Godflesh Article/Interview

[Source: Seconds #40 - 1996]
By Chad Hensley of EsoTerra

Kindly typed up by Tnth

In the trenches of today’s musical underworld any band blaring metallic guitar noise while grunting vocals that sound more like Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster than actual singing can dare call themselves Grindcore. Fare worse is the fact that most of these mongrels are completely unaware of those responsible for the creation of the genre they are attempting to imitate. One praiseworthy individual who runs in front of the pack is Justin Broadrick. He has managed to birth a true mutation from the marriage between Metal and Industrial. And, though Broadrick has spawned quite a few bastardizations of sound, Godflesh is his bleak and brutal brainchild.

Beginning a foray into aural assassination when most of his age were busy playing in the schoolyard, Broadrick experimented with noise and formed his first band before he was a teenager, inspired by the menacing militancy of Throbbing Gristle and White house’s storm trooper electronics. A few years later, he would become a founding member of Napalm Death (though appearing only for one side of the first album) as well as a key player in Head Of David. However, it would not be until the gestation of Godflesh and their relentlessly oppressive debut Streetcleaner that Broadrick would create a dark amalgamation of sound threatening to crumble the most solidified of boundaries.

A staple of Broadrick’s nihilistic misanthropy is to entwine searing guitar with heavy bass and Dance samples. Godflesh’s latest excursion, Songs Of Love And Hate (Earache) layers Trip Hop cut-ups beneath the brutality. Doom-drenched fans need not worry as Songs slams the skull as subtly as any sledgehammer. Without a doubt, Broadrick, bassist G.C. Green, manual drummer B. Mantia, and their insidious black drum machine are back with a vengeance, continuing to mutate the limits of extreme music.

Seconds: Tell me about your fist band, Final.

Broadrick: I used to sit around in the bedroom and play sort of half-ass Punk Rock. I had just gotten a guitar and was learning to play when I discovered Throbbing Gristle. At the time, I was around twelve years old. Final was the first music I ever played. Through listening to Throbbing Gristle in certain circles, I was exposed to a rather notorious English band – Whitehouse. I got really involved with the most extreme noise culture I could imagine. Once I heard these two bands, I learned I could make music out of anything. I got a short-wave radio and all manner of cut-up tapes. I thought that I could make music like this and it would be powerful. I wouldn’t have to use any degree of professionalism. I actually played a simultaneously learning to play several instruments. I’d also have to say that I’ve been influenced by the early Swans, Black Sabbath, and SPK. Each of these bands were sort of a musical obsession that I went through as a child. All of these welded into one with Godflesh.

Seconds: What types of people would come to a Final show?

Broadrick: We’d play to about twenty people. The crowd was mostly freaks. I come from Birminnham, England and at that time, there was quite a collective of people into Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse. Just for being into this type of music and hanging out in the right places I got to know some of these people. I think people found it interesting that I was a kid and that’s how Final got on the billing with other bands.

Seconds: what did your parents think about this?

Broadrick: They’re out to lunch. My parents are old Hippies. I spent the first four years of my life growing up in a Hippie commune. My father was a Heroin addict. He was a complete fuck-up and soon disappeared. He’s’ back on the scene now as a businessman, which is really weird. He seems to have it together but I didn’t see him for about ten years. My parents got a divorce when I was very young. So, I was brought up by my mom and stepfather. He was very musical and was the one who taught me guitar. He also had his own recording equipment. I learned everything from this guy. But my mom and stepfather broke up about three years ago. That’s the problem with Hippies who raise kids – they’re so fucked up. My mom is absolutely fucked. Far worse than I am. Its’ like talking to a little kid. At the moment, she does nothing for a living. She’s about as poor as it gets. I see her about once every three weeks. She’s a problem for me. She’s one of the banes of my life. I really dread it then she rings up. I’m like, “Here we go – what’s next?” She just goes out all the time, gets drunk and smokes loads of dope. She’s got a boyfriend who’s half her age. She’s still got her looks so she gets blokes chasing after her. We have got the roles reversed completely. She’s the kid and I’m having to guide her through life.

The weird thing is that when I tell people about my background, they think it should have fucked me up. But it wasn’t until I went to school that I realized that not everyone’s parents were Hippies and smoked dope. That was initially quite a surprise. I spent the first five years of my school life keeping my parents out of the equation of everyone I know at school. My family was sort of poor and we lived in one of the worst parts of Birmingham. Birminingam is a shit hole. Imagine the inner city of Detroit about a tenth of the size without guns and that’s a bit like Birmingham. It’s a miserable, heavily industrialized place. It’s the asshole of England.

