Apr 2013 12

One of modern music’s most enigmatic and outspoken entities reminisces on life on a dying planet in 2012, touching on the creative mindset behind the latest Killing Joke album.

An InterView with Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

35 years and still going strong, Killing Joke stands as one of the most eminently influential and enigmatic entities in modern music. Beginning as another quintessential entry in the post-punk movement of the era, Killing Joke would soon transcend categorizations to encompass virtually all forms of music and play a major inspiration to a diverse range of artists, from metal to grunge to industrial and all points in between. In 2010, the band’s original lineup reformed to release the critically and commercially acclaimed Absolute Dissent, presenting a band at the height of its energy and prowess to destroy your speakers, vocalist Jaz Coleman’s words always touching on the state of the world and the legacy humanity is leaving behind for its descendants. With fears of the end times running rampant throughout 2012, MMXII was an album of urgency and disquiet, reminding listeners that Killing Joke is not just a band but an outlet for social and spiritual unrest, a means for people to engage in the world around them. In the twilight of the year, Coleman spoke with ReGen about his sociopolitical mindset and just what the end times mean to him in the year 2012, as well as reminiscing five years after the death of past Killing Joke bassist Paul Raven.


The band’s latest release of new material was the appropriately titled MMXII album, and now you’re touring for that and the single collection. What can you tell us about the audience response to the new music?

Coleman: Mesmerized – there’s a word that comes to mind. Mesmerized. It’s been incredibly well received live. Of course, we’re doing stuff like ‘Pole Shift,’ which is like a 10 or 12 minute epic and quite complex in form. The atmosphere is just fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed it. What can I say? It’s been great to… quite a while back we did a British and European tour, finished in May. So, now we’re coming to the states in April/May and then it’s off to finish our promotion with this record. And do you know, if you think about that a year before we did Absolute Dissent, and both albums have been really, really well received. There are very few bands of, well, our age I think, the veterans, who are so prolific and consistently putting out music they love and actually believe in. You’ll agree, it’s uncommon.

MMXII was more heavy on the synthesizers than the previous album, and your live keyboardist Reza Udhin engineered the record while you and Youth performed the keyboards in the studio.

Coleman: Yes, Reza engineered. He did vocals with me, as well. It’s just atmosphere. Sometimes you just want more atmospheres and it’s just a way the cookie crumbles, as it were. Nothing’s really planned in Killing Joke, I have to add. You know, it’s really a chaotic affair. I mean, it is normal for us to go into a studio and everything will be written, but we just throw it all away and write everything in the studio. It’s normal for Killing Joke. We’ve had great results. Absolute Dissent was certainly like that. I mean, I’d say all except two songs on that album we just jammed in the studio. And on this one, it was slightly different because I guess 2012, well as a year it conjures up many images when you consider indigenous populations of the world all have their own prophesies for this year, 2012. But myself, I didn’t know whether we should put too much trust in calendars and their accuracy and I do think there’s going to be changes, but we’re about to see. Now that it’s 2013, it’s supposed to have already happened, right?

There is a joke about the man wearing the billboard that reads ‘The world ends tomorrow.’ And then the day after that, the billboard reads, ‘The world ended yesterday.’

Coleman: (Laughter) We’d have been foolish to disregard the sort of parallels in all these cultures, the prophesies and predictions for that year. We’d have been foolish to ignore them, I think. And, of course, we need a change in consciousness. There’s not a person in America, whether Democrat or Republican, that doesn’t have grandchildren. And, in the end, we have to think about what we’re going to leave our grandchildren and their children. At the current rates of what they call growth and productivity, we’re going to need a new planet in 15 years time. Not just a new planet, but a new planet-and-a-half to rape, because we don’t use models of sustainability. So, something really does have to change, I’m afraid, you know, in our relationship with the biosphere. I think the Earth is not just living, it’s intelligent too. And it’s going to regurgitate, you know, and you just have to look at a satellite image of all the satellites surrounding the Earth and it’s just like parasites. It’s like loads of fleas around the earth, dozens of them. And there we have it. In the future, all human activity will be divided into one of two groups: parasitic activity or non-parasitic activity, and there will have to be an alternate green approach to the future, I think, that is going to be necessary for the survival of the species. At the moment, we can use 1/300th of the planet for all our food production. 1/300th. Bear that in mind. Then take into consideration that all the microorganisms that are in the soil are being depleted rapidly. We’re facing ecocide and, of course, the world’s population isn’t getting any smaller. The population of New York is reborn every two weeks. That being said, the minute any human being begins contemplating nefarious action of reducing the surplus population, they cease to become human. They cease to become civilized. At that moment, he has become an animal with an enlarged brain.

You’ve touched on this in your music and your lyrics throughout your career, and it’s certainly a part of the album. Is it ever a concern for you that the message you’re trying to convey isn’t being heard?

