Death In June - The Wall Of Sacrifice PlusReissued to commemorate its 31 year anniversary Death In June reissue The Wall Of Sacrifice in an expanded edition on CD accompanied by a 3 track seven-inch single under the title The Wall Of Sacrifice Plus. The Wall Of Sacrifice was originally only available direct from the NER mail order service and select retailers. Announced as possibly being the final Death in June album it was an album that was at points bleak, reflecting Douglas P.'s then state of mind, as well as offering tracks that would become enduring classics in the canon of Death In June.
Opening to sombre chimes and piano notes which continues throughout the title track Nikolas Schreck, then of Radio Werewolf and best known as editor of The Manson File, a book he has subsequently meticulously expanded, opens the proceedings with a swiped line from an anonymous London child - "first you take a heart then you tear it apart" - over rolling snare drums, and an assortment of Germanic voice samples and spirited fanfares. Its post-industrial soundscaped approach is reminiscent of that found on 'Death Of A Man' from The World That Summer and even, dare I say it, some of Current 93's early collaged pieces. 'Death Is A Drummer' was darker still; a complex military-industrial sound layered with sampled collage and e-bow dissonance lightened only by the intermittent airy harmonics of Rose McDowall, who lent her bittersweet tones to a number of tracks here including 'Heilige Leben' which revisited the subtle strains of The World That Summer with its elongated keyboard drone.
The hefty price tag upon its original vinyl issue and the inclusion of a number of atmospheric tracks succeeded in dissuading all but the most ardent Death In June fanatics. However The Wall Of Sacrifice has aged remarkably well and is noteworthy for the inclusion of some of Death In June's finest moments: the Mishima influenced 'Giddy Giddy Carousel', 'Fall Apart' and 'Hullo Angel'. These shouldn't overshadow the noteworthy contributions from David Tibet and Boyd Rice. Boyd delineates his much maligned "might is right" philosophy on the introduction to 'Bring In The Night', a tract intended to feature in Boyd's never published Nine Psalms of the Apocalypse. 'Bring In The Night' captured the unholy trinity of Rose, Tibet and Douglas at their peak delivering such lines as "We can only care if we can cull". Tibet delivered what he considered one of his finest vocal outings for Death In June on 'In Sacrilege' above stern acoustic strum and e-bow discord. The Wall Of Sacrifice achieved a quality and clarity that the Current 93 material of the era only hinted at. Death In June carried it off with a certain dark panache, the songs of dreams, destiny and (dis)order sounded utterly beguiling and threatening. The fact that at the time The Wall Of Sacrifice was purported to be the final Death In June album only heightened the mystique. And it was unique. Most of today's exponents of the genre still don't come close. Death In June would reappear some three years later, reinvigorated and refreshed on the autumnal folk sounding But, What Ends When The Symbols Shatter? but the overriding feel of The Wall Of Sacrifice was bleak and despondent.
This edition is appended with 2005 re-recordings of 'Giddy Giddy Carousel', 'Fall Apart' and 'Hullo Angel' performed in a stripped back acoustic "totenpop" style more akin to the sound of latter day Death In June live shows while the single features album versions of 'Fall Apart', 'Giddy Giddy Carousel' along with the 2002 re-recording of 'In Sacrilege', as originally featured on Abandon Tracks, with Douglas P. taking control of all the vocals.
The Wall Of Sacrifice Plus is released by Steelwork Maschine in a number of coloured editions housed in a 7-inch styled gatefold sleeve with period photographs.
This reissue offered us the opportunity to question Douglas P. about the album and the period in which it was recorded. It's an era of Death In June that has always intrigued us and in looking back it is one which Douglas P. now refers to as "a trip down Misery Lane". It's always a pleasure to interview Douglas P. and it is one we hope you enjoy.
i) When The Wall Of Sacrifice was originally released in 1989 it was sold via mail-order and in a limited vinyl run of just 600 copies. What were the reasons for making it so limited, as I'm sure it could have sold a lot more?
