Wednesday, 7 November 2012

James Cavanagh: Death in June Coming to Electrowerkz

Once again fascist-dabbling neofolk group Death In June are on tour in Europe, stopping off in London for their only live appearance in the UK on 15th December 2012 at Electrowerkz in Angel. 

Doug Pearce
Using a band name derived from June 30, 1934, the 'Night of Long Knives', Hitler's murderous response to the National Bolshevik faction in the Nazi party led by Ernst Roehm and Gregor Strasser, Death In June, long-term project of Douglas Pearce, are back to promote a new album and to mark 30 years since their debut release.

Pearce's long history of far-right agit-prop has garnered him notoriety over three decades, and caused his concerts to be cancelled across the world; in Norway, Switzerland and Germany in Europe and in Chicago, Seattle and Portland in the US. Last year the band played Camden Underworld, prompting Love Music, Hate Racism to call, unsuccessfully, for the gig to be cancelled.

In May 1999, a few days after BNP member David Copeland nail-bombed Brixton and Brick Lane markets and The Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, Death In June played The Garage in Islington (with fellow Nazi-admirers NON and Der Blutharsch). Copeland killed 3 people and injured 129. It has been widely corroborated that Pearce dedicated a song from the stage to the 'White Wolves' – a neo-Nazi grouping who had initially claimed responsibility for these atrocities. In much the same spirit, a valedictory message was posted to the Di6 Yahoo group forum immediately following Anders Breivik's Utoya massacre, and mainland bombing.

This year Pearce has chosen to play Electrowerkz, a venue that has often promoted fascist acts in the past, both in the Slimelight Club and in its main auditorium. Last year Slimelight hosted a concert featuring Sol Invictus, 6 Comm, Joy of Life and Freya Aswynn, acts that have fascist history, members with a fascist past or who have collaborated with fascist music projects. Tony Wakeford of Sol Invictus and Patrick Leagas aka Patrick O‘Kill of 6 Comm were both founding members of Death In June with Douglas Pearce, before going on to found their own bands, most notably in the case of Wakeford who founded Above the Ruins, a band that under his leadership donated a track to National Front benefit album No Surrender, Volume 1, alongside tracks by other overtly Nazi bands like Skrewdriver and Brutal Attack.

The event was written about in a guest post on WMTN, and was subsequently taken up by LMHR, an Islington councillor, the Unitarian Church, Unite Against Fascism and many independent protesters angry at the venue's decision to put on acts that promote fascism. Islington South Labour MP and Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry made this comment in the Islington Gazzette at the time;
"It’s a shame and a disgrace that these peddlers of poison are playing in Islington. We have a proud history of tolerance in this borough”.
The local press picked up on the campaign as did several prominent anti-fascist websites.

In the end a peaceful gathering of 70-80 people turned out on the night at Slimelight to protest. This largely took the form of discussion and leafleting.

NON / Boyd Rice
As long ago as September 2004 the Slimelight hosted a bill of far-right neofolk bands; Foresta Di Ferro, Ostara and Spiritual Front. Foresta Di Ferro and Spiritual Front appeared on a tribute album to the Romanian ultra-Fascist Corneliu Zelea Codreanu alongside the likes of Von Thronstahl, Dernière Volonté and Blood Axis. Codreanu was a Romanian anti-semitic fascist terrorist and leader of the notoriously vicious Iron Guard, also known as the The Legion of the Archangel Michael, active in the inter-war period. His antisemitism was so extreme that even the Nazis kept their distance from him. Ostara is the project of Richard Leviathan, who names among his influences in an interview in Heathen Harvest - Death in June, Boyd Rice, Changes, Blood Axis and Ain Soph, all pro-fascist bands. Leviathan also worked with Douglas Pearce on a project called Kapo. Ostara have been banned from playing for their far-right politics in Nuremberg and in the Netherlands.

In June 2005 Italian fascists Ain Soph played at the venue.

