LORD OF THE FLIES …….only on a bus.
“When a band is on tour, the descent in to childish savagery and bizarre rituals is a bit like Lord Of The Flies, only on a bus.” Christian Brett
This wonderfully insightful quote was sent to me about a week ago and had me roaring with laughter, broke my melancholy and dissolved the claustrophobic atmosphere on our tour bus, humour ( As any road hardened vet will attest ) is the cure to almost all ailments whilst on the road. Also camouflages the pain and loneliness of the long distance road runner. Best served dry, like a summons.
Reminds me of another great quote, this time from David Gilmore on why he hired, Guy Pratt, one of my oldest and funniest friends, to replace Roger Waters in Pink Floyd… ” Good bass players are ten a penny, but a good sense of humour is hard to find ”
Very quickly we descend into the realms of the super ego melodrama, demented child-kings, bombastic truculence combined with vinegar bitter arrogance, where the trivial becomes the great significator of the profound.
It is our good fortune that we find we have some very quick and sharp witted minds on board, not withstanding the dark and bible black gallows humour of the band itself. We have a good spectrum of humour from the absurd and insane antics of the crew to some very dry ironic and insightful moments from Captain Johnny.
One of the best journeys was driving through the Alps to Italy from France through the night. Everyone had gone to sleep , i put some ambient epic on loud in the back lounge, turned the lights low and fired a small one up , stuck my head out of the roof porthole and dissolved into the valleys and mountain peaks, not a even a shave of the moon, the stars were very bright , tiny explosions between the cathedral clouds. Vast whale banks of mist glided bellow us, close enough to touch as we climbed up the into the mountains .Everything went Herman Hesse “Journey to the East” meets “The sound of music” and once more it really felt like a star fated quest and an nobel adventure that we were embarked on.
The waterfalled valley wind sung through the groaning bus …… the sound of madrigals on wing.
The next morning fish-tailed, fur-hoofed and with air-con dry, sandpaper lips we giddy off the bus, blinking into the bright Italian alpine morning sunshine.
Vast amounts of spring blossom was gently sailing through the sky, spiralling round like wild confetti horses……mmmmm another day.
Italy was good but all the venues were out of town, so no art or culture vulture action in Rome or Florence or many international gatherers but…… good gigs, great food, great conversation and greater people .In Milan, the most amazing looking crowd, young slick designer punk, model looking women with an industrial Si/Fi goth icy look, some immaculately groomed beautiful people.
Zurich and Vienna were good also and sunshine came out for us.
We had a long band meeting and made some band decisions, most of which would be denied, changed or ignored within a few days.
There are not many windows on our bus and you can go for days without seeing any sunlight and your feet hardly touch the floor. Reality becomes suspended between the twilight zone of performance and soundcheck.People start spinning out
In Munich i left an electric razor in the hotel bathroom, within an hour they had delivered it by hand to me personally at the gig venue…..wow, i cannot think of another country where that would happen.
I was dreading Dortmond where we were playing a metal festival that Saxon were headlining “we’ve hit a new all time low” i lament and i seriously started to question why we, why i was there? A long way from home from my art/punk vision of what it is i’m doing as an artist. Saxon opened their set with a cover of “Love like blood” sadly Jaz was on the way back to the hotel before he could hear Biff’s homage!
However the day was interesting and entertaining and Philip Boa was on and that was great.
My pre-show DJ set made my day, i had made this one up for Germany and it features only classic German 70s krautrock music, bit like taking coals to Newcastle as there was a sea of blank expressions from the packed audience as the ambient drones of Harmonia wafted across the field, except for one guy in a Neu! t-shirt, who was jumping around in ecstasy throughout. By the time i got to Moroder’s classic “I feel love ” they were throughly confused but were so up for their big day even the Iron Maiden denim mullet crew had started dancing.
Musically we are tightening up into a looser groove, the psychedelic is getting more pronounced with Geordies subtle manipulations of tried and tested riffs morphing into many psychedelic colours and now i am adding more funkadelic to the bass……..the music is starting to weave its magic .
Diamond Dave had stroke of genius and has added a small guitar amp to my rig so i can get that early sledgehammer krunch and …..bass distortion feedback ! Also there are more women in the crowd… after the London show a friend had remarked that her girlfriend has said the gig felt “better than sex”….. Not only that on another night a very attractive girl told me before the show that the bass on some songs brings her to orgasm ….Yea! Now were hitting the sweet spot !
Which reminds me….
Still a lot of wildebeest low wailing feed back on stage from Geordies semi acoustic Gibson, although some of it, the intentional bits, sound stella but theres a lot going on that is just not supposed to be there….he blames hollow stages…. !
I shudder to think what it would sound like with an SG or Les Paul…. it would rip your throat out !
Me and Geordie have been blasting the tunes in the back of the bus loud in to the night, the bus has a great pounding sound system which drowns out the sound of the air-con fans and the traffic, lots of Trance and from X Dream to Deadmaus, classics like Funkadelic, ZZ Top, John Bonham , Scratch and even Bad Company.
Tom, our drum tech and myself would play DJ ping pong, we would have Doom rock/Black metal vs Stoner rock battles , Gogoroth to Floor, the drone rock of Om and Earth, Sleep to Kyuss.
Both Big Paul and Jaz are now really digging Om ….and some bubbling Berlin minimal techno and of course the Krautrock or its correct title “Komiche ” is working well racing up the Autobahn, great to see Geordie slapping his knees and hollering in deep pleasure, like a cross between Hank Williams and Chuck Berry.
