Ostinato, Final, Jesu: How could I have resisted such a great lineup for a concert? I booked a train ticket to Berlin, asked Jesu for an interview and called up a good friend of mine for a place to crash. She agreed and even accompanied me to the concert (at the Bastard) and the interview. Below I will refer to her as W. Shortly after Justin Broadrick arrived at the venue he introduced me to the rest of the band and after that we (meaning me and my friend W.) sat down with Justin Broadrick and Diarmuid Dalton for over half an hour of insights into Godflesh, Final, Jesu, being a celebrity and more.
R.: I wanted to start by going back in time a bit. Could you maybe sum up how and when it was that you ended Godflesh and started Jesu?
Justin Broadrick: Basically Godflesh finished in 2002 and I started already writing and recording bits of Jesu around 2001. It was just on my own, like private recordings of which I felt I wanted maybe to expand that side of the Godflesh sound. I was quite obsessed with… the fact that… [laughs and points at the recording device] I’m quite self conscious with that… [laughs] I have to try and… ignore that it’s there. [laughs]
I started writing stuff privately in 2001 which I knew was gonna be another group. But I wasn’t shure if this group was gonna replace Godflesh or just be a project. I already had the name for it as Jesu as well. I just started privately inside my own studio just recording things, really primitive bits. Two of these songs became songs on the first album, the self-titled album. One was “Tired Of Me” and the other one “Your Path To Divinity” which were pretty much the two first songs that I wrote. What occurred to me after some time was listening back to these demos that I was doing was that I preferred it to Godflesh. And I was thinking that this is it now with Godflesh, I think. I’ve worn the idea thin, you know. I didn’t want to go any further pursuing that sort of attacking brutal sound. I also had enough of screaming as well.
R.: Did the other members of Godflesh instantly agree with you?
No. [laughs] Not at all. I mean Godflesh took a real big change. The original bass player left just after we recorded the last Godflesh album “Hymns”. He left just before we were about to do a tour with Fear Factory. We got a replacement with Paul Raven who played in Prong with Ted [Parsons , drummer for Godflesh and Jesu] actually and he plays in Killing Joke. He joined the band and Godflesh didn’t feel right. It felt completely different. He joined for a live tour and it just didn’t feel… it sort of solidified my feelings of the fact that I don’t think Godflesh should exist anymore, that I needed to replace it with something new and something where I was doing exactly what I wanted to do. Basically toward the end of Godflesh I wanted to pursue a sound which has turned into Jesu – something concentrated on melody and melancholy. Godflesh was very brutal and attacking. I think I’d grown tired of attacking and screaming my head off all the time. Godflesh existed almost 14 years. I felt I’d spent 14 years screaming my head off - banging my head against the wall. That was the feeling of this. Now I felt like I couldn’t care for the attack any more.
R.: I read an interview with you where you said that were Godflesh was clinical and cold the new intent with Jesu was to be frail and emotional.
J.B.: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, some Godflesh reached those moments but they were never focused enough. Godflesh by design was obviously very brutal, a very cold, machinelike brutal sound. I clearly wanted to go the other way with Jesu. It’s all about songwriting, melodies. Some of these things were touched upon with Godflesh but they were just never developed. For Jesu I really wanted to develop this side of the songs that was there sometimes where I’d sing, it was slower and the melodies were much more depressing, very emotional, and very melancholic. It was something that was always touched upon with Godflesh but never developed enough. Initially the intention was these songs we sometimes did with Godflesh – I wanted to make a whole band of these songs. I wanted to make music which just consisted of these miserable, emotional songs which really touched me. I wanted to develop this much further.
W.: Was this a change in your personality that expressed itself in the music or was it something that you always wanted to get out?
