Australian music magazine,
issue 12, late 1994/early 1995)
Ministry? Nine Inch Nails? They're great, but Killing Joke were there over a decade ago, and their recent reformation album, Pandemonium, finds them stronger and metal-eating crunchier than ever! Vocalist Jaz Coleman goes for the heart and jugular with Murray Engleheart
Killing Joke's Pandemonium album marks something of a return of the original band that inspired the likes of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, and moved Metallica to cover them on their sacred, and now very rare, Garage Days Revisited.
But ask the manic Jaz Coleman of the band's first-ever rehearsal at the close of the '70s - and get out of the fucking way! Auditions for a bassist weren't working out as hoped, so Coleman went out to a friend's house and got shit-faced. While he was there, a bunch of friends asked if the band Coleman had been shooting his mouth off about was together ....
"We said, 'Oh yeah, we've got the bass player'," Londoner Coleman cackled from his New Zealand home. "And they said, 'Let's have a listen'. Of course, he'd been playing like a complete cunt, so we nervously went back to the studio with all these people flocking behind us. We went into the rehearsal room, and there was Youth and Geordie just playing on this one note, a fucking fantastic sound - very, very simple. We just listened, and Ferguson did a roll, and I came in on the keyboards, and we started playing on this one note and built and built and built, and it fucking went off! I heard it man - the white heat, we tapped the white heat! We stopped, and everybody burst out laughing. That was it. That was it, mate. It was so outrageously fucking powerful! I still have nightmares about it. It was just an incredible experience."
Pandemonium - which was written before the band entered the studio, then dumped, rewritten and recorded in a staggering nine days - generates that same sort of epic, primal power. The fact that vocals were recorded in Egypt's Great Pyramid - the sessions of which Coleman is compiling for a documentary - just adds to the mystique that's always surrounded Killing Joke.
"The whole thing's been to ritualise, to freeze the moment in time," explains Coleman. "The way we write is, we forget about music. We try to fulfill our lives, fulfill our dreams and fulfill our fantasies. 'Let nothing be fantasy', that's the band's motto: 'Let nothing be fantasy'.
"Prior to this album, two years before, I just walked out of an eight-year marriage and went through two years of guilt, and this album just lets everything go for me. My whole personal life changed with this album. Everybody's personal lives seemed to explode at the same time with this album, and coming back together after all these years as well ... it went off, mate. And it's so weird to have the highest chart positions ever 15 years after you started."
Whatever Killing Joke's much belated success brings them, don't expect world tours on the scale of Guns N' Roses and Metallica. Coleman prefers to work the whole thing strategically and play televised festivals in Europe to doing 20 shows to cover the same territory. When the band do play, though, the Jaz man brings a Maori group along to perform the Haka before each performance.
"Concerts are ritualistic for us," says Coleman. "Getting together with two of the people you've known for all these years, and known since you were a teenager. All your mates around you - you do it. It's quite a privilege, I must admit.
"My philosophy, and the band's philosophy, is, 'We take everything'," says Coleman of Killing Joke's place within the schemes of things in the music industry. "The first ad that we had for Killing Joke was, 'Want to be part of the Killing Joke? Total exploitation, total anonymity, total publicity'; I try to keep it, essentially, to those original ideals."