GODFLESH--Uneasy Listening

By Roy C. Usery

"Without sounding too patronizing to the music public," Godflesh mastermind Justin Broadrick says cautiously. "We're too advanced for your average pop fan. They want something easy..." he pauses. "And we aren't easy..." That's a bold statement for anyone, but there's very little about Godflesh that isn't bold. In the most general sense, their sound combines the crunch of metal with harsh hip hop beats. There's nothing here that doesn't challenge the listener to keep listening or to think about what he's listening to. Their newest record, Songs of Love and Hate has all these elements in spades. It's just plain "uneasy listening" and Justin has plenty of philosophy to match.

"With Godflesh, we try to aim at something quite off balance, off kilter, a lot different from anyone else," he continues. "[With this record] we were aiming at having that form of brutality of Streetcleaner. More so than last record. We looked at last record as quite drab and quite clean-cut and not really hard enough for what we want to do now. We aimed for more of the grooves which is where Pure sort of started, but Pure just scratched the surface of that idea." 1989's Streetcleaner is still hailed as the seminal Godflesh record, even though their follow-up (after their forray into dance beats with Slavestate) Pure was more consistent and truly had more attention paid to beats and grooves.

Justin started his music career as the drummer for Napalm Death. He played on their early record Scum. Before forming Fall of Because (Godflesh's immediate prdecessor), He also served a stint behind the drumset in Head of David. With Fall of Because, Justin moved to guitar and recorded an early version of what would become Godflesh's Streetcleaner LP (which incidentally is soon to be available on Justin's own hEAD dIRT label). (Slateman's side note: Justin started as a guitarist for Napalm Death, not a drummer. He also did not form Fall of Because, that band existed prior, with just Ben and Paul. When Justin did join Fall of Because, he played drums, while Paul was on guitar. It was not until 1988 (when he rejoined FoB, and changed the name to Godflesh) that he decided to return to guitar playing.)

Outside the realm of Godflesh, Justin releases a vast array of projects and collaborations with other people. He plays guitar on a regular basis with Kevin Martin's noise/jazz-core outfit God, and he and Kevin also pair off as Techno Animal and play together in Ice. And as if that wasn't enough, Justin has a solo project called Final and recently released an installment of the Sub Rosa label's Subsonic series with guitar compositions by him and Andy Hawkins of Azonic.

Godflesh since its inception has been Justin and Christian "Benny" Green with their drum machine, but others have joined in from record to record. Streetcleaner enlisted the help of Paul Neville (who now heads up Cable Regime). Pure boasts the additional talents of Loop's Robert Hampson (who now plays in Main). And on Songs of Love and Hate, Godflesh has all but replaced their standard drum machine with drummer Brian Mantia (who's since joined Primus).

"It was really in search of the groove I think," Justin says of bringing in Mantia on drums. "When we were shaping up what we wanted to do with the material for this album, it became more evident to us that there was a lack of range in the dynamics of the rhythm. With Selfless, in retrospect, the rhythms weren't really coming across. We listened to the record a year later and felt like the rhythms just weren't punishing enough. It was brutal. It was hard, but it just wasn't funky or groovy enough and I think we just lost it with just purely relying on the machine. We feel we've gone far enough with being completely mechanized. The aim was to get a drummer who plays like a machine, but we wanted a feeling of movement and motion as opposed to a machine where it's very, very static. We were really searching for a break-beat sort of dynamic which goes further than just normal hip hop."

As strange as it may seem for a band as heavy as Godflesh is, hip hop has been an obvious element in their overall sound. The break beats on Pure and the nearly danceable Slavestate were indicative of something much more than the grind of their debut LP and Streetcleaner.

"I listen to hip hop more so than any sort of rock music," Justin says emphatically. "I don't really find a lot in modern rock music that's sort of groovy anymore or heavy to the extent that it's imaginative. I find hip hop more the music of the future, whereas rock music is more obsessed with being stuck in the past." To bring the point home, he adds, "With Godflesh, I feel like we are a part of the future."

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