Godflesh Notes

by Brenda Mullen

The following is a transcription of a taped phone interview with Justin Broadrick of Godflesh. He was in England at the time of this interview, just prior to the band's tour for their new Earache release, Songs of Love and Hate. For those of you who have read the printed version in the Rocker (issue 11, volume 7), you'll notice that much was left out, mostly due to space and flow. For those of you who are reading this but never saw the printed version, email me for info on how to get a copy. It's not in Q&A form and perhaps offers more insight than what you're seeing here. Onward...

USR: i don't mean to sound negative but when you did your last album (Selfless) for columbia it was such a departure that it was a disappointment, at least for me.

Justin: "It was disappointing for us as well."

USR: could you explain to me what the rationale was when you went in to record? was there pressure on their end? did you feel like you needed to tone things down because you were on a bigger label?

J: "It appears that way but that couldn't be anything further from the truth. It's obvious to make that sort of assumption when a band's on a major label. You think 'oh god, it sounds a bit more commercial.' To us, it's quite an unfriendly record; the fact that it's cold and long-winded, and that's what our problem is with it now. And it doesn't really have quite the energy or the power of the earlier releases."

USR: it wasn't a total loss, there were things I liked about it.

J: "Oh, we're really down on the record, big time. We're really terrible about that. With each record we make, usually by the time we get to the next record we do nothing but slag the album before it."

USR: i felt like you lost some impact on the last record and I had to keep asking myself, "is this somebody telling you you *must* do this or we can't sell your records."

J: "It was absolutely nothing like that. If we would have made (the new record) for Columbia, we could've done more with it. In retrospect, we made an album that didn't even sound like us, in places. That's the uncomfortable thing with it. But it wasn't anything conscious. We all got dropped because they couldn't sell anything."

USR: then you *did* get dropped, along with all of the other bands they had from earache that they didn't know what to do with. at least you can find comfort in the fact that you can come back to earache and keep doing what you were doing.... i'm assuming there wasn't a huge loss involved here?

J: "No, not really."

USR: I really like to understand these distribution deals where the larger label takes the option of picking up the smaller bands at some point. but what happens when things don't work out?

J: "They're really slimy about it, that's the thing. It was a really dishonest sort of situation because they hung onto us for about three months and it seemed like everyone knew we had been dropped but no one would tell us. We were concerned as far as the contract goes, whether they wanted us or not for the album after *Selfless*. They had to pay us an advance. And of course, I foolishly believed that at the time. I had faith in the printed word, but I don't anymore! I figured it's written in the contract so it must be true. As far as we were concerned, we were getting that money. What they did for us initially was very good indeed. We were able to finance our home studios, which is where we record all of our albums anyway. Jim Welsh, who took us to Columbia, used to work at Relativity. He was the guy who got us to Earache through Relativity in the first place. He was up for this job at Columbia and they somehow took an interest in all this stuff he'd been dealing with at Relativity. It was luck, really. Jim didn't lose his place at Columbia, but he lost all of us. It seems his band now is Corrosion of Conformity. He managed to keep them on. I don't know how long that'll last, but... They couldn't admit to dropping us. That was the sick thing about it."

USR: were you happy to go back to earache at that point?

J: "Yes. We've always felt we were essentially an independent band, purely for the fact that if you're independent, you feel like you can control things yourself and not feel like you have to relinquish control at any point. Which we didn't, even with Selfless. But it feels good to be independent again because that's where our roots are and that's how we've always operated. Financially, initially it was a nightmare 'cause there was no advance anymore. We couldn't live for awhile. We kind of got used to being self-employed from music."

USR: which leads me to another question. you are incredibly prolific and it seems like you're always cranking something new out in some other project. The new Final came out, plus all the stuff you do with Kevin Martin... the list is endless. do you feel that this down-time put you in to a position that enabled you to do these other projects?

J: "I've always liked making as much music as possible. It's the only thing that keeps me feeling positive. The lucky thing, especially with a lot of the stuff Kevin and I have been doing, we did Techno Animal which is the main project between Kevin and I. The first one came out in 1990 or something and it was quite overlooked at the time. Since then, especially in Europe, since the whole dance thing has become much more wider over most forms of music in Europe. A lot of the stuff we've been making in Techno Animal recently is actually breaking so much new ground for us, it's totally shocking."

