GODFLESH is a band that I'm sure you're all well aware of. For over a decade it's members have been turning out consistently impressive material in one form or another both together and on their own. The scope and depth of the collective discography is really quite something to behold. With another new album on the books, and the battalion of side projects endlessly squirming about, main man Justin Broadrick took time from his busy schedule for a chat. This interview was conducted by phone over two days in mid September. Enjoy. - Scott
I guess we may as well start with the new album... "Songs Of Love And Hate" is another evolutionary step in the GODFLESH sound, what were the influences and motivations behind the latest album?
I think that a lot of people are picking up... Hip Hop was a big influence on this album, I mean in a big way. I mean especially with the addition of the drummer, who's essentially a Hip Hop/Funk drummer who is from San Francisco. That really gave us... It's just another step you know, just something else in there, which took us up a gear ourselves. The drummer himself is an inspiration, just because it was so cool to see a really hot drummer, just playing and sorta giving it funky, Hip Hop grooves but with a sense of heaviness and a sense of brutality, which is what we wanted to take from Hip Hop anyway, and it's what so many people miss you know, as far as we're concerned anyway. For us this album is more physical, it's the most physical record we've ever made I think. Just down to the instruments, there is actually for the first time ever, there is drums, guitar and bass which is a semi-conventional set up you know. As opposed to in the past it's been guitar, bass and reams of technology, or not really a fat lot of technology, but that's sort of taking up most of the space in the sound. But this is the least amount of technology we've ever had on any single record, but in the same way we wanted to embrace cultures that use technology which is Hip Hop really, and Techno as well, and mix it up in a bit more brutal fashion basically. That was a conscious aim, to make something that you could groove to, we've never been tight ass anyway you know, we've always considered that our sound isn't tight ass like most metal is, you know, how it's really stiff. We wanted to take that premise of our usual sound and just loosen it up and make it groovier, that's what we wanted from this record, and personally we've succeeded. It's a new starting point for us, it's a new scope, so we can go from here now.
That actually sort of ties in with my next question. The album has a lot of elements of older releases, as far as vocally it's a little harsher than the last couple of things that have come out, yet it's completely different rhythmically. You seem to attribute that to the human drummer, do you see him continuing with the band on future releases, or was this just for this album to try something different?
The idea with it was sort of to create a vaguely ongoing thing, but the way we are... because each album always has it's own identity, we really do take things as they come. Once we get bored of a certain thing, that's the end of it really, we go on to the next, we do get very much like that. I mean, we've always got a core obviously for the sound, but we always see so many more possibilities. The problem is with the drummer that we've got, we've just found out today that he's just joined PRIMUS, so we're like, "shit, we ain't got a drummer?" We've got a bit of a problem there, I mean we're going to be OK to replace him live, but in terms of what he did on the album... The good thing with him is that he's pretty loose, in that he could quite easily do another album with us and we could still have someone else come out and play his stuff live, who won't be as good as him, or at least as capable at doing what he does. For us it really is a new starting point, I mean by the time we finished "Selfless" we were really tired of us and a drum machine, you know. We felt like we'd worked the mechanized side of it enough, I mean who ever we have drumming for us drums mechanically anyway. As much as anything, it was the sound of the drummer as much as the physicality, if you know what I mean.
The emotion that a human gives it that a machine can't...
Yeah, exactly the dynamic, that sense of dynamic, that is always missing with a machine. Which is fine for what we did originally and early with albums like "Streetcleaner", they were meant to be really mechanized sounding, even though all the guitars and vocals were live, the rhythm was always completely mechanical and that was the intention then, it's just not the intention anymore. As far as we're concerned we've stretched that far enough, or as far as we wanted to take it anyway. It was time to get looser with the rhythm but still have real sense of brutality, if not more. You can just do so much more with a drummer I think really. That's what really excites me about using drums now, it like it's adding asuch a dimension to the sound which was always missing before.We can hear it when we mix, it adds just a whole sense of other, and it's just great you know. We can do so much more with this... But having said that I can imagine on the next GODFLESH album we'll use loads of technology. That's just the way that we always are. It always works out to the contrary, it's like we make a record, and then play it and it's like, "OK, we've got to go in reverse now." It's just the way that we think, and not a lot of bands think like that, they get success with one album and figure they may as well use that for the rest of their career. For us music making isn't about that, it's about, first and foremost, how to define ourselves musically , not like career.