A lazy Beltain moon hanging low, deep dark amber gold crowning the oil refineries glow on the horizon whilst autobahn neon lights strobe past. Mein Gott its a vibe!
Being on tour also affords the opportunity for long conversations and many shared story telling. Subjects range from music, poetry, Beethoven, Napoleon, painting, art and politics, serial killers, death, religion, free love, surrealism, art and outsider art , art nouveux,Tantric philosophies , Kali, Buddhist philosophy, impermanence, fine wine, european beer , french cheese and the first and last of all the mystery’s …..girls.
This has been a great pleasure, in between drinking pints of tea, reading dozens of books, the storytelling is a greatest reward.
On touring, Jaz likes the build up and focus of the gigs and the no responsibility of it all, the way everything is done for you and you wake up in a different city every day.
Big Paul is struggling, pacing around the dressing room like a caged tiger, not used to be around so many people for so long.
Geordie has reduced his needs to a military functionality whilst on tour, even his braces have been adapted with special clips that don’t come off, although they do play havoc with airport security scanners!
Despite Jaz and Geordie complaining a lot, my favourite of Geordie’s is ” How can we fly like eagles when we are surrounded by turkeys? ” or ” Basically i am a working class snob” by way of explanation for his grumbling about the band and a multitude of other things, unfortunately being a snob isn’t exclusive to posh aristocrats and is rarely a good thing, wherever your from …..it’s where your at thats important.
You can see they love this life on the road, they have done it for so long, its all they know….. This is “Home” for them and they adjust easily to the pace, for me and Paul its a lot harder.
The factious Mick and Keef dynamic between Jaz and Geordie is common in a lot of great bands, usually between the guitarist and vocalist. Not to be avoided, as it is an essential part of the “chemistry” but it can lead to some serious mistakes (and terrible albums) as the super egos strive for power domination, they can leave a scorched earth policy of artistic suicide and commercial sabotage and without some serious conflict resolution within the circle of the band…. a split up band. This is of course a primary role of the “producer” and i know it well, again i find myself in this archetype within the band, even though my official role is just the bass player…. often it is a no win situation….caught between a rock and a hard place.
The one philosophy/politik we do all agree on is that of nuclear energy and weapons being mankind’s most insane behaviour. The sleeve of the new album, with the skull and industrial meltdown, i think captures what the hidden meaning of all our work is, the imminent extinction of the human race unless we radically change the way we live on this planet. For me that means the inevitable return of paganism and the unilateral dismantling of all nuclear power stations and weapons.Yet It seems we are only united by our eagerness to be deceived by appearances. The Uk has plans for another ten and in the USA hundreds, its very eyry and hard to believe there have been over 3000 nuclear explosions including tests over the last 40 years. And yet i constantly hear intellectuals , politicians on TV accepting this as a viable cheap energy.Watch this very scary animation for the point to be made fully
“The wise Gods seal our eyes;
In our own filth drop our clear judgements;
make us adore our errors;
laugh at us while we strut
to our confusion”
We are supposed to be going to Japan for a concert and Jaz will conduct an interview at the Fukushima reactor site.The fact that those rods are still in meltdown and the only thing the authorities can do is pour water on them, thus contaminating the sky through radioactive steam and the sea from the wash off …until they develop new technology to stop the meltdown ! How crazy is that?
Surely our leaders and the executives of these nuclear energy companies should be arrested and put on trial for crimes against humanity of the most horrific nature? Surely that would be what a sane society would do…..?
Hamburg is always a great gig, in the day i want to the port docks and saw The Queen Mary 2 glide into the vast automated harbour, that is still littered with unexploded bombs from the war. Her deep and epic foghorn blasting out like some pagan Viking horn. Awesome ship, the biggest liner in the world. I like Hamburg….Full of sailors, dancing girls, freaks and lots of music…..it’s not hard to imagine what it was like when the Beatles played here for up to 6 hours a night in the 1950’s, it’s wild now but must have been really amazing then.
Missing my kids like mad, good talking to them every day, they had me in tears yesterday. I am questioning again why am i touring this long ?
Berlin aaahhh such a great city, warm memories from the late 70’s when we first came here, like a European New York but even more decadent…. listening to “The Idiot” by Iggy which sums up the time for me, decadent and feral and very sexy, 24 hour bars , 7 am and the place is rockin’ with freaks and transvestites…. Wayne County and Iggy Pop smacked out in the back room, Bowie glides past like a ghost. The people are fantastic here very laid back and uber cool.
I meet up with friends at this great Rasta beach bar round the corner by the river , real sand and 30 degree sun ….perfect…and great to see our former KJ keyboard wizz Nick Walker, who laughs as he recounts the day when he first accepted the Killing joke gig, he had just put his neck out and went to see an osteopath, the first number in yellow pages he found.When he got there he had his treatment and then was talking to the therapist and mentioned he was about to embark on a tour with KJ when she dropped her tray in horror, she was the wife of the previous keyboard player who had just left the band after being set on fire on stage by Jaz , again…..it wasn’t the first time !
Thats one huge coincidence, what are the chances of that happening!
I asked him what he thought the value of Killing Joke was …he swiftly replied “Nourishment” I considered this and said “What… like emotional manure?” he thought about it “Yes in a way” and in a positive sense that is what this band is about, bringing out those repressed emotions, transforming the pain and intensity of life along with the futility of existence into something with meaning and purpose, its brave and has a fearless warrior energy….. it is about creating your own mythology, it is something dark with a deep pale root that allows and encourages new growth, new beginnings ….. like a seed that needs to go through fire to germinate.
The Berlin show surpassed all the others apart from Paris and we left the city on a good high for the long drive to Belgium……not long to go now .
