(From IndieCator, December 1992)
The Joker - And All That Jaz!
Mad, bad and particularly dangerous to know, KILLING JOKE are back in all their sultry glory. There's a new album and tour to consider, but JAZ COLEMAN is far more interested in airing dirty laundry about the N.M.E. and Nirvana in public. ANTHONY NOGUERA grins and screams "Get in the ring muthafuckas!"
"Hello, Melody Maker."
"Hello (deleted to save the innocent). This is Jaz Coleman here, from Killing Joke, how are you?"
"Great Jaz! I haven't heard from you in ages!"
(Getting straight to the meat and two veg) "Listen, what's the deal with Steve Sutherland?"
"Well, he's left to become the editor of the N.M.E. no less. He left last Tuesday. The thing is he's still on the next floor to us in the building. The N.M.E. don't like it."
"I heard they were resigning in droves."
"Well, it's true. It's really shaken up the IPC music titles I can tell you! You'd love it!"
"Ha! Ha! Ha! But it's incredible because he's a rabid Thatcherite (Boo! Hiss!) and now he's the editor of an extremely left wing music paper ha ha ha! What do you think of that?"
"Well I'm fucking disillusioned because it's against everything he stood for. I think that it's really sad that he left us, but I feel sorry for him because of the way the N.M.E. staff are treating him. They had a meeting when his appointment was announced and basically got pissed out of their heads and called him a c**t for about an hour. It's been like that for a week really. We haven't done any work because it's been going on, you know? Everybody's sad here."
"But his politics are right of Ghengis Khan! How do they feel about it?"
"Well the N.M.E. have been going mad. I think they'll be manning the picket lines! We're just plodding along. We haven't sorted out a replacement and we don't really know what's going on."
"Basically all Steve Sutherland is bothered about is paying off his mortgage, and as a rabid Thatcherite for years, his politics are a bit dubious!"
"All the N.M.E. staff were down the pub last night still going mad about it a week after it's happened. It's real, absolute, outrage!"
"I couldn't have done better myself."
"Well we haven't got anyone to replace him yet because, honest to God, it was so sudden. It was kept all really, really under wraps for ages because they thought it would put him in an untenable position here. So nobody's had a chance to think about what we're gonna do here, you know?"
"It's bloody great! Ha ha ha! I remember him when he was a fresh-faced as a baby!"
"So do I. I remember him when he had hair!"
"I remember him stumbling out of (again deleted, this time for legal reasons!)'s bedroom and we all gave him a round of applause!"
(This infamous incident is reputed to have taken place on an early Joke tour of America when Sutherland was there to do an on-the-road feature.)
"I've wanted to repeat that story so many times but I've never dared. I just smirk to myself!"
A few more unprintable anecdotes about the unfortunate Sutherland later, Jaz returns to his favourite theme, i.e. Sutherland being "a rabid Thatcherite".
"I'm looking forward to a good week!"
"Well the N.M.E. staff have already spilled the story to Music Week and Time Out and The U.K. Press Gazette. So in the current Time Out there's a story about how only a few weeks ago there's a story about how only a few weeks ago Steve was writing about the N.M.E. and calling them dogshit."
"Well he doesn't give a fuck about anyone but himself and that's just wonderful for the N.M.E.!"
"Yeah! He's suffering a lot at the moment. All the staff there look grim-faced in the morning."
"Splendid! I'll have to send Steve a bottle of Champagne to celebrate the topping of the N.M.E., because I really hope that it is that as well! It's nice to see that making money is more important than one's individual values."
So remember kids, when you shell out your hard earned cash for the caring, sharing N.M.E. you're paying the wages of a right wing turncoat who'd sell his morals for enough of Judas' gold. On the other hand you've got to hand it to him. It's the ultimate scam. Can you imagine the cultural elitists over at the N.M.E. going cherry red at the thought of arch nemesis/the bogie man/Goebbels incarnate Sutherland spouting off from the editor's hot seat? 'Permission for bottom lip to wobble sir?' or what?! Oh, the indignant hand wringing, the downright cheek, the horror, the absolute bloody beauty! Come the revolution they'll all be first against the wall. Good luck N.M.E. You'll need it.
