Jaz Coleman's Guide To Killing Joke's Absolute Dissent
, August 12th, 2010 09:51
Killing Joke make an emphatic return this autumn with new album Absolute Dissent. Jaz Coleman guides Rob Haynes through the LP, discussing the apocalypse, geopolitics, population, societal control and why "random acts of kindness" are the only things that matter. Plus an exclusive stream of new track 'Endgame'
To predict anything about the activities of Killing Joke would require powers of divination beyond those imagined even by the mystically-inclined singer Jaz Coleman. Reconvened following the death of long-time bassist Paul Raven, the four members of the iconic original line-up – Coleman, guitarist Geordie Walker, bassist Youth and drummer Big Paul Ferguson - have recorded Absolute Dissent, their first work together for nearly 30 years. A postponement of both album and tour earlier this year led to fears of a repeat of the legendary Icelandic diaspora which brought an end to the line-up first time round, but it turns out merely to have been a bout of inter-band arguments over tracklisting and mixes.
Volatility intact, the record is now with us. However, anyone expecting a re-run of any of the first three albums (1980's Killing Joke, 1981's What's THIS For...? and 1982's Revelations) is in for a disappointment as, once again, the band have moved on to wherever their unpredictable muse leads. The 2010 version has the sludgy sonic quality of their previous release Hosannas From The Basements of Hell (2006), much of the same metal-influenced ferocity of the digitally honed KJ2003, while also frequently possessing the same epic melodic grandeur of 1986's Brighter Than A Thousand Suns. The avalanche of tribal tom-tom patterns and thrumming dub bass that characterized their initial incarnation is, for the most part, nowhere to be found. But Killing Joke's strength is that however they sound, they still sound like Killing Joke, and if 21st century audiences aren't going to get a new update of 'Requiem' or 'Empire Song' then they'll get something equally potent in a different way.
As charismatic and forceful a personality as ever, Jaz Coleman took The Quietus on a track by track tour of the new album. Strap yourselves in, it's quite a ride...
The Quietus says: Epic opening chords give way a verse which seems to consciously mimic their classic 1980 single 'Pssyche' with its chopping guitar and frantic dance beat, giving a brief and misleading impression that the earlier albums are about to be revisited wholesale. The chorus is hymn-like, the content apocalyptic.
Jaz Coleman: The album was going to be called Feast of Fools, but everything changes doesn't it? And we didn't use that track – it was argued off the album. A great track it is too. 'Absolute Dissent' just felt right. There's definitely a double meaning. We did over twenty songs and then we've been arguing over which ones go on the fucking record for the last six months! (laughs) and which mixes, and then which artwork goes on the fucking album, so 'Absolute Dissent' sums it all up but consensus has been reached...
But there are also the obvious things. You know the obvious things. You can see the way the world's going. I've just come back from China. There's all these fucking microwave towers there. They can monitor everything on every person at all times. When you see the artwork that Jimmy from KLF has done, you'll see this towers that Mr Nicholas Rockefeller says that a microchipped population will be run from. They're already up and running in China (laughs). These are areas that I like to write about. It needn't be that way. I disagree with David Rockefeller's assertion that the future of the world will be a supernational elite comprised of bankers. No. No! Absolute Dissent, there you go. Check on a couple of things, have a look in America, Mason Chip International. It's happening. The thing is with nanotechnology, it's in vaccines now. That might account for the fact that I know ten doctors who won't have any vaccines. I don't agree. Big time. Underlined in red. I renounce it!
TQ: Even though it's the original line-up back together again, I suppose it was never going to be a simple re-run of the first three albums...
JC: I wouldn't have done it. Geordie wouldn't have done it. That was never the idea. As soon as we got back for the tour we knew that an album was to follow, but then it's always so chaotic that you never know how it's going to manifest itself.
We were part of the second wave of punk which drew its roots from the punky Reggae party courtesy of Don Letts, where New York Dolls and this sort of rhythm section was rejected and we listened to Chic and dub. The second wave of punk was much more interesting, and mysticism came with it. It was there from the first EP. And now here we are.
