(From The Sunday Mail, Sydney, Australia, 16 November 2003.)

I Started A Joke

Ritchie Yorke

KILLING Joke's Jaz Coleman is sitting on the edge of North America at the tail-end of a tour of the US, and dying to get off.

"Jeez, mate, I'm definitely looking forward to getting out of this country, I can tell you.

"It's been a damn good tour, but you really have to watch what you say.

"Of course you do. Whattayathink this is a democracy?"

While it is obviously the US he is referring to, he's actually in Vancouver, Canada, fairly close to the border, where the band was playing between Seattle and San Francisco.

Three Californian shows to go and he's Australia-bound. And apart from one big reservation, he's absolutely delighted about his destination.

"God bless Australia, except for the guy who runs it," he cackles, before using more colourful language to describe our prime minister, Pauline Hanson and British leader Tony Blair.

The 43-year-old singer quickly reminds us that Killing Joke, the band he formed in Notting Hill in London in '78, last performed here in 1985. Or, as he laughs, "two marriages ago".

For all of his jocularity, Killing Joke are a serious outfit. With enormous cred. The fathers of industrial rock.

It has been frequently noted that the Joke's doom-laden body of work has been a huge influence on a swag of major rocksters, including The Cult, Nirvana, Metallica, Faith No More and Nine Inch Nails.

Their concerts are all-but legendary. One record company publicist famously summed up the Joke's live show as akin to seeing "hell on Christmas Day".

The band are playing 140 dates on their world tour "and every single one will be a life-changing experience for whoever is there", says Coleman, ego firmly in place.

"It's a ritual, a religious ceremony. It will be as intense as it's ever been."

Their enviable reputation clearly had an influence on the decision by Foo Fighters drummer, the urbane Dave Grohl, to play on all the tracks of Killing Joke's new, self-titled album.

When the tour winds up later next year, Coleman will put on another hat and set forth on a conducting tour, performing with orchestras around the world.

"To be honest, I never really think more than a couple of days ahead. I've seen so many of my mates die anyway. I mean, you could choke on a Tic Tac tomorrow, couldn't you?"

Killing Joke, The Arena, Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, Friday.