King's only lyrical innovation in his cover version was, apparently, to substitute 'bongo drums' for 'battle drums'. In some local media reports the owner of Slimelight is quoted as saying this song will be performed on the night of the gig. I find it pretty unlikely that he said that (though obviously it isn't impossible). Why on earth would the venue manager know the set lists for individual groups weeks in advance of the gig? In any case, it's a solo Andrew King release and not a Sol Invictus song. On top of that, while King is an occasional member of Sol Invictus, I have no idea whether he will even be playing with them at this particular gig. I don't know for sure, but no one should assume that he is.
But whatever the case with King's attendance or non-attendance at the gig, the lyrics certainly bear on the question of how seriously we should take Tony Wakeford's claim that he would never have a racist or fascist in his band.
Now, some people have suggested (on this blog and elsewhere) that King's lyrics may be disgusting, but that he intends the song ironically, and that he has no connection with such sentiments and does not believe any of them himself. The reference to 'building a fortress' of Hitler biographies is offered as evidence of King's (and Williams's original) satirical intent, and is, it is claimed, aimed at Nazi fantasists. This could even be true - but since this has been argued in his defence, it is worth asking what Andrew King's politics actually are. Therefore I read with great interest an interview with King I recently discovered in the journal Tyr.
Before saying anything about the interview itself, let me just point out that Tyr was founded - and the issue of Tyr I will refer to (#3, 2007-2008) was edited by - Michael Moynihan of the group Blood Axis. Moynihan is a former collaborator of Boyd Rice, and an active ideologue of both racist paganism and the 'radical / traditionalism' of the extreme right. The post 'Michael Moynihan's Siege Mentality' discusses Moynihan's publication of Siege, a collection of articles by the ultra-fascist James Mason. In Siege, Mason celebrates the random killings of Jews, blacks, socialists, 'mixed-race couples', and so on. He is a holocaust denier, but also says "it was indeed a damnable shame that Hitler did not, in fact, kill at least six million Jews during the war. We... know what the Jews were and are all about and we can shed no tears for any of them". Speaking of his enemies generally, he says "for the United States there will be no need for concentration camps of any kind, for not a single transgressor will survive long enough to make it to that kind of haven". All of this was published enthusiastically by Moynihan in 1992, in a luxury edition hardback book of 450 or so pages, which Moynihan transcribed and edited, and for which he also wrote the introduction.
Tyr itself is obviously aimed at a slightly more - let's call it - sophisticated audience - or perhaps is just more circumspect about how it presents itself. On the journal's cover it says that Tyr "celebrates the traditional myths, culture and social institutions of pre-Christian, pre-modern Europe", which may sound simply a bit modishly pagan and not a problem as such; but the 'radical traditionalism' it stands for is that of, for example, the fascist Julius Evola (whose influence on the neo-folk/martial/industrial scene is discussed here), and one of the central preoccupations of the journal appears to be to promote the ideas of Alain de Benoist and his various collaborators in the French Nouvelle Droite (New Right). The New Right aim to create a Europe based on exclusive tribal groups, which will be led by a 'traditional hierarchy'. Essentially they are rebranding fascism, drawing on traditionalism, paganism, aspects of the thought of the Italisn 'super-fascist' Julius Evola, and so on. If Tyr is often critical of particular de Benoist formulations, it's criticism is generally from a position even further to the right.
Now, in issue #3 of Tyr there is an interview with King in which he discusses his attitude to traditional folk music. I won't go into the details of the interview, but enough to say that King has a broad and detailed knowledge of English folk tradition (he has been employed as an archivist for the National Sound Archive of the British Library) even if his understanding of it is very much shaped by his politics - one of his claims is that the reception of folk music (including within neo-folk) has been skewed by the fact that the "father figures" of English folk (Ewan MacColl and A.L. Lloyd) were Marxists (p. 392). Now, there's nothing wrong with that as such: what is really alarming is the politics that King believes should replace such an understanding.