USR: kevin's attitude about music in europe isn't too good. when i last spoke to him, it seemed like he does everything contrary to what's hot, or in contrast to whatever is acceptable. he says "and I don't care if people don't like it! Arrrrrgh!"

J: "Sometimes Kevin can be fairly melodramatic. I don't kiss anyone's ass, and he most certainly doesn't! Just about the only thing we argue about is doing things for the sake of doing them, as in 'we're gonna piss someone off with this' and to me, that isn't a drive in music. I want to do something fulfilling and I really don't care what the people think of it. He'll do something to piss someone off. I don't think I can really get down on people with this. But that's something we share in common -- we do some brutalizing, to some extent. It depends on how far it goes. I can't do something to just fuck some people off. I'll get off on it if I'm enjoying it, though. It seems that people want what we're doing. Which is always a shock for us when anyone likes what we do!"

USR: How do you feel about the import-only aspect to a lot of the stuff that you're doing? There's a big demand in the states for the type of music you're doing and it seems that there's plenty of labels willing to put it out.

J: "We do want stuff to get to more people. Big Cat did pretty well with the God album, to some extent. The dance markets in Europe and the labels that deal with that are very open to what we do. And Virgin, as you're well aware of, does well with our stuff. There's a guy at Virgin who loves what we do. But somehow, what I'm hearing from people is 'I bought the Techno Animal album and it cost me $40,' and I'm like, shit! But a lot of stuff that's on the surface level in Europe is probably still on the underground level in the States. We're waiting for people to come to us and tell us they want to liscense our stuff."

USR: cleveland is hungry for the music you do. the market embraces it. i have friends who still worship head of david. how do you feel when people worship your past, like when you were in napalm death or head of david?

J: "I love it when people mention Head of David because, to be perfectly honest, one out of ten interviews that I do would have any concept of Head of David. Most people have got no concept at all. Some people might know about it through somebody like Fear Factory. Now some people are trying to track down the record and I think it's funny. It makes me laugh -- people couldn't get it -- we're talking 1986. We were met with such hostility! In the context, it was marketing. In England, we were on Blast First. It dealt with stuff that was on Touch n Go in America, like Sonic Youth, and Big Black. We were lumped in with those bands, and we definitely shared a lot in common with those bands. When Godflesh came about, it was included almost totally accidentally in this whole, what was horribly termed 'grindcore' initially. Like Napalm Death, Carcass and all this business. This was the first time that this kind of music got to metal kids. But if metal kids would've gotten ahold of Head of David in 1986, Head of David would've went crazy. I'm not trying to be an egotistical shit-for-brains, I do genuinely believe it was advanced music. As far as we were concerned in Head of David, we were totally bastardizing heavy metal."

USR: [ i told him about crowd reaction when band last came to cleveland four or so years ago. kids weren't sure if they should be enjoying two guys and a drum machine.]

J: "I love the confusion. I do get off on that myself. I particularly like playing support shows just to gauge responses. It's something I'm really fascinated with. I'd love to put a video camera at the front of the stage and have someone just literally filming the audience. Say we're supporting some metal band or some industrial band or some shit you want to come up with. And just check responses. Not that we do anything intentional -- we make the music we love making, obviously. We don't recognize it as anything other than what we do. To see people fighting with themselves -- 'What is it? What are they doing?' Nowadays, rock music doesn't seem that confrontational anymore."

USR: if you had your choice of supporting any group, who would it be?

J: "Oh god."

USR: like something that would totally be a mindfuck.

J: "U2? Most of the people we'd like to play with we couldn't because it would be too out of context. Three optimum bands to play with would be Tool, Korn, and Nine Inch Nails."

USR: didn't you get to tour with NIN? I know there was talk about a tour.

J: "I think it just got to a talk stage. It's quite funny -- there's this weird vibe between us and a lot of those people."

USR: but you are a musical influence on these types of bands.

J: "The problem is, what we've heard and noticed from other big people, is a lot of these bigger people don't want to mention us as an influence to belittle their huge position. We're such a small, tiny, who gives a fuck band. It's sad, actually. One *word* from some of these people could mean that some of their fans might be listening to us. I want people to hear this music, but when I learn it's all about marketing and bullshit and the way you fucking play ball with these people... I can't do that. It's just music to me. I can't get into all the game playing and the image making."

