(This article originally appeared in the NME, a UK-based music magazine, 27 October 1990).
I Came, I Warsaw, I'm Bonkers!
PUSH! STRUGGLE! They're living in the '90s!! Steven Wells joins Killing Joke as they storm Poland, and finds Jaz Coleman recovering from playing with "chaotic primaeval forces". Pole positions: AJ Barratt
"Let us in! We have not got any money!" Pasty faced Polish punters press themselves up against the bars of the subterranean Warsaw dressing room. Killing Joke's Jaz makes them turn out their pockets to prove that they are zloty-free and asks the Polish promoter to do the decent thing.
"No way!" says the promoter, shaking his head.
"Aww come on!" says Jaz.
"I cannot let them in for free!" says the budding Harvey Goldsmith. "They will then expect not to have to pay in the future!"
Hey! Poland! Welcome to the wonderful world of the free market, rock and bleeding roll economy. Everything is possible! At a price.
FEATURING ... JAZ! People said he was mad! People said he worshipped the Devil! But all he wants is to be understood!
GEORDIE! The commie chicks melted under the solar flare of his Micky Heseltine good looks! They didn't know he was a secret brunette!
ROMAN! The roguishly handsome Polish promoter who said NO! when Jaz offered him a lick of his cheese!
"This isn't really my job. I'm really a journaist. Can you get me the Jane's Addiction album? It's not for me, it's for my wife you understand . . ."
Me and Jazzy C, allegedly the most dangerous nutter in rock, rub our piles against the concrete steps of the Museum of Culture. Behind us a firm-jawed social realist Brylckzreamed superstudent looks grimly into the future whilst clutching a book which has "MARX, ENGELS, LENIN . . ." engraved on it with the word "STALIN" hacked off . . . and then written back with a crayon.
We talk about the new Killing Joke album - 'Extremities, Dirt And Various Repressed Emotions' (a collection of Black Lace cover versions produced by Timmy Mallett. No not really) and 'Songs From The Victorious City' by Jaz, Anne Dudley (ex-Art Of Noise) and 30-odd shit hot and dope-dazed Egyptian classical musicians. But first we talk about nervous breakdowns:
"It was a matter of looking at my actions over the last ten years and I've done some pretty horrific things. I've recorded the process of the last two years, the loss of one's dignity, the loss of one's ideals . . ." Yes, to quote the great, the brilliant, the utterly unspeakably awesome Betty Boo, Jaz has "used up all his tissues" because "there's more seriouser issues".
And spiritual possession:
"I was working on some rituals and I was experiencing possession . . ."
You mean you were literally possessed by a spirit?
"Yeah. I mean if you spoke to a medical man he'd give you a totally different interpretation of my dilemma. I got over it through meditation. I stopped taking all intoxicants. . ."
"No thanks . . . I had to get my peace of mind without any intoxicants and try and find myself and find peace within myself and I managed to do that and call that which is higher into my life, basically."
"I mean basically . . . uh, I invoked, uh, something within myself, or invoked some force, which, erm, made me very, very unstable."
"My doctor would say that basically I suffered excessive, severe stress. But even my acupuncturist said it was to do with the magic practice that I was engaged in at the time. . ."
Did this spirit have a name?
"Oh, I can certainly identify it but I don't want to inspire gullible people to repeat any of my actions . . . it's really connected to what I was doing during Outside The Gate when I was playing with chaotic primaeval forces . . .
I mean, bloody hell! This is a bit more than this poor little atheist can handle. Talking seriously to Jaz is a serious mindf___. He goes on about falling asleep whilst still awake and dreaming about the island at the end of the world which will survive "the great combustion". He tells me of the time he and Geordie buggered off to Iceland (which he decided on after "dowsing" a map) with a woman "who became a goddess to all of us" and how Iceland "went from being this magical place to being a horrid rock in the North Pole" after a racist scummer tried to run Jaz down in the street. How is dream is to buy 200 acres of land and "enhance its fertility". He talks about how we are all God and Genesis P Orrible's plan to launch a satanic commando raid on Jimmy Page's Boleskine House and nick - not the old fart's cocaine stash - but some old book by Al 'Creepy' Crowley. Do what!?!? He reviles the heroes of the adolescent cat's blood 'n' pentagram set - Crowley, Nietzsche, Spinoza, etc. - "I would not trust any of them to run a society for my offspring to live in. I'd court martial them, bloody court martial, mate!"
He talks about his sojourn in Egypt and the great and the greats of Middle Eastern classical music with whom he's jammed "and prayed". He raves (Jaz has two modes, "hesitant serious beetly eyebrows" and "200,000 MPH Billy Idol style PHWOOOOAR! enthusiasm") about the 'Victorious City' project. It's an interesting record, most of it sounding to these pig-ignorant ears like the great Indian film music they used to have on the downstairs juke box in the Shaheen curry house, Bradford.
