Jeremy 'Jaz' Coleman; Anti-christ, superstar...

He's not the messiah; he's a very naughty boy...

After our initial interview went completely tits up due to a bad phone-line, I finally get to quiz Jeremy ‘Jaz’ Coleman on all manner of stuff including the Killing Joke tour, his symphonies, new book and (as he’s an ordained priest) theology and the general disrepute of the planet. He sounds rather jovial as I ask about Killing Joke’s Singles Collection, a massive anthology spanning their entire 30 plus year career; the deluxe edition comes with an original cigar tube and cigar wrappers as smoked by Jaz and (the now sadly deceased bassist) Paul Raven. A rather unusual collector’s pack, no? Jaz was under the impression that the cigar wrappers were going to form part of his Letters From Cythera book launch and responds “They’re doing it for the Singles Collection, are they? Fuckin’ toerags! I didn’t even know about that – thanks for telling me! As you can see I don’t really keep up to date with what’s really going on in the world because I don’t use mobile phones normally – this isn’t mine – and I don’t use computers or the internet.” He’s currently in Thailand and for someone who doesn’t use phones or the net, he’s a remarkably well-informed about current events on the world stage.

So aside from the Singles Collection, the band is also looking at a new album? “Yeah. Sure – though you never know when it’s gonna come out; normally it’s always a bit later than we say but I’ll be writing a new Killing Joke album this year with the guys. We try to do one recording a year if possible…” and can you tell me something about The Death and Resurrection Show, the new movie? “That’s going to be at the end of this part of the world tour when we finish in New Zealand; it’s the premier there the night before the Auckland show.” I see the band’s not into biographies, does the movie have much biographical content?  “Sure it does – it’s two and half hours long, it covers a lot of my life but it also has all the earliest footage of Killing Joke and it’s truly about Killing Joke - predominantly I’d say.”

You once said that you saw Killing Joke’s music as a catharsis but what about your own compositions such as Meditations on Compassion with the Prague Chamber Orchestra? This question sends Jaz off on a huge dialogue about several recent tragedies, wage injustices and a variety of other human rights issues and he observes that “the quality of life for so many people on the planet is just dire, and it concerns me a great deal, so I’ve always personally believed that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” So you’re of the Collectivist school of thought? He agrees whole-heartedly, adding “I believe in that passionately but as we’re all aware of the super-elite that shapes conventional wisdom and that owns the information supply, the media and the same people have vested interests with oil and the military/industrial complexes – it’s a depressing state of affairs that needs equilibrium; the balance needs to be redressed because we’re heading towards corporate facism.” And he launches into a well-observed tirade against Obama, Monsanto, the dangers of genetically-modified food and Bill Gates and Bono. It’s pretty hilarious and all the more funny because, as I said, he is very well informed. He concludes “These are very disturbing trends and we go back to the catharsis; that we use Killing Joke as a form of catharsis. You can see this in all our songs from ancient and modern, from Wardance to The Great Cull, and we use Killing Joke to process the darker trends on the planet.” The fact he hasn’t really answered my question in relation to his own work doesn’t seem to matter.

You’re very good at linking facts and apparently unrelated incidents - yet you don’t consider yourself a ‘political creature’ – ever thought about going into politics? Boom! He’s off again taking swipes at politico-musicians including Peter Garrett (“I think he’s an absolute disgrace to Australia,”), Bono and Geldof. He thinks “musicians are a completely negative force when they go into politics,” refuting any desire to go into politics, though he does note “I want to exercise my right to speak freely and without constraint on matters that concern me… so while I have the opportunity to speak freely on issues that concern me, I intend to exercise that. Do I want to go into politics? No, I do not!”

So how will the composition The Island, recently slated for release, compare or connect to Meditations? “Well, The Island’s an old work; you’ve got to bear in mind the history of that particular work,” and he outlines how he was commissioned to do a score for a video-game which led to him booking an entire orchestra and choir, “and as soon as I finished the computer game, I whipped out my new symphony and recorded it for nothing there and then! I’m really proud of it. My mum’s used that particular symphony for cancer healing for the last ten years, quite successfully actually. So that’s an old recording and I decided to put it out with the book,” and Letters will only have a print run of 300, as Jaz puts it “just to teach people the value of things…”

