The Gospel According To Jaz Coleman
Jaz Coleman - he is one of the most ambivalent characters in showbiz: Jaz Coleman, the creative head behind Killing Joke, composer of classical music and convinced anarchist. A commuter between Europe and Oceania, orchestra work and punk concerts. With no one the relation of megalomania and concentrated knowledge could be closer as with this man in his late thirties. And that's what makes him so dangerous.
The scene couldn't be any more bizarre: the Bar of the Hamburg Interconti Hotel is packed with VIPs from the world of entertainment and politics, celebrating the 80th birthday of Heidi Kabel [a popular German actress of the unimportant kind], from Johannes Rau [the Federal President] to Udo Lindenberg, from Konstantin Wecker to several BKA [federal police] officers. In the middle of it two figures who don't know what's happening to them: Rammstein singer Till Lindemann and Killing Joke-head ideologue Jaz Coleman. Both used to be guests at the office party of 'seagram' the same day and had finally stranded at the hotel bar. Lindeman looking for fresh meat and Coleman looking for an eloquent person to talk to, who shares with him champagne and cigars. But that's definitely too much for Till. Not only that he hardly speaks any English at all, he is on a totally different level in comparison to the person he's talking to. The very greeting routine: 'Conny Plank would have been proud of your band' makes Lindemann feel uneasy. 'Conny who?' he asks in confusion and is confronted with a literal bombardment of geopolitics and economics, which he can't reply to. 'We're making music, not politics', he comments helplessly. Also Coleman's invitation to visit him in New Zealand is declined. 'Pretty crazy, this colleague', Lindeman murmurs and leaves immediately. Finally he's found some lonely woman at the bar. Coleman is a little puzzled: 'Nice bloke, but he's still got to learn'. Compared to him a lot!!
For this man in his late thirties, who's been in the music business for 22 years, is a master in many fields: convinced anarchist, hedonist, pugnacious genius and obsessed workaholic. Someone who's been thinking half of his life about the destruction of our affluent society and who's been dreaming of mystic places, apocalypses and ancient legends. However, he no longer feels the hate and anger which was founded in his traumatic childhood as a Pakistani in English schools. 'I used to be simply mad, completely crazy. You've got to put it that way. All I was concerned with were my studies, my girl-friend and the band. Moreover I wanted to find this place of Northern Mythology- the green island at the end of the world. It couldn't be Ireland, because there are no trees. Then Geordie had discovered New Zealand. Ever since my dreams have come true and I have found sanity."
This is manifested in his music. The post-punk of the early Killing Joke albums doesn't say too much to him anymore, in contrast to the mysteries of the world history. Already in 1982 he, who used to be back then a Philosophy and History student, used the Island-Tour to leave the band in order to write a symphony and to do some research in Nordic legends. A venture which ended in a stop of the tour and in Youth leaving the band. Later on Jaz turned into a globetrotter who was searching every corner of the world experiencing the weirdest things. 'Basically I used to be everywhere - and most of the time without any money. But that isn't important. You've got to have the courage to break away from your familiar background and to develop yourself through foreign cultures. All you've got to do is to pay four months in advance a little deposit for the flight ticket and then to save some money systematically. That does always work out!'
After trips through South America, Asia and Scandinavia he settled in New Zealand in the early 90s - and found his personal paradise. He set up his own studio, lived with the native Maoris and took on a professorship at Wellington University. However, he hasn't called in his job with Killing Joke. He has only become more cynical and more controlled - and he has taken up what he tried to suppress for years, his classical education. For he enjoyed as the youngest offspring of a wealthy Pakistani family and a great-grandson of Ghandi a founded musical education which made him as a teenager one of the best cellists in Great Britain. He played with the London Symphonic Orchestra, won numerous prizes and chucked it in when he was 17 to become a punk. A decision his parents could never accept.