Gent is a beautiful medieval city with the best food this side of Lyon.I catch a harp player playing a celtic harp in the cathedral, stunning atmosphere really enchanted i also saw the Van Eyck bros epic painting ” The Mystic Lamb” which i have copied many times from books and prints but never seen in the flesh, wow it is special i lose myself into it .
As i leave i reflect on how this tour has become a kind of pilgrimage for me and share this with Paul later, he felt the same and said how he had lit a candle in the same cathedral that day for his father who died only a few months ago.
The show was emotional as we say our goodbyes to our support bands The Icarus line and the Crying Spell. Both bands have been great companions on our big adventure and received very warm responses from our audience every night especially in Germany and we wish them a lot of success for the future.
We also lose some of crew, Terry and Pedda, our work experience runners, the Laurel and Hardy of the team who have had to endure the most flack from the band members, My advice to them on working with KJ at the beginning was “Leave your dignity at the door ” and “Afterwards everything else will be easy”. They have had one huge adventure and are wide eyed and bushy tailed as they prepare to return back home to Bristol the next day, no longer mere inexperienced kids …..now they have well earned their sovereign crown and return home…. almost men.
Also leaving is Dean our Merchandise guy who has been the most fun to hang with, always positive never, loses his rag, a charmer , popular with all the girls and always very helpful and very very funny.
Sad to lose these guys but we now fly into the last 2 shows, one in Finland the other Poland and they have to return with the tour bus to the UK…… Still more ego’s clash and melodramas unfold on our bus of lost souls. Geordie wants to blow out Japan and is demanding we record in New Zealand pronto or he doesn’t see the point in continuing the band, i see Paul wince and head for his bunk followed by Jaz and finally an emotionally exhausted me.
In Helsinki tempers flare as equipment breaks down, Paul throws his sticks down in disgust…. Jaz doesn’t want to do “Love like blood” as his voice is croaky, i remind him in Poland that that wouldn’t have stopped him in the early Post-punk days, he grunts approval and we do a five song, including hits encore , a fitting way to end a great tour ……leaving the legacy intact.
When i talk to some of the fans after the shows, its clear that for some of them we are the best band in the world and that was one of their best shows but this is the biggest problem…….Jaz is such a great frontman he doesn’t have to do much to get a rapt response, yet on occasion when he does engage with the audience, when he really gets in their face, talks to them directly…then….. it gets really good, Paul is pretty consistent and as we have progressed he is drinking more, shots before the show and also playing more relaxed which makes the groove that much more sexy..You still get a pummelling with him Thor-ing down every night. And ” Big leggie” Geordie ….ice cool , even a bottle of tequila down he still provides sparks of lightning through the hum and drone of excessive delay and feedback , swaggering effortlessly with his gunslinger hips, his panache owning the stage, firing riffs with nonchalance and a menacing grin…..like Clint Eastwood meets Alexander the Great.
Then theres me kicking the earth with my hoof’s, summoning an invisible avalanche of sub bass warping through our bodies, making mistakes and revealing in them, out of my comfort zone… grinning but trying hard not too.
It is a great pleasure and honour to play with these legends …..still vast potential lies ahead….perhaps?
I had bought a Lilly plant for the bus in Barcelona , it sweetened the male aroma of our cock-heavy bus and i have diligently and lovingly watered her for 2 weeks but now looks tired and worn out all the flowers have withered and the branches hang limp in the stale atmosphere of the bus…..This tour has gone long enough, its time to go home
Despite the beauty and variety of Europe, coming home to England in the beginning of May is a wonderful moving experience, nothing and nowhere can match the abundant verdant beauty of England at this time of the year even when its raining, the magic here has a deep and dark root….Green upon green and all shades in between, its simply stunning. Even london is a joy, full of energy and opportunity and teaming with some of the most pretty yet insolent and edgy women in the world….Yes i feel very privileged to be home, feel like i have been in an enforced exile. I love being in Killing Joke and i love my brothers in the band, i won’t be giving up on her yet, we have travelled way to far and for too long to even consider it, even though it feels like i am stuck in some kind of Fitzcaraldo nightmare…… hauling a grand piano up the Amazon to build an opera house in the middle of nowhere where no one is listening….
Sometimes…..I do know the value and respect its magic, it is still worth something and what i learn and get for from it , even though hard to describe is worth all the struggle and turbulence that comes with it .
At some of the gigs Killing Joke it still feels like i am in the best band in the world, maybe the last of its kind, and with the best audience, the atmosphere is unlike any other band i have experienced, a great tribal celebration, polar contradictions unite …..inclusive, exclusive….. inviting and menacing. Authentic and theatrical. Primitive, poetic and relevant. Dangerous yet strangely attractive.
A ferocious and cosmic noise …..everything i could ever want out of a band.
KJ EURO TOUR 2012
Crumbs from the Table of the Gods
Amsterdam is a beautiful city . Tension seems to be mounting since the rehearsal yesterday in London. However tonight is special, we all have lots of friends who have come over for it.
It’s a good show despite a few cock ups, it ran smooth and the sound was good on stage and great out front. After the show some of us hit the bars , i follow Geordie’s entourage to bar Chaos, appropriately named and it’s enjoyable to have a beer and a smoke inside at the same time. The mood is tempered by Paul warning me that Jaz had threatened me just before we went on stage ! Jaz was still severely jet lagged , still is, and has stopped using his nicotine patches which make’s for sudden mood swings and paranoia culminating in him telling Paul he was going to stab me over some perceived slight. He had also threatened bottling Geordie earlier….. Love at it’s most dysfunctional. This is when i usually head for the border, for some inexplicable reason i didn’t….
