The Honour of Silence Tour
Live in Paris, France on May 6, 2015
Written & photographed by Ian Campbell
I had just set foot on European soil for the first time a few days previous, and was going from performing at an Antifa stronghold in Copenhagen, to a Death in June show in Paris in the space of just a few days. The irony was not lost on me.
I mentioned this to T.J. Cowgill as we shared a ride to the airport on our way out of Denmark, leaving from the last edition of the Heavy Days In Doomtown festival where we had just performed, he as King Dude, and I playing backing guitar for Night Profound. After we chuckled about the dichotomy a bit, he mentioned that DI6 draws a bit of a different crowd in Europe these days. Apparently, Douglas P.’s songs appeal to the hip, young Parisian student crowds as much as the button-downed neofolk hardliners. T.J., who had opened for Death in June in the past, also assured me that the days of boot stomping skinheads making any kind of appearance in the crowd is long over. “It’s not like the Boyd Rice days,” he said with a laugh.
I spent the next few days travelling through the beautiful countryside of The Netherlands, encountering old friends and new, before continuing to Paris by train. Arriving early in the morning, I met up with a new French friend I had made in Copenhagen and we enjoyed a day of croissants, coffee, cafes, and quintessentially touristy French things. Soon, we went our own ways for the evening and I set out to find the mysterious venue, directions to which had been emailed earlier that day, presumably to avoid protests from local misguided antifascist groups. I still was not sure what to expect, even shortly after stepping off the metro and ascending to the street. I spotted a large map of the area and also noticed that a fellow in a The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath A Cloud shirt was eyeing it as well. “He must be going to the concert too” I thought. Dreading the eventual admission that I don’t speak French, I cautiously asked “Death In June?” He nodded and soon we teamed up, off to find the venue together, exchanging a few words in English as we went. We wove through a few streets and avenues until arriving to a somewhat seedy looking dead-end alleyway. The GPS was telling us to go down it, who were we to argue? As we were drawing nearer to the end, we started to notice some people milling around who were dressed decidedly goth or at least “alternative.” Must be the right place.
From the location, I was expecting the inside to be some sort of rock club or bar…. and I could not have been more wrong. Stepping through the door was like stepping back in time into some kind of pre-war French salon. The floors were beautifully tiled, the stairs down to the performance space were brightly lit, and many of the attendees dressed as if they were attending a grand ball, albeit, one which still called for a lot of black clothing. The crowd was just so… European: beautiful Parisian women in long dresses, men in button-up shirts and ties, and me, a goofy looking Canadian in a wool sweater. Perhaps I was just enamoured with the classiness in which Europeans generally present themselves, but underground music rarely, if ever, receives such treatment in North America. Soon enough, I noticed a large flag hanging on the stage: a European Union flag emblazoned with a totenkopf in the center. In front of it, Douglas P.’s rainbow flag draped over a drum. Well, I’m definitely at the right place.
Also unlike North America, concerts in France actually start when they are advertised to. Being used to lax start times meant I had already missed Joy of Life‘s set and only had a few minutes to look through the bands’ merchandise and distro tables (the selection of which would make any neofolk fan’s head spin) before Die Weisse Rose took the stage.
Die Weisse Rose footage from Paris.
Thomas Bøjden, Kim Larsen, and Gary Carey appeared on stage, clad in smart black. The latter two took places behind percussive setups made up of tom drums and cymbals, while Bøjden stood center stage behind the microphone. I’ll admit that I have never been someone who is heavily into martial industrial music, in fact, I often find it tedious. But I must say, while standing in Paris and hearing the stirring beat of the drums, along with Bøjden’s powerful words was certainly a revelation – I was completely swept up in this live performance. Something about it was a reminder that I was actually standing here, in Paris. I had wanted to visit Europe since I was a child, and I was finally here! After just performing at an amazing festival and now watching some of my favorite musical acts in one of the most historic cities in the world: What a feeling! In a very Buddhist-like state, I was able to just exist in the moment and enjoy what was happening in that beautiful theater. Once more, Die Weisse Rose did more than just entertain; their music evoked something that has never come easy to me, personal pride.
Soon after Bøjden and Carey departed, Kim Larsen returned to the stage alone, bearing his rune-inscribed acoustic guitar. After a swig of beer he began to conjure :Of the Wand and the Moon:’s songs of loneliness, love, and despair. After a winter of experiencing some intense versions of those emotions, :Of the Wand and the Moon:’s music finally connected with me in a very meaningful light, and it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say those songs were also an important part of the healing process. The stripped-down, solo performance only added to the intimate atmosphere that most of Larsen’s songs already hold. From the opening of “Wonderful Wonderful Sun”, I was entranced instantly. Larsen took us through a journey of much of his catalogue in those short 30 minutes. “Hail Hail Hail II,” from Sonnenheim, “Sunspot” from The Lone Descent. “Shine Black Algiz” from the eponymous 7” was a more obscure and pleasant surprise. An energetic rendition of “Lion Serpent Sun” and the heartbreaking “I Crave for You” represented Nighttime Nightrhymes. Larsen ended “A Tomb of Seasoned Dye” with a simple “thank you” to a hearty and sincere applause. There were many open tears shed unabashedly on my part during that short time, and I somehow doubt I was the only one. Larsen has a true gift in the catharsis he is able to inspire, thank the gods he shares it as he does.
