(Metallurgy 2 - Reasons To Be Fearful is a 1996 compilation CD that included the previously-unreleased Killing Joke track 'Drug'. The CD came with a booklet of photos and interviews with the bands featured on the CD.)
For a man who once loaded himself with enough acid to fry the minds of Charles Manson, the Reverend Jim Jones, David Koresh and maybe even Ross Perot, then strolled down London's King's Road stark bollock naked with a Nat West cash-card in one hand and a fistful of burning fivers in the other, Martin Glover looks remarkably unscarred.
The only thing "gone" about him today is the once infamous live-in-it, eat-in-it, sleep-in-it formerly white suit which drainage workers wouldn't have even approached unless enclosed in full-body condom. Long gone too is the distracted voice that would ponder aloud as to whether he could wrangle a Government grant to fund his drug abuse, arguing, not unconvincingly, that, after all, it was his inspiration.
In the 14 years since these tales became legend, Martin Glover, better known as Youth, has become one of the most respected and sought-after producers on the planet - to the point where the wallpaper in his South London studio is hidden beneath a stack of gold and platinum discs commemorating his hand in the success of Wet Wet Wet, James, The Orb, Blue Pearl and Crowded House. Government scientists agree, Youth is now normal society. Or is he? For someone who claims to have allowed neither milk, tea nor coffee past his lips in well over a year, let alone the kinds of substances that lead you to hand out burning bank noted in posh shopping districts, Youth has done something very odd. Ignoring the criminal's cardinal rule, he's returned to the scene of the crime and rejoined Killing Joke. What's more, he's just recorded Democracy, a very British, very rock, album with them.
"It started when Geordie was starting to compile the Laugh? I Almost [sic] Bought One compilation for Virgin," the bassist says, feet up on the coffee table in his studio's recreation room.
"He called me up and said, Would you wanna get involved and help us compile this? and I said, Yeah, all right. So I got involved and he ignored everything I suggested. Then we started on the artwork and he ignored everything I suggested there. And then he started saying, It would be great to do some music with you. So I said, Come down the studio then. So me and him just had a jam. And it was really good fun. I said, How's Jaz? and Geordie said, He's all right. So I said, Well, see if he fancies having a jam.
we got into a room, plugged in, and started playing. And I said, Look, how
would you feel about me rejoining the band? I said, if we do it, I'd like to
produce it. And also, let's do it on my label cos that way we can do it the
way it's meant to be done, properly, without interference or pressure.
Eventually, Jaz agreed to it, more I think because it meant he didn't have
to stay in the studio all day."
It must be pointed out here that Jaz and Youth hadn't parted on what record company press releases would describe as 'amicable' terms. Back in 1982, following the release of Killing Joke's third and spectacularly unpleasant Revelations album, Jaz had become convinced that nuclear-wise, the planet was about to blow, and so hopped on the first ferry to Iceland - followed by Geordie - to escape the fry-up.
Come the appointed time, nothing happened, and by all accounts Jaz managed to annoy most of Iceland's population while he was there (although his and Geordie's completely unprintable stories about The Sugarcubes and their now-famous ex-vocalist Bjork are worth hearing). Cue return of singer in a tail-between-legs stylee.
Youth, London 1996 ... so good they made him twice
"When he came back that time he said, Oh well, that was a good joke; let's go and tour Germany. And I had to tell him I wasn't interested. I wanted to work with him, but in a different way, and he wasn't interested. So I left. And then they made some of the best records ever, like 'Love Like Blood' and 'Eighties'. I don't regret leaving, but I regret not playing on them. Our first two albums were great, but we were only scratching the surface of what our potential could have been. Pandemonium (released in 1994) got the band bang up to date cos we started doing things that other groups weren't doing, using techno beats and that sort of thing with that intensity of structure."
That said, the new album is a move toward rockier shores.
"Yeah, I know. I think we felt we'd covered most of what we could do with that electronic thing. So I said, Let's do pop song formats and melodies, which is like the way we did the first album. And they said, Oh, we're not fucking doing that again. We wanna do songs without choruses. I remember Jaz screaming, Let's do one like 'Whiteout'!
"I shouldn't really say this, but I don't think Democracy is as good as Pandemonium. Whereas Pandemonium was a gigantic production - a 75mm screen job - I wanted to underproduce this one. And it is a bit underproduced! Having said that there are a couple of songs that I think are stunning - 'Medicine Wheel', which is really simple - and 'Savage Freedom'.
"I wanted to hear Jaz sing, you know, rather than scream. We'd come off tour, and he'd been through hell on that tour."
|Jaz's descents into hell are as regular as a Piccadilly Line train, and
almost as much pleasure to put oneself in the way of. However, they've inspired
some of the most coruscating, nervous-system shredding noise ever unleashed
under the misnomer of popular music. So what was it this time, hotel bed sheets
not turned down in the correct Masonic manner?
"No, it was Prozac and booze," Youth says. "He just really fucked his head. He was really on the edge; he was turning blue on me, ODing and stuff like that. He really didn't wanna tour America and it was fucking hell to go through.
