Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman: the soundtrack of my life

Jaz Coleman holding a conductor's baton
(Image credit: Ester Segarra)

Killing Joke’s ever imposing, ever ebullient frontman, Jaz Coleman is preparing to take a flight to Morocco. There he plans to kick back in his regular one-star Marrakesh bolt-hole for a much needed recharge prior to unleashing a fresh Killing Joke assault in the new year. 

There’s a Royal Albert Hall show on the horizon, and a new album, but prior to that there’s the serious business of selecting for Classic Rock the prime examples of the music that defines him. 

Although, in the case of one question, he doesn’t appear to fully comprehend what it is that he’s being asked, admitting: “My guilty pleasure is being diabetes one, eating things I shouldn’t eat, and shooting up more insulin to compensate."


The first music I remember hearing

Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion. My mother made me follow the score when I was four years old. A compilation called Russian Orchestral Masterpieces, with Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Night On Bald Mountain.

The first song I performed live

Are You Receiving? with Killing Joke on August fourth, 1979 at Witcombe Lodge, Cheltenham, with The Selecter and The Ruts. It was the first time I’d seen my colleagues on stage.

The greatest album of all time

We’re from a generation that believes you can change the world through art and music; it’s just entertainment to subsequent generations. And if there’s one album that sums up this dream it’s Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon. It affected me profoundly, philosophically, and continues to affect me.

The guitar hero

Geordie Walker. He can play three guitar parts at once. I don’t know anybody who can do what Geordie does. His use of resonances, it’s mystifying. And there is no rhythm player quite like Geordie. His rhythm is immaculate.

The singer

Alex Harvey. He had great character to his voice – you can hear a man who’s lived. Bon Scott’s got the same sort of thing. There’s a sincerity in their voices. They’re hard guys. Hard, powerful people. Alex lived hard.

The songwriter

I’ve got to say Ludwig van Beethoven, because he’s a genius – and that’s a word I use sparingly. He was deaf from the age of thirty-one, so all of his most important works were created when he was stone deaf.

The best live album ever

Bob Marley And The Wailers’ Live!, recorded in 1975. Especially No Woman No Cry. That’s an example of a song where the live version is better than the studio version, and you can feel the atmosphere of history in the making.

The most underrated band ever

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Faith Healer is out of this fucking world. Still. They played Madison Square Garden at their peak, but subsequent generations don’t really know this band. So it’s my pleasure to introduce this track to a different generation. It’s so ahead of its time, and profoundly affected all of us in Killing Joke.

The cult hero

It’s got to be Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel. I first became aware of them in about 1974. I like the style of his vocals, and the orchestration and drama of their early recordings; The Psychomodo, all that kind of stuff. Some of it was brilliant.

My conduit from orchestral to rock 

That’s got to be Can, because Can straddled pre-punk and post-punk and it really influenced all of us. The great Can album is Tago Mago: esoteric in an experimental way.

The sound that unites Killing Joke

We used to listen to Chic all the time. All four of us loved disco. There’s still an element of disco in what we do, but probably not enough. But reggae and disco were the sounds that united us all, and we still listen to these genres for recreation.

My Saturday might party song

It would be a mixture of bands, a punky reggae party. I’d go from something like Aswad’s New Chapter Of Dub to Jesus Built My Hot Rod by Ministry. Then I’d go from Nine Inch Nails to bits of Killing Joke. Doomsday by Discharge, then back to Culture’s Two Sevens Clash and so forth.

My 'in the mood for love' song

When I have breakfast, my partner puts on bossa nova. And I can recommend this with breakfast. It lifts your spirit. It’s out of my genre. I don’t know anything about this music, but I love it for breakfast. And for love? The Gotan Project’s first album La Revancha Del Tango. The modern form of tango is incredibly seductive.

The song that makes me cry

That has to be the only song that I like from this artist: A Thousand Kisses Deep by Leonard Cohen. He’s looking back on the years of an artist’s life, and the lyrics are just so profound on promiscuity and everything. He’s reflecting back and it’s just fabulous. Amazing.

The song I want played at my funeral

Well, I’m currently composing that, and we don’t want to hurry a good thing, do we? 

Tickets for Killing Joke’s Royal Albert Hall show on March 12, 2023 are on sale now.

Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 20 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.