May 14th, 2019, Jaz Coleman was at Berlin NYC for an intimate spoken word event. Coleman is the un-dogmatic vocalist for the band Killing Joke. The influential Post-Punk group was on their 40th anniversary world tour. Playing at venues across America was part of the itinerary, which included two sold out gigs at the following NYC venues; Le Poisson Rouge located in Manhattan and Brooklyn’s St. Vitus. Along the way, Jaz Coleman squeezed in a few spoken word events in Los Angeles, San Diego and New York City. Here we’ll discuss the NYC gig.
I first discovered Killing Joke when I was maybe around 15 years old. Heard strains of their single Love Like Blood from some radio program broadcast on WNEW-FM. It was a show featuring British alternative acts. Which is how I also discovered The Smiths. Love Like Blood led to me getting the Nighttime album on vinyl.
Prior going any further, I’m going to confess something. A few years after getting Nighttime, I saw Killing Joke live at CBGB’s. This was during the late ’80s. (Exact date: August 13, 1989) By then the group had already established themselves as legendary. So as a rude teenager, I walked to the bar. Unexpectedly I found myself standing right next to none other than Jaz Coleman himself. He was relaxing at the bar prior to the concert. Jaz was naturally friendly. This timing was way off for me, for around this time I was in my obnoxious late teen phase. So what do I do? I was completely rude to Jaz, then walked away. The middle age adult in me is looking back and shaking her head. I wasn’t being clever. I was being a jerk. Nonetheless, Killing Joke put on an amazing show. As the band played, a woman sporting light brown curly hair began talking to me. She asked me if I was observing Jaz’s facial expressions during the band’s performance. “He’s so intense” she cooed.
A friend who had gone with me to the CBGB’s gig became an impromptu fanboy after that night. Got obsessed with Killing Joke. Overnight the entire Killing Joke back catalog was a part of his record collection. According to memory, he mentioned that Jaz Coleman was doing some spoken word performance at the 13th Street Playhouse. I didn’t go to the Q&A titled “The Necessity of Struggle“, which Jaz was doing along with Martin Atkins. Most likely because I was a broke obnoxious teenager. So my friend goes the following Monday. I ask him for his feedback. He dropped a few tidbits here and there, but his review could be summed up in one word.
As my friend continued on his Killing Joke fandom, I slowly began to regret my rudeness towards Coleman. Fast forward decades later. After discovering Killing Joke back when I was 15 during the Nighttime era, I rediscovered them upon my return to NYC during the mid-2000s. This was also around the time I was knee deep in studying ceremonial and chaos magick. My CD of Pandemonium, which I originally brought during the ’90s, was in constant rotation again. It wasn’t until I started Googling the band that Jaz, along with other members were also interested in the Occult. My suspicions were confirmed. Suddenly it made sense.
Jumping to the years 2018 and 2019. Once again I pick up on Killing Joke. My Spotify list had Killing Joke in rotation. As luck would have it, Killing Joke was touring. Perfect timing, cause finally I had the funds to go and see them live once more. I brought my ticket to the Le Poisson Rouge show, despite St. Vitus being closer to where I currently reside. This didn’t matter, for it all worked out in the end. Last minute I decided to go to the Jaz Coleman spoken word event at Berlin NYC. This time the lecture was titled “Off On A Tangent.” After all these aeons, maybe now I can see what my teenage friend was raving about.
Arriving solo at Berlin NYC, it should be noted that this time, I left my rude attitude at home. As my attitude was locked up in box, I assured it that it will be brought back when clocking in for work. Just give me two days once I’m back in the mundane.
Berlin NYC was small, intimate, and extremely hot. The temperature felt like a fricken’ sauna. Met some nice UK fans who traveled to NYC exclusively for the Killing Joke gigs. The hardcore Killing Joke fans are known as “Gatherers.” There was one particular fan I friended on Facebook – he followed the entire U.S. tour. The audience mostly consisted of these devotees.
Now, Berlin NYC is located on Avenue A near Houston. Deep in the heart of the East Village/Lower East Side. It’s 2019, so the area has been heavily gentrified. Despite a tiny closet masquerading at a studio apartment going for $3000 per month, it’s still the East Village. Therefore thanks to the help of a few audience members, it almost became a free for all. I’ll get to that later in the post.
