Radd: Hello! So we’ve already been chatting for an hour but let’s get this interview started! Your music has strong electronic elements and you seem to have been at the birth of the electronic genre, where do you think the electronic sound started from? How do you think it came to be such an influential genre?
JC: If my colleagues were here and they listened to that question they’d be laughing their heads off because they know that I’m such a technophobe; I don’t use computers, I only use a mobile phone if someone gives one to me. When it comes to keyboards and equipment – when they started taking the actual knobs off keyboards like analogue – I stopped using them. Everything was played by hand one track when I started Killing Joke; there’s a strong experimental edge to Killing joke and I think the reason we’re still around is because we don’t sound like anyone else. The way to approach it is to make a mistake and repeat it; make a loop of it and see what direction that takes you in. When we do records we don’t prepare anything, everything’s done and written on the spot, jammed on the spot so we get into a hypnotic groove and it shapes itself.
Radd: What do you think of electronic music nowadays, are there any people out there you enjoy?
JC: Ok, let’s just call it dance music shall we? That was probably the biggest influence on the four members of Killing Joke. We used to listen to punk when we first started and it wasn’t until Bob Marley came over to London and did the song “Punky Reggae Party” – that was like the second wave of punk, then post punk happened after that. We listened to La Chic and Sister Sledge and all these kind of 70s dance groups, then reggae mostly. We also have a big passion for heavy dub. We had this kind of dance beat that was once punk; a sort of hybrid. It’s dance music we were born of and it’s dance music that we are really.
Radd: I was listening to a song by Soulwax called “Teachers”, which is all about their influences, and you were mentioned as one of them.
JC: Oh is that right?
Radd: Do you know much about Soulwax?
Radd: They’re a big electronic outfit.
JC: Killing Joke went on to spawn loads of other dance music; Youth, our bass player, was very much involved with the Goa trance music scene, which has sort of had it’s day now. There are actually loads of Killing Joke trance re-mixes out there! I love all that.
Radd: So you guys use analogue equipment, what do you think of computer generated music?
JC: I think it’s an interesting experiment, but that word interesting doesn’t exactly sound passionate does it? If someone says music is “interesting”, for me that equals failure. When machines do everything and man does nothing I’ve got a problem with this. At the moment NASA is warning people about these solar storms that are coming, they could knock out all of our satellites so phone systems and computers won’t work – I have this unplugged attitude, if we turn the electricity off then we see who is who! We shouldn’t over-rely on technology.
Radd: Some might say you’re behind the times in certain aspects…
JC: Maybe you’ll see when these solar storms come that I’m ahead of the times! I don’t think it’s good to be so reliant on technology. For me it’s all about playing a guitar and singing. The human voice is everything. People singing together- not for money but to happy- for me that is everything.
Radd: What do you think of DJs as musicians? Do you think that’s an art form in itself?
JC: I like melody and I like grooves but played by man’s human sweat and effort. I have heard great things in parties and I do also find them inspirational, but that being said I’m a purist. I started off in classical music; I didn’t really listen to rock music until I was about 14. I was with the National Youth Orchestra and I remember there was this gorgeous viola player; blonde, beautiful and she said to me: “Don’t you listen to anything else other than classical music”? And I was like ‘No, what like pop music?”. And she said “ No, like experimental music?”. She ended up playing me “Tago Mago” by Can and I’d never heard anything like it! Then she asked if I’d ever smoked marijuana, which I hadn’t and I ended up smoking some with her and losing my virginity. The next day I was wearing all black! I sold my violin, I bought a mini Korg synethiser and an electric piano… my parents were absolutely horrified! They thought it was just a phase but here were are many years later and the phase has not passed.
Radd: Where does 2012 fit in, in relation to all the other albums you’ve made?
JC: I love analogue, everything’s always analogue to me. Most of the people who like Killing Joke buy vinyl; a good 60% of our sales is vinyl. Analogue gives this warm sound and of course the artwork of an LP is so special. You used to save up your money and go to the record store and sit there on the bus looking at the artwork and think, “Oh what’s this gonna sound like when I get home and play it?”. It was such a thrill. I think that’s been lost for this next generation. Now I’m gonna answer this more spiritually… I think the way we’re living being so oil dependent, I feel like we need to wake up and live a life devoid of supermarket food, devoid of dependency on petrol and cars. We’ve gotta make this change; I’m speaking from my heart. All of the indigenous cultures of the world, all of their mythologies point to something that we’re heading towards. We’ve become like parasites living on the body of the earth, and it’s intelligent, it’s going to react to these fleas that are sucking the blood out of her. We’re in for a bumpy ride ahead, but community and simplicity is the way forward. And changing yourself first.
Radd: You think music is your best way to spread this message?
JC: We make such a non-commercial music but it’s reaching quite a lot of people and there is absolutely is a god and he is being so kind to me. This is all I can do. There are so many different mediums – art, different expressions – but to speak with a social conscience and to speak out when you see evil or wicked things happening in the world, it’s your moral duty when you see something that you think is wrong.
Radd: The way people consume music nowadays has changed so much with digital downloads and streaming services. What are your thoughts on that?
JC: Well you do that, I don’t. What’s happening now is that everyone expects music for free and so the impact this had had from bands to promoters to people who work at record companies has been so drastic. Sales of records 15-20 years ago… it has changed so much, there’s no money in record sales anymore. I would say that one positive thing that has happened is that it’s left the people who are passionate about music and who would do music as a lifestyle choice as opposed to something you can make a quick buck out of. People think that 30 years we had it easy but no! There were 20 middlemen taking a cut over our heads. Bear in mind that every record that I made in the 70s and 80s, I personally would receive between 1.5 and 2% of every record; you have to sell a lot of records – which we haven’t – to make anything. I’ve actually sold more classical records than Killing joke records. Now in America of course, people with a job have got the choice once a month of either buying a DVD or going to a concert or a gig – they can’t do both because they don’t have the money.
Radd: What’s your advice to the little guy, for example independent radio stations, to survive given these drastic changes?
JC: Commercial stations play bland, homogenised music but we should be looking to the underground: the rebellious small guy who is passionate about music and can introduce us to these unknown bands. We should be proud and hold our heads high for every independent record store and tiny community based radio stations.
Radd: Thank you so much for your time.