Terse, paranoid, and plagued by apocalyptic visons, Killing Joke crawled out of the late 70’s making a visceral proto dance metal and found a tribe of similarly disaffected fans in England’s dole queues. Described by their drummer, Paul Fergusson, as “the sound of the Earth vomiting”, their corporal anger and antagonistic relationship with both music journalists and audience apathy, combined with their theatrical presentation made them a magnet for controversy.
Dorfdisco caught up with chief jester Jaz Coleman just before the first of two nights at Berlin’s Columbia Club to have a friendly chat about the impending end of the world.
Dorfdisco: You’re based in Prague at the moment….?
J.C: I’m actually of no fixed abode for a while, which is to say that when I have periods of intense work I live out of a suitcase. When I’m not working on the new Killing Joke album I’m working on orchestral pieces and I am actually starting a residency with a Berlin orchestra on November 11th. So I will be living between here and Madeira and, if I survive the next 24 months, I go back home to New Zealand. While oil is still relatively cheap I think it’s a good time to invest in travel, not property but life experience and travel.
Dorfdisco:There is a great deal of aggression and negativity associated with killing Joke’s music but in terms of your orchestral work you often speak about beauty, is their a relationship between the two?
J.C: It’s very simple, they are entirely different personalities. I explore this idea. You could say that music which is of an essentially Romantic nature, that endeavours to create a more desirable reality, I keep well away from Killing Joke. This is a reactionary aspect of myself, Killing Joke have never done a love song, not one. The impulse to create something beautiful, or more romantic, is one I reserve exclusively for the orchestra. In my personal terminology I refer to this personality as the “ocarina player” and when I work with Killing Joke it’s a nastier, more dissonant aspect of my personality. It has a very nasty sense of humour, potentially evil.
Dorfdisco: There is also a kind of romanticism in violence, in opposition…….
J.C: Killing Joke is always used for the purpose of exorcism, a social function. I never saw it as a career thing, a way of making money, it’s a lifestyle choice.
Dorfdisco: There is a recurring idea of isolationism, specifically islands, in a lot of what you do…..
J.C. My obsession with islands started with childhood dreams. In 1981 killing joke had a collective lyric book, we were all, with the exception of Youth, students of The Mysteries, of the occult, and I started getting even more vivid dreams around this time. At the time I was practicing sleep awake, a form of astral travel, and I kept coming across these references to an island at the end of the Earth and of course I put these references in the book and a debate ensued within the band as to whether it was a literal place or whether it was the island of your soul, your being. In fact this was something that we only resolved about two months ago but at the time Geordie and I set off for Iceland and then, much later, to New Zeeland. We knew that we would know when we had found the island because all sorts of good things would happen – let success be your proof as it were. So when I got to New Zealand and worked on the national anthem and started a recording studio and Geordie found the actual Pacific Island that I now own a part share of, it all unfolded in multiple dimensions.
In Iceland Geordie had come up with the idea of pre-upheaval migration theory, essentially that more and more people were coming to the cities, to the metropolis, seeking work and that these places had become ones of potential violence, of poverty and economic struggle and that to counter this there must be a counter migration to under-populated regions of the globe. At the time, back in Iceland in 1982, even our closest friends thought we were mad but now it seems a perfectly logical course of action.
I’m interested in ideas of permaculature, of being completely self sufficient. I have studied some of the most advanced forms of barter which I find very interesting. Where I live there are no banks, so if I catch an extra couple of fish or make something I can exchange that for a coupon which I can use for anything. So I really believe that we can transcend banks but that cannot be done successfully in the city. With food prices going up every year we are going to have social problems. America is responding to this by building prisons. They are building prison camps where trains bring in shackled prisoners.
You have to look at the origins of these ideas. It all began with the economic shock theory, Milton Freedman and the Chicago School, back in 1972 when Pinochet came to power, this idea that the corporations would succeed governments. I’m doing a series of lectures on this, about where we are, and I have basically constructed a new map of the world.
I am actually on that pre-upheaval migration right now. I am actually on my way to one of those assembly points. We always felt that the idea of a fan club, with T-shirts and shit, was insulting, demeaning, when you consider the potential of a network of people – and it was from this that the idea of the Gathering was formed in 1982. A loosely knit network of villages run on Gandhian lines worldwide, at the front of this would be a band, what you might call a fan club, and nearly thirty years on we have realised this, we are there now. I believe that the reason I am alive, why we are all alive, is to encourage people to believe in a fifth world and a sixth sun.
