Godflesh Interview

[from Highway 666]

This is one of the earliest known industrial influenced bands on the scene. Broadrick spent time as a drummer in Head Of David (all-time musicians fave) and Napalm Death. Godflesh has been around since late '88 and layed down one of the cornerstones of the genre with help from Young Gods, Killing Joke and KMFDM. Love And Hate In Dub is a different sound for these guys. It's a more groove-oriented interpretation with some added hip-hop rhythms with an industrial edge all mixed by J. K. Broadrick. Broadrick has already made a name for himself by re-mixing material for many artists including Pantera and The Lemonheads. A very talented man for all seasons.

Q&A with J.R. Broadrick

Sheila René: J.R. is that you? Can you hear me?

Justin Broadrick: dial tone...Hello, okay. My fax machine went off.

SR: Let's go now. Damn, I love that accent.

JB: I've got the flu and a bad cold.

SR: I know what you'll be doing tomorrow.

JB: (laughing) Yeah, what's that?

SR: You'll be watching all the Mars coverage.

JB: Oh, you bet. That's a good one. You caught me off guard there but I've got it marked on my calendar. It'll be live coverage in England plus I'll be watching it on the Internet too.

SR: Me, too. Are you a big Internet fan? I read that you're now playing on a PowerMac.

JB: I've just gotten hooked up and I'm excited. I love my Mac. The whole Love And Hate In Dub was done on the Mac. I just fed the Songs Of Love And Hate into the Mac and then just cut it up. I managed to utilize my imagination to its fullest extent because of the computer. I've always wanted to work with this sort of technology, but I've never had the finances. I was really into computers as a kid then I got into more basic ways of working. It's now full circle and I can't do anything without the PowerMac.

SR: You're the core writer for Godflesh. Will it be any help in the lyric process?

JB: I'm not sure. I think it'll be a combination. From now on, when we write the new studio album I think a lot of things will be created physically and then put into the computer and then cut up. I'm just going to see what I can come up with as a human and then into the computer.

SR: Back in the days of The Fall Of Because and your drumming days in Head Of David (everybody's favorite industrial band) I was a fuckin' snob about that kind of music. I'm happy to say that I've gotten over that. All you guys were so ahead of the times. I stop just this side of the rave shit they're getting ready to ram down our throats.

JB: That's it. Okay. Rave can be low level. Seriously, it's devoid of much imagination. That's it with technology. You either use it or abuse it. It can become really uncreative very easily. I think it's just important to people like me because first and foremost, I'm a guitarist and I write songs. I've always programmed drum machines and it's very, very easy to do. And in a way it's extremely productive and works with the music. It's not like I'm going to sell my soul to computer music or anything.

SR: At the same time, one of your big influences Brian Eno went right over my head.

JB: Yeah, totally. I was sorta vaguely brought up on Eno's stuff. My parents used to listen to his work. I had a lot of his initial albums as a reference. I was also brought up on his ambient stuff at a young age and I appreciated him. I liked that sort of vastness of very empty sounding music. That has been a big influence on me to create the same space in Godflesh. Very vast and spacey, simultaneously.

SR: Vocally, on Songs Of Love And Hate, you sometimes remind me of Henry Rollins. It's that hip-hop sort of speak thing you get going.

JB: Interesting. That's funny.

SR: I like the idea of using real drums along side drums machines and samples. It gives music so much more depth.

JB: Exactly. For Godflesh anyway, the basis of the music is rhythm. Even my guitar parts are based on rhythm. There is no solo playing.. and no lead instrument. You've got to take everything on one level.

SR: I liken it to an orchestra.

JB: Exactly. The dynamic is the whole as opposed to the parts. Sometimes I consider the rhythm the lead instrument. For me, to get bring in a real drummer as well, has only been a bonus. It has added to the overall sound and marrying that to the samples and drum machine is making a wall of physical, mechanical as fat as possible, but retaining a groove.

SR: Are you getting used to the idea of a full-time drummer?

JB: The drums on Songs Of Love And Hate and In Dub come from a guy called Brian Mantia, who's now in Primus. They've been friends for years. We were like 5,000 miles apart so we don't really blame him. When we were in America last and on this new In Dub project we've been working with Ted Parsons who was in Prong. He has joined us now. He's a different drummer from Brian, who has a much more funk orientation. Parsons is a violent drummer. He's just pure aggression. We considered using both of them in different contexts. Even though Brian is in Primus, he can still do some shit with us.

SR: Has your life taken on a whole new perspective since you've moved out into the countryside?

JB: I think I can just concentrate better. I'm not put off by the day to day street living. Also, every time I leave the house I don't have to be concerned that I'm going to come back to an empty studio.

SR: Now that's right. You have a big investment in that studio.

JB: That's it. We had our own place in Birmingham, but it such a risk where we lived. You could only be gone ten minutes and you risk having your whole house burglarized. It's a real change for us and it's quite a bizarre environment now that we're out in the middle of nowhere now. It's a very pretty place with no high-rises or concrete jungle.

SR: How did you track down the cover of this album. The New Orleans picture taken from the cemetery with smoke stacks in the distance.

JB: Both these albums share the same photo, but at different times of the day. We were shown this picture by a friend and it's the first time any of our friends ever said 'Check this out, it's really Godflesh.' And they were right. We looked at it and it was almost too Godflesh. It was such an obvious visual for us to use. Normally, we shy away from that kind of stuff. This time it said a lot of things and made complete sense.

SR: Do you enjoy mixing other peoples material as much as your own?

JB: I had a space three or four years ago where I got into doing remixes and then I lost confidence.

