(From NOW, Toronto-based weekly, 23 October 2003.)
Killing Joke take on the world
by Nick Flanagan
Killing Joke with Amen at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Tuesday (October 28), $18.50. 416-532-1598.
A conversation with killing joke keyboardist and lead vocalist Jaz Coleman is a magical thing. Coleman is known for giving some wild-ass interviews, and this was no Y2K-style letdown. It felt a bit like talking to Christ himself, except less daunting. Also, this Christ plays music.
In the early 80s, Killing Joke helped invent and shape heavy, creepy, sardonic, industrial proto-metal. These guys totally influenced Prong, Varga and Skrew.
Also, they were covered by Metallica – but who hasn't been at some point? One of the more infamous tales told in the annals of rock concerns Kurt Cobain getting a knuckle sandwich from a Killing Joke roadie when Cobain copped the lick from Joke's The Eighties for his Come As You Are.
"This is the first I've heard of that! I need some corroborating evidence on that one."
Luckily, bassist Paul Raven happens to be in the hotel room and happily vouches for the story.
"Raven says it wasn't our roadie – it was a Ministry roadie named Turner."
This is where the story gets complicated. None other than ex-Nirvana skins pounder Dave Grohl drums on Killing Joke's self-titled return disc, which also features the reappearance of players Paul Raven, Youth and Geordie Walker as well as production by Andy Gill.
Did Grohl have to undergo fierce hazing to make up for the sin of Cobain's riff thievery?
"You can't blame him – he wasn't the guitarist," says Coleman, who says of Grohl, "It was fuckin' fantastic recording with him."
You might say Coleman's easy forgiveness continues the Jesus pattern.
He's also multi-faceted. Beyond fronting the band, he's been involved in symphonic composition and has worked as a conductor since 1992. Coleman claims that his work in that field hasn't influenced his writing for the band.
"I don't think it's relevant. I hate it when bands like KISS try to do something with an orchestra. I've always hated KISS."
Still, he must not mind rock music translated orchestrally all that much. He and Youth have collaborated on symphonic translations of the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and the Doors.
Beyond his feelings about KISS, Coleman's Christesque streak of righteous anger manifests itself in the album's lyrics, which are often directed toward topics like America's war in Iraq and at the sham that many felt was Bush's electoral victory in 2000. So how politically aware is he?
"I've never voted in my life. Why would I vote? I'm not really a political creature."
What he means is that he prefers to make direct change through such things as tree-planting projects in the developing world.
"It's no good whinging about how bad the world is. We need a blueprint for a better one. One country has 2 per cent of the world's population and it's using most of the world's resources. Knowing that our descendants will suffer, that our planet is going crazy – these are things that I just cannot accept."
Does anybody else smell a new Jesus?