There have been four great ages of man, gold, silver, bronze and iron, the age we are in now. Each of these cycles lasts 104,000 years and we are at the end of one right now. In forty eight months time we will either be completely annihilated or we will move into a fifth world and a sixth sun in our scheme of procession.
Dorfdisco:…….and what determines the outcome?
J.C. Well these cycles normally end with some great cataclysm and then survival.
Dorfdisco: Apocalypses seem a recurring motif…..
J.C. Yeah, it’s always been the entire meaning of my position, my understanding of the reason for my incarnation at this particular time in history, to know where and why you are.
Dorfdisco: Looking at the obsession of American evangelicals with the Rapture, the attitude seems to be one of “bring it on”…..
J.C : Well Idon’t know about the Rapture, I would personally love for life to just march on but this time I think we are in for a few surprises. You can see that by 2012 that there will be another sub-prime crisis with oil. We are using seven fucking barrels for every one we dig up so, sadly, the way we have been living we just won’t be able to do anymore.
Dorfdisco: So how does this idea of the island as both a literal and a spiritual place fit in?
J.C : Well I have been really pushing to complete the first of five volumes of The Secret Writings of Killing Joke, which I have written in a narrative style and dedicated to Paul. Think of an island in terms of a sperm, penetrating the circle, on a kind of Jungian level. The idea of the island triggered my studies of the Serpent Races, the hidden teachings and secret writings of man. I began to research it because I always felt that there was something wrong with our current notion of history. Whilst I certainly don’t go along with Charles Darwin’s ideas I am not a creationist. I’m an interventionist, which is to say that I believe we have been genetically altered and that the Son’s of God referred to in Genesis were another civilisation outside of our world. Francis Crick (the noble prize winning discoverer of DNA) also believes in this idea of directed transpermia, that we have been seeded or developed by another civilisation.
Dorfdisco: Occult ideas seem to run through your work, clearly they continue to be important to you…….
J.C : Yes. I started out under the wings of the Golden Dawn, with Paul, then we went our separate ways and I went through the six stages of Magik, from Shamanism to Witchcraft, to Hermeticism, to Rosicrucianism and the from Rosicrucianism to Illuminism and from there to Chaos Magik, its latest incarnation. Different parts of me got stuck at different stages of this evolution of the magical tradition. Then my brother, who is one of the world’s leading physicists, started to work on superconductors and we kind of came together. I realised that the physicists were using their own form of Jungian archetypes – that we were essentially using the same kind of language, in terms of Quantum Mechanics.
Dorfdisco: I can see that there might be certain similarities between Quantum Mechanics and Chaos Magic……..
J.C : Well I don’t actually go along with Chaos Magic, I am actually a Rosicrucian.
Dorfdisco: and how would you define that?
J.C. : Well I wear the clothes of where I am living and I live in lots of different places and I have lots of different faces. It’s a form of Neo-Platonism.
Dorfdisco: Coming back to music are there plans for new Killing Joke material?
J.C : Well we have started already, we have already done two tracks. It’s funny because we had something like five hours of music to relearn and rehearse for these performances, many that we had never performed live, and I get to Youth’s studio and he just says come on lets make some new stuff. It’s always like this, someone takes the reactionary and someone takes the revolutionary. I guess that’s the chemistry of what we do as Killing Joke.
Dorfdisco: Before this you were in Tokyo, how were the performance received?
J.C : It was a sobering experience, the gigs were outrageous. Raven was much loved in Japan, his ashes are there at a Shinto shrine, so it was pretty moving for me going to see him again. And the fans….. there were always about fifty fans in the lobby of the hotel twenty four hours a day and they all brought presents, it was so sweet, bless their hearts. I never really had that kind of reaction to Killing Joke. I mean it’s not exactly daytime radio play material. We never got involved in trends as such, we were four misfits from four different parts of England, we looked liked we belonged together but we were hard to pigeon hole.
Dorfdisco: Have you considered the possibility of transcribing Killing Joke’s material for orchestra?
J.C : Yeah, I’ll tell you what, for orchestra and choir. I’ll put all the lyrics into Latin, into one almighty mass – when would you like it done?
Dorfdisco: As soon as possible.
J.C : Well you might not have to wait that long because I am doing a requiem for Paul Raven, The Raven of England, here in Berlin on November the 11th.