Jaz Coleman is a rather incredible character. First of all, the leader of Killing Joke has many things to share regarding his view of the world. Carried away by his convictions and his ideas, he sometimes even forgets to answer the questions you’re actually asking him. His mind is so lively that the journalist who tries to interview him cannot help but feel a little useless. So you just let him talk, listen to him attentively, laugh at his sallies and nod at his humanist ideals.
What’s more, Coleman is one of those rare people whose words are actually in accord with their actions. The most compelling proof is that the man lives in perfect harmony with nature on a small island in the Pacific, three hours from New Zealand if you jump on a plane, where he enjoys neither electricity nor telephone. For the anecdote, at the end of the interview, we asked him if he wanted us to send him the link to the article. To which he replied: “Absolutely! But I don’t have a phone or a computer, so good luck with that!” Followed by one of the infectious laughs that punctuated the entire conversation. An incredible character, we’re telling you.
This interview was a good opportunity to penetrate the mind and way of thinking of this extraordinary artist. His answers regarding Killing Joke’s new album, MMXII, will show you that the use that was made of the end-of-the-world-in-2012 subject is much more subtle than one might think at first. We were recently writing: “With this album portraying the end of the world and its context, Coleman is actually aiming at an ‘after’”. Which Coleman confirms by exposing his thoughts on a new beginning for mankind, fundamentally focused on nature, sharing and love.
But let’s not spoil the interview any further, and let the man speak for himself.
"Do I believe it will be the end of the world? No, I do not. [...] I like to think of 2012 as the beginning of a different kind of revolution: the revolution of the human heart."
Jaz Coleman: Bonjour ! Everything’s good ?
Radio Metal: I’m fine and you ?
I’m Fucked but I’m laughing and happy ! (laughs)
The starting point of your new album is obviously the prophecy of the end of the world for 2012. The historian Luc Mary has listed 183 ends of the world since the fall of the Roman Empire…
[roar of laughter]
Also taking into account that humanity has lived through many crises throughout its history, why do you think these predictions about 2012 have to be taken more seriously than the past 182 others that didn’t happen before it?
Let me answer your questions one by one. Firstly, the first track of the album is called “Pole Shift”. It’s not about the end of the world at all. It’s about the end of a great cycle. So let me clarify that. I’m not a great believer in the Christian concepts of Armageddon or Revelations at all. That being said, when we look at not just the Mayan, but also the Hopi or Inca calendars, the Maori calendar of New Zealand – so many of those calendars draw our attention to the fact that there will be a huge change. And this, I believe, is true. Do I believe it will be the end of the world? No, I do not. If we go back to the Roman historian Herodotus, he went to Egypt, and the Egyptian priests told him that the sun went from rising in the east to rising in the west, and back to the east four times in the history of the Egyptian civilization. So I think what’s gonna happen is completely natural. I think there’s will be an upheaval, but not the end of the world. I think mankind has not reached its final stage of evolution and still has a place in tomorrow. So I don’t think it’s the end of the world, but I think there’s gonna be cataclysmic changes. I think it’s the end of the world that we’ve all become accustomed to. Being able to fly here, go there, motorcars, the petrol industry… This is all wrong. There are 435 nuclear stations on the planet that must be dismantled. We must have a responsible world government of some kind. We must render nuclear power obsolete. Dependency on petroleum is also one of the things that must change. I like to think of 2012 as the beginning of a different kind of revolution: the revolution of the human heart, where we stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about the other persons in our society. You know? The move from the “me” generation to the “we” generation. The opening up of the human heart. Compassion. This is the evolution that I believe will happen. So I’m not all negative, but I think that mankind is gonna go through some dark times first. I believe there will be some cataclysms coming, but I do not believe we’re talking about extreme life extinction. If you look at what’s happening on the planet, the Earth’s magnetic field is diminishing at the moment. It’s weakening. We know what happens when there’s a diminishing magnetic field, we know what happens on terrestrial life. The Russians and the Americans have done tests on cosmonauts and astronauts. At the moment, we’re at 0.005 gauss. If we get to 0 gauss, this causes random aggression and madness. And if you look at what’s happening in Cairo, in Egypt, which is a marker peg of the whole biosphere, with the Great Pyramids, you can see this is happening. If you take out a compass and look at our magnetic north, it’s now moving at a rate of 100 kilometers a year, when it should be moving 6 centimeters every ten years. So something vast is happening to the biosphere. Huge cosmic changes, which I believe will bring about a change in consciousness.
Do you think that humans have to be up against the wall to really consider the values that really matter?
Yes, I do. The greatest problem is that there are so many people who have no money. The next problem is what are they gonna eat and what are they gonna drink. It all comes back down to the biosphere, to Mother Earth, and our reverence towards Mother Earth. We need to destroy the Christian religion and replace it with a Divine Mother, so we can instill a sense of reverence towards the planet that gives us all our food and our bodies. For me, nuclear energy is a blasphemy against everything sacred. The only way we’re gonna change this is by becoming a global family and decommissioning every last nuclear power station and every last nuclear weapon. This is my dream of dreams.
