(From Kerrang, UK music magazine catering to the metal scene, 12 April 2003)
Conspiracy Of Two
Killing Joke have recruited their biggest fan, Dave Grohl, to play drums on their new album. To celebrate, they're getting wasted in Hollywood.
"How old are you?" barks Killing Joke vocalist Jaz Coleman, peering deep in my eyes.
"Fuck your 20s," Coleman roars. "I'm a dangerous man, fuck off. I don't care. And I don't have a fear of death. It's coming, and it's inevitable. Alright? It is the damage I can do before that happens that matters."
It is March 28 and already summer in Los Angeles. The sun is beating down upon the palm trees that line Sunset Boulevard, and exposed flesh and bikinis are on parade. In the dark interior of LA's Grandmaster Recorders studio - which with its deep-red carpets, dark wood panelling and coloured glass looks like the inside of a ship - a stocky man in his mid-40s, dressed in black Islamic attire and with a thick shock of black hair, crouches over a large glass bong in the gloom and inhales deeply. Opposite him sits a younger man with a goatee, flicking cigarette ash onto a table. These men are Killing Joke singer, keyboardist and spiritual leader Jaz Coleman and Dave Grohl, taking a break in the middle of a hard day's work.
Right now the duo are describing the night they first met. Grohl's Foo Fighters were in New Zealand in January to play the Big Day Out festival when Coleman approached the likeable Virginian to ask whether he'd be interested in playing drums on Killing Joke's new album, their 11th since the band formed in London in 1978.
"We met at a pub," recalls Grohl with a grin. "He walked in [wearing] his minister's frock. I was sitting at the bar waiting for him, thinking, 'I hope I recognise him', and in walks this fucking priest. It was great."
"And Kurt gave his blessing," snorts Coleman nonsensically, which is perhaps not surprising, since he's been swigging from miniature bottles of Chivas Regal whiskey since we arrived at the studio. "The first night we really did get everything out of our system; what very disgraceful behaviour."
Here Coleman is referring to how he and Grohl got so piss-drunk that night, they ambushed a pair of Americans, guilty of being George W. Bush fans.
"Jaz caught hold of them and started screaming at them," Grohl relays, smiling at the memory. "I had to fucking drag him away from mauling them. He was trying to bite their ankles at one point. So we wound up rolling down the hill together."
"It was very funny," guffaws Coleman, now cradling a glass of rose wine. "Poor fuckers didn't know what happened to them. It was a good blowout. It was, 'Let's see absolutely the worst sides of each other straight away - see what we're dealing with.' That's what we do in Killing Joke. When we haven't seen each other in a bit, we put a big bottle of whiskey on the table and we drink it and all the demons come out. Then we start work the next day. Like what's happening now."
And then Jaz Coleman tips back his head and lets out a devilish cackle.
If you were to choose three words to describe Jaz Coleman they would be Larger Than Life. If you met him, and you're not likely to because he is a recluse who spends his time between Prague, Geneva and a tiny island just off New Zealand, you'd be awed, inspired and shocked in equal measure by his overbearing personality, his uniquely self-absorbed demeanour and the huge passion he displays, not just for his own music but for life in general, the state of the world and the destruction of "Mother Nature." He's a classically trained musician and conductor with over 15 classical CDs to his name, and is currently employed as Composer In Residence for the Prague Symphony Orchestra. He also recently appeared in the cult Czech film 'Year Of The Devil' as - and really this is no surprise if you're familiar with Jaz Coleman - the Devil.
And then there's Killing Joke, the band Coleman has fronted for the past 25 years. Few bands can claim to have changed the sound of music forever, but Killing Joke are one of those bands. Put simply: no Killing Joke, no Metallica, no Ministry, no Nirvana and no '90s metal as we know it. Dave Grohl was 14 when he first heard Killing Joke and he's never looked back.
"Their first album's been one of my favourite albums of all time," he enthuses, looking at Coleman. "Killing Joke music is everything I love about music - relevant, melodic, energetic, powerful. Everyone's searching for an album that has meaning and that has melody and that has a power that is different from anything you've heard, and everyone's looking in all the wrong places. The funny thing about meeting Jaz and then hearing the music and the lyrics we're about to record - everything's so relevant, it almost seems prophetic."
