Jaz Coleman has been called many things over the span of his 30+ year career fronting Killing Joke but the one undeniable truth is that the man is a living legend. Pop!Blerd recently had the opportunity to sit down with Coleman when Killing Joke visited Boston during their current North American tour in support of the upcoming The Singles Collection 1979-2012. Read below to find out what he had to say about the state of Killing Joke in the 21st Century and what’s to come:
When Killing Joke began in the late ’70’s, did you ever imagine you’d still be not only in this band but with the exact same line up some 30 years on?
Well, I think if you’d have told me then in ’79 I would’ve believed you because I believe in the bond that kind of unites us all…that actually unites us when certain members have left for awhile and taken sabbaticals. There’s still this kind of link. We’ve been through so many milestones together. Yeah, I wouldn’t have been surprised funnily enough.
What has been your proudest moment since starting Killing Joke?
For me it’s always glory more than gold. I value more than anything else really and to have been so influential, I couldn’t have foreseen this, you know? I think that’s it to see a whole generation that our music affects by default…To have been there when punk happened and to have been endorsed by Lydon and Cookie (Paul Cook) and Jones and John Peele and all the rest. There’s so many great moments. For me, it’s the resolve of certainly Geordie and myself to continue under any circumstances which I admire in the band because it has not been easy. You certainly don’t do Killing Joke for the money.
Look, I think the most significant achievement of Killing Joke has been that we are all multi talented but we all left schools with no exams. Three of the band went to universities and achieved so many different things in so many different fields. To summarize: The principle of self education.
Your book, Letters To Cytherea, is about to be released. What inspired you to write a book now and what can fans expect inside?
A book that will probably take the best part of a lifetime to read and it will probably take as long for people to understand my style and terminology. What inspired me to do it was to sort of outline the renaissance ideas that I adhere to so others can apply it to themselves.
You went through Pledgemusic for your book as well as for the Down By The River release and the deluxe edition of The Singles Collection. What is the appeal as an artist of using something like Pledgemusic as opposed to the more traditional routes to get your music and art out?
Apart from publicity and publicists, record companies aren’t really necessary. This is evident by the fact that when I started my career there was half a million record companies and now there’s two (laughs).
Speaking of The Singles Collection, how did you go about choosing what would be on the release? Was it a democratic process within the band?
I wasn’t even consulted.
Seeing as this is billed as “The Singles Collection” tour, have you pulled out any surprises that may have not been in a KJ set for some time?
Sure, sure, you’ll hear ’em tonight.
What do you hope fans take away from a Killing Joke album or live performance?
A sense of empathy with other thinking. Concerned citizens globally find it difficult to process what is actually taking place in our modern world so yeah, empathy, and (providing) a global network with other like minded individuals.
You’re also an accomplished composer, what is the biggest difference writing a symphony versus writing for Killing Joke and do you prefer being a conductor or a frontman?
With classical music I try to create a more desirable reality. It’s a romantic impulse in me and Killing Joke is catharsis so I can’t really compare them cuz I need both of them. My first love is the orchestra because I started with the orchestra first. There’s no electricity, it’s just the skill of the individuals who are there. I like the natural vibration of sound and I also like the fact that when you turn the electricity off you can see who’s who (laughs).
What is the status of the long gestating solo album that was teased some time back?
That’s part and parcel with the book because the book’s coming out with the second part of my symphony and then the book is financing a huge violin concerto. The orchestra is so dear to me (and classical music) but in our modern world with capitalism it’s no longer economically viable because look, to record an orchestra it costs 300 English pounds a minute and big classical sounds are two, three thousand. The only way I can finance a classical recording is to write a book. There are no more classical labels as such. It doesn’t sell so there’s no business. That, for me, is a dreadful state of affairs. It just shows you what capitalism really is. When we have a need for something within the arts, like the orchestra, but it’s no longer economically viable then we’ve got a problem.
In the span of 3 years, you’ve Absolute Descent, MMXII and now The Singles Collection. In addition to your current North American tour, what’s next for Killing Joke?
A Killing Joke album this year.
A New one?
Yeah, and then I’m doing my big piece based on Nirvana’s music to celebrate the life and death of Kurt and then my choral violin concerto. So there’s those two things along with the Killing Joke album.
What I’ve done the last four years is I went to Australia to the Didgeridoo festival to find where the master players were and I discovered that one of the master players (The top one in the world actually) is Czech! He lived in Australia for 15 years. So I located him and we spent four years redesigning the instrument so it could change key so we could prove to the Australian government that it’s the classical instrument of the nation. It’s a scam really! But we’ve finished it and we’ve recorded with it and it sounds like a death machine so I put vocals with it and it’s gonna be called ‘The Red And Black Album’ and that’s just a bit of fun.
The Singles Collection 1979-2012 is available digitally on April 30th through Spinefarm US. Click here to find out where you can see Killing Joke live.