(From the web site 84 Tigers, 1 May 2006.)
As Chaos Rains, Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke Remains . . .
Jaz Coleman: the voice of Killing Joke, who since 1978 has been issuing forth a soul-shredding battle-cry against the coming apocalypse. Jaz Coleman: celebrated composer and conductor, hailed by noted East German conductor Klaus Tennstedt as ‘our new Mahler’. Merely two perspectives on a complicated and engaging character; and two that when you consider them, are perfectly in tune.
In the 28th Year of Killing Joke, with the latest missive Hosannas From The Basements of Hell unleashed, Jaz Coleman — considered by many poor souls blighted by lack of imagination and vision as a ‘madman’ — puts down his portable silver cigar humidor, unfolds the maps, and offers some other perspectives on his life and work.
"The general standards of the band have just rocketed, and to be perfectly frank, you can only do that when everybody really wants to do it. The years between Democracy and the 2003 record [Killing Joke], I was just concentrating on my classical career – I was on a big run after 20 classical recordings in a row, and my first opera, and I got a bit Killing Joked-out, as it were, at one point. The difference is, when you’re working with orchestra, you’re working on your own, and with a band, you’re working with a collective and it’s more difficult than marriage. Seriously. So we took some time off as it were, though we always leave the door open with the band and when everyone wants to do it, we just do it. Essentially the band is just myself and Geordie [Walker, guitarist], and the 2003 recording we recorded everything except for the drums ourselves – Youth did one track, and [Paul] Raven [bassist] didn’t do anything, but we put his name on it anyway. It’s kind of the two of us that run the whole show really; and that relationship with a great musician is something I really cherish — we know what we’re doing psychically. He’ll say, “Listen to this Coleman, I’ve got this idea”, and we’ll get together in Prague where we’ve got our own rehearsal and recording studio. The Hosannas From The Basements of Hell album was recorded there, in a basement wine cellar with all these winding corridors and a 16 track studio upstairs. Geordie said “We’re not gonna do it like the last album – that’s too much of a manufactured sound”, so we did it on tape. It’s basically a basement recording – a la Metallica Garage Days Re-revisited EP, which I have to say because I’ve got a vested interest in that record as well – and to cut a long story short, everybody got completely shit-faced, we’d play, set up for rehearsals, then go do gigs, play some more. We had a band that lived together and hung out together, and we could play and rehearse every day, which we couldn’t do for many years. The price of a rehearsal studio in London is like 500 pounds a day and we pay 30-40 quid a day for our place. That was the good aspect, having the band living there. And then we got our own little favourite bar where we’d run the show …heh heh, with all sorts of…pleasures, if you know what I mean. Anyway, we’d meet up there after rehearsals, and it was the Killing Joke social life in Prague, and all sorts of excesses and pleasures, you can imagine. And the band, not just me, kind of harbour all these things in and let it all out…and the album was a mad experience for all of us.
The album sleeve was painted by the Russian surrealist Victor Sufonkin who we met by accident one day. He came and saw us rehearse; and, at the end of the recording, he showed me what he’d painted and it looked like the session. It’s macabre, it’s amazing; and you had these two parallel time-streams with two separate artists working together, and I really did enjoy that. It was a session of complete freedom, just getting onto one groove of a complete hypnotic state, and then getting into a complete state, period. Not all the time, but, ah, well. That’s the good thing about my classical career – you can’t be drinking or smoking or all that kind of thing – your mind has to be clear, and you can’t make a mistake. It’s like flying: you mess up, and you’re dead.
I did some interesting things for my inspiration for Hosannas From The Basements of Hell: I went to Tashkent, Uzbekistan and conducted the orchestra there, and that’s the strings you hear on ‘Invocation’. There’s one track on Pandemonium where I used Arabic strings, but it wasn’t quite like this: this was full-on, a full 60-pce orchestra. I hadn’t mixed the two up before, but I wanted to, just one time. I went to Lebanon to put some percussion down, and I went to a few warzones as well: Ethiopia, I went to Bolivia while the revolution was happening over there, just to give myself different ideas and different impressions. And what I got out of the whole thing was not what I expected, which was a war-machine kind of album. In the end, I got something that was quite joyous in its content; and when we do Killing Joke gigs now, it’s a real event, people from all walks of life coming, and the venues are getting bigger, and it’s wonderful to keep going. But I’m going to take a sabbatical from all this, because too much Killing Joke drives me around the bend.
I really do have a fury in me, I feel so angry about things that literally, the process of singing Killing Joke gives me a deep sense of peace. After a Killing Joke concert, it’s kind of weird: you’d expect me to be completely hyped up, but I’m not, I’m completely at peace after I go through this kind of mayhem and it literally helps me as a person. I think we all have dark thoughts sometimes. I look at the state of the world and it breaks my heart. A lot of the things that have happened and are happening in my family breaks my heart. But it all makes sense when I do my music, and I think a lot of musicians would agree with me that there’s a huge form of therapy inherent in music. But you have to differentiate between pantomime and the real person, and if people think I’m a psycho, sometimes they really piss me off so I give ‘em a bit.
