Written for Groove Guide April 2012
Frontman for post-punk pioneers Killing Joke, eco-activist and classical composer Jaz Coleman is certainly one of the most unique individuals I’ve interviewed. The most obvious question – why so much variety, so many projects? “Well, it’s the way it’s landed. All the guys in Killing Joke are multi-taleted. For example if you take drummer, Paul Fergusson; he’s a art curator – flies on a monthly basis to (millionaire) David Rockerfella’s house to restore all his art (laughs loudly). We’ve also got two architects in the band – it’s nice to have more than one medium.” Coleman also goes to to explain the difference between the audiences and the “ritual” of a classical concert compared to a Killing Joke concert “When you conduct an orchestra your mind is on fire. It’s an intellectual process. But with Killing Joke I switch the mind right off. I can remember walking on stage and off. But the rest is like a blurry oil painting. And when you are recording with an orchestra, everything comes back finished. But recording with Killing Joke everything is tracked and can be manipulated and changed. I like the contrast between the two worlds, and the only person I know who can work between the two is my old friend Nigel Kennedy. Killing Joke is a shared experience. I’m only 25% and we split everything equaly, and when we have a shared victory it’s amazing” Coleman compare this to a classical composer. “I can remember being called up in a NY Hotel room and being told I had a no.1 for 108 weeks in the USA classical charts and thinking ‘what does this mean?’ Who do I share it with?” ”
Comparing the writing process for his classical work and for the new Killing Joke album MMXII Coleman suggests getting a wide life experience, full of contracts, highs and lows “And then come back and it will all come out. Don’t have a cerebal process. And then we use what I call ‘The formula of exhaustion’‘ where I stay up for 3-4 nights working through the piece – It has to be higher than next to God, you know what I mean? I love what comes out and I hate it because of what it does to me.” Worn down by the recording process, Coleman says he had to step away, not listening to the final product for several months.
The result, MMXII is a very dense, dark work that explores the 2012 phenomenon with politics, anti-capitalism, and eco-threat at its core – subjects close to Coleman’s heart. For example “Pole Shift” explores the possibility of the earth’s axis of rotation. And, “Fema Camp”, is about the prison-like facilities built around the United States by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that could be used under martial law “Yes. I am a bit of a conspiracy theorist,” he laughs “but there’s always a kernel of truth in there.” But the track he most wants to talk about is ‘I Cythera’, a song written in part to the citisens of “a certain island in the Hauraki who put up with me all this time. I’m now a New Zealand citizen I started my classical career here, built York studios in Auckland. I have a lot to be grateful for.”