Jaz Coleman is a special person, Killing Joke is a special band.
There’s gigabits of writing on the band online and so much less to say than there is yet to experience. The most recent instalment that the dear listeners can inhabit is Magna Invocatio: A Gnostic Mass for Choir and Orchestra Inspired by the Sublime Music of Killing Joke, which sees Jaz Coleman arrange the music of Killing Joke in a classical context. Musically, the arrangement contains creative choices reminiscent of Aaron Copland and the bombast of the new American classic tradition, along with Elgar and Britten. These are familiar choices that echo popular cinematic scores and suggest a new evocative stance, a new anthemic position, an act of manifest determination. Individual, acute and with a sprinkling of the occult, it’s one of several Killing Joke culminations that totalise something subjective. If youth has In Dub this is Coleman’s overture.
Speaking to Trebuchet Jaz Coleman discusses this latest album, the state of the world and the strength of life as an actual act of being. Diving right in we wanted to know why this interpretation of “Never Get To Me” despite its standoff stance seems to evoke huge waves of love and empathy.
“When you hear the orchestral version [of “Never Got To Me”] there’s a coda at the end, and it’s the victory of overcoming. I scored that in because we did, and we have.
When I heard that track when the St Petersburg Philharmonic played it, I was so overcome. There were many moments, but especially this one. This is going to be released on the 20th. We’re doing a collage of photographs to this piece, and that will be up soon. I love the orchestral renditions, because an orchestra can reach into areas a band cannot, and vice versa.
The Killing Joke band experience is highly visceral, a body and spiritual thing. This is different it seems to be an internal spiritual thing.
It’s essentially the official music of the spiritual arm of the United Nations.
To experience truth is Gnosticism. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about the Gnostic tradition, but we should look at it. A good place to start is probably how the physicists see the universe. They say that we’re all participants in creating our own reality. And then the magicians, they say we can create change in accordance with the world, and this is magic; magic is to create change in accordance with the world. So the two are pretty much the same. So if this is true—and I believe this is the truth; I’ve visualised a lot of things in my life and made them happen—let’s look at Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They basically are apocalyptic cults, and everybody’s visualising a sort of tumultuous revelation. And more than that, they’re making it happen. Which is why I don’t really have any time for these religions.
When you look at the Old Testament specifically, but the Bible generally and the figure of Yahweh. The misunderstanding of Gnostic tradition is that gnostics basically see Yahweh as the dark god. If you have a look at the Bible with the endless genocides where God commands his followers to kill every man, woman and child. Basically this force is an inorganic presence and that’s why when there’s an antithesis of tradition to this, it’s seen as something Satanic.
In order to understand the biblical God and Satan, we have to look at the analogues of this thing and the earliest traditions, where we have the Sumerians, the Jehovah figure, is Enlil, and then Enki. Have a look at the roles of them. It’s Enlil, Jehovah, who calls for man’s destruction, and Enki is the defender and creator of mankind. How I see these myths, I like to go to the Kardashev scale. Basically a Type I civilisation draws its energy from Earth, indeed the universe. A Type II civilisation draws its energy from a star. And Type III draws energy from a galaxy and has indeed mastered time and space, and can indeed see the other galaxies in the Solar System. Generally speaking, we’re zero on this scale.
If we look at hidden history, just look at the Mahābhārata and the ancient texts. We can see that nuclear war absolutely happened in prehistory. The message of this is simple: the transition from a Type 0 civilisation into Type I, in the process we normally destroy ourselves. When you think of it, [it says] in the Mahābhārata [that] it was an unknown weapon that shone in all its splendour brighter than 10,000 suns. The soldiers threw themselves into the rivers but in vain, their hair fell out, and their nails fell out. This was absolutely a nuclear explosion in prehistory, after the pyramid age. Generally we think this region must have been Australia and going into Asia, or the Indian subcontinent where the nuclear war was. We’re there again!
You’ve mentioned with this fantastic release that you were honing in on an experience with these 13 invocations that are absolutely timely and heartfelt, and of the soul and of the will.
It’s the impossible is what’s happened. I mean to cut a long story short, there was no preliminary budget with the management. It was all set to fail. The guy’s got a problem with me, so he set me up to fail.
You have to understand that first.
