[kj] Interview: Big Paul Ferguson from Killing Joke [Louder Than War]

Neil Perry 65snoopy at gmail.com
Fri Oct 7 09:11:33 EDT 2016

Good interview. I always wished BPF had participated more in interviews.
When I interviewed them
he was content to sit back and observe proceedings, but that was a
different time, different dynamic, admittedly.
Although I remember that when he did join in, the others would shut up
immediately instead of all shouting
over each other.

On 6 October 2016 at 23:13, Paul <dubecho at gmail.com> wrote:

> http://louderthanwar.com/big-paul-ferguson-interview/
> Interview: Big Paul Ferguson from Killing Joke
> *Written by Rahman The writer
> <http://louderthanwar.com/author/rahman-the-writer/>*6 October, 2016
> [image: big-paul-ferguson-interview]
> *‘Big Paul’ Ferguson is the drummer and percussionist and founder member
> of the mighty musical force of nature known as Killing Joke. Along with
> singer Jaz Coleman, another founder member, he called for a ‘New
> Renaissance’ and over the last four decades he has been responsible for
> some of the most distinctive and iconic rhythms in music; ultimately he is
> quite simply one of the finest and most formidable drummers in modern
> music.*
> *He has also co-authored many of the band’s most insightful and
> intelligent lyrics with Jaz, and it is a testament to the man’s generosity
> of spirit that he has taken time out of a busy schedule to answer a few
> hopefully pertinent and interesting questions.*
> *When did the idea of playing drums first occur to you, did you take
> formal tuition, or are you self-taught?*
> I’m self-taught. The first and only drum lesson I’ve had was with a
> drummer that played with Howard Jones! He had a beautiful red Premier kit &
> insisted that I learn the double stroke roll, but in my eagerness to play
> the whole kit this seemed fairly pointless.
> I took a book of drum rudiments from him, which I still have, but the
> lessons didn’t get me to the heart of drumming as fast as I wanted. I don’t
> remember when I first thought of becoming a drummer but according to my
> mother, I’ve always been bashing things!
> I did become obsessed by drums & drum kits during tedious geography
> lessons in the fifth form. My first kit was made mostly from wooden rubbish
> bins with drumheads stretched over them. I bought that with my pocket money
> when I was about 14 years old. I did a brief stretch in the high school
> military band as a snare drummer & I suppose that’s when any formal
> learning should have occurred, but we spent most of our time at the end of
> the school field smoking cigarettes & having a laugh rather than learning
> how to play anything.
> *You continue to be an inspiration to not only drummers but to musicians
> in general. Who were your own early influences, and by that I mean not only
> drummers but widening that if I may, to include other musicians and bands?*
> The first records I owned were given to me by my eldest sister. They were
> Jimi Hendrix’s *‘Are You Experienced*?’ & King Crimson’s ‘*In the Court
> of the Crimson King’.* The first albums I bought myself were Dave & Ansel
> Collin’s *‘Monkey Spanner’ *& T Rex’s *‘Electric Boogie’.*
> So my tastes ran from progressive rock to glam & you could also throw a
> bit of Irish folk into the mix. My influences have been many & varied
> throughout the years. The glitter band & ELP may have had a lot to do with
> it – ha! ha!         Also Roxy Music & the Sensational Alex Harvey Band,
> Big Youth & The Stranglers set me free & put me on the road to drumming.
> *At what point did you think that you had reached a standard that was good
> enough to look for other musicians to form bands with, and which styles &
> genres were you exploring and playing before you formed Killing Joke?*
> I haven’t yet reached the stage where I’m confident to play with other
> musicians, then even less so, but necessity being the mother of invention
> nothing was going to stop me. My school friends & I had a progressive rock
> band called *Beowulf *and then my art school friends and I had a glam
> punk band called Pink Parts. The band I was playing with when I met Jaz was
> the Matt Stagger band, and that was afro-rock/reggae influenced.