Tilberg Roadburn (Stoner rock festival)
Great festival with some really cool bands i love on. Including Sleep. Om’s psychedelic drone rock drew a bigger crowd than us, and the audience lapped up every nuance with rapt attention, beautiful. Then Sigirlya, classic Welsh hard stoner rock outfit locking into some serious riffage and White Static Demon playing ambient noise drone industrial with old black and white movies playing ….. in a church! Fantastic that the church here is liberal enough to allow people their own spiritual expression. Also Chelsea Wolfe, kind of This Mortal Coil meets electronica/noise, goth/metal banshees , the singer has a gorgeous voice with a face to match.The band were pretty intense very cool.
Our gig was a disaster but entertaining, the sound on stage was so bad and the all day drinking fierce. Geordie lost his rag and started kicking the monitor engineer’s mixer and then threw a full plastic bottle of water at him, the arc of its curve through the air was perfect cinema, everything went slow motion as its load exploded in a serpentine Pollack flash, luckily it missed the guy, but he fucked off pretty quick. This pissed off some other bloke at the side of the stage who started fronting out Geordie, meanwhile some of the audience started booing and throwing water at Geordie which prompted Diamond Dave to into full Bristol Rovers football hooligan mode and defend and backup his liege from the front and rear, until security arrived in the nick of time, we raced through what was left of the set and Geordie was immediately escorted out of his own gig by security, before he got arrested!
Paris ! I love this city, i had a long walk up to Sacre Cour Cathedral otherwise know as the martyrs chapel, as was built on the site of an ancient massacre. It is really high up on the hill and offers the reward for the steep climb with an amazing view of Paris. I was just in time to see/hear a troupe of Nun’s doing choir practice, they sounded like accapella Sigor ros, melancholy and sublime like weeping angels . I bathed in the lightness of being in this palace of light. When i left, I felt ten years younger and i glided light and dizzy with my feet hardly touching the ground back to the boulevard, ready to take on anything that the world could throw at me. The night was fantastic, more great friends and beautiful women backstage , always helps the vibe.
Paris really is one the best gigs we have ever done.Fantastic venue, Cigale just off Montmarche. Old traditional music hall venue near the Follies .Again the Parisian crowd do not disappoint and are super up for it .No crash barriers are at front of stage ! i am now trying to negotiate them being removed from all gigs… yes! After the show and back stage chit chat and hospitalities I slip off for a few drinks in the artists quarter, we find a small corner bar where theres a plump woman with enormous breasts poring drinks, her arms are like milk white baby seals, i begin to relax.
We are in Strasbourg in France near the border with Germany.
Everyone in band and crew are feeling pretty burnt out after last nights stupendous gig in Paris. Great food again ,
Tonight i almost left the stage as my bass amp blew a fuse, however i was trumped by Paul whose turn it was tonight to freak out when he smashed a bottle of beer by his kit and stormed off stage and then later threatened to leave the bus if Geordie swore at him again on stage, i understand how he feels as Jaz routinely swears at me onstage if play a note different from the record , i usually ignore him and turn up and play even more differently but sometimes the very public humiliation is too much. I miss that, when on the Pandemonium and earlier tours we had more of a psychedelic/spontaneous vibe to the performances, i think Jaz gets confused if we go off piste too much and also his classical work is very regimented and that spills into the band sometimes….If i could persuade the band, we would be doing a different set every night, but so far I had an idea last night that Geords liked, of getting a VJ in to do some psychedelic projection visuals while we play, will see how far this goes with rest of band and management.
We limped into Lyon early in the morning .The city was not yet awake. The grey rain lashed the concrete deserted shops and Sunday streets. Behind the net curtains lay well mannered people dreaming of the terrible and the violent. What ocean of dreams ran through our good Captain’s Johnny’s sleep?
Surfing uncharted seas and exotic ports where the nervous giggles of the pretty girls who wait for sailors are music to the ears, one on each arm and a bottle of tree rum, whilst still subtracting merchandise ratios to audience capacities, mentally filing receipts of digitised figures. Commodities and treasure and all for the pleasure. While our rolling metal cigar case of a bus glides through imagined blue-whaled ocean crests across the tarmac of emptiness.
And what of my compadres dreams ? Fly fishing in Circe’s ancient shallow rivers. Harems curated by bohemian Sultans, thick with Charras incense and temple whores, initiating novices into the 64 arts of ancient wisdom into the prism of the eternal now. Eunuchs banging gongs whilst softly singing castrati opera. Or is it dreams of wild horses galloping over the hills or Marriage, Divorce? Dreams of Children un-born family and kids now grown up, strong as Oak.
Or what of the blacksmith pounding out intricate paradiddle rhythms on tribal oil drums with white hot hammers. Whizzing sparks clash with the cascading colours of endless African desert savannahs, honey sand and burnt umber, vermillion crimson , purple pink, electric blue white. And the young crew runners ? Pray they are not dreaming of lottery wins and beer and onion flavoured crisps but of adventures yet to be and a life worth living.
The day was relaxed and in the evening we were taken out by Stephane to the amazing Brasserie Georgs, suggested by his lovely wife for easily the best meal of year.
We roll through the ice and thunder of the night into Toulouse. Again great local crew and some warm hospitality. One of the security guards wife had just had a baby and the whole staff had a whip round and presented him with a juicer and other presents. Amazing community camaraderie, there is a lot to be learned from French culture. Today the soundcheck is the theatre for our drama. This time it’s my turn to flip and after discussing the Amsterdam incident, i thrust my bass at Jaz and suggest he plays it for the gig and walk out. He swiftly follows. An emotional talk follows along with apologies and hugs all round. We resume the sound check.
