As influential artists go, Killing Joke sit in the upper echelons as a band whose music undoubtedly shaped the heavier end of the alternative spectrum these past thirty years. Formed in London at the back end of 1978 just as the first wave of punk was taking its last breath, their unique fusion of dub, rock and electronic music coupled with the philosophies of punk and aversion to take their sound to new extremes paved the gateway for people like The Sisters Of Mercy, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Tool and a thousand and one industrial imitators with gothic tendencies. Nirvana even stole (oops, I mean borrowed...) the riff from one of their songs for chrissakes...
Initially a four-piece consisting of Jaz Coleman (vocals), Kevin "Geordie" Walker (guitars), Martin "Youth" Glover (bass) and Paul Ferguson (drums). The original line-up went onto record three seminal albums before Youth's departure in 1982 opened the door for Paul Raven to join the band as his replacement. Commercial success followed with album number five Night Time attaining a respectable number 11 in the UK albums chart and spawning their biggest hit single 'Love Like Blood' along the way.
Several line-up changes ensued over the next decade, Coleman being the only constant until the band took an extended break in 1996 after their eleventh album, Democracy, returning in 2003 with their second eponymously titled long player. Another album followed (Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell) until tragedy struck in October 2007 when Raven died of heart failure. At his funeral, all four original members re-united to mark his passing, a decision was made to put the first line-up of the band back together, and after several well-received shows album number fourteen, 2010's Absolute Dissent, found itself unleashed to an unprecedented wave of critical acclaim including a highly satisfactory 8/10 here.
This summer will see them grace the stages at both the English and Polish Sonisphere Festivals, with a new album also pencilled in for 2012. Currently at the start of a three-date mini-tour taking in London Royal Festival Hall, Manchester Academy and Nottingham's Rock City, where DiS is out in force (yours truly and regular boarder Jordan Dowling) sat in the band's dressing room post-soundcheck with the mercurial Jaz Coleman. We'd initially planned a series of questions relating to the band's musical career, but plans can fall through as so often they do (we don't get as far as mentioning former Smith Andy Rourke's three-day reign as a member of Killing Joke, sadly) and when Coleman is on such eloquent and passionate form talking about poverty, sending fuel rods into space and the end of the world as we know it, who are we to interrupt?
DiS: You first started playing together with this line-up thirty-two years ago. After initially parting with Youth and Paul Ferguson in 1982, both of whom rejoined and left on several occasions during the interim period, did you ever envisage all four of you working together again as happened in 2008?
Jaz Coleman: Yes. I think all of us knew that we'd work together again. We just didn't think it would be so soon though.
Jaz: Really. I mean if it wasn't for Raven's death...Raven had already talked his way back in for the 2008 tour, so if he'd have done that tour with us...I guess it's just destiny. Things sometimes happen like that.
DiS: Initially Killing Joke were lumped in with all the post-punk bands of the late 1970s, even though your sound was noticeably heavier. Was it important back then to be linked with a scene that was receiving so much attention from the media to get your music heard by a wider audience?
Jaz: I don't think we even thought about that. You're right about the sound. That was something we did give a fuck about. We didn't like the sound of The Clash - they used to rehearse upstairs from us and it was always a light sound. We had a very clear idea of the density of sound we wanted. None of us had any idea it would turn out like it did because it's always been a kind of open workshop thing in Killing Joke. People always ask us about the writing and my answer's always the same: "There is no fucking writing!" Basically, you can make your life as colourful as possible by doing all the things you dream about and then you get together and we get on a hypnotic rhythm and it kicks off from that. There's no writing. It's just one spontaneous action. We were just discussing the writing of our new album earlier which we're gonna be releasing in 2012 and how we're gonna do it, and the answer to that - especially with the original line-up because they can really improvise - is that it will take its own course on the spur of the moment. There's a song for every minute. The most important thing is that you've conquered all things that you want to do, all the dreams you may have. You've got to knock 'em off one by one then come back and tell the boys, y'know! Everyone's got to bring something to the table. It's this thing with Killing Joke where we all challenge each other the moment we depart from each other, then when we come back there's this highly competitive thing of who's hustled what, or who's played whatever gigs or made other records or whatever. It keeps everyone on their toes. It's a beautiful thing, bringing as much as you can to the table.
