On the 24th July 1985, your humble scribe and friend in tow, Fuzz, ventured down to EG Records’ office in the King’s 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! We’ve 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 don’t 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 it’s a lot happier now, like some sort of celebration.
Jaz: I wouldn’t say happier, but that was a period of time. Killing Joke’s been going, what? Six years now. When I started Killing Joke I was eighteen; I’m twenty five now.
NC: Gone through a lot of living?
Jaz: We’ve spent a strange span of our lives together. Youth was like my teenage. I don’t really know the guy who he is now, but I suppose it’s mutual that. I wish him all the best. But that was a different time altogether, there are some strange times. Now it’s better. We have a clear idea of what we want to do.
NC: Oh! A bit more defined, your direction?
Jaz: Yeah sure! Sure it’s defined.
NC: What are you going to try to do with the new material?
Jaz: We’re not going to try to do anything. We’re just going to play and add what we like.
I: You’ve got a pretty distinctive sound. I can’t put it close to anybody else.
Jaz: It’s like home. It sounds like home. The mistakes are in it; it’s as we are. That’s all there is to it.
I: Do you find it hard to move onto other things? You must progress seeing as you’ve got such a specific sound.
Jaz: I don’t 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, we’ve got our style. I don’t really think about it.
I: What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you onstage?
Jaz: Worst thing on stage? Well to tell you the truth I don’t 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 who’ve supported us for a long time now, and I feel that it’s good, it’s important to me. There’s a lot of feelings and a lot of people and they come into this one place when we play and it’s very special. I dunno how I’d 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. We’ve just done Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and that was good. Yeah, we’ve played just about everywhere.
NC: Paul Raven said that you played in Fiji. What sort of people turn up?
Jaz: Some countries we play it’s just people who like music. It’s not as defined or as specialist as England. It’s just people who are curious and they come along and enjoy the music, cos outside Europe there’s no black leather jackets, there’s 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 don’t like it. I never have liked it. I mean we’ve got our business here, right, and I’ve got some friends here, that’s it. I hate the place.
NC: What is it specifically you don’t like about England?
Jaz: I think it’s a shit hole. It’s depressing. You know it’s a shit hole (much laughter). There’s some good people but the other thing is…. We did a world tour and it’s just incredible, right, seeing the entire globe turned into one massive suburbia. It’s a very depressing thing really (said laughingly). I don’t 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 they’re all the same, to tell you the truth. It’s just different people who look a bit different here and there. But it’s the same atmosphere. They have to adjust to our atmosphere, basically.
I: You haven’t needed to get into the more recent singles so much. Is that conscious?
Jaz: Not really. It’s 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 you’re aiming at?
Jaz: Not consciously, we’ve never aimed to do that at all in six years. We’ve just aimed to work hard so that sooner or later people will adjust to it. I wouldn’t say Night Time is a very commercial album, but it’s done us well.
I: Any particular aims as to how big you want to get?
Jaz: Yeah sure with this album we’re working on. Yeah. I just wanna write beautiful music, and it is beautiful music. It’s like nightmare music, but it is beautiful. It’s our horror, our madness.
NC: What happened to your other projects, like the symphony?
Jaz: The symphony? I’ve just had a big deal with that; it’s just been printed up. It’s my big project.
NC: What about the book?
Jaz: I’ve just negotiated a publisher for that. It’s going to be in two volumes. The first volume I’d 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. I’ve spent three and a half, maybe four years on both. Big project. It’ll be fun when it comes out.
NC: What does it deal with? Just your beliefs and what’s really happening?
Jaz: I suppose you could say that. There’s 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 it’s my discoveries – in dark areas – if you like. My brother writes in it as well, he….
NC: The physicist?
Jaz: Yeah, he’s a physicist, and I’m 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 I’ve been through the phase where I used to totally rely on irrational principles such as astrology, but now I find that it’s your will that’s more important. Determination can change things. I’ve seen people, their lives totally determined by astrology and interpretations of events, and I think it’s nonsense. Though I can’t deny there’s 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 I’d like to do that basically! Now I’m setting my sights higher, but I don’t think I ever want to see killing joke as an orthodox unit, I want it to be behind the scenes, always. We are, we’re always there. Internationally speaking, we are on the verge of breaking big, real big! But I think we’ll be big soon. I think New Order tried it but they didn’t 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 we’d do anything at that stage. God knows how we’re 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. It’s not just bands, it’s 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. There’s a certain atmosphere about that relates to this time and hour. I don’t 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 that’s at least me. I don’t think it’s black and white anymore. Yeah, I think Killing Joke’s 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 I’m trying some new toys, buying some new gear.
NC: Who is the actual keyboard player?
Jaz: Dave. He’s just someone Raven knew.
NC: Why did you decide to….?
Jaz: Oh, he doesn’t 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 didn’t 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 don’t 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 don’t think it really comes into it. I don’t think in six years anyone’s ever looked at what I’m wearing. I don’t 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, it’s how it makes me feel.
I: What about mascara?
Jaz: Oh, I’ve 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: It’s worked well hasn’t it? Certain things they (the public) don’t like to see, so it’s 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, that’s 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, we’re 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 it’s sloppy, it’s a reflection of how we are, how we are with each other. We’re been through a lot of interesting situations together. I tell you a secret. I’ll tell you why Killing Joke have been together longer than any other group: because everything’s 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.