The 2nd No Class Killing Joke interview
On the 24th July 1985, your humble scribe and friend in tow, Fuzz, ventured down to EG Records office in the Kings Road. There we were met by an amicable (lady) secretary who handed us to Alec Byrne, agent of Killing Joke. After checking our credentials he set a date for us at the Elephant Fayre, with Jaz Coleman. Jaz popped in and gave us an enthusiastic welcome, such is the nature of the man these days. Elephant Fayre , Cornwall, Saturday 27th July was a wash out: rain, rain and more bloody rain, but myself, Fuzz and Steve were in the backstage beer tent waiting for Jaz.. Jaz was very late but Alec had been very hospitable and introduced us to each member of the band in turn. We conceded, the interview would take place after the gig, and went outside into the rain. As can be expected nowadays, the performance was grand. Along with Andy Duff of Impact fanzine, No Class went about slowly delving into the psyche of Jaz Coleman (lack of time amongst other things prevented me from delving as far as I would have liked, but anyway here goes).
Impact: Do you often play at big shows?
Jaz: Oh no! Weve done much bigger festivals, but not in Britain. This is the first one in Britain, actually. I want to do less gigs, myself. More refined, you know. Just come out occasionally.
I: Are you a bit bored with them?
Jaz: No, I love em. But I want them to be good and special so I dont want to do too many. I want to treat it like a ritual, myself.
No Class: The spirit seems happier than some of the gigs when Youth was bassist. Before you went to Iceland they were a bit depressing but its a lot happier now, like some sort of celebration.
Jaz: I wouldnt say happier, but that was a period of time. Killing Jokes been going, what? Six years now. When I started Killing Joke I was eighteen; Im twenty five now.
NC: Gone through a lot of living?
Jaz: Weve spent a strange span of our lives together. Youth was like my teenage. I dont really know the guy who he is now, but I suppose its mutual that. I wish him all the best. But that was a different time altogether, there are some strange times. Now its better. We have a clear idea of what we want to do.
NC: Oh! A bit more defined, your direction?
Jaz: Yeah sure! Sure its defined.
NC: What are you going to try to do with the new material?
Jaz: Were not going to try to do anything. Were just going to play and add what we like.
I: Youve got a pretty distinctive sound. I cant put it close to anybody else.
Jaz: Its like home. It sounds like home. The mistakes are in it; its as we are. Thats all there is to it.
I: Do you find it hard to move onto other things? You must progress seeing as youve got such a specific sound.
Jaz: I dont think we try and think about it at all. We just get together in Notting Hill Gate and rehearse. And it is as it lands, as it always has been. Over six years, as the music lands we play it.
I: How do you get the songs together?
Jaz: I dunno, we always get together, rehearse. One person starts and the rest join in.
I: Sounds pretty much based around the bass and the drums. Tribal.
Jaz: Yeah, weve got our style. I dont really think about it.
I: Whats the worst thing that ever happened to you onstage?
Jaz: Worst thing on stage? Well to tell you the truth I dont remember much on stage (laughter). I mean all the time my objective on stage is not to remember anything.
I: Do you still get that buzz onstage?
Jaz: I like seeing the people whove supported us for a long time now, and I feel that its good, its important to me. Theres a lot of feelings and a lot of people and they come into this one place when we play and its very special. I dunno how Id analyse it.
I: The place is a hive?
NC: what about the gigs in other countries, travelling to really obscure foreign places?
Jaz: Yeah, we do that. Weve just done Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and that was good. Yeah, weve played just about everywhere.
NC: Paul Raven said that you played in Fiji. What sort of people turn up?
Jaz: Some countries we play its just people who like music. Its not as defined or as specialist as England. Its just people who are curious and they come along and enjoy the music, cos outside Europe theres no black leather jackets, theres no real uniform, which is good. At the same time I like a certain amount of tradition too.
NC: What do you think of England?
Jaz: I dont like it. I never have liked it. I mean weve got our business here, right, and Ive got some friends here, thats it. I hate the place.
NC: What is it specifically you dont like about England?
Jaz: I think its a shit hole. Its depressing. You know its a shit hole (much laughter). Theres some good people but the other thing is
. We did a world tour and its just incredible, right, seeing the entire globe turned into one massive suburbia. Its a very depressing thing really (said laughingly). I dont give a fuck what anyone says.
I: What countries did you most enjoy playing?
Jaz: Japan was great. Australia was great. I like em all. To me theyre all the same, to tell you the truth. Its just different people who look a bit different here and there. But its the same atmosphere. They have to adjust to our atmosphere, basically.
I: You havent needed to get into the more recent singles so much. Is that conscious?
Jaz: Not really. Its a lot to do with the mix on Night Time. It was mixed so you could hear it, basically. Before we mixed for intensity, you know. It was a lot rawer before, now it s a lot more punchier.
I: It sounds like it could appeal to more people.
Jaz: Good. Good.
I: Is that what youre aiming at?
Jaz: Not consciously, weve never aimed to do that at all in six years. Weve just aimed to work hard so that sooner or later people will adjust to it. I wouldnt say Night Time is a very commercial album, but its done us well.
I: Any particular aims as to how big you want to get?
Jaz: Yeah sure with this album were working on. Yeah. I just wanna write beautiful music, and it is beautiful music. Its like nightmare music, but it is beautiful. Its our horror, our madness.
NC: What happened to your other projects, like the symphony?