This is the first time that you've really printed the lyrics, was there something in particular that you wanted to get across with this album?
I guess to some extent it's that I'm not being selfish for a change. Where as usually I'm really personal about lyrics, and I don't tell people anything as such. I mean not directly, maybe a loose idea, or they hear what they choose to hear, but I always liked that initially. I like the idea of suggestion. A lot of people for many years, as you can well imagine, have been saying "Why don't you print the lyrics?" So many people that are really into the band would just love to be reading the lyrics, I basically just self analyzed myself and thought well I'm obviously being really selfish. It's like lyrics are there to be printed you know. So this time I thought, "Fuck it", because there was... I couldn't really even explain why, I was just fed up with being suggestive I think. I wanted people to be able to read what is being said, you can hear the shit anyway, but I just thought... Before in the past, I've done things like print a lyric from each song, and things like that, but it just didn't seem like enough for me this time. I wasn't satisfied without having it all there, and there's still one song missing. You know, just make a change. Talking about lyrics I do find redundant sometimes, it's really hard to convey. I think it's easier for the listener to convey for themselves. That was the whole point initially of not printing the lyrics until I realized that a lot of people quite possibly couldn't understand fifty percent of what I was saying. I thought that if I print them all, you'll understand, and you'll still see that they're suggestive.
That leads us to the next question... You've always taken a very stripped down approach to lyric writing, where less is more, and each individual word carries its own weight. What are your thoughts on this, how important do you see the lyrics as being and what impact do you see it having over traditional lyric writing?
For me personally, that's the only way that I can really convey emotionally what's going on, if you know what I mean. I hate lyrics that sort of spell things out, it's OK it depends on the musical context, but for me, the music I'm making... I don't see it bemoans any particular story telling or even much more explanation. Single words are quite enough. I really can't stand the concept of people telling you what to do. So many people , especially people who work vaguely in this are of music we do, seem to be like... It gets really selfish when people are like, "Oh I'm so fucked up", and all this sort of shit. I really find my stuff, the more simple it is the more applicable it is for other people. I really don't think that a lot of the stuff that I'm talking about in my lyrics is personal, it's more like a world view and I think a lot of people will feel the same. Maybe relate to what the hell I'm talking about and maybe feel the same sense of being crushed and feeling like nothing, and it doesn't take a lot of words to explain this stuff. The strange thing with the lyrics is they are the last thing on the agenda when I make music. I'll write the music and the lyrics will come last, and the lyric is almost dictated by what I've created musically. That sets the mood really, it's not like I struggle with the stuff from there, it's really quite easy. It's just there in me and it's just like, yeah, this is what I think of this, this is what I want to convey. Even musically, it's talking as far as I'm concerned, it's saying things itself. I treat the vocals as another instrument anyway, a really big instrument, but obviously you can hear the way that we mix the vocals. It's never on top of the music, it's within the music, and you can pick any instrument and say that it's within the whole sound. It's not like I'm putting any particular sense of importance on it, to me everything is as equal as any other instrument in the band. I almost put the vocals under that, probably because I haven't got a lot of confidence in my own voice. When I actually sit down after I've done something, I'm not always a hundred percent happy, but that's just me anyway.
Inner struggle and the search individuality seem to be the primary themes in much of your writing through the years, how do these silent wars relate to your day to day living? Would you consider yourself an unhappy person?
No, generally... the picture that most people will probably get from the music is that I'm a real walking talking depressive you know, but I couldn't be any further from it. I spend more of a day laughing, I'd rather spend the day laughing. The miserableness that is there isn't by choice, if you know what I mean. A lot of people will choose to be miserable and revel in it, where as I don't actually enjoy being miserable at all, I don't find any solace in it or anything. It is struggling, it is just that, I can spend a whole day in a really great mood, I can spend a whole week... months in great moods. But when I get out into the public sometimes, or when I encounter just social life in general, or just the world in general, like if I sit and watch the news or encounter a certain breed of people then I start getting sick again. Then I start thinking, "Fuck this," you know. I hate people, it really gets down to all the extremes, the thing with myself is that every emotion for me is extreme. If I'm joyful then it's a totally extreme level, but if I'm down, it's totally the end of the world for me. I think I just flip between the two, there's not much middle ground in anything I do. I think in everyday existence that's how it comes out in me, and I think people that know me personally as a friend would know me as being that sort of character, really high or really low, but there's never any in between. I think this is why the music is what it is as well, like the title "Songs Of Love And Hate" is perfect. People say, "I don't hear the love in your music, I just hear the hate," but it's not really true, I can't really explain why, but it's just not. There's as much love in there as there is hate, but it all becomes the same thing anyway at the end of the day so...