Seconds: How do you feel about the label, “Grindcore”?

Broadrick: I am really uncomfortable with it. Grindcore sounds really cartoonish – comic book stuff. When Godflesh came to the States, for the very first time it was on tour with Napalm Death. Everyone was like, “Wow, there’s this new movement of music called Grindcore” and we thought that Napalm Death sort of typified that. Literally, the word grind is a nice little word for what sort of effect this music can have, I guess. But we didn’t think Godflesh had anything to do with that. Nor did we feel we had any connections with other Earache bands during that time when it was predominantly Carcass, Napalm Death and Morbid Angel.

Seconds: But there was a time you enjoyed being part of Napalm Death?

Broadrick: Yes. During the first album, which was basically in 1985. At that time, it was fun for sure. I was pretty young then anyway. But I promptly left after that one album. I played the guitar and had a part in some vocals. The first Napalm Death album was before the band became predominantly influenced by Heavy Metal. The first album was primarily influenced by mid-eighties American Hardcore bands like Siege, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, and Dead Kennedys, as well as English Hardcore bands like Discharge. We wanted to put these together and speed it up to create the most extreme sound we could. As far as we were concerned, speed, aggression, and heaviness. In hindsight we only got halfway there.

Seconds: Did you part with Napalm Death on amicable terms?

Broadrick: No, not really. The original Napalm Death was Mick Harris, Nik Bullen, and myself. The band was really Nik Bullen’s band. He had asked me to join and we asked Mick Harris. It came to a weird point. When I left, Nik was kicked out by Mick. After this and the release of Scum was when John Peel started to go crazy for it. I basically got the billing for my part in Scum and left to join Head Of David. I was so bored with Napalm Death because the only sort of musical ambition was to be as fast as possible. At first, Head Of David was a much filthier, slower form of music. But Head Of David soon wanted to become a heavy Rock Band so I quite. The only member of Head Of David I keep in contact with is the former bass player, Kevin Martin. He does a project with me called God. As soon as any band I’m involved with wants to become a bit more conservative with their outlook on music or wants to just toe the line a bit, I am not interested anymore. That was why I formed Godflesh.

Seconds: Why did you choose the name Godflesh?

Broadrick: We actually chose it before I had even written one song. We chose it as something to aim for. We wanted something that sounded huge and was untouchable. It was a goal for us to have that name and then try to live up to it musically. It was just a marriage of words that we found very attractive. There was nothing really deeper than that. Obviously, the name has lots of connotations, which is nice. Godflesh is also an expression for Mexican Peyote with strong, hallucinogenic qualities. We wanted to paint a picture but it was nothing as direct as an attack on Christianity or anything. It is meant to drum up many different reactions.

To be honest, I do oppose organized religion. Spirituality is another thing altogether. Obviously, there’s more to life than just what’s here. What I really cannot stand is sheep. The flocking that goes on is a desperate need to believe in something or someone – that submission and lack of will in people.

Seconds: Are there Godflesh groupies?

Broadrick: I guess there is. Girls have tried to throw themselves at me after shows. It’s funny really because when people act like that you jut put it down to immaturity as much as anything. I have had quite a few heavy experiences with women. There are a lot of people into Godflesh that are also into body piercing and S&M. Because of the music, they think that our personalities, what we do, and the way we exits must be of an extreme nature. There have been two or three situations where I’ve been on a tour bus in America and it’s like, “Hey, do you want to come have your balls nailed to a table?” or, “Can I eat your shit?” They want to do this as a gesture of their fondness for the band. People get really disappointed with us when they come and meet us. Rarely in Europe do we encounter girls who actually flock around the band.

I guess the first time I encountered this groupie thing was on tour with Napalm Death. I ‘d look out of the bus window and there’d be like twenty women. Some of them would be flashing their tits. I’d be like, “What?” Prior to that, when we’d play shows people would keep well away, which is usually more preferable. Godflesh spends many show sulking around making sure we don’t go anywhere near the audience. That is really my policy all together. People have ripped the piss out of us before so now cower in the dressing room. It’s like, “Don’t let anyone meet us who likes the band!” We just fall to pieces. We can’t deal with it. We seem to attract a lot of game playing. It’s the music in general. There are people totally into brutalizing that come and get off on our music. We’ve always considered our music to be for people who are weak and very frail, like ourselves. Normal Heavy Metal is for bozos who are overtly male and White Trash. Our music is for people who can sort of think a bit and are pretty crushed by life and can maybe use our music to find strength. A revenge for years of not being able to fight back. I’m that sort of person so it’s really necessary for me to make music that’s really strong.

