Interview: Sara Profeta (email@example.com)
Photo: Sara Profeta
Killing Joke, the legendary London-based post-punk/new wave band, one of the key bands of the ’80s, has recently released their fourteenth studio album “Absolute Dissent”. After many changes, the original line-up has reunited after the death of Paul Raven in 2007. After more than three decades of existence, Killing Joke played in Croatia for the first time.Venia got the occasion to talk with the band’s singer and frontman Jaz Coleman just before the concert in Zagreb.
VENIA: Hello Jaz! I’ve heard you’ve taken a trip around the city. Did you like it?JAZ: Yes, it’s my first time here. I went to this radio station (Radio 101, op. a.) and I met some really interesting people there. You know, I just met people, I can’t really get to know a place in one day. It’s taken me 12 years just to begin to know Prague. 12 years living there, you know. It gets a long time to know a place.
VENIA: I wanted to ask you something about the new album, so „Absolute Dissent“ is just released. Can you tell me something about the inspiration for the album or the story behind it?
JAZ: Well, you can see that democracy as we know is not working. That the people that are controlling our lives are international bankers and you have one family – the Rockefeller family – who own 52% of the federal reserve system. One family. The insidious influence of this unelected control is so big that people can’t imagine. (…) It’s this international banking fraternity that aches me so physically sick – you have statements from David Rockefeller saying that the future of the world will be governed by a supranational elite of bankers – quote, unquote. (…) Now, I find this concept of authoriatarianism sickening and we can’t see that we are in a period of history that is potentially worse than 1936 in terms of civil liberties. Look what happened with the illegal war in Iraq – no weapons of mass destruction were found. And that’s why so long as we have NATO involved with the European Union we’re gonna be subject to the mercy of the American foreign policy, which is the same bankers and people governing this. There were no weapons of mass distruction, and personally, I believe that 9/11 was orchestrated by America, yes I do. I know it’s it’s not safe to talk about this in America – the bastion of freedom. Look at what’s happened in America, look at what it’s become, there’s no freedom anymore. You cannot talk about 9/11, they will consider you unpatriotic, there’s no freedom of speech. Then you should take into consideration that since the last world war, America has dropped bombs on 56 countries, it’s not a good record. And now the corporations think they own the world. I believe the needs of the many still outweigh those of the few. The next generation will have to solve these problems. We cannot have a European Union as long as we have NATO on our soil because it’s like a foreign invasion and the people of Eastern Europe know enough about this. As long as we have American foreign policy and American ideas on European soil there can never really be a European Union. Not properly. (…) You have to look at China, we went there about a month ago – in this place it’s like America, you can’t talk about Tibet and you can’t criticise the government, of course. You can play golf and buy McDonald’s, it’s exactly the same. We need a strong Europe as a mediating force between these two insane modes, ie China and America. (…) I’m largely in favour of the European block, but under certain conditions. And it is for us to determine the terms of this. At this moment all the presidents and prime ministers are all answerable to the head of the European Central Bank, who is unelected and unanswerable to any heads of state, he’s only answerable to the Rothschilds (laughs). (…)
VENIA: It’s a provocative view of the world, but may I ask you something, Killing Joke has been called provocative before during your career. Has what people see as provocative changed during the 30 years you’ve been in the band?
JAZ: I guess so. I don’t read media or press for many years now. I don’t deliberately sell out to provoke people. The issues that inflame me are still pretty much the same. It has more to do with information. To draw people’s attention to certain things that are happening on our planet and to empower people to find solutions, more importantly. I think that a few people can change everything.
VENIA: This tour marks 30 years of Killing Joke.
JAZ: 31! (laughs)
VENIA: How do you see your influence on music after three decades?