There were several reasons why I initially decided to sell it as a limited edition via the NER Mail Order Service and all of them were basically wrong, with the exception that it did provide me quickly with a large, direct amount of money which I needed. It was with that money that I got to Australia for the first time a few weeks after its release! My personal self-esteem was low, I wasn't really sure if there were enough hardcore Death In June fans in the World that would be interested in this album, as I felt it was a difficult one for most to listen to, and I wanted a more personal way of saying "Goodbye" to those who were actually interested! I'd work in my office/my bedroom to 4 a.m. everyday, have a few hours sleep and carry sack loads of orders over to the Post Office almost opposite the flat I then lived in near Heathrow Airport. After I'd given Rough Trade Distribution a few copies to sell it sold out really fast. And that's when all the moaning began! It was way too limited, loads of fans were pissed off they couldn't get their hands on a copy and it caused more grief for me than it was worth. It was a silly decision that was partly rectified a few years later by utilizing a bizarre misprint the factory had done of 400 copies of the LP sleeve in red, a Japanese bootleg being released which I might have got some money out of but never did as, with the aid of a very large and sharp kitchen knife I'd bought specially for the occasion, I seized the bulk of the pressing I found at the place in Tokyo that was distributing it. With the aid of Rose McDowall and David Tibet I took all the boxes out into the middle of the busy street outside and in a fit of rage was going to set fire to them all. Tibet pleaded with me not to so I pissed all over them instead. What I should have done was of course tried to find an alternative, legal distribution outlet for them but I was pretty volatile in those days. The Wall Of Sacrifice definitely had a difficult birth all those years ago.
ii) A Death In June mail-order leaflet of the time carried a statement where you spoke of apathy and of becoming one with too many negatives. The album was advertised as being almost certainly the best and possibly the last LP. It certainly spawned some enduring Death In June classics such as 'Giddy Giddy Carousel', 'Fall Apart', and 'Hullo Angel' but what lay behind the claim that it may be the last LP?
I wish I could find the leaflets that used to accompany Death In June releases available via NER Mail Order back in those days as I know I used to deliberately put in something cryptic or an unused lyric to perhaps create intrigue, and to also perhaps subconsciously inspire me at some stage down the track. I do have an archive file of them somewhere but alas Fort Nada has become so disorganized in the past few years that I can't find them to check to see what I actually did write. Regardless, by 1988 I know I was totally running on empty having survived some of the toughest years of my Life. My early 30s were hard years for me emotionally, financially, physically, on every level in fact. You could say I'd hit a brick wall and that turned out to be The Wall Of Sacrifice!
iii) What was the The Wall Of Sacrifice as referenced by the title?
I had a dream in which there was a burning house with what looked like a gnome or pixie of some sort sitting on the roof. He indicated that I should enter the burning building and once inside I was ushered to a room upstairs which had one wall covered in thick ice. However, inside this ice wall was what looked like large veins of blood and as the building burned the heat melted the ice and the blood flowed in different directions. This indicated how my Life would flow and it was called The Wall Of Sacrifice.
iv) Death In June sleeves have always been executed with a sense of beauty and intrigue but 'In Sacrilege' was omitted from the track listing on the original vinyl release, was this intentional or a rare oversight?
In truth I can't really remember if it was deliberate or an oversight but I do recall that Tibet had been speaking to me about how only God could create something 'perfect' and that's why Persian carpet makers always put a deliberate mistake in the designs of their carpets so as not to offend God. It was still in the days of laborious Letraset so I might have forgotten to put that title on when doing the design and then thought about the offending God thing so decided to leave it as such rather than correct it?
v) How did Nikolas Schreck (editor of The Manson File) come to be involved in Death In June? Were you aware of his work beforehand, how did you meet him?