With the media, I don’t know how these people can know all these things simply because I live a reclusive life. I cut myself off from people, and I have so much work to do I haven’t time for timewasters. And so, the few times I do see people, I get animated, I let go and always say what I think, and they take their own impressions. However, they don’t see me 24/7, and then they see me working with an orchestra, and that I’ve just acted in my third movie…and they don’t know what to make of me. I have some strange hobbies — I like blowing up things. I’m serious – I’ve done quarries, and I like using AK-47s to shoot things up, stuff like that. Only for pleasure, and under controlled circumstances. Have you ever blown up the side of the mountain? I’m going to start using rocket launchers next, because apparently you can go to Cambodia and blow up water buffalo. Poor water buffalo. But I guess you could dress his head up as George Bush and give him a bang up the arse. And I guess if you take pictures of that, it does look quite odd. But actually, I’m not a suicide bomber. And sometimes it’s just crazy, especially the people who are fanatical about Killing Joke: they’re marvelous people, but I call them “homing loonies”. I’ve had them follow me all the way around the world, so many places. How they find out is just unbelievable. From all over the world, and all around the world, homing loonies. Hence my chosen isolation. Anyway. Crazy people never say they’re crazy. And I’m not crazy.
TABITHA COLEMAN: I think my Dad is insane, which is not to say that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I remember when my first boyfriend came around, and he said “Don’t fuck her unless you love her!”
JAZ: What’s wrong with that?
TABITHA: People might look at that and say he isn’t quite the full ticket.
JAZ: I think that’s being completely upfront and honest. ‘Are you fucking my Princess?”. Well, how would you put it? But we had a drink after that. He’s a good lad, your boyfriend.
TABITHA: I think to be quite honest, you need an element of madness to be in Killing Joke, otherwise I think people could listen and not take it seriously.
JAZ: She’s seen how they party, for a start. Honestly, you have to be completely crazy just to get through it. For example, if you do a non-stop 160-date world tour, you don’t have days off because if you do you have to pay your road crew for those days and it doesn’t make sense – you bang another gig in between. And after you’ve done so many gigs, you think, how much more of this can you take? This madness, these tour buses…and if you look at the calendar you go absolutely mad, so the only thing to do is go completely mad with it. And one day they say, ‘Oh, you’re going home tomorrow”, then we always have to go to a halfway house. Tabi’s seen me come off tours, and I look like a piece of shit. Normally I’m with my band, and we go to the Barrier or book into a hotel to get it out of our systems, chill out for three weeks then try to go about our normal lives. If you go straight home to your partner, there’s no gig every night, and your pacing the kitchen, and then you start picking a fight with the missus, and you can imagine the rest, eh?
You have to let yourself down slowly. Raven breeds pitbulls, and one of his other pleasures is cockfighting. He sits around with loads of Mexicans, they take bets, and they put these cocks in the ring with spurs on them, and they fight them until one looks like it’s dead and they pump em full of this liquid which makes em jump up again and start fighting again. One time I remember meeting Raven as I came out of LAX and he says “I got a little present for you”. He had this box, and I could hear this scratching and he opens it and goes “I’ve got a nice little fighter for you, there you go”. I said “Look Raven, I’m not into cock fighting or whatever, give it a break.” But yeah – varied interests within the band.
Message from PAUL RAVEN, April 2006:
cockfighting in east LA is another one of jaz coleman's deluded fantasies. i love animals and i am also a nudist buddhist, i wouldn’t hurt a fly. ask anyone:) ha ha ha coleman is truly billy liar, over the years his inane bullshit has only gone to enhance my dazzling reputation, YEAH RIGHT!!!
i did take him to my old neighborhood in San Gabriel to meet some of my banger buddys and he was shitting himself, it was really fucking ridiculous, he’s such a fucking cry baby it makes me sick
have a nice day mook
dep r a v e n
We must be the only band that’s never written a love record – not one. ‘Love Like Blood’ was about suicide and suicidal feelings, not about love – so you can’t say anything there, because I know. ‘Under A Southern Sky’ – that was about Great Barrier Island. Anything else? No, well.
All the madness of the world at the moment, with Hamas getting to power in Palestine… I fly to the Middle East a lot and I’m passionate about observing Middle Eastern politics. Seeing Egypt right on the edge, and that it could go the same way as Palestine. Then you’ve got that nutter down the road in Iran who says that we should relocate Israel to Germany – what a genius! Who let that fucking monkey out of the cage? Apparently he can’t read or write – the first President who can’t. Isn’t that amazing? Any monkey can get the job these days! I think the world’s crazy, and what we’re experiencing in Europe: where I’ve just come from it’s been 25-35 degrees below zero. We’ve never had weather conditions like it – what’s happening is the cold water from the Arctic is coming down and is redirecting the warm Gulf Stream that has kept the climate in Europe stable for millennia, so it’ll get colder and colder every year for the next ten years. And Mr. Putin’s just switched off the gas, and they say that we’re gonna get a 20-50 percent rise in heating bills every year. Something doesn’t add up, when you take into account our manufacturing industries in the whole of Europe — they can do it 40 times cheaper in a sweat bucket in China, Brazil, India or Russia. So why would they invest in Europe? Our manufacturing industry is going down; unemployment – My God, you haven’t seen anything yet; AND our climate is getting colder. So I think I’ll probably come back down to live in New Zealand again. I seriously fear for the world. You’ve got the scientists telling us that if we don’t do something about the global warming in the next ten years, we’re looking at extinction. Now think about this: the Y chromosome that separates the male from the female is being depleted at an alarming rate, and that means in 120 years time, all males will have ceased to exist. Can you imagine a world without us? We’re a soon-to-be-extinct species, and perhaps these young ladies should show us some more respect, that’s what I think. What will it be like in 120 years time – we’ll all start looking like fucking Marilyn Manson and sticking dicks into our own pussys like that…unisex toilets, the lot, can you imagine? I don’t want to be around then. Plus, the weather’s bad, oh my God. Anyway, so that’s the future.