Taking a break from book reviews for a moment for something completely different.
Here’s where I alienate all the people coming here looking for parental advisories.
Anyways. I promised a confession.
Here it is: I used to be a huge neofolk fan. Death in June (henceforth DI6) in particular.
It’s not something I’m particularly proud of (at least not now), but it brings to mind a more complicated version of the “is it possible to enjoy problematic art? And what about art by people with despicable personal views?”
It’s not just a right wing thing either – there’s a radical leftist singer/songwriter that I have qualms about as well.
I’m going to get autobiographical before I get into that stuff though. This got incredibly long as I was writing it so I’m going to split it up into multiple posts.
My introduction to DI6 was two-fronted: one was a natural consequence of seeking out new music by artists I liked already. The other front was social.
Musically, the whole thing started with Bauhaus. That lead to a Cleopatra records sampler, which lead to a five dollar darkwave sampler that featured a Mission UK remix of Christian Death’s Spiritual cramp. It was obnoxious and bombastic and while I was unimpressed by the rest of the album it made me seek out more Christian Death. Unfortunately what I found was the more recent Valor-fronted band which is really just terrible. Eventually I got ahold of some of the Roz-era stuff. That lead to Boyd Rice.
I was never a big fan of Boyd Rice, to be honest. But that’s more or less what lead me to DI6 musically. This all mostly happened while I was still in high school.
The social thing was a combination of having a very compartmentalized social life, where none of the people I hung out with individually were friends with each other, and one friend in particular.
This friend was an occasional member of the Church of Satan, so I’ll call him “A”, after Anton LeVay. A loved DI6. He came to it through black metal and was something of a neofolk evangelist. His political views varied widely from one day to the next, but looking back they were consistently right wing. If it had been a thing at the time he probably would have been a dark enlightenment type. No, I was not friends with Davis Aurini, but A had plenty in common with him.
I met A my freshman year of college. At the time I glossed over the right wing nature of A’s politics. I think it was wishful thinking, since none of the other friends I made in college were interested in talking occultism, weird politics, or weird music. The fact that I didn’t get along with the existing punk establishment didn’t help. I went to a couple of shows and got frustrated by the gatekeeping from the younger punks and the entitled upper middle class white angst of the older ones. The indie kids (what we called them at the time, they’d be recognized as hipsters now) were even worse when it came to gatekeeping, since it wasn’t enough to like the same music; you also weren’t allowed to like any other music.
So really this was the only friend I had who shared many of my passions, which meant I probably overlooked a lot more than I really should have.
I will say I wasn’t the only one who did this. He had had a hard life and was understandably bitter, so there was more than one person who was willing to write off his more problematic positions (primarily antifeminism at the time).
So it was through this friend that I actually got access to DI6 and neofolk in general. We both self identified as leftists at the time, and because this fried regularly talked about how uncomfortable he was with NSBM and the neonazi presence in the black metal scene I was inclined to believe him when he said that the accusations against Douglas P were built around misunderstandings of his lyrics and imagery.
It helped that neofolk was exactly the music I had been searching for. Largely acoustic but still not afraid of experimentation it had a lot of the things I liked about othe genres (indie, free jazz) but without the whining and gatekeeping from the indie scene while also being less aggressively atonal as more experimental stuff. Dealing with (at the time) undiagnosed depression was probably a factor as well, and it was exciting to try and catch all of the literary allusions in the lyrics.
What it comes down to is that neofolk was pretentious in a way that appealed to me and made me feel special for “getting” it. While there were definitely aspects of the music and the scene I was uncomfortable with, I wrote them off at the time as references to Maldoror, or attempts to be subversive and push artistic boundaries.
So that, more or less, is what lead me to DI6. The next post will cover my gradual disillusionment with the scene. My third (and probably final?) post about this will cover my thoughts about the issues posed, both specifically with regards to DI6 and the neofolk genre and generally with regards to art in General and where we draw boundaries of appropriateness.