As luck would have it, an extremely kind gentleman offered his seat to me. I had the best view the whole night. Turns out the woman I sat next to was a friend, a petite blond woman who I met a few years ago through another mutual friend. She was with her male friend, a tall blond man with a thick Yugoslavian accent who she recently got re-antiquated with. Her friend takes one look at me, and offers to buy me a beer. Jaz Coleman quietly takes his seat on the stage. He starts by looking straight into the gathered, and thus set the tone for the night.
Jaz states his intention. He says he was going to open the floor to the audience, allowing him to ask anything they want. That included not just Killing Joke but his interest in the Occult, his personal life, what have you. He taps the red stool next to his table. All you had to do was sit on stage next to him on the “hot seat.” But first, he requested that everyone in the audience to get up from their seats, walk around and introduce themselves to each other. I froze. It felt like I was in either a class or some self-help workshop…or both. For all we know, this could’ve been a casual working in process, and Jaz was starting up the ritual. The friend sitting next to me wasn’t too fond of this idea. She adamantly shook her saying “Nooooooooo…” Yeah, I wasn’t too thrilled either. After she was done disputing his request, I look up from my seat. There’s Jaz Coleman standing right in front of me. He says hello, introducing himself, and asks for our names as he extends his hand. I shake his hand calmly, but inside I felt like a deer caught in headlights. Don’t get me wrong. That itself was amazing, but I was still taken slightly aback.
Jaz takes his seat on the stage once again. Let the show begin.
Some brave souls get upon the hot seat. Jaz listens intently. He gives the inquirers as much as time they need to express themselves. Everything is going smoothly at first.
My friend’s friend, the blond dude with the Yugoslavian accent slowly builds up. He begins to interrupt. The guy didn’t mean to be rambunctious, but the drinks were starting to have an effect. I didn’t catch this guy’s name. You would think I would’ve. Considering he brought me a drink. Hell, we clinked our pint glasses together in a few toasts. But I didn’t, for I already was getting consumed in the event itself. Jaz had to scold him a few times.
So Jaz asks who is next for the hot seat. The tall blond guy volunteers himself.
“Are you going to behave?” Jaz demands.
“Yes! Yes! I have a question…”
So Jaz allows him access to the red hot seat. The guy, starts by telling Jaz about his jacket. That this jacket is from a certain era, etc.
Jaz has this puzzled look; “What’s the question?”
The blond guy responds; “Nothing. I just wanted to show you my jacket…”
Jaz: “Get off the stage!”
The audience breaks into laughter. This impulsive comic relief leads to intermission, as Jaz decides to have some “tea and biscuits.”
After the break, Jaz explains to the audience that he is a recovering alcoholic. Eventually he decided it was wise to quit drinking, otherwise the alternative would’ve meant death. He recalls one incident where him and another band member got into a severe fist fight, to the point where blood could be seen on the walls. Jaz didn’t use channels like Alcoholic Anonymous. His claim was he used sheer willpower to combat drinking. He still enjoys the social aspect of going down to the pub however – but he will not order anything alcoholic. Jaz emphasized on the other alternative…death.
Jaz then pleaded for anyone who has struggled with alcoholism to speak to him. He was willing to help anyone who’s been in a similar plight. He points to the tall blond guy from earlier. “I had a talk with him during the break…”
The hot seat opens up again. More volunteers step up. As for me, I couldn’t think of anything to ask. For once, my mind was a complete blank slate. Don’t think I would’ve managed to get up on stage if I tried. Perhaps this was good. I was more content being a spectator.
Yet the free for all had already began. A tall, slim young woman with a gorgeous face approaches the stage. She begins by stating her parents were occultists, and that she had a rather unconventional childhood. Afterward that, she completely lost me. She rambled on for some time. I get it. She was completely lost in her feelings. While I don’t mean to disrespect her in any way, she just went on and on. What was her point? To Jaz’s credit, he showed an incredible amount of patience. More kudos, he was actually listening. Where as I gave up on her after five minutes. This was followed by another pretty lady, but I tuned out what she was talking about as well. Give Jaz some applause. He has patience of a saint. Must be the Pisces in him.
Speaking of astrology. Jaz mentions sometime during the night that if you are ever curious about your death, check into the 8th house of your astrology chart. Astrology was something I was never an expert on, (tarot and other tools were more my forte) but I have my chart stored somewhere online. The next day, I did exactly that. Took a look at my own astrology chart. Turns out, Jaz is right. The 8th house of your astrology chart points to love, sex, and death.