I'm much like that myself in a lot of ways...
This is why the music does what it does, I think that people can relate to this feeling. I think that the people who listen to GODFLESH would, I hope, would really listen to it and find that there are other people out there that feel like this. A lot of people won't admit to it, males particularly are so struck on just being a hundred percent macho that there's no room for anything. This is something that I deal with in my lyrics as well, the pressure, people expect from a male dominated world that every male is like some hard brick wall. I've had problems with that as a kid, it's like I couldn't relate to that at all. It's like emotionally I was a complete wreck, at the mercy of my emotions totally. This music for me is as explanatory as it gets, it's defensive as much as anything you know. I'm not a strong person in any sense really, I think that's why I try to communicate with this music. Like your average traditional heavy metal record is all dealing with the person who makes the music crushing the listener, I don't feel like I make this music because I want to fuck up the listener. I want the listener to be into it because they can possibly empathize with the defense mechanism that's at work. It's a revenge thing you know, revenge on all of those fuckers at school that you had to sort of bow down to, or become a part of their gang or something. It's all deep rooted, it's all deep rooted in childhood I guess.
The GODFLESH sound has had an obvious influence on a number of bands, at times to the point of mimicry. They say it's flattering, but it has to get aggravating after awhile...
Yeah, it does, absolutely. It really does, it can be quiet horrible sometimes. I mean a lot of people have said to me, "Don't be so precious, you should be complimented by the fact that x amount of bands have taken your sound," but when you make music like this... Not that I'm saying I'm the god of it or anything, it's just like, it's really personal. You feel like you've created something which is you, and that's what I feel sometimes, even when I see some of these bands who are really popular that have been totally influenced by GODFLESH. I see what they do and what they say, and how they're acting and what they're music is, and I just think well, you've got me in there and it doesn't feel right if you know what I mean. It's like they're taking an actual physical part of yourself and applying it to their own life, which is fine musically, but it becomes really impersonal after a while. You feel like your imprint is stuck on these people, it is nice at first, but after a while, like you say, it does become really aggravating. It's nice to hear people that you have influenced and that have mixed that up with other things. That can be fantastic, especially if they come up with something unique themselves. Like you say, when you hear someone that's just a carbon copy, it's like, why are you bothering. I really don't understand that, for me it rooted with when hardcore sort of crossed with heavy metal, and death metal came about. It was quite cool for every band just to take and copy what they wanted, just that attitude. A lot of the bands that do copy us are metal bands, I find that really strange, it's that attitude again that within heavy metal you can take and do what you want with peoples music and if you want to copy it fine. As far as they're concerned they're just continuing a style, and it's weird because I don't consider what GODFLESH does to be a style, I consider it to just be GODFLESH. People always say it's like Industrial Metal or Grindcore or some other horrible thing like that, but I don't see it like that, for me it's just music. The only loose term I can use for GODFLESH is rock music, because it operates in a conventional sense with those instruments, but besides that it's so all encompassing. For people to just take it I find sometimes I'm really insulted by it. I've had so many arguments with people about it, people who make that music, and people who want to defend these people, so I'm like whatever. I won't slag these people anymore, I did spend the time actually being really angry about it, but I'm like whatever, that's life I guess.
But I think that it's pretty obvious where they're getting it from, and if anything it just puts you above all of that...
You hope so, but over here some American bands, I don't even want to name names just because if it gets printed these people start getting really upset, some of these bands who are American that do this are really popular in England and Europe. One of these bands in particular is much bigger than GODFLESH now, and people do consider that these people are the originators of this music, and that's when it becomes really insulting. What these people then do is create their own ego, and they don't give GODFLESH any credit. They say, "Yeah, we made this music ourselves, we came up with this shit," because they're talking to people who don't know who GODFLESH are and they can get away with it. They can justify their own existence by saying that, and that I find really, really sick.
