Charles Powne, owner of Soleilmoon Recordings, recently responded to an inquiry from Portland, Oregon’s Willamette Weekly (WW) regarding SPLC’s listing of his music label as a seller of “Hate Music.” Powne said, "The solution to bad speech is not to shut it down, but to overcome it with more speech.”
We couldn’t agree more. But freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from criticism, which is what our listing represents.
Soleilmoon makes a concerted effort to promote and cast the band Death in June as the centerpiece of the label's efforts. Powne admitted this to WW, and that fact is further evidenced by the reciprocal promotion of Soleilmoon on Death In June’s (DIJ) own website.
[Full disclosure: There was an error on our own website. The category under which Soleilmoon is listed on our online Hate Map should’ve been “Hate Music,” not “Racist Music.” WW brought this error, which we regret, to our attention late on the afternoon of February 23, and we made the correction on our website the following day. The error did not appear in the print edition of our magazine.]
We recognize that Soleilmoon sells music of various political leanings, but DIJ is featured so prominently that the label’s promotion of the band cannot be ignored. Through its online marketplace, Soleilmoon provides a relatively large amount of financial support to DIJ, which is essentially the one-man musical vehicle of Douglas Pearce.
WW notes that the Portland, Oregon label is listed on DIJ website as its “official distributor,” that “Death in June accounted for more than half the label's digital sales," and moved "a couple thousand" units last year.” The article also notes that DIJ is the label’s “top-selling artist.”
Unlike Amazon, Apple and other transnational companies whose vast online marketplaces offer space to DIJ, Soleilmoon is a small, niche label that has made a cornerstone out of DIJ and its revenues. SPLC also criticizes those large transnational companies, the likes of Google and others, on our Hatewatch blog and our website.
What this comes down to is choice — Soleilmoon chooses to tie itself integrally to DIJ and a line must be drawn somewhere. The criteria for recognizing a label as being invested in “Hate Music” isn’t whether the music they sell strikes as overt a posture on-stage or off as Skrewdriver, Brutal Attack, Xenophobia, or other bigoted provocateurs.
We understand that, like Soleilmoon, DIJ draws a diverse group of supporters, and so our listing of Soleilmoon under the “Hate Music” category is more nuanced. Some background regarding DIJ and its figurehead is required.
For the uninitiated, DIJ is principally the project of Douglas Pearce who maintains ties to other far-right musicians; who has admitted on-record to his own far-right extremist views, be they cultural or religious; and whose band exploits themes and images of fascism and Nazism to ambiguous ends, which also deserve direct criticism.
The root of Death in June’s referentiality finds origin in the Sturmabteilung (SA). The SA, or “Brownshirts,” was the vicious paramilitary wing of the NSDAP whose violence helped lift Adolf Hitler to political prominence during the late 1920s to early 1930s. In order to consolidate his absolute power over the NSDAP, the German parliament, and ultimately Germany, Hitler set into motion the Night of the Long Knives on June 30, 1934, purging hundreds of SA members from the party and killing some of its leaders.
Ernst Röhm, a gay man and the SA’s leader, was later executed by the SS.
Douglas Pearce, who is himself a gay man, takes DIJs name from that fateful night. Similarly, Pearce admits to drawing inspiration from the SA and its populist political platform around the time that he and other band members were searching for "a political view for the future.” Robert Forbes cites Pearce in his 1995 text, Misery and Purity: A History and Personal Interpretation of Death In June, as follows: "At the start of the eighties, Tony [Wakeford] and I were involved in radical left politics and beneath it history students. In search of a political view for the future we came across National Bolshevism which is closely connected with the SA hierarchy. People like Gregor Strasser and Ernst Röhm who were later known as 'second revolutionaries' attracted our attention."
Pearce, who regularly refuses comment regarding DIJ's lyrics and speaks in vagaries about his prolific use of Nazi and Holocaust references, is often oblique about his own politics. Revealing moments do exist, though, like those in a 1998 interview with the publication Scapegoat:
Scapegoat: I'm quite inquisitive about some songs, in particular, "Runes and Men" and "Giddy Giddy Carousel."
Douglas: I do not dissect my work in public - it verges on the obscenely indulgent. Sorry!
Scapegoat: In view of the visuals of Death In June, the Totenkoph (sic) is widely used. What does it represent to you?
Douglas: The Totenkoph (sic) 6 is, symbolically, a synthesis of the words "Death In June"; Death, obviously being represented by the skull, and June by the 6th month. Throughout European history the Death's Head had been used as a sign of total commitment, and that is a perfect way of viewing my approach to the group. There is no room for those who's [sic] faith hesitates.