'The Great Cull'
TQ: A brutally heavy song in the style of KJ2003, a medium paced riff battered out with minimal frills by all concerned. Recorded in a very live-sounding, everything-louder-than-everything-else style, the speakers barely sound like they could contain the noise.
JC: The great cull. It's a reality. I urge everybody to research Codex Alimentarius. Under the new food code all the vitamins and nutrients are being taken out of our food that goes on supermarket shelves. We're creating a sick population. It's Malthusian. These things are happening. Look - the Global 2000 report that (then US President) Carter signed comes to the conclusion that we should maintain the population preferably around the 500 million mark. We're in excess of six billion or whatever it is. What they don't mention is how we're going to get there. Of course there's been the predictable players like Kissinger Associates, who have always recommended instigating wars in population density centres, which is logical – if you want to look at rationalism I can see this, if you follow Malthusian thinking.
The thing is, once you start going down this path you start losing our humanity. That's why we must reject all forms of Malthusianism. We must educate people about population. I don't know, it's a difficult one. Forced sterilisation? No, it should be voluntary. Neither should there be a premium put on raising children anymore. We can reduce the population effectively without slaughter. When we start extending life through biotechnology and nanotechnology, we'll all eventually lose our ability to feel as human beings and our souls will leave. We're entering a period where human and artificial intelligence will be inseparable. The repercussions of this will be catastrophic and unthinkable. It's happening. There's no spirit of revolution or rebellion left. The people are tired. Fluoride in the water and dopamine increased in the brain, to chem-trails and other evil machinations, so people have no will left. They're kept busy, busy, busy, courtesy of shock techniques that were perfected by the Tavistock Institute, part of Sussex University – if you keep putting the human condition through a series of shocks you have a malleable population. That's what's happening to us, and that's why the music of Killing Joke is so significant in rewiring. It's homeopathic. To be immune to the sickness, we have to take homeopathic doses of the sickness and that's what we do at Killing Joke concerts.
'Fresh Fever From the Skies'
TQ: Another song which could have come from KJ2003, this is slightly less intense than the preceding track, propelled by Geordie's Chop Chop-like riff with Jaz intoning deadpan over the verse before launching into another massive chorus.
JC: That's about an experience that happened to me and about a hundred other people, just before I got together with the original line-up. We saw seven luminous glowing objects in the sky. This was in Ladbroke Grove, and everyone was outside the pubs. And then one of the objects seemed to flip over in the sky and revealed this symbol underneath it. There were helicopters around observing this phenomena, and it was very weird. I don't know what it was. I have no explanation.
TQ: For the last two albums your vocals have predominately been an apocalyptic bellow, but your style varies on this one.
JC: At different stages in my career I sing. And at different points in a song, sometimes I sing. If you think of 2003 I sing at moments there. But this seemed appropriate to sing. So that's what I did. I don't really think about Killing Joke, I just do what feels right.
TQ: The first track to be released on the taster EP, this is a very simple song, hypnotically so, eventually attaining the sort of melodic power to be found these days in Justin Broadrick's Jesu. Keyboards feature prominently for the first time on the album.
JC: It's such a great track. Youth said 'let's do one with just two chords - let's go!' (laughs). We just did a chant, a mantra to get ourselves into a different reality. That's what we went for and what we got.
TQ: Paul's drums are brutally simple – throughout the album there is very little of the tribal patterns that characterised the band in the 1980s.
JC: You'd have to ask Paul. He gets free rein on what he puts down on the drums. I think it must just be how he felt. It depends where were, what we were doing I suppose. It's the way it landed.
'European Super State'
TQ: The most straightforwardly commercial track on the album. From a trance-techno introduction this builds into a crisp and restrained song, Geordie dampening his guitar strings to a discreet chug while Jaz calmly intones a pro-European agenda – "it's a civilising force that demands respect" - leading to an improbable sing-a-long chorus. Fans of the original line-up will naturally be put in mind, however distantly, of 'Follow The Leaders', but this is perhaps closer to the glacial apex of their early contemporaries Simple Minds circa Sister Feelings Call.
JC: That was a jam that we did in the studio. Youth's dad was there and he said 'this is great!' He started dancing with a glass of white wine and a cigarette in his hand. It ran very quickly from this.