A lot of the American music listening public... It's for the moment, nobody takes the time to learn about anything or find out how deep it runs. There's people that would probably like you guys that would never take the time to seek it out, even if someone did list you as an influence...
If we were sitting on some big ass major label with distribution and adverts everywhere people could probably say "Oh yeah, it's them," But being essentially an underground band, which I think we're always going to be, we're always going to be independent, we had a flirtation with a major label that fucked up totally. People are lazy, that's the problem really, they can't be bothered and that's the deal isn't it? That's why they have MTV and all the rest, for those people who see music as just a passing thing. I'm totally obsessed with music, and a lot of people who listen to GODFLESH are, they will go to any lengths to find things. I'm like that myself, I will travel miles to get a certain record I want, it's nothing to me because this music means everything to me. I go any distance, any lengths, pay any money to get things that I really want. And obviously, as we know, your average public couldn't give a shit. If they can get it in their local mart or fucking chemist or something stupid then that's cool, they aren't going to travel to get a record.
You just ended a stint with a major label, now that it's over, what are your opinions on what they did or didn't do for you, and is it something you would seek to do again in the future?
What I was glad to take off of them was the money they gave us. At the end of the day if I can bleed dry a few corporates, well not bleed dry because they've got so much fucking money, but if I can take some of their money off their hands I'll gladly do it because I'm just going to put it back in our music. They gave us a lot of money, and we got pretty much a massive updated studio, which we have anyway, our own studio. Because we like to record our own stuff and produce it all ourselves, but it made us go a step further, which is fantastic. That was the best thing out of it, besides that, I have no clue what so ever. As far as they were concerned, they were getting GODFLESH and it was like, "Oh yes, this is like NINE INCH NAILS and all that shit, so if we sell them in the right way, we'll have the new NINE INCH NAILS on our hands." When we realized that, it was like, hang on a minute, I don't even have anything in common with NIN. I don't like the music, and I'm not interested in the way that they sell themselves. When they realized this, that we weren't going to sell a million records it was like, "Well good-bye." I'm glad of it really as well. We wouldn't play ball, that was one of the bigger problems, they expected us to sell ourselves short on anything. Just sell your ass, and that's their only law, that's the law at major labels I guess. Sell your ass bigtime, regardless of how you feel about it. This is what we had to communicate to them, we're in this to make music. I'm not willing to tour solid for two years because I can make more music in that time. For me once I play the song a year running, it doesn't feel the same to me as it did initially and if I'm not going to feel emotionally a hundred percent about it I don't see the reason in presenting it to people. It's like I'm not presenting it to you fully, what's the point if you're not getting the full hundred percent, and as far as I'm concerned both the listener and ourselves deserve a hundred percent, really. To a major label that sort of stuff is nonsense, if you make music you should sell your ass. We realized then we're in the wrong business, we can't sell ourselves, it's a problem for us, we just do what pleases us...
(at this point the label interjects and the rest of the interview takes place a few days later on the 13th)
A lot of people may not know that you also run your own label, HEADDIRT. What's your goal with that and why haven't you used it as an outlet for more of your own material?
And why can't you find any of the records? More to the point... Have you got anything on HEADDIRT?
I have the "3rd Gatekeeper", the SKULLFLOWER...
That's quite amazing that you've got that, I love that album, it was brilliant at the time anyway. I did release another one by SKULLFLOWER as well, but it's nowhere near as good as that.
