Rest in power: Douglas Halbert—iconic BIRTH! performer, class act & friend

This post has been a long time coming because it is so terribly sad to write:

Douglas D. Halbert, who many of us first met when he began performing as BIRTH! at Pehrspace and other clubs here in Los Angeles over a decade ago, is no longer with us.

You probably already heard this news, but now there’s an official announcement:

Douglas DaWayne Halbert, 38, of Denver, passed away at the end of April 2022.

Celebration of Life will be held on Friday, May 27, 2022 at 1pm at Horan & McConaty Family Chapel, 1091 South Colorado Boulevard, Denver, Colorado.

If you can’t attend, you can write on Doug’s virtual Memorial Wall.

Doug’s Facebook profile is still up and folks are posting there as well.


Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Doug paying homage to Ian Curtis while on tour in 2010. Photo: Nathan Clemence.

I know I’m not the only person in denial, not wanting to face facts that dear Doug is gone. Doug was a terrific person—one of the best— and a great friend.

Outsiders might have looked at Doug’s sometimes goth-y, leather-clad appearance (which was more subdued and straight-up classic/handsome in recent years) or his taste in wild music and art and thought, hmm, this guy might be dangerous.

But anyone who knew Doug for even thirty seconds knew that he was one fo the most full-of-life, friendly and positive individuals you could ever hope to meet.

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Doug getting down with Robert In/Imhuman & Realicide at Pehrspace. Photo: Sean Carnage.

Like a lot of geniuses I’ve encountered who draw artistic inspiration from the “dark side,” facing death and pain enabled Doug to laugh at life’s inanities.

Doug wrestled with some heavy stuff in his life, including chronic pain in his neck and spine these last few years. But he was posting online and communicating with friends about movies and bands he was digging—not to mention updates on his beloved cat—at his usual regular pace right up to the end. Which makes his demise all the more sudden and shocking.

[Doug’s family is still trying to piece together his last days, so if you spoke with Doug during the week of April 25, 2022, please reach out to his cousin Lindsay Marquez-Barrett on Facebook. Toxicology tests are still in progress as of this posting, and the final date and time of Doug’s passing have not yet been released.]

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Photo: Carnage.

When Doug Halbert first came to us from his hometown of Denver, Colorado in 2007, he was a precocious young punk kid with a Devilock-like strand of dark-blond hair hanging in front of his face.

Even at the young age of 22 or 23, Doug was a cultural connoisseur, wise beyond his years, who seemed to know every detail about tons of obscure band—especially if they were Death Rock, Punk, Industrial or Goth-related.

Honestly, I might never have even started talking to Doug except I heard him blabbing about the (now obscure) Batcave scene (hotbed of ’80s British Goth) to some stoned partier with glazed-over eyes outside Pehrspace.

I was like, “Hey! Don’t waste that good talk—come chat with me instead!” Which is a cheesy pick up line, I suppose. But most younger people didn’t really know that kind of deep Goth scene trivia in the ’00s. Just remarkable, is what I thought at the time.

Well, that was Doug—so smart and charming. If you were into music or art, you wanted him to be your friend.

Once you started talking to Doug, you’d realize: this is a sweet and kind individual. Doug was deeply loyal to his friends and always very thoughtful.

At that point I still did not connect the dots that he was the performer BIRTH! that I was starting to hear about.

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Photo: Carnage.

One night at Pehr, Doug brought me a BIRTH! CD-R and I was like, “You’re that guy! I’ve heard your shows are a headfuck!”

LISTEN: BIRTH!’S 2008 demo & 2009 cassette on Realicide Records

Doug could be bashful at times and I think he turned five shades of red and purple when I mentioned that.

So I invited Doug to play Pehr. Holy moly—was I shocked by the transformation when he went onstage!

The drum machine backing track kicked in, a tsunami of noise deluged the place, and people started moshing and diving and, seemingly, doing kickflips off the ceiling—going fully airborne like in old punk photos!—all keying off this mushroom cloud of energy detonating onstage.

And in the center of the storm, Doug—in white corpse-like paint—is commanding the microphone. I mean, sweet young Doug is in charge conducting this unholy racket and the hellacious crowd with his words and scorching delivery, contorting himself on the floor and in the audience’s arms.

When he got done playing, I ran up to him: “That was insane, Doug! When can you play again?”

Doug had a really funny, almost guffawing, laugh when he was nervous or things felt awkward (I’ll miss that laugh). So he did his nervous laugh thing and then said, “Whenever you’ll have me.”

Of course we had him back to play immediately. And then again. And again.

Birth! Realicide Douglas D. Halbert Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Photo: Carnage.

Doug Halbert quickly became one of the most popular regular performers at Sean Carnage Monday Nights, appearing (at least) twelve times over six years, becoming one of the night’s Top 20 performers (out of nearly 1,200).

LISTEN: BIRTH’s classic I Will full-length album recorded during this era

And through these shows and hanging out every night, Doug became a part of our chosen family.

Doug signified his commitment by never removing the finger-crocheted bracelets we gave everyone who attended a Monday show at Pehrspace. Soon he had an armful of handmade wristbands. That’s devotion—that’s Doug!

