Cry Before Your Lord - Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke on Ancestral Spirits & Communion with the Dead
With a legendary beginning in ritual, and thoroughly suffused in magic, Killing Joke has long been an active channel bringing the outre into the everyday. The band has seen over three decades of intense artistic output focusing on a critical engagement with contemporary Western culture. This continues unabated, with the recent release of their 15th studio album, MMXII, the pending release of a 3 CD Singles collection spanning 1978-2012, and the Death & Resurrection Show documentary that is currently in post-production.
A constant theme in their work is a sense of ancestral connectivity, bringing ancient traditions forward into the future, and embracing a reality that is non-local, timeless and unbounded by arbitrary laws. With the death of Paul Raven, a long time bassist for the band, these relationships with the other side have been pulled closer to the surface. Songs such as "Raven King" on 2010's Absolute Descent, and "In Cythera" and "All Hallows Eve" on MMXII reflect the maturation of the band's relationship with these experiences.
In an interview with The Quietus in 2010, Coleman discusses bringing Paul Raven's ashes to India, and I wanted to understand how extending his friendship beyond temporal limitations affected his life.
DM: What do you think people can take from their relationship with their ancestors and with the dead, what can people learn from that?
Jaz Coleman: Hmmm....well of course, I only have my experiences to draw from there, but good advice is -- I'll give you an example, right -- most people these days, if I can go into the spiritual area and had to tap into your answers, most people these days, when it comes to things like prayer -- which is kind of directed consciousness if you want to talk atheist language, it's the same thing, it's directed consciousness, or good vibes a hippy would say, whatever, effective prayer -- people aren't really taught how this actually works you know. I'm talking about the ability to completely heal people through the ability of prayer.
The first thing is, in order for the whole thing, prayer to work and to be able to commune with your ancestors, you have to get into an emotional state, 'cause you read in the holy books about being able to cry before your Lord through sort of Love, it requires a kind of method acting where you got to think of like your loved ones, your children, or whatever like this and get into this emotional state and if you only had a few hours to see them one more time in your life what you'd say, and you get into this emotional state. Because unless you can shed tears, you cannot tap into communion with your -- the Holy Spirit or one's ancestors, or whatever you want to call it, right? The ancestral spirit.
And you know I've had numerous experiences with this. I did a series of articles on when prayers are answered, and my findings are interesting. The first thing we'll start with is that when you desire something in life, it goes further away, and when you stop giving a fuck, if you'll excuse my language, everything comes to you.
It seems to be the law of the universe, well this along with mantra. Mantra is, if you're a Christian for example, the first thing you do is make yourself clean by anything that's on your mind you got to feel good about anything you talk about in the presence of God. And then mantra that's very, very important if you're a Christian if that's your belief, there is the mantra of "Today you shall be in paradise with me..." and imagining the garden of Eden while you're doing it.
At certain points, if you do it every day, you imagine the Holy Spirit as a Dove above your head, and it comes into you and enters the top of your head and comes in enfolds your whole soul with light, and at a certain point you hear a voice telling you to stop, to stop chanting and at that point, you just listen.
Now that advice, once you learn to listen to your Holy Guardian, that advice is your ancestral spirit if you like, in a way, it's not just your Higher Self, its your Higher Self and your genetic memory of mankind's higher self.
Yeah? And then all the people who ever loved you or passed on to the next world they trigger this line of invisible DNA that's unfolding I believe however, I'm just trying to use this as a metaphor, and ... you know it's real, and the advice that comes, you write it down, because then you can refer back to it and you can see it was good advice.
Well, I'm thinking specifically of like somewhere around 1987-88 when I had been studying orchestration, but I didn't think I'd have a single piece of my orchestral music ever performed, let alone recorded, in my lifetime you know. But my Higher Self was saying "Keep going, keep studying, you're gonna get there, it's all going to work out." And of course you know, greater than my wildest dreams all the way to the Albert Hall, and selling Killing Joke through classical music even, so I believe very much in this.
The ancestral spirit is for healing as well -- and when we have someone close to us who is passing away, we always remind them that consciousness survives death and to give us a hand when it's answering, eh?
You know, like for me there's a thin veil, and Raven's on the other side and getting the drinks ready because you know although I don't drink anymore nowadays, you know in the next life I will....AAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HEH HEH!
So yeah, it's very much part of what I believe in and I think that if you look at the old, some of the old stone circles in Great Britain, and indeed some of the burial mounds, they have a line of stones, which is a line to the circle of burial mounds, there is a line to the autumn equinox, which is of course All Hallows Eve which is coming up I believe by the weekend in a couple of days, it's all Hallows Eve, and this is when they would call on their ancestors to help them through the difficulties of the coming Winter -- and of course if you listen to the old Anglican prayer book of the Church of England, on this day we say a prayer for the deceased, this old pagan tradition that has survived in modern prayer, to this day.
So all of this is ... remembering is the most important thing, remembering our loved ones who have passed into the next world and ritualizing this ... is very, very important. You know, when I'm in with orchestra and I've got a big appointment with orchestra, and it just has to go right, I always feel the presence of the guy who I studied music under from the age of 7 right the way to about 17, I always feel his presence and he comes to me when I've got to -- you know it's like flying a plane ... you can't fuck up, you know?
(Laughing) Right ....