I don’t want to go into fucking detail, but basically, it was impossible. So it got me involved with the pledge thing and said I’d write all these scores out, and I’d do this and I’d do that; it was set up to fail and it couldn’t work, financially. And I was going to be fucked, really fucked. But other forces came along and saved the project. But you know, what I’ve done is, apart from I get the same as every member in Killing Joke for publishing, I’ve basically given the funds of this record to a non-governmental organisation of my choice, a charity. It’s beyond anything capital, for me. Way beyond this. And it coincides with four decades of the band. And suddenly I find myself in this very strange position of being in one of the most influential bands in history—music that spans two centuries, as you pointed out to me. And at the same time, I’ve managed to build up a secret career as a maestro and I’ve sold just as many records with classical music as I have with Killing Joke. Certainly they’ve come together, and what’s interesting about that is it was Killing Joke that nourished my classical music, because Killing Joke financed my study of classical music.
This is two very separate and successful worlds you have in your life that you’re bringing together. Was it nicer to keep them separate, is it easier?
Yes it was. In the recent years the two have understood each other, but it’s only recently. I still like to keep them separate, actually. Because they are separate; they’re different traditions. And they’re different functions. To explain it from a personal level, the hermit and the communists, which is to say that Killing Joke is a shared experience with music. And then writing for a chorus and orchestra is one man’s vision. And so to understand one, you have to do the other, and I love both. It was really highlighted when I got my first number one in America, which was number one for 108 weeks. That was the thing I did with Pink Floyd. And I remember being in this hotel room and getting this phone call, saying, “You’ve done 108 weeks at number one in America, but we have to take it off the charts. Congratulations.”
Isn’t 108 an important number?
Yes it is, it’s a very important number, as well as being the diameter of the Moon.
It’s the Buddhist number of wholeness.
Yes, it’s the marriage of the two. Yeah, I’m into the number thing.
Having had the privilege of having known you guys for a long time it seems that Geordie is quite a mysterious character. Moreover his relationship to the music is absolute sacrosanct…
…was it difficult for him not to poke his nose in?
I know, but he completely trusts me in this area. I played it to Paul, first of all. And Geordie said, “Jaz knows what he’s fucking doing with this.” He knows what I do. Geordie really listens, he listens inside music. So yeah, with all their support. [and] They’re the ones who benefit, come on. [laughs]
What I was going to say is, after I was talking about being set up to fail with it, because it was impossible to do and was actually a malicious act. I’ll be really frank with you. It was a set-up. I’ve been in debt with all these people who pledged money, and actually the Pledge went down [Pledgemusic filed for Bankruptcy in May 2019 , after a protracted period of difficulty] after that anyway. It was terrible. And actually I could see how I was set up.
Why were you set up?
Because of a personal, mutual hatred. And so, I don’t know what’s going to happen. In 25 years, I had many dreams. And I dreamt of this winter palace where there was this full orchestra. And the ceiling was the night sky. And I heard all this, in this dream. I had all the senses. And then after this dream, within a day, it was going to happen. And it just all happened. It was a very strange thing to be in St Petersburg during the recording, because it was this dreadful poison affair that happened. And then the reciprocal measures on the other side, and so forth.
Can you talk us through the timeline of the project?
It would have been three years ago. But then I was just palmed off. They weren’t telling me what was really going on. It was terrible. Anyway, it all works out really well, and I was really looked after by the Russian minister of culture. We were actually upgraded to Russia’s greatest symphony orchestra while this was all happening. And it was incredible. The time I was in Russia recording this was one of the peak experiences of my life. What happened was, it’s really weird, just before I went out there these two Russian girls said, “Are you going to go and see this band Leningrad, they’re playing tonight? You’ve gotta come!” They said because the guy in the band, the main guy, he runs your fan club in Russia. They’re like Russia’s biggest band. They’re kind of like a ska-punk band, they’ve gone pop. And they’re interesting characters; the keyboard player is a professor of chemistry. So I ended up with this amazing apartment. It had its own ventilation system, its own bar, and everything. I was completely looked after.
The writing in the album, the translating of these songs that we all know so well. “In Cythera” I think we all know is a big song for you. The process of writing, I’ve been told you had visions of how they’d be arranged. Is that true?
Yeah, it is true. When you ask yourself the question, ‘how should it be?’ it’s massive. And it is. It’s the universe itself. What does world peace sound like? I wanted to answer that question in “Gloria”, the finale. It’s a big question to answer.
The press release hinted that if Killing Joke’s music is about self-actualisation and resistance, self-determination and a lot of things that question, maybe with some cynicism, certainly with some positivity and definitely with some action, this is something else. Is this album a meditative reflection?
It’s a different thing to the expression of Killing Joke, which is essentially catharsis. When I work with an orchestra, it’s a romantic tradition, and by romantic I mean the idea is to create a more desirable reality. This is what we should all be doing, because again, if the physicists are right, then we’re all participants in reality. Which is why I dislike patristic religions who visualise the apocalypse, which is my biggest objection.