In October 2010, I interviewed Doug upon his return from a long tour in Europe:

Birth! is Douglas Halbert and he makes some of the most impressive and radical industrial and electronic hardcore you could ever hope to hear.

It’s not easy to make one-man-band angst and rage accessible and rambunctious and fun, but somehow Halbert does it.

Actually I’m not completely clueless here—Doug is a dear friend and from observing him I have noticed how he makes it work: he writes strong lyrics, he can shout and scream in a way that is powerful (even witheringly so) but he’s never macho or shrieky, he’s got a great ear for hooks (even the most uncompromising Birth! blasts have unshakeable beats and melodies), and he lives his music.

“Fear, comfort and money are the three main things that hold people back from pursuing their goals in life,” Doug Halbert explains. “If you don’t just go out and DO what you want, you’ll never actually DO anything.”

My partner back then, Mikhai, and I became close to Doug.

Later, when Doug moved back to Denver, we would meet him whenever he came to town for a meal (Mexican food—Doug’s favorite) or a movie or concert. We always made time to hang out.

These last few years Doug didn’t visit as much, and I think I missed him the last time he was here. I got sober a few years back and I’m sad I didn’t get to hang with Doug in person since my life became so much more clear. As I’m writing this I’m realizing how clouded my 2012-2017 years were and that makes me doubly sad about losing Doug. All that wasted time. I suppose it goes without saying that I’d prefer flying to Denver to hang with Doug than to attend his memorial.

We’ll all be keeping Doug and his family in our thoughts. Doug’s passing feels like a story ending prematurely. I don’t know how else to describe it.

One final thought: “BIRTH!”—the name of Doug’s one-man performance unit—always struck me as running counter to prevailing Goth / Industrial band naming trends, where it’s generally accepted that the more horrible and grisly the nom-de-stage, the better the band must be.

Doug’s choice to go the opposite direction—to select a band name that explodes with life (literally, exclamation point), that wills his art, his spirit into being just by thinking or saying this name—speaks volumes about Doug’s positive, vital contributions to all our lives.

Sometimes I feel like people read too much into names. But this one’s deep.

We’ll miss you, Douglas Halbert. Rest in peace, free of pain.

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Doug arm-in-arm with Jim Merson of Captain Ahab. Photo: Carnage.

Besides being a concert performer, Doug was a ridiculously prolific concertgoer. Thanks to facial recognition technology, I was able to pick out Doug (there’s Waldo!) at every Pehrspace show:

Click to see every photo I’ve got of Doug hanging out on the L.A. music scene

…And here’s every post featuring photos of Douglas Halbert performing as BIRTH!:

Mon 4.28.08: BIRTH!, Fleshtone, Gabbertree, Realicide, Red Hot Thilly Peppers 360°

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

All photos: Sean Carnage.

Mon 8.4.08: Monday Nights 3-Year Anniversary featuring Big Nurse, BIRTH!, HEALTH DJ, I.E., MC Peter Moran, Sichshifter, Social Junk, The Amazements, The Monolators, Winners, Zaq Landsberg piñata

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Mon 2.9.09: Showgirls, BIRTH!, Big Digits

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Mon 4.13.09: BIRTH!, Moment Trigger, Skull Kiss, The Monolators, Whitman

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Mon 5.11.09: Sean Carnage & Peter’s Poolboys present Anavan, Flaspar, BIRTH!, Kylie Mabson, Fortress of Amplitude

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Mon 5.18.09: I.E. Cover Project featuring Juiceboxxx, Anavan, Foot Village, Cockwind, Kid Infinity, The Press Fire, BIRTH!, Whitman, Puppy Dog, A Vague Sound, E&E, I.E.

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Mon 9.28.09: Derachine, Bestial Mouths, Sister Mantos, Shane Shane, & Goes Calypso

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Doug jams with an early version of Bestial Mouths.

Mon 12.14.09: BIRTH!, Moment Trigger, Psychic Handbook, A Vague Sound, Mixed Up Mess, DJ Coffee Shop

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Karen Centerfold adored Doug. I think he was everything she wanted in a rocker man.

Mon 2.8.10: BIRTH! CD release, Realicide, Nicole Kidman, Moment Trigger, Heligoats

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Happy birthday, Douglas.

Mon 2.15.10 – Shower, Kevin Greenspon, W.H.I.T.E.

Shower Doug Kyle Cole Pehrspace Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Doug, Kyle Mabson & Cole debuting as Shower—what a great one-off band!

Mon 10.25.10: BIRTH!, Kevin Shields, Pedestrian Deposit, Slaves, Josie Bunnie

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

Doug riding on Ossian’s shoulders.

Mon 8.26.13: Monday anniversary show part 2 featuring BIRTH!, Straight Bangs, U R Walcome, VJ Wes, DJ Genie Factory

Douglas D. Halbert Birth! Pehrspace Los Angeles Denver RIP

POSTSCRIPT: Photos from Doug’s celebration of life in Denver (5/27/22) & L.A. friends memorial gathering at HM157 (5/29/22)

I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Denver for Doug’s celebration of life service hosted by Doug’s family.

