This Killing Joke article was written by Jack Press, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Gavin Wells
If the apocalypse were to welcome itself upon us tomorrow then it is with great concern that I now know what our world will look like and who will be leading it’s rebellion. Imagine a pantry, one that wouldn’t be out of place at a discontinued barracks. Imagine it empty save for poster-souvenirs of times gone by, a disused kettle that is there for normality rather than necessity, and an empty pitcher of Budweiser. It’s cold – not just in the sense that you could freeze a river of water but in the sense that something sinister is arriving soon to fill its snow-white rotting walls with a bleak array of blackness.
Stepping in from the world that feels so distant from the one inside this room, the ceremoniously infamous leader of post-punk pioneers and apocalyptic prophets Killing Joke embraces the post-apocalyptic vibes this room lets off. An hour later than arranged and these initial steps come with an icy chill in the air, the hairs on my very arms sticking up in anticipation of a meeting with a man whose mind is wired so inexplicably contradistinctively to those of us who live our life locked away in the land of the mass media yet he speaks only the words we are too imprudently petrified to repeat. Despite this anxiety-riddled anecdote, Jaz Coleman welcomes me with a firm handshake and opens himself up, claiming he’s all mine – until he has to go off again.
Killing Joke formed thirty-seven years ago in 1978 when the world was suffering from the totality of insecurity, they rose from the ashes of an era that had witnessed poverty with more than just their eyes and they spoke for those of us who couldn’t. In 2015, it’s simply the same for Jaz and Killing Joke – it’s as if showing up to work means to share their thoughts of the world with the world.
“I think it’s our duty – and your duty – to speak out when you see terrible things happen, like the march towards Fascism that we’re currently going through. You know, who wants a world with a technocratic form of dictatorship, who wants a world with no privacy? We want to fight it, we exist to fight it.”
It’s as if Killing Joke know that they’re here for more than just the sum of their parts, they know that the very reason they’re still kicking around at number sixteen in the UK album charts is because they’re here to serve a purpose and as long as the world is heading in the wrong direction, the purpose is bigger now than ever.
The reason for the recent resurgence of their all-consuming virus of anti-establishment is their sixteenth studio album – ‘Pylon’ – a tour de force of industrialised metal and progressive rock set to a background of post-apocalyptic post-punk laced with gloomy gothic integrity that Killing Joke are known for.
“I don’t analyse it personally, it’s just the way it lands – it always ends up different to how you imagine, so you just go with it.”
It’s this ideology that Jaz has of it being his music, and his thoughts, and his reactions to the world that encompasses his existence on a day-to-day basis that provides the pieces Killing Joke make, not the sounds he wants us to hear.
Over the years, for every golden comment there have been a thousand criticisms peppered throughout work on Killing Joke, and yet for Jaz, he still believes in his message, and in his band’s philosophies.
“However people receive Killing Joke – I’m indifferent to it, sunshine or rain.”
It’s the very essence of sunshine and rain that defines this man’s Switzerland stance on the subject of reputation – it doesn’t matter whether a thousand people hate them or a thousand people love them, as long as their words are getting out there, they’re completing their mission wholeheartedly.
“All I’m mindful of is keeping the standards high at gigs and that the feeling, the overriding feeling that there is a better album ahead. We feel Pylon is a great milestone, but we know we can beat it, and that’s not a bad place to be”
It’s the glimmering hope on his face, the small insignificant smile that simmers to the surface before disappearing once more that cements this sense of success – not the success of Pylon in the charts, but the success of delivering once more what they’ve come to be known for.
So if the success of the dissemination of their message is their goal, then what is the drive behind it?
“It’s to raise awareness, and to self-educate, and the duty of self-education – that’s how we got ahead, we self-educated ourselves. We didn’t go to university or college, I didn’t even finish school you know, I dropped out at 15.”