In 2006 a junior member of the Slimelight online forum called Tier posted about anti-semitic band Grand Belial's Key being booked to play the venue in February of that year. He comments; "Grand Belial's Key is a black metal band whose views border on National Socialist. One release of the band is named 'Judeobeast Assassination". He goes on to quote the band in interview expressing violent anti-semitism, their lyrics in the same vein, and mentions that various band members are in other racist far-right bands. A senior forum member CIW responds like this; "Well, fortunately for UK, this is a country where one can say what one believes, not in my country, where you get serious problems with it, just because it can't cope with its past... so, let em play, by forbidding stuff you just get what they want..." Another senior member Ecclecticbb makes this response; "It is not clear to me that Tier wants us to react against this event... I don't give a shit (not sorry) about it!"

In late 2007 Indymedia UK published an article about a concert at Slimelight in October of that year featuring NON, industrial/noise project of Boyd Rice, writing;
"The Slimelight event was headlined by Boyd Rice in his NON guise. An individual with a long and malicious history of fascist provocation and the focus of Anti-Nazi attention worldwide, it is particularly alarming that Boyd Rice, an acknowledged Social Darwinist and member of the neo-Nazi American Front organisation, has actually been given the all clear to enter the UK and perform in London as NON next week."
Non were supported by another fascist band called Luftwaffe.

In November of the same year promoters of far-right neofolk and Industrial music Hinoeuma The Malediction hosted an event at Slimelight that included Austrian fascists Der Blutharsch, Sutcliffe Jugend who contributed to a compilation cassette called White Power that had a swastika on the cover, alongside other groups closely associated with the fascist element of the neofolk scene.

In March 2009 Nachtmahr played the venue, a band criticised from the stage this year at the Kinetic Festival in Montreal for "the use of misogynist and racist tropes in (the) band’s music and publicity materials."

A quick look at set lists for DJ Blackdeath, resident Slimelight DJ for the past fourteen years, typically reads like a who's who of far-right neofolk, power electronics and black metal; Death in June, Burzum (aka Varg Vikernes - "the main person to have brought Nazism into the black metal scene", according to Wikipedia), Forseti, Sol Invictus, NON, Dernière Volonté, and Deutsch Nepal. DJ Blackdeath is also a Cold Spring record label DJ. Cold Spring have ultra-fascists Von Thronstahl on their books, along with H.E.R.R. and Seelenlicht, two musical projects involving racial seperatist Troy Southgate.

And now Death in June is booked to play the venue. That Death In June is a pro-fascist band has been disputed by some, but not by many of the band's most ardent fans. This very positive review of DIJ's latest album posted on Counter Currents Publishing by Greg Johnson describes the band's politics and influence like this:
"Death in June’s combination of acoustic folk and industrial sound collages, as well as its use of images and themes related to Nazi Germany and European fascism in general, have had an immense influence on the development of what is called 'neo-folk' and 'martial-industrial' music, which is the core of a world-wide youth subculture, characterized by racial consciousness, far Right politics, and inclinations toward neo-paganism and esoteric spirituality, including Esoteric Hitlerism, Traditionalism, and Aleister Crowley. Neo-folk and martial-industrial fans overlap significantly with the Goth scene and West Coast White Nationalism."
Neo Nazi music promotion network Blood and Honour published this description of the band on their website
"Two men take to the stage dressed in SS pea pattern smocks and start to pound a military beat on kettle drums draped in Totenkopf banners....and so twenty five years ago my musical world was turned upside down. That was Death in June (named after the night of the long knives) the band that kicked it all off. A rash of bands has followed including Above The Ruins (who were promoted by the National Front youth paper Bulldog) and Der Blutharsch. Images used of SS soldiers; runes and even the Horst Wessell sung on an LP clearly mark many of these bands as travelers (sic) of the right. "I think the black sun is the flag of the European Nations in mourning. It is blue, silver and gold. It is the true banner of a united Europe and it flies above us now." (Doug P) Modern bands in this genre continue this thrust of marshal (sic) music onwards and the history of fascist and national socialist movements to the attention of more and more."
Aside from the nazi imagery and lyrical references, Pearce is generally ellusive on the subject of fascism, but occasionally he makes a statement (in this case on the subject of protests by anti-fascists to his music) that reveals where he stands politically;
"I think censorship is essentially 'Communistic' and left wing. Censorship was one of the first things that happened in Russia after the Revolution in 1917 and continued until it fell to bits decades later. The way I understand it is that, to paraphrase Mussolini, the Fascists are the real anarchists for they truly did do exactly what they wanted. Libertarianism and Fascism are bedfellows no matter how some people might find that repugnant."
Of the Something Is Coming album, the proceeds of which were donated to the Bolnichi Clinic in Zagreb, Croatia during the Balkan conflict, Pearce has said "This was not purely a humanitarian gesture. It was a cultural one. A socio-Euro political one." The inference here is clear, despite the characteristic coyness; a diffidence which extends to the endlessly recycled back catalogue items listed for sale on the official Death In June website. "We STRONGLY recommend that all those living in Germany wishing to order 'BROWN BOOK' (Achtung!) UeBER DO NOT (!!) order direct from NER as random Customs checks do exist between the U.K. and the mainland of Europa... Talk to any of the million zillion illegal immigrants that now wander lonely as a black cloud through Europa's streets forlorn..... Those not living in little red angel's po-faced, goody 2 shoes Germany are also free to take advantage of these internet mail order firms...." he advises. The album in question, 1987's Brown Book contains a version of the SA anthem 'Horst-Wessel-Lied', and has therefore been totally banned for sale or distribution by the German authorities. In 2005, the album 'Rose Clouds Of Holocaust' was banned for sale to minors due to its questionable lyrical content.