> *You and Jaz (in)famously performed ‘a ritual’ after many unsuccessful
> attempts to find like- minded musicians, allegedly after which, the next
> two musicians who knocked on your door were Geordie & Youth. Was this
> ‘ritual’ part of an ‘established’ esoteric and/or gnostic belief system
> such as rosicrucianism or theosophy for example, and if so; do you still
> subscribe to this belief system?*
> Jaz & I embarked upon a course together that involved Neophyte rituals
> taken from the Order of the Golden Dawn. Although we shared an interest in
> the occult, mine soon became intellectual rather than practical.
> I’ve always had a strong interest in history & mythology which persists to
> this day, but my beliefs have evolved over the years and & I no longer
> subscribe to any one particular belief system.
> *With regards to you and your fellow ‘brother-in-rhythm’ Youth, you are in
> many peoples’ opinion demonstrably one of the finest rhythm sections in
> music. Was that unique ‘simpatico’ or ‘locked in’ feel there from the
> earliest rehearsals, or was it something you had to work at assiduously
> over a period of time?*
> Well I’m flattered that you find us a fine rhythm section. Youth’s sound
> is very distinctive and & I feel that when we play together our styles
> result in a unique and surprising ‘feel’. It took a lot of searching to
> find a bass player for this band, and whatever Youth’s ulterior motives
> were at the time for coming to Cheltenham to audition with us were, he
> decided to stay with us. Without doubt he and & I had, and have, a
> symbiotic relationship. I feel he adds to what I do, in an organic way; but
> my view of my *own* playing is that I plough through and take no
> prisoners and between the two lies the magic…
> *One of the USP’s that sets Killing Joke apart from the herd is that your
> playing is often groove orientated, and makes some tracks, for want of a
> better word, ‘danceable’. **This was evidenced on early tracks such as:
> ‘Nervous System’, and ‘Change’ and continues right up to recent tracks like
> ‘Ghosts of Ladbroke Grove’ and although that’s more dub-like; there’s
> groove in their too.*
> I think all of us in KJ have an unwritten rule that if it doesn’t swing
> it’s not worth it. I have no particular sets of rules or preferences for
> dance music but I have an inherent need for groove when I play. I find it
> very difficult to play a straight beat without putting a swing in it!
> *With regards to your individual contribution to the Killing Joke ‘sound’,
> where often your rhythms and patterns ‘lead from the front’ and help define
> the track, on such tracks as: ‘Dominator’, ‘Tension’, ‘Follow The Leader’
> and ‘Love Like Blood’, is this something you work out in your head in
> rehearsal, or perhaps later in the studio when you are actually recording
> the track(s)?*
> What I do and what I choose to play more often or not begins with Geordie.
> His riffs & phrases are what give me inspiration & the drum parts that are
> eventually recorded only become that way when they are married to the
> guitar parts. Whatever I’ve come to rehearsal with, indeed whatever *any* of
> us comes to rehearsal with, changes according to the atmosphere in the room
> and the influence that we have on each other.
> *After the tectonic plate rattling debut, on the follow up (no ‘difficult
> second album’ travails with KJ!) ‘What’s THIS For..!’, your tom and
> percussion work seemed to feature more noticeably. Was there a conscious
> decision to add particular styles, textures & rhythms?*
> As I mentioned before, I listened to the Glitter Band. There was also a
> track by the SAHB called *‘Booids’* which had a great influence on me. I
> was also deeply impressed by a comment from a random stranger about his
> aversion to drummers using cymbals & for some reason those words ate at me
> to the point that I deliberately started to leave out the hi hats &
> cymbals. I also listened to Mongo Santamaria & other Latin percussionists
> for inspiration, but I think also it was a sign of the times; drummers in
> particular were looking for new ways to express themselves, different ways
> of playing outside of the standard rock & roll format.
> *After Youth departed how long into your search for a replacement to fill
> the void did you find Paul Raven, and how did his style differ from
> Youth’s; and did you and Raven ‘click’ together immediately?*
> Raven was a far more aggressive bass player then Youth & he and I played
> very well together. It was a bit of a messy period in my life re-joining
> Killing Joke after the Iceland escapade. I had been playing with Youth in
> Brilliant & with another bass player who I thought I had a future with. I’m
> not sure if I have the story straight but I think Youth himself referred us
> to Raven himself. There was never a dull moment with Raven, I very much
> enjoyed the band with him in it; his style was very different & I miss him.
