The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

In Extremis

Greymachine: Justin Broadrick and Aaron Turner United
Luke Turner , November 18th, 2009 07:39

When Toby Cook heard that Aaron Turner of ISIS and Justin Broadrick of Jesu were in a band together he thought he knew what to expect. Until he talked to Broadrick, that is...

Add your comment »

If you're anything like me, when you were a teenager you'll have been pretty pissed off, most of the time. Not necessarily at anything in particular, but you're teen, it's the law. You have to be unreservedly pessimistic, you have to be a pretend nihilist even though you're not entirely sure what exactly it is that being a nihilist entails. You'll have worn lots of black, had a terrible hair cut, sworn at your parents at every conceivable opportunity and you'll have listened to metal. Lots of metal, usually at as high a volume as possible.

Unfortunately though if you're anything like me and you've grown out of this phase less than a decade ago, you'll also have missed the majority of the output of one of the heaviest, most nihilistic bands to ever have existed. Godflesh.

Being the ripe old age of 16 by the time I first discovered Streetcleaner meant that, basically, I missed it all, even 2001's Hymns, and have been pretty pissed off about it ever since. Sure you can buy the back catalogue; the Earache reissues, but there's always going to be some twat who delights in telling you: "Oh yeah, Godflesh. I saw them open for Nirvana in '91." [I guess I shouldn't tell you that I saw them with Loop in the 80s then? Ed] The problem, you see, is that Justin Broadrick just doesn't make angry enough music anymore. Or does he? Enter Greymachine.

"Whilst recording and working almost exclusively on Jesu material, I felt I needed something opposite to work on whilst being so immersed in the Jesu sound." Broadrick tells the Quietus: "I needed something black to Jesu's white. I consider Greymachine only somewhat like early Godflesh though."

Bugger. Although it may not seem like it, Greymachine is actually a project Broadrick has been working on sporadically for the last three years, starting out as essentially as solo project with some "drum beats I'd recorded, along with very abstract, improvised guitar parts and lot's of synth noise". However it was only recently that Broadrick decided to enlist the services of others, chiefly one Aaron Turner – master chin-stroker of post-metal behemoths Isis. (The band is augmented by Dave Cochrane of God and Head Of David and Diarmuid Dalton of Jesu and Godflesh.)

"It occurred to me that this could potentially be quite an exciting project, so I invited others to participate" he elaborates. "Aaron and I had been discussing doing something together for many years previously and I thought it was natural to invite him into this since he and I had been discussing doing something musically violent for some time."

Musically violent? I'll say it's musically fucking violent!

Of the nine tracks contained on Greymachine's debut, Disconnected, each and every one makes something like Selfless, say, look like an afternoon of jumping into pastel drawings or tea partying on the ceiling with Mary bloody Poppins. But that's kind of the point: Greymachine isn't supposed to be Godflesh, it's not – according to its principal creator – even supposed to be ‘structured' and song orientated. If anything the industrial clanging and low-end, guttural cacophony of Disconnected owes more to free jazz, a point that has lead to a lot of people "completely misunderstanding the intention of Greymachine". Not wholly surprising then that Broadrick has gone to great pains to explain that even though Greymachine includes both himself and Turner it is NOT Isis meets Jesu, let alone Godflesh Mk II. In fact even the mere suggestion of the topic elicits a curt answer.

"Since it was obvious that it would be marketed off both the Jesu and Isis names I felt it imperative that I warned the general public that this is not in any way an easily digestible sound, by design." He says. "People expect and wish for a lot of things, I wanted them to know that they are not going to get it, nor will they by large ‘get' Greymachine."

It's this attitude which pretty much sums up Broadrick: It's not that he doesn't care if you don't get it, he just isn't interested whether you do or not. He's not part of a ‘scene' anymore – if in fact he ever was – he makes music simply because he has to, not for us or a record company, but for him. And he's hellishly prolific at it to boot, a condition which can in no small way be attributed to his current residence in Abergele, North Wales. "It's the isolation, really. I know no one in my area whatsoever. Being generally away from people keeps me inspired, it's quiet, I can be in an entirely humanless landscape within minutes, this keeps me happy and focussed."

Happy? Really? But wait, to most observers Greymachine seems to be all about getting angry again. Happy is simply not a character trait that most would apply to Broadrick, not in the sunshine and candy sense of the word.

"Well there is no ‘again' for me", corrects Broadrick. "This anger and frustration never go away, it's just often redirected. In this form, with Greymachine, its just much more focussed and direct again so appears much more blatant, intentionally.

"Most of my music has a strong sense of misanthropy. Greymachine just [more obviously] deals with self loathing, self disgust, frustration, isolation, disillusionment, ego, exhibitionism and utter confusion, fear and disenchantment."

We all know that there's never going to be another Godflesh, and there's never going to be a project that will capture the raw hatred an abject bleakness that Godflesh had. In numerous interviews Broadrick has stated ad nauseam that all his musical projects, from Napalm Death and Head Of David through to Godflesh and Jesu are merely indicative of various period of his life. Let's be honest, who the fuck wants to be a teenager again anyway? It can't just be me that is now somewhat embarrassed of their fashionably bleak, mid-puberty world-views? What's important is maturing those views, developing an ethos – Boradrick is still less-than-enamoured with the human race, as he points out: "It's just a matter of time, for me, before our ultimate extinction, and I cant say we don't deserve it."

But now, there's an unnerving sense of humour when he adds: "I guess though, it's this diversity of repulsion that makes us so entertaining in some ways; everything I despise about human beings is all there inside myself, something I'll never change no matter how hard I try."

Greymachine's truly harrowing Disconnected is out now via Hydra Head.