Jaz Coleman is supposed to be having a break from music, but he just can't help himself.

"When I come to New Zealand I try to stop all music," the Killing Joke front man says from his home on Great Barrier Island. "But on Tuesdays I work with the choir at the local church and write folk songs about life on the island."

It's hard to imagine Coleman, the voice of UK post-punk survivors Killing Joke with a face full of ghoulish makeup, penning sweet ditties about the hipster-friendly community where he spends several months every year.

But Coleman - best known to Kiwi rock fans as the production guru behind Shihad's best albums, Churn and FVEY - has his gnarly fingers in a lot of musical pies these days.


There's his Kurt Cobain tribute project, Orchestrated Nirvana: A Requiem To Kurt Cobain, which is coming out later this year. He rattles off a list of orchestras he's working with, including St Petersburg and Tehran. And there's also the new Killing Joke album Pylon, the band's 15th record that Coleman believes is their best work yet. Not bad for a rock veteran who celebrates his 56th birthday this week.

But Coleman won't be playing a note at this Sunday's show at The Classic. It's billed as a unique experience in which Coleman will take to the stage with just a microphone to "talk about some of the things in my life and things I find amusing".

As our rambling but consistently entertaining 26-minute phone conversation shows, that could include anything from the demise of rock, to the future of democracy, the New Zealand environment, overly strict tobacco laws and, possibly, some frank opinions about music.

He may even discuss his reputation as a punishing taskmaster in the studio. "I'm a f***ing nightmare," he admits. "Here's the thing: if you're a pilot, you do your checklist because if you f*** up on take off, everyone's dead. Same with a surgeon. I try and apply the same principles to music. Which is to say, 'We have to play this song three times in a row. If there's a mistake we do it five times in a row. If there's another mistake, we do it 10 times'.

"The reason is, when you go on stage you get it right more than you get it wrong." After his Auckland show, Coleman will leave New Zealand to "stick the boot in again," playing with Killing Joke and returning to his orchestral work.

That means leaving his idyllic lifestyle on Great Barrier Island, a home he's been visiting for 30 years now. "It's a beautiful day," he says, contemplating the view outside his window. "Cicadas are chirping away. It's just heaven on Earth. I didn't come to New Zealand for the cities, I came for the isolation. I love it."

Jaz Coleman's spoken word show Going Over to the Dark Side is at The Classic on Sunday.