> I must say it’s been a privilege playing with both Youth and Raven in this
> dysfunctional brotherhood…
> *After disagreements regarding musical direction you left the band in
> 1987.Could you elaborate on this further please to ‘set the record
> straight’, because in researching for this piece, I noticed that there’s
> all kinds of speculation across various web sites and discussion forums?*
> I can tell you *my *version of it.. As with any story there are always at
> least two sides. In a nutshell, the *Outside the Gate* album was Jaz’s
> solo project but because it cost a lot of money, the record company decided
> it should be a Killing Joke project, but that Raven & I shouldn’t be
> involved in the writing. We were both very unhappy with this arrangement.
> When I acquiesced and went to record drum tracks with Geordie, personal
> grievances were getting in the way & acrimony reigned in the studio. I
> couldn’t listen to any of Jaz’s keyboards when I recorded the drums & threw
> away the ‘click track’, so I played drums to just the guitar & it all made
> perfect sense. Unfortunately, when the keyboards were brought back in the
> timing was all over the place. My answer was: ‘do all the keyboards again’
> & Jaz’s answer was: ‘’get a new drummer’’.
> *Was it at this point on your ‘timeline’ that you decided to become a
> professional restorer, and why did you choose this unusual profession? **(There
> are some incredible images of Big Paul working in his workshop in Mont
> Sherars’ stunning book of Killing Joke photo portraits: ** ‘Twilight of the
> Mortals’ – released November 2016).*
> I had been out of Killing Joke for several years, I was living in New York
> and I needed a change. Knowing that my other artistic talents were being
> neglected & having always had a powerful interest in art & history, when I
> came across the chance to deal with ancient sculpture, it was a perfect fit
> for me. One thing that art restoration teaches other than the obvious
> techniques & handling of materials, is that there is no room for ego. It’s
> a very behind-the-scenes enterprise.
> *What were your next musical projects, and does the resultant work stand
> up to scrutiny all these years later?*
> It may seem strange not pursuing something in the vein of KJ, but at the
> time I wanted to do anything but… I played with Warrior Soul on their first
> album, but I felt that I didn’t fit in with the American rock ‘n’ roll vibe
> of the band. Subsequently, a guitarist friend of mine John Carruthers
> (formerly of Siouxsie & the Banshees) and I formed a band that was to
> become Crush, which was about as far from Killing Joke as one could
> get. Does it still stand up? Hard for me to say. I think we were ahead of
> the times. It was innovative & short lived, and to my ears at least, very
> good.
> *Did you continue writing lyrics post-Killing Joke, and have you ever
> thought of collating & collecting your lyrics/prose for a formal book
> release?*
> I did continue writing though perhaps not as much, and the idea of putting
> a book together of my lyrical musings is not far from my mind.
> *What were your reasons for re-joining Killing joke in 2007-was there a
> sense of ‘unfinished business’ musically & lyrically?*
> I certainly felt that my sense of outrage at current political events
> needed a vehicle & of course, what more perfect place than Killing
> Joke! Obviously, the shock & sadness of Raven’s departure from this life
> was instrumental in Jaz & I healing our wounds, but I had carried Killing
> Joke with me all the time that I wasn’t in the band (you can ask my wife!),
> and if I had not taken this opportunity it would still be there & gnawing
> at me.
> *The last few years have been very productive with three albums in 5
> years, the last of which, ‘Pylon’, was commercially successful, and won
> awards. Do you feel that the new songs stand shoulder-to-shoulder when
> played alongside ‘classics’ such as ‘Pssyche’, ‘Eighties’ and
> ‘Pandemonium’? Do you feel  any pressure when  writing songs these days?*
> Well, firstly I’m delighted that the records have been so well received.
> Calling anything that Killing Joke do a commercial success is a bit of a
> laugh because we don’t really sell the numbers that people imagine we do;
> but artistically I’m very happy with what we’ve done recently. There’s
> always pressure to write & remain relevant, but there aren’t any scorecards
> & every song is a painting. There’s no measurable ‘better’ while you’re
> recording. It’s rather more: ‘’is it making your head nod or not’’.