However, today since the anger is gone or at least not the centre of his existence any longer his old roots break up again: he's worked with the New Zealand String Quartet ('Pacifica - Ambient Sketches') and has recorded symphonic versions of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. 'Many people consider my career schizophrenic. Even my publisher, who is in charge of my classical music, wouldn't believe that I am the same person who sings for Killing Joke. This had to be confirmed by a lawyer. And it's actually these extremes I'm enjoying the most. I simply need both sides. Killing Joke is for romping about. It's got a social function and prevents me from killing other people. Classical music on the other hand is like meditation to me. I'm creating a perfect world full of romanticism and love. A nice illusion."
Therefore the band isn't dead at all - just put on ice for a while. Since it's not only Jaz who's more than busy at the moment: Geordie experiments with Electronica and Avant-garde while Youth is producing the creme of the international music-scene. Not too long ago, says Jaz with a grin in his face, he [Youth] was asked by Jon Bon Jovi into the studio to listen to some of their new songs. 'Can you imagine what Youth said? "That sounds like Billy Joel - I'm not interested in this kind of crap". God, they might have paid him a million dollars, if he would have worked for them.' A man with principles like Coleman. And it's not that they don't need the money. For example for the production of the next Killing Joke album (the first after Democracy in '96), which is again supposed to be recorded far away from time and space. 'A major part of the material is already finished and simply sounds fantastic: very hard and rhythmic - almost tribal. I've found a little studio in Turkey - in the middle of the mountains. Dirt cheap and very remote. Moreover there are many marihuana plantations. A very inspiring environment - and that's exactly what we need when we get together.'
Typically Coleman: The normal is without interest. Everything has got to be an adventure, to widen the horizon and to have a taste of the illegal. And that brings us to another side of this man: the supernatural, the enigmatic and the mystic. For Coleman is not only a friend of conspiracy theories and plots, but he is also the member of several unions and lodges. He is very familiar with the Illuminates, the Free Masons and big industrialists, he believes to know about Lady Di's murderers and likes to ponder about the events in Roswell. He reports all of this so passionately and is so persuading that you can listen to him for hours. Especially when he presents his plans for a TV-show on BBC4:'In the HOT CHAIR with Jaz'. Henry Kissinger, former foreign minister of the US, is supposed to be his first guest. In front of the camera he's to give a statement about area 51. Since this is a state secret, this show only exists so far on paper. However, even if Coleman likes a spliff as much as to indulge in fantasies: There has to be some truth about his wild theories. Why else should it be possible that an ex-punk and critic to the system is offered the opportunity to work with the most renowned orchestras between Los Angeles, Sydney, London and Moscow? So far this honour has only been reserved for the world's star-conductors and for people with good connections. 'They put up with me as long as I shut up', Coleman says, 'and they keep on offering me good jobs, insofar they've got to like me, somehow. But please don't ask me what they want from me, I don't have the faintest idea.'
At the moment he's got different worries: For example, his extensive 'Oceania' Project, which has been finished since spring '99, but which hasn't been published yet. That's not because it's bad, but because the record company has got trouble with the marketing of this ethno-ambient album. After all, beats you can dance to combined with Pahu ('Coconut drums'), Putarino ('Flute'), Hue ('Pumpkin') or Putaatara ('Seashell') are something you have to get used to. 'I had to get the permission of the Eldest in the Maori tribe in order to use these instruments', Coleman says, 'and it was a real compliment that I was the first white who was allowed to use them.' The result is a clever shift between Zeitgeist and tradition - with lyrics about deities, international understanding, peace and emancipation. And of course Coleman has got big plans about it: 'I want to gather some hundred Maoris together and to make a hell of a noise with them on stage. Can you imagine the vibe?! Perhaps I'm going to perform in the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. Those idiots have invited me - it's their own fault...'
Before Jaz starts twiddling his thumbs waiting for the wheels of music industry he gets active in another field. For example with a symphonic variant of some Doors' songs, which he's recording at the moment with the London Symphonic - and where he just broke his leg. A rather strange accident for a conductor. On the other hand: What is normal in terms of Coleman? 'I know that 2000 will be my great year. I want to do both at the same time - to perform with Killing Joke and to conduct an orchestra. One day in a stuffy little club, one day in the Royal Albert Hall. That would be fiendishly amusing to me!!'