J.B.: It was definitely always there. But only touched upon with Godflesh. On each Godflesh album there are maybe one or two songs that have these peaks – very emotionally intense, singing with clean vocals. Every time we recorded something like this I always felt in the back of my mind I’d love to just do everything like that. But because Godflesh had this self-imposed limitation which we imposed to keep it disciplined I couldn’t step outside. The great thing with terminating Godflesh - which was obviously a big thing to do in my life because I’d established a living with it and so and so – was that I couldn’t be true to myself anymore. A lot of groups continue purely for financial reasons which we could have done with Godflesh but that was worthless to me towards the end. I couldn’t express what I wanted and obviously I am a lot older now. When I started Godflesh and recorded the album Streetcleaner - which is the album everyone still talks about - I was 19. Do you know what I mean? And people still say to me “Oh, if you’d only do Streetcleaner again…” and all this shit… I’m 36 now. I don’t feel the need to do this anymore. When I was in Napalm Death, when I was 15 or 16 – then I did just want to rage – I went from being anarchistic to complete nihilism. And now it’s just beyond it all. There is this cheesy element of maturity. I don’t think I ever wanted to be a 40 year old guy standing there and screaming my head off.
R.: Do you feel that Godflesh got the attention it deserved?
J.B.: To some extent yes - and really surprisingly so - and sometimes… maybe not a little. I think Godflesh influenced so much music but it wasn’t very apparent for many years and suddenly you saw how many things Godflesh affected and how many groups it influenced and stuff. It took a long time for this to be clear. I think it’s probably because we’re an English band from the middle of nowhere. I think if we were American then Godflesh would have been a lot bigger band. I think that’s pretty much a fact.
R.: The thing is that you started this kind of music with Godflesh but other bands that followed like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry got so much more attention and really hit off in terms of audience numbers and stadium rock and stuff but Godflesh remained this underground thing…
R.: …appreciated by many but the success… I don’t know…
J.B.: By own standards Godflesh did really well. When I first formed Godflesh I thought it would sell a couple of thousand records if we were lucky. But within a couple of years we just blew up… out of all proportion. But obviously we never filled stadiums. I don’t think any music I’m ever involved in will ever fill in stadiums. Once you get past the ambition of wanting to be a star or whatever – then you can make music. The ambition thing existed when I was younger. Now it doesn’t exist at all. If you only aspire to make great music and not aspire to be a superstar then you’ve got the right focus. Godflesh never did anything to make itself a bigger band. Many times we were offered millions of tours around America all the time and move to America because that’s were the biggest market is and all this stuff but we’re not good at…
Diarmuid Dalton: …being celebrities.
Justin Broadrick: Exactly. All this shit – playing that celebrity game and being a star and all that stuff. It’s just not who we are and not what we do. And Jesu is obviously the same. Even more so I think. Jesu is becoming very popular in America and we haven’t even toured there yet. [laughs]
R.: Maybe thanks to Hydrahead.
J.B.: Yeah but I think our record is really helping Hydrahead as well because the Jesu record is reaching wider audiences in America and is reaching mainstream music press. Hydrahead are saying none of their groups in America have done that yet. For us it’s the first but our step in stone. A two folded step in stone - my reputation from Godflesh and Hydrahead being quite a trendy label. These two things put together have made quite something that people are noticing. It’s interesting to see. With Jesu I expected a lot less than Godflesh because it’s really something which I felt only I could really relate to and all the people I work with like Diarmuid [Dalton] and Ted [Parsons] and the people around me. I didn’t think there would really be seriously an audience for this music but there is. [laughs] It’s a pleasant surprise.
R.: Godflesh and Jesu are both names that carry a spiritual or religious meaning with them. Are you a spiritual person?
J.B.: I’m totally a spiritual person. I’m absolutely obsessed with any form of spirituality.
Diarmuid Dalton: …and spirits…
Justin Broadrick: Spirits, yeah! Particularly Vodka... [laughs]
Yeah I’ve always been obsessed with everything esoteric and everything to do with spiritual cultism. All these things absolutely fascinate me. Belief systems are really fascinating. It was the same thing with Godflesh. It’s all questions, you know? Jesu is all questions and Godflesh is all questions. I’m not smart enough to have answers. I’m the same questioning person that we all are. For me everything is a question. I think I’m on the same stupid or cheesy spiritual quest that a lot of people are in but without the need of any form of dictated religion. Obviously we’re totally anti organized religion. When I say anti organized religion Satanism is pretty much in the same bracket. But religious iconography is something I’m really obsessed with. The imagery of religion, the feeling of like when you walk into a cathedral, the huge feeling of intimidation that you get from Christian religion – everything to do with religion I find totally obsessive.