> *In Montster Filmworks’ powerful & visceral biopic *‘Chapter Big Paul
> Ferguson’, Martin Atkins (ex-Pil & Pigface) describes the Killing Joke
> drumming workload thus: ‘you might as well set my arms on fire!’. **Clearly
> you must have been in terrific shape to do all the live work then. Now you
> are in your 50’s and still touring regularly, what kind of physical and
> mental toll does this take on you?*
> Well I have to prepare for it, I have to stay in shape, but I’d be doing
> that anyway regardless of KJ. I’m blessed with a physique that can tolerate
> my workload and cursed with a mindset that won’t let me relax! I’d be lying
> if I said it hasn’t got a little more difficult, as along with age I’ve
> also suffered numerous incidents & injuries. Thankfully none have been
> serious enough to interfere with my pleasure of playing with Killing joke…
> *In 2015 you launched a bespoke jewellery business called ***‘Boneyard
> Skull Rings’, whereby you personally make to order solid silver rings,
> necklaces and bracelets; and they look fabulous!  How’s this been received?*
> The pieces have been received very well. I’m very excited at this new
> project and the way it came around was trying to find jewellery that I
> would want to wear. I’ve always loved sculpture & texture & these pieces
> are that & more. It makes me feel great to hear from satisfied customers
> about how thrilled they are with their new purchases.
> *So we’re into 2016 and in Mont Sherar’s definitive, game-changing book of
> Killing Joke photo portraits ‘Twilight of the Mortals’. What do you think
> Mont has captured here that no one else has done previously?*
> Mont has been allowed access to Killing Joke in a way that few people
> have. He is a genuine fan & an exceptionally talented man. The band have
> trusted him in the recording studio & into our lives. He was almost inside
> my drum kit at one point! His exceptional eye for composition & detail are
> evident in every frame. We’re all looking forward to the book being
> published.
> *In an arch and very KJ twist to the old ‘CD included!’ pitch, the Special
> Deluxe Edition of ‘Twilight of the Mortals’ has two ‘old school’ 7’’ vinyl
> records with each member of Killing Joke submitting a separate, original
> track each that genuinely will not be available elsewhere. Possibly
> forever. Your solo track, where you are billed as BPF, is: ‘The Great
> Motivator’ Could you talk us through it please, and are you planning any
> further ‘solo’ releases at some point in the future?*
> The idea to release vinyl with this book was Mont’s, and had it been a CD
> or DVD I’m pretty sure none us would have contributed as we did. The idea
> of having something in vinyl was what clinched the deal! *The Great
> Motivator *is one of several musical experiments where I thread some of
> my poems and lyrics over a percussive background. Mark Thwaite was sent the
> tracks & has done a great job remixing them. A word of warning: they’re not
> necessarily the rock drums you might be expecting! As far as any solo
> releases in the future, it would be nice to release an EP or even an album
> sometime soon, bit I’ve got my hands full!
> *Surprisingly there hasn’t been a definitive biography chronicling Killing
> Jokes’ remarkable, chaotic and labyrinthine career, and rumour and
> speculation has always swirled around the band. What’s the most ridiculous
> rumour you’ve heard about yourself and also concerning the band?*
> I’ve heard that I got a ‘phone call from Madonna asking me to play on one
> of her albums, and rumour has it I told her to ‘fuck off, I don’t play with
> girls!’  As for rumours about the band, well you know our singer,
> anything’s possible!
> *If you wouldn’t mind playing the role of a seer for a moment, what does
> the rest of 2016 and then into 2017 hold for Big Paul Ferguson?*
> Death and destruction? Flowers and puppies?
> ‘Big Paul’ Ferguson, thanks very much for your time!
> Musicians of the calibre and integrity of Big Paul are as rare as the
> Great Man missing a beat, so rare in fact that upon reflection one cannot
> help but come to the conclusion that he may very well be *the* last great
> drummer…
> If you would like to own a one-off piece of bespoke jewellery, crafted
> especially for you by the very same hands that still play all those iconic
> beats and drum patterns, then head over to: www.boneyardskullrings.com
> Chapter Big Paul Ferguson: Montster Filmworks www.youtube.com/
> watch?v=HyKJ5DmHc8E
> Twilight of the Mortalsby Mont Sherar  can be ordered from here
> <http://www.pc-press.co.uk/twilight-of-the-mortals/>.
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