We are sat in a West London photographic studio that Jaz had entered, oh, about ten minutes previously, obviously tanked to the gills and in very high spirits. He's just come from the airport where he and neo-legendary Royal re-mixer to the rich and famous, and original Joke bassist Youth, have just met a dangerously inebriated Geordie off a flight from his Detroit home-base. They have been drinking all afternoon. Geordie, unfeasibly drunk, has passed out and Youth, true to form, has freaked out. "I can remember the N.M.E. way back to 1978, when we used to do interviews with them, and they've always been very Socialist, very left wing, in terms of their political associations. I was most amused to hear that Steve Sutherland is now the editor of the N.M.E. considering that his political affinities lie to the right of Ghengis Khan," he says animatedly and with an air of a man taking a large portion of glee in the destruction of an old adversary. Killing Joke and the N.M.E. have hated each other for so long that it's almost a source of comfort to them both. Jaz was so excited to hear the news about Sutherland's new job that he had to speak to an old friend at the Melody Maker immediately.
"It's great news. They've always had this elitist attitude," he says, as he changes into a faded army jumpsuit for today's session. "This attitude of superiority towards bands, as if it's a real privilege to get a review in their paper. It's always made me throw up. Most of the journalists at the N.M.E. lack a sense of humour and they'd really like to be the ones making the music.
"The reason they all like music like Elvis Costello is that they look like him."
I can forgive him this hackneyed old jibe because he obviously relishes the telling of this favourite anecdote so much that it'd be cruel not to. And anyway, he tells it real funny. Jaz doesn't like The N.M.E. You may have guessed.
"I don't think the N.M.E. means anything these days except to DJs at Radio 1 or Capital, and to the odd American who religiously buys his copy, believing everything in it to be gospel truth. I have no time for these people. One of them in particular came to Poland to interview us, and all he was interested in was telling us about how he was a Marxist. What a wanker. When they meet you they are ever so polite, and then they go away and say all these things behind your back. They haven't the guts to say to your face. Absolute wankers to the Nth degree. Most of them have a chip on their shoulders and are quite bitter people, about life really. Absolute arseholes, wankers. They make me believe in extreme violence. The same kind that Steve Sutherland does actually!"
Jaz Coleman is about 5' 11", well built but not stocky, and strikingly of all he still has the stare. The that in the past resulted in the soiling of many an unwary journalist's undergarments in undiluted terror. A stare which dissolves from the plainly intensely quizzical to the death stare of an enraged animal with frightening dexterity. He may be a thirty-something New Zealand New World/Age ecologist, but he's still as powerful a presence as ever. It's good to have him back. Killing Joke are as legendary in music biz folklore as King Arthur in English mythology, and rightly so. Music has been boring without them these last few years. Where's the danger, the outrage, the shock value? Where, indeed, are the mad bastards of rock? We need outrageous characters like Jaz Coleman. For God's sake, Killing Joke invented relentless music. On the one hand, they were devilishly calculating business mercenaries, and on the other, holders of the highest musical integrity. They had real passion! I mean, The Joke have always had more than their fair share of personality and erm, downright nastiness.
his is the band, remember, who in the past sent death threats penned in blood, had journalists gaffa-taped to PA stacks at gigs, checked liver and maggots around the offices of those who dared to diss them, snogged with the devil with Jimmy Page, hung out with gangsters and the Royal family, redefined music and set the trends for a decade of alternative bands (just ask Big Black, Metallica, Nirvana, Ministry, blah, blah, blah.) and then disappeared off to Iceland because the world was ending. It was all in a day's work for Killing Joke really.