(conversation turns to SKULLFLOWER for a bit, but for the sake of space I'll spare you... - Scott)
There's not a fat lot I've done on HEADDIRT really, I mean I've just packed it in because I got quite bored with the scope. I enjoyed it at the time, with like "3rd Gatekeeper" and stuff, because it was people that I sort of knew, and the stuff we were making was good, out there, guitar music, but there's just not much like that that I'm really into anymore. The last release for HEADDIRT is the FALL OF BECAUSE album, it's the pre-GODFLESH material from like 1986, which is pretty damn old. It's like what GODFLESH was before GODFLESH, a more naked, Hardcore sounding thing you know. It's a bit embarrassing really, but it's still necessary that I release it because there's some original versions of stuff off of "Streetcleaner" and everybody wants to try and hear it anyway, just to try and hear the growth, which is fair enough. That will be my last release on HEADDIRT, because the other stuff has been so hard to find, I don't want to release it in that way, so I'm trying to get a good deal with a label in New York at the moment. So basically it can get around and people can buy it without having go to the most obscure shop in the world and order it. We'd rather just have it domesticated so you can get it in a shop without having to travel to the other side of the state. We want the FALL OF BECAUSE to be treated like a normal record. I'm running another label at the moment, but it's a totally different context, it's a label called LOW SIDER. It only deals in twelve inch vinyl, and all it is is Techno. It's got nothing to do with guitars or anything, pure hardcore, very out there Techno, not hand baggy, crappy club stuff. It's clubby, but out there clubby. I won't bother explaining it any more than that. That stuff is hard to get as well, you can't buy it in normal shop, you can only get it in dance shops. I've only told a few people about that, because I figured they wouldn't be interested, it depends if you like any dance music at all, but even if you don't you might like what we do with dance music.
The stuff that I've heard over here, and I haven't really looked into it, is usually complete crap...
It really is true, there's loads of great Techno made in America from Detroit and Chicago. Like the real underground scene in Detroit is brilliant, there's a guy in Detroit named Jeff Mills, and people are always saying to me Jeff Mills is the Techno equivalent of GODFLESH, which is a fair description. It's hard and its 4/4 rhythms, but it sounds really vicious and really original sounding. It's just completely different to anything you could hear really. It's not friendly, I'll put it that way, it's not like warm dance music, it's really nasty, cold, vicious... it's more Industrial. It's more like dance music crossed with THROBBING GRISTLE, really harsh, fantastic stuff. That's more the area I work in with my new label, but that's another story.
The amount of side projects you are, or were, involved in is absolutely staggering: FINAL, ICE, TECHNO ANIMAL, GOD, SCORN, SWEET TOOTH, FALL OF BECAUSE, CLINICAL, PRAXIS, SKINNERS BLACK LABORATORIES...
There's even more. You've mentioned a lot there... some of the ones you've mentioned have projects of those projects which is funny. For example, TECHNO ANIMAL, we just released, literally this week, a project of TECHNO ANIMAL called THE SIDEWINDER. That's going to be on VIRGIN in the U.S. Same as the TECHNO ANIMAL "Re-Entry" album, have you got that?
The "Ghosts" album is the only one I've been able to find and I have it on both vinyl and CD because of the extra tracks on the disc.
God, "Ghosts" is more obscure than the second one. The second one should be a bit easier to get, but then again, we've all had some dealings with "Ghosts" so that's why it got around a bit. The "Re-Entry" album is much more dance oriented, a lot of beats, like Hip Hop beats, but with the same psychedelia that's on "Ghosts". It sort of spins your head out, but your body can still move. THE SIDEWINDER is a new project of TECHNO ANIMAL that's really harsh, but Techno. A lot of my work these days is really dance oriented, dance is the wrong word, but it uses beats.
Does each project have a special purpose for you, or do you simply just like playing that much?
A combination of both really. I do live and breathe music as you can tell, if I'm not doing one thing I'm on to the next. I'm not obsessed with music, and I listen to that much of a wide range, but I have to satisfy my every interest. If I'm totally obsessed with a certain factor of music than I have to use it and exploit it in some way and try to make it my own, or our own depending on who I'm working with. So I always touch on my favorite areas, and pervert what ever area that might be. GODFLESH being the biggest thing, obviously, that I do, but it's original design was to pervert Rock music you know. GODFLESH by design, was to bastardize Heavy Metal, and try and pervert it and brutalize it really and confuse. TECHNO ANIMAL, now it's more to take... because we're mainly using Hip Hop beats, it's to take that angle and make it really psychedelic and really threatening, completely disorienting. ICE, that's screwing with Dub, Dub Reggae. The new ICE is going to be on REPRISE through WARNER BROTHERS, which is pretty mad, considering how small the last one was, this is going to have a massive label behind it. It's because we've got a real weird selection of characters of the album, which a lot of people are interested in. There's a couple of Rappers on the album, from two different Rap bands. They're actually more popular in Europe than they are in the States probably, there's a band from New York called NEW KINGDOM, a Rapper from them, another bunch from New York called JUNGLE BROTHERS and one of their Rappers is in ICE as well. And then to cross it over even more, there is BLIXA BARGELD doing vocals, from NEUBAUTEN. It's just a weird record. WARNER BROS. went for it because of the caliber of people on it, and also the music is very streamlined... I couldn't even begin to explain it really. This is what we're doing besides a lot of the obvious things these days, is just aiming to pervert dance music more, and make it our own, like we did with GODFLESH and Rock music.