I was actually introduced to him at the book launch of The Manson File at a bookshop in North London. We got on well, said he was in London for a few days and me being the only one who had a car in that scene, my trusty old VW Beetle 'Herman', I offered to show him some of the sites he expressed an interest in like Brookwood Cemetery, where so many Death In June photo shoots had taken place, and Mychett Place (Camp Z) where Rudolf Hess had been held as a prisoner during WWII and was very close to near where I used to live. From that association came the idea of inviting him into the studio one day and asking him to record what became the start of the album. He left as soon as he'd done that and I've never seen him since.
vi) "First you take a heart then you tear it apart", a quote that appears on The Wall Of Sacrifice has been attributed to something overheard either by you, by David Tibet or by both of you, but could you confirm its origins?
I think it was the very first day of recordings at The Greenhouse Studios in North London where I'd never been before and Tibet and I were walking past this old bomb site which had become a local car park and a little girl came skipping towards us singing those words, or what we thought were those words! It was really weird but I took that as a propitious sign and thought I could use them. That's where Nikolas Schreck came in handy some months later!
vii) I don't recognise the voice that whispers "Heilige Tod" and "Hope Has Brought, Us This Far, Far Enough, To Cut Our Heart To Pieces" on the opening title track, whose voice is that?
That's me whispering and multi-tracked.
viii) Andrea James from Somewhere In Europe features on the album. I think she first worked with Death In June on The World That Summer and subsequently Brown Book. What role did she play in Death In June and specifically on The Wall Of Sacrifice? Was this the last time she performed with Death In June. Whatever happened to her and David Tiffen? Are you still in contact?
She was brought in to play bass on some songs in the studio during that 1986-88 period and to do some backing vocals, a lot of which ended up sounding beautiful and enigmatic backwards. I met David and Andrea via their 'Certain Gestures' fanzine as they were the first people to do an article about Death In June and David Tiffen took a lot of the photos of the group both at early live performances and at photo shoots during the 1980s. From that aspect of things they were very important but once the '90s arrived that seemed to naturally fade. I did some guitar work and some backing vocals on a few Somewhere In Europe songs and we kept in touch socially until about 1999. I don't think they wanted anything to do with the implosion and its fallout of what happened at wsd (World Serpent Distribution) at that time and I couldn't blame them.
ix) Around this period both Death In June and Current 93 were collaborating with Boyd Rice who was supplying spoken word contributions. 'Bring In The Night' marked the first time you recorded with Boyd Rice. I don't think you had met at this point but did you have input into his recordings or were they received already completed? They were apparently intended as part of a fuller work, Nine Psalms of the Apocalypse, were you aware of that?
I didn't actually meet Boyd until after the recordings for TWOS were over and it was in its manufacturing stage in December, 1988 in Tokyo where we were scheduled to do some joint performances together. All previous contact had been via the telephone or post. I can't remember if he'd told me that those lyrics were part of something else planned but that's what he sent me. So much was happening during those intense years that I must admit much of it is becoming to blur over 30 years on.
x) 'Hullo Angel' first appeared as 'Angel' on the Current 93's album Swastikas For Noddy. You co-wrote many songs with David Tibet but I've always wondered why you chose this one to also feature on The Wall Of Sacrifice? The Wall Of Sacrifice version sounded richer and more complete so how did recordings sessions between the two groups differ?
'Hullo Angel' is one of the few songs that came to me almost ready formed as I picked up the guitar one day in the Summer of '86 whilst staying in Tibet's library in his basement flat at Enclave Ex, the Occult/Pagan Bunker that Freya Aswynn owned in North London. I immediately went next door to play it to Tibet and that little gem materialized immediately. It was like rubbing a lantern and a Genie coming out so that Magick I wanted to add onto The Wall Of Sacrifice. I felt it also needed a bit of a makeover in the real DIJ way rather than the c93 way. He used IPS Studios in Shepherd's Bush and I used The Greenhouse Studios in Old Street, London for the bulk of this album as my usual Alaska Studios at Waterloo were heavily booked out and I felt like a change anyway. The difference between the studios and the different sound engineers was like chalk and cheese. I enjoyed working with c93 in those circumstances but Tibet's way of recording an album and mine were very different and was bound to show down the track. It's an appropriate juxtaposition.
