One of the common misconceptions about neofolk, held by its detractors and the fascist subset of its fans alike, is that it represents some kind of 'neo-völkisch' music—a new form of ethnic music specific to Europeans that celebrates 'European culture' and glorifies white identity. While some acts in the neofolk scene undoubtedly do produce music that does exactly that, it's not inherent to the genre, and that's not where it gets its name.
Neofolk was born out of post-punk; one critic remarked that early Death in June sounded like 'Joy Division with horns'. Originally, it was post-punk music with the electric guitar replaced by acoustic, more or less, with some neofolk continuing to follow this formula and some stripping it down even more. (One thing that distinguishes neofolk from other forms of acoustic guitar-based music is that it uses the studio as an instrument; reverb is omnipresent in neofolk.)
Post-punk was originally called 'new musick'; given these origins, it makes sense to call this form of music 'new folk music', or 'neofolk'. That's the origin of the genre and a plausible origin of the name. Given that, it's hard to say that neofolk is an inherently fascist genre, especially given the lack of fascist proclivities on the part of many of its major performers.
For Current 93, the lack of fascism is self-evident: David 'I will not rest until I have collaborated with every trans musician in existence' Tibet seems to be an anarchist, as he coined the term 'anarcho-punk' in 1984 in his capacity as a music journalist and has collaborated with anarchists and anti-capitalists such as Steve Ignorant (using the moniker Stephen Intelligent), Jhonn Balance and Peter Christopherson of Coil, Björk, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and other members of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, and Anohni. Michael Cashmore of both Current 93 and his own project Nature and Organisation works a lot in the anarchist spaces within chaos magic, working with DKMU materials. Steven Stapleton of Nurse with Wound also worked with P-Orridge and has stated that his dream collaboration would be with Missy Elliott, known as a feminist rapper.
Tony Wakeford of Sol Invictus, although he spent less than a year in the National Front, has repudiated racism, fascism, and anything to do with them and has stated it was 'probably the worse [sic] decision of my life and one I very much regret'. In a 2012 interview
, a leftist magazine, he stated:
As for what [the neofolk scene] is now, I’m not that comfortable with parts of it. Some “artists” seem to be in it for overtly party political reasons and frankly I have no interest in playing on the same bill or being connected to cranks who hang out with Holocaust deniers, and shill for Islamist bigots, etc. Thankfully, the far right in Britain at the moment are pathetic, but in certain other parts of the world, they are a lot more dangerous. Individuals can believe what they like, and I am against censorship and banning, but when people are getting killed for who they sleep with, or having the wrong stamp in their passport, I think it’s maybe time for a little less ambiguity? Rant over.
As well, Renée Rosen, Sol Invictus' violinist and Tony's wife, is Jewish, and the Sol Invictus song 'Down the Years' could be taken as a sardonic commentary on fascism and how demagogues are able to get people to demand their own oppression, while on their recent album The Cruellest Month
, they have an anarchist-sounding song, 'To Kill All Kings', seemingly referencing old protosocialist peasant rebellions, and a cover of the labour organising song 'The Blackleg Miner'.
Douglas P. of Death in June is, in my opinion, based on the hours of research I've done poring over old interviews and even investigating old details of his trip to Croatia (where he did not, in fact, donate to a fascist military hospital, but to a university hospital that treated anyone of any side in the conflict), is an edgy libertarian. He seems to revel in confusing people as to his actual positions; contrast the very fascist-sounding song 'Death of the West' with 'Lullaby to a Ghetto', a chilling denunciation of Holocaust denialism ('So this is your life. / This is your world, / in a lullaby to a ghetto / where you murder boys and girls'). His response to a question of whether 'race matter[s]' was that he preferred to suck white, uncircumcised cock, but otherwise didn't care. He's cited Motown and Leonard Cohen as influences, but has also called himself 'very Eurocentric'. And even 'Rose Clouds of Holocaust' could be taken to be about the Germans being shown the extermination camps ('When the ashes of life / fall down from the skies: / rose clouds of holocaust, / rose clouds of lies'); such an interpretation is showcased in this fanmade video:
Furthermore, some more recent projects in the neofolk scene have explicitly declared their opposition to fascism: Die Weisse Rose takes its name from Sophie Scholl's nonviolent resistance group, while its frontman, Thomas Bøjden, is friends with Douglas P. and Kim Larsen of :Of the Wand and the Moon:, who has also been interviewed
; Jérôme Reuter of his project Rome has explicitly criticised racism and fascism, released an album, Flowers from Exile
, about the Spanish Republicans in the Civil War, and has an excellent martial-industrial song, 'Die Brandstifter'
, directly criticising fascism; Sieben has a song, 'Rite Against the Right'
, mocking neo-Nazis; and Sean Ragon of Cult of Youth, in an interview
, clarifies that he is not a fascist and that his perspective is that industrial and post-industrial music, including neofolk, is fundamentally about a 'deprogramming' from the dominant ideology through shock elements.
And in case nothing else I've said convinces anyone, I learned something from black metal that needs to be applied to neofolk: you can separate the art from the artist
. Varg Vikernes is an outspoken neo-fascist, yet his black metal project Burzum is considered to be classic and his albums practically canonical for black metal. Even RABM
musicians acknowledge their debt to Burzum.
Enjoying a musician shouldn't be taken as an endorsement of their worldview. I'm a Christian, yet I enjoy the music of Dissection and Watain, which were/are both Anti-Cosmic Chaos-Gnostic Satanist bands, as well as of Sol Invictus and Death in June, both of which have been very critical of Christianity. And plenty of people enjoy the music of Wagner, myself included, while still understanding that he was an antisemite and protofascist, and D. W. Griffith and Leni Riefenstahl are both extremely important directors and Birth of a Nation
and Triumph of the Will
both extremely important films despite the directors' politics and their films' subjects.
So don't let anyone tell you that you're a fascist based on aesthetic enjoyment alone. Take my own music: it sometimes sounds like it could be fascist, like these two songs:
Yet the first is an Italian Partisan song and the second (co-produced with Michael Orion Powell-Deschamps as Tilhas) is about the guilt of an ex-Nazi. (You can subscribe on Patreon
to hear more songs from The Idols Have Been Cast Down and Rent
every Monday until it's released on 30 April, Walpurgisnacht.)
Take what you will from that.