else however, Paul (Comben) tells me that he wants people to think about what he has to say in the latter poems, whether they eventually agree with him or not." The poems he refers to are broadly speaking nationalist in nature, often concerned with class, as opposed to the earlier poems which are ostensibly about love and war. Again the awfulness of the poetry cannot be over-emphasised. Michael Croshaw reviewing Before the Storm in Scorpion at the time complains about Comben's "shoddy attempt at exact rhyme... " and suggests Comben might have "found a niche as a lyricist for Victorian ballads". He has a point. Take, for example, the young-fogeyish reactionary moaning about sixties culture in 'War':
And bang on time it did all that as once it did to Rome
I saw the whiskery young men go naked in the square
So I locked my mind at '55 and did my living there.
The clumsy versification goes on interminably throughout the book. I won't bore you with any more than is necessary. In one poem, a jaunty little nursery rhyme entitled "Progress", Comben berates some unnamed Socialist state for creating a homogeneous, servile society in thrall to a dehumanising government, closing with this sparkling stanza:
It's best to be humble
And do as you're told
To think as you're taught
And die when you're old
For such is the meaning
Of Marx and his word -
Wine for the Reds
And chains for the Herd.
For anyone who has had the misfortune to listen to Songs of the Wolf these words will be familiar. On closer examination of the poems in 1957, Before the Storm and the lyrics of Songs of the Wolf it becomes apparent that Wakeford has 'borrowed' from Comben's poems for some of his song lyrics. Comben has found his own 'Victorian balladeer' in the bulky form of Tony Wakeford. For example the song 'Roses' borrows from two of Comben's poems, 'Roses' and 'Crosses', with some other lyrics interspersed between them. But it is Wakeford's appropriation of the words in the afore-mentioned 'Progress' that really reveals Wakeford's state of mind at the time. Examine the way Wakeford amends Comben's words in the third verse for his own purposes:
Kept to your place
All the same manner
And all the same face
Freedom is freedom
From dissident views
Eyes full of nothing
But authorized news.
Above the Ruins
Kept to your place
All the same colour
And all the same race
Freedom is freedom
From dissident views
Eyes full of terror
And authorized news.
The racist tone of Wakeford's amended lyric is clear, particularly in the substitution of 'mongrelized' in place of 'mechanized'. Obviously Comben's nationalist politics, objectionable as they are, were not explicit enough for Wakeford's purposes here. Nonetheless, it is interesting to examine where the long-out-of-print volume is to be found nowadays, and where it was originally distributed from, so as to recognise its perceived political position. An online search turns up Comben's book on a couple of sites, described as 'nationalist poetry'; one being a seller on ebay called 'Patriot 77', specialising in far-right literature, and the other the Final Conflict site, which bares the strap line "Brought to you by the people who brought you Nationalism Today". Nationalism Today was founded in 1980 by Nick Griffin and Joe Pearce, editor of National Front youth paper Bulldog. A small sticker on the back of Before the Storm reads "Burning Books, 50 Pawson Road, Croydon, Surrey". Burning Books was the publishing outlet of the National Front at the time.
Of Paul Comben and his identity little can be found. He seems to have disappeared after publishing another volume of nationalist poetry titled Occupation, published by Capstone in 1987. The publishers also have vanished. Occupation, like Before the Storm, crops up for sale on far-right websites occasionally.
