(From the NME, 20 August 1983)
HE MAN AND ALL THAT JAZ
FANCIFUL, FANATIC OR SIMPLE FASCIST? QUITE WHAT TO MAKE OF JAZ COLEMAN'S PROFOUND STATEMENTS PUTS MAT SNOW IN A DILEMMA.
AND JUST when you thought the laughter had died down, Killing Joke are back.
1983 sees a new LP, 'Fire Dances' - not only their best yet, but also quite likely to be their biggest.
Furthermore, packed-out dates on their UK tour testify that despite last year's 'personnel problems', KJ's masterplan for eventual world domination is well on course.
And, in line with our leaders' prognosis for British industry, the new Killing Joke is leaner, fitter, and more productive than the old.
OUT goes "the Sid element" Youth Martin; IN comes Wolverhampton bassist (Paul) Raven, boxing fan and Everton supporter. OUT goes ex-manager Brian Taylor, currently on the run in America from the Killing Joke curse; IN comes Tony Bidgood, hired precisely because he's reputed to be one of the biggest bastards in the business, a view no doubt endorsed by his one-time protegees The Stray Cats.
On the train north, Bleddyn [photographer] and I racked our brains in vain to recall just one picture or word that portrayed KJ singer Jaz Coleman as anything less than stark staring mad. And we were also aware that his cohorts, whether for reasons of self-interest, gullibility or contagious megalomania, have likewise maintained an unbroken front of single-minded belligerence.
As Nottingham approached, we grew nervous ...
But we needn't have worried. Apart from a couple of death threats and the odd moment when he appeared about to foam at the mouth and start chewing the carpet, Jaz was quite affable and talkative to the point of tedium. Guitarist Geordie regarded me as hopelessly precious but deigned to chat. Raven and drummer Paul Ferguson filled in the gaps with laddish enthusiasm and thoughtful irony respectively. Even the notorious Mr Bidgood found time between merchandising deals to natter pleasantly over a pint about his hobbies of guns, Nazi and Vietnam War militaria, and survivalism.
KILLING JOKE'S performance at Rock City was tremendous. 'Dominator', 'Frenzy', 'Rejuvenation', 'Wardance', 'We Have Joy', 'Empire Song', 'The Pandys Are Coming', 'The Gathering'... a litany of the most dynamic, thunderous anthems to sheer, primal darkness since the heyday of Black Sabbath.
KJ are everything Heavy Metal should be but hardly ever is.
By the standards of the tour, so I was told, the Nottingham gig was below par - Jaz, Geordie and Raven were all nursing colds. But KJ's grip on vocal and guitar noise, their mighty rhythmic clout, exceeded any show I'd seen by the old line-up.
Relaxing with a glass of milk in the hotel afterwards, Jaz regally granted me an audience. It doesn't take long for Jaz to warm to his themes. Soon my tape-recorder was filling up with an unstoppable torrent of Jaz's pronouncements, delivered as if rehearsed with barely a break.
Certainly he reiterated almost word for word much that I'd read before, and when I tentatively suggested one or two inconsistencies and contradictions in his monologue, you could almost hear the screeching of brakes and grinding of gears as he attempted evasive action.
Jaz on the future-apocalyptic mode:
"It's definitely looking forward to the end of something. I couldn't say it was apocalyptic ... we've got an encouraging view of what's going to happen. It's nothing to do with everything being wiped out, it's beyond that. It's looking forward to the fall of mediocrity and the establishment of something new. It's like a breath of fresh air, a chance to start again ...
"Some people say we have grandiose or funny Utopian ideas, but these aspects are very important to us.
"We try to paint a picture of a new world. I see a more savage world ahead, right? And when I see our gigs I feel there an atmosphere that's very relevant to what lies ahead. And we love it, we enjoy it, and our audience do. It's music that inflames the heart …
Which leads neatly to 'fire', a dominant theme of the new LP.
"You can look at fire in many ways - purification by fire. Fire to me is symbolic of the willpower. I think the potential of the individual is really underestimated. And we like to reach the individual; we like to kindle the willpower within them."
Jaz on live performance and the crowd:
"You become all man, basically, all human. You totally lose your personality. I do. I love to become pure male species. I like that. To reach that timeless element in the music is something quite fantastic. Definitely.
"You think about the union of a male and female - that particular act - both lose their identity, both lose their personality. They become all man or all woman. The same I think applies for music in its extreme.
"My head feels different when I'm onstage. I forget myself. I forget who I am." (Not so, according to Bleddyn who was poised only a few feet away from Jaz throughout the gig.) "I remember going onstage and I remember coming off, and I don't remember anything in between. I feel dancing, and I feel fire, and I feel exhilaration, and I feel excitement, and I feel hot. I've known this feeling forever.
"I've talked with so many musicians and they all have the same dreams. They wake up in the middle of the night and they can't work out if they've been screwing a woman or playing their guitar, cos the build-up of energy is the same.
"The song and the dance, you know. So we use electric instruments, but if we didn't have them we'd still be doing it. The essence will always be the same, the timeless element. I get endless inspiration from the idea of song and dance."
Jaz on KJ's performance at a CND rally in Trafalgar Square in 1980:
"We used that whole situation to our advantage. I'm opposed to the CND."
"Futility of their cause. I see every action, every event as significant. The change that I feel will take place is necessary and significant. It might mean complete devastation - not utterly, but quite considerable.
"My personal philosophy is that when events like this take place, it's like when you plant a seed and it goes round and adapts to certain pollutions and so the second time it goes round the strain is stronger still. This adapting element within nature I think must be encouraged. However extreme it may be, that is pure nature, that which thrives on circumstance."