SR: You were in the forefront of this whole remix chapter in music.

JB: In the context of rock music being remixed by someone who's a bit out of that element, I guess you could say yes. You could quite safely say that. I think it was me and Jim Thirwell in the beginning.

SR: Jim is a big friend of my darlin' Casper Brotzmann. You know Casper don't you? Liking him make me investigate more material that I might not have given any time.

JB: Yes, I do like Casper. His best album for me was Black Axis. That's a stunning and concise piece of work. Some of the latest stuff I've heard from him is brilliant. Godflesh has played with him on occasion.

SR: His voice in German is so powerful it's scary.

JB: Not many people appreciate his voice, but I'll have to agree with you.

SR: How was it working with those Lemonheads?

JB: I only did one remix for them. That was just a promotional thing. It was only released in Europe but it was a funny period. I helped remix Murder, Inc., a Killing Joke project. I did a lot of stuff around that time, but I lost my confidence and then I got into computers again. Now, I can do exactly what I want to do. That's why we did Love And Hate In Dub. Now I can start looking at remixing again. Now I can actually achieve what I wanted to achieve in the past. Now I've got the whole package...digital editing and all. Before I thought my imagination was limitless with the machines I was using them, but now I feel that the PowerMac is limitless. That's quite a good feeling.

SR: Damn right. Are you guys still thinking of doing a Godflesh anthology with all the videos included.

JB: We'd love to do that. It's more between Earache and us really.

SR: I'm still waiting for my copy of the Dub album. I think they ran out..but I wanted to talk to you anyway.

JB: Oh, really. That's awful.

SR: I know you did all the remixes on the album. No guests.

JB: That was the whole vision...to do it for ourselves because we knew what we needed really. If you've got this vision then follow it yourself. You don't have to get outside parties into it. Obviously if you want something an outside party has to offer, then fine. When it's just record labels saying 'You want to get remixed by blah, blah, blah, that's pointless to me. I'm really sorry that you didn't get your copy in time. I generally don't like to talk to people who haven't heard it.

SR: Justin I feel the same way; however, I love the Songs Of Love And Hate album so much, I fudged a bit. I just know that the remixes will be great when I do hear them. I'm interested in the two mixes of "Gift From Heaven." What's the heavenly mix like?

JB: It's about 12 minutes and it's mostly just a lot of the qualities of the track that were taken and time stretched and drawn out. The best version of that song is the Break Beat one. I think it's better than the album version. It's so stripped...beat, voice and bass. It's brutal.

SR: It's always interesting for me to try and figure out just what has been done exactly.

JB: I listen to other people's releases like that myself.

SR: You've already toured the States on Songs Of Love And Hate. The European tour is not happening at this time.

JB: No, it was meant to happen after the last American tour which is five or six months ago now. The problem is that we toured Europe just before we came to America. We toured with Ministry and had a great time. We've know them for years. They've always been good to us and offered us good tours.

SR: Are you working on the Fall Of Because project?

JB: It's all finished. We're just remastering at this point. It was done in '86 and we're still compiling the live material from that period. It's fun piecing that together. We're in a little dilemma at the moment. We were going to release it through Cleopatra but now we're not sure so we're in another limbo period at the moment. It's a bit of a nightmare, but we want to put it out just for nostalgic reasons. Everyone wants to know what we were doing just prior to Godflesh even though I was in Head Of David and Napalm Death.

SR: I went through a heavy jazz period in the '50 with and Miles Davis. Then it was on to California and I became interested in anything heavy.

JB: That's great. I love all that shit. To me what Miles was doing in the '70s was terrific. It was heaven. I love it when Coltrane started dropping more acid.

SR: When you toured over here with Type O Negative and Danzig back in '95 did Glenn really ask you to join his band? Are you glad you said no?

JB: Oh, yeah. (laughing) I think it's a shame really. I've never been a big Danzig fan, but I really thought their last album, Danzig 4, was an amazing record. When he asked me to join the band and I realized what he wanted me to do, I wasn't interested. He wanted me for me but still wanted to control me. The last album didn't interest me at all. I'm really glad I never fuckin' bothered with it. I feel sorry for Tommy who left Prong for Danzig.

SR: You're such a man for all seasons in my mind. You're a jazz fan, a film junkie and a voracious reader.

JB: I haven't seen a good movie in ages. I think the last stuff I've been obsessed with is a director from the early '70s Alexandro Jodorowsky who made "El Topo" and "Holy Mountain." They were made in the early '70s and were very hippiefied without the bullshit. They were very spiritual. The first time I saw one of his movies I took acid.

SR: Justin, what's the latest book you've read?

JB: I'm reading a book by Colin Wilson about Aleister Crowley.

SR: What's the title?

JB: It's just Colin Wilson on Aleister Crowley. Wilson is really clear and it's really interesting. It took me a year to find it.

SR: How do you keep challenging yourself? By being diverse and into so many different things.

JB: I guess that's it. For me, it's just appreciating music as a whole as opposed to little pigeon holes. I take from everywhere and anything, anytime, anywhere whether it be rock, films, computers or drugs. Music, for me, just translates your experiences. Everything I can't literize, I'm trying to put into music, I guess.

SR: I've always figured that you'd be a very spiritual person since you are so interested in the universe.

JB: Godflesh is like a search. A lot of people leveled a lot of stuff at us...as if we were some kind of satanic band. No way. I'm searching for whatever's truth or whoever's truth. Our big problem is with anything that is organized to control people and to take away their will.

SR: I've had such a great time talking with you. It has been a pleasure.

JB: Thank you very much. I'm glad you enjoy our music.