From Crisis to Death in June
We present an extract from I.C.R.N. member Peter Webb’s new book, `Exploring the Networked Worlds of Popular Music: Milieu Cultures’.
This section is taken from Chapter Four of the book: Neo-folk or Post-industrial music: The development of an esoteric music milieu and addresses directly the ideological controversies surrounding DIJ.
The full chapter contents are:
1 - Influences, musical milieu, musical lifeworld,
2 - Death In June and the developing esoteric music milieu of the 1980s
3 - From political crisis to the creativity of the `petit mort' of
4 - From Crisis to Death In June.
5 - Paganism, Heathenism and the spiritual element.
6 - Politics, philosophy and ambiguity.
7 - Conclusion.
As the 1980s started and the post punk element of the music scene developed (see Reynolds, S, 2005) the two founder members of Crisis had decided to move in an entirely different direction than before. Their belief in left wing politics had been chipped away at by the dogma, chaotic organization and blind membership drives of the far left groups they had been a part of. Now they looked away from the politics of the left to an aesthetic and artistic understanding driven by a creative vision that combined some of the iconography of fascism and the spirituality of a European past that looked to its pagan traditions rather than those of Christianity and ideas from writers such as Jean Genet, Yukio Mishima, Mirbeau and Lautremont. Musically a mixture of Scott Walker, Ennio Morricone, The Beatles, Love, The Velvet Underground, Joy Division and military percussion and trumpet calls were folded into the new project of Death in June. The art of Death in June would be provocative and would `aim to please with constant unease’
The main symbols used by the band to identify them and their releases is a modified Death’s Head or Totenkopf which was used by the Prussian army under
Take a walk down
The soil is soft and the air smells sweet
Paul is waiting there
And so is Franz
Now only memories run on railway tracks.
This road leads to Heaven.
Waiting feet frozen to the ground
The earth exploding with the gas of bodies
To crush you down
Now only flowers
This road leads to Heaven
(Taken from the DIJ website – www.deathinjune.net )
The material refers to the period of history that would dominate many discussions of the group who deliberately were ambiguous about any political meaning that they may be conveying. The rise of Nazi Germany and the period of the Second World War was one that was pertinent to all three members of the group.
The connection with World war 2 was a very real thing for me since my father fought through from Dunkirk onwards and beyond and so stories around the Sunday roast from my father , uncles and others infused a memory that very much connected me to a romantic but realistic awareness about that time. Wearing a German helmet and playing with old
Sometime late in 1979 I'd seen a documentary on television about a woman who had survived the war by working in the Kanada Kommando of one of the death camps. As you probably know, this was the work detachment of inmates that basically cleaned everything up in the camps from the latrines to the corpses and was so-called because it was like a 'holiday' in Canada in comparison to whatever else was going on in these places. Why
On the strength of the documentary I was moved to write the song 'Kanada Kommando' which was the last song I wrote for Crisis and was released on the 'Hymns of Faith' album in early 1980. Shortly after, the group split and Tony Wakeford and myself agreed that we should take a few months off from music, etc and reconvene down the track to see how we could carry on with something different - whatever that would be.
I was working as I petrol pump attendant in this period and during times when no customers would come in I read books. One of these was obviously 'Into That Darkness' which I had found in the local library. I began to write lyrics inspired by this book on FINA note paper, which I still have, and very soon I had the basics of what was to become the very first song I wrote for the still unformed Death In June, 'Heaven Street'.
In the late Summer/early Autumn of 1980 I took my first, of what was to be many, visits to
Whilst visiting a toilet in one of the wineries a local man stood next to me and started humming and whistling. He eventually turned to me and said something along the lines of "We Austrians love music!" When I left the winery shortly after on the opposite side of the road was the street sign reading; Himmelstrasse (
Eventually, when the first rehearsals and then recordings and then performances took place of Death In June I noticed that "Paul is waiting there and so is Franz" sounded very similar to "
The lyrics to the original 'She Said Destroy' were written entirely by David Tibet in 1983 and he claimed he based the title around the French novel 'Destroy, She Said' but obviously tipped his hat in the direction of 'Heaven Street' and its influence in the rest of his text. (Email 16.04.07)
Douglas describes the taking of pieces of information and emotive material from a number of sources here to produce a lyric and piece of music that reflects his reading of the documentary and the book `Into that Darkness’ and some of his experiences whilst traveling and reflecting on the material. He is also developing his own understanding and poetic take on the events that he is referencing. This method of creating lyrics and music and juxtaposing different elements is like a more structured version of William Burroughs and Brian Gysin’s cut up method (Calder, J. 1982). It is also located in a particular time period where, as we have seen, the shadow and effect of World War Two was still being directly felt by the group of young people of
The title of the book; `Into that Darkness’ would appear as another Death in June lyric on the track `She Said Destroy’ which became the third single and marked the groups move towards the use of more acoustic guitar work than the more heavy drum, bass, electric guitar and militaristic trumpet of the early recordings. This approach was coupled with tracks such as `C’est un Reve’ (It’s a dream) which would appear on the bands second LP `NADA!’ and contained the lyrics:
Ou est Klaus Barbie
Ou est Klaus Barbie
Il est dans le coeur
Il est dans le coeur noir
C'est un reve
(Taken from the DIJ website – www.deathinjune.net )
The lyrics here suggest that we will find Klaus Barbie (Chief of the Gestapo in Lyon, France 1942-1944, responsible for many deportations of Jews to the concentration camps) in the dark heart and that
….i would like to submit some ideas to you. I wouldn't want to stress these questions (that you certainly used to hear all the time, often asked in a tendentious manner) but I feel the paramilitary image as a symbolic warning against all the things the uniform represents. The provocation is a way to incite reflection, not remaining passive, not being easily influenced or manipulated, with a personal and omnipresent rigor and will. But, on the other side, and don't think that there's a mental reservation; the fact that you are homosexual could make the uniform a simple fetish object, indeed sexual (as I’ve read in an interview in '84).
In response to this
Except for the idea that anything to do with DEATH IN JUNE is "fun" then I can't disagree with the other theories you forward. There is more, much more but, I draw the line at "explaining the line of DIJ". This is because I find that demeaning. Those who understand do and those who don’t won't! Life is too short to spend too much time talking, until you are blue in the face. The time for pontification and overindulgence in analysis are over. Actions speak louder than words! Time is running out like water from a sink.
The milieu of Industrial music culture, punk and post-punk contained many contradictions, philosophical and political discussions, use of imagery and aesthetics as provocation and stimulation or questioning, and the exploration of many positions of different politics, ideologies, spiritualities and esoteric matter. Throbbing Gristle, pioneers of British avant-garde industrial music had used a lightening flash insignia which had been used by many different militaries across the world but because a variation of it had been used by the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s questions were raised in the press about Throbbing Gristles politics. The band themselves adapted it from their look at military insignia and David Bowies flash make-up used during his Ziggy Stardust period (Ford, S, 1999). Joy Division, the post punk band who had taken their name from the concentration camp inmates who were used as prostitutes for the guards of the camps, were also accused of fascist sympathies simply on the strength of their name and the groups on stage 1930s look of trousers, shirts and ties. Theatre of Hate became Spear of Destiny in 1983 also were accused of flirting with fascist imagery because of the myths surrounding the Spear of Destiny and the Nazi regime in
Peter Webb’s, `Exploring the Networked Worlds of Popular Music: Milieu Cultures’, is published by Routledge. ISBN 0-415-95658-7. For further details see:
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