(From the Independent, London daily, 8 September 1995.)
Jaz Coleman lecture, Columbia Hotel, London
by Mat Smith
hell as a place full of people with no opinions. By this reasoning, Jaz Coleman,
Killing Joke singer, or, as he prefers these days, "composer", seems destined
for a place in the clouds. Coleman has a theory on anything you'd care to think
about. His obsessions being reserved for things you'd rather not.
His philosophy is a strangely appealing hybrid of new-age sensitivity and pull-your-socks-up-man-there's-a-war-on sensibility.
Eyes blazing beneath the brim of an Indiana Jones hat and flanked by burning candles, Coleman cuts an oddly commanding figure in the Regency Room of the Columbia, home to generations of bands.
It's impossible not to be impressed by both the sheer magnetism of his presence and his extraordinary work rate. The past two years have seen him complete one Killing Joke and six classical LPs, set up a studio, produce Maori choirs, undertake three European tours and found the Perma- Culture Trust to promote eco-friendly areas in New Zealand.
Of the 64 attendees, committed KJ fans outnumber the merely interested by two to one, carefully vetted by Coleman in a display of anachronistic cold-war style paranoia.
What it was in aid of, nobody seemed quite sure. Contradictions have always been Coleman's forte. During the five-hour lecture, he counselled those present to know their limitations on one hand while on the other, urging them to follow their dreams, even into "the realms of irrationality".
He raged against the short-termism of Thatcher yet cackled at his own recent economic quick fix - arranging three CDs of Who, Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones songs for symphony orchestra - effectively dismissing his involvement as a case of "stepping over stones" to get where he wants. Or in this case, stepping over the Stones.
Coleman calls upon quotes from Spinoza, Mohammed, TS Eliot and Nietzsche to add academic weight to the emotional battering-ram of his passionate views. However, it's Napoleon's warning, "Beware of the man who dreams with his eyes open", that he seems to have taken closest to heart.
He returned to the subject of dreams constantly. You half expected him to add the Arthur Askeyesque proviso "Stop me if you've heard this one before". Instead he asked members of the audience to outline their aspirations on paper while listening to a tape of his Symphony No 1, due for its Albert Hall premiere on 25 November.
While contemporaries either live it up in LA or down in the George Robey, Coleman is working on "One enormous masterwork for no other reason than to glorify existence".
Grand conceit? Surely. But what else would you expect from a master of the art?