A couple of days after their first meeting, daubed in his trademark war-themed face-paint, Coleman joined Foo Fighters onstage at the Galatos Club in Auckland on January 16 for 'Requiem', a Killing Joke song which the Foos regularly perform live. After playing Grohl some of the new Killing Joke material it was only a matter of time before the two would meet again, this time with Grohl behind the drum kit, where he's been sat for the last three days.
This afternoon, with a towel depicting a bronzed naked lady reclining on the beach in front of him for inspiration, the drummer - and you just know that for all the Foo Fighters' success Dave Grohl still likes the idea of being 'the drummer' - laid down his parts for 'The House That Pain Built', a powerful, contemporary-sounding song built around a driving, thrash riff and Coleman's roaring vocals. It's one of 14 tracks due for inclusion on Killing Joke's forthcoming album, mostly recorded in London by Coleman, guitarist Geordie and both Killing Joke's longtime alternate bassists Youth and Paul Raven.
Somewhat ironically, though, they hadn't met before January, but Coleman and Grohl could have met one another a decade ago ... in court. That was when Killing Joke sued Nirvana, alleging the Seattle trio had stolen the riff from their song 'Eighties' for 'Come As You Are'. The case was eventually dismissed, and both now agree it's all water under the bridge.
"In the end we know who we are," intones Coleman solemnly. "We're the fucking godfathers, the granddaddies. And we say fuck off. And I've still got my band. I've got mine. Fuck off then, you cunts are not coming. We're going to eat you. Heeheeheehee. They're my horrible little flock of sheep, I tell you."
In truth, I'm not entirely sure what Jaz Coleman means here, but Dave Grohl nods sagely and says, "It's true."
So, Dave, what does it mean to you to finally be in a band you've been a fan of for so long?
"HE'S FUCKING FAMILY YOU STUPID FUCKER!" screams Coleman at me. "HE'S FAMILY, FAMILY, FAMILY. Right?"
"There's so many people that you meet in your life where you're truly privileged to have them be a part of your life," Grohl adds. "And I love fucking freaks, just as much as I love . . ."
"Pakis!" screams Coleman, who is of Indian descent, on his mother's side.
"Pakis," repeats Grohl with a grin.
"Ha ha," snorts Coleman. "Wait a second. HAHAHAHA."
Later, as we wait for Grohl to finish gurning into the camera for our photo shoot, two raggedy-looking guys with straggly hair and goatees appear from nowhere and point their hand-held video cameras at Coleman, who instantly starts pontificating about current world events, his head back and his chin up high. The two, it turns out, are employed to film Coleman for his own personal use.
"If the human race can get through next year, we stand a good chance of surviving quite a long time," the singer begins. "I think it's absolutely horrific, I'm scared as shit by it. I think it's all got really, really out of hand, and thankfully I can retreat to a very beautiful paradise island and spend the rest of my days fishing with my beautiful daughters. But I really feel it's the right time to do Killing Joke. I have to.
"Myself and Dave want to call this album 'Axis Of Evil'," he continues, looking at me. "It's the beginning of the American Empire. They're taking over the world. That's what's happening, and here we are at the heart of the fucking enemy. I never thought I'd see the day."
When Jaz Coleman speaks, which is precisely 99 percent of the time, he is a torrent of words, laughter and unbridled emotions: pride, sadness, anger, pain and joy. When talking to you, he'll frequently pause for dramatic effect, stare deep into your face to see if you're taking it in, then crack a huge crooked grin. A joke will surely follow. The cameramen, meanwhile, film in silence and make amused eye contact with me whenever Coleman flares up or looks set to burst.
"I think we need a good slap," Coleman continues gravely. "And we're about to get a fucking good slap. The forces of evil have come from an area which we never thought, which is the West. The governments we think are governments are merely puppets.
