Thinking Out Loud: Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman

Jaz Coleman is not your average common-or-garden rock singer. A fiercely intellectual polymath, Killing Joke’s redoubtable frontman has scored symphonies, conducted orchestras, lectured on permaculture and environmental sustainability, acted in films and worked with the United Nations, all the while channelling the veteran West London quartet’s bleak, compelling post-punk fury, an inspiration to bands from Metallica and Nine Inch Nails to Foo Fighters and Converge. In person, the 55 year old singer can be intense and intimidating, with a maniacal laugh that speaks of a familiarity with the mind’s darkest recesses, but there’s an unyielding moral core to the man which lends even his most leftfield ideas an authority and weight…

“London is no longer my kind of town. London is a place that’s very dear to me – eight generations of my family lived in West London – but I couldn’t live there now. I haven’t lived in London for 30 years, and I think I had the best years of it. The city has changed, and I don’t care for those changes at all, not least the gentrification: to put things in perspective, my first flat in Notting Hill Gate, a three bedroom flat, cost me £7 per week. And there’s so many petty laws in this damn country: Geordie [Walker, KJ guitarist] moved to Prague just so he could have a cigarette in peace! I just saw some architect’s dream of what London will be like in 2045… and I want to be somewhere else.”

“Punk rock’s ‘have a go’ philosophy ensured I have no fear of failure. I left school at the age of 15, with no exams to my name, and punk rock to me was a metaphor for self-education. In our band, we exchanged books and educated ourselves, and now three of us teach in universities when we’re not doing the band. Punk gave me the ability to do anything. I’ve conducted orchestras in front of Presidents. I’ve done an opera for the Queen. I’ve designed and built a house. I’ve been a successful actor. But I still consider myself a punk, and always will.”

“For years, music magazines set out to destroy us. It’s different now, people only write about Killing Joke because they like the band, but when we started out magazines felt obliged to cover us, but they’d send out journalists who hated Killing Joke to interview us or review us. And we knew this, because we had spies on the editorial boards, so we’d get a tip off. We had our own ways of dealing with that though. On at least two occasions a member of the band actually shagged the fucking journalists’ girlfriends before our interviews: I thought that was genius. Generally we’re lovely people, but woe betide those who have it in for us.”

Killing Joke in 2015 and their new album, Pylon

Killing Joke in 2015 and their new album, Pylon

“Success, to me, means mobility, the ability to be able to fuck off where I want, when I want. That’s what this band has given me. Success equals freedom. And the fact that our band is a reference point for a certain type of music and a certain integrity I consider another big success for this band. But it means different things to different individuals: I love the glory, Youth [KJ bassist] loves the gold!”

**“I’ve been forbidden to go into politics by my youngest daughter, and she’s right about that. **Jeremy Corbyn seems like an okay guy, but they all start out with high ideals, don’t they? Until they get into the machine of the establishment… You think British Aerospace would let someone like him get into power, someone who wants to get rid of Trident? It wouldn’t be very good for business, would it? And people here think they live in a democracy… I just hope I live long enough to see Tony Blair tried for war crimes. He knew there was no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as those recent email links have clarified. Those war crimes rather put David Cameron getting a blowjob off a pig in the shade.”

“I wake up in the mornings and see airplanes spraying something over our cities: they’re high altitude engineering projects to ensure control of human beings. It’s very real, don’t kid yourself. People don’t protest about anything anymore…why? New nuclear power stations are being built, our civil liberties are being diminished – they’re collecting metadata on me, you, everybody - and no-one says anything: why? Because we’re being controlled. It’s called full spectrum dominance, a term used by the US military to refer to controlling the air, controlling the weather, controlling populations, manipulating the entire environment. And now they’re implementing a global policy of ‘soft kill’. President Carter started the Global 2000 report on world population, which was finished by President Clinton, and they said that essentially four to five billion people on the planet have to go. Once you start taking the nutrients out of food, you get a sick population, and when you start spraying aluminium in the air and put fluoride in the water the human immune system goes on shutdown from aluminium-fluoride poisoning. They’re trying to kill us off: it’s slow, but sure.”

**“People use the word ‘apocalyptic’ about Killing Joke, but I’m a glass half-full kind of guy. **I’m definitely optimistic about the future, because I believe in people. You’d have to be one cold bastard not to feel a sense of empathy for what’s being done to people. And I think of Killing Joke as a microcosm for the wider world. If us four alpha males can find consensus on anything, that offers hope for wider world. I don’t think there are many other bands whose members still go on holiday together four decades into their career. Rock music at its best is unadulterated liberty, and Killing Joke still stand for freedom. Which is why I’ll keep this band going as long as I’m alive.”

Killing Joke’s new album Pylon is out now via Spinefarm. The band are currently on tour. For full details, see their official website.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.