You've also done a bit of remixing, is that something that you enjoy, and where do you see it fitting into the creative process?
It was pretty short lived. I did some remixes, and then I was faced with the option of taking the remixer avenue, if you know what I mean. It works like that a lot, you do a few remixes, and people like them, and them suddenly you're weighed down with loads of work. You've got loads of people that want you to remix them, I just got really disillusioned with it. I remixed PANTERA, I remixed a KILLING JOKE offshoot band called MURDER INC. I even remixed, check this one out, the LEMONHEADS, which was on promo only in Europe, I don't think it was even released on promo in the States. I've done some really small remixing for some friends as well, and stuff like that. I did a couple of major-ish things, and then I started getting loads of offers for all of this other stuff, most of it was sort of Heavy Metal, and I wasn't really interested after a while. Musically, I was spending too much time on remixing other peoples stuff than I was on creating my own stuff, and given the option I'd rather create my own music. But these days, I've been listening to some of the offers again, considering it here and there, when I'm not doing something. Just to try it again, and because I have a few new working processes at the moment. Remixing is interesting if you can be really creative with it. What I disliked about it when I started doing it, which has gone on ever since, is that it's like really fashionable for Heavy Metal bands to get someone allegedly weird to remix to sort of gain credibility, like an underground sort of credibility. Everyone does it now, and it's really boring, it's become really uncreative I think.
A lot of times you already know what you're going to hear... The FEAR FACTORY remixes, I think MALEVOLENT CREATION , or somebody did some remixes. When MORBID ANGEL had LAIBACH mix some stuff I thought it had the potential to be really good, but they didn't hardly do anything to it at all...
I know the inside story on that and MORBID ANGEL asked LAIBACH to hardly do anything, which seems to me to defeat the whole purpose. If your going to tell a band that '"Wow, we really want you to remix us, " and then say, "But don't go to far," ...
And then bill it as something it's not really like in the MORBID ANGEL case...
Exactly. LAIBACH are hardly justifying themselves, they're doing something that they have had limits put on already, what's the point of that.? It's like somebody said to me, "Do you want to remix this track," and I'd be like '"Yeah, I want to do this and that, " and they say, "Well, no, we'd rather you not lose the point of the track." Why am I bothering to remix it then? Why even bother? Why don't you just re-edit it or something, or do a new version of it yourselves. It's when the band doesn't have enough imagination, so they try to get someone else in. To me it's just buying credibility most of the time, for Heavy Metal bands anyway. You can't just be Heavy Metal anymore, you've got to get someone else different in, you've got to be a bit more fashionable, what ever is doing the rounds you know.
Is there anyone that you would like to work with that you haven't yet been able to?
Yeah, most certainly... Sometimes I think that the people that you'd most like to do something with, there's no point really, because you like their music because it is so individual. The only people that I could probably mention would be people that work in the extreme side of the Techno scene, but there's no point in doing anything with these people because they're so good at what they do, and it's so one dimensional anyway that you just couldn't really do anything with it. I won't bother getting in to detail with it, because it just wouldn't work. With some people it does, I did a collaboration recently with, well I recorded a Techno band from Germany's album, and I sort of collaborated with them on the album. It's a band called AIR LIQUID. They're really big on the Techno scene, they're actually really big in America on the Techno scene. Basically recorded their new album in the GODFLESH studio, and I've liked their stuff for years you know, so I sort of joined them for their new album basically. It was really interesting, because they've got a lot of scope, you can go to a lot of areas. But some of the other people that I really respect, I respect them because they're so one dimensional. They do one thing brilliantly, you really couldn't tap into that. Usually I like to leave it so that people come to me, and say, "It would be good if we did this and that..." then I'll consider it. I don't go to that many people and say "Should we do this?" Most of the time it's because I'm embarrassed about it, you just have to see what happens and put mad ideas together. Like with the ICE thing, working with Rappers, it's a different area all together. It's an area most people don't even know really. When I talk about Hip Hop, especially with most American interviews, people... Obviously the Hip Hop scene is really segregated culturally in America, isn't it? I don't know, weird stuff. I work it out more and more every year, the way it all works. In Europe everything is really generalized, the dance music scene involves Hip Hop, there isn't so much segregated, but obviously in America it's a lot more segregated.
