From Access, "The Rock Radio Magazine," published in Toronto, March 1995.
Island At The
End Of The World
For over an hour Jaz Coleman, the 34-year-old lead singer of seminal band Killing Joke and yours truly (our LA correspondent, Dominic Griffin) are having a wonderful lunch accompanied by a delightful bottle of champagne. I asked questions about his band's 10th and latest album, Pandemonium, and his responses were all quotable and quite funny. Everything was going so smoothly. Probably too smoothly. Then, like a scorpion who'd been rudely awoken, he stung ... sort of.
The truth is, Coleman really doesn't give a fuck what people think, say or do. If he did, he probably wouldn't be have told me off the bat: "I think writing and talking about music is stupid." And just in case I didn't get the message, he added: "Opinions are like assholes: everyone's got one." When I asked if he was referring to yours truly, he replied, "What do you care? You're drinking champagne, ain't you?" And he still hadn't aimed his best shot yet. Oh yes, this was fun.
Killing Joke's genesis goes back to 1978, when Coleman, Geordie (guitar), Martin Atkins (drums) and Youth (bass) formed by way of placing an ad in a music paper that read: "Want to be part of Killing Joke? Total exploitation, total publicity and total anonymity." Part industrial, part punk and part goth, the band built up an eager and cult-like fan-base. Their live performances were a great attraction, and always a party. They hated their opening acts to the point where they would turn off the bands' power and play their favourite records instead. "It was a party, mate," Coleman recalls after another sip of champagne.
By 1982 - after three studio albums and one live album - Youth and Coleman had a major falling out. Apparently Coleman left his cats with Youth for safe-keeping and he forgot to feed them. At least that's the story Coleman tells first, but he also tells another tale later on that's just as interesting. "We were all very involved in mysticism regarding a certain period which discussed an island at the end of the world. I became so obsessed with this dream of a place at the end of the world, and the band disagreed vehemently with me." Youth and Atkins believed the place referred to 'an island of your soul', while Geordie and Coleman decided it was a physical place. The band split up and Coleman and Geordie went off to Iceland to research it further. Doesn't splitting up over a verse of literature seem extreme? Not to this band.
Youth stayed at home and began producing for the likes of The Orb, The Firemen and Crowded House while Coleman began to compose for the likes of the Minsk Philharmonic and the New Zealand Orchestras and, alternately, continued Killing Joke with Geordie.
After Iceland, Coleman moved on to Switzerland before settling on New Zealand - a country where he feels at home for the first time. He calls it "my island at the end of the world." Youth became a renowned producer while Geordie is mentioned as a favourite guitarist by Jimmy Page.
It wasn't 'til 1990, after all band members had proved themselves in the solo arena, that Youth and Coleman spoke again; it wasn't until some of the recording sessions for the new album in Coleman's newly purchased New Zealand studio that they sorted out their differences proper: "I nearly bottled Youth," Coleman explains, but after this small altercation, the band grooved into an intense creative vibe. "We wrote a load of material before we went into the studio," he recalls, "but when we got there we threw it all away and wrote, recorded and produced the entire album in 11 days."
The band then moved on to the Great Pyramids of Egypt to record a further three songs. "Basically we went into the pyramids so we could freeze a certain moment in our life. We are a family, and ritual is very important to us. It was a celebration," he says.
How did he manage to gain access to such a revered place? "There's a reason we got into the pyramids and had them to ourselves for three days. And do you know why that is?" He leans right over the table and, with a cheeky cockney laugh, says "Bribes, fucking bribes, mate."
Pandemonium sees the band continuing their search for new musical frontiers. Hard-driving rhythms and powerful melodies act as a canvas for Coleman's howls that constantly change in tone. He screams quite softly! And undoubtedly this record will be bought by many a musician who wonders what the band with a classical conductor/punk howler, a producer of ambient and pop acoustic music plus a guitarist who is cited as an influence by many has been up to.