Jaz: The symphony? Ive just had a big deal with that; its just been printed up. Its my big project.
NC: What about the book?
Jaz: Ive just negotiated a publisher for that. Its going to be in two volumes. The first volume Id like to have out before Christmas.
NC: Does that contain anything that was written when you went to Iceland?
Jaz: Oh yeah! The whole was through. I started the book and symphony at exactly the same time. Ive spent three and a half, maybe four years on both. Big project. Itll be fun when it comes out.
NC: What does it deal with? Just your beliefs and whats really happening?
Jaz: I suppose you could say that. Theres a certain amount of autobiography in it, because there are a lot of experiences all four of us have been through that I think are very relevant, and its my discoveries in dark areas if you like. My brother writes in it as well, he
NC: The physicist?
Jaz: Yeah, hes a physicist, and Im trying literally to paint a picture of how I see the next hundred years going, really! Basically survivalism, as I put it.
NC: Through astrology?
Jaz: To tell you the truth Ive been through the phase where I used to totally rely on irrational principles such as astrology, but now I find that its your will thats more important. Determination can change things. Ive seen people, their lives totally determined by astrology and interpretations of events, and I think its nonsense. Though I cant deny theres something in astrology. I think that your will power can lead you to where you want to go. When I was sixteen / seventeen, for a whole year I sat in my little room in mylittle village and I dreamt about being in a group, a relatively uncommercial group, and going round the world and doing it, and it came true, just because Id like to do that basically! Now Im setting my sights higher, but I dont think I ever want to see killing joke as an orthodox unit, I want it to be behind the scenes, always. We are, were always there. Internationally speaking, we are on the verge of breaking big, real big! But I think well be big soon. I think New Order tried it but they didnt quite get there. They did sell out for me, they really did.
NC: Bit different that with Ian Curtis.
Jaz: Yeah, I liked Joy Division. But they were shit live. They used to give me headaches.
NC: I heard about when you used to put Killing Joke bigger than Joy Division when playing as their support band.
Jaz: Oh yeah! All those sort of games. I mean, that was junior school as I put it. That was fucking years ago to me (much laughing). We were much more mental then, but I mean wed do anything at that stage. God knows how were still living now!
I: How did you come up with the name?
Jaz: Oh, conversation, depression.
I: That seems to come over in the music sometimes: a depressed atmosphere.
Jaz: Oh good. Yeah.
I: What are your own tastes of music or bands like? Are there influences?
Jaz: Well, there are influences. Its not just bands, its atmospheres. I like the atmosphere around A Clockwork Orange. You know, that film. I like that sort of nasty atmosphere. Makes me laugh, makes me giggle, and my colleagues have got that in them too. Theres a certain atmosphere about that relates to this time and hour. I dont have a very straight forward concept of right or wrong, good or evil. You see this is where the problem is. I find beauty in darkness. I mean thats at least me. I dont think its black and white anymore. Yeah, I think Killing Jokes probably music for a new dark age.
I: In the studio, do you want to keep it a live sound?
Jaz: Yeah, I think it will always be a live sound, but Im trying some new toys, buying some new gear.
NC: Who is the actual keyboard player?
Jaz: Dave. Hes just someone Raven knew.
NC: Why did you decide to
Jaz: Oh, he doesnt write. I write all the keyboards. He just plays them live so I can move around a bit more. I find it easier
I: What did you think about your appearances on The Tube?
Jaz: Oh! I didnt even see it. We just do what we always do. Sometimes it comes out good, other times
I: Your image seems to be changing slightly.
Jaz: I dont worry about it. My missus likes my hair like this (longish), you know, and I wear black, I always did, and sometimes my hair is that short and sometimes like this. I dont think it really comes into it. I dont think in six years anyones ever looked at what Im wearing. I dont think they look at my hair even, they just come here for the music.
I: Why do you wear make-up on stage?
Jaz: That seems to be a bit of a hang up of mine. I keep doing it, its how it makes me feel.
I: What about mascara?
Jaz: Oh, Ive never put mascara on. These are real eyelashes. I get a cork and burn it and put it on like that.
I: In the promo photos you had make-up.
Jaz: Its worked well hasnt it? Certain things they (the public) dont like to see, so its to our advantage so we do it. We can get benefit by it. Listen, I would like the four of us to package Killing joke as themselves. We want to package Killing Joke, make no mistake about that. Our whole deal is with the media. The attitude is part of the media. We want to package the act ourselves, thats all. (Chortle).
NC: Is there any difference in attitude to when you set out with Malicious Damage? Is it now more business like?
Jaz: Yeah, we were naive then, we were idealistic. But I think we are more idealistic now as people, were just realists at the same time.
NC: You seem to be a big team, with roadies and management.
Jaz: Yeah, a family. We know each other really well. On stage, like when its sloppy, its a reflection of how we are, how we are with each other. Were been through a lot of interesting situations together. I tell you a secret. Ill tell you why Killing Joke have been together longer than any other group: because everythings split four ways, financially.
So, an abrupt end to the interview, just as it was hotting up. To be fair, Jas was going to the Scilly Isles that night and the performance had been draining: Night Time material mixed with golden oldies and a surprising Good Samaritan.
No Class interviewed Jaz at the beginning of 1981, but since then their lifestyle has changed; travelling and gigging worldwide has added a new dimension to the thoughts and views of Mr Coleman. He has always said something worth listening to because he evaluates both sides of the coin.
Read the 1st No Class Killing Joke interview