"We came offstage at a gig in Chicago and all these record company people from New York and LA had turned up. But Jaz's girlfriend had got left at the airport by mistake and he was feeling shit and he staggered offstage with this bottle of brandy and just smashed it up in front of all these record company people and started screaming in their faces. They were just horror-struck. And he gets on the bus and I'm going, 'Are you
all right Jaz'? Next thing I know he falls face forward onto the floor and starts going pale and then stops breathing and turns blue. I thought, fucking 'ell, we'll have to get his tongue out and slap him. I had to walk him up and down. A lot of the songs deal with that."
You'd imagine Jaz to be anti-Prozac. Indeed, 'Prozac People', one of the standout tracks on Democracy, rages against the false optimism engendered by the drug and, in fine Coleman finger-pointing fashion, harangues the pharmaceutical conglomerates that distribute it.
"He is. He's very good at telling people what to do and how to live their lives but terrible at taking his own advice, like the rest of us. It got to the point where it was just so difficult for everybody around him.
"He's a bad drinker. He gets drunk very quickly and then he gets very self-obsessed and very aggressive. He's one of those people who really shouldn't drink, but he does. So the whole period of writing was all dealing with that period. I actually got him to agree to stop drinking. I put an alcohol ban on all the sessions. Which probably wasn't a good idea. I think when Jaz is out there threatening you with a bottle of whisky at your head it does a certain thing on tape which is good ... well, not necessarily, cos he was like that when we did that track 'Hollywood Babylon' for the Showgirls film, which isn't a very good track either.
"We did it in here and he started smashing up the studio and stuff, he was going through shit then.
"The thing is, when shit happens in his life he takes it out on other people, he's a bully. I don't like that side of him and I won't stand for it. And in that respect we're good working together cos other people just think of him as Jaz Coleman and put up with it."
|Is he the same when he's working on his own symphonic stuff?
What a character!
"What a cunt."
It makes you wonder why Youth, seemingly one of the mildest mannered folks you could share a mineral water with, would want to stick his head back into such an inferno. Does he never think, fuck, what have I let myself in for again here?
"No. I love working with peak characters who are real. They're very challenging. And with him I learn a lot cos he's one of the most difficult artists you could ever work with. After him, everything else is really easy.
"The arguments usually start as a debate. Quite often, they're not about music; he will just get bitter and resentful about stuff. He becomes a bitter old man, and he'll start having a go about something. And it'll be like, Just fuck off and get a grip.
|"But I've learned a lot from him and Geordie. They both have
incredible ears for music and they don't compromise an inch. If they're not
into it, you have to use incredible amounts of persuasion to get them to do
something. And more than that I love the racket; I love the noise that comes
out of the band." Seeing Youth rock out with the Joke onstage now - 22-hole
Doc Martens and tribal war paint strafing his legs, hula-hula skirt flowing,
looking like one of those chaps who bare their arses to our dear Queen - is
one of the full-on rock sights of this age.
"Yeah, I really let myself go with it, which is strange cos in the early days I used to stand still. I've enjoyed the music I've done outside the band - area where Killing Joke wouldn't go near - but there's no group that gives that solid noise, that incredible weight of sound. Their passion and commitment is tantamount to everything for them. Especially for Geordie because Geordie does nothing else outside of the band."
There's a juicy piece of Joke-lore, previously unprinted, concerning a visit Geordie and his wife paid to his parents' house after their marriage. Hearing much banging and crashing
downstairs at 5 am, Geordie's mum comes down, hairnet on, housecoat buttoned, to see what the commotion's all about. She opens the living room door to see her daughter-in-law, naked, supine and smiling on the dining room table and the six foot two Geordie standing there, customary grey trousers and stormtrooper boots forsaken in favour of a rather fetching red cocktail dress, black stilettos and dangly gold earrings. In a situation where words could not have been easy to assemble, the guitarist uttered the immortal line, 'It's all right, Mum, we're married!'
|"That sounds like our Geords!" laughs Youth. "No inhibitions there. I
remember him having an argument with Durga from Blue Pearl about who had the
longest legs. He got her fucking stockings on and showed her and won. This was
in the back of a cab.
"They're all really different characters. I've been trying to get Paul back in the fold, but he's not emotionally ready to handle it yet."
Paul is former Joke drummer Big Paul Ferguson, who left the band in 1988 after sessions for the Outside The Gate album fell apart.
"Paul let us down on Pandemonium. He was gonna be in on it. Then, two days before we got to the studio, he tried to blackmail me. We'd agreed everything, then he said, I want double the money or I'm not coming. He tried to put us in a position where we couldn't say no, but I already had a couple of drummers on hand.
"On the next one, I definitely want him in. I'm very happy with what Geoff Dugmore does, but he ain't Paul. And Paul does add to that unique chemistry." Killing Joke are, if anything, more relevant in this decade than they were in the last. The root of their apocalyptic vision, often exaggerated by a smirking media, has mutated into a reflection of the concerns that now preoccupy all of us. At last, it seems, global consciousness could be in step with Joke philosophy.
"I was listening to 'Turn To Red' (track from the debut Killing Joke Nervous System EP, released in 1979) the other day," Youth muses. "And the issues we were dealing with were nuclear threat, but it was also about alternative lifestyles. I'm really into these kids living up trees on the M11. It's not just about opting out of society, but getting together, taking control and getting power. That's what Democracy is about - that change in consciousness. It's about how people are empowering themselves by being political on a personal level rather than just voting. You've got generations of kids doing it and that sort of tribalism will be the future."