Can’t pretend that this tour has been easy, it has at times been the most challenging yet. I’ve taken David Bowies advice on touring, “Read like a Bastard” And i am ploughing through some great books including some Dylan Thomas short stories. Lots of Eastern esoterica including Osho and some Buddhist meditation techniques by Thich Nhat Hanh all keep my batteries topped up and also a new translation of some very old Sanskrit erotic poetry. Jaz is wading through various UFO cover ups and conspiracy books and Mishima is never far away. paul Ha opted for some sword and sorcery fantasy epic called “Fire and Ice” and was a little embarrassed about it but explained it enabled him some pure escape-ism without having think very much , i can understand that the tour bus grinds you down very quickly and any kind of escape is swiftly grasped with both hands.I can totally see why bands often fall into drink/drug/addictive dependancy on the road.
It’s like being in a traveling zoo, locked up in widow less boxes all day and night then paraded out to perform for a couple of hours.The cure for me is to stay healthy and be as creative as possible, even though your physically and mentally exhausted.
Don’t get me wrong i love the gig’s but touring is always a bitter sweet experience for me, on the one hand you get to meet some amazing people and the rolling wagon of the tour bus , a nomadic tribe of adventurers , a family circus, and the band and crew bonding is all great .Sailing into the unknown like some majestic metallic pirate ship.Fearless Odysseys into the abyss.
Although that soon gets claustrophobic and your bunk starts to feel like a coffin pretty quick .Then again i sleep really deep on the bus, nestled and rocked in the arms of our metal momma. bang on some ambient epic on the headphones and drift off into clouds. Occasionally I peek through my tiny porthole and glimpse the rolling hills whistle by under the cold tango orange, motorway light glare and pale moonlight. There was an incredible half waning moon hanging low and large on the horizon as we left wolverhampton, bright as a button through the low lying fog.Stunning cold beauty.
Then there is the “killing time ” before and after soundcheck/gig.I have been reading lots and vinyl hunting and going deep into my laptop writing new music.You only realise how exhausted you are when you stop for a day off, you feel like a wrung out dishcloth.
It’s like deep sea diving if you come up too fast you get the bends, so we try to take it all nice and easy, which of course is impossible with Killing Joke!
Seeing our city’s centre’s decent into decay is depressing, where a lot of shops are ether boarded up or are pawn brokers and charity shops.
What we need is some radical regeneration, Art enterprise zones in every city centre, where artists pay no tax and have almost free rent ,so as to create vibrant creative communities. And Festivals….lots of them all year round. These policies are what has helped Berlin become the cultural capital of Europe over the last 5 years.
As we don’t manufacture anything anymore, the artistic creatives, musicians , all the painters ,sculptures, conceptual artists of all discipline’s and all the arts and crafts, our what we should be promoting , facilitating and encouraging. It is our last hope; one of the last industries we have, and one that is seriously under appreciated and supported.
Missing my family makes me physically wretch but i have had my days off at home and that has made this tour a lot easier, Europe will be tricky.Spending time with my extended family of Killing Joke is a joy, its aways a combination of agony and celebration.
That ‘s always a good dynamic for inspirational writing and i have been busying myself with some great new tunes and other book writing including this blog.
The smoking issue weigh’s heavy, with an officious mentality sweeping through this fair Island which has left both myself and Geordie shivering in the rain catching a toke after a hot sweaty gig more than a few times. or trawling around town during the day like homeless vagrant hobo’s ……No wonder we all came down with flu last week
This all makes Big Paul very happy as he lives in NYC and is a voracious non smoker ,muttering under has breath about “Sharing needles” when we do light up in his vicinity. Also Jaz ,sober for over five years and has now also given up the evil weed, this time for his for his voice, which is sounding much stronger for it and that only leaves myself and Geords .Were both practically chain smokers.
Why he loves Prague so much is you can smoke anywhere and smoking is still regarded as a pleasure there. It’s making us miserable and grumpy ,bit like David Hockney when he bangs on about it. Unfortunately puts you off touring altogether (takes the pleasure out of it) Controversial issue i know and it doesn’t look like the relentless will to make it really hard to enjoy will stop. There doesn’t seem to be any relief from the politically correct, health and safety brigade…. in fact its getting worse every year.
The gigs have been intense and getting great reviews, some saying, best we’ve ever sounded. So something in the chemistry is still working.Still good to see the the old KJ snappy edge is still in full effect with some very public locking of horns on stage and off.
One of the best bits is the after show chatter, once we have got past the post gig post mortem about who made what mistake and where etc.Tthis where we talk of old memories and adventures and sometimes joined by old friends recounting and reminding us of others long forgotten.
A favourite subject is our old rehearsal studio, an old cottage and barn Wales which was run by this family of gentle hippy’s .
Squirrel and Nutkin ran the show and made us feel right at home with lentil pie and gallons of steaming tea.
