Going Over To The Dark Side: British rocker Jaz Coleman speaks out

Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman will perform spoken word at The Classic on Sunday (Newshub.)
Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman will perform spoken word at The Classic on Sunday (Newshub.)

By Miriam Harris

British-born Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman is back in the country for a spoken word show at The Classic in Auckland on Sunday.

The part post-punk rocker, part classical composer continues to surprise and challenge, and fans can expect him to voice strong opinions about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) in his Going Over To The Dark Side show.

He's been a New Zealand citizen since 1995, and spends a few months each year living on an island in the Hauraki Gulf. He says he has "grave doubts" about the TPP.

"I'm not a political piece but I don't like the things that are being done," he says.

"I don't like, for example, that this country is going to sign this huge great document and give away all its natural wealth and not even the Opposition had a look at the document, and nobody knows what's in the document. I find this undemocratic and I've got a serious problem with this."

He says he has no political agenda, and his opposition to the TPP stems from environmental concerns.

"I would like to see New Zealand as a proud sovereign nation, atomistic and making its own decisions, and not interfered with by outside forces that eye the natural wealth of this country hungrily and want to steal it," he says.

Fans can also expect to hear him discuss topics of globalisation and the environment.

He describes himself as a "green collectivist", and fears foreign powers will "turn New Zealand into a polluted mess".

"Man can live in harmony with Mother Nature or be a parasite, and I think if he lives in harmony with the earth, the earth will protect him," he says.

"I'm quite religious about it."

And there's more -- Coleman is also worried about the spread of genetically modified food, mining in New Zealand, and mankind being "superseded by artificial intelligence".

 "There are times when all I think about is isolating myself from people and hiding myself away for the remainder of my days."

But it's not all melancholic. In fact, the more Coleman opens up the more it is evident he is very happy with his own life - "as happy as you can be really".

And he's not just happy, he's extremely busy.

After his stint in New Zealand he has two huge concerts planned for July at the Tzar's palace in St Petersburg, Russia. He'll be joined there by the St Petersburg State Orchestra - what he calls "Mr Putin's top orchestra".

The 90-minute White Night performances will premier some of his new works to 15,000 people.

He'll then record with the orchestra, and will include versions of some of Killing Joke's music, as was rumoured earlier this year.

Then there's a piano concerto in Tehran with the United Nations Orchestra alongside New Zealand pianist Stephen Small at the end of the year, and Killing Joke's tour for their 2015 album Pylon.

After all that, Coleman says he will finish the year with two nights at the Brixton Academy in London before retreating back to New Zealand, "to do no music at all for a few months".

Coleman's love for New Zealand began when he first visited at the age of 25.

"I feel much more at home [in New Zealand] than the motherland. I don't like its class system, I don't like its politics, and I don't like the weather and I don't like the food. I don't really like anything about it," he says.

"When I heard Maori voices, I experienced this feeling of homesickness and it wasn't for the home I was born in, it was for this country," he says.

He even says his book, Letters to Cytheria, is "really a metaphor for the isolated island that I choose to live on".

Fans - or "gatherers" as Coleman prefers to call them - can expect to see him do more work with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and yet another Killing Joke album.

"We're knocking them out now, and I feel like there's always a better record in me. I try harder and harder every time," he says.

"I would rather destroy a creation of mine than have something I didn't feel 100 percent about at this stage in my life."

Coleman taught himself to conduct, and believes passionately in self-education.

"I'm a self-made man. I left school when I was 14 with no exams."

"I think I've surprised myself with all I've managed to accomplish in my life. It's a long way from living in a squat with no exams to being knighted for classical music," he says.

He turns 56 today -- a milestone he's pleased to reach.

"It's a privilege to get into your mid-50s, especially in the rock industry. If you consider one in seven rock musicians die before they get to the age of 35, that's a higher mortality rate then going to Afghanistan," he says.

Coleman gave up alcohol nine years ago and has never touched hard drugs. He says the secret to life is "to find out what gives us deep, inner pleasure."

"Everybody's born with a God gift. Everybody.  And life is the location of that God gift. I think that when someone gets over the age of 50 you can kind of tell whether they've found their God gift because they've got a smile on their face, and the other one's haven't. They're miserable as f**k."

Tickets for Jaz Coleman's 'Going Over To The Dark Side' show are on sale now.


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