Despite the fact the name of your band is Killing Joke you really have no truck with eschatology?
No. I think it’s an unnecessary, dark vision. If you’ve got billions of people visualising an apocalypse, well, what do you think is going to happen? It’s interesting. I was talking with Jello Biafra last year about this, actually.
He got into the politics thing. He said that he knows that a lot of the people in the Pentagon and signing military policy were essentially people who believe in the apocalypse. They believe they’re bringing Jesus closer by bringing it on. And we’re in that place. Again, you can look at the Judaic religion of Sabbatai Zevi and Jacob Frank, which is the dark side of Judaism. It’s nothing to do with conventional Judaism. I’ve got a problem with the Old Testament, I’ve got a problem with this entity.
Although darkness is part of our universe, if we step back beyond the whole good and evil thing, that’s true, but it’s something that should be seen for what it is, still. It’s a force. The world I live in is a world where if I see recurring numbers happen, I know exactly what they mean; I can see the forces that are working behind this.
I’d like to pick up on a romantic point, much like this beautiful record, is the concept of Cythera. The island, the utopia. What do you think Cythera is?
Well, of course one of the greatest naturalists said all life starts in Cythera. The idea of an island I equate it to sperm. If you look at the work of Jules Verne for example, you can see that he used the island thing a lot in his work, and of course he was Rosicrucian. The island is a Rosicrucian symbol in itself. Because the circle is penetrated. In all his stories, he has to penetrate of the centre of the Earth. It’s about fertilising. This is what got me started investigating all the things that happened with these vanishing and reappearing islands, this phenomenon that happens across the planet, which indeed happened quite a lot in New Zealand. I started contemplating Francis Crick’s work. He was the discoverer of DNA. At the end of his life he did this work he was thinking about directed panspermia. I was thinking about this idea of a Type III civilisation, seeding other stars, and that’s how it happened. I believe that this planet was initially a Type III civilisation, and I think that we as a race have been genetically augmented by several races. Which I think would be more like a Type I civilisation. Because in Crick’s work, he said all life, not just human life, on the planet has been seeded. And then I found mythologies about lakes and rivers where there are holes in these lakes that led into other worlds. This combined with the study of standing waves and the UFO phenomena in magnetic hotspots.
I want to ask you something about Rosicrucianism. There’s a concept that the Rosicrucian cross folds together like a cube, and that that is the key to folding space and time. Have you heard of this?
Yes. Just think about it for a second. Think about the tree of life. The tree of life has 32 components. You basically have separate 1 – 10, and then the eleventh path comes from the eleventh pathway, which was before, and then that’s taken up to number 32. We can take all those segments of 32 pieces and construct them.
Imagine a small cube that is surrounded by a larger cube, and the corners of the smaller cube are linked to the corners inside the larger cube. This is called a tesseract, or a hypercube. If you can hold that image in your mind, each side of those 32 pieces that construct that hypercube, they are of equal size. So when you go into the small cube, that’s as big as the large cube, so it’s basically a three-dimensional construct that’s insinuated in four dimensions. But there’s a 33rd aspect to this.
There’s a 33rd part of the tree of life, which is the hidden, separate to the path. And where is that on this hypercube? You know what that is? It’s the observer. It’s connected to consciousness technologies. Which is what I learnt in the Great Pyramid when we did the ritual there. Our engineer fell asleep and went mad, woke up and ran out of the pyramid and saw thousands and thousands of eyes—alien eyes—and he’s never recovered from this. Our experiences in the Great Pyramid led me to believe that once you start activity in there, when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you. That’s exactly what happened. It’s consciousness technology. That’s our experience of that place.
Is that what you’re playing with, with this record?
Yes, it is. But my aim is to lift people’s spirits to planetary consciousness, and just try to imagine this for one second. Think of where we are right now; we’re one minute to midnight on the Doomsday Clock. We’re closer to nuclear annihilation than the Cuban Missile Crisis. But nobody seems to really be aware of it. And then take into consideration when these insane people start talking about wearable nuclear war, that each one of these bombs has a 600-mile radius. That means, well, London.
To even think about using them is a crime against humanity, in my thinking. Just like when we set off atomic weapons in Mother Earth. This is a crime against the living, intelligent Earth. There’s already a legal framework in place now to try people for crimes against the Earth. I can see this happening, I can see this as the next stage. But look, the fact is, we’re in a time of huge upheaval; it’s just starting now. They’re setting the GPS every year because the Earth’s magnetic field is acting so weird. So all planes, all your GPS everywhere, everything is determined on Magnetic North, and Magnetic North is moving 50 miles a day, when it should be moving two centimetres a year.
