(From Drum Media, Australian-based music magazine, 4 November 2003.)
TENSION MAKES THE JOKE WORK
Killing Joke story by Murray Engleheart
"We kind of reactivate it as it were," says Jaz Coleman, the highly intellectual leader and even higher madman of Killing Joke, the physically and intellectually blistering near quarter century old UK outfit who are doing their first tour of Australia in almost 20 years. "We never split up, but when it's right, Killing Joke is great. I mean, I didn't feel it was the right time for Killing Joke until last year, really, to be honest. It was a combination of factors. I think we have to be surrounded by quite a lot of tension to make Killing Joke work. It's one of those weird kind of chemistry things. And the fact that there was the build-up to this completely, utterly illegal war was really sort of the perfect climate for a sort of backdrop. Add to that the fact that everyone in the band had gone through all different things personally just prior to recording and we have an explosive work on our hands."
No argument there. The beaster of an album, the band's self-titled eleventh effort, was produced by former Gang of Four member Andy Gill, who, among many other fine works, produced The Mark of Cain's This Is This. Gill and Coleman go way back to England screaming in the late seventies. "Shit yeah. Basically Andy along with like Peter Hook from New Order and me and Geordie (guitarist) from Killing Joke, we're the only English contingent of a group of musicians that included a lot of European musicians like Can, Neu! and Kraftwerk that drew their influence from Europe as opposed to America and made a conscious decision to do so. You have to remember that in Killing Joke, everyone's a producer so we need some sort of referee anyway. To add to that he's got a great studio and his wine collection is supreme. He had cases of very expensive wine that went missing regularly."
Rather than mellow the sessions, if anything that wine cranked up the emotions. The war in Iraq is just the public face of the album's rage. "It's the fact that we've been duped and there is no democracy. We've been had and the world is waking up to the fact that we've been taken over and corporations are more powerful than nations. That Lockheed-Martin and Boeing determine American foreign policy. These forces are so powerful. It's not a weirdo conspiracy, it's a reality. We're economic slaves. And it's at boiling point. I never thought it would be possible that in Western nations, revolution could be possible. But I do now. The whole democratic system as we know it is going to fall on its arse and no-one wants to vote anymore, right? And when people find out the truth they don't want to pay taxes, do they?"
Foo Fighter Dave Grohl landed the enviable task of hammering that searing mood into a strong rhythmic form. Coleman joined the Foo Fighters on stage at the Big Day Out in Auckland earlier this year. But his path had crossed that of Grohl previously, at least on paper. "Well, I think," Coleman laughs, "we've always been aware of each other," he laughs again. "I think everyone's aware of the court case. In Nirvana's manager's autobiography it's all there for anybody who'd like to look at the issue or references. The song that was stolen from Killing Joke was Eighties and transformed into Come As You Are by Nirvana. It really has nothing to do with how Dave actually came to drum on the album. We initially decided to get two of our favourite drummers instead of one drummer to play on the new album. And when Dave heard it, he was one of our few favorite drummers, he said 'I want to do the whole thing!' So we said, 'OK'."
The other drummer on the band's wish list was Danny from Tool. Unfortunately, he never got as far as the studio. John from System Of A Down did, however, at least early in the sessions, but the album was ultimately all Grohl. The irony is that in ever respect the work is the polar opposite of Coleman's other musical activities.
"I don't really live a very rock 'n' roll life at all. I mean, my life is with orchestra. I work with five different symphony orchestras of the world and I'm resident with Prague Symphony Orchestra and well, what can I say? I go from like two Nigel Kennedy albums and three symphonies to Killing Joke and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden to Killing Joke!" he laughs. "For me the orchestra will always be something that's romantic. In terms of my composition, I try with orchestra to describe a more perfect reality, a more desirable reality. Whereas with Killing Joke, I use this as catharsis or as exorcism like a social function to stop me going mad and killing someone. It really is a kind of white heat that cleanses my soul. It's strange after a Killing Joke concert, I feel a great sense of peace."
Killing Joke play The Metro on Wednesday November 19. The new album is out thru Sony Music.