You started making music at the age of 12, how did you come to experimental or extreme music at such an early age, who were your early inspirations?
Actually, I sort of learned the guitar when I was about 10 years old, and what I was into then, it was the first music I was ever into, was Punk Rock. So all I wanted to know about guitar was just to play three chords. I've got quite a musical background, because all of my family are into music. My stepfather taught me guitar, he's a guitarist, and he was into HENDRIX, PINK FLOYD and all this sort of business. So that had a massive influence, and also he wasn't conventional either, so it wasn't like I was taught any conventional things. I was taught weird things, and I didn't learn the usual ways of doing things, I don't recognize the usual way of doing things anyway. I think that's why most of the music I make is sort of out there in one context or another. Punk Rock was the first thing that I tried, but couldn't really get it together, I was too young. By about the age of twelve, being a little kid, but still getting obsessed with music... After listening to all the obvious things, as a young kid playing guitar, listening to like THE STRANGLERS and THE CLASH and that first wave of Punk Rock. I then got into, as Punk Rock moved on and went to like Post Punk and then I was hearing stuff like PUBLIC IMAGE LTD. and KILLING JOKE and stuff and that influenced me. Then I heard the early Industrial music like THROBBING GRISTLE, SPK and that sort of stuff, and that really turned me on, that was like wow. I thought be at such a young age, I can make that kind of music easier than I can make Punk Rock. Basically as a little kid, it's easy to make loads of noise. So that was when I got into all that sort of shit, and that was just purely by accident that I got into THROBBING GRISTLE. It was from being in Birminghan and hanging around a record store in a market that sort of dealt with THROBBING GRISTLE bootlegs, and I'd just hang around this store and meet people. Hanging around this record store was the way that I joined NAPALM DEATH. I met Nick Bullen from NAPALM DEATH, who was in SCORN as well, and I strayed upon him purely accidentally, but he was a year older than me and he'd just been getting into THROBBING GRISTLE as well. That was our meeting point really. He was like, "Hey I've got a Punk Rock band, it's NAPALM DEATH." and I was like , "I've never heard of them, but I play guitar." He said to come check it out and it went from there. I went sort of full circle from Punk Rock to Industrial and then back to Punk Rock as it sort of became Hardcore and it went from there. And then I sort of lost all faith in Punk Rock and Hardcore and everything really, and ended up with the mutation that is GODFLESH.
You were quoted somewhere as saying that "Streetcleaner" was such a dark album that you have a hard time listening to it now. How do you feel music has allowed you to evolve on a personal level?
Oh... yeah... That's probably something I said two or three years ago, because I go in strange phases. It's like "Selfless", I can't listen to that now, because I find it really dry and really flat, where as with this album has got a lot more excitement to it. Probably about the time of "Selfless" we were trying make our sound really ultra-defined, where you can hear everything. At the time I found "Streetcleaner", listening back to it, I found the production good, but it sounded a bit immature to me I think. I felt that at the time of "Selfless" it was quite a mature record for GODFLESH, but now, I'm not really interested in that album. I think it's got it's moments, but I much prefer the new album any day. I think we've succeeded more with this record, but in a years time I'll probably be saying the opposite. We go in phases like that. I find it really hard to listen to my music anyway, especially stuff like that because you play it live and everything. After you've done it a lot, it's hard to see what it is anymore, that's a big problem sometimes. "Streetcleaner", we played that shit to death, just because the album came out in 1989, and it didn't get licensed properly in the states until 1991, so we spent over two years playing that record solid. I still haven't listened to "Streetcleaner" in years, because we played it so much, it was just such an overplayed album. Then we didn't play any of it for a couple of years, and people would be getting mad at us, saying, 'I want to hear fucking tracks off of "Streetcleaner," and we'd be like, "Fuck man, we've played that so much." It just doesn't mean anything to us. This is a problem with us any way, I find it really hard to do the normal band things, like play the same songs over and over. For us it's like if you don't feel the passion for it anymore, there's no point, and I really don't want to present songs to an audience who expect a hundred percent when you're putting in only seventy or sixty percent. It's a waste of time. When I see a band who I really like myself, and think I'd like to hear a couple of classics, I always look at it in that way. I think, how would I feel. You're asking a lot of the band, most bands do it, and I question that because you think, they don't feel for this track anymore. They're just presenting it because they feel that they have to present it, and I've got a problem with doing anything that I feel that I have to do. As soon as I feel there's a duty to do something, I automatically feel that I shouldn't do it. But as years go by you find that you can go back to certain songs, and you do want to play them. If we come back to do some headline dates I guess we would be doing a couple of tracks off of "Streetcleaner", because of the pure fact that we haven't touched them for so long. With the drummer, as well, it makes it more exciting really. It adds to the mechanics, especially if you can change things a little, that's good as well. We've started doing that now, there's like vaguely new versions of tracks. Older tracks we did a slightly different version of, which makes it more exciting for us, and for the audience I think. That's always the thing really is that people shouldn't expect us to do any thing, because that's just the way that we are.
