Justin Broadrick of Godflesh: Australia bound

Birmingham: "it’s a shit rolled in glitter!"

I’m listening to A World Lit Only by Fire, the new Godflesh album, as I put this interview with Justin Broadrick piece together – and it (the album, and hopefully the article) is fucking banging - which is rather fortunate as the band will be hitting our shores for the first time ever when they come for Soundwave 2015.

Despite some initial Skype teething problems, I get a connection with Justin, who has only just arisen even though it’s nearly midday in the UK – he had a bit of a late night; beast that he is. So what’s it like to be tagged as a founding father of industrial metal? The faint twang of a Birmingham accent is still apparent as he jauntily replies “It’s alright! It’s not bad – I wasn’t crazy about the term originally but now I’ve started to think that it is an appropriate term….” He starts to talk about the early days of Godflesh but the Skype connection goes all farty for a minute or so and I miss what he’s saying. Still, we push on…

Given the diversity of your musical influences (Justin is a huge dub fan), is it difficult to refine and limit the number of influences that you allow to seep into the music that you’re creating? “Yes and no; I do a lot of projects other than Godflesh so I have a lot of avenues to explore the different sides of my influences and different inspirations but with Godflesh, we’ve been around long enough to have a pretty good idea of our direction and what we want to achieve. Everything goes into the melting pot but as you say, dub reggae and dub is a big influence on the music I make and you can still hear it in Godflesh, even if it’s just as subtle as the use of echo and delay on the voice.” He’s quite enamoured with my suggestion that he slips in some Lee Scratch Perry samples into the next album and he reflects that there may well be some reggae samples in the early Godflesh back catalogue.

So was it difficult to get back into the Godflesh mindset after the Jesu and Greymachine projects? Justin pours out his enthusiasm: “I was really excited to get back to Godflesh, I was really excited to get back to that form of expression with the music that has that more aggressive angle. Initially, because I’d spent nearly as much time doing Jesu as I had on Godflesh, at first it felt a bit scary, we weren’t even sure if we could even do this. When me and the other half of Godflesh [GC Green] got together with our machines again, we booked a load of rehearsal time thinking ‘Oh man, this is going to take forever’ and within about two days it felt like we were back to where we left off. It was so immediate; in terms of us playing together we were shocked – we were playing some songs that we’d not even played since the late eighties and we knew them off by heart! It was shocking! When we formed Godflesh we were pretty young – I was 18 or 19 – and by the time Godflesh finished I was about 33 and it was so much a part of our early years so I think it’s just ingrained in us, y’know what I mean? It was really easy to go back to it.”

Given that it’s taken four years, since reforming in 2010, to release the new album; how come you also released the EP Decline & Fall (April 2014) six months before A World Lit Only by Fire (Oct 2014)? “It took a long time to build up to these new records; we reformed and played our first reunion show in 2010, and it took a good year and a half of playing shows before I even started writing new material. I had loads of ideas but I didn’t want to put them to paper; I was really enjoying just getting off on playing live Godflesh again. But then towards the backend of 2012 I was like ‘Right, I’m gonna start writing music and getting this stuff down’ and we accumulated that much music and recorded it all in one big space of time that basically we had a lot of songs. I liked the order of the album but we had these few other songs and we thought ‘This should be an EP’ so we got really excited about the idea that after such a long wait we could come back with new records and give people a good bombardment of a nice EP and follow it up literally months later with an album.” He explains that “Ironically our sole intention of reforming was to make new music really, initially we just wanted to play a few shows and enjoy the thrill of being Godflesh again.”

He recounts the horror that was the first show since reforming. “There were a big load of technical difficulties – it wasn’t our fault! Basically we played a big festival in France and a generator blew up just before we started playing so we had a load of technical issues and it really put us off. It was a real shit because so many people had travelled to this show from across the world to see the reformation so it really put us off and upset us. We were like ‘Oh shit, we’ve really upset our fans who have travelled across the world for this’ but then the next show we did was in our old home town of Birmingham in the UK and that was such a success that we then started to roll out festival shows and it was brilliant.”

Returning to the new album he says “I had loads of concepts but I wanted to sit on them for a bit; I didn’t want to rush them; a lot of bands reform and they immediately get an album out in the first year of their existence to capitalise on their popularity but I really wanted to work on the new material and give it some time to breathe and make sure that we came with material that we were really 100 per cent happy with. We didn’t rush the material. A lot of bands who have reformed - over a three or four year period they’ve already released two or three albums…hopefully we can come with new records a lot more frequently now that we’ve done this.  We set ourselves a really high standard and I’m proud of the back catalogue and I didn’t want to rush anything; all the way from the writing, the riffs, the beats, the production – even to the way it was presented.”

So what can Australian fans expect for the Godflesh Soundwave set? “This is our first ever time in Australia and our first ever tour because next year, what we’re doing, is going out and playing the new album mostly, but we don’t want to come to Australia for the first time and only play new music so I think what we’re gonna do is come and play mostly ‘the classics’ I think…with a few new songs. I think that’s the best way we can do it because we want to give Australian fans, who’ve never seen us, a chance to hear a good portion of our back catalogue.” He ponders the length of the set before adding “I know we’re gonna do some club shows too so we can do a good hour then, I’m sure. I think we’re gonna do two minimum, four maximum sideshows so hopefully that will give us a chance to play a good 60 or 70 minutes and give Australian fans a good, full set as well. But if we’re playing 45 minutes then we’ll probably do two songs off the new album and then a few classics off of every record.” As I’m Justin’s first Australian interview for the day, that’s an exclusive, right there, mister…

We touch on Birmingham, Justin’s hometown (although he moved away 20 years ago) and we end up using the polished turd/glitter analogy before I ask my last question about what he hasn’t done musically that he’d like to have a go at. “I’d really like to score a film. I’ve never had the opportunity to do the entire soundtrack for a film and I’d love to do that – my music doesn’t get used that much in film anyway.” So what sort of movie? “I’m not really sure but obviously with my music it would have to be something pretty dark and depressing! I don’t think it’d be a rom-com – well, you never know – I’d do a rom-com, if I had to! It would have to be a fucking dark rom-com though, wouldn’t it?! Without a happy ending…”
I tell him I’ll promote his desire to do a film score and he promises me a good percentage/cut if he gets to do one. Everyone’s a winner. A charming fellow in a sweet band with an awesome new album. Justin Broadrick and Godflesh.