They didn’t go to university, Jaz didn’t even finish school and yet he lectures at universities, he curates, composes, and conducts classical music, and ultimately leads the four-man army that is Killing Joke into the war of the world – the world against itself of course. It’s this sense of self-education that makes their new generation of fans so important to them-
“I do think its very important – our music is about music, it’s not about how old you are, it’s about awareness, a stream of consciousness You’ve got to know what’s going on in the world however bad they are, burying your head in the sand is no good – they are spraying in the air, they are doing terrible things out there, and to make it better we have to expose it”
The world Killing Joke exist in is a black-and-white copy-and-paste land of nothing in particular whilst their thoughts, their visions, and their audiences are a myriad of colourful eccentrics all with their thoughts interlinked as if working under their very own hive – with Jaz at the control desk.
Control. That’s a dirty word for Mr Coleman – he hates the thought of control simply because he knows it haunts him, and it haunts the world in which we live in.
“It’s what’s in the food supply and the water supply – people are zombies, it’s terrifying how everything from what they’re eating to what they’re breathing to what they’re drinking is controlling them day by day and I just don’t know where to begin and where to end, it’s horrible”
The very notion Jaz makes that this isle is nothing but a legion of passive zombies eating and drinking themselves till they’re numb with a false set of beliefs and an ideology so frozen in time it should be illegal is the very same notion that drives this man to resent where he has come from.
“this place is nice to visit, to play gigs in, but I couldn’t live here – you’re all fucked right now”.
Will he step in to the ring and fight to change it though?
“No. No. Never. I’d never do that, I could never do that. There’s only ugliness in politics. I promised my youngest daughter I’d never get involved and I’m a man of my word”
Jaz Coleman won’t ever go into politics, and I believe him. At this very moment, his gaze is cold, as if he knows the repercussions of what his life in politics would do for those he loves and so he leaves the subject where it is, burying it back under the carpet where it should stay for all eternity.
Jaz Coleman is a sinister man with sinister thoughts, and he is as surreal as it gets – and real too, he’s more genuine then anything you’ll hear, read, or see in the next year or so simply because he wears his heart firmly on his sleeve and lays all of his cards on the table. He vies to protect his private life – or that of which is left of it according to him – and yet by being honest he claws away at the foundation of our existence as if set on exposing the flaws we’re shielding ourselves from. He’s certainly set on exposing taboo subjects with his more classically-trained music – especially his upcoming mass requiem of seminal 90’s grunge icons Nirvana.
“Two reasons why; one was of course Kurt’s history with the band, and the Eighties phenomena (Note – Killing Joke filed a lawsuit against Nirvana regarding the infamous ‘Come As You Are’ tone that sounded oh-too-similar to that of ‘Eighties’) and the second is that my youngest daughters fiancé committed suicide last year and I thought Nirvana’s music would make the perfect backdrop to address the very taboo subject of suicide and that’s why I did it – that’s why I always do it, awareness and self-education always”.
It’s this need to expose the world’s flaws that drives Jaz, and Killing Joke, to be what they can be, to create what they can create, to sound like what they may one day feel –
“There’s always a landscape of a future world in Killing Joke, and in our music, and so I guess it is quite futurist, it’s the sound of what tomorrows world will look like”
And whilst they progress and progress as the world digresses, Jaz refuses to let his hauntingly beautiful classical music conduct itself into Killing Joke proceedings.
“They’ll always be separate. Concert halls are different, audiences are different. Everything’s acoustic, nothing electric. The disciplines different, it’s a cerebral experience when you’re conducting, Killing Joke is not – it’s a frenzy, you let the music take you. The only thing they’ve got in common is that they’re both music”
The bitterness in his voice leaks, as if he resents the very notion of the two worlds meeting, as if the reality of it would be the result of a super collider gone wrong.
It’s with these thoughts, these bitter thoughts of his two world’s meeting that the man himself ends our meeting – the clock is ticking of course, he’s due on stage in just under an hour and the sergeant of the hour must dutifully prepare.
The Jaz that poses with me afterwards – smiles aplenty – isn’t the Jaz who entered. The coldness has left – it’s as if this man’s very words, very thoughts, has lifted the gloom that hanged over this room, as if Jaz Coleman has postponed our apocalyptic demise once again.