Killing Joke on way to Chch

SUBVERSIVE: Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman
SUBVERSIVE: Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman

Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman talks about the band's new album MMXII, making a television programme in New Zealand which sees him searching for ''loud, f... off'' bands, working with Shihad and the end of the world.

A conversation with Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman is never an interview, rather it is like throwing words into a wind tunnel and seeing what comes back.

Colourful Coleman, an accomplished composer and singer of British industrial rock pioneers Killing Joke, isn't one to keep his opinions to himself.

Our 45-minute conversation, organised by chance, is laid-back, but peppered with Coleman's venomous prophecies on various forms of societal control.

''Universal is my label in New Zealand, they've done nothing for this album, '' he says.

At the back of my mind is the knowledge that Coleman once conducted an entire interview in his own invented language and, on a separate occasion, the group gaffer-taped a journalist's mouth shut for asking stupid questions.

But that was then.

Reconvened after the death of Killing Joke bassist Paul Raven, the four members of the original lineup - Coleman, guitarist Geordie Walker, drummer Big Paul Ferguson and bassist Youth - released Absolute Dissent, their first work together in 28 years, in 2010.

The group released their new album, MMXII, in April.

At the core of MMXII is the idea of an end of times, befitting theories around the year 2012.

But Coleman sees the great change as the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, not the extinction of our world.

On December 21 he wanted to throw a ''party at the end of the Earth'', in New Zealand but plans have gone astray. ''It was just too hard to get it together in such a short time, '' he says.

The album's themes are political, anti-capitalist and controversial. The songs are intense, a ''death disco with huge slabs of guitar'' that soundtrack the downward spiral of the planet.

''I don't believe it's the end of the world, '' Coleman says.

''You'd be surprised how many people are worried about it. It's just a date. I think it's going to be a bumpy ride on the planet but we should carry on with our lives.''

He plans to tour New Zealand in May and June 2013 as part of what he's calling the Big Thrash Masterclass, a television programme where he finds our nation's musical talent.

''I'm looking for bands playing rock music that is loud, rebellious and has a f...-off attitude. I'm going to do a masterclass and film it for TV. The idea is to generate as many bands out of this country as possible. I'm going to be in Christchurch and staying a little while.''

Coleman has never performed in New Zealand, yet this country is dear to his heart. He comes here to fish and recharge.

''I haven't had a home since 2008, I sleep on floors. I renounced stimulants and money, never have more than £1000 in my bank account. I've been through the Third World a lot. Sixty per cent live on $1 a day, I live this way out of empathy.

''I don't have hot water, I wash myself in the stream in all weathers. I've got three pairs of trousers, 11

T-shirts, two jackets and two pairs of boots to my name and nothing else.

''On tour I get a bit of luxury, the odd hotel room and a bath.''

It reminds me of a story he once told me about a stay at The Columbia in Lancaster Gate. He caused a flood by falling asleep with the bath running. Unsure of what to do, he fled by the fire escape.

The hotel still regards him as a guest of honour.

Although the new album is political, Coleman has no plans to involve himself in such things. He views his role as a musician as one which allows him to speak out on areas of social conscience.

''This world needs less people like Bono. The Wall Street Journal listed 10 ways he could alleviate poverty . . . I'll never go into politics, take that Peter Garrett fellow, baldy, what a . . . I can't even express it without swearing. But have a look at his career, that's why I will never ever get into politics.''

The 11 songs on the new album include Polar Shift, about a shift in the Earth's electro-magnetic field, and On All Hallows Eve, which details ancestor worship.

''Killing Joke has been a medium to express our darkest fears and anger and it has been therapeutic expression more than anything but we also use it to try and inform people of things they might not be aware of, Fema Camps is a very good example.''

Coleman explains that he was brought up in the shadow of World War II, in which his father fought.

''He always stressed what it was like going to liberate people from concentration camps. He always emphasised the greatest evil was the people who kept silent although they knew what was going on. The dreadful thing is that it is happening again, I think. You can get on the internet and you can see that there are between 800 and 1000 concentration camps which are being built in the United States of America. They have electronic turnstiles, they have red zones and blue zones.

''Other people have researched it. One of whom is a senator who found a leaked document that said that activists and those who had dissenting views were on the red list. People who sympathise with activists or dissenters are on a blue list. This senator found himself on the blue list.

''I believe it's everyone's moral duty to research it themselves.

''Such things as HAARP (High Speed Active Auroral Research Programme) and the implications of it, which I'm sure most of the residents of Christchurch are particularly aware of, must be talked about openly and debated.''

Last year Coleman was knighted by the French Government, made Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres for his contribution to classical music.

''If the honour had come from the United Kingdom, I'd have spat on it and sent it straight back. But France - it's the centre of the revolution.''

Perhaps Coleman's most infamous moment in Kiwi history was when he was commissioned to work on the music for the Rugby World Cup.

At the opening of the Rugby World Cup in Britain in 1999, Coleman replaced the English version of God Defend New Zealand with the Maori version, sung by gorgeous soprano and Maori activist Hinewehi Mohi. It resulted in controversy and six months of debate in the British and New Zealand Parliaments. Coleman was even dubbed a subversive on 60 Minutes.

When we speak it is ahead of a trip to Japan.

''I'm going to get as close as I can to Fukushima to see it for myself, I don't believe we're being told everything.''
There is also a 40 to 50-date tour with Killing Joke, including five shows with The Cult and The Mission, to prepare for.

''I didn't want to do those five shows, I think their music sucks but I was outvoted by the rest of the band. We are a democracy.''

After that it's back to the ''classical stuff'', which is part of his ''schizoid'' career he jokes, and a possible Shihad reunion.

Coleman produced Shihad's album Churn.

Shihad's 1995 album Killjoy included a song about Coleman - Silvercup.

''There's talk of me taking Shihad to Egypt and possibly Spain so they can see poverty and what a revolution looks like. Our work together's not finished yet.''

Coleman sounds choked up as he talks about his band. ''We started with the same lineup back in 1978. I'm so blessed, these three guys are my best friends and my band.''

But right now he's talking about a revolution. ''I belive 2012 is a revolution of the heart, it's all about empathy, compassion.''

The Press