Godflesh: Living in the Shadows

Hero-worship? Maybe. When news came down that we would be allowed to interview Justin Broadrick of Godflesh I became quite excited. After all,Godflesh has set the standard for extreme music by going against the norm.Furthermore, Godflesh paved the way for machine music and bands like PitchShifter by combining elements of techno, industrial and death/doom into one unique package.

We caught up with Justin at his home in Whales, taking a well deserved breakfrom touring to support Songs of Love and Hate, their fifth album. We spokeabout technology and how it is helping/hurting the underground. We spoke atgreat length on the differences between music trends in Europe and the United States.

Robert: I read in a recent interview that you are doing hard disk editing using Cue Base. How is that working out?

Justin: All the songs from the Love and Hate album were done on an Apple Mac. I did everything on a Power Mac. I just went mad, cutting things up and using all kinds of plugins and all sorts of stuff. The songs could only be realized, as far as I'm concerned, on the Apple Mac in terms of computer technology.

Robert: Computers have given us the power that recording studios once had.

Justin: Exactly.

Robert: Given computers and the internet, can you see a time where the deathgrip held by the major music corporations -- Sony, Time Warner, Columbia, will be loosened?

Justin: Yeah, yeah, I know exactly what you are talking about. The fantastic thing about the internet is that nobody has come along yet, they're trying to censure it, but they haven't tried to corporately dominate everything. The internet is pretty healthy at the moment -- I guess that they'll try, they will try to stop it. It is the only free form medium. The internet is so tremendous. I love the power of it. I can send music files to people. I would like to get into ISDN so we can do live things over the net and stuff. It is good because it is bringing power back to the artist as well as the people in between, as well as labels. The artists themselves are getting more hands on. It is really an exciting time. I can't go a day without my Apple Mac.

Robert: I see a time when it will be possible to download an album right off the internet and drop it to the burnable CD.

Justin: That is when you will see Sony and the others try to take over. It is scary stuff. This is the first time that people have had communications without censorship.

Robert: I've seen some start up net radio stations so I can't imagine that the FCC can be too far off. They will want to license and tax and put the small guy out of business.

Justin: Exactly.

Robert: Speaking of the net, I went to Earache's homepage and looked at your official page on their site. They describe Godflesh as a "Noise Partnership". Do you agree with that analogy?

Justin: No, not at all. The best site for Godflesh is an unofficial site called "Crumbling Flesh". A guy that calls himself the Slateman runs it. That is an excellent site. It is a huge site with loads of images. It is the best one I've seen. The one on Earache is horrible. It is terribly out of date, seven years out of date. I've looked at it once or twice but it really sucked. That site angers me, there is nothing going on; there is nothing updated; there is no information. It is piss poor. They could do better than that.

Robert: I would think that they could have a contest or something. They could probably get someone to do it for free.

Justin: True. For a start Godflesh is not a "partnership". Of the many records that we've made, only two of them were done by just two people. Also being seen as a noise thing is taking away from what we are and what we do.

Robert: Is it made worse by having your own label say that?

Justin: Yeah, that's it ya know. It is an easy way out for them to just say that. We are more than just noise. There is a lot of depth to what we are and they just generalized. Besides, we are not too sure about what we are.

Robert: Funny you should say that. I had a good friend that I turned on to Godflesh and he said, "If people lived inside of volcanoes, this is the music that they would listen to."

Justin: Yeah, I like that. People come up with bizarre images about Godflesh. I like that, it is enjoyable. We get people's imaginations going. The downside is that because it can't be pinned down it is not always the most popular music. Which is not what it is designed for. We never envisioned that we would be playing stadiums. I see what we do as being very honest. That is quite important to us and I feel very pure about what we do.

Robert: STREETCLEANER is what really turned me on to Godflesh. Even today when I talk to people about Godflesh, STREETCLEANER is what they immediately refer to. Does that bother you living in the shadow of that album?

Justin: It was a very fresh sound at that time. It really changed a lot of things and it made a very big impact. The downside is that when you create something unique like STREETCLEANER you always have to live in the shadow. Sometimes I get down about it but sometimes when something touches you, whether a book or movie, you can't help but compare--nothing will match the original impact. People develop expectations. It is a generalization, but a true one. I think about the things that I like and I, too, have expectations.

Robert: STREETCLEANER was Earache's 15th release. As far as I know, Godflesh was the first band on Earache that didn't feature a drummer. What kind of support did you get from Earache? Did they pressure you to use a real drummer?

Justin: The drum machine was of no consequence to them. They were very supportive at the beginning. They didn't question anything we did; they wanted to see how things would go. It was so heavy. They were excited because it was weird and it was going beyond convention. It had the power of heavy metal but it wasn't a heavy metal band. They saw the drum machine as being a part of the mechanical thing. They just let it go.The initial stumbling block with the drum machine was with live audiences. We knew we hit the right point when people started questioning what we we're doing. The wheels were rolling.

Robert: You mentioned audiences. Lets talk about that. I spent five years over in Europe and the metal scene and the underground scene was so different. For example, I had to attend huge outdoor fest to see bands like Kreator and Obituary. These bands do not do so well in the United States. What is the difference between the American and European audience?

Justin: The metal scene in Europe is much bigger than in the states but it is not easy for bands that are on the fringe...bands like Godflesh. We have a better time in American than we do in Europe. We play to bigger audiences. Our first tour in England was with Napalm Death. People were screaming at us, "You're too fuckin' slow!" and "Where's your drummer?" People were spitting on us. We kind of enjoyed it, not in a masochistic sense but in the confrontational sense. The funny thing was that two years later the same people that were spitting on us were now stage diving to Godflesh. It was the media; the media turned around and said, "It is ok for you to like this." The first time we played with Napalm Death in America people were going apeshit for Godflesh-- right over the top. The metal scene in Germany is healthy and big but very conservative.

Robert: That is true. Had metal had the same popularity here in the states as it had in Germany it would have been a three-ring circus. Here, they just take anything with the slightest hint of popularity and blow it out of proportion. Every two-bit grocery store will try to capitalize on it. When something is popular they will manipulate it for all it is worth and then bring up the next product from their product line.

Justin: Exactly, MTV is responsible for a lot of that. That is why the internet is so good, at least you have some sort of empowerment going on. Backhanders dominate MTV and no one can penetrate that. MTV in Europe is a tad bit more open than in the states.

Robert: MTV Europe was a bit better. They still had the headbanger's ball and sometimes bands like Carcass would host. You would never see that here.

Justin: They got rid of it over here too. They replaced it with a show called "Super Rock". It gives them a license to show anything even closely related to metal to include alternative. Now you see bands like Radio Head and Motley Crue. It is so funny to see bands that are not true to themselves.

Robert: If you weren't doing music what would you be doing?

Justin: I can't imagine life without music. I would have to be in a position where I had never heard of music. I have to exist with expression; I have to be creative. Maybe I would be doing art, perhaps painting. I gave up art to do music but that was at a very young age.

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