USR: I've noticed that you've added a percussionist lately. But it's not the same person that recorded with you on the new album.

J: "We had a drummer who's on the album called Brian Mantia. He lives in San Francisco. He's a hiphop funk drummer. He drums for people like Bootsy Collins. To cut a long story short, our manager at the time was Christian Yates. Her cousin was Brian. He was a fan of Godflesh but not involved in any way whatsoever in these sort of circles. When we did a tour with Danzig and Type-O-Negative... ho, ho, ho, we wanted to get a drummer in at that time anyway. Brian was the guy. It just worked out that he wasn't busy at the time. We played live with him, it was absolutely brilliant. So he played on the album, we don't speak for a few months because we're all busy with different things, we come back and find out he's joined Primus. The same day he joined Primus, Prong split off. Ted Parsons, who was the drummer for Prong and he was also in the Swans as well, offered his services and that's who we've got now."

USR: There was something very prophetic in an interview done in 1994 in *Glass Eye,* which you stated, "Our music is inspired by hate... but also by the love of hate. If anything, I'd say Godflesh songs are songs for victims."

J: "It must've been because I've never read that article. I think the title of this album is something we've been warming up to for years. The title of the album is so honest. The sentence, songs of love and hate, couldn't be truer for me for what this music holds, what it's about, why I make it. It encompasses all the pain and joy of every experience and every emotion."

USR: we really liked the line in the song "wake" where it says 'the body sleeps as the mind destroys.'

J: "It was quite a pleasure to print the lyrics this time."

USR: oh yeah, yeah! you guys never print your lyrics!

J: "I was always scared of printing lyrics."

USR: why?

J: "It wasn't any particular dogmatic reason, just... it's not even the lyrics are 100% personal. It couldn't be me being precious or anything. The problem with us is we're so self-conscious."

USR: were you concerned that somebody would misinterpret the lyrics?

J: "Possibly. What inspired me to start printing the lyrics was people's misinterpretations. A few friends of mine would spend time on the internet and find loads of Godflesh pages. They showed me how people were interpreting Godflesh lyrics. Some of them were so scary. I felt bad about it -- I thought why should people have to work so hard to listen to the record for the lyrics? Sometimes you make music and you don't see the contact that it makes."

USR: isn't art all about interpretation anyway?

J: "Yes. That's why I like the initial records. I loved the suggestion and the confusion. Obviously we do such powerful imagery, but it's presented in such a suggestive fashion that you can take this how you want it. For me, that's really important. I want it to do that because it goes back to what music meant to me as a kid. It was when I wasn't influence by much apart from music and I sat and poured over records and looked at the sleeves and obsessed. And then I'd read interviews with these people with the whole interpretation of it and afterwards I felt like I didn't want to read it. You read it and you think 'oh, I thought it was about this.' I thought my perception was really valid to me. That's where it stops."

USR: I noticed that the cassette version of the album is listed love on one side, hate on the other. is there any connection musically? Or was it an accident?

J: "They must've just done that."

USR: that's a label thing

J: "Big time, big time. And it's not intentional. We wouldn't have done that. I think we even discussed it laughingly, having a love and a hate side. I never discussed it with the label though. It's really sort of cheesy."

USR: How much input do you have on the cover art? I love the graveyard positioned in front of an industrial wasteland.

J: "That scene is in New Orleans. Most people ask us if we did a good job on the computer and it's a completely real photo. It's just some not very pleasant suburb of New Orleans. That's a petrol plant. The story is, is just out of view is there's a suburb there and everyone works at that plant. And that being the local industry, and an extraordinarily high percentage of these people get cancer from working with the petrol and end up getting buried next to the plant."

USR: you work, you die. the purpose of life.

J: "It's a heavy visual but it's real. I wouldn't create something like that. It's almost contrived, but that's what we liked about it. Every sleeve for Godflesh is a 100% us. No one gets a thing in there. We don't let anyone near anything that we do. No producers, no engineers, nobody can say what they think. We know what we want, and that's it."

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