(Chuckling) or being a surgeon for that matter, and just you need the extra mileage ... So yes, the ancestral spirits are important. I mean I'm thinking now of the Gatherers, ‘cos we don't have a fan club we have the gathering of course and you know this because we talked about it, but I'm thinking of one incident where Steve Laurence who's part of the gathering, he was locked into a coma they said he'd never recover from, and one member of the gathering contacted like ten monasteries that prayed for Steve and he came out within one week, and they'd taken him off the life support machine and said it should be considered to be switched off you know, because he could hear everything.
Then there was the case of when I was in St Louis, the case of Ben. I finished a concert in St. Louis and this guy comes back up backstage after the gig and said, "My best friend's got six hours to live and he's never been close to his mom and dad and he knows everything, he knows all the Killing Joke lyrics by heart." And I said "Come on, lets go," and so we just jumped in the car and drove out it was actually two hours away, outside of St. Louis.
I was confirming this situation with this mom and dad that were there, and they were complete strangers to this guy, he hadn't seen them in years and he was only 26 he was dying of cancer -- and he just couldn't believe it when I walked in and so we just cut to the chase and I think we talked about... like my brother is quite famous, a scientist, and I was really shocked when he said, because I know he's an atheist really for want of a better word or a humanist, and he said "Consciousness survives death." And he's talking in his role as a famous quantum physicist, and I was quite shocked actually when he said this, this started my passionate belief to tie the Mystery Tradition of the Hermetic Sciences in with quantum physics and because they're really talking the same language.
Anyway, in the case of this guy who they said he's got six hours to live, we talked about my experiences too, that I believe I've lived many times, I think all of us do in Killing Joke, and death is a very normal part of it. I told him about certain mantras and writings that make the soul bright, and that when you're passing through to seek out Love, Light, and Intelligence and you'll find your way back home, and I said anyway you know I come from a family where all the male line had been Brahmins and all the males died of self induced heart attacks, so you choose the moment of your death, so you probably won't go until its the right time to go until you're ready to go.
What happened after this was, I had a lot of touring to do after this, when it came to the encore session of every gig on the Pandemonium tour, actually after that, I talked about Ben and I explained about his situation, that if they wrote on the back of a ticket or a cigarette pack a message to Ben and give it to the t-shirt guy that we'll pass it on -- that he's one of us and he's not alone, and anyway he survived another fourteen weeks, the bugger, and when he died all these messages from Killing Joke Gatherers who sustained him, about how he was loved and he was one of them, were placed all over the walls at the funeral, where they had the funeral, there were thousands of them, you know, and he didn't pass alone.
And there you go we're just looking at pushing the boundaries now of what was once a fan club and its future role, and indeed what was once a band has a multiple functional purpose. You know, this is what I love about Killing Joke (laughing), it's so much more. Somebody said to me the other year, "The best thing about Killing Joke is the audience, the Gatherers, they're just amazing people," and they went on to say that "if you ever find somebody who is really into Killing Joke, you'll find a free spirited, thinking individual that you'll never forget and you should do your own demographics, just find a Killing Joke nut and you'll learn quite a lot from this person, they're normally well informed individuals." I was amused to hear this conversation. The best thing about Killing Joke were the people who were inspired by it to go on to do their own thing, and I find this the truth, and I think that again if there is any lasting legacy of Killing Joke, it really is the punk ethos of "I'll give it a go!" (Laughs)
You know, and self education -- because you know, as I told you before, that everyone left school before they were sixteen and no one's got any exams, and yet we've got three people who lecture at universities, and we've got a priest, a Druid, a Rosicrucian, a Yoga master you know, we have two architects, and it's all within one band and four people -- Composer, Producer, Conductor, Art Restorer -- one of the best in the world, works with David Rockefeller.
So what I'm saying is they're multi-talented, Renaissance in outlook, within four individuals, how I've always just taken it for granted, too much possibly, that I share making music with three other incredible individuals who probably influenced me more than any composer, living or dead, you know, and I think everybody's mindful of the fact that the people who surround ... who like Killing Joke, are the people who have kept the band going ... and we're always mindful of that fact -- which is why we kind of have an open dressing room policy, really when you compare it to other bands -- we don't need fucking security. I mean everyone's too scared to come into the dressing room anyway AHAHAHAHA and if they've got enough pluck to walk into our dressing room, then they can sit down and have a beer with us! AHAHAHA! Yeah, I really don't like the rock star thing and this kind of ... mentality.
It's all possible ... everything is attainable ... and that's it and neither do you need to take the conventional route to get there, you know?
You can go your own way and self educate, and go at your own pace to get from A to B. Everyone sort of takes the conventional route these days ... and well that's you see, the knock on effect of Killing Joke is, people see these four dickheads up on stage and they think in the end, "Shit, if they can do that, anyone can do fuckin' anything!" AHAHAHAHA and it has this mirror effect where it actually inspires people to go and do it themselves and often they of course they eclipse us in terms of their success and their publicity and everything else -- but I love that about Killing Joke. It has that effect of look go and exercise your God gift, everyone's gifted somewhere, go exercise your God gift you know and you go and do it you know, there is no -- there's only interaction.
You get back what you put out ... it's a bit like a lover, a woman, is the reflection of where your soul is, the frequency that you vibrate at in your heart.
Just remember, the thing is with a lot of these people who study the occult, is that the most important thing it to is have a big heart and generosity and Agape... big love to all Human beings, this is the only thing that counts in the end; it's better to have a big heart than all the knowledge in world. And may all the Gods, or God, be with you, as you wish.
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