I had waited a long time for this moment....... On a barmy summers evening in 1983, not too far from Exeter incidentally, I was introduced to Killing Joke's music by a very cool lad from London, I cant remember which borough, but hey it was London and I was 15 and not cool.
From that moment on i was hooked. I learnt every lyric of every song on their then newly released album 'Fire Dances' and being a keen (but rubbish bass player), tried to perfect all of Paul Ravens' monumental bass parts with varying degrees of success. Well, I had to try because I had convinced myself that I would one day have to take over from him on bass at an important gig due to him being locked in the venues broom cupboard (obviously, nothing to do with me!).
Fast forward to tonight at the Lemon Grove in Exeter and I'm late....very Late. Late for an interview with lead singer and driving force of Killing Joke, Jaz Coleman. Now he is not known for his love of journalists and stories of interviews gone seriously wrong with the great man are giving me serious doubts as to whether I will be granted access to him at all or come out in one piece so I feel lucky to have my long time best friend and KJ fan, Logan Jenkins by my side. He is far handier than me.
As we approach the venue we hear the strains of 'Love Like Blood', the bands biggest hit to date
being sound-checked, just follow the sound I thought, knowing now that they too were running late! Yay me.
We finally made it into the venue, via the back door, to be greeted by possibly the kindest road crew I have ever met, ushering us into the hall and being invited to sit on a number of flight cases to watch the rest of soundcheck. The opening bars of 'Pssyche' and 'The Wait' were being put through their paces as was, surreally, a very quick version of 'Oh Well' by Fleetwood Mac!
Well this was it....with many questions on screwed up bits of paper in my pocket and a dry mouth, we were summoned to an office.
Jay is sitting behind a desk nursing what looks like an empty coffee cup and on getting up, greets us with such warmth and affection that I'm completely dumbstruck as he takes my hand and shakes it with all the fondness of an old friend. It's at this point I realize that the screwed up paper on which my questions are written is actually a shopping list reminding my to buy ham, cheese and batteries. I think I might actually be sick....
'How did soundcheck go? I ask somewhat lamely. He tells me something along the lines of it not being great and someone in the band not playing a right note but it should be a great gig none the less. God, I hope I can remember some of the sodding questions as I'll be asking if he is enjoying his coffee next! Still, I needn't have worried because at this point he leant forward and started to talk. And I mean talk! He confided that he and guitarist Geordie Walker had had a pretty shit year so far so were looking forward to playing to basically shake off the demons. Now there were moments when he would spin off into such subjects as covert Government conspiracy theories and concerns for citizens metadata being used for nefarious reasons where he would seem consumed with a mixture of rage and upset and then within seconds be fondly telling us of his love of classical composing and his imminent induction as a Knight of France.
Jaz also talks of his pro European stance:
'You know, my father was brought up on bread and dripping and he knew what poverty was from the Great Depression, so he always lived in fear of this. He raised me as a Pro-European because of the fear we could all turn on each other like there was in the last two World Wars and in this way I am Pro-European, not from any market idea or of federalism because you only have to travel to China to Russia or America to understand how much we have in common in Europe.
For Killing Joke, the punk ethos still holds firm as Jaz explains:
The thing about being in a band, is it's just not about whether you're successful, it's about the whole damned shared experience! When you think about punk, everybody was in a band, no matter how shit they were, it's making a sound and contributing to what basically is a counter culture, you know? Who wants to work in fucking office in this life!? It makes us feel lucky to be born when we were and with that punk philosophy, it's enabled us, as a band to go on without fear of failure
When I read that the guy who won 'Architecture of the Year' award hadn't even gone to college, he was a huge inspiration to me. So I designed my own house, then I got a structural engineer round to make sure it wouldn't fall down and kill anyone and then I put it up! And that makes me an architect! Get fucked! Bang! there go your exams, and fuck you university! this is the university of Joke!
And then Jaz lets out the most wonderfully infectious laugh, which given the scope of bleak and apocalyptic subjects we had covered over the course of our chat was a real cause for delight
On the current state of Killing Joke......
We're getting the hang of each other now, (laughs loudly) I think we're getting the best out of each other now and it's only now that we are getting the hang of all this, even when we fall out, each and every band member knows exactly what we're doing.
Jaz at this point bangs the table as if to bring the chat to an end and it's only then that I realise there are many other people waiting outside to interview him.... We thanked Jaz for his time and left him to chat to the other 'journos'.
Interview by Roger Wells and Logan Jenkins