DiS: You mention the new album that's coming out next year. I've read somewhere that you had quite a few songs left over from the Absolute Dissent sessions like 'Time Wave' and 'Feast Of Fools'. Will any of those be on the new record?
Jaz: No, none of them. If I was to go back through the years I'd probably find hundreds of songs we never released.
DiS: Have you got any thematic or sonic ideas for the new record? Is there any particular direction in which you want to take it?
Jaz: No, other than I sense it will be a heavy album thematically, because it is. I believe we're coming up to such huge earth changes that no one can be sure of anything, and so not to put too fine a point on it, once I have finished the best part of this year to October, the only time I'm going to come out away from where I am in the middle of nowhere is when duty calls with Killing Joke. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to my island before it all kicks off, and that's what I honestly think. I'm seeing young children saying "My mum says the earth is going to end in two years time. Why should I go to school?" It's a very good point. I don't think the earth and humanity is going to end, but I'd say a good 80% of it will, so the world as we know it I'm sure is going to come to an end and it will transform afterwards. That's what I think is going to happen, so every day is important. You must make a checklist of everything you want to achieve and do it now. Chill out, don't worry about work.
DiS: Will you be playing any of the new songs during this tour?
Jaz: Not here we won't be, but it's interesting you brought that up because after we finish here we kind of go into our sort of writing time. The plan is to do the album in two halves, and some of it we hope to play live on the American and Canadian legs of the tour, hopefully try out three or four new ones and see how they sit within the set. We're planning to record a lot of the record beforehand, so we've got a pretty full-on schedule. We're doing loads of festivals this summer then playing Australia, India, South America, and we're doing Japan.
DiS: Will that be the Fuji Rocks Festival?
Jaz: We've done that one loads of times so I'm not sure if it's the same one or not. I'm resolute about going there and I'm resolute about speaking out what I've always spoke out about, which is it's an abomination, as we can see, and it affects you, because this government in the United Kingdom has planned eight new nuclear power stations for this country, and the debate must begin. And that's your problem, because I don't live here any more, but then I guess it's kind of everyone's problem. It doesn't recognise national boundaries. It's an abomination when you think these spent fuel rods - and we're talking about hundreds and thousands of years...You know what I'd do? I'd get a World Council first of all, and then we'd have a moratorium on this muck, and then, I'd use NASA and all the space agencies to send it off shipment by shipment. Every last bit of fuel rod shipped out and sent into fucking outer space. I would close down the sun reactor. They're creating Strangelets that's affecting the earth, this kind of unregulated scientific study that they're doing with the sun reactor, the LHC Collider. You know, no one's speaking out about these things. It's terrifying. Thirty two years ago everybody was in Trafalgar Square marching against the whole nuclear thing. Now this generation's just pro-everything. They're not anti-anything, but they're starting to wake up.
DiS: Last weekend's march against Government cuts proved people still care I guess. Maybe if the TUC and all of the trade unions got together and proposed a ballot for a General Strike against this current Government's methods we'd see a positive response from those involved and affected?
Jaz: I thought Maggie (Thatcher) got rid of all the fucking trade unions?
DiS: As an active trade union representative for Unite I can honestly say we've still got a fair bit of power, but at the same time a trade union can only be as strong as its membership.