Doug’s family is terrific. I can’t imagine being deep in grief and pulling all the arrangements together, but they did.

Meeting and talking with Doug’s grandparents, dad, aunts, uncles and especially his cousins was something special.

Check this: they picked and amazing scripture verse that’s at once uncommon, perceptive and has the awesome citation “APOCALYPSE 21.”

Classy—just like Doug.

The memorial service—at a non-denominational chapel with a professional celebrant (not religious)—was sensitive to who Doug was as a person, i.e. a shit-kicking punk rocker who was a total inspiration to us all to do the right things in life.

They had Doug’s gear—his trusty leather biker jacket with his favorite pins attached, cowboy boots, and his King Soopers apron on display, as well as his guitar—flanking his ashes.

Doug was a union steward at King Soopers, which is owned by Kroger Corporation.

With Doug’s leadership contributions, King Soopers went on strike and won major contract concessions earlier this year.

Read all about the King Soopers workers’ triumph

As we all know, supermarket workers were mashed to a pulp during COVID-19 lockdown.

Doug’s job was to protect his fellows. He did that.

He channeled all that volcanic BIRTH! energy into his union role.

I could not be more proud of our friend.

There were some moving testimonials, including one from Doug’s friend and King Soopers co-worker.

She told two stories that really illustrated who our friend was and what he stood for:

The first was about how he saved her from an attack by a racial bigot at a house party.

The second was really profound (I’m still thinking about it). She pointed at his gear on podium and said, “This is the uniform real superheroes wear. Thanks to Doug’s efforts families were able to feed their kids. They were able to feel secure at work. And if they had a complaint, they didn’t have to fear reprisals from management.”

In short, Doug was a force to be reckoned with and did not take any shit from Kroger. My heart swells when I hear stories like this!

There were a ton of folks at the chapel. Patrick Urn was there, and Cole Miller, Robert from Realicide, Tripp Wallin, Natalie Van Shock and Doug’s Radio Scarlet bandmates, Marzia, plus a ton of really cool homies. And the union people and his King Soopers co-workers…

I am sorry I am skipping names here—please forgive, I’m pretty exhausted as I’m writing this.

Suffice to say, Denver rolled deep to the memorial, as you’d expect they would for a guy as lovable and influential as Doug.

The group then reconvened at Hoochie Hotel with Doug’s besties, and I felt really welcomed and at home (thank you for your hospitality).

What is acceptable as far as taking photos at a funeral and a wake? Fuck if I know.

So I didn’t really snap any photos, but Jenn took this pic of Robert and I (posing “hardstyle” as he calls it) in front of a little altar to Doug that folks were building.

I couldn’t stay—I had a flight to catch—but Realicide played in the basement, which is a really cool little venue.

The Denver crew is impressive. Impressive people, very chill, you can tell they loved Dougie very much. I was sad to leave but had to regroup before….

The next memorial was Sunday, May 29 at HM157. Here’s Robert sketching a right-on depiction of Doug for the altar we set up.

Let’s not forget Doug was a wildman!

Also, how did I forget what an amazing illustrator Robert is?

Cole was wearing a fucking amazing Doug t-shirt Natalie made. You can kinda see Mary and Eli of The Monolators—whom Doug adored—in the background.

Again, I was not sure if it was cool to take pics of folks grieving so these images you are seeing do not show the full scope of the INCREDIBLE and HUGE crowd of friends that rolled out and stayed the afternoon to honor Doug Halbert.

We had tacos—tons of them! Doug’s favorite.

Will brought the goods. Look—there’s Mabson looking like a bandito.

There’s Ryan Cameron, my honey, guarding the good stuff.

Robert and Cole and the ever-growing altar.

Cool, eh?

Man, I miss Doug. I think we would have loved this. I hope he would’ve.

Classic Pehrspace friend and Women House co-resident with Doug, Laura Daquila, now in NYC, sent an amazing painting she did of a classic Dougie photo. Super cool.

Many people spoke and their tales were in turns moving and hilarious. Strangely enough, the funny stories were the ones making me cry. Gone too fucking soon, man.

After a solid hour os testimonials from about a dozen people—and another dozen of more folks supporting with their presence which was so relieving and important—it was time to set our altar/pyre alight.

“This head is for burning!” is the immortal BIRTH! line… thanks, Doug, you will be missed.

You also gave us an incredible gift and brought us all back together. That cannot be underestimated.

We’ve been through hell the past couple years. Thank you.

Again, these WONDERFUL friend photos do not show the full scope of attendance.

We snapped this at the end after many had left, but I’m so glad we captured these images.

I love each and every one of you. You are so important to my life.

Many thanks to Jacky and HM157 for hosting, Nora Keyes for facilitating, everyone who sent messages or left comments or likes or words of support online, everyone who contributed to the memorial playlist…

Here’s the Spotify playlist of music to remember Doug by, created by his friends:

You gotta listen to Doug’s music, too:

2008 demo & 2009 cassette on Realicide Records

I Will full-length album

A more recent piano improvisation

More links:

Read an interview with Doug in his own words

See every post on this site featuring Douglas D. Halbert

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