(From Play Louder, online music magazine, 26 July 2003.)

 

Killing Joke: The Last Laugh

by John Robb

 

Killing Joke's new LP may well be the best rock record you'll hear all year. And there is a reason for the harshness. "Before this I was doing a classical album with Nigel Kennedy and Sarah Brightman," Jaz Coleman warns John Robb...

"Ha ha ha."

It's that laugh.

The insane cackle. The laugh of a man who knows that he is right. Jaz Coleman has been right for 25 years. His dark vision and cathartic explosive music have been hammering the message home for a quarter of a century. Democracy is a scam, the goons are in control, the world is run by sick weirdos. Every conspiracy theory you ever read is true.

"Ha ha ha."

It's the punch line of the The Joke.

The Killing Joke.

Killing Joke emerged in the post punk fallout. A time of death to trad rock, a re-writing of the rule book. A time when anything went as long as it wasn't a twelve bar. Tearing down the house and all that. Don't let flimsy Rough Trade "post punk" compilations retell the story for you. There was plenty of deranged wild action going on in the period, and the Joke's powerful mix of the power of punk rock with the rhythmic sensibility of dance music combined with a dark vision and some pile driving guitars marked them out as one of the most influential bands of period.

Period.

Jaz Coleman is the wild eyed frontman of Killing Joke and he1s on a roll. The new eponymous Killing Joke album is an awesome reaffirmation of the primal raw power that made the band's name way back in the post punk years. It's a dark, dangerous, feral piece of work - precision production, and powered by some incredible drumming from Dave Grohl. It restates just what a rock album should sound like in 2003 and, sound-wise, is the yardstick for every rock band in the world to measure themselves against.

Jaz Coleman is naturally on a high. In the stinking backdrop of the current world situation rock had to react, had to kick back sometime, when the multi nationals are poisoning our air, stealing our lives away and starting wars to satisfy their greed, only music like this can make you feel better. And as for the music business itself.

"We are living in a period of time which is has been a dark time for music. The entire music industry was taken over by non-musicians and DJ's and they are finished now. Yeah! I hope Alex from The Orb [ex Killing Joke roadie] is listening to this - you're finished baby! Ha ha ha... put the fucking drum kit up you cunt! Ha ha ha!"

Revenge is sweet for Jaz Coleman, a man who doesn't dig into our glorious heritage for inspiration.

"I'm glad the vile retro 60s - everyone wants to sound like The Beatles - is over. I didn't want that Britpop and now all those people who flirted with Tony Blair going to number 10 are over - all that was a bunch of fucking assholes banging their tambourines - yeah, I'm glad that's all over and their Lennon and McCartney music is all over as well... fuck 'em."

Coleman cackles again. He just hasn't got the patience for the pop parade. This is someone who conducts orchestras and writes classical music when he's not doing Killing Joke. This is someone who is fascinated by theology, tribalism, the apocalypse, the dark magiks; when your head is full of that shamanic stuff, the dreary world of the pop parade and tedious UK fashion seems, well, pathetic.

"This album is a great experience for me, I'm buzzing, I can't fucking sleep. I'm in preparation in Prague to rehearse, to get ready for the road... I've never been so excited before a release. Before this I was doing a classical album with Nigel Kennedy and Sarah Brightman and before that conducting at the royal opera house and lots of thing lots of gypsy music...so plenty of contrasts."

So is doing Killing Joke the same mentality as conducting an orchestra?

"Fuck yeah! You cant fuck up when you conduct, you can't drink or smoke or anything. You have got to be really on it - orchestras always play behind the beat anyway. I enjoy it because every time I work with orchestras I find reasons why I got out of classical! Conducting fills me with a sense of terror and I'm a sucker for putting myself in situations that intimidate me. I like the challenge�"

Does working with orchestras bring much to Killing Joke?