"People never really understood our sense of humour," he laughs. It's understandable perhaps. "Admittedly it's a black sense of humour. Very dark. But we were always very humorous."
Today is the first time that the prototype trio of Killing Joke have been together for some eight or nine years. The occasion is the reformation of the band's original membership for a new album and world tour. The band's last appearances before they fragmented into Coleman's one-off solo project with Anne Dudley and the Murder Inc. collaboration with erstwhile Revolting Cock Chris Connelly was for the ill-fated 'Extremities' album and tour. Some great material was ruined by a lacklustre production on that record, whilst the tour saw them bust themselves further and further apart. Once it was over, they split. Then the fun began.
They bitched and stamped, squealed and cursed. No, they informed, they would not be working together again. Ever. Not if hell froze over. No way Jose! Nada chance! Nil point! Don't bother asking mate! They'd probably have been more upset about it had they not been so heavily sedated. Etc. Etc. Etc. They said Jaz was an intolerable loon, mad as a hatstand, a bastard, incapable of -+---working with other human beings; he said they were talentless arse-wipe hired guns living off his talent. And anyway, the world was about to end. Or something.
The truth of the matter is they love it. The cat calling, the name trading, the insults. They're just a bunch of old fishwives at the end of the day. Hard bastard fishwives that is, mind you.
"If you had all of us in a room," Jaz confirms, "We'd defend each other 'til death, but as soon as one of us went to the toilet we'd slag him, 'sack him! He's a wanker! We can do it without him!' I love it! And anyway, we have a deeper bond than that."
He talks of the bond in almost messianic tones. "Whatever happens, whatever we've done there will always be the dream that we had as seventeen year olds, the vision, the idea. It's something that will always bind us. We all know it. That's why I will have to contact Paul Ferguson. I'll probably write him a letter before I die."
The pair have had no contact since 1986 [sic - actually 1988] when they split for good in emotionally-charged acrimonious circumstances.
"Then again," he says. "I never rule anything out. I could end up working with him tomorrow. But I doubt it."
Youth is to blame for this new bout of action on the Killing Joke camp. "He wanted to get back to the spirit of Killing Joke. He wants to do something completely savage and tribal."
However good a mood he's in about the prospect of putting on the gloves and sparring with his old Joke partners, the mere mention of the current Nirvana fiasco has him in a right old blue-in-the-face bluster. Presumably the situation pisses him right off.
"What's he got to hide?" he pokes viciously at a picture of Kurt in those daft Harry Palmer glasses that he's taken to wearing. "A weak personality? Nothing behind the glasses? He looks like an ordinary guy to me. He's made a lot of money and good luck to him, but then you rip off 'Eighties' you have to pay the cash! Maybe he'll win in court, maybe they've got better lawyers than us... (slowly) but... maybe... he... won't. They know they're wrong because they told Chris Kimsey (Stones producer) that 'There'd be problems ripping off Killing Joke' Huh? THEY FUCKING KNOW!!"
What if they win?
"One of these days I'm gonna go into his dressing room and I'm going to look at him flake out and watch his little adam's apple twitching... The truth is the fucking truth. If he has won then I shall deal with it at that particular moment in time."
Last time we met, you said you were going to paint yourself "in blood and hunt him down" 'til the day you died!
"Well I will," he says with an evil smile. "But what I'm planning this time will be much more imaginative. Actually :" he decides. "It would be good if you could be there."
I'll remember to bring my camera.
"Let's just say for the record, for Kurt, that I'm gonna find him and there's a price to be paid. We'll either get it in cash... or some other way."
Presumably, though, with you wanting to push a new album sometime in the new year, you'd still tour with them if they offered you the chance, As some kind of conciliatory move?
"Yeah," he says thoughtfully. A huge grin spreading across his face. "We need a support band. "
Are you hatstand Jaz?
"Yeah, I am a fucking mad c**t, in fact we all are," he laughs. Hell it's good to have 'em back!