Cash From Chaos
Neo-mystic numerologist nutters Killing Joke return... "to serve the purposes of chaos!"
Mad, bad and terrifying to know, in the early '80s Killing Joke were pretty much number one in a field of one. They based whole albums on obscure mystic "sciences", they regularly predicted the end of the world and they chased journalists around with heavy items of garden impedimenta. Then they split up. Head Joker Jaz Coleman moved to New Zealand, guitarist Geordie disappeared off to Detroit, drummer Paul Ferguson moved to New York and bassist Youth, who'd flown the coop before the Joke's end, became the grillionaire producer of everybody... Since then their back catalogue of extreme guitar angst left a lasting impression on a generation of bands from Metallica to Soundgarden.
Now, after a decade apart, the original line-up is back together with a new LP, 'Pandemonium', and the single 'Exorcism', both recorded in New Zealand and -honest to God - under the pyramids of Egypt ("Bribery helped," he says). Both, we are told, are designed to "serve the purposes of chaos". Jaz Coleman, can you hear us?
Was it easy getting the hate-fuelled Joke machine back together?
"The amazing thing about this was that the internal conflicts which were such a problem for us all those years ago ... It turns out they're still there. But the catalyst was my reconciliation with Youth. He helped out by coming down to New Zealand and getting together incense and crystals for the studio. Sticking a few banners up, that kind of thing. But when recording started we immediately challenged everything about ourselves. We really put each other through the mill."
Are you surprised at Youth's reinvention as top dance guru?
"No, Youth has been a hustler ever since I've known him. He has a natural instinct for markets and what people are into. Myself, I've just recorded an album with the London Symphony Orchestra and I'm writing a war requiem for Bosnia. So, I take care of the classical end, Youth takes care of the dance end and Geordie just plays his guitar."
What do you remember about Alex Paterson (former Joke associate turned Orb head honcho)?
"He was our drum roadie! Ha, ha! No, Alex has done us proud. He was always into remixes and messing around with tapes. I'm proud of the whole Killing Joke unit, and what Alex has done is great."
What made you leave the UK?
"I couldn't see myself doing anything here. Apart from our audience, which has always been loyal, this country's never done me any favours. To be honest, I'm a clinically registered manic depressive and life is difficult enough without coping with Britain as well."
Are you still interested in numerology?
"Yeah, but not to the point that it sends me mad anymore. Numbers represent patterns of growth. Pythagoras believed in this, it's nothing new. In the old days we would use numbers to identify what forces were around us at any given time. And some very heavy things happened. It certainly sent me off my rocker a few times. We all studied magic for along time. It's how the band started."
Is it true that you once dropped chopped liver on the desk of a writer who'd dissed the Joke in print?
"Ha, ha! That was quite funny. I was in a humorous mood, so I rang up Melody Maker and said, I'm going to pop in with a cricket bat and beat the person who wrote that to death. I went to their office, via the butchers for some pig's liver, and started asking who had written the piece. They wouldn't tell me, so I threw the liver around the room and emptied maggots all over it. Then I said that unless an apology was forthcoming I would begin bending some minds. They rang up within the hour and apologised."
If Select wrote something nasty about you would the same thing happen?
"No. Listen, I'm an old man of 34 now."
But what If it was really nasty?
"Well, it's probably best if I just leave that to your imagination."