"I've done half my life with Killing Joke," he says passionately, "but now it's like the fight. It's the last battle. It's hell on earth what we're going to see. We're going to see the unimaginable within the next 48 months. The world will never be the same."
I ask him if he sees himself as a prophet.
"No. I see profit though," he quips, instantly reverting to scream mode. "FUCK OFF. DON'T EVER PUT ME ON A PEDESTAL. I DON'T LIKE THAT SHIT. THE REASON WHY I GOT INTO THIS IS BECAUSE I DON'T WANT A FUCKING PROPHET.
"But I was so incensed by the way things were going in the last five years, that I decided to become a priest," he continues with a grin. "At least they won't muck around with your kids, hey? And I have my own parish from next year, which really funny because we'll be having some serious parties."
Outside, the piercing blue LA sky has turned to darkness. the time allotted for our interview is over, Dave Grohl has buggered off back downstairs to finish his drum tracks and the Grand Royal which Coleman has been eyeing throughout is about to be cracked open. But Coleman still has more words for us. These may be dark, evil times, but humanity will come to its senses one day.
"Believe you me," he whispers dramatically, "we knew the answers to that long ago. About the resurrection of nature, the procession of the aeons and what they will bring. I'm very proud to serve in Killing Joke. I think the band I've started as a teenager, I think we are awesome beyond belief. It's taken 24 years. When you become a reference point for thousands of bands, you know you've won. Never mind about the mansions, we've got you by the balls."
'There were fireworks in the Gulf/There was champagne at home/But showbiz and Hollywood still shouted out' sang Jaz Coleman on Killing Joke's 'America' in 1990 [sic]. Thirteen years later, that scene is again being acted out in front of us.
It's one in the morning, and I spot Jaz Coleman, pissed, sitting by the Standard Hotel pool, with its breathtaking view over a glittering, nocturnal LA. Around him, the blonde, tanned and beautiful people of LA mill about drinking, flirting and enjoying the best of what life has to offer. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, American and British bombs fall on civilians in Iraq.
"What are you doing, man?" Coleman mumbles when he sees me.
Er, going to sleep.
Coleman smiles that crooked smile once more.
"There'll be plenty of time for sleep when you're dead."
Getting The Joke
They've recorded inside a pyramid, invented their own language and threatened to buy their own army. Welcome to Killing Joke's world ...
Killing Joke formed in West London in 1978. Metallica, Foo Fighters, Amen and Fugazi have all covered Killing Joke songs and acknowledged them as a major influence.
Jaz Coleman once claimed to be saving up his Killing Joke royalties to buy his own army. Fortunately, he changed his mind.
In the late [sic] '80s, fearing the imminent coming of the apocalypse, Coleman and guitarist Geordie decamp to Iceland to await the end. They ended up working with Björk's first band The Sugarcubes instead.
After using a poster depicting Pope Pius blessing Nazis to advertise one of their gigs, Killing Joke were once banned from playing in Glasgow.
Killing Joke don't like journalists much. Jaz Coleman once conducted an entire interview in his own made up language. On another occasion, the band gaffa-taped a journalist's mouth shut for asking stupid questions.
In the late [sic] '80s, Killing Joke bassist Youth was committed to a mental hospital after being spotted walking down London's Kings Road burning handfuls of money during an acid trip. He then developed a successful second career as a pop producer, producing albums for the likes of Tom Jones, The Verve and Paul McCartney.
Killing Joke guitarist Geordie auditioned for the vacant guitarist spot in Faith No More after Jim Martin's dismissal. When the band told him he'd got the gig, the urbane guitarist turned them down, saying, "You're far too suburban, I wouldn't dream of working with any of you."
Using bribes to Egypt's Ministry Of Culture, Killing Joke managed to record part of 1994 album 'Pandemonium' in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid, over the course of three days.
Jaz Coleman helped to change the official language of the New Zealand national anthem to Maori, when he encouraged singer Hinewehi Mohi to sing the song in her native language at 1999's Rugby World Cup.
Jaz Coleman's real name is Jeremy. We suggest you never, ever call Jaz this. The singer has been known to put curses upon those who displease him. Don't say you weren't warned.