[kj] Drowned in Sound meets Youth from Killing Joke

Nick Scott npscott at blueyonder.co.uk
Tue Nov 17 05:20:47 EST 2015

Thanks for posting this Paul, nice read. 

> On 17 November 2015 at 01:03 Paul <dubecho at gmail.com> wrote:
>     DiS meets Youth from Killing Joke
>     by Dom Gourlay November 16th, 2015
>     When Killing Joke put out their first album in the summer of 1980, no one
> could have predicted they'd be here, thirty-five years later, talking about
> their sixteenth long player. Least of all the band themselves. Nevertheless,
> that's where they find themselves having released said record Pylon some five
> days earlier. Today's midweek charts reveal the album currently stands at the
> heady heights of number eleven, their highest chart placing since 1985's Night
> Time. For a band who've operated outside of the mainstream throughout their
> lifespan, these are celebratory times.
>     Currently halfway through a near sold out UK tour that will see them
> enrapture a jam packed Rock City in a few hours time, the four-piece - Jaz
> Coleman (vocals), Kevin "Geordie" Walker (guitars), Martin "Youth" Glover
> (bass) and "Big" Paul Ferguson (drums) - might be in their twilight years yet
> their music still pushes boundaries with every subsequent release.
>     Having just returned from an in-store at the city's Fopp Records, DiS sat
> down with Youth - himself an esteemed producer in his own right - to discuss
> both his and the band's currently hectic schedules. But first, the
> conversation starts right here...
>     ---
>     DiS: You've played Nottingham Rock City numerous times over the years.
> What's so special too you about the city and the venue?
>     Youth: I think we've played here fifteen times. Its got a special
> connection for me because one of my great aunts lived here. She was deaf and
> blind and worked on the local newspaper. Even in her late eighties she was
> still working for them. Whenever we played here I'd go round to her flat and
> fetch her. She'd be chain smoking Gauloises, have the TV and radio on full
> blast and she would this thick, gloopy coffee.Which she'd drink constantly
> while tapping away on her typewriter doing local stories. So we'd bring her
> down here and the staff were always really good. They'd bring her in with her
> wheelchair and look after her. And she loved the band. I think we were always
> loud enough for her to hear and get the experience. I've still got a cigarette
> box of hers I carry around. She was a favourite aunt of mine so I've always
> got fond memories of coming here and seeing her.
>     DiS: Do you feel there's quite a connection between the band and
> Nottingham audiences? I remember as a teenager whenever 'Pssyche' or 'Love
> Like Blood' came on during one of their club nights the Rock City dancefloor
> would fill up in seconds.
>     Youth: Nottingham's the heartland of England isn't it? It's not quite the
> Midlands - East Midlands right? - but it's got a great rock heritage. The
> shows have always gone down well here and we've enjoyed playing them.
>     DiS: Your latest album Pylon came out last week. Did you think you'd be
> sat here 37 years after the band started talking about the releae of your 16th
> long player?
>     Youth: No I didn't. I thought the band would last six months to a year
> really, so it's amazing. But we were ambitious, there's no doubt about it. We
> always had our hearts and eyes set on the same targets and we had every
> intention of taking them on in a big way. Yet at the same time we weren't
> bothered about it! We were just happy to get away with doing it. It's
> especially great now because we finally have the experience and expertise
> we've learned to make records the way we always wanted to. Which is possibly
> why the new album's going down so well. We worked out a good modus operandi
> how to make them well. We might have got lucky with this one? All of them have
> really great lyrics but this one seems quite complete. Even though people
> still talk about our early albums as being great records - which to a degree
> they are - we were never entirely satisfied with them at the time. We're never
> very satisfied anyway but with this one I think we managed to get everyone
> fairly satisfied. And that's a good feeling. Plus I think it's great we still
> have something to say as a band and we're still engaged, present and relevant.
>     DiS: Your last three records - 2011's Absolute Dissent, MMXII the
> following year and now Pylon rank among your finest for me. So I'd
> wholeheartedly agree that Killing Joke are as if not more relevant now than
> they've ever been. Particularly when put alongside many other bands who've
> reunited purely in the name of nostalgia, which is something you've never
> done.