"Nothing whatsoever! Not even a bottle of champagne! Classical music is about creating a more desirable reality whereas Killing Joke is the opposite - It's about a catharsis, an exorcism, it's about getting rid of the knot in my stomach, its about dealing with the panic attacks that I'm in a perpetual state of - I don't sleep - sleep three hours a night is all I get - when death comes it will be a blessing I'm telling ya!"

Listening to the new album I can hear snippets of lyrics about the fucked up world situation. What you saying in there?

"I've never voted. Things piss me off. I'm reminding people that whatever they say about free speech and democracy what a load of bollocks� Killing Joke in terms of intellectual coherence? It doesn't matter! It's about gut feeling and I'm for ever amused by people's ideas of what I'm singing about on the first two albums because we didn't print the lyrics. I piss myself laughing about it - I'm not singing about that at all, it's down to my bad diction... it's an animal thing is what I'm trying to say� it's a gut feeling thing - a feeling."

And working with David Grohl, amazing not only because he is the best drummer in the world right now, but I understand there is some history between you guys�

"I really fucking liked the guy... Funny how we all got together because we all know how it could have been! We could have been looking at each other over a corpse! It is something I'm very proud of. I'm proud of everyone in Killing Joke for the decision we made not to sue the Nirvana camp once our man had taken himself out (over the blatant lift of the riff from Killing Joke's 'Eighties' for Nirvana's 'Come As You Are') it's a short fucking life mate - we could be going fishing or something sensible! There is a lot of goodwill from that camp- Grohly especially."

How did you meet up with him?

"In January in New Zealand I was at the Big Day Out. It was one of those really bizarre things. It was the day after I was ordained a priest. I met Dave Grohl - we were in the mood to celebrate - there was me in my dog collar and we got blind drunk together and I said, 'Dave, is there something you'd like to confess?' And he did! And I sang onstage with the Foo Fighters. I did 'Requiem.' He's like this guy that I've always known. He understands the - how shall I say this - the ceremonial aspect� lets say the tribal aspect of Killing Joke's tom-tom patterns. The drums that make Killing Joke. He's brought up on it. The guy listens to more fucking Killing Joke than I do, ha ha, and it was just like a natural process working with him� most people think of him as a singer and guitarist these days, but his first love is the drums."

So what church are you ordained in?

"Its my own bloody church mate! I got a masters in theology, the good thing about the church in New Zealand is we accept god as a female as well as a male - I've always seen god as a woman..."

Like the earth mother?

"Absolutely. We have venerated the feminine principle from the very beginning of Killing Joke and we have always celebrated the moons and we use lot of the drums on those occasions as well. Ha ha ha."

I love the primal, feral side of Killing Joke.

"Its a strange chemistry of people. When I get together with Geordie and Youth something really does happen. I really cherish it. These people are irreplaceable... Raven and Youth played on this record and they have both done five albums each - so I'm in the fortunate position of having two bass players and Raven fortunately likes the live thing and they both want to do this tour but I'm going out with Raven on this. Raven spends his time breeding pitbull fucking terriers and cock fighting with Mexicans in dodgy suburbs of LA... he's a very strange man, and a fucking laugh, is Raven!"

What do you think of all this nu-metal business?

"I don't like guitar solos. I don't like cliched drums or lyrics. I like a tribal thing. We never liked guitar solos - you know in that way I lean more towards that tradition that came from punk I suppose - but not exclusively. Killing Joke always had a better rhythm section than the punk bands. We were always affected by lots of dance music and black music."

So are you living in New Zealand now?

"I don't really live anywhere. I live between the Czech republic and Geneva sometimes, New Zealand sometimes. I pop back to England and the Middle East. I don't live anywhere mate. I live out of a bag. I like what I do. You won't get me moaning about the music industry. Its been really marvelous fun... this album is a celebration, the concerts-- wow! They really will be a gathering of the tribes and I think everyone needs it under current run of events in the world."

And as Jaz disappears into the Prague night he leaves us with one last foul laugh.

"Hahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa! The heaviest band in the world is going off and everyone fucking knows it!"