I gleefully noticed afterwards that the songs of the neofolk parody band, Death In Rome were now playing over the PA, one after the other. I chuckled to myself quietly while watching some audience members visibly annoyed by the dulcet tones of “Barbie Girl” preceding Death in June’s arrival on stage. The ridiculousness of the situation caused me to laugh out loud to myself many times over the next few days. It still brings a smile to my face in the retelling.
The lights darkened once again, and the first figure to appear on the stage took up an accordion. This was Miro Snejdr, also known as Herr Lounge Corps, who stood as Douglas’s accompaniment for the first half hour of Death in June’s performance. Douglas Pearce appeared in his iconic mask and camouflage, taking his place behind the microphone. The next twenty minutes or so were dedicated to accordion renditions of classic songs, beginning with “He’s Disabled,” also including “Fall Apart,” “Rose Clouds of Holocaust” , “Hail the White Grain” (with Carey of Joy of Life joining in vocals) among others.
As the set had it’s first musical shift of the night, Snejdr put down his accordion, and both he and Douglas picked up shakers that were used to keep synchronized timing and beat their drums as Douglas recited some spoken words over various tape samples. The first song was a lyrically modified version of “We Drive East” which Douglas scathingly referenced “the Jihadist beast” in regards to the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks. “To die for a cartoon/is a death too soon” he sung between shakes of the rattle and jingle bells. This noticeably got some of the Parisian crowd riled up. Understandably, perhaps, when considering the storm of shock and controversy following the murders. This was not to be over-dramatic and say Death in June were inciting anything, but one could feel the hurt and anger rearing its head in a subtle way during that particular song. After a few more tracks in a similar style, Snejdr kept a steady beat with his shakers as Douglas retreated from sight to take off his mask and pick up his twelve-string guitar. During the interlude, the same tape-loop of dialogue from the cult TV show The Prisoner kept repeating, providing a creepy ambiance courtesy of the voice of the character, Number 2. “You must not grow up to be a lone wolf!” he exclaimed over and over.
Soon Snejdr took his exit and Douglas implored the crowd to give him a hand. The rest of the show consisted of a lone figure and his guitar, taking us through 45 minutes of songs from the past 30 years. “The Honour of Silence” from the seminal Nada! Album came first, then later would bring “She Said Destroy” from the same album. I was pleasantly surprised to hear “Good Morning Sun” from The Rule of Thirds, one of my favorites from Death in June’s discography (of which I happily snagged a signed copy from the merch table), album included. All Pigs Must Die was heavily represented as well, with “The Flies Will Have Their House,” “The Enemy Within” as well as the title track all being played. Perhaps to no one’s surprise, Douglas also played many songs from the classic But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter including “The Mourners Bench” and “Because of Him.” Although he broke a string while playing “Little Black Angel” (which actually had the rather stern audience singing along) and had some lyrical mix-ups on “But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter”, he took it all in stride, as one would expect of such a veteran performer.
After finishing up “All Pigs Must Die”, Douglas left the stage temporarily. The sense that an encore was coming was in the air, and soon Snejdr reappeared at his drums, while Douglas followed suite and went back to his. The unmistakable tape loop accompanying “C’est Un Rêve” began and the audience cheered as loud as they had all night. The rendition of the song, now asking not only of the whereabouts of Klaus Barbie, but Bin Laden, Gadaffi and Putin as well, was as stirring as it was strange. When Douglas cried “Liberté! C’est un rêve!” many in the crowd responded with raised fists and shouts of “liberté!” echoed. The song ended suddenly to a great eruption of cheering. Douglas picked up his iconic mask and bid us all adieu by waving it and saluting us as he left the stage for the last time.
Death in June footage from Paris.
After meeting up with Kentin Jivek (who had also been in attendance) and Miro Snejdr while briefly speaking about their collaboration album I had reviewed for Heathen Harvest last year, I headed back to my hostel, eager for solitude and introspection, which I was mercifully granted, as my room was empty of snoring roommates for the night. I had been struggling with my own creativity in the months before my trip to Europe, but seeing such intimate performances from legendary artists did much in the way of inspiration. It also steeled my resolve to continue to work at furthering important art in my own community at home. The night was more than just “a show”. Indeed, it was a rejuvenation.