JAZ: It’s funny, isn’t it. I never thought it would be like this. I’m amazed… I’m amazed, what can I say! In one sense, I’m not surprised because I have so much in common with my band as people, you know. Outside of music. So I’m not surprised we’re still together ’cause we’re friends. But I’m surprised of the influence it has. I’m not surprised we’re keeping going because I burn, when I bite and taste blood I never stop. I’m obsessive (laughs). But I’m amazed at the things that’ve happened. It’s unbelievable. It’s unthinkable. You have to take into consideration we all left school pretty much at the age of 15 and we’ve had no further education. So the band was our complete further education. Our university, it’s a model of self-education. If anything Killing Joke is, surely must be. Look at the accomplishments of everybody. Together, it’s unbelievable. We cover such broad areas; one of us restores art and is a museum curator. In the band we have three professors and none of us finished school. We have a priest, we have a druid, we have a whole band of master cabalists…
VENIA: You have yourself been doing stuff besides Killing Joke. You’re writing a mass, that’s interesting.
JAZ: Yeah, this is one thing that lies ahead of me. I’m doing two nights in London in April. I’m thinking of – after this tour – just going away and taking my music papers with me.
VENIA: How did you decide to do that?
JAZ: The day I woke up in Iceland in 1982, the first thought that came into my head was, I wanna be a composer. And then that was a huge journey. The actual studying took me to Eastern Europe first, I studied in DDR, Minsk and then I went to Egypt to study Arabic music. I studied orchestration, it was a long long journey, I didn’t know how long it would take. ’91-’92 I emigrated to New Zealand and everything just came to me, I worked with New Zealand’s Symphony Orchestra and then I became composer in residence, and then Prague and the London Symphony Orchestra with Mick Jagger and suddenly – I was recording all the time and a new career was born. So I wrote for orchestra and recorded for orchestra since ’92. I’ve been in Prague and worked with lots of different orchestras, London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra, and now I’m with the Paris Opera House. A friend of mine has just died, he’s left a libretto that’s in the original Sumerian language about the creation of man from the gods and wanted me to set this to music. I wanted to put this together with Paris Opera. Oh, and last week I’ve had such an amazing day, my eldest daughter met my mother for the first time on the day that I was decorated by the French government and it was just unreal. Because it’s a long way from being in squats to being decorated (laughs).
VENIA: How does it feel?
JAZ: Surreal. You know, Killing Joke is a mirror. And when people see us, they think – if those fucking idiots can do that, anybody can do anything.
VENIA: I was wondering, is composing more fulfilling for you in another way than being a in a rock band, is there a difference?
JAZ: There is such a difference, if you’ve noticed – one thing I never do with Killing Joke is write love songs. I don’t write anything romantic. Ever. There’s not one. I save this expression for orchestral music.
VENIA: It’s a different feel.
JAZ: Yeah, it is. This is love of the land, a deeper romance. Love of culture. And any romantic feelings I have are expressed in orchestra and Killing Joke is really catharsis. It’s a revolutionary art-form to stop yourself from killing people (laughs). For me, it’s about getting rid of the sickness of the modern world. The only way I can demonstrate this to you is to play for you tonight. It’s the first time we play here. And we went to that radio station earlier and so many people – okay, not so many, but passionate people – waited almost three decades to see Killing Joke and that’s really special. It wasn’t until I went to the radio station how important this is to them and that’s touching, that’s lovely. And what’s great is today they’ll have the chance to see me with my brothers, the original line-up. When you think, everybody from our era, they’re either dead or split-up. Mostly dead.
VENIA: The sad thing is, somebody had to die to put you together.
JAZ: Oh yes, it’s very sad. It was very hard for me, Paul, I was very close to him. You know, he’s my brother, it was really hard for all of us. But yes, it did bring the original line-up back together. It’s true. You know, a band is more difficult than marriage. And I should know, I’ve been married two times. Yeah, it’s definitively more difficult. It’s a continual balancing between people.
VENIA: But you have your chemistry.
JAZ: Yeah, all the incarnation of Killing Joke were good. With Raven and Geordie and me or Youth, Geordie and me, but this, this is very special.
VENIA: Thank you Jaz, thank you very much.