Seconds: You have started doing Final again as well as other projects, like God and Ice.

Broadrick: For me, each project that I do explores a different area. When I was a kid, Final was just primitive noise making. I put the concept back together around 1991. I thought it was a good time to take the original premise to a new, mature level. The process of making noise has become much more abstract, and, for want of a much better word these days, more ambient. More textural, more usable, more listenable. God is really another guy’s band and I’m just a guest guitarist. There is another project that we do together that is proving to be the most popular, called Techno Animal. It’s got more to do with the whole instrumental Hip Hop thing, which is called Trip Hop in England. Techno Animal is an attempt to reach the nasty end of that. Whenever we come to the States and I start to talk about Hip Hop it falls on flat ears. People say, “Fuck that.” But it’s seriously important music for me. If it weren’t for Hip Hop, Godflesh would not have existed for the last three years. I think that Hip Hop is the only music left that’s genuinely brutal. But it’s the beat that’s the most important part of it. The language of it is last on the list. The rhythms for me are all encompassing. You can groove and dance. But the sheer weight of those beats are heavier than any Heavy Metal band. Certain Gang Starr tracks can really kill. As well as Jeru The Damaja. Then there’s the more popular stuff like Wu-Tang Clan and Method Man. I just don’t hear anything in modern Rock music that appeals to me anymore. Very few bands seem capable of creating music that’s abstract, psychedelic and powerful.

Seconds: What instruments do you play?

Broadrick: Guitar, drums, bass, and keyboard. That’s about it really. At the moment, I’m learning how to program on a Macintosh computer. I’m teaching myself to use some hard disk editing software called Session 8. I used to be really into tape splicing and joining mixes together in different sections. But I’m just crap at it. I can’t get my head around it at all. But this software will allow me to splice in a digit al domain. I’ve been at it for the past ten days and I’m having a fucking heavy time. I ‘ll get up at four in the afternoon and stay at it until four in the morning. This is the first time I have spent this much time with a computer since I was a kid playing computer games. It’s such a head fuck.

I’ve been doing a lot of other work as well. I did a remix for an Australian band called Mark Of Cain – Henry Rollins produced their latest album. But the band wanted to remix a couple of tracks. I want to do remix of the whole Songs For Love And Hate so I hope that will be next. I want to really bastardize the thing until it’s a completely different version. That was really my first excuse to get the computer. I virtually live in a recording studio. I’ve got one at the bottom of my house. I make music all the time.

Seconds: Do you have a favorite drug?

Broadrick: I’ll smoke Marijuana like there’s no tomorrow. I always have. That’s probably why I’m pretty kicked back. I spent the past ten years smoking dope and I really enjoy it. When I tour, I’ll drink alcohol but I just dabble in it. ON tour, you have to drink or you’ll just go under.

Seconds: Your last record was on Columbia. How did you like being on a major label?

Broadrick: It confirmed a lot of things for me – basically, all my worst fears about the industry. Once we got deep into it we saw it was all about unit shifting and liking asses. We thought we were definitely in the wrong game. It was bad news. We don’t know how to play the game and we don’t want to. That’s the thing. When we got there we realized it was all about playing the game. We’re here to make music and that’s it. Luckily enough, Columbia did not get involved with the music-making part – which we wouldn’t have allowed anyway. They signed us on for purely what we were and, when they discovered we were not about to be the next Nine Inch Nails, they promptly dropped us. We also made a video which they thought was going to be super but MTV refused to play it because they said it was too controversial. The song was Crush My Soul Columbia said, “Look, we have a pretty big video budget here. Who would you most like to make you a video?” Our first choice was H.R Giger but that didn’t happen. So we picked Andres Serrano, the photographer who made Piss Christ. We love his work and he’d never mad a video before. So, through the power of Columbia it worked. Still to this day, I can’t believe we pulled it off. After our last tour in the States, we went straight to New York and filmed it in an old synagogue. We shot it in one day. We gave him the song and said, “We want your ideas.” MTV gave the final product ten edits and still wouldn’t play it. MTV couldn’t get the point. There is a lot of blood in the video but no gore or fighting. They knew there was something inherently evil about the video but they couldn’t put their finger on it. It just shows that people with money like Madonna can do any kind of video they want…and it will get played.