Elsewhere, he has been keen to flaunt his personal association with veteran Nazis. From the Di6 blog:
"There was some discussion recently as to whether or not '18' (eg. Adolf Hitler) survived the battle for Berlin. As a close personal friend of someone whose last battles, in WWII at least, were in the Villa Goebbels, the Tiergarten and the Fuehrer Bunker itself ( which was evidently absolutely beautiful and filled with statues, paintings etc.) he maintains that during the chaos and confusion at the end it was ALWAYS possible to get out. As he, in fact, did himself. During rest periods within the Bunker he saw '18' go past him outside to have a look around several times and a double could have come back as his replacement – at anytime! During the last organised breakouts my friend was momentarily captured by Bolshevik troops who luckily became distracted by the bigger 'catch' of a Party Leader, the contents of the Party Leader's briefcase and his subsequent, on the spot, execution. This horrible incident, however, provided my friend and 2 of his kameraden the opportunity to escape and make their way West out of the city. He was later arrested at a railway station by British troops who had taken a keen interest in the design of his trousers(and later discovered blood group tattoo!) On 20th April, 1989 I remember well him saying to me that "if he wasn't dead then, he should be by now."
So Slimelight has long hosted fascist and pro-fascist musicians, and the club itself has long acted as a spiritual home for neofolk, black metal, industrial, martial, power electronics and other related genres. Genres that have a persistent strand of fascism running through them (I emphasise; a strand - the genres themselves are not political in this way). Despite protests over the years it continues to host fascist bands, and Pearce is more than aware of the reception which is likely to greet his own appearances. Of his 30th Anniversary live schedule, he stated that "we are trying to make performances as accessible geographically as possible. And we trust we 'let the right ones in'. Please remember that some performance locations will be kept secret until the last moment for very good reasons. Not everyone out there in internetland and elsewhere has our best interests at heart. Far from it! (.......) Careless talk can be the difference between a show happening - or attracting 'problems' for scurrilous reasons at the last moment - which could lead to cancellation."

Belarusian officials consider Death In June to be “British neo-fascists of international fame” who “openly promote Third Reich ideas”, and banned their Minsk concert which was timed to commemorate Germany's assault on Russia in 1941. It seems that Tidal Concerts and Electrowerkz have no such qualms.

Postscript 2012-11-19 

Facebook page for the Demonstration Against Death in June Concert in Wien >>