Jaz would brew up extremely strong magic mushroom tea with hundreds of mushie’s, but wouldn’t drink any himself as he had had a bad acid spiking experience as a teenager with extremely strong liquid STP ,(you don’t see that around anymore ! )He kept having horrific flashbacks but didn’t mind spiking me and Geordie ! We would get completely wazzocked and go for longs walks. One day we got lost in these woods ,wandering in this marsh like water bound forrest with vivid flouro green floating algey everywhere, finally we found a road and i flagged down a land rover for a lift but Geordie was so spooked he ran off and hid behind a tree! Another time we went riding on the “Pondersoa” cowboy ranch, where the horses didn’t take to Geordie’s elevated state of consciousness and kept biting him, until he finally jumped off and ran back down the lane to the cottage screaming.These were the sessions yielded our second album “Whats this for?” Jaz reminded me of one of the gigs on that 2nd album tour.I had come off stage and proudly proclaimed , grinning, to Jaz that i had played the entire set in a a different key, that was when i was playing my “stray moose” fretless bass that drove Jaz crazy on tour as he pitch’s his vocal tuning to my bass and i was rarely in tune. I was still very much in ultra sensitive Syd Barrit , post acid meltdown mode.There is a great bootleg where you can hear my fragile whimpering between songs “Nobody loves me” and then an irritated Big Paul mutters “Shut up Youth” very funny
Paul is the most focused in the group .He is up early out for a run, has super healthy diet and is found tapping away on his practise kit most of the time backstage.His artillery pounding of the kit each night is something to behold and this far into the tour he’s become a super tight tribal beat machine, head down and kicking the teeth out of band and audience every night.A treasure and a pleasure to behold.
Geordie is also on fine form and spitting lightning from his banjo every night .He has an ability to subtly change well worn familiar riffs and reinvent the songs without them sounding too different, every night a re-invention . An Jaz has got to be one of the greatest frontman ever. On stage he is so intense, so completely honest and what he has to say has such meaning at least for him, total commitment.
I have to mention our amazing crew Tom , Terry, Diamond Dave and Dean.They have been amazing and provided unrelenting support throughout.
We also have had some great bands supporting us this time out, The Crying Spell from Seattle, great rich melodies ringing out from singer Len. Kind of The Cure meets Roy Orbison meets NIN.
Produced right ,These guys could be huge.
Also The Icararus line , dark Birthday party, dirty Beefheart blues meets the stooges ,they look really fucking cool especially the guitarist who has the same understated charm and flair of Hendrix but locked down with a Black Keys discipline .
Also in London the mighty Echotape opened the show with their dark post rock psychedliia and swirling euphoric electectronics .and last but not least The Hot Mochachinos. Three kids doing their first gig
blinding post rock /punk , hopelessly under rehearsed and underprepared but great none the less.
There have also been some interesting cats turning up backstage and in the local bars. In Glasgow there was this Blacksmith called Rob and his beautiful wife Meg. Rob had a forge on the Isle of Sky and made magical swords. Very knowledgable on esoteric properties of the Blacksmith and put me right when i wrongly compared it to a form of alchemy. In an animated display and with intense passion he described the process as forging Iron out of sheer rock and the art of creating a sword, with the sheer will of the smith’s hammer through all the elements, fire, earth ,water , air and the individual will of intention, amazing and inspirational. In manchester i met an Irishman called Patrick who we used to knock around with in my pre Killing joke days over 30 years ago! He reminded me of so many adventures i had clean forgotten and brought back a flood of memories ,we had an amazing laugh talking about Studio 21, which was a legendary happening post punk disco/club in the centre of London and where i found myself Jamming with the Sex Pistols and Billy Idol on Christmas day 1978.What i remember most about that was Steve Jones going “Ok, lets do Roadrunner” which we all went into and then Billy started to sing a completely different song “C’mon everybody” still…. it sounded great.
These are the great rewards of going on tour , priceless moments re-visited and new ones made.
In Glasgow we met bass legend Derek Forbes from Simple minds and we got hammered on an amazing 30 year old Sake, a gift from a friend from Japan .Glasgow is such a great gig with easily one of the best crowds anywhere in the world . We met “Kenny” a very funny man with a sharp dry humour and amazing memories.He reminded me of the gig venue’s names from early 80’s of some really obscure gigs.
We also managed to blow up the house system and take half the street with us,yea! lucky it was near the end of the set, our sound man and tour Captain Johnny Hasket gets a bonus when that happens!. Geordie gets very passionate when discussing fishing, he has booked a day’s Salmon fishing near Portsmouth, its £80 for the day , which i thought sounded a lot but then he explained there were river’s near newcastle where you can pay up to £250,000 for a years fishing! Geordie talks about tickling trouts and the alpha waves coming down stream, the low frequencies opening you up ….The Zen of it all!
i Have just read that David Whitaker the legendary arranger and composer has just died, i was lucky to have worked with him a few times
notably on legendary cult band ‘Shack” . He also did the original string arrangement for Andrew Loog Oldham on the track that The Verve sampled for “Bitter sweet symphony” as well as working with Nico and Marianne Faithfull and had also done a lot of the classic French artists, doing string arrangements for Serge Gainsborge and Francois Hardy , which is what got me into wanting to work with him, i found it so amazing that his arrangements, which sounded so “French” were actually made by an English gent living in Oxford! He was a lovely man and his wonderful wife Sue would always bake him a cake and bring it down to the studio session, to keep his sugar levels up.If she was late he would sometimes explode in a diabetic rage of filthy swearing in front of the whole orchestra , all the more shocking as he was such a soft spoken, genial gentleman.Characters like David are what makes what i do as a producer such a joy, individual unique characters with a strong sense of independence and integrity and a very dry sense of humour.
Just got a proof of my new volume of Poetry “Middle Class Riot” , its large landscape format and substantial over 25 poems and large illustrations, it looks beautiful and Christian and Alice from bracketpress have done a fantastic job , with two colour art prints and and embossed over jacket , it’s the most substantial volume yet ! She will be available with or without the vinyl album package of my acoustic folk album “Middle Class Riot” in May or June form Pledge.com.This coincided with the sad news of the death of Moebius , the genius french graphic artist, who along with Beardsley, is one of my biggest influences.
