(Interview posted online - exact source unknown, dated 8 March 1994. Special thanks to Paul Rangecroft for agreeing to share here.)
The Lull Before The Storm
by Sheila Rene
To say that Killing Joke were ahead of their time is an understatement. They were four freethinking young men from London who prophesied the societal breakdown that has come to be in spades. At that time in America it was total denial. They had a tribal/industrial/trash feeling that scared many people. Now some 15 years later their new fans been been conditioned by bands such as Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and Skinny Puppy. "Pandemonium" is scheduled for release in August with the first single and video to be "Millennium." The video was shot in London by Jon Klein (U2, Inspiral Carpets). The album holds up to the band's trademark realism without losing their hopeful sentiments.
The band is in Europe this summer but will begin a US tour in late-September/early October. Get ready for the best English Invasion ever.
The band's Jaz Coleman talks:
Where did the name Killing Joke come from?
"The name came out of a level of frustration that was pervading in the personalities of the band. We used the term 'killing joke' envisioning what it would be like to go through the music industry. We had studied many bands and a lot of them had high ideals when they started and by the time they had gone through it they were a homogenized version of where their ideals had gone. I can remember being with the band in 1978 imagining how it would be for us and looking at it knowing that we wouldn't know until we had gone through it. We use to use this phrase to describe an absolute level of frustration. The ultimate fear of having no control over your destiny. Now, of course, Killing Joke means the laughter that comes with the knowledge that you have total control of your destiny. So things have changed in 15 years as far as that's concerned. But yet Killing Joke is synonymous with a level of awareness you could say right from the beginning."
So you have more control in 1994 than in 1979?
"Absolutely. When I moved to Iceland I remember the management and record companies saying 'you can't hope to sustain a career while you live in Iceland.' I live in New Zealand now and I fly back to the UK once every seven or eight weeks. I fly 28,000 miles. I live in an environment that is my total expression of my personal politics and Killing Joke's politics too. The impossible is being achieved. I've worked with the top symphony orchestras in the world and when I'm not doing that I'm with my friends in Killing Joke. We're getting away with murder. We were able to record in New Zealand in my studio and then off to Cairo in Egypt and record there. This is my second album in the Middle East. I work in Beirut sometimes and I have a good life in terms of any dreams we have, we fulfill. Killing Joke has been an excellent experiment in the manifestation of one's dreams.
Now I'm working on an album with Mick Jagger and the London Symphony Orchestra. I'm going to record my first symphony which is a war requiem also with the London Symphony. Life is pretty exciting.
What are your current dreams?
"My dreams now are two cats, my home in New Zealand and not living out of a bag anymore. I've started to enjoy life."
What was recording in the King's Chamber inside the great Pyramids like?
"It was a marvelous experience. We recorded two songs, 'Exorcism' and 'Millennium.' I had recorded in Egypt so I knew a lot of people there. I go there at least once a year sometimes twice. We managed to go through the Minister of Culture with a few bribes here and there. We had two whole days in the King's Chamber. It is just magnificent. How can I put it into words - I remember the guys in this band when we were all 17 and 18 years-old. We've been through so much together then to celebrate this album in Egypt as well as in New Zealand - we give thanks. We have greater personal freedom and greater creative freedom than we've had before. I no longer have to ask some fucking A&R man for permission to make a record. Everything is about freedom and not being screwed by the industry. I guess we're the same punks we always were really."
How did the writing of the album come about?
"The thing that people have to remember about the writing with Killing Joke is that nothing is planned. We have a rough outline. With this particular album we wrote a lot of music before we went to the studio. When we got to the studio we threw it all away. "Pandemonium" was pretty much written on the day we went into the studio. We just created this awful atmosphere, attacked each other with character assassinations and challenged each other's morals and philosophies. Normally your personal life goes to shit as soon as you start a Killing Joke record and it's an explosive and beautiful time. What I'm trying to say is that we don't preconceive songs before we record them and when we do it never works. It's a spontaneous crisis and it has very little to do with the intellect. It has to do more with emotion, intuition and spontaneity. It's an open workshop sort of thing where anything can happen and normally does."