What’s going on?
Well, you don’t really want to know, but we’ll talk about it. What’s going on is a prelude to pole shift. Bear in mind that when Herodotus the Roman historian went to Egypt, he spoke with the priests and they said to him, “The Sun has moved from rising in the east to rising in the west and back again five times in our civilisation.”
When you look at Baalbek and the great pyramids, and then Nazca, these places, they formed a perfect circle around what was the old equator. And when you go Angkor Wat and you see the carvings of extinct species, they’re trying to tell us this is the old equator, and this happens, in the big cycles. And to add to this, we have to ask the question, why is volcanic activity increasing? All the planets in our Solar System, the magnetosphere, for example Jupiter has already had a pole shift. And it’s increasing, because we’re resetting GPS every year.
Can you imagine the chaos? Neither can I. This is the wider picture. This is why I told you not to fucking ask me! And there you go! It’s a reality. You can also be philosophical, for example, I remember my father talking to me about the last war, and what it was like when they thought the fucking Germans and Hitler were coming. What I mean is, my father used to me, at any age, there’s always an external threat.
Don’t get depressed, do physical exercise.
Have you depoliticised Killing Joke with this album, by making it personal?
No, no. Killing Joke started with a magical code that was activated by people, but recently myself. And this album is the continual of that. When I went to Iceland, I suddenly had the revelation: I want to become a composer. And I worked every day nonstop until that was a reality. That’s a long, long time. Basically Killing Joke paid for my studies. So now I’m able to orchestrate what has been our great university, our invisible college. Which it has. I had four criminal offences before this.
When I met Paul, I was angry, and he was angry.
Where did that anger come from?
I think being an Anglo-Asian, and also being in a very conservative town like Charlton, you’d basically get your head kicked in every day. [laughs] My dad said, “Oh, I made you fight.” Yeah, it’s good that he believed in that. [laughs] But basically, Killing Joke is the force that makes us realise we have a duty to ourselves to self-educate, and we do. Education isn’t something you do at school, and maybe university, and stop. It’s forever. Essentially more or less nature evolves to the extent it can experience itself. So the emphasis is on experience on the human journey. And this is where the arts come in. It’s so important the arts now, again, doing this recording in Russia at the time of a height in international tension—well this has been Killing Joke anyway—but then wow, it was transmuting dark energies into something golden.
Do you feel proud of this record?
Very. I’ve listened to it every single day since I recorded it. I saw the shock of it, I heard the shock of it.
It was the most extraordinary experience of my existence. The whole thing. Because, again, it was an experiment in manifesting the impossible. And it truly was impossible. We are what we drew, we are. We grow into our dreams.
Did you know the band was going to be as iconic as they are?
No one in the band was surprised.
There’s 20 years there where you must have been like, “Fucking hell, is this too hard?”
Never once. I never thought stop, not once. I’ve marched nonstop, always nonstop. That also means there are times when I wanted to stop music and do other things, and this is a very hard thing to explain to people. But in the past when I was younger I would just go off and do it and fuck everyone. And I can see why, this sort of crazy explosive thing. But then again, if I hadn’t done that… we are meant to do things in life. If I hadn’t gone to Iceland, we wouldn’t be listening to this record. I would have gone another 40 years with that singular thought: I want to become a composer.
The Iceland trip, in popular culture, was because you were obsessed with or believed in the end of the world.
No, I went to Iceland to locate my genius, my guardian angel, which is supposedly the combined wisdom of all your incarnations up to the current day. This is what I went there for.
Is that geolocated?
It was a process. You have to stop what you’re doing, take time off. That’s all I wanted to do.
Is that the Abramelin?
No, it’s not that. It’s a similar system, but I didn’t use the Abramelin system.
Is this the last Killing Joke album?
You’d better get your visualisations right. Because the thing is, from 12 January, speaking astrologically, we’re in a very, very dark place. I can make a calculated guess. All the astrologers are talking about it. The best thing is to stay in bed. [laughs]
On November 29th, Jaz Coleman, founding member with the legendary Killing Joke, releases Magna Invocatio: A Gnostic Mass for Choir and Orchestra Inspired by the Sublime Music of Killing Joke through Spinefarm Records, the first release of the MASTERSCORE Series. Full details available through
Photos by Ester Segarra