Jaz Coleman is good value whatever way you look at him. Killing Joke, his post-punk/industrial outfit, have, consistently, been satisfying the dark and noisy urges of certain corners of society since 1979 and are now recognised by everyone from Tool to Soundgarden to Nine Inch Nails as instrumental in the emergence of ‘thinking man’s metal’. Coleman himself is an esteemed composer and conductor in the concert halls of Europe and beyond, working with Nigel Kennedy and Sarah Brightman among many others. He holds degrees in the sorts of music styles that you never knew could be studied. He lives on an island in the remote Pacific off New Zealand and is cultivating two eco villages there. Rumour has it that he has even established his own church.
I could go on, but we’re here to shake off the first chills of winter which on a foggy October night are making themselves known. The Button Factory will be tested tonight to see if it can withstand the tyrannical volume of Killing Joke (the original line-up, by the way) as well as contain the sizeable ego and mouth of Jaz Coleman, who in case you haven’t worked out, is well able to speak up for himself.
The mostly male audience is comprised of late 30s rockers-on-the-turn, who presumably haven’t had far to walk from The Foggy Dew tonight. Craning slightly, State can see a field of bald patches and the odd tattooed neck, and by god who would begrudge any of them a night in these times to let off some steam with their former idols.
Suddenly, smoke engulfs the stage, red lights flood and flit and a few devil salutes pop up in the throng. Out step the quartet and Paul Ferguson’s primal drums for ‘Tomorrow’s World’ thunder to life. It’s loud. Headache loud. Geordie Walker’s guitar is full of snap and bite, while Youth’s Rickenbacker sends forth fuzzed bass dirges. Killing Joke may be labelled ‘metal’, but it has too much groove and trance-like repetition to be somehow related to Megadeath. The industrial disco of ‘Change’ is a fine example, its robotic one-two riff creating a euphoria all its own.
Donning a black boilersuit, Coleman’s Anglo-Indian genes give him the look of an Alice Cooper/Gary Numan lovechild. He struts and taunts, occasionally fixing us with a demented gaze. He’s in fine voice, his deep bray cutting the band’s precise musicianship with a dose of mayhem. He makes time between numbers to sermonise on lots of bad goings on in the world, namely the ‘European super state’, Bono, ‘this democracy thing’, fish stocks and US bombing campaigns. He’s even swotted up on the Lisbon Treaty, a rant that, by the reaction of the crowd, may have come a year or two too late. But, knowing Coleman, the joke could well be on us.
Photos: Alessio Michelini
Hilary A White