(From the NME, 23 July 1988)

Thrilling Bloke

Revelation! Killing Joke possibly not as big as Michael Jackson! Can talented-as-a-fruitcake KJ mainman Jaz Coleman finally see the light, or is he still struggling to make contact with planet Earth? Fearless Barbara Ellen runs a few tests.

The hot jam of a tiny practice room. I sit opposite Jaz Coleman as he bumps and grinds upon his rented piano stool. At a Japanese restaurant, only a week before, he'd managed to convince me that an audience with Jaz Clayderman was an unmissable Life Experience, one to slot in beside Giving Birth and quaffing Moet in the bath-tub. Now I'm not sure.

His book, An Irrational Domain, is produced. Intense, agonised. It is a lengthy analysis of Killing Joke, somehow incorporating the Nuclear Question and butterfly-fancying along the way... I glance at the door. It's shut, but maybe I could chew my way out. Too late. Another spontaneous oration has begun. I'll just have to stay and face the music. Or rather the lack of it.

"Blah, blah, blah... My conclusions at this stage can be formulated on the premise that rationalism ultimately destroys itself through its own irrationality."

Jaz... What are you trying to say?

"I'm trying to say that ... I believe that the future of life, or evolution, is in a form of mutation and we cannot - in our present moral and ethical state - face up to this."

Jaz pauses for a long moment, allowing his features to walk their crooked mile. Like all great bullshitters he is the Master of Disguise. From Thoughtful Academic to Jovial Raconteur to Threatening Meathead and back again. A vicious looking circle, but nothing to worry about. Nobody really gets hurt.

"It's an irrational approach. A guess... I use my intuition a lot perhaps... But I don't think I'm altogether wrong. Not all the way through."

Who are you trying to impress?

"Impress? ...I suppose a lot of it was me trying to express to my father my actual philosophy, my view ... really just to shut his mouth.

"I have one obsession. The way things will develop in the next 10 to 12 years... Music is my chosen medium, a vehicle to express the thoughts that I have. It's not a case of when the band started in '79 ...This has been my life since l was five or six..."

Oh yes, I forgot, you ARE Killing Joke aren't you?

"That's right ... I certainly am. I've gone through hell with this band ... I'm committed..."

Staying committed to an outfit like Killing Joke must be rather like sailing around the world in a soap-dish. Nobody takes you seriously, so you might as well do it for charity. Not that this would appeal to Coleman. Killing Joke have only ever looked out for themselves. Jaz Coleman and the glacially striking Geordie - the sole remaining original sidekick now that Big Paul and Raven have been dumped - have taken, and given, a lot of steaming flak over the years. With Jaz's rotting banana of a face grunging out from the pages of paper 'soapboxes' as he wheeled out his peculiar ideas for yet another airing.

He tells me that he is a busy man. He is writing film scores, symphonies, a novel. He even gives lectures at universities. Pretty highbrow stuff. It's almost as if Jaz Coleman is ashamed of his trivial pursuits in the pop whirl, as if he sees nine fat fingers plunging into nine fat, juicy pies, and one skinny little finger dangling over a mousetrap.

"Between you and me, at the end of the day, I'm appealing to a minority... If something is successful it's good ... but it is an accident."

It's almost as if you're embarrassed...

"You're probably right. It's a good way to put out my music ... and that's all."

Would you describe yourself as lazy?

"Lazy? ... Lazy! ... I am not a lazy person. I start my day at four or five in the morning. I write ... I write ... I go into the piano room...

"I am entering the second phase of my life...

"I like diversity.

"...to speak in public...

"...and there's my symphony...

"And when I don't feel like writing music, I write for pleasure ... as a discipline."

You'd better be careful. You know what they say about Jack of all trades...

"I only do music... Music is my chosen medium. The only thing in my life. Ask anybody. Ask somebody who hates me."

Why do you assume that somebody who hates you will have a greater insight into the way you tick?

"Because they're not biased. Well they are ... but there are also those who agree with everything I say ... and I wouldn't trust them either.

"You see...I'm not as analytical as perhaps you think. I'm certainly not self-conscious... I could probably do with being a little bit more. That's a valid point. I forget how I come across. I upset people. I really don't know I'm doing it..."

He is lying, of course. Coleman is only too aware of his desperate reputation, only too pleased by the somersaults others have turned to avoid his wrath. To listen to some accounts is to believe that Killing Joke is a walking bonfire forever on the prowl for likely Guys.

Coleman - quite naturally - has chosen to exploit this impression. This is after all a man who can't walk past a mirror without snarling into it. Without that nervous edge of delinquency, Coleman would feel small and unprotected, as naked and as vulnerable as a Botticelli nude in a hypermarket.

That part of the act Killing Joke have off to perfection; it is the belly of their music that hangs in folds. Their career has enjoyed some storms but that was earlier on. The latest album - 'Outside The Gate'- carries on the new, less honed tradition. It is a private breakfast of ideas, depicting poor old Jaz wading through quicksand with his jeans rolled down yet again. Worse ... he seems to be wandering off in exactly the same direction.

Explain to me why, after all your efforts, people still perceive Killing Joke as being mindless and bombastic?

"Do they? ...I certainly wouldn't call it mindless and bombastic. I believe my music has its own particular style. It is quite dark ... there is a certain tension

...and atmosphere..."

So many people don't get it.

"So many people do... Nowadays KJ are known for being challenging on certain issues. I can go to most countries in the world and say 'Killing Joke' and people will know the basic feeling behind it... Perhaps they don't grasp everything...but...

"I want variation in music, innovation not familiarity ... I want to perfect music, break out, explore. Instead of all that verse bridge chorus stuff. I find that insulting."

You must get extremely impatient with your old material.

"l love the energy ... I want to keep that... I suppose I have been rather frustrated in the past... At the end of the day everything's in the music. If somebody's got a pretty face I don't want to know. They must be able to play."

How do you rate visually?

"What ... me? I don't know. I don't look at myself. I don't really think about it."

What, not at all?

"Well ... as you probably know I'm probably one of the handsomest men in the world ... HAHAHAHAHA! No, I don't think about that ... but I don't think people forget me when they see me."

What if, say, someone branded you an old fraud?

"HAHAHAHAHA! ... I'd ask them to justify their observations."

You do change your mind a lot?

"On some things... perhaps that's why I relate to Gadaffi..."

In '86 you claimed that Killing Joke in it's present form was all you'd ever dreamt it would be.

"That's right, and it was... but things change. And now I'm still trying to achieve a certain sound that I hear in my mind. I hear it all the time... I aspire towards it..."

With what Coleman spins round and launches into an exotic piano recital. Jaz of all trades; man of many faces; the guy is just a big kid at heart. A dizzily articulate celebrity with entertainment on his mind.

And those sounds, the ones Jaz hears in his head all the time? It's all starting to add up. God told him to do it. What's your excuse?