Between the belief in the impending apocalypse, the abrupt tour cancellations and the disappearances to far off places like Iceland and Egypt, Jaz Coleman is a mysterious and capricious man, and that doesn’t even account for his music. Killing Joke, on the other hand is mercurial in their own right– creating their own style of post-punk that influenced legions and then reinventing it time and again to make ripples in the industrial, punk, metal and goth wading pools, stretching their influence to everyone from Bauhaus to Metallica. Members of Foo Fighters, Ministry, Prong and more have all passed through the ranks of the legendary band.
Killing Joke is currently on their 40th Anniversary Tour (which we caught at NYC's Irving Plaza and Chicago's Riot Fest), and are prepping to write their new LP. As such, we cornered the wide-eyed madman known as Jaz Coleman to ask about the anniversary, his experience seeing UFOs, the state of the US and being a rock icon AND a dad.
So are these dates part of an eventual full world tour?
We'll do some of it this year and some more next year, this is the first part of it. But look, I can't remember a year that Killing Joke has not been on the road. I'm trying to think of it... maybe there's one or two years towards the end of the nineties. But when you look at all the dates we've done, it makes your head swim. Makes my fucking head swim for sure.
I find it hard to enjoy myself on the road. My body makes too much acid which affects phlegm and stuff like that. and affects the friend stuff. So there's no caffeine, no smoking, no chilies, all the things are like no carbonated drinks, fucking nothing! Only energy that is it about it!
Is it an acid reflux, that kind of thing?
Exactly. It's terrible for singers because it makes so much fucking acid– this gives you phlegm and this gives you postnasal drip. But hey, it's the world of a singer. I don't want to bore you with the details, even though I just fucking did it, (laughs). But anyway, here I am to dispel the rock n roll dream. (laughs)
In a recent video letter to your fans, you discussed your daughter getting married. Most of your music has dark subject matter and deals with a dystopic existence. Do you ever apply your family as subjects within your work? Consciously or subconsciously?
First of all, that wedding... that was incredible. You have these wonderful milestones in your life like doing your first New York gig and now it's walking your daughter down the aisle. Obviously I'm looking at how beautiful my daughters are and it's all pretty amazing.
That said, that's a very good point but I try to keep them as separate as I can. I keep the well away from the Killing Joke world. Obviously they are a part of my life, and they come to my conscious but I don't really talk about it. I think actually now come to mention it, I can just see one of their eyes rolling when I get angry and animated about certain subjects. I think they probably try and keep off certain subjects so they're don't to have to listen to me. (laughs)
Do you think that, sort of like every other dad in the world, everything you do is uncool?
You know, I was talking with my partner about how funny it was to see one of my daughter's friends getting nice and snug and cozy with two members of the band. And then one of my daughters grab them and said "no, this is not going to happen!!!" and then yanked them out of the arms of certain members of the band. Anyway, no names mentioned here. (laughs)
You said your 40th anniversary is going to span over two years and you're doing the first leg now and then the second later on...
Well, we are going to do another album at some point, but the thing is I always gauged emotionally you have to leave Geordie alone for a while to let everything build up and then he unleashes a bunch of monsters, the same way I do. The longer you leave it the better it's going to be. So as far as the new record, I'm not in the mood to do any of it, I need to get into that mode and then we'll try that. I'm not thinking about writing music. I'm thinking about energy.
Also, I'm thinking about where I'm going to get my kicks now that I can't have tea, coffee, mineral water, chili... see, I don't use the internet so I won't be able choke the chicken along with the rest of 'em. (laughs) And I'd never drink something like a decaf... what's the point of that? It's like kissing your sister, isn't it? However, if anyone brings any space cookies, I wouldn't say no. (laughs)
The Killing Joke documentary The Death and Resurrection Show is out now and available on the internet. In the film you speak about your encounter with UFOs and how you didn't believe in any of it until you saw them. Do you want to kind of detail that for us?
Yeah, I did have a rather strange experience with about 500 people. I don't know what they were but they were orange orbs, about seven of them, and then one of these orange orbs went up on the side and revealed a symbol like a stick man. It was just really weird. I talk about it because I haven't really resolved it in my mind. But it happened on a hot day in the middle of London with a lot of people there, and when it was finished it was dark. None of us can work out any rationale behind it?
Were you on the street or a rooftop?
We were in an apartment and we saw them out of the back window, just sort of floating along. I thought they were hot air balloons or something at first. But this was my experience of UFOs. It really started me thinking, actually really thinking about the extraterrestrials.
Killing Joke has always been political, but I was just curious about your current opinion on the state of the United States as an outsider.
We're way past the pale, like 30 years ago. (laughs) We're so far gone that it's a miracle we're all still here.
Does anything even surprise you at this point?
Yeah, it does surprise me, it really really does. It's amazing. I mean, things could actually be worse too, couldn't they? Some of the creepy crawlies fucking around in your country but, I don't believe there is political solution here. I'm more interested in what art can do and how Killing Joke, which has its own society within the society, can take it. Where that group of counterculture people who gather for our gigs can take these ideas as a collective.
Killing Joke is so much about like paranoia and fear, but what do you personally fear?
Well that has changed over the years. Well, I think we all worked through the collective fear of mass annihilation through nuclear war. We kind of, it's good that we've kind of been through that so we can give some comfort to the next generation in terms of how you deal with the idea of a massive external threat that of mass innovation, you know? ObvIously, we've addressed this with the art.
So you feel like you express all of your fears through Killing Joke?
I do, and I do it consciously. Everything from what is happening in my life personally, to the macrocosm of it, to the food we're eating, to the shit in the air, and you've heard me over the years so you know where I'm coming from, loud and clear.
As an artist, who do you look toward for inspiration most often?
For me, I'd have to say it would be Beethoven. I don't think any other artist has projected anything that makes you feel this oneness with other human beings quite like the ninth symphony. The ninth symphony is truly a masterpiece because when you listen to it from the beginning to the end, and then you remember he was stone deaf when he wrote that, it lifts your soul to the highest. This is what great art does, it lifts your soul to the highest point away. Everything is possible.
Killing Joke's 40th anniversary tour continues in Houston tonight (9/19). All dates HERE.