"All the members of Killing Joke are deeply spiritual people. They always have been. That’s what differentiates Killing Joke from all the rubbish like Ministry and this dog meat from America."
All the important subjects you’ve been steadily talking about during your thirty years career with Killing Joke seem to be converging on this album. Is it a way to put forward the fact that the past thirty years of modern society, politics and science seem to be converging on what is going to happen in 2012?
I think they are. And I also think mankind is going in the wrong direction. We’ve made mistakes. The industrial revolution has misled mankind. We have free energy devices, but the general thinking is that they will not bring out free energy until after the collapse. We are heading for collapse first. So the most important thing is to tell the people you love that you love them, every day. You cannot tell them enough. The second most important thing is to turn every park and every back garden into food stores. Where I live, we have collective gardens, so the poor people can cultivate their potatoes and artichokes, and work there a couple of hours every week. This is the future. It’s the way we must all go and live. The third most important thing is that when you see someone homeless and hungry on the street, you never walk past them without putting your hand in your pocket and giving them your money, just a few coins. It’s as simple as this.
That wasn’t quite my question. I was wondering if we can draw a parallel between the evolution of the world and the evolution of Killing Joke’s music?
I don’t think of Killing Joke on such a grand scale, to be honest! (laughs) Killing Joke is something I do every year with the boys. Whatever happens, we do it, because we have to do it. The only thing that’s different is that the world is changed, and it’s come to understand it. But we’re just doing the same thing we’ve always done. I don’t think of Killing Joke on such a grandiose scheme as you’re suggesting. I’ve never thought about it like that.
In 1981, you sang about madness. Could your new album be seen as an extension of that? Or even as the swan songs of human madness?
Oh God, you know what? The other day, I was looking at a copy of The Times from two hundred years ago. The writer was describing the public hanging, quartering and torturing of people in London, the smell of human flesh. This was in The Times from two hundred years ago. So we have not evolved a great deal. The revolution that we need next is the revolution of the human heart, of compassion. We’ll go no further until this happens. I do believe that we’re going in the wrong direction, and Mother Nature will punish us.
Absolute Dissent saw the return of Killing Joke’s original line-up. We could have expected the band to go back to its past, to the style of the first albums, as in some sort of nostalgia. This is not what actually happened. Is it important for you to always look forward into the future?
We have a spirit of innovation. That means, when we do a new Killing Joke album, that there’s no plans. We don’t prepare anything. All we do is get together. And the chemistry and the conflicts between the different individuals make the music how it is. There’s no preparation, no intellectual planning. “This next record, we’ll do it like that, or a bit more like that”… There’s none of this! (laughs)
One of the beliefs about 2012 is that this year will mark the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one for humanity. Could that also be the case for Killing Joke? Could this album somehow mark the end of a cycle for the band and the beginning of a new one?
With Killing Joke, we’ll all keep going. Our plan is to bury each other one by one as we die. That’s it! (laughs)
There are at least two songs on the album that seem to have a sense of spirituality to them. These are “Rapture” and “On All Hallow’s Eve”. Is spirituality important for you, in order to have a kind of place to take refuge into during dark times?
It’s everything. All the members of Killing Joke are deeply spiritual people. They always have been. That’s what differentiates Killing Joke from all the rubbish like Ministry and this dog meat from America. There’s a spirit and a dream. I love the guys in my band so very much, because they’re dreamers. They’re deeply compassionate and good people.
"The whole thing about Killing Joke is about clashing, debate, disagreement. [...] It’s a traumatic and very difficult process. It’s only for the brave."
The song “Polar Shift” talks about the shift in the earth’s magnetic field. The emotions actually shift from one pole to the other throughout the song. Was this actually done on purpose to have the music express this polar shift through shifting emotional and musical expressions?
“Polar Shift” is not just about the possibility of polar reversal. It’s the polarization of opinions that is happening now. For example, all science and free energy is at the mercy of international bankers. When you see all the greed, with the 1% who owns everything, all in imbalance in society, the Occupy Wall Street movement, you see a polarization of views and opinions, because people are waking up. So “Polar Shift” is not just about the earth magnetic field; it’s about a shift, a reorientation of our values. A polar shift of our values.
The album is full of tension but on the other hand it ends on a rather positive note with “On All Hallow’s Eve”. Musically, the song feels kind of relieving. Was it important for you to get rid of all the tensions for the final song on the album, to have a more hopeful ending?
What gives me hope is the thought that, sooner or later, Killing Joke is going to come to Paris, or we’re gonna do another record. It’s the idea of everyone coming together and being with the spirits of our ancestors. With our ideas of quantum, immortality and consciousness, we’re learning. It’s the idea of talking to or communing with our ancestors, or Paul Raven, or our forefathers, because in Killing Joke, the last of our dads have died. Instead of talking to them in the past tense, we talk directly to them. The whole concept of death is dying, and time is melting. (laughs) What a fantastic time to be living in!