He beetles and PHWOOOARS! about his retreat to New Zealand and going on TV to warn the Kiwis not to f___ it up by getting all horrible and industrialised. He shows me the dense book of notes he's kept since he was a kid, he talks about his black troughs of depression, his decision (now rescinded) to "sacrifice" Killing Joke to some unspecified magical forces. The press conference where the first question was "why do you practice necrophilia?" How he worked so hard at playing Mr Punch that he almost lost control of his own personality. He bubbles and spits and crackles through a monologue of weirdness and darkness and hang on a minute! I mean BLOODY HELL!
This is a ROCK BAND we're talking about here! I mean you talk to suave, slick and too handsome for his own bloody good Geordie or bluff pisshead bassist Paul Raven and your feet are firmly on Planet Earth as in 'where's the next pint coming from, mate, and do you fancy one of these tasty Polish sandwiches or what?' But you even start to hint that maybe old Jaz is a bit of a space cadet and they chop you up into little pieces with their sharp and steely knives and feed you to their pet goldfish, Frank.
"Shall I do the burnt cork?" asks Jaz.
"BURNT CORK! BURNT CORK!" screams Paul Raven.
And so, once again, Jaz becomes not the polite and distant romantic poet but the boiler-suited evil imp, ready to prance round the stage like a rabid dog with his bollocks in a jam jar full of wasps . . . For all the trauma, the tears, the legal bollocks, the staring into the abyss - Killing Joke haven't changed that much. Except that now they are even more resolutely unfashionable - New Model Army without the bang up-to-date dress sense. Rock's lost tribal warriors.
"We do not," says Jaz, proudly, "have drum machines and Brian Jones haircuts . . ." Jaz is going onstage to sing a song about fat capitalist piggies and how they, the planet and the rest of the human race can't really share the same space in the universe at the same time without everything going fizz blooey splat, 'Masters Of War' reinterpreted by Chrissie Hynde after a decent steak supper.
"I WANT YOU TO CHANT!" he shouts, "MONEY IS NOT OUR GOD! MONEY IS NOT OUR GOD!" I am expecting a capital R rock gig. I get an assassination of the senses and I still don't know how much I can blame on the Buffalo Grass Vodka.
Killing Joke are like masturbating with toothache. Drummer Martin Atkins is fresh from working with PiL ("John Lydon is a total c___!" he tells some Polish PiL fans) and the insane Revolting Cocks. He claims that when he plays the riddims of Killing Joke classics he's playing stuff that he played with his other bands anyway - the thieving bastards! If all property is theft then modern pop is anarchy in its purest form. So why is Mr. Rotten a "total c___"?
"He's just a f___ing bloated pop star! I mean, what did it for me was when he ordered the limo out to go get him some cheese. . ."
Backstage and back at the hotel Jaz tries to give away his Marks & Spencer goodie bag of fresh ground coffee and smelly foreign cheeses to the poor deprived Poles. Nobody wants them.
By the side of the stage a crap Polish security man tries to throw me out. I tell him that I manage Killing Joke, that I am Jaz's father. That I am the music demon Regay. That I wrote all the songs. That, in a real spiritual sense, I am Killing Joke. I am believed. Perhaps, for tonight, it is all TRUE!!!!!! Spoooooooooookeeeeeee!
The crowd go monkeyshite mental, slamdancing themselves into a pulp. Then Killing Joke leave the stage and a troupe of feathered and painted Amerindians come on.
"Oi, Jaz!" -- I exclaim in the dressing room - "what are you doing back here? You're missing the Red Indians!"
Jaz looks at me as if I am mad.
"Nah! Piss off! Ha ha! Red Indians!"
Jaz has eight billion more things to tell me, so trusting and earnest that to stitch the bastard up would be like pouring acid on a kitten. Trying to argue against his hotpotch of metaphysical mumbo and mystical jumbo is like trying to explain cricket to an American on acid.
I like Jaz but I'm glad I don't live with him. The arguments about whose turn it is to do the washing up would probably take four hours and involve long quotations on his part from The Great Book Of Ka.
"I was 18 when I started Killing Joke. I'm 30 now and whilst I'm still alive I want to, on a very small scale - I don't have the grandiose ideas I used to - I want to justify my career with something that is . . . is beautiful . . ."
So he's going to buy 200 acres of land and turn it into a paradise on earth. I think it's a strange idea. You think it's a strange idea. And I bet you ten pence that in two years Jaz will think it's a strange idea too and jack it in to try and do something even stranger.