Killing Joke: Tomorrow's world

By Gavin Bertram

The new MMXII sees Killing Joke preaching the same nihilistic vision they have for over 30 years. As front man Jaz Coleman says, the rest of the world is only now catching up.

I don't want to be another guy in a band, another rock star, so I've renounced all material things - Jaz Coleman. Photo / Supplied
I don't want to be another guy in a band, another rock star, so I've renounced all material things - Jaz Coleman. Photo / Supplied

Jaz Coleman is a world-class ranter, but in the best possible way.

The intense Killing Joke vocalist's lengthy expositions on any manner of topics are always cogent, convincing, and most importantly, entertaining.

He's been decompressing at his rustic home on Great Barrier Island in the wake of another hard British tour, in support of the release of the 15th Killing Joke album, MMXII.

"It's been hard on the body at my ripe old age, touring really hard," the 52-year-old admits. "But I love it, it's addictive. It's not for people who aren't team players. After 33 years, not only do I play in the same band with these guys, they really are my best friends."

The band formed in the squatter community around West London's Notting Hill during the fertile post-punk period of 1979. Their harsh, repetitive music forecast modern industrial rock, while their bleak vision was equally prophetic.

While the subsequent three decades have seen stylistic changes and numerous lineups, the original Killing Joke of Coleman, guitarist Geordie Walker, bassist Youth and drummer Paul Ferguson was reunited for the 2010 album Absolute Dissent.

But Coleman says the band's renaissance has really been underway for the last decade.

"Most bands' first three albums would be their most significant works," he suggests. "Our first three were very important albums, but from 2003 onwards, the music is becoming so much more significant. We haven't really changed anything, it's just the world is catching up with us and the things we've been saying for so many years."

That's coincided with lifestyle changes for Coleman, who also pursues a successful career in classical music when Killing Joke is dormant.

He hasn't drunk alcohol in over six years, has given up smoking tobacco and marijuana and has renounced the material world. He owns nothing but a few clothes, his shed on Great Barrier has no hot water and one gas ring, and he largely shuns modern technology including computers and mobile phones.

Coleman says Mahatma Gandhi is his guide, and his efforts have a lot to do with empathising with the increasing percentage of the world's population who live in poverty.

"You get a false perception in New Zealand," he says. "People are so in debt and can barely afford to feed themselves. It just breaks my heart. I don't want to be another guy in a band, another rock star, so I've renounced all material things. I don't need it. All I need is to put fuel into my stomach and to drink water or lashings of tea."

Although he's more than aware of New Zealand's problems, Coleman is most proud of his citizenship of this country. He does think we need to be more engaged with political issues though; having witnessed what public apathy has wrought in the United Kingdom, he despairs for his homeland.

He laments the loss of the "sense of fraternity" that was evident in the music community when Killing Joke started, and believes the lack of choice available then was in some ways beneficial.

"When you look at the young bands coming up now, they're so eclectic," he considers. "Everybody's got data overload because of this damn technology. You had less choice in the late '70s. I don't know whether technology has given us a better life. What is it doing to our society? Everything is so fragmented."

Despite his observations of the modern world, Coleman is relatively happy in a strangely paradoxical manner that is both beatific and world-weary.

He's particularly joyous about the position Killing Joke holds in many people's hearts.

"All my hopes and dreams of what a band should be, this band personifies," Coleman reflects. "I've been moved by how many people just love our band. I've always seen the band as not the big supermarket but the tiny little corner shop that's well loved by the people around you."

* Killing Joke's album MMXII is out now through Universal Music. The documentary film The Death and Resurrection Show, which Coleman describes as "all the worst things I've ever done condensed into one movie", is due for release later this year.

Follow Volume on Twitter
Like Volume on Facebook
- Volume

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 24 Jul 2014 05:16:10 Processing Time: 376ms