I’ve read that this autumn, during a day where there is supposed to be a major planetary alignment, you’ll be doing a rock festival called A Party At The End Of The Earth in New Zealand. What can you tell us about this?
I thought it was a funny way to celebrate this day that people think is gonna be the end of the world. We’re going to have a concert, and then the next day, we’ll have a big breakfast party! (laughs) To celebrate the coming of a new age! That’s all we’re doing.
That’s a cool idea! What do you think will be your state of mind on that particular day?
You know, I’ve had such a surprising life, I don’t know what to expect, really. When you anticipate something, it never turns out like you think it will be. It’s always different. So I try not to think of how we will be. I’m just trying to do what I do with excellence. These days, I no longer smoke cigars, because of health issues; I no longer smoke marijuana, I haven’t had a drink for six and a half years. My only vice is tea and coffee! So I’m in good health. I can run three miles, and I couldn’t do that in my twenties. (laughs)
You have a lot of musical activities outside of Killing Joke. You’ve been conducting orchestras, you’ve been chosen as a Composer in Residence for the European Union, you have recorded Arabic music in Cairo…
Yeah, I’m working with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra this year. I’m recording two big works with them. That’s my other life. Before Killing Joke, I was a classical musician, that’s how I started. It’s been my life since I was six. I started studying orchestration when I was 22, which took me another ten years. I have another life in Prague and all over the world with orchestras, which is my other big, big passion. It’s two separate universes. In a way, they come to symbolize my sublime schizophrenia! (laughs)
Do all these projects have anything in common with what you do in Killing Joke?
No, not really. You see, Killing Joke is a collective experience. It’s something I share with my friends. When I compose for an orchestra, it’s just one man, one vision. They’re two very different things. I use Killing Joke for therapeutic reasons, for my own sanity, to address the darkest thoughts I have. I use it to address my aggression and my negativity and my fears, whereas when I work with an orchestra, I’m trying to create a more perfect or more desirable reality. It’s romantic. I like to keep these two modes into separate compartments.
"You tell me, what band on the planet goes on holiday together after 33 years? None, is the answer [...] The three people closest to me on the planet, my three best friends, are in my band."
In order to fully express yourself, for the therapeutic reasons you were talking about, don’t you sometimes feel the need to be the only one composing music in Killing Joke?
Not at all. I am 25% of Killing Joke, that’s all. We kind of share as much as we can. Even with lyrics: with Big Paul, we agree on a subject title, he goes away and writes lyrics, I write lyrics, and then we synthesize the two of them together. It’s a collective experience. You have to get over your ego problems in Killing Joke! (laughs)
Isn’t it frustrating, sometimes?
The whole thing about Killing Joke is about clashing, debate, disagreement. It’s not about constant agreement and trying to find consensus. It’s a traumatic and very difficult process. It’s only for the brave. It’s not always a very nice process! (laughs)
Faith No More was also a talented and singular band particularly known for its clashes and disagreements between its band members. Do you think we could make a parallel with Killing Joke?
No. There’s no other group on the planet that’s like our band. This Christmas, I’ll be 33 years into Killing Joke, and I’ll spend my Christmas holiday with Geordie. You tell me, what band on the planet goes on holiday together after 33 years? None, is the answer. There’s no band like Killing Joke, no band with the same sociology, no band anywhere near us. The three people closest to me on the planet, my three best friends, are in my band. Show me another band like this.
You created an opera for the Royal Opera House about Mary Magdalene. Apparently, you played it only once and didn’t record it. You’ve been quoted saying that the purpose of this opera was beauty. Do you think that reproduction of musical pieces on physical media tends to devaluate the mere beauty of music?
No, I like the recording process, especially with the orchestra. But you know, an orchestra costs £300 per minute of recording, so it’s a very expensive process. I think recording is very important. I really enjoy the difference with recording with an orchestra: everything comes back finished. It’s so exciting in the studio, because it comes back complete, unlike rock music, where it takes times to go over things. With classical music, everything comes back finished, so the emotional experience is so immediate, so wonderful. It’s one of the greatest experiences. When I record with an orchestra next, you should come, and you would see what I mean, how exciting it is! (laughs)
No problem! (laughs) Apparently, you live on a small island in the Pacific, three hours flight from New Zealand. Is this a need you have in you, to keep yourself far from modern civilization?
Yeah, it is. There’s no electricity where I live, and mobile phones don’t work. It’s a place where I’m surrounded so much by nature. I feel the presence of God.
That’s it for me. Do you have one last thing to say?
Yes, I do. Ever since I was four, I’ve been to France every year of my life. My eldest daughter is a native French speaker, but I speak terrible French. France remains and always will be my spiritual home. I have more allegiance to France than I do to the country that bore me.
Bonus : Lot of laughing by Jaz Coleman !
Interview conducted on march, 15th, 2012, by phone by Metal'O Phil.
Questions & introduction by Spaceman.
Transcription : Saff.
Killing Joke's website : www.killingjoke.com
This post is also available in: French