The glorification of will, purification and strengthening through fiery destruction: doesn't this all add up to ...?
"I wouldn't say fascist. As long as you have peacetime you constitute the existence of war. The one determines the existence of the other, What we do when we play in Killing Joke is we have war every day."
Surely you don't really mean that …
"Wrong! Especially in the last two years I've been in situations when I've thought my lot's up. Such as when myself and Geordie were in Iceland we got beaten to fuck with sticks, trying to run me over in Land Rovers, things like that. They didn't like me," cackles Jaz evilly. "But enough said."
KJ's next jaunt is to Easter Island off the Pacific coast of South America. As Jaz explains, this is no holiday but part of KJ's deeper purpose.
"We're going to Easter Island because we all take quite an interest in cultures we know very little about but we can sense intuitively." (So much so that when the dressing-room TV was showing a documentary where some far-flung people performed a ritual involving lots of body-paint and dancing, no one took a blind bit of notice.)
"I spent much time in South America last year. Paul spent much time in Egypt. We study the great places. We study the parallels between cultures. Recorded history maintains that these people wore skins, were savages. But my studies, Paul's and Geordie's especially, found that these so-called apes from 5, 6, 7, 8,000 BC were brilliant at geometry, equivalent to our A-level standard syllabus.
"I find our whole historical concept of man totally up the creek, bullshit. I think that our species, man, is much older than given credit for. And Killing Joke is awakening that element within people, that very primal element within us."
Jaz on 'Dominator':
"Pure stomp, a southern stomp. It signifies our attitude and our direction. And we do take quite a brutal, savage attitude in our direction. We have to. We get times when things feel like they're going to almost overpower us. You just have to kick it hard in the balls. Hard. Before it kicks you there. That's savage, right? You just take. If you commit yourself to something, then you must reap the benefits. Everything that we need we take. We don't ask, we take. That's the dominant aspect with Killing Joke."
Jaz on 'Empire Song':
"'Empire Song' was there before the Falklands. I'm a very receptive person, you know. I feel these things every once in a while. But I'm not interested in social observations at the moment."
Jaz on the poppy 'Fun and Games':
"We like that. We like certain glam aspects of the music. I like Gary Glitter. It's tribal music. Love it."
"I like 'Faith Healer' by Alex Harvey … l like 'Night On the Bear Mountain' by Moussorgsky. Vivaldi - that's nice going through the country, you know. When I'm flying to Germany I always play Wagner. I like Beethoven. All played by the Berlin Philharmonic. It's got to be played by them.
"I like classical music. I've just finished my first symphony and I'm just scoring up the sonata at the moment, for piano. My first symphony should be played pretty soon - I've had acceptances ...
"We listen to Last Poets. We listen to any music with commitment to it on an emotional level, which is few and far between these days."
Jaz on the new breed - (Southern) Death Cult, Sex Gang Children etc:
"They're all ex-Killing Joke fans. I don't like their music - it's wimpy, it's not got an edge to it. And they lack commitment. They make all these pretentious claims to things they don't now about. They're the kind of people who inspire people to draw pentagrams in attics. Crap nonsense!
"And as for that bloody wossisname, Ian, out of Southern Death Cult, trying to be a Red Indian, well that really makes me laugh. He looks as if he couldn't skin a rabbit, let alone a buffalo, right? They just don't live what they make themselves out to be. Death Cult should be in art college."
Jaz on life:
"We love life in Killing Joke. We like the simple things. When I see our audience - OK, there's a lot of people who leave a lot to be desired, I suppose - I feel a very close feeling towards these people. I love simple people; intellectuals piss me off. I don't like to surround myself with intellectuals. Funnily enough, In the band we don't have deep meaningful conversations. It's instinctive. Same with the music, same with the crowd, same with everyone around us who we work with, the roadies, Tony. It's on an equal basis."
(When Killing Joke walk into a room, the roadies unhesitatingly obey. One young fan backstage after the gig is patted and condescended to like a tiny child. Evidently some are more equal than others.)
"You say that some of our ideas are fascist; I wouldn't say that at all. We work together as a team. We are extremists in what we do because we are so committed to what we do, regardless of what people say."
Geordie Describes Jaz a "romantic". Certainly I'm left wondering exactly what side of the truth-delusion line Jaz is situated. After breakfast the following day Jaz talks of many things:
His symphony being based on a verse from the Norse Eddas describing the aftermath of Ragnarok, the end of the world.
His high-caste Brahmin background on his mother's side.
How he daren't travel to India to inspect his inherited estates of orange-groves and farmland located near the Nepalese and Tibetan borders.
The connection between Hindu and Norse Aryan mythologies.
His older brother, the Nobel Prize-winning nuclear physicist.
How he outsmarted Jimmy Page over the purchase of a copy of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race.
The "unexpected sources" of KJ's forthcoming success, which won't be just musical.
Further sayings of Jaz:
"Democracy for me is the epitome of confusion."
"Jaz Coleman will die one day, but the all man can never; it just changes its shape."
"Print that and I'll have your throat cut."
But does he speak for the whole band? Raven nods his head vigorously. Paul Ferguson limbers up with his karate exercises and keeps his own counsel. Geordie hints that Jaz has to be humoured but, in his dour, lofty way, goes along with most of what Jaz says. When Jaz speaks, no one disagrees.
I'm just thankful that Mr Coleman has merely a shit-hot rock'n'roll band with which to express himself; 40 years ago people like him were well-known for totally different reasons.
Geordie laughs at my squeamishness and takes an altogether more relaxed view of Jaz:
"Priceless that guy, absolutely priceless."