In the course of the interview King argues that "the media, cultural and educational establishments have unequivocally abandoned their cultural heritage in favour of postmodern irony and rootless cosmopolitanism." (p. 388) Now, I don't know about you, but most of us understand that the term 'rootless cosmopolitanism' is a euphemism for the Jews. While most of King's interview is framed using language that steers well clear of the inflammatory rhetoric of James Mason, nevertheless it is clear that King shares much of the worldview of Tyr's editors.
His main complaint - and his explanation as to why folk music is not given it's due weight - is that:
"Not only do we have the damage of modernism to deal with, but also that of its descendants, a plethora of vested interests whose ideologies (relativism, multiculturalism, rights-issues and cosmopolitanism) are deeply inimical to the central historic virtues of our culture. The most brazen and shameful manifestation of this is the total abdication of the postwar liberal elite of the West's claim to moral and cultural superiority." (p. 391)He then calls on the "post-industrial / experimental scene" to act "as a harbinger of moral cultural change" (p. 391): ie. he hopes to influence it in that direction. To put it another way, he sees the folk revival of the neo-folk scene as an opportunity to turn back 'multiculturalism', etc. That is his agenda. His ideal is a a situation in which people concentrate on "the more overtly obvious aspects of their own country's 'Volks-culture'" (p. 392). Regarding the content of his work, he says that "while the historical and cultural references can be very cerebral, it is also obvious that the truly emblematic imagery comes from, inhabits, and returns to, the nether regions of the subconscious as well as the race memory of the West." (p. 404). I'd love to see him defend the lyrics of 'Wotan's Rains' in terms of how it embodies 'race memory'.
His final thoughts in the interview concern the First and Second World Wars, which he discusses in the context of his painting of the figure of Judith above the ruins of Dresden. For him, Judith represents the "wholesale destruction that happens when a culture forgets itself". He argues that "By allowing itself to succumb to the bloodletting exercise of the two world wars... the West tragically abdicated its position of political, moral and cultural superiority." Again, while there is none of racist ranting of 'Wotan Rains' or Siege, it's pretty clear here that King shares the fascist / radical traditionalist view that the war against fascism was a tragedy, a 'war between brothers', because it prevented the building a fascist Imperium across Europe.
I won't beat the point to death - it hardly matters what the protagonists say or do, there is always some supporter of the 'scene' who will make excuses for it. But to me it seems as clear as day that one of Tony Wakeford's most important collaborators openly shares the views of the extreme, neo-fascist right, loathes multiculturalism and ''rights-issues', and sees the neo-folk milieu as a forum in which he can promote those ideas. Incidentally, King is not only interviewed in Moyhihan's journal, but has also collaborated with him since then in Moyhihan's musical project, Blood Axis. Supporters of Sol Invictus are fond of pointing out that it's members have included Jews and Lesbians, missing the point that our objection is not to them, but to the anti-Semites and opponents of (gay and lesbian?) 'rights' that it also manages to coexist with.
So, whether King will play at the gig or not, is it really reasonable to think that Tony Wakeford - who is very familiar with the 'radical traditionalist' ideas of Evola - isn't familiar with the import of King's politics? So where does that leave his claim that he would not work with racists or fascists?
Plenty of people have complained that the opposition to the Slimelight gig is based essentially on the fact that Wakeford was once in the National Front, and that the critics simply refuse to believe that he could have changed. But that is to misunderstand the argument; his membership of the NF is simply used as an entry point into a wider argument about a whole network of musicians who work together, promote one another, appear on one another's records, and who - to very different degrees, admittedly - in various ways either actively promote racist and fascist ideas or collude with those who do. That happens whether it is a matter of Wakeford (who has a certain kudos as a founder member of Death in June - the founders of the genre) continuing to work with people like King, whose language in this interview is peppered with the 'dog whistle' ideas and terms of the far-right, or whether it is the issue of King himself (also a member of Sol Invictus, let's not forget) working happily alongside Moynihan - who surely after the Mason business is indefensible by pretty much anyone who would consider themselves anti-fascist.