(From the Australian Herald Sun, 2 April 2006.)


Joke's Crue Blue


by Paul Stewart


Jaz Coleman is the lead singer of a heavy metal/punk band but he hasn't forsaken his classical roots. PAUL STEWART reports

IT seemed like a good idea at the time, but Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman now regrets the British band's decision to support US wild boys Motley Crue on tour.

''Those guys are just idiots,'' said Coleman, whose latest single, Hosannas from the Basements of Hell, has just been released.

''Our manager was asked if we would like to meet Tommy Lee. So he goes in --  Lee's got all these dumb, brain-dead women sitting around -- and he goes, 'Ah, you manage Killing Joke. They're great. I've got six of their albums. What are those guys doing now?' '' Coleman said.

''He didn't even know we were on the road with them. I'm never, ever doing something like that again.''

But fellow artists aren't generally so ignorant about Killing Joke. Since releasing its first album in 1979, the group has inspired a legion of musicians, including members of Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Metallica, Tool, Soundgarden, Fear Factory and others.

Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl is a fan and  drummed on the last Killing Joke album.

''We have a very eclectic and passionate underground audience,'' Coleman said.

''They are intelligent thinkers, ranging from people who were sperms when we put out our first record to people of our own age.

''We are not a band that has ever had major pop appeal. But after 27 years you see them on the way up and you wave to them again on the way down. I think we chose the right path.''

Coleman remains one of popular music's more interesting characters. When he is not performing with the uncompromisingly heavy Killing Joke, he works with some of the world's leading symphony orchestras.

He has also written the soundtrack for several Disney movies, become the first western musician to study oriental music at an Arabic conservatory and worked with acclaimed composer Philip Glass.

He was endorsed by the surviving members of The Doors to write a violin concerto based on their work and collaborated with Mick Jagger on a classical version of Angie.

Coleman studied piano and violin at the age six and by 10 had sung in many of the great cathedrals of Europe.

But his life changed when he fell in love with punk rock in the 1970s and formed Killing Joke.

''It was just so much fun to play after all the structure of classical music,'' Coleman said.

When he's not on tour with Killing Joke, Coleman spends his time living on an island off the coast of New Zealand or working on a classical music project.

''I do not need a studio on my island because I can write classical music from my head straight down on to paper,'' he said.

''My island is the perfect place to retreat to. Lots of magnificent fishing and just sitting around relaxing.''

It's a far cry from the days when Killing Joke's first recordings were three tracks paid for by Coleman's then wife. But the band's fortunes soon changed.

''We went straight from the studio to the BBC and waited outside for the legendary DJ John Peel to emerge,'' Coleman recalled.

''He came out and we gave him a copy of our first three songs and he then played it for 10 weeks straight. By the time of our first ever gig, you could not book a ticket to get in.

''It was packed. John Lydon of the Sex Pistols really championed us earlier on.''

Coleman, who once famously dumped a hunk of maggot-infested meat on the desk of a noted music critic, said Killing Joke's new album had been an interesting affair to make.

''I think there were three major fights, three pregnancies and lots of great wine involved in its making. I cannot wait until we do the next one.''

Killing Joke is expected to tour Australia this year.