(From Melody Maker, 4 June 1988)
HE CLAIMS HE SACKED HALF HIS BAND. HE CLAIMS WE'VE ONLY 20 MONTHS LEFT TO LIVE. HE CLAIMS HE HATES AMERICA. HE CLAIMS NATURE'S GONE MAD. SO WHY IS JAZ COLEMAN SO HAPPY AND WHY ARE KILLING JOKE ABOUT TO RELEASE ANOTHER LP? STEVE SUTHERLAND INVESTIGATES.
"When I see 'KILLING JOKE SPLIT' on the front of a paper, I get f***ing pissed off. You see, there is no Killing Joke split because I am Killing Joke and I always have been. When I went to Iceland, I took the name with me. When I started the band in '79, I carried the name. I legally hold the name for one reason and one reason alone, because I am committed to Killing Joke 'til l die and that separates me from any other musician that's played with us."
Jaz isn't off his rocker. He isn't even angry. He's far more dangerous than that. Jaz is sitting calmly, conducting an interview at his own request, putting the record straight on the Killing Joke split as he sees it, attempting to explain, for those who care to listen, the thinking behind the "Outside The Gate" LP - already, a month before its release, as wilfully and controversially misunderstood as its predecessors.
"The whole idea of Killing Joke in the first place was not rock 'n' roll, it was not to be Led Zeppelin, it was to be innovatory. It wasn't, 'Let's be big rock 'n' roll stars'. I don't want that. I don't want to see Killing Joke as a boozy rock 'n' roll band. I don't want Killing Joke members bragging about their latest sexual exploits - that's not Killing Joke to me. I'm interested in the study of a new music.
"What I see going on at the moment, this Seventies thing, makes me wanna puke, it makes me wanna throw up all over this table. Everybody knows that without Geordie's guitar sound, without Killing Joke, there would have been no Sisters Of Mercy and, without them, there would have been no Mission. It goes on and on and on. They all know that. It makes us laugh. We're innovators and, next year, people will be listening to this album and so on and so on.
"Listen, I say to Wayne and the rest of them: listen to 'The Calling', listen to 'Outside The Gate', listen to the album, listen to it well and follow in our footsteps. Ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
When Jaz laughs, you understand why people fear him. Suddenly, for an instant, you're not there. No-one is. This is not theatre. This is the dance of joy of private demons.
"One of the many reasons for, let's say, us dumping our rhythm section - which is what it was if the truth be known - is, if I'd stayed with them, I would be sentenced to playing verse-chorus-verse-chorus-development-verse-chorus-outro for the rest of my musical career in 4/4 time. I don't want that. I want a rhythm section capable of going from 4/4 to 7/8 to 13/12 which we have on the new album. I want articulacy, that's what I want. And they were incapable of doing it.
"This is a fact - the reason Paul Raven's name is not on the album is because there are none of his basslines on the album. Now, I don't want anymore nonsense from you, Raven, on that, okay? He tried to put his basslines down but he wasn't a disciplined musician so we wiped them all off and Geordie did them because he's a brilliant, articulate musician. And it may interest you to know that, when Big Paul heard Geordie's basslines, he suggested booting Raven out because he thought he was a crap bass player. I'm sure Paul's an honourable enough chap to actually say this.
"Raven was really someone to take over Youth's place except he lacked Youth's charisma, I have to admit in retrospect. He doesn't work hard, he stands still and he doesn't have the charisma to carry it off - that's one of the sad facts of life I'm afraid."
Surely Paul leaving was another matter - he'd been with you so long.
"It was very difficult for Big Paul because I started the band with him and we spent £15,OOO on getting his drums down. But, after 10 days, we listened back to the tapes and it was all over the place. So Paul being an honourable chap, we had to make decisions, so we got in a new drummer, Jimmy Copley, who's played with Jeff Beck and a number of other people - fantastic. He did the drums perfectly in two days and the guy emanates a very good atmosphere so I thought it was time for a change. I've done Big Paul a favour. We used to give each other ulcers - honestly!