If you haven’t seen this artist’s work google him for an amazing illumination into his incredible imagination.
Did a storming show in Wolverhampton , Paul Ravens home town and Jaz was delighted to see his name next Elgars in the roll of honour list upstairs. after a long encore the crowd refused to go home and were baying for more, so Jaz , already in a bath robe just hopped on stage and asked the crowd “What do you want?’ ,” WARDANCE !” the crowed roared back! ! We did Wardance and the place exploded….everyones lust for more was slaked and we all left well satisfied into the night .
The next night was Portsmouth where summer comes early and the girls are pretty.One of our best show’s yet ,The crowd moshing through all the new ones, more old friends and much belly clutching laughter all round.
Oxford today and its the last gig of the UK tour , Jaz has hired a hall for a special announcement, which only he knew about, he said as we have all lost our Dad’s , we are going to do a ceremony for our father’s.nice touch I thought it was going to be the library in some auspicious Oxford collage but its a room under the pub next door , still auspicious .Well with due ceremony and drama we all gathered at the appointed time and place including Jaz’s mother and various gatherers.
Jaz said he had three things to declare .First was about his Rosicrucian philosophies and beliefs. Oxford is the home of his and Paul’s order of the Rose Croix, that they both joined as teenagers and the rituals they did then were what they believe brought the band into existence and us all together. He talked about “The Great Work” and some secret knowledge only he and Paul shared, ( i did asked Paul backstage afterwards what that was and he wouldn’t tell but chuckled loudly!) Then he gave thanks and praise to each of the band and his mother and our fathers .
The vibe was getting a bit weird , bit like being at your own funeral, i was a getting a bit concerned Jaz was going to commit a very public ritual Hari kari , I did notice he had been reading Mishima a lot recently. Fortunately this was not the case and Jaz announced his withdrawal from drugs , alcohol, money and smoking , a renunciate and he nominated Paul as sole trustee of his assets , “Thanks a lot ” muttered Paul as i let loose a knowing chuckle! ( later on Jaz gave a few thousand pounds worth of Cuban cigars away to Matt Tibbet , a renowned smoker gatherer in a nobel declaration of his resolve)
Then lastly Jaz announced his forth coming marriage to Yutta, Paul Raven’s Ex wife! Well after a few moments of stunned silence and then a really big cheer, bride and groom embraced and the congratulations commenced. Meanwhile I ordered a large whisky for his mum and everyone celebrated their happiness and one of the best gig’s followed where Jaz again shared his happy news on stage with the crowd . Cannot think of a better way to end this tour!
Under the wheel
We are now in the final stages of finishing mixing the new KJ album tentatively titled 2012. One of us wanted the Apocalypse but that was quickly vetoed.
This album has been ridiculously hard to make with sessions in Spain, Prague and England.
Once again the battles are fierce timeless quests of intention, the fighting bloody and deeply personal over the differences of opinion and direction with this monster but all agree its one of our best.
Yet the music came through initially very swiftly and with ease.
We started in Granada earlier in the year with Jaz laying down some of the most inspired keyboards we’ve ever done , in fact i cant think of an album where he has got more involved with the keyboards.
Later in Prague the city of Alchemists in the heart of Bohemia we laid down more new songs , overdubbed guitars and vocals ,with Geordie unleashing his acoustic side on one song Cytheria was some mighty fine acoustic pickings. ….good vibes and dark and rich atmospheres.
if Europe was Lord of the Rings , Prague would be Rivendale, the Fairy realm.Here they have fiercely retained their ancient Celtic cultural roots, despite being surrounded within the heart of theTeutonic Saxon empire. There is a joy de vie here and lust for the sensual pleasures of life, poetry , drinking , music and great food. and smoking in all the bars , yeah! .Even their president was a poet and you can still find hot mead and roasting chestnuts on the cobblestone streets in winter.There is a strong matriarchal culture and the women as well as being tall and strikingly beautiful ,in an otherworldly way.They are very strong independent, confident and in command. Intoxicating.
We returned to Spain at the beginning of Nov and began mixing the album with Clive Goddard , who has worked with myself closely over the last 15 years as both recording engineer and mixer on many productions. He was Joined by Tom who has been working with Mushroom from Massive attack for the last 2 years.Tom was there to engineer the last of Jaz ‘s vocals .Jaz had already burnt out two engineers who were refusing to return and Tom was our last hope , or tethered goat awaiting sacrifice more like! Despite him looking like he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown he seemed very calm and coped well with Jaz’s manic behaviour and wanting to work crazy hours thru the night , this wasn’t to last too long and soon grasped the first opportunity of escape , bailing out gracefully after a couple of weeks . which left Clive and Michael, my assistant and myself to mop up the sessions .The sessions were so complicated to work out what was what , and where everything was stored etc from all the many sessions and all the different countries .The engineers had a veritable labyrinth of digital drives .it was sending all of us into meltdown( always a good sign of a great album) although I got really worried when i noticed a pile of empty whisky bottles were rolling out from under one bed, as the poor sap staggered around in a alcoholic daze muttering to himself and vowing to never work with the band or have anything to do with magic again,he locked himself in the toilet, cursing under his breath what he had done to deserve this gruel……and it was only 11am in the morning !
Jaz taunted him with a fully stocked bar of hard liquor and sign saying “Jaz’s bar: and Jaz doesn’t even drink ! I sensed this is part of Jaz’s gestalt motivational therapy technique ie if its falling kick it. Although he could have just been indulging his warped sense of humour, ether way it was sur-reality car crash TV.