>     Youth: It's interesting because a lot of bands of a similar age to us -
> they're not up for making new records. Most of them haven't made a record for
> at least twenty years, and the further up that mountain you get, the colder
> the wind blows. So they end up deliberately avoiding it because they don't
> know how they got there in the beginning. Or things have changed so much they
> don't have the urgency or passion to do it again. Whereas luckily for us we've
> never really stopped. The band have made three albums in the last five years
> and I'm making records all the time with other artists. It's brought the whole
> band up to steam a bit. Absolute Dissent was more of a regrouping and a little
> self referential. MMXII was a bit more focused but we also experimented a lot
> on that. With this one we just decided let's go really heavy and that's how it
> came out. We also spent a lot of time writing this one. Two or three two-week
> heavily focused sessions in Prague, which ended up garnering thirty or forty
> really strong ideas. So eventually we worked them down to sixteen songs and
> then we finished up with the ten that made it onto the album.
>     DiS: Of the six that didn't make Pylon, do you see yourselves revisiting
> them in the future?
>     Youth: Well, originally when we were making MMXII we had this track called
> 'In Cythera' which our guitarist Geordie really hated. But eventually it
> became the lead single off the record and I actually think it's the greatest
> single we've ever done. With this album we had a similar track called 'Love Is
> The Law' which again Geordie doesn't like because there's very little guitars
> on it, and I think it's possibly the second greatest single we've ever made.
> So we decided as a group - reluctantly on my part - to leave it off the album
> although Geordie has said he would consider revisiting it with extra guitars
> on. So maybe we'll put it out next summer? We're certainly not short of
> material. We're all writing a lot. There wasn't a dull moment during the
> writing sessions. We had lots of ideas. It was just a matter of getting them
> all down.
>     DiS: That sounds quite frustrating. Are there a lot of disagreements when
> it comes to deciding which tracks to release?
>     Youth: We are a workers collective and we're all very strong alpha males
> with strong opinions. Sometimes we have a tendency to murder songs early on,
> just to give them a chance. It's about putting them in the ring and facing the
> seven-headed hydra, and if they work we're generally in unanimous decision. If
> it doesn't - if two of us want to work on it a little further it usually gets
> to the point where all of us are on board or none of us want to fight for it.
> It's difficult, it's challenging and it's frustrating. It's also really
> democratic so if three of us don't like something but one does and they've
> pushed at it we'll usually give it a chance. It all depends how hard someone
> is prepared to fight for that song. And even then, by the time the lyrics are
> added and a few other things are changed it's completely different to the song
> you first brought to the table anyway!
>     DiS: Were there any other songs on the record which you had to fight for?
>     Youth: Yeah, and a lot of them didn't make it. Two of my favourite songs
> didn't make it, 'Apotheosis' and 'Panopticon'. They're both on the bonus disc.
> There was another song which was based around a Barry White bassline. We got
> quite far down the road with it but then it got dropped late on. But they're
> the classic sabotage techniques we know and love Killing Joke for really. And
> I do like that. If the songs are good enough they'll end up on a b-side or EP
> anyway. I guess it's our infantile arrogance which allows us to self-sabotage
> to that degree. And get away with it!
>     DiS: You've described the last three albums as being a triptych of ideas.
> Will the next record be in a similar vein or are you hoping to do something
> completely different?
>     Youth: Every record we make feels like the last record we'll ever make and
> then we're here again so I don't know. I would imagine we'll make another
> album and I'd expect it to have a different vibe. Our records tend to reflect
> where we are emotionally as individuals and that's generally changing.
>     DiS: Pylon is currently number eleven in the midweek charts which is your
> highest position in thirty years. Do you consider the charts relevant?
>     Youth: As relevant as they ever were I guess. It's a great result for us
> and good affirmation that we're still relevant. Even though they're not that
> important every band would like to be number one when they put a record out.
> So to go top twenty is an amazing thing for us and a bit of a surprise really.
> We've always found ourselves tucked away in a cult minor league somewhere so
> this shows there's still a lot of support for the band out there.
>     DiS: Tom Dalgety produced the album having also worked on the last record.
> Are you big fans of his work, particularly what he did with the Royal Blood
> album?