xi) You have re-recorded a number of tracks from The Wall Of Sacrifice but remix versions of 'Giddy Giddy Carousel' and 'Fall Apart' featured on the Sacred War compilation, and a previous reissue of The Wall Of Sacrifice featured an additional short version of 'Heilige Tod' why did you choose not to feature these on The Wall Of Sacrifice Plus?
I felt it would be overkill and I liked the overall feel of this version of the album as a whole. Too much would have been exactly that - too much!
xii) The title track and 'Death Is A Drummer' were atmospheric almost post-industrial soundscapes. I've always wondered how you conceived and composed these sort of tracks, would you care to expand on the process of their creation and recording? What were you trying to convey? What did you mean by 'Death Is A Drummer'? Did you ever perform these tracks live?
My initial approach to the album was that it was going to be my 'Metal Machine Music', an album I in fact only listened to for the first time in 2019. I merely liked the idea that that album was going to be Lou Reed's grand finale. In line with that ethos The Wall Of Sacrifice was my rejection of where I was musically, mentally and socially. The military-industrial musical and sampled collaging came about naturally and I know that I wouldn't ever be able to reproduce that again and nor would I want to so, I've never attempted to perform those tracks live. A river only flows past a particular place once and so it was with this album. The odd thing was that whilst throwing myself into those turbulent waters some notable guitar tracks came out of me trying to keep my head above water. They were all very much a surprise.
xiii) 'Death Is A Drummer' now makes me think of John Murphy, who of course collaborated with you over the years and latterly worked with Nikolas Schreck on some sonic rituals just months before he passed away? Do you care to share some words about working with John and his passing?
John was an enigmatic figure who could sometimes be infuriating and sometimes a total genius, especially on stage. I'd met him briefly in 1983 when he was working with c93 and I was aware of his subsequent work with SPK and The Associates etc. When our paths accidently crossed again in 1996 in Sydney it seemed fated. By then I was well and truly settled into living mostly in Australia and I was looking for a live percussionist. Likewise he was looking for a way of resurrecting his Life and career which had fallen into the doldrums. We both gave each other what we wanted at the time and I enjoyed our sometimes very deep conversations we had as we both had an understanding of where we had come from, where we were and where we may be going. I remember well during one of my down periods where I expressed to him how uncertain and nervous I was but he replied that I was wrong and that I really had things together more than I knew and shouldn't worry. I found that quite inspirational coming from him. The first I knew John had health issues was standing outside our hotel in Hollywood November, 2014 waiting for our taxis to L.A. Airport. This was a hotel that Marilyn Monroe and James Dean had stayed at early in their careers and he'd by chance been given Marilyn's old room that previous night and was telling me how noisy it had been being situated at the bottom of a stairwell. He then told me he hadn't been feeling all that great, been finding a lot of blood in his toilet and was going to see a doctor soon after returning to Berlin where he then lived. He had one more Euro-tour with DIJ in him that following December and I'll always remember at the final show in Turin, Italy him ending with the loudest drum beat I'd ever heard from him. I looked over at him and immediately thought that was his last beat of the drum with Death In June and it proved to be. His was soon in hospital undergoing many operations and by October, 2015 he was dead. It was very sad and very quick.
xiv) A sense of resignation quite often hangs off your work but The Wall Of Sacrifice seemed starker, bleaker and darker than most of your work up to that point. Was that something you were aware of at the time or a "feeling" picked up by others such as David Tibet, Rose McDowall and your sound engineer Jan O' aka Iain O'Higgins during the recording process?
