From Record Mirror, 6 September 1986.
Killing Joke: The Most Intense Men In Rock?
Well, how many other bands have members whoíve composed a symphony, written a book on philosophy and auditioned for a Mars Bar commercial? Killing time: Nancy Culp Joke pictures: Ian Hooton
I mustíve been stark, staring mad. Spending a dark, muddy Friday night at that revolting hippy hangover, the Reading Festival, waiting to see Killing Joke. There are very few bands for whom Iíd stand in four inches of mud and teeming rain, but then again, there are even fewer who could reach me so completely with their passion, intensity and sheer beauty.
Killing Joke have not played in England for over 18 months and, in spite of a noisy splash into the charts around the same time, have been noticeably silent. Never ones to creep back apologetically, theyíve just released a new single, ĎAdorationsí (currently in the forties), and are also about to play a long overdue UK tour.
Back in their rehearsal studio, Jaz is nowhere to be seen, Geordie is ensconced on the phone, so itís off to another room with Paul Ferguson and Paul Raven, both of whom are itching to get off as they have a rather mysterious audition to attend.
"No, Iím not telling you in case I donít get it," demurs Paul F. But you have worked on films before havenít you? "Erm, just extra parts." Any aspirations to be an actor then? "No, none at all. I just enjoy doing different things like that, and obviously making some money."
Jaz has been quoted elsewhere as saying that the band is now completely as he envisaged it six years ago - is it in your estimation? "No, to be quite frank. Itís certainly matured into something Iím very proud of, but I personally still think that thereís a long way to go before itís where I want it to be."
Raven enters the room, sits down, gets up again and wanders off. Dressed in black with a look of gipsy about him, he definitely looks like heíd sock you if provoked (in the former great Killing Joke tradition) and puts me in mind of what Bill Sykes would have been like had Dickens stuck him in a group instead. It amuses me when he expresses his surprise that people still label Killing Joke as being those sort of tough lads.
"You know, people say weíre overly macho, which I donít necessarily feel is true." Oh, but you are! Iíve always thought so and youíre using a very masculine energy, youíre not using a feminine one. "Well, maybe thatís what weíre trying to do with the new album," offers Paul.
Ah yes, the new material. It came as a surprise too, to find that the new single isnít all sawmill guitars and blazing energy. Do you think, then, that your earlier aggression has disappeared?
Raven: "Well, if youíre trying to cover lots of different areas of emotion, I donít think you can do it all on one album; otherwise, it just sounds a fuckiní mess."
Paul: "And you canít do it all on the back of aggression either. I find that it reaches a different level, it makes my guts churn. Itís like Celtic music, you know, how it just really creeps into your emotions. Thatís how I see it."
It still sounds a bit soft to me.
R: "I donít think itís soft at all. I think itís just different from the last LP. Itís not as brash on the face of it, but I think itís as hard, myself."
I ask the pair of Ďem if maybe there was an element of compromise involved. The quest for the hit single . . . .
R: "I think you just come to a point where you want more people to hear you and it has to be, to a degree, more accessible. I donít mean it has to be softer or harder, you just have to assess what you think is accessibility. Iím trying to sort of make the wedge wider all the time, personally."
The taxi arrives and Paul and Raven go off to their mysterious appointment. Jaz erupts into the room and paces up and down, arms waving, impressing on the road crew how he wants the finale of the Reading set to go. "I want a big fuckiní mushroom cloud, you know?" Someone mentions the two departed members. "Ha! Ha! Ha!" he cackles. "What is it, a fuckiní Mars Bar commercial or something? Ha ha ha!"
Some 20 minutes later, I manage to bolt Jaz down to the tape recorder and get him away from his visions of mega-explosions over Berkshire. I get off on the wrong foot with Mr. Coleman, who takes my friendly baiting completely the wrong way. Meanwhile, Geordie lounges on the sofa, yawning in a most disconcerting manner.
|"Huh, on the defensive I can see. I can tell what sort of interview
this is going to be already," he snarls. Oh dear. He fixes me with a stare
like a magnet picking up razor blades. "Youíre not one of those people who
after youíve left our presence go and write all these nasty, derogatory
things, are you? Because if youíve got anything you donít like, we
prefer if itís said in our presence. Because most of them, they donít really
have the courage to say what they really think."
Geordie: "Canít say I blame them myself, really."
J: "Weíre a bit oppressive, I sípose, as far as when weíre together. And we take ourselves very seriously, very seriously." Well, I felt that too, Jaz. Killing Joke are not a frothy pop band. Weíre talking serious musicians here and musicians with a true vision. A point Jaz elucidates further.