R.: So is it more the atmosphere of spirituality that you want to carry in the music?
J.B.: To some extent, yes. I think it’s trying to create a similar spiritual feeling. The closest I can ever get to any form of God is through art. So it’s either music or great books or great films. But for me music… and films I think… it’s close but music for me is ultimately the thing where I personally can get emotions that I can’t even articulate. They’re illiterate emotions. With Jesu we’re definitely trying to create music which evokes that same atmosphere where the peaks of the emotion is so intense that you can’t really put your finger on exactly what it is. Those are moments in music I really enjoy. It’s like a blind emotion – absolutely inarticulate, illiterate, where words have no meaning anymore. Religion obviously evokes the same feeling of belief in people where it’s like a blind belief. It’s fascinating that people can just put their whole body and soul into something… But I can see this in myself. I can see how it is possible to be absolutely absorbed by feelings of pure love or pure faith. It’s something I’m really intrigued by. I’m intrigued by what’s beyond this shit… what’s past the skin and past the mind and everything.
R.: Can you tell me something about Final? Is this an extension to Jesu or a project or…?
J.B.: It’s a separate project. The album on Neurot is somewhat similar to Jesu in mood but obviously it’s… ambient. Which is a word I fucking hate. But it’s appropriate because it hasn’t any beats I guess. But Final was the first music I ever made. It’s been a project that ran now from 1983. That was the first time I ever made music with Final. I was 13 years old. Back then it was just pure noise influenced by old electronics like Throbbing Gristle, Whitehouse and a lot of really early sort of hardcore electronics without beats. Psychedelic noise. I first started making music using short wave radio and my stepfather had some equipment and I used some of his stuff - really primitive noise recordings. I had a cassette label. Eventually I sort of got bored with that whole scene and ended up joining Napalm Death. Then it all changed. I formed Godflesh. After about three years with Godflesh I felt the need to resurrect the project again because I had a fresh set of influences and I felt I wanted to make music without beats again. The project Final started 1983 but the first CD was released in 1991 and a few more in the 90’S. In the late 90’s I started working on an album which is basically Final 3 on Neurot. It took me years because I split Godflesh during this period and formed Jesu. So I recorded Final as a sort of relaxation thing to some extent. It was a thing to explore the moods.
R.: Listening to the album I actually got the impression that it was relaxing but some songs could be Jesu songs if they were…
J.B.: …developed with a full rock instrumentation. Exactly, yeah. There are actually a couple of Jesu songs that have come from Final tracks. And there are a couple of Jesu songs which I wrote and scrapped and have turned into Final tracks. Whereas when Godflesh and Final existed at the same time they were quite far apart to some extent. A lot of experimentation went on in Godflesh but not quite as developed as it was with Final outside of it. But Jesu and Final are a lot closer. Diarmuid [Dalton] works with Final as well. He’s on Final 3 and he’s the bass player with Jesu so it’s pretty incestuous. It’s gonna have a lot of similarities.
W.: Is it possible then that Jesu grew on the grounds of Final?
J.B.: It comes from Godflesh and Final. Jesu definitely comes from both with a whole set of other influences as well which maybe would never had existed in either music. I couldn’t really put these into music then but I can now.
R.: You’ve been involved in a lot of bands. Is that still the case?
J.B.: Yeah, it’s a whole host of music. The things I’m involved in or have been involved in is pretty vast. But it’s very focused for the last couple of years. I don’t do so many projects any more. I’ve refined everything… with age. [laughs]
R.: Were you guys satisfied with the reactions to the Silver E.P.?
J.B.: Yeah, very much so. At first it was a few surprises. Some people were really surprised with the song Star – which was good. When people first heard it they were like “Whoa, shit!” and now we’re hearing “Oh, it’s my favorite song ever by Jesu, blablablabla”. It’s really weird. It threw us off quite a bit because of some people when they first heard that song and the reference points they were using were groups we’ve never even heard of. I was like: “Who are these bands?” I read things like: “It sounds just like Simple Plan”. And I was like: “Who’s Simple Plan?” So I was checking this band out and it sounded just like…
Diarmuid Dalton: …Blink 182.