Scapegoat: Visual use of runes appears as well. Do you identify with Norse mythology/Odinism?
Douglas: Yes, obviously. I feel it is part of my duty to be part of the process of resurrection for want of a better word [sic] of my indigenous religion. The Christ-time is nearly over and it's important to awaken the old Gods.
Scapegoat: In interviews you've expressed Eurocentrics. How do you feel about fans that are Eurocentric/Racialist?
Douglas: Depending upon their ' version ' of Eurocentric Racialism, then 9 times out of 10 I feel very comfortable with it. This is how it's supposed to be. I would like to think that the Klu Klux Klan version isn't included in this. Eurocentrics goes beyond reactionary Christian, political militias. I believe in seizing the end of time, not being a passive part of it.
Scapegoat: Presently, your current world view and ideology?
Douglas: Survival by any mean necessary.
In this passage alone, Pearce’s idea of an “indigenous religion” professes to the type of resurgent atavism that compels many extremists who occupy corners and avenues within the neo-folk, industrial, and/or black metal music scenes. Those genres are not solely the territory of political extremists or the hateful, but all do support sub-categories that uphold troubling dogmas. SPLC identify DIJ as traveling along such an avenue.
Pearce’s notion of “awaken[ing] the old Gods” is akin to ideas put forth in Carl Jung’s problematic 1936 essay, “Wotan,” in which he invokes the same notions of resurgent atavism that have been dominion since WWII for those interested in reviving Völkisch practices of nature worship and the occult — particularly Odinism and Wotanism — coupled with Eurocentric claims to “blood and soil.”
Such interpretations appear justified by Pearce’s own admission that he is invested in Eurocentrism, and that “Depending upon their ' version ' of Eurocentric Racialism, then 9 times out of 10 I feel very comfortable.”
His belief in “Survival by any means necessary” is an expression of Social Darwinism, a racist dogma that underpinned the secret societies that intermingled occult and nature worship with ultra-nationalism, and who were the forbearers of the NSDAP and the SS.
Pearce’s on-the-record statements illustrating his own xenophobia and anger regarding the birth rates of those he denigrates only offer further evidence. Similarly, Pearce has professed to a belief in a sort of eugenics, as well, as he has bemoaned that in Europe and elsewhere less desirable people are having too many children. See this 1999 interview.
Pearce’s musical collaborations and personal associations with other extremists are also well documented. Worth particular mention is his work with Boyd Rice, whose project NON Soleilmoon also sells. Other projects in his discography include Projekt Thule, Luftwaffe, Strength Through Joy, Occidental Martyr, and many others. He found mainstream exposure delivering “Canto I” from Dante’s Inferno on a 2008 album by Alkaline Trio, a misstep by this pop-punk band that has previously supported anti-racist causes.
More evidence stems from the early 1990s when Pearce allegedly spent time in Zagreb with the nationalist Croatian paramilitary milita known as the HOS-Militia, reportedly descended from the Ustase Militia established when Yugoslavia was under fascist rule during WWII. Impacted by his time in Zagreb, Pearce recorded a live album, “Something is Coming,” and donated the proceeds of it and the concert to the Bolnichi Clinic, where victims of the sectarian conflict were being treated for life-altering injuries. In a 1996 interview, Pearce claimed, “This was not purely a humanitarian gesture. It was a cultural one. A socio-Euro political one.”
Perhaps no other statement strikes at the complex core of Pearce and DIJ.
Complex, yes, but his intentions and beliefs are clear, as was his willingness to use DIJ as a vehicle for a “socio-Euro political” statement.
In that same interview, he further professes: “Yes, I am totally Eurocentric. I'm not overly concerned with the past but, [sic] I do care about the present and the future. European culture, morals, ethics, whatever are under attack from all sides these days.”
Pearce’s motivations are never singular, to be sure, but a dominant strain that motivates him as an individual and as the driving force behind DIJ is, by his own admission, rooted in bigotry and inspired by the fetishizing of a genocidal regime.
With Pearce and DIJ, the driver and the vehicle are inseparable: Be they political, cultural, sexual, or otherwise, his politics are DIJ's aesthetics. The SS camouflage he wears on stage and in photos is a metaphor, the threads that bind together the fabric are indicative of the threads that bind together Pearce and DIJ.
These are Pearce’s choices made freely, just like it is Soleilmoon’s choice to reap financial gain from providing Pearce/DIJ a marketplace and platform.
Extending from all of the above, our listing of Soleilmoon as a primary seller of Death In June, the label’s cornerstone, represents nothing more than our criticism of it as a seller of “Hate Music.”