(From Time Out, February 2006.)
by John Lewis
"As a teenager when I
started this group, we sat around and we said: 'What do we want to achieve out
of all this?'"
Jaz Coleman, the warrior-king singer of Killing Joke, takes a long pull on a glass of rum and coke followed by a thoughtful toke on a rapidly-disintegrating cigar.
"The answer to the question was that we wanted to inspire other people," he says. "We had this idea that Killing Joke is a mirror, and what you see in us, you can do too; that the stage is the audience and the audience is the stage."
If the growing army of acts who have taken inspiration from Killing Joke is anything to go by, then Coleman has achieved his goal. The British band's influence on internationally-acclaimed groups such as Nirvana, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails and Ministry has been well documented. A generation of death metal bands - such as Fear Factory who have just recorded a new version of *Millennium* - have paid homage to Killing Joke. But so too has Kate Bush, who has long been a fan of the group and whose most famous single, *Hounds of Love*, featured Killing Joke's original bass player, Youth.
"We have a very eclectic and passionate underground audience," Coleman says. "They are intelligent thinkers ranging from people who were sperms when we put our first record out to people of our own age. We're not a band that's ever had major pop appeal. But after 27 years you see 'em on the way up and you wave to 'em again on the way down. So, I think we chose the right path."
10 Things You Might Not Know About KILLING JOKE
1. Singer Jaz Coleman was born in Cheltenham to a high-caste Bengali mother and an English Father. He was a distinguished violinist and a choirboy as a child.
2. Jaz fled to Iceland in 1982 believing that the apocalypse was imminent. He has since lived in Leipzig, Cairo, Tahiti, Budapest, Switzerland and New Zealand. He claims to hold four passports.
3. Killing Joke’s bassist Youth once tried to start a fight with journalist Paul Morley after a bad review. “Luckily he was so drunk that he slipped on some beer and fell to the floor”, says Morley.
4. Youth’s baffling list of credits as s producer includes Marilyn Manson, Tom Jones, Bananarama, Blue Nile, James, Crowded House, PJ Harvey, The Verve, Nick Cave, U2, Axl Rose and Paul McCartney.
5. After noting similarities between Killing Joke’s “Eighties” and Nirvana’s “Come As You Are”, KJ started legal action but dropped it after Kurt Cobain’s death. Jaz has since guested with Foo Fighters, while Dave Grohl was drummer on KJ’s 2003 album, which was produced by Gang Of Four’s Andy Gill.
6. Other bands who’ve cited KJ as an influence include The Cult, Pearl Jam, Faith No More, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Metallica, Soundgarden and even Kate Bush. The Darkness attended a recent KJ show in Camden, KLF’s Bill Drummond tried to join KJ after Jaz fled to Iceland and The Orb’s Alex Patterson was a KJ roadie.
7. KJ used to be joined on stage by a fire eater. His name was Dave The Wizard. “Fire is symbolic of the will to power,” declared Jaz
8. Legendary East Germn conductor Klaus Tennstedt described Jaz Coleman as :the new Mahler”. Jaz was composer-in-residence for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and has written for the LSO, the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic, as well as working with Nigel Kennedy, Anne Dudley and Sarah Brightman
9. Jaz’s brother Piers is a professor of theoretical physics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. In 2003 Piers and Jaz were commissioned to write “Music Of The Quantum”, a piece uniting art, mysticism and science.
10. KJ played CND benefits in the ‘80’s and Jaz is a fierce opponent of the current Iraq war, but he also likes guns, collects Nazi and Vietnam War militaria, and is heavily into survivalism.