Jaz dropped some additional wisdom, such as desire vs. love. He says that in order for something to come into fruition, you have to love it, but not desire it. Again, here he has a point. If you want something to manifest, it cannot be on desire alone. Desire leads to obsession, but do you truly love what you’re trying to obtain? My interpretation regarding desire vs. love is this. Desire is to obtain something, like power, or possession. Love on the other hand, is something that’s sincere and unconditional. No strings attached, no ulterior motives. You do something because you love to do it, without demands. Desire only brings misery. It’s an illusion. Desire means we are only fooling ourselves. We desire to feel important. So you take out a car loan to get that car that makes you look good. That car will take twenty years to pay off, as the bank makes interest. Meanwhile, you know you really can’t afford that car. So you’re enslaved. It’s a trap. Now we need cellphones in today’s world. So we pay the cellphone bill. But do we really need that Audi? I would be happy if I just owned any working car, period. Another example. I knew someone who collected watches. The watches were stored inside a dresser, never to be seen. Seriously though, how many watches does one need? I don’t even wear a watch myself – I just use the clock on my smartphone screen. Sometimes less is more. The more material items one collects, or the more someone desires, the more it becomes obvious that there’s an empty void desperately needed to be filled. Desire backfires. Thus love becomes the real magick.
You’re not here to read about my tangents. Back to that night. Jaz mentions some other bits of advice, but eventually the Q&A comes to a close. Before the event ends, Jaz wants to play a classical piece that he composed himself. For those who don’t know, Jaz Coleman is also an accomplished classical music composer. Which explains why some Killing Joke songs sound rather epic. Again, this makes sense. As he plays a classical track, you can see the expression on his face. He’s completely immersed with each note. Meanwhile my petite blond friend starts chewing my ear off in defense of her friend. She says he’s a good guy, he has a good heart, etc. I’m trying to go back and forth between watching Jaz Coleman and listening to my friend.
I think Jaz did have some sort of effect on her tall male friend, which I will get to in my next Killing Joke post. It’ll be mentioned in my Killing Joke concert review, which took place the next night.
It’s getting late, but Jaz Coleman offers to meet anyone in the next room, located in the back of the venue. I politely but quickly bid farewell to my friend, rushing to the back.
As I’m waiting on line, my patience was starting to crack. It’s been a long, busy month for me. Crankiness was starting to appear. I don’t know how I managed to contain myself. I grumbled a few times while on line. Guess it must be the Aries in me.
This all changed as soon when it was my turn. I swear, as soon as I took a few steps into the back room and said “hello”, Jaz extended his arms and proceeded to give me a warm hug. That was totally unexpected. I retained my composure on the outside, but inside I was giddy. Now here’s the part where I do something I normally NEVER do. Please allow my vulnerability as I start swooning here.
After the hug, I closely look straight into his eyes. I told my interest in the occult as he smiled. “I’ve been listening to you since I was 15” I said, “but I’m sure you’ve been told that before…”
“No” as he shook his head, “Don’t say that.” Putting on a mock accent, he continued: “I want to thank you for putting food in my belly!” That was cute. At that point the wicked witch in me melted. Words? What words, I lost them. I stammered again that I was a fan for a while, but quickly checked myself. Excusing myself, I said I was going, but I will be at the concert. “I’ll look for you tomorrow night” he chimed, as I sped out the exit. Cause inside by this point, I was dying.
Go on, have a chuckle at my expense. It’s all good. It took me two weeks to process this. A delayed reaction of sorts. I will say for the record, as Jaz hugged me, it was not inappropriately. It was a genuine hug, no matter how unexpected. What really got to me what the realization that today, the human touch has become a luxury. As human beings we are afraid to hug each other as a friendly gesture. Perhaps we have lost the meaning of showing kindness. It’s perfectly okay to text each other until nightfall. There’s adventures in “sexting”, etc. God forbid though, to have a true conversation face to face. We have become jaded creatures, for every other person is an opportunist. That is distressing, and I’m digressing. But I’ll tell you this. By perchance Jaz Coleman decides to form some sort of spiritual collective or cult. It could be either in New Zealand or South America. I just might hit up travelocity.com. I jest, I jest….or am I? I caught that raised eyebrow. Therefore I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
If you’ve come this far, I thank thee. I’ve rambled on like that girl on stage. Cause it’s easy to type mindlessly on a laptop keyboard. On my cell is photo of me with Jaz Coleman. He offered to take “selfies” with anyone who requested. It’s not one of my best photos. In fact, I look exhausted. It’s been an exhausting month. But perhaps I made up for being such a jerk to him back when I was in my late teens. Echoing the others, I’d say the whole night was intense.