This album says Killing Joke still hasn't lost hope.
"Absolutely. Ultimately, while we deal with images of hard realism, we're romantics. By that I mean we believe in the power of music to actually change people's lives. We've seen it. We know it does work. I have to tell you of this mythos about Killing Joke. In 1978 we discovered a piece of writing that we all had strong opinions on. This piece of writing concerned an island at the ends of the earth. Two members of the band thought it was a metaphorical illusion and the other two members of the band believed it was a geophysical place on the planet. So it split the band up. Two of us went off to Iceland and then of course we ended up in New Zealand. The study of this island at the end of the earth has spanned 15 years. It's been a personal study within for the members of Killing Joke. And to find ourselves in New Zealand and the things that happened to us there's a mythos behind the band that we're well aware of. We focus our energies in one particular region, in terms of getting the lifestyle correct."
Aren't you stronger friends today than ever before?
"It's the most peculiar experience to suddenly become aware of the impact our music has had on a generation and that you have 15 years experience behind you. That's not egotistical to actually say. Now is the time of celebration when we just enjoy the fruits of those years of hard labor and commitments to Killing Joke which is a lifetime commitment. We have people saying 'so will you be doing another album together?' The answer to this is simple - Geordie, Youth and myself are committed to this band the duration of our days. It's such a fun thing. We get together although we all live in different parts of the world and it just all goes off again. It's something we cherish."
What does this album mean to you?
"My motives for doing music are just because I love it. Apart from fantastic times with the people I love and making the music I love, my expectations aren't grandiose. What the album means to me personally - I mean I went through eight years of marriage where I wasn't allowed to be myself. Then I left that marriage and went through two years of guilt over the children. At the end of those two years I started just accepting myself and started to enjoy life without having to worry when the phone rang. This album has a sense of release for me. I do the things I want to do, set my own agenda. It means absolute freedom."
Was there ever any chance that you and Youth wouldn't produce?
"Youth used to get involved in dubbing up and mixing up in the beginning like we all do. He focused on those elements over the years we've been apart. When it comes to the live thing I rehearse the band which is my domain. We just collaborate. It's an open workshop. You can pretty much do what you want. There are no restrictions at all other than the fact that if it doesn't send shivers down your back, you're doing something wrong. We just work it until it scares the shit out of us."
Tell me about the Zoo Entertainment connection.
"My view of the business these days is that if it's meant to happen the machinery gets locked into place and the budget is there to do the work and it happens. I don't really like going out unless all the machinery is in place. If necessary I'll wait a few years and do some other things until it's right. It just seems right at the moment and I'm pretty happy with the team we've got around us. In terms of the distribution and the rest of it I think it's the best it's been ever in America. We've never really had the chance to have a serious release over here. I just seek to surround myself with people who're articulate and who're in command of their own creativity and environment. People with good hearts who create good chemistry. It's true of life that when you almost give up desiring, all good things begin to happen. We seek very little out of this other than to achieve the high standards that we feel Killing Joke stands for and to maintain individual liberties as eccentrics.
Will you remain only three members?
"I feel comfortable with just the three of us. It's a better number than four. I certainly wouldn't like four full-time members in Killing Joke now. I have my own personal reasons for that but we're very comfortable with this particular lineup."
Jaz on touring:
"It will be quite an event when we do play. It probably won't be until the end of October before we're back in the states. I'm interested in meeting achievers and people who've got a refined taste on all levels. These are the kind of people we meet when we actually go out with Killing Joke. We actually meet a lot of people and that's something that we love. The music becomes personified by all these people when you're out on the road. It's more than music coming out of two speakers. It's a living thing. We seek to heighten the experience of life and sharpen our awareness and our perceptions on every level. We're always trying to push ourselves and I'm looking forward to meeting up with a lot of people when we come out."