Jaz: Yeah but here's the thing. Let me show you the problem with that. You know I work with a symphony orchestra. When you're working on something like this it costs around £300 per minute in recording, and when you work in England you always have the union guy sitting at the back there making sure that for every hour you book the symphony orchestra - and remember it's £300 per minute - only fifteen minutes of music can be recorded at any one time. So do you know what people like me do? We go to places like the Czech Republic to record where there are no nasty unions and I don't have any of that problem, so the business goes away. I see no problem in maintaining two opposing viewpoints at the same time, and I'll give you an example. I know what it's like to run a small business, and they're the highest taxed people. In a country like New Zealand for example, where 90% of businesses have a staff of seven or less, and then you've got the big companies who aren't taxed at all because they're either offshore or foundations. The usual bullshit, y'know, and I think these things have to change. There is no more gold. The money isn't redeemable by gold or silver and we all know it. We've got a much bigger problem here which I've spoken about before. Basically we're gonna have RFID chips, and everything will be on them, so if you want food from a supermarket you'll just swipe your hand because they'll be implanted inside you, and this is the vision some people in the Anglo-American establishment have for the future. Of course you'd say people won't accept that, and they probably won't now, but after a couple of shocks they might. Shocks being what's just started happening in Japan, we're seeing mass migration. All it would take is a limited nuclear war or something of that nature and people would just accept anything, and then they could introduce such measures.
DiS: Do you not think being part of the biggest recession in nearly eighty years influences people's thinking?
Jaz: The solution to all of these problems, firstly, is dig for victory. The only way you can get clean food is by growing it yourself. We need communal gardens, coffee shops outside coffee shops from the farmer's market selling local produce where there's no petrodollars. What I'm talking about is a green revolution and nothing short of it. Not just any old green revolution, but a green WORLD revolution because it's critical the stage we're at now. We have to increase food production. The population growth is getting out of control.
DiS: True, but how would you go about implementing that within what is predominantly a capitalist society?
Jaz: Capitalism as we know it is really a finite thing, and it's coming to the end where basically people are finding new ways to function. For example, I've seen a lot of places where they just live on barter, and the food in supermarkets is just too expensive for ordinary people. I've seen whole communities do this very successfully. We only have to look at the Argentinians. One day they choked up their plastic cards in the holes in the wall and no money came out because all the American Friedman shop privatisation bullshit had fucked off with all the money. If we study Argentina that's what's gonna happen here, and so the only way out of this is to increase the food supply. We have to dig for victory. Permaculture, you know biodynamic farming techniques. We don't need more IT skills, we need people knowing where more carrots come from. And clean soil, the meaning of this, the good work done by the soil association in this country. They have no understanding in Japan what clean soil means to them. We have a choice. We can either continue with parasitic human activity or not, and I believe the earth will destroy all parasitic human activity. You can see the earth changes have started. I've just been in two tsunami alerts where I live.
DiS: Whereabouts are you based now?
Jaz: In the South Pacific. I'm there in between moving to Switzerland, Prague, nowhere really. I tend to move every month.
DiS: Really? Is that to do with increased band commitments?
Jaz: That and the work I'm doing with the orchestra. I spend every month of my life in a different country.
DiS: Going back to Killing Joke, I've noticed since the original line-up reformed that you've mainly been playing songs from the first two albums and the new record, yet not playing anything off Revelations, Fire Dances or Night Time for example. Why is this and will songs from these albums and others eventually be incorporated into the set?
Jaz: With the original line-up, naturally there's a tendency to veer towards those songs where everybody claims authorship, and that's fine, and not necessarily either. Everybody wants to tackle some of Extremities, Dirt And Various Repressed Emotions for example...in fact, we have been playing some stuff from Extremities... actually. In the end it comes down to what you feel is relevant for any particular night, and that's comprised of a number of things. We're not playing anything from Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell at the moment but we're going to. Youth shies away from Revelations every now and then because he has terrible associations with that period.
DiS: I've just one final question which I guess has been touched on in the past, but in terms of the whole 'Come As You Are'/'Eighties' case with Nirvana, have you got any regrets about not pursuing that through the courts to the end?
Jaz: No, no regrets at all. What's past is past. I don't want some lawyers saying they'll do this and that. In the end, it's just a grimy, tacky process. The bottom line is, we're alive making music while poor old Kurt is in heaven getting bashed up by Raven as we speak!
For more information on Killing Joke visit their official website.