"Look at people who are competing against us. The content and the sentiment in their songs, thereís just no comparison. We have worked for seven years so that we can become articulate, not as individual musicians, but as a band. ĎBrighter Than A Thousand Sunsí is, by my standards, a great work - remember, I write for orchestra. Iíve written my second symphony. We put our blood into this music and it is just exceptional. We are very proud of it."
So what do you think it is that youíve got that others havenít?
J: "I think that we are all accomplished musicians. I know that we all have a certain image, but if you look beneath the veneer of the image portrayed in the papers, I think youíll find four very intelligent and capable musicians." He waves his hand at Geordie, who looks practically comatose on the sofa.
"Geordieís guitar is his life, really. He lives it. In fact, the only significant thing he does is his work on his guitar!"
So why choose to have the guitar mixed so far down on ĎAdorationsí? It sounds like some of the characterís gone.
J: "No, no! None of the characterís gone at all. Right?"
Oh dear, weíre not exactly hitting it off too well, are we? I start to feel somehow guilty for even thinking such a thing, let alone saying it.
"I agree actually, a bit," interjects Geordie from the recesses of the sofa, "when I heard it on the telly or the video. It doesnít sound so bad in stereo. It is a commercial move, actually, to be honest, because people always like to hear the singer."
That is definitely something Jaz is shining at these days. Gone are the hollered vocals buried into infinity into the mix. On the latest stuff, heís singing better than heís ever done.
J: "I think thereís a lot more mastery in the new stuff. ĎAdorationsí is essentially a song. Itís not ĎEightiesí. Itís not like ĎRubiconí or ĎTwilight Of The Mortalsí which are other tracks on the album. Itís not something you listen to for raw energy, because youíll be grossly disappointed. We want it to be heard and judged on its own merit. Itís a beautiful piece of music. I feel people have been put off by the initial intensity and they have not heard the music inherent within our music. I thought it was necessary for the music to come out as opposed to the intensity."
Jaz talks a lot about how he considers Killing Jokeís music to be beautiful and romantic. A concept maybe not immediately apparent. "Thereís a certain amount of idealism in the music. Thereís higher imagery in there somewhere and that, for me, is romantic. Thereís a concept of something better. Especially on the new LP."
ĎNight Timeí was hinting towards it, certainly.
G: "Weíve always hinted toward it, like the stuff on the second album. But then again, you get really put off by the really over the top drum sounds, the guitar was very edgy. Some of that was, like, classical."
We change the subject a little and talk about Jazís period in Iceland. He talks about how they had ideas of "a better way to live" and how he really resents the lifestyle which comes with being in a group. He tells me how he gets up really early each day (weíre talking 6:30 am here) and works solidly as a discipline. Heís also, in addition to the symphonies, writing a book on his philosophies, and also continues his lifelong study of the occult and other related subjects. However, no amount of prodding will get him to talk about it. "Iíve found that oneís spiritual, religious or esoteric beliefs are not to be talked about," he expostulates.
G: "The idea is to find it yourself. How can you teach people to find themselves?"
J: "Within the music and lyrics of Killing Joke and within the 110,000 word philosophy Iíve written and within the two symphonies, if they canít get the point then they must be fucking stupid!" He laughs for a minute, then retracts back into serious mode again. "I mean, as an artist, Iíve done what I can, but I think suggestion is much more powerful than statement."
The phone suddenly rings, Jaz goes to answer it and thatís it. Interview comes to a close and my throbbing head takes over. Such intensity has given me a prime thumper. A more interesting and fascinating collection of individuals Iíve yet to come across. On one hand barely trusting me to portray them in a true light, and on the other doing what no other band would dream of, inviting me to listen in on a rehearsal.
So whatís a mere little headache compared to what you get out of a band like Killing Joke at the end of the day, eh? A band whose strength is so insidious that they frighten the hell out of me with their potential future. A band not to be taken lightly.
The same issue contained this brief paragraph on the Reading Festival appearance (by Nick Robinson):
Jaz Coleman and the boys showed that not all old jokes become uninteresting and dull. After an 18-month absence, Killing Joke were triumphant in their return to the stage. Their intensely powerful set flowed with aggression and force Ė the crushing bass and Jazís raging voice firing the relentless and unique sound that Killing Joke possess. Old favourites ĎRequiemí and ĎWar Danceí made the stage shudder, while the slightly calmer ĎLove Like Bloodí and ĎAdorationsí swept through the crowd with their controlled rage.
No one can match the bandís ability to stir emotions and captivate an audience. Itís hard to imagine the punch line of this joke ever becoming stale.