Yes, I was very aware of it at the time and so were others around me. By the end of the studio recordings people weren't dropping by like they used to or, if they did, they didn't stay long. On the final night of recording even the usually very understanding Ian O'Higgins was getting on edge about the mix of 'Death Is A Drummer' and basically said he needed a break and left me to finish it. Geff Rushton/Jonh Balance had come over to visit probably more out of morbid curiosity than anything else and was there remaining with me. However, as the mix progressed he started getting really fidgety, said he didn't like the atmosphere in the studio that was beginning to descend, wasn't feeling well and basically left very, very quickly! I, myself, however was feeling more and more elated at how the mix was going and was on a high at the end of it as I finished everything on my own. It couldn't have been more symbolically correct! That was a weird night the final night.
xv) Symbolism has always been important to you and in the inserts and booklets for the various editions of The Wall Of Sacrifice you were photographed with various items including books, a crow, a dagger, a helmet, and images of Yukio Mishima and Jean Genet, would you care to share your reasons for their inclusion and how, if at all, they related to the album?
They all summed up where I was at that point in my Life/career and had all helped me get there. They were all very important parts of me. Symbolically they neatly sum up 1985-88. They were a Neo-Pop Art statement for a Neo-Folk Industrial moment!
xvi) David Tibet has mentioned that the insert cover of The Wall Of Sacrifice was the starting point for the Current 93 track 'A Song For Douglas After He's Dead'. Without dwelling on what has since past, how did you feel at the time about him writing such a touching song about his feelings for you? And is your mercury still dancing?
We've never really spoken about that song although I must admit I felt a little awkward about it at the time. However, it has to be seen in the light of how close friends of mine were viewing me during that period. Both Tibet and my oldest and best friend from school days, who did not know each other personally, had described me as "a ghost walking the streets of London"! It was a phrase I couldn't forget and it was obvious I was 'dying' there and that's one of the reasons why I decided to visit Australia for the first time in early March, 1989. I knew I needed to escape, change, whatever, to save whatever was remaining of Myself so I went as far away as possible, to something as different as possible but, that had been calling to me for years to see if I could find a solution.
xvii) Even though you contemplated The Wall Of Sacrifice as being the final Death In June album, the insert sowed the seeds for But, What Ends When The Symbols Shatter? referencing what would become the opening lines of that album. ...Symbols Shatter? was undoubtedly Death In June but something had changed. It appeared revived, rejuvenated with a richer more autumnal sound and perhaps more optimistic than what had come before. In retrospect, is that an opinion you would agree with? And if so, can you shed light on what if anything had changed personally and spiritually and in terms of recording between those albums?
Between recording The Wall Of Sacrifice in 1988 and the recording and releasing of But, What Ends When The Symbols Shatter? in 1992 a great deal had happened to me, not least of which was my trip to Australia in '89. After 3 months I came back 'different' and very quickly started having a new social circle that helped changed things into something which became more optimistic. It wasn't an overnight thing but I knew my days in England were coming to a close in one way or another. That influenced everything I did and became and a natural extension of that was ...Symbols Shatter?
xviii) Often after completing an album you've celebrated, what were you feelings after finishing The Wall Of Sacrifice? It is an album shrouded with ghosts of your past but now with the benefit of hindsight how do you feel about The Wall Of Sacrifice and the period surrounding its recording?
It was definitely a crux album, a musical and philosophical crossroads in my Life and career. My saviour album. It got me to Australia which I suppose can be seen as the celebration and Life would be very different if that had not have happened. It's gained a great deal of importance to me over the years but I definitely wouldn't want to return to those days.
xix) Anything else you care to add?
Remembering many of these events from over 30 years ago hasn't been particularly pleasant. My early 30s were hard years and I suppose The Wall Of Sacrifice was the catalyst where I thankfully managed to turn things around. It's been an interesting trip down Misery Lane.
Douglas P. 6.II.20.
Death In June