Justin Broadrick: …Blink 182. Exactly. [laughter] It’s funny, isn’t it?
R.: I think it makes you vulnerable. I know a lot of people were like “What the fuck is this?!” when they heard Star because they were really surprised to hear a pop song from you. But I think it’s great. It’s positive but still hard.
J.B.: Exactly! Exactly! That’s the point really. With Silver that was pretty much the intention: to make a pop record. But a Jesu pop record where it’s still really heavy, it’s still low-tuned and quite weird and somewhat surreal. But it’s a pop record. That was the intention. I love pop music. I’m totally addicted and always have been to all forms of pop music: electronic pop, guitar pop, indie pop – all of this stuff. I’ve always been a big fan of all these sorts of music. I wanted to start to bridge some sort of a gap between this brutal, heavy, low-tuned and melancholic sound and pop music.
R.: When I first listened to the self-titled album it made me think of My Bloody Valentine…
R. …because of all the dynamics, everything layered on top of each other...
J.B.: Yeah, wall of sound, layers of sound. My Bloody Valentine is a massive influence on Jesu, definitely a huge influence. Not as a carbon copy but there’s just so many influences. Probably the biggest bands that influenced Jesu are Red House Painters and Codeine. Codeine is almost like Swans without the distortion playing Slint. Really ultra slow. If you hear Codeine you’ll be like “Ah! I can see quite a bit of Jesu there.” They made a couple of amazing albums. And Red House Painters is a huge influence.
R.: It’s funny because my next question would have been what the best description for Jesu would be.
J.B.: I don’t know what to say to that stuff. I’m seeing funny descriptions all the time. I keep seeing things like Doom-Shoegazer, Doom-Pop and I like some of them actually, they’re quite funny. We don’t think of music on them sort of terms at all. I’ve never made music were I thought this is… well I have made electronic music but with rock music we never do feel we’re trying to fit somewhere.
R.: Doom-Shoegazer fits quite well…
J.B.: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Diarmuid Dalton: They try to pigeonhole it again.
Justin Broadrick: Yeah, that’s it. That was the thing with Godflesh, you know? Everyone said we’re Industrial Metal. As if we created this genre. It was a complete accident. We never thought “This is Industrial Metal” or “We wanna form this genre”. It’s strange because I can’t put anything to it. I don’t know what it is.
R.: So what did you guys listen to in the tour bus today?
J.B.: We listened to Bill Hicks today. [laughs] That was today but that’s also been a stable diet for many years.
Diarmuid Dalton: Dub.
Justin Broadrick: Dub. Reggae. And today was Mark Kozelek, the guy in Red House Painters. Some of their stuff is so slow, so doomy. But there’s no distorted guitars, there’s all clean guitars, beautifully sung vocals. Some of it is quite folky, quite country-like. In the bus we’re listening to stuff that’s really mellow mostly. The shows are enough noise so we listen to pretty quiet music most of the time.
[to Diarmuid Dalton] I think we listen to pretty quiet music most of the time anyway.
Diarmuid Dalton: Yeah.
Justin Broadrick: We listened to Drum’n’Bass. We listen to a lot of electronic music, electronic dance music, minimal techno, glitch, clicks and cuts. Jazz, Avantgarde stuff. We barely listen to any rock music. I think about probably 5% of our listening is rock bands. In terms of modern rock music there’s very little we like.
Diarmuid Dalton: Meshuggah
Justin Broadrick: Yeah. Metal records. The last Meshuggah album is cool. I like a lot of black metal.
J.B.: It’s ok. I’m not so mad on that. Craft is good. Craft’s album Fuck The Universe.
From this point on we couldn’t continue with the interview because of the noise Ostinato were making at their sound check. We went to a room somewhere quiet and I asked Justin which songs I should play on the show I was going to make about Jesu. He thought a lot of time about that and finally came up with 24 from the Red House Painters but couldn’t remember a song from Codeine which he wanted to be played. The only thing he remembered was that it was a song on Codeine’s album Barely Real. After more than half an hour we finished the interview which at that time had become more of a conversation about bands among mutual music fanatics. Justin Broadrick is not only a great musician but one of the nicest guys I ever had the chance to interview.