This was also compounded by the previous sesh where Geordie , who had recut some drum tracks with Big Paul the week before in Bath. They had gone for complete live “live” as in like a gig , drum takes with guitars ( One of Geordies favourite albums is The Who , Live at leeds and he likes his albums to sound like a great gig, as is popular in some American productions and i agree the performance factor must be high but also think a record is a different from a gig , ideally a classic album that also sounds like a classic gig ! ) However despite endless epic battles of production philosophy and polar opposite criteria, we have distilled it down to the definitive mix .Although they hadn’t edited or tightened up the recordings , which would then prove to take tom and michael weeks more with the scalpel and lots of fine tuning .
This session was beset with Biblical challenges . First our power was cut off due to some bureaucratic cock up and we to had haul in a massive generator until power was restored at great expense .Then we had some spectacular lightning storms which resulted in some flooding and leaking in the main studio, buckets everywhere. Jaz in full exhaustion, paranoia vocal freak out mode, exasperated by severe toothache and groaning and moaning endlessly.This session inevitably went way over any schedule/budget etc and then i had the complications amplified when the ultra sensitive , fragile and fabulous … and NME darling Maximillion Hecker arrived from Berlin to begin his new album , his 6th , which i was also producing on a very tight and unmovable German schedule.
So there we all were and i was attempting to juggle three under pressure teams and three very complex sessions with polar opposite dynamics and equally complex but different artist’s, simultaneously in the Spanish wilderness , Intense and no escape .The ideal environment for Jaz to vent forth on the world and her problems not to mention twenty years of sibling rivalry, bile and bitter vinegar and thats just for breakfast .I have to admit i love it , i thrive on this sort of pressure .
All the challenges make for greatest music and all the music we recorded sounds amazing , awesome (to me anyway)and strangely enough Jaz took a shine to Max and his bitter sweet suicide lounge ballads .they got on very well !
When i decided to build this studio sometimes known as “Space mountain” currently called “Mirador” ,it was to give me some compensation and reward for spending 20 years plus in dark pokey electronic basement studio hells with no daylight . .I couldn’t face another 20 years of that no matter how much i loved music , so i found a location in spain with huge views and copied my favourite room, studio 2 in Olympic and built a state of the art dream studio in the wilderness with large glass windows and 30 mile views that inspire. Epic , i’ve spent 5 years enjoying that since we were able to start recording in 2006.Since then we’ve made over 12 albums there at least 4 of them going to number one…the vibe is fantastic i’ve spent many months in some of the worlds best residential studios but nothing comperes to what we have achieved with Mirador and to be able to record Killing Joke there is the fulfilment of a life long dream.
Part of my vision for this was formed when we rented a house in NewZealand for Crowded House’s Together alone album in 91,The location and studio were just amazing and i thought, one day ill build a place of my own like this but better, 10 years later thats exactly what i did. What makes it even better is there is more space in Mirador so we can set up three or more studios running simultaneously , this creates a small artistic community ,which again fuels and calibrates our inspiration and the work we do.This was the first time i had three sessions running and it was a great thrill and lots of fun , despite the pressures and intensity involved i could see for the first time the facility come together as intended. We also invited Artist Tracy Moberly to be artist in residence to create artistic synergies and inter discipline collaborations .later on we had painter Antonia Myatt , what a great feeling to walk through the house, the smell on linseed , leather and canvas and white spirit pervading through the Nag Champa incense smog .Paul has been very involved in the lyrics of this album and has been great fleshing through lyrical ideas and concepts with Jaz and Paul by the fire late at night over a wee dram or two.i Have enjoyed very much putting in some end of the world apocalyptic sub baselines.
Cold austerity versus wild abandon seems to be an overall dynamic with themes dealing with the times we are living in to intense personal admissions and lots of magic and alchemy and fierce politik.
meanwhile i am just completing a new volume of poetry “Middle class riot” and an accompanying acoustic Psy folk solo album ,which along with Max’s album has been a soothing counter point and balm to the epic noise machine that is Killing Joke !
The acoustic album is a collection of songs i have written over the last few years , some already covered by other artists .its a very personal album and although i am not in possession of a great singing voice, it captures the emotions the songs express.
Also i am working on a new limited edition run of oil pairings themed on death and sex, lots of skull’s. Also working on finishing my book about the creative process and how to make classic recordings. any suggestions of a title would be appreciated?
What else? Mark Stewerts album Poiitcs of envy will be out in March , amazing artist .We had put another politics of envy compilation featuring Penny Rimbaud (CRASS) and David Tibet(CURRENT 93) and Zodiac earlier this year and mark forgot we named it the same thing so i have now had to change that to Mammon thewnewbanalistsorchestra.bandcamp.com
i will do an edited version as a small book but also the epic full version early next year.Also working up a book of all the heads i have interviewed over the years tits called “Freak Power ….Heretics and heros” inc Terrance McKenna , John Michell, John Sinclair, Chet Helms, Gregg Samms and Raja Ram.
i have just started one on my early experiences with Goa Trance and the origins of Dragonfly recordings The PsyTrance scene is a worldwide phenomena but thereon books on it all. busy busy . Also plans for Jaz’s six volume opus book to come out next year and some of his symphonic work.Geordies Live album recording of the Royal festival Hall “Down by the river ” (pledgemusic.com) and Paul researching rare pygmy tribal drum patterns of Papua New Guinae
There are some other very exciting plans for Killing Joke next year that our some still secret and will be announced officially on the bands website .One of these is one i am closely involved with and getting closer to finishing is the “Killing Joke In dub” album that will be available next year .It is really bone crunchingly heavy !
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