Americans, and I would imagine the rest of the population, are growing increasingly pathetic as the days pass, what do you see as being the primary problem with the world on a social level?
Um.. Ignorance, serious ignorance, on most levels. I think what it is, is that people see nothing but themselves. It's not even like a go-getting thing, treading on people to get what they want, that's neither here nor there really. It's just more people having a narrow vision, and not seeing anything but their own pitiful existence's, thinking that the whole world revolves around themselves. There's lyrics on the album like that, where I'm dealing with things like don't see yourself just see outside yourself, and all these types of things.
What would you say were the three books and films that have had the largest impact on you, and what was it about them that struck a chord?
I'll go straight to films, because these days I just don't have a lot of time to read because I'm making too much music. Films have a dramatic influence on GODFLESH, because I always see GODFLESH as being sort of cinematic anyway. When we create something with GODFLESH, I don't think of it a s very literal, I think of it as very visual, you know what I mean? Like say for example, when we made our first big mark, it was with "Streetcleaner", and the sleeve for me is totally in hand with the music. It's purely reflective without being literal, the imagery can hit the point really, that's when you can look at visually what it is, and it's there for people to analyze forever if need be. That's how open ended that stuff is anyway I guess. For me, three really important movies right off, there are millions, the three that come to mind at the moment... I'd say Stanley Kubricks "2001", past that I'd say, maybe Ken Russell's "Altered States." I haven't seen it in years, but it was a really big influence. Also, Ken Russell's "The Devils"...
That's an outstanding movie...
You know that movie, absolutely fucking stunning. I saw that as a kid, and it really moved me, and it did everything. I didn't see it again for like eight years, and then I saw it on a really heavy acid trip, and it completely fucked me up. It made so much sense, and it absolutely horrified me as well, that was really motivational, in terms of the music and everything. That's three really important movies, but I could go so much beyond that. For me the most important genre's in movies are science fiction or horror, generally. Even things like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", I saw that at a really young age, and that was an influence, just because... Most kids don't have any vision of horror at that age, but I did and I think that was a real big influence. It made me sort of see what people can do to each other at a really young age, which people don't usually learn until a bit later in their youth. I was obsessed with horror for many years, horror and science fiction. Those are all really important movies for me anyway, because they reflect something real even though they are obviously fantastic.
This is the last one, I just wanted to ask you your opinion of "The Black Adder"...
About "Black Adder"? The English TV series with Rowan Atkinson? It's hilarious, that's one of our favorites. The whole lot, from start to finish. There something about the period it deals in is what makes it completely, you know, medieval England obviously was a pit of horror. "The Devils" is like the serious version of what "Black Adder" is almost. There is a parallel, they deal with the same period, just dealing with paranoia's, and fears, God-fearing bullshit, you know. That's something I'm really fascinated with, how much people were like sheep then, and how people can manipulate people to do anything. The sort of extreme fears and paranoia's that were going on, you know, witch trials, all this sort of shit... Yeah , "Black Adder" is absolutely great, right up to the last one, you know, the first World War, and the ending. The last episode is serious, it makes some serious statements... I love comedy anyway, comedy is a big thing for us as much as any serious shit, which people would probably miss, there's a lot of tongue in cheek shit that goes down anyway.