He raised the funds for Letters and The Island via Pledge Music, another fund-raising website, which he wholly endorses, and this leads us into a discussion on record labels, and we laugh as we predict the imminent death of them – viva the revolution and independence…
 Jaz is quite surprised to hear that I accessed quite a few Killing Joke videos from David Icke’s website (“No?! Really?!”) – apparently he is suspected of being a lizard-person/Illuminati, so I ask how Jaz’s investigations into Gnosticism fit in to being an ordained minister. “No problem at all. In the same way there must be numerous Anglican ministers throughout the world that also are a part of various brotherhoods/freemasonry and don’t find it a real problem at all. I don’t have a problem with it at all; the simplest answer for this is that I know my theological history, and I know about the Council of Nicaea, I know about the creation of Jesus the saviour god. Pope Leo X said ‘This Jesus myth has served us well’…” he laughs manically again as he outlines his theories of Yahweh/Jehovah as “the dark aspect of god,” and how “things are kind of reversed and not quite how they’ve been pitched to us.”

So you believe in the inherent godhead within everyone? “I do. As Ghandi pointed out, all men are born equal but I [also] believe that every man and woman has a god-gift or has divine genius, and life is the location of your gift or your genius and the selfless execution of it. I believe in this idea that everyone has a purpose, everyone is born innately gifted. This is really a part of the message of Killing Joke, which is self-educate, like we’ve done. The band all left school before they were 16 but three of us lecture at universities now on different subjects – and with no exams! So I hope that this is the thing that people grab about Killing Joke, that the impossible is possible, that most things are attainable and you don’t have to go the traditional route. I’d like to think that Killing Joke will be remembered for this idea of self-education as our lasting legacy.”

We touch on The Courtauld Talks (1987), Babylonian Stars, the Hebrew alphabet and Killing Joke album covers, on quite a few of which Jaz points out “you’ll see a triple headed serpent…and this triple headed serpent represents Hermes or Mercurius, which is the highest aspect that was revered by the alchemists and we kind of subscribe to hermetic thinking. We were very lucky in Killing Joke because, unlike other bands, when we started Big Paul (Ferguson) and myself were well versed in hermetic lore and Rosicrucian ideas so we had a tradition to fall back on, to aid our learning, so from its outset Killing Joke was a very different band. We started with ceremony. We started with a ritual – and that’s how we found the other two guys and that’s part of the reason why we’re still together 35 years later. I find meaning in it.”

Can you explain the idea of the ‘super-synthesis’ theory outlined in Letters From Cythera? “It’s the idea that we can stretch ourselves in 12 different directions all at once, and I put myself out as a guinea-pig and put myself through the paces and I’m in the process of sharing my results with people, to show how far I got. The thing about the super-synthesis is you choose one opus magnum, a huge work to do, then you chose 12 other non related projects that you’re meant to take to mastery and so I’ve finished pretty much everything and now is the execution of all of these – some of which I’ve done…” he tells me of a collaboration to redesign the didgeridoo “so that it can change key so we can prove to the Australian government that this is a classical instrument – it’s a bit like a trombone, you can transpose it into different keys – this redesigned didgeridoo, it sounds like an absolute death machine – so I’ve done a recording and been developing this.”

He’s looking forward to pimping the revised instrument around Australia when the band tours this week. I’m not sure how it will be received but bloody good luck to him. But time gets away from us and before I know it, time is up – as Jaz puts it “I’d like to say that I have the time to tell you about the other 12 projects that I’ve finished and will be demonstrating over the next 12 months but I don’t really have the time, but there’s masses of them so I’ve been busy trying to stretch myself in lots of different directions all at the same time, with the aim of trying to surprise myself; that I’m capable of doing more things than I thought I was, which is the great thing about the punk attitude; it’s a have-a-go attitude. I wouldn’t have done anything if I didn’t have that punk attitude; I am a conductor, architect, I’m a qualified priest, I’m a composer, I sing in a band, I’m an authority on earth sciences, Masonic history, occult history, there’re are so many different areas to my life that I couldn’t even recount all of them but I owe it all to the University of Punk Rock.”

He cracks up again and offers me the opportunity to carry on the interview at the soundcheck of the Brisbane gig. I know he likes a bit of King Island Cheddar Cheese so I say I’ll bring some. He’s well pleased and concludes with “I’ll bring the Branston Pickle!”
Cheese and crackers, anyone?

Killing joke begin their Australian tour in Brisbane this Thursday, before taking in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.