If you look at the song 'Europe' on our fifth album [Night Time 1985_] – Geordie's a passionate admirer of Rifkind and the European Dream, and we're all supporters of the European Ideal, I know Big Paul is and Geordie is passionately, so it's just a continuation of our convictions. The origins of the European Union are Jan Huss from Prague in the 1600s. His original idea is worth studying because it's based on the arts, it's based on spirituality. At that time Prague was a bastion of hermeticism and Rosicrucianism and alchemy against the Roman Catholic church, so it's worth looking at our roots there, and that's what we did with this track. It's quite prophetic when you look at the second verse – "why are the proud descendents of Plato paying off more debts accommodating NATO?" It's what we call the triple-headed head-dress of the jester – the 'Shin', as we call it – which is a prophetic current that runs through Killing Joke lyrics when they are accurate transmissions.
'This World Hell'
TQ: Along with 'The Great Cull', this is the heaviest song on the record, recalling Rammstein in its brutal, monomaniac simplicity. Jaz's vocals are at their most bile-filled.
JC: I remember we were visited by John Hicklenton, the artist who had worked on 2000AD and other things. He had booked into Dignitas and was about to leave the studio in his wheelchair and we launched into 'This World Hell'. The chorus goes "This World Hell / Die Longpigs". The last work he did was called 100 Months [Hicklenton completed the work immediately prior to his death in March after a decade-long fight with Multiple Sclerosis] and he described the human condition as Longpig, which is a Melanesian term for cooked human flesh. As long as it takes you hear that track, that's how long it took to do it. It came in one run – it's all played without a click track, in one take, unadulterated Killing Joke, and Geordie refused to do double tracking on it.
Lyrically it was inspired by my eldest daughter who turned me on to the work of Jean Ziegler. She goes to these G8 demonstrations, and showed me what was going on with groups like Black Blood, very militant kinds of people. I'm more concerned with food supply. Yes, there must be change. But staples are going up so fast. Food prices are predicted to go up 40% in the next couple of years. People's wages are being slashed. Where is it leading to? You don't have to be Einstein to work it out. It mustn't be allowed to get to that. What is required is a sweeping green communism.
TQ: Do you feel you need Killing Joke as a vehicle to express all this?
JC: I don't feel the need for anything. The only thing that's important is random acts of kindness, loving life and I guess spending time with people and being concerned with other people's problems other than your own. I had a big transformation when I went to India to take Raven's ashes as it came to me in a vision. I had this very strange experience when we played in Japan. All the Japanese ladies kept sitting in the lobby of our hotel. This woman was there for three days and we were told that she was a priestess. Then she said to me "Paul wants you to take his ashes and do a fire ritual at the hill you're going to". I'd already planned to go to India on a pilgrimage. Raven's got a monument erected to him three hours outside Tokyo, and we went there, then I went to India and took Raven's ashes with me just to help him cross the river, and I'm glad to say he's on the other side and pouring out the drinks as we speak, waiting for us to come through. I'd expect any friend to do the same. I believe very much in Professor Christopher Knight's ideas of that human activity must be governed by our ancestral spirits. This really touches in to the 'Raven King'.
'The Raven King'
TQ: The album's emotional centerpiece. An atmospheric keyboard opening sets a backdrop for Jaz's plaintive, heartfelt lament. Guitars and bass roar in for a soaring, epic chorus. Musically this could fit seamlessly onto Brighter Than A Thousand Suns.
JC: It's not a song about Paul Raven, it's about Raven's anger and things he felt passionately about. It's a song for Englishmen. It starts – "the raven has flown and left the tower / and Albion feels all abandoned / a desecrated cenotaph, surveillance state and waning choices / guided by warriors we knew, guided by ancestral voices". And then there is Raven's belief in the original idea of anarchy – "let flags of black and red unfurl / echoes of distant laughter / confederation of the dispossessed / fearing neither god nor master". Raven was a street guy. He believed in a confederation of like-minded individuals, so we tried to be as true to his ideas as we could. The last thing Raven said to me when he left Prague was "carpe nocturno", which is the last line. It touched me when I sang it and heard it back, and I was lost for words.
