Under the wheel “inside the making of the new Killing Joke Album”
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 !