JAZ COLEMAN (KILLING JOKE): “We Have A Stark Choice Between Dialogue And Diplomacy Or Extinction”

KILLING JOKE (Live at Northumbria University, Newcastle, U.K., November 4, 2018)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Killing Joke have been shaking the foundations of the establishment for over four decades with their uncompromising, unique style with encompasses Hard Rock, Punk, Industrial, Post Punk, Pop and Dance combined with biting social commentary and with the same lineup that cut their debut EP all those years ago, there’s few who can match them. Showing now signs of sliding into a graceful retirement, their current Lords Of Chaos EP sees them in typically fire and brimstone form. Mick Burgess called up irrepressible frontman Jaz Coleman to talk about returning to the road after the pandemic and their first new music in almost 7 years.

How have you been over the last couple of years?

I was in Mexico and I got extremely ill and nearly died. I’m now in a fearless state and everyday is a bonus as I was so close to death. I heard them say that we had lost a patient and then I went into a coma. I lost 30-40% of my body weight. I came back to the UK for two weeks and because I’ve been out of the country for over 30 years, I’m not eligible for any treatment so I had to pay but they diagnosed my condition and I started to get better. I’ve slowly put weight back on, exercised and have eaten healthily and am now managing Type 1 diabetes, which they think that I got as a result of the shock of Covid.

You have been living in Prague in the Czech Republic in the recent past. It’s a little close for comfort to the conflict in the Ukraine. How do you feel about that?

We are at a stage in geopolitical affairs where we have a stark choice between dialogue and diplomacy or extinction. I have a home in Prague and another 400 miles from the Ukrainian border so I’m right there in the middle of it all. I know I should be there now where it’s all kicking off, on the front-line making music. Prague is Killing Joke central. It’s an incredible City. I haven’t been back there though since the lockdown as I got so smitten with Central and South America when we toured there that I just stayed. I’ve lived in Peru for a while then moved to Mexico. I’ve had homes all over the place. We have safe houses everywhere, so when Raven went missing once we had a good idea where he’d be. The great thing about Killing Joke is the fans that we call, The Gathering. You can go anywhere in the world and you know there’ll be a friendly face. We have so much more than a fan club, we have a community. They helped each other during the lockdown. Killing Joke’s Gatherers are exemplary.

Have you played any shows since the lockdown was lifted?

We did a year of touring until two months before the lockdown and we haven’t done anything since our UK tour will be our first shows in over two years.

Talking of touring you’ll be over in the UK for 12 date tour starting in Cardiff on 28th March. You must be looking forward to playing throughout the UK again?

Our first show is in Cardiff? I’ve learned something new today. I have a habit of never, ever knowing where I’m going when it comes to touring. I get on the plane and the bus and go wherever it takes me. I never know what day of the week is unless the shops are shut and I can go for months and months and I don’t even know what month it is.

Have you started preparing for the tour yet?

Today is going to be the first day of Killing Joke’s rehearsals but not everybody is here yet. Someone has missed a flight. It’s the usual absolute chaos that surrounds this unmanageable band. We don’t even what the set list is. This band has it’s own way of bringing everything together so you just have to go with it. With Killing Joke, it goes in its own way at its own speed. There’s four strong individuals who are in the habit of saying “no” all the time. When you finally get them all together, where these personalities rub and grate against each other and it locks in, then it does something that no other band does. That’s it really, you just have to go along with it. It’s normal before a tour.

Have you spoken with each other during your time off the road?

Nobody talks to each other although I do speak to Youth but that’s it. It just all builds up and it explodes. It’s all mad. I call Killing Joke, my nest of vipers.

Are you playing anywhere that you have played before on this tour?

I’m playing my home town in Cheltenham for the first time ever. We’re doing a warm up gig there. The last time the original band was in Cheltenham was when we started the band and that is a long time ago, back in 1979. I hope everyone comes round to my family home to have some tea at my Mum’s.

You must be looking forward to getting back out and playing live again?

A big invitation to everybody to come to Killing Joke to see us play. Any one can come to the sound check too if they can get down in time as we still have that policy. It’s going to be great for everyone to come together and have this shared experience, an elevated consciousness and all good people together. It’s a great relief to be amongst amazing people in the same room. It’s like being in my front room with all my friends.

Geordie, your bassist is from up North, from Chester-Le-Street. The show at the Boiler Shop in Newcastle on 5th April will be something of a homecoming show for him.

Geordie is indeed a Geordie and every time we go to Newcastle all his family turn up and I can’t understand a word they say. He has all these strange words like “Hoying clemmies” What’s that all about? I love Newcastle. I never get to go up North enough. Not living in the UK makes you love the country all the more. I think British people are absolutely wonderful. I just love how they laugh. I miss the people when I’m away.

You have just released your Lords Of Chaos EP. This seems particularly relevant to current events?

We did that in a day or two to try and capture the zeitgeist which I think we’ve done very well. The chorus “Flash points everywhere and everybody’s scared” was actually written before this thing happened with Russia but there are flash points everywhere there’s the Korean Peninsula, India/Pakistan, India/China, Taiwan and there’s Iran and Israel. There’s so many flash points across the world and now the Ukraine. Then you think of our defense systems that are run by artificial intelligence. What could possibly go wrong?

Was this part of a writing session for a new album or just a one-off EP?

When do we not write? We never stop. There is a new album in the pipeline and we’ll keep working on new material until we have enough material to record and then when the time is right, we’ll put out a new album.

What are your plans for the rest of the year and do you have any projects on the go outside of Killing Joke?

We’ll work on new songs and work towards our next album and hopefully next year go out on a World Tour so long as we haven’t been nuked by then. Then again, I’ve been saying that since 1980 and we’re still here so hopefully, we will do a World Tour next year.

Killing Joke’s UK Tour starts on 28th March in Cardiff. See killingjoke.co.uk for more details.

Killing Joke’s new EP, Lords Of Chaos, is out now.

Interview and Photo By Mick Burgess.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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