>     Youth: We liked what he did on MMXII so we were happy to let him do a big
> chunk of the engineering and production on this record. Most of the recordings
> were done by the three of us - me, Geordie and Paul - with a little in-house
> engineer in Prague. In fact, he wasn't there a lot of the time so I engineered
> most of it. Then Tom came in and did some individual tracks with us. Paul
> didn't want anyone there when he was doing the drums so it was just him and
> Tom with me ringing up every couple of hours saying "Make sure he does this!"
> or "Forget that!" or "Cover yourself with this!" And it worked out fine. His
> drums came out fantastically well and we were all happy with how it sounded.
> Then Geordie did some guitar overdubs with Tom and mixed it. That was great
> because when I take the full weight and responsibility for that side of things
> it incurs a lot of resentment from the rest of the band. Because I'm in the
> band. You know, why should he have more power than the rest of us? Especially
> when I signed the band to my label. That was a nightmare! It's better to just
> be the bass player and a co-producer, so another co-producer can take some of
> the flak.
>     DiS: Does your work with other artists impact on what you bring to Killing
> Joke? For example, has there ever been a time when you've heard something in
> the studio and immediately thought that would work on a Killing Joke record
> too?
>     Youth: Whatever I do informs everything else I do to some extent. I tend
> not to compare or compromise projects with other projects I may be involved
> with. I have clear boundaries. They are two totally different disciplines so
> in lots of ways, no. The only time it becomes a problem is if the managers
> fuck it up and they double book me. It's been fairly smooth in that department
> mainly because the others are always busy as well. If it was just me the band
> were waiting around for that might cause a problem but it's not, so everything
> usually works out OK.
>     DiS: What other projects are you working on at present?
>     Youth: I've been working on the Spiritualized record and more recently,
> the new Jesus & Mary Chain one which is a big deal as it's their first record
> in seventeen years.
>     DiS: How are they getting on?
>     Youth: Well, the Reid brothers are still talking to each other! That's
> good, and the songs are phenomenal. It's sounding great. We're at the halfway
> stage now so it should be ready by the end of the year.
>     DiS: What about the Spiritualized album?
>     Youth: I recorded around twenty-two tracks with Jason (Pierce) then we
> took a break so he could do some summer festivals. And then he came back and
> decided he wanted to throw the whole thing away and start again. He does have
> the capacity to do that every now and then. He's a very challenging artist who
> has a very high criteria of what he's looking for. So I don't know what's
> going on there at the minute or whether I'll be working on it again.
>     DiS: With such a vast back catalogue to choose from, are there any records
> you're not particularly fond of or try to avoid when putting together a live
> setlist?
>     Youth: I don't really go towards Revelations or Night Time that much, but
> the rest of the band really want to do them, so we've agreed to do 'The Hum'
> and 'Eighties' at some point. I don't really like those records so I'd prefer
> not to but then there are other songs I never really liked the recorded
> versions of yet we made them sound killer live. We're in a good position
> having such a big canon to play around with.
>     DiS: Your fanbase also covers a wide demographic, especially since the
> last three albums.
>     Youth: That's right. We travelled that journey throughout the demise of
> the tribes. People are more open to diverse sounds now. We've opened
> everything up from just dub and trance mixes which is a reflection of how
> people are today. Acid house changed a lot of that. I remember hearing Phil
> Collins play George Clinton followed by U2 followed by Phil Collins and the
> place would be going crazy!
>     DiS: You're already scheduled to tour America in the early part of 2016.
> What does the rest of the year hold for the band?
>     Youth: We're also planning to go to Europe, Australia and Asia so a large
> chunk of next year will be spent touring with possibly a few festivals in
> there as well.
>     DiS: What advice would you give to new bands just starting out?
>     Youth: Get your vision and manifesto together and if you're really
> connected with it, see what happens.
>     DiS: Are there any new artists you've been impressed with recently?
>     Youth: I really like the new Tame Impala album. The new Fuzz record is
> great too.
>     ---
>     The album Pylon is out now on Spinefarm Records.
>    http://drownedinsound.com/in_depth/4149534-dis-meets-youth-from-killing-joke
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