TQ: Was it a difficult song to record for all those reasons?
JC: It was a difficult song to listen back to. When you're singing, you don't think. That was my first mistake, and Conny Plank brought that to my attention. I used to think about the lyrics I was singing about, but you don't, you just switch off. The heart has to take over.
TQ: Was there any discussion about the song beforehand?
JC: No, no. It started like this – we were in a jam session and Youth goes "Right – let's do one for Raven! Let's go!" (laughs) and it went like that!
TQ: A taste of the old Killing Joke groove underlies this one. Jaz fires off a shopping list of the Last Days - "Sit back and enjoy a three-dimensional screening of the end of the world". Rarely has the apocalypse been more danceable. In its feel, it's not a million miles away from 1984's classic 'Wilful Days'.
JC: It reminds me of 'Wilful Days' too, yeah. There are some interesting lyrics – "Baxter's caught out sending spores". This is a pharmaceutical company that was caught sending the H1N1 virus to their sister company. "One million people marched against a traitor's war" – this resonates for me, coming from this country. Two million people dead and the toll rising for an illegal war, and the British public have no confidence that this war criminal Blair will ever be brought to justice. So basically you have a disillusioned nation that has no faith in itself. If you look back at England's history you see that it had no history of revolution. Cromwell was a limp dick who saw the king reinstated after his fucking useless revolution. It's not in the people! France is another matter altogether.
'Honour the Fire'
TQ: Driven by a harsh, chopping guitar and Youth growling bass undertow, Jaz's mournful voice addresses the elements. Under the heavy production there's a pop song buried here.
JC: We see Killing Joke as a separate, autonomous entity that creates itself, begets itself, gives birth to itself, and it has its own agenda regardless of us – we are part of it sometimes. It doesn't like money. It burns people. We know exactly what it is. Once you bring money into the equation it will burn you, this force, if you play with it. And we live in this force. Every member of Killing Joke has been burned by this force. That's why money never comes into it. Geordie has given 31 years concentrating on the task and never the prize. He knows well that once you bring that in with this force that we're working with, it will just wipe you out. So there's our funny perception of the fire.
TQ: Pandemonium-style industrial sequencers kick off a juddering dance track, while Jaz delivers another venomous sermon on impending environmental catastrophe.
JC: The earth's crust is breaking up. Strange things are happening to the planet. The magnetic north has left Canadian territory and is moving towards Siberia. The earth's magnetic field is decreasing rapidly. When we have a magnetic field that is increasing time slows down, and when a magnetic field is decreased, time accelerates and that is why we are all experiencing this notion that time is speeding up – because it is, the universe is speeding up, it was proved by astronomers recently. It's the time of Kali Yuga – we have butchered and raped the divine mother earth and she will now turn into the dark mother. At the end of the recording Youth felt that we were touching such dangerous territory that we did this chant of non-attachment at the end because we take responsibility for our listeners.
TQ: How much do the lyrics get discussed among the band?
JC: Whoever gives a fuck, basically. Very much, on this album. I managed to synthesise Geordie's ideas on certain songs, and Paul's as we're very intellectually compatible, and Youth's with more than two. More than most bands, I guess you can say we speak with one voice. More than any other KillingJoke album, certainly, for this one. I still take in excess of 50% responsibility for everything that I sing. The way we do it is when we have a certain track and it sounds like something, I give everybody a theme of what the song is about, and they can go away and write as many lines as they like and we can synthesise it.
'Here Comes the Singularity'
TQ: If Nirvana can recycle the riff to 'Eighties' why can't the band who wrote it? Jaz' dreamy vocal – once again detailing the end of the world as we know it - also places this around Night Time-era of influence.
