(From Kerrang! UK hard rock music magazine, 21 January 1995)


Is Killing Joke leader Jaz Coleman stark raving mad or a misunderstood genius? And why does he think Kurt Cobain's death was "justice"? Chris Watts probes the mind of The Joker!

So this American Killing Joke fan comes up to the band after a recent gig in New York. He tells singer Jaz Coleman that his brother is in hospital with maybe 12 hours to live.

The fan wants to know whether Jaz could come over to the hospital right now and hold his brother's hand. Jaz agrees. They meet.

Jaz talks about his love of life eternal. The fan's brother dies.

"That's when I decided that I'm going to become a priest," Jaz Coleman suddenly announces in a Paris cafe some days later. He's not joking. He laughs this hollow, empty, scary laugh.

"Why not? Why can't I study theology? It's a very interesting thing, isn't it?"

And then Jaz orders the most expensive bottle of red wine from the menu. He tells the girl from the French record company that she's paying. Jaz Coleman does not buy anything.

"That's the secret, " he says. "Whenever I go anywhere I never take any money whatsoever. Why f**king not? I've worked hard for 15 years and I think I deserve all can get out of it.

"Today I want to drink the finest French wines, eat the finest French oysters, and have a wild French time, and someone else is going to pay for it!"

Later we tell this to Killing Joke's eminently genial bassist.

"I'm not surprised," says Youth. "He's got this thing now where he has to exploit every situation. He's gone into a free-lunch frenzy!

"I think he's trying to get as much as he can and, fine, go for it. Butl believe there's no such thing as a free lunch. I've learnt that one, man."

KILLING JOKE are in Paris for a TV show that goes out live on the Canal Plus cable network to approximately 10 million viewers.

Jaz and Youth flew into London on the red-eye last night. Guitarist Geordie went AWOL in the departure lounge and missed the plane.

Jaz Coleman arrives at Waterloo station for the Eurostar Channel Tunnel train crossing and tells the British record company rep that he has to eat one hot meal a day or else he is going home to New Zealand.

His jet black hair is slicked back and flecked with grey. He's gonna look superb at 60.

Jaz is carrying a slimline briefcase and wearing a donkey jacket that is covered in cat hairs. Last night he slept in Notting Hill Gate on his auntie's floor. His auntie calls him Jeremy - the name on his passport and the Quantas airline gold membership card.

The Eurostar train is fast, boring prone to mishap. Jaz is more concerned about the seats (economy class) than he is about a car bursting into flames and delaying the journey by 45 minutes. The company officials offer a free one-way ticket as compensation.

"Anybody want to buy mine?" says Jaz.

KILLING JOKE have re-invented themselves as the perfect band for this almighty decade. If you haven't yet heard the 'Pandemonium' album then you are dull and scabby.

Five years ago Killing Joke were going nowhere and getting there slowly. Yet 'Pandemonium' has jump-started this gleaming, sinister motor and provided a springboard for some of the most utterly mesmerising live shows ever.

Jaz Coleman constantly refers to the Killing Joke performance as "cathartic" and "cleansing". Youth calls them a folk band.

"I think there was a time when they got into a formula with the sound," says Youth, referring to the period after he quit the band in 1982. "They were missing the point of Killing Joke entirely. They sounded like a band trying to sound like Killing Joke!

"But I still saw the power up there, and I still saw Jaz's mesmerising capabilities. Obviously Jaz was calling all the shots and no one was giving him any real backbone.

"Geordie had kind of given up. Geordie never listens to the lyrics or anything anyway!

"I thought Jaz was having a bit too much of his own way. For a while it did become a bit of a vehicle for Jaz. I think he was just determined to keep the band alive at any cost."

And if Jaz managed to keep the embers of Killing Joke smouldering, it was Geordie and particularly Youth who masterminded a menacing update of the band's hypnotic beat. It is the perfect marriage between tub-thumping Rock bombast and ambient Dance sub-culture.

Geordie is the Metal guitarist Billy Dully would just die to be. Youth, meanwhile, is the cartoon hippy with a finely-tuned ear for mood and atmosphere.

It is now a fashionable sound. It is not DJ Jazzy Jaz & The Killing Joke AII-Stars. Or The Buzzcocks. It is a sound that can be found in everything from Nine Inch Nails to Nirvana.

Killing Joke only recently dropped legal action against Nirvana for allegedly stealing the rill from 'Eighties' and calling it 'Come As You Are', because Youth convinced Geordie it would backfire through karma!

Jaz is a little less sensitive. He tells a French fanzine writer that "justice has been done anyway!"

KILLING JOKE run a tight ship from their Butterfly base in Brixton. Youth's ambient Dragonfly label is also based in the converted Victorian house, and it is usually these sounds which precede any Killing Joke live show.

Today, however, Killing Joke are preceded by a short, fat Euro-comic. His entourage includes Steven Seagal and some glittering tart dressed as a wedding cake.

Killing Joke's dressing room has long since been transformed by Youth into an eastern incense den. They have already insisted that the French TV crew go away and find some candles and a carpet for the stage. "Persian," Jaz insists, winking at us, "with no cigarette burns!"

Ambient Dance music fills the adjacent corridors. Jaz can't decide whether to wear the dramatic jester's hat or not. Youth says he should.

"What happened to the little bell?" the bassist inquires.

"It fell off," says Jaz, rather forlornly.

JAZ COLEMAN is likeable and unsettling. His mood swings are legendary.

Jaz once conducted a British magazine interview in his own invented language! Without anyone asking, he explains that he's been taking anti-depressants "for years".


"I've got an ex-wife, three kids, a girlfriend, the band, my orchestra..."

Jaz is releasing his first recorded symphony in February, and will be conducting the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in March. He is as driven as Henry Rollins, yet considerably less ordinary. Jaz once quit London in order to set up his own army in Iceland.

Youth and Geordie discuss Jaz like two uncles might discuss a wild teenage nephew.

Geordie: "F**king hell, sometimes he needs a good slap!"

Youth: "Jaz can be very aggressive and intimidating, but basically I think he likes the attention.

"I knew what he was like 12 years ago and he basically hasn't changed that much. I think he believes his own press a bit much. He actually believes he is this terrible person sometimes. And he can be. He's a tomcat - loves making mischief does our Jaz!

"He's pretty set in his ways, but what he does is up to him. We have respect for each other's differences.

"Jaz is very conservative; doesn't like improvisation. He actually tried to grab me on stage a couple of nights ago and I nearly laid one on him! He started steaming into me and Geordie because we didn't go into this cue on 'Exorcism' when he wanted us to, and we both dropped our hands and went, 'Come on, then!'. I was ready! I'd just had enough!

"But he's a real devil's advocate. He likes to play the jester on a brutally frank level and see how far he can go.

"He's a very committed artist. The word genius is a bit misunderstood. Everybody has a genius. You find your own genius. I think, though, that Jaz's lyrics are some of the finest lyrics ever written in a Rock context.

DURING TONIGHT'S live performance of 'Millennium', Jaz stamps on Youth's foot. Backstage Youth is convinced that this was a deliberate wind-up.

Jaz just laughs his scary laugh. And winks at us again. It's not something you'd expect from a priest.

"I believe in comparative religion," he says. "You can't change anything from the outside. You have to come from within.

"So I pick a small place to live in like New Zealand - start there, and have a wild old time.

"I'm serious. You watch me. HA HA HA!..."