I'm writing this double column under the spiritual influence of the upcoming Killing Joke gig in Barcelona, on 17th April. Besides the enormous importance the event has in my personal calendar, which would be comparable to a comet capable of causing astral tsunamis and revealing new psychic islands, the band's visit to our city this year is doubly important. On the one hand, it's part of their 2012 Tour, set up as a traveling commemoration in preparation for the end of the world, predicted for this year. It will finish with a festival in New Zealand in December, coinciding with said end. (Jaz Coleman has - correctly, in my humble opinion - interpreted the multiple prophecies and announcements of a cataclysm this year as signs of a change of era, of a global collapse of the economic system and our capitalist civilisation. In his own words: “one would do well to remember that prophecies made over several thousand years ago are simply intuitive 'scans' into significant future events affecting the human race”).
The other important element is that, according to the band's astral chart, every visit they make to Spain coincides with a new war somewhere in the world. This, according to Coleman, is a good thing, because it contributes to the acceleration of History and its collapse.
If you read the previous paragraph and don't know Killing Joke, you might think - quite understandably - that they're the most pretentious and egocentric band in the history of rock. The only thing I can say is that it's true and not true. Or, better said: it would be, if Killing Joke really were a rock band.
To say that Killing Joke are a rock band is a statement that is both excessive and inadequate. On the one hand, as my friend Tomás Nochteff says, they're the best rock band in the world. On the other hand, to define them as a rock band is like saying Jesus Christ was a masochist Jew, or that Charles Manson was a failed actor from the 60s. As befits a band who, when they started, set the establishment of a new Renaissance as one of their goals, the music is just one element (an important one, but not necessarily central) in the unique synthesis they've been developing for over thirty years. Their work is somewhere between political activism, economic and ecologic investigation, alternative agriculture, mysticism, occult philosophy and ritual neo-tribalism. In fact, one of their most striking characteristics as a band is that they hardly ever talk about music, as if it weren't one of their main interests. In one of the few interviews I've read in which he goes deeper into that topic, Jaz Coleman says about the foundation of his group:“We rejected ALL blues music as musical communism, because it was a musical form from a foreign land and not our country of origin. We would ask ourselves these questions on what an Anglo-Saxon rhythm is, so Killing Joke came out of fierce debate like this. (…) The drums were always considered the royal instrument. Big Paul drew from Celtic tradition on drums, and we meant to reinvent and establish modern tribal drums of an Anglo-Saxon style – so in many respects we were almost writing our own folk music, because England has no real folk tradition.”
"We can discuss
the various stages
of magic from
to Wicca, to
to Chaos Magick
– and have strong
opinions about all
of these things!"
Between forming a band with three friends and building the folk tradition your country has neglected, I think the second objective is much more praiseworthy, and definitely more Jaz Coleman-like. Talking about the moment he and Big Paul Ferguson were looking for two other musicians to complete the original KJ line-up, Coleman specifies that: “Not only do they have to be innovative musicians but also great philosophers. They have to understand the mystery tradition, understand the foundations that we believed in – which was, at the time, a very magical foundation – Rosicrucian-based, to be precise. And the only way to find them was to actually prepare a ceremony, a ritual, to find the other two members of the band – which is what happened. And we found them within 10 days of performing that ritual!” The result, even though the original KJ disbanded in the 80s and only reunited at the end of the past decade as a result of the death of their bassist at the time, is a group of renaissance men that has survived until today. Says Coleman: “I don’t find any other musicians capable of sitting ‘round a table, and going from a in-depth discussion on world politics, geopolitics, moving to poetry, reciting it from memory, moving to earth science, moving to theology, philosophy, or surrealism in art, you name it – all of us can move with great ease in all these areas. We can discuss the various stages of magic from Shamanism, to Wicca, to Hermeticism, to Rosicrucianism, to Illuminism, to Chaos Magick – and have strong opinions about all of these things! My bandmates can discuss any political system on planet Earth, and they’ve had first-hand experience in all of it.”
To catalogue the activities the KJ members have been involved with over the past thirty years would be as extensive a job as it would be sterile. For instance, Big Paul Ferguson's restoration of works of art, Paul ‘Youth’ Glover's mainstream pop productions, and Coleman's symphonic compositions and direction of philharmonic orchestras. During what would be the first in a long series of epiphanic redefinitions of his own identity - Jaz Coleman moved to Iceland in 1982, following certain geomantic (and biblical) indications that the island was one of the safest places to spend the end of the world. There, he found the Snaefellsjokull glacier; where Jules Verne situated the entrance to the centre of the Earth, and one of the sources of the planet's astral field, planetary chakras and points of primary force. In Iceland, Coleman and Geordie Walker did several kinds of magic experiments, trying for example to create artificial sounds that were as powerful as the trumpets that brought down the walls of Jericho. Coleman also started to study international finance there, and he decided to become a classical music composer, two things he financed with the profits from Killing Joke. It started a dynamic in which KJ worked as a “bank” for a series of activities, going from the acquisition of a private army (sic) to the creation of self-controlling farming communities in remote places.
"I want to make
Killing Joke into
an order. I want
to make our value
like the villages
and the farms."
Today, the farming communities are the centre of KJ's activism. They're two hamlet projects with sustainable resources, or eco-hamlets, the first of which has already been set up on an island in the Pacific (the second one will be in Chile). Community and sustainability are the two pillars of a project based on Coleman's geoscientific studies, which, among other things, led him to get involved with the question of overpopulation and resources. He became an avid defender of permaculture and the return to farming, the creation of regional governments that control population and the construction of self-controlling communities - more or less according to the model of nineteenth-century anarchism. All that, orientated towards one of the central concepts of his philosophy, which he calls the Resurrection of Nature (“Yes I Believe We Can Turn It Around!” he yells elatedly in “Millenium”). The idea, says Coleman, is that: “If each village, each community became self-reliant, then the whole planet will take care of itself. I do believe this. I believe in mass re-planting, the re-pollination of the planet, and the restoration of the biosphere, amen! I believe we can clean every river and we should mark every nuclear site and warn our descendants. […] Then you stop using petrol dollars and every village becomes a republic, as Gandhi said.”
The most fabulous thing is how, in KJ's philosophy, permaculture, free energy, and the concepts of geoscience (along with the opposition to the global economic system), go hand in hand with the traditions of the occult and magic. This becomes apparent in many of their lyrics, like on the marvellous “The Raven King”, where political criticism unites with the myths of Pagan Britain, to form a battle anthem that can be read from both viewpoints: “The raven’s flown and left the tower / And Albion feels all abandoned / A desecrated cenotaph – surveillance state and waning choices / Guarded by warriors we knew / Guided by our ancestral voices / Let flags of black and red unfurl / Echoes of distant laughter / Confederation of the dispossessed / Fearing neither God nor master / (…) Spirit of resistance haunt us once again / Your restless call for this defiance / Let sorrow turn to anger in your name / Carpe nocturna, seize the night now.” Cultural studies and investigations driven by the renaissance spirit to unite science and spirituality, mathematics and poetry; but also study and action, transformative practice, a regeneration plan for the world. Megalomania, say those criticising them. A will for totality, in any case. Or, in the words of Coleman: “Killing Joke is a way of living. In fact, I want to take it one stage further. I want to make Killing Joke into an order. I want to make our value system into something tangible, like the villages and the farms.”
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