"I think Raven and Big Paul are crap musicians but I think they're nice people and I'd have a drink with them tomorrow but Geordie and myself are trained musicians and I don't want to have a punk rhythm section for the rest of my life. Bass players and drummers - they're 10 a penny. Big Paul gave a lot for Killing Joke and I hope Killing Joke won't be the same. I want change. There's no point in going over the past eight years trying to repeat musically. I don't want that. I want every album to be different from now 'til kingdom come."
Didn't it take you rather a long time to discover all this?
"That's right, this album was different. We pinpointed the tempo of the songs with a metronome and then related that to Cabbalistic numerology which gave us, let's say, an imaginative insight into the psychological effect that rhythm has."
There was also criticism from Raven in a recent MM article about the subject matter of some of the songs on the new album.
"Well, I know for a fact that Paul Raven hasn't got a copy of the album but, apart from that, there is one song about an encounter of mine in South America. I travel a lot and travel is valuable to me. I mean, you can't tell me that, because Mozart went to Prague, the Prague Symphony is irrelevant because he didn't stay at home. I mean, that's absolutely ridiculous. And the other eight tracks on the album are written in strict Killing Joke tradition. I am inspired by a singular obsession - a singular obsession - the next 10 years, how it will develop.
"I mean, I look at the population of this tiny little island - getting on 60 million - and okay, say I'm wrong and everybody else is right and there is not a nuclear war. In 20 years time, at the present population expansion, we will have getting on 120 million people in this tiny little island. And they're complaining about how difficult it is now!
"I'm a realist. I think everybody else is dreaming and my work with Killing Joke has been to try and define a style of music that is exclusive to the atomic age. That's also what I'm trying to do with my orchestral music, so help me God!"
I understand your obsession, but I've never understood the point. Is it a warning? A gloating? What?
"Observation. It's Geopolitics - what is likely to happen. To look at it without sticking my head in the sand like everybody else. I don't believe things are gonna continue like they are. I think, from the Middle east - and I study Middle Eastern politics - the superpowers and, eventually, our country, are gonna be dragged into a horrible vortex in the next 10 years. I have a morbid fascination with it, yes, but I also hold he subject in extreme horror and dread. I have a daughter, and I wouldn't have had a daughter if I didn't believe in a future of one type or another.
"I believe we cannot reach the year 2000 without enormous conflict. In my book (an enormous tome entitled 'An Irrational Domain' explaining the philosophy behind Killing Joke, due for publication in paperback in the Fall) I draw on the parallels between all the prophesies, all the mythologies about the next 10 years. Okay, even a rationalist should be able to see that all Gorbachev and Reagan have done in their summit is change the platforms from which the missiles are launched. Their proliferation exists."
Say there isn't a nuclear war in the next 10 years, where does that leave Killing Joke?
"Not in this country. I'm now approaching the secondary phase of my life where I want to be in control of my environment and I cannot do that in this particular country. So, whether it's South America, Australia, wherever, in the next year I shall be moving and opening a recording studio in an imaginative surrounding.
"Buy property where it's cheap and there's a lot of it, that's my advice."
So how do you protect it after the holocaust, when the mutants start marauding?
"You get Keep Out signs, you get barbed wire, you get 30 Jack Russell terriers with spiked collars, you ride around on a cart-horse, beating the peasants. Only joking ...maybe."
You seem to be suggesting, contrary to previous interviews, that man can hold dominion over nature.
"No, I believe nature has the last say. And, whether nature comes through AIDS or natural cataclysm or atomic war, it will come. There's too many damn people in the world, it can't go on. I'm a realist and I'm trying to capture the most precarious period in history within the perimeter called music."
Perhaps it would help clear up many of the misconceptions about Killing Joke if we talked specifically about one of the plagues you've been predicting for years - AIDS?
"I have a dilemma in so far as I am a Pantheist and I see the Universe, nature and God as one thing and I do see them as a necessarily benevolent force so I hate the compassionate conditioning within me that makes me feel so much for the people who suffer so terribly from AIDS. I think the man of the future is terrifying. We have to look at the compassion in ourselves and our own moral and ethical condition to understand these things when over-population is at loggerheads with human compassion - Judaeo-Christian compassion.
"Of course if my friends, or you, or anybody I know contracted AIDS, it would evoke awful emotions within me but, at the same time, I cannot help feeling that it's a necessary phase for civilisation to go through. There's too many people and we've got to realise the eco-system can only cater for so many people."