JC: Terrance McKenna, the thinker behind Time Wave Zero, indeed all the 2012 hypothesis thinkers – remember, these are tribes as well as Western intellects – they say that this speeding-up process that we've just been discussing speeds up to a certain point and that point is called singularity. Information is doubling, quadrupling, up to this point. It's a Koch curve where it's spiraling down a plughole. All the things that you imagine shall be. So get your dreams straight! We don't have long to wait. Youth's proposal is that we have 2012 parties at the ends of the earth on grid points, and he wants to do forty countries. I said that was a little ambitious perhaps, but we'll have festivities for this time. I'd like to party at the end of the earth. But we will either way – if we don't die, great, and if we die we go out rocking (laughs)
'Ghosts on Ladbroke Grove'
TQ: A moody, space-echoing lope, harking back to the dub roots of the first EP, and Youth's bass is foregrounded for the first time. Eerie and sparse, a 'Ghost Town' for the ongoing new Millennium.
JC: Well it's our tribal area, apart from we hate the way it's been developed. We miss all our old friends. That's where we started this, where generations of my family have lived, it was the first cosmopolitan experiment in this country. It's sacred land. It's where the second wave of punk started, from the punky reggae party where Don Letts brought punk together with Bob Marley, and the whole spring in punk's rhythm section changed from that point in that area. We used to rehearse there, the Clash would be upstairs rehearsing – we didn't used to speak to each other at that stage, but later I became great friends with Joe. We used to live in squats then. It was the only way you could afford to do your music. It was an area of dissenters and thinkers, and now it's just full of bankers and wankers.
It really does sound like everything it was, that track, and everything it should be again. The music came first and then I went in the studio the day after and did the vocals. The whsipering vocal is Youth. It gives us the creeps (laughs)
TQ: On the reunion tour you played a new song called 'Time Wave'. What happened to that one?
JC: We recorded it, but it's one of the tracks you haven't heard. They're great. We'll bring them out in different editions. There's one called 'I Am War', one called 'A Sick Sun'. There's also 'Time Wave', 'Feast of Fools', there's 'Suicide Tribe' which everyone loves except Geordie, but he's putting a new guitar on it - there's more than that! (laughs) The first album, there was only about thirty minutes. We've just done a sixty-five minute record and I love every track...
TQ: And how is the mood in the band now?
JC: Well nothing's changed. We still want to kill our manager. I mean really kill (laughs). But it's good. Everyone's thrilled to bits. It's a complete upheaval, doing a Killing Joke album. It brings anarchy and chaos and not necessarily happiness to your life, but in the end it does. I don't know why it has to be so traumatic, but it always is. We could go off to some beautiful studio like Compass Point or some Caribbean studio, but we always knew that was wrong for Killing Joke because the whole thing is about agony and tension. It needs an urban environment, so we went to Brick Row and it's fucking horrible around there. You don't want to go out, you get the job done. The funny thing was, when we actually met up in London to do the recording, the fucking management had booked us into this brothel of a hole and it was right next door to where we used to live. We refused to stay there. I was stood outside in the pissing rain with Big Paul looking at this place that we'd fucking burnt down where it all started from, and it was just like a horrible dream (laughs).
But it was great. We all exploded, as we always do. There was no violence though. That's the thing about now and then. It was an amazing session. I don't think anyone slept much. It was just non-stop every day for two weeks. That's with no preparation – you can see there's a chemistry. It's a weird chemistry – it's not perfect, but that's not the point is it?
TQ: That's why it's so great you have Big Paul back. You could argue that Dave Grohl is a better drummer, but he's not a better Killing Joke drummer.
JC: There's an excellent example. When I worked with Dave on 2003 he recorded each one of those drums separately, and Paul just played all his live in the studio. Geordie hates 2003 because it's not live in the studio, it's not Real Killing Joke in the way that was used to get the vibe, you know? Well we got it on this one!
Ah – Killing Joke is such a blessing to my life, just to know there's a whole lot of people out there – you're not alone, you go though the same mental anguish processing what's happening in our world. We're an army, a network, a brotherhood.
TQ: Well it's amazing to have you back
JC: Look up GWEN microwave towers. Remember this – Mr Rockefeller says that we're all going to be microchipped and run from microwave towers. Well it's already happening in China. I've just come back from playing a festival there. It's the first time I've done a festival where they're cutting the throats of dogs and chopping them up into kebabs for punters. When we left China I had the feeling that we should start World War Three immediately (laughs uproariously)...