In 1985 Wakeford was to contribute a track from the Songs of the Wolf to National Front benefit album No Surrender, Volume 1, alongside tracks by other overtly Nazi bands like Skrewdriver and Brutal Attack. Members of Above the Ruins included Liz Grey (Sol Invictus), Ian Read (Current 93, Death in June, Sol Invictus, Fire and Ice) and Neo-Nazi Gary Smith (No Remorse, Sol Invictus). (No Remorse were infamous for releasing Barbeque in Rostock, a eulogy for petrol bomb attacks on immigrant housing in Rostock and the subsequent deaths, which opened with this verse: "Didn't want their town filled with scum, So they got together and made petrol bombs. Then one cold, starry night, They set them filthy Turks alight!") The ATR song on the original cassette release that was donated to the NF benefit album was dropped from subsequent vinyl and CD releases in feeble attempt to bury history. The original cassette release of Songs of the Wolf turns out be published from a British Monomarks box number belonging to Michael Walker, New Rightist editor of The Scorpion and flat-mate to Roberto Fiore, convicted Italian Fascist terrorist (and now leader of the Italian neo-Nazi party, Forza Nuova).
The outpouring of disgust provoked by the release of Songs of the Wolf plagued Wakeford for over two decades and eventually he felt forced to make a statement expressing regret that he had ever been in the National Front. He obliquely suggests that his involvement with Fascism was a brief youthful folly. No mention of Songs of the Wolf, Above the Ruins, or the contribution to the No Surrender Volume 1 is made, and the reasons for his regret are not given.
"For the few who are interested in such things, Many years ago I was once a member of the National Front. It was probably the worse (sic) decision of my life and one I very much regret. However, I have no connection with, sympathy for, or interest in those ideas nor have I had for around 20 years."
This statement was made in February 2007. And note that he was still selling Songs of the Wolf from his Tursa website in February 2007, listed under 'Clearances' rather than the band name. In my opinion this makes his dictum untrustworthy in the extreme, especially in tandem with the rest of his subsequent activities. As far as Wakeford is concerned it is the last he will say on the matter. Despite having 'regretted' his past long-term involvement with Fascism, Wakeford is apparently happy to appear with Sol Invictus on a compilation called With Friends Like These, released in 2010 on his own label Tursa in collaboration with another label, Kaparte. The compilation features music from, amongst others, While Angels Watch, Richard Moult, and Rose Rovine e Amanti, all who have been involved with Fascism themselves, either directly or through collaboration with overtly Fascist bands. Angels Watch have worked with British Fascist activist Troy Southgate, and Ian Read from Above the Ruins is a band member. Rose Rovine e Amanti have worked with Von Thronstahl, an overtly Nazi band. Moult (aka Christos Beest) was a Hitlerist and member of both the Order of the Nine Angles - a Fascist Satanist organisation, and Reichsfolk, a Nazi organisation. Both were founded and fronted by arch-Nazi Satanist David Myatt. With friends like these indeed...
To bring things even more up to date, Wakeford's post-ATR band Sol Invictus are booked to appear at the Slimlight (a venue well-known for putting on neo-Nazi and Fascist bands) on 25th June 2011. They will perform alongside While Angels Watch, Sixth Comm, Joy of Life and Freya Aswynn. Patrick Leagas (aka O-Kill) from 6 Comm was a founder-member of Death in June. Gary Carey from Joy of Life, with its swaztika-style logo, has worked with While Angels Watch and Death in June. Dutch occultist Freya Aswynn is a long-term collaborator with Leagas, and released the single 'Wolf Rune' with the far-right French band Les Joyaux De La Princesse, who are described by Christoph Frangeli of Datacide as celebrating "an increasingly crystallized, extreme right-wing ideology”. She was also involved with a racist campaign against Black opera singer Willard White, organised by Scorpion in 1989.
Much of what has been stated here has long been in the public domain, dispersed over websites, promotional material, in books and the press. But the discovery that this dismal petit-bourgoise Fascist poet Paul Comben contributed lyrics to Wakeford's most politically heinous work, totally uncredited, reignited the feeling that Wakeford has built his career on Fascist politics and dishonesty. A quick glance at his current activities, in light of his hand-washing statement four years ago, only reinforces my conviction that he is a liar, and that his motivations have remained the same, even if he has dropped the outright Nazi propaganda of Songs of the Wolf in favour of the Evolaian aesthetic Fascism so loved by his fans. After all he has records to sell, gigs to play and books to balance.