Is there a parallel between your philosophy and Survivalism?
"I'm actually going on a Survivalist course on Dartmoor this summer, just for a laugh, to see if l can cope with it. I'll probably book into a Hilton halfway through it. Ha ha ha!"
Do you think they're cranks?
"No! I think a co-operative of land-owners or people who have a monopoly over an area of land where there is minerals, fresh water, are gonna own … are gonna dominate existence in the future. That's right!"
All of this and more Jaz has been revealing at lectures designed to explain the Killing Joke philosophy and to demonstrate the working behind it. So far he has lectured at the Courtauld Institute in London and in universities in New Zealand and Sydney. There is also, apart from the book, a symphony ready for performance with another Maori-related work on the way plus collaborations with Ahmed Adoia, an inspirational pop singer from Arabia, to be released on a new label, Menace, which will be "independent because we don't really want to deal in the singles market".
"It's a pain in the ass for Killing Joke - always has been. We put four albums out before we had a hit and we'll probably put four albums out before we have a hit again. We're becoming shareholders in a whole new label, Geordie and me, starting up a whole musical movement.
"My idea of Killing Joke is not propping up a bar somewhere. It's my studies documented through literature and music on what is happening now and what is likely to happen."
Is that why you frighten people so much?
"Do I? I don't know. I think it's the subject matter, perhaps. And the fact that I embody Killing Joke. That is my art. I try to live my ideals."
And the fact that, when you're offended, you visit music papers with liver and maggots.
"Oh I loved that, I loved the picture in Talk Talk Talk of me in the swimming pool. I know you picked that out. That was art."
So why the maggots?
"Ha ha ha! That was art too! I was having one of those days. I'm not vindictive. Harbouring vengeance in your heart gives you cancer. I like a good laugh. Poor Mat Smith - he took it badly didn't he? I heard he cleaned it all up. Ha! I think people take me too seriously sometimes!"
You do have a reputation for being a bit of a lunatic around people.
"What's sanity? Everybody voted for Margaret Thatcher. As you know, I don't really take much notice of the majority. I will not tour America - that's what 'America', the single, was all about. It reflected the musical tradition and consciousness of America, a complete joke on my part. I didn't foresee it as a massive hit single.
"I hate America. I support Palestine. Ha ha ha! The week we brought out 'America', the Americans bombed three Iranian oil rigs and, within six hours, they'd bombed a British tanker. I thought it was wonderful. I love the insanity of it. Everybody does - I just admit to it.
"I love the Middle East and I'm sympathetic to a lot that's happening there. How would you like it if you had your country taken away from you because somebody said, in this old book, that they were the chosen people and they lived there once?"
Then again, if you were on a hi-jacked plane, I'd like to hear you express your sympathies.
"That would be a bit of a drag too. Ha ha ha! I can't admit to wanting to be on a plane in that situation! But I'm fascinated by the Iranian revolution - it was a fantastic phenomenon, brilliant - fundamentalism."
They pose a real threat.
"I think so, especially as, in January this year, there was a sale of enriched plutonium in Sudan and the three buyers were Iran, Iraq and Argentina and Iran secured the deal. It excites me because a lot of the mythologies say that conflict will happen in the Eighties, not the Nineties. It means we've only got about 20 months left and I'm just actually thrilled to bits. I just can't wait to see what happens, can you?
"It's an exciting period in human history and I'm trying to capture it within music. I'm not trying to morally or ethically condemn it. I'm trying to be unbiased, truly objective in the way I receive this information. Nature's going crazy and I want to be there when it happens."
I click the tape off and Jaz asks me if I've ever met Chrissie Hynde. I say I haven't had the pleasure.
"Oh, she's great. We're quite good friends. We've met on a couple of flights. We were on Lufthansa once and, being Lufthansa, the meals were all meat. Well, she's a radical vegetarian and she asked me whether I was. Well, I replied that, if I had animals I'd kill them for food and she said 'Oh, eating meat gives you bad karma'. I said 'You've had two people die in your band - that's f***ing bad karma'!"
I just had to laugh.
Any last words?
"Yes, 'Killing Joke Split'. Ha! So long as I am alive, Killing Joke will be putting out records. I will define the atomic sound before I am dead."