Coleman: No, not at all. I don’t give it a minute’s thought, to tell you the truth. That question was fired at me probably back in 1979 or 1980 or both years. If you look at the lyrics of the first album, people think we’re saying all sorts of things. So, it’s irrelevant in one sense. Killing Joke is a feeling. It’s a forum for debate and self-education.

You’d stated when ‘Rapture’ was released as a free track before the album’s release that the song represented a ritualistic vibe that you felt epitomized Killing Joke and the feeling you attempt to give the fans.

Coleman: Well, that relates to what I was saying before. Many of the Tea Party or Tea Baggers or whatever you want to call them, they have some very curious ideas about what is meant by the frequently used term New World Order, and of course it has been used by Bush and numerous other people. The thing is, it’s a shame that when you hear this… if you listen to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, he uses the glorious prose of Schiller. You can see the ideas of the brotherhood of man existed centuries ago, the idea of this sweeping feeling of compassion and empathy toward our neighbor, which is really what we’re entering now in a post-capitalist era. So, we can’t have any more conventional ideas on growth because it’s going to destroy what’s remaining of our biosphere. Unless growth is linked to sustainability, it cannot be deemed growth. A major rewiring of our thinking and that is what I think is going to come out of the last year. At least I hope. It was either this or ecocide and extreme life extension. That’s still another possibility for mankind.
But in a way, we can only blame ourselves, the public, for allowing things to develop this far without making a noise in a democracy. We can only really blame ourselves, you know, in a way. It’s our own complacency allowing things to develop like this. I mean, if barely 1% of the population can understand the complex issues of the day, how can democracy work? At that point, basically we need an elite to make our decisions for us because we’re not engaging in debates, which is the foundation of all democracy, Socrates said. He said it is the duty of every citizen to engage in debates of the issues of today and, of course, people are fearful of debate. When you see the statistics of what people are really thinking and it’s shocking, frightening. When you think that presidents have to say they’re Christian just to become elected or they have to say, ‘I believe in the death penalty’ when they don’t really believe in the death penalty, but they have to in order to get the electorate on their side to make them electable, you know? And when there’s only a two-party system, you know… lobbyists, my god! I don’t know where to start and where to end on this, you know? Where do we start on lobbyists? Where do we start on everything from the military industrial complex to the existing system of the Federal Reserve, or European Central Bank, for that matter? Debate is coming back into fashion slowly. In the end, it’s the public that doesn’t engage that is responsible for the changes that happen.

To bring up another joke, people in this country are asking for a third party option, and someone can reply, ‘I’m still waiting for a second party.’

Coleman: In New Zealand, you get two votes. You get one for the party and one for a person. They stand for themselves, and there’s a third house. So, it has this stabilizing effect. I guess it’s the early days for MMP in New Zealand. Basically, it means it’s a permanent state of coalition, which is basically what’s started to happen in a lot of European countries. You’re seeing uneasy coalitions of unlikely partners. And I kind of think a lot of right wing ideas are good, along with a lot of left-wing ideas. For example, opening up a business in New Zealand where 95% of the country, business in the country, have a staff of seven or less, and they’re the highest taxed people in the country. So, I have sympathy for some of these people who run small businesses, but then again, I’m a collectivist and I believe very much in community and society and I believe in free health care for every citizen of the nation. The two-tier system I think is so funny. It means you get to live or die, basically, in a two-tier system; if you can’t afford to get good health insurance, you’re fucked in an extreme capitalist system. So, like I said, I like ideas from both sides of the political spectrum. I’m not a political creature, but we need to find solutions for the planet, because at the moment, it doesn’t matter which political persuasion you are. Our descendants will hate us.

2012 was also significant in that it marked five years since the passing of Paul Raven. Are there any particular thoughts or memories you’d like to share about him now five years later?

Coleman: Yeah, I do, actually. Paul said to me one time, he said, ‘You know, I really love people, you know, human beings. I really love them.’ You know, he just made this statement. And you can see that anybody who ever met Paul was touched by him. He was clearly a rogue, but funny and charming; they were touched by him because he really engaged people and he really loved human beings of all walks of life and he was one of the funniest guys. I think of like… I think of all sorts of things. I was thinking this disgusting girl who came up to Raven after learning that he’s got a really big dick. She said to him, ‘I want you to fuck me up the ass until I bleed and then beat me up.’ And he said, “Yeah, but I might not stop.’ (Laughter) Paul was a fucking funny man. One of the funniest fucking people I’ve ever fucking met. I try to do what I can to look after his memory. I remember Paul a lot. We used to fall out a lot, as well. He has a light and a dark side, but he knows I love him. As I don’t believe in death, I’m talking in like in present tense. He knows I love him.


1 Comment

  1. I always get left behind on the Military base. I am going to remake the series myself. The budget will be bigger, there will be more death, there will be more people left behind and more gay sex. In the end I will have a huge gay sex scene with lots of cum.

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