Words by Trevor de Brauw
With more than 20 projects to his credit over the past 30-plus years, the band that seems to exemplify Justin Broadrick’s demeanor—unassuming, genial, passionate, rapt—is Jesu, his ongoing experiment in merging the emotional and textural essence of shoegaze with the bludgeoning hooks of heavy metal. Formed in the wake of Godflesh’s breakup in 2002, its melodic undercurrent represented a huge stylistic shift for Broadrick, tapping a wellspring of inspiration in the process, as a seemingly endless series of albums and one-off EPs unfurled over the following decade.
The interview below was first conducted in 2011, right around the release of Jesu’s third proper full-length, Ascension. The album demonstrated a bit of a shift for the project, which had built its reputation on atmosphere over structure. The compositions that make up the album are dense and dark—far more structural than the work that preceded it—and in some ways reflexive of the album’s unlikely relationship to Mark Kozelek, who released it on his Caldo Verde imprint.
In the years that followed, Jesu went silent as a newly reformed Godflesh, the ambient solo project Final, Jesu’s electronic alter-ego Pale Sketcher, and an industrial behemoth of a record by alter-ego JK Flesh took up most of Broadrick’s time. Considering Jesu’s first seven years produced seven EPs, two albums, three splits, an album-length song, and a compilation of studio outtakes, two years of silence seemed like a veritable eternity, but the long incubation clearly served Jesu’s new full-length (Every Day I Get Closer to the Light From Which I Came) well. Splitting the difference between the developed songwriting of Ascension and the dense, heavy production and atmosphere of his earlier works, it paints in deep sonic brushstrokes, rendering a evocative and sublime portrait of the complex emotions that accompany middle age and parenthood…
Ascension sounds like a Jesu album, but at the same time seems to be a bit of a departure from the works preceding it. Was there a conscious decision to try and make songs that were a bit more structurally complex?
It’s a bit of a cliché, but I’d say it was quite natural. I had been wishing to just expand the palette a little. Jesu’s made a lot of records; by my own admission, it was bordering on absolute saturation at one point. Jesu’s been relatively quiet for about a year and a half, so I spent a lot of time on these songs. I actually made demos for all of the songs prior to the album—not something I’m accustomed to doing. Have you ever done that, with Pelican or with other projects?
Our last three albums we’ve done demos prior, which makes a big difference. It gives you an idea of what the songs sound like on their own, leading to a different goal set in how you approach them, final recording-wise.
Wow, so you did do demos?
That’s really interesting. When I first started making music it was all about demos. In the 80’s, those demos would become the record most of the time. The first Napalm Death album that I was on—the A-side of Scum—was a demo. That’s all it was. As my career went on I was just accustomed to making “the record” and never saw anything as being, quite literally, a “demonstration.” It’s really quite funny this method is coming this late in my career.
That’s probably why the final result sounds more developed and somewhat complex—literally because of the demo process…In the past it’s mostly been textures at the forefront, and anything complex is in the background. It’s all about mood…This album marks a progression of some sort.
It’s more songs than moods.
Exactly. Another thing that inspired me to take the songwriting a bit further was that this was coming out on Caldo Verde. It’s already been established I’m a fan of Mark Kozelek’s work since the early ’90s; I’ve always loved his songwriting and so many qualities of his music. I don’t know whether he was subconsciously steering me towards something that was a bit more developed or not, but I definitely felt like I’d like to take it further.
Did Caldo Verde approach you to do records, or did you seek them out?
Mark approached Jesu, basically. It was all through the original bass player for Low, Zak Sally. He hooked me and Mark up. I met Zak backstage at a Jesu show; I think it was on the first U.S. tour for Conqueror with ISIS. He met me backstage and obviously I had a couple of Low records, which I really enjoy as well. I was quite surprised that Zak from Low was familiar with Jesu and was into this stuff. Basically he said one of his friends was Mark Kozelek, and I said, “Oh wow, I’m a fan of the guy.” And he said, “He’s aware of your music; I played him the stuff and he’s really into it. I could put you in contact.”
Zak got in touch three days later whilst on the tour to say that Mark would like to come to the show in San Francisco. After Mark saw Jesu live he got in touch to say it felt very refreshing and suggested I make a record for Caldo Verde. I was really excited by the prospect. I said “Yes, we must do something!”
It’s very impressive because they don’t seem to sign too many outside artists. If I understand right, most of the releases on the label are Kozelek recordings.
Absolutely. Or it’s people he’s in a band with. He’s just released this really amazing album—mostly instrumental, coincidentally—by a band called Desertshore.
I haven’t heard that.
I can pretty much second guess that you’d enjoy it. It’s the band of a guy named Phil Carney, who was the guitarist in both Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon.
Actually the last Mark Kozelek show I saw Phil Carney was playing backup.
Ah, there we go, yeah. When Mark plays solo he often plays with Phil. And [Desertshore is] Phil’s solo project, with a couple of the guys from the band, and Mark’s on it as well. It’s a beautiful album.
This album feels more like a band playing together than anything you’ve done before. Even full band recordings that you’ve done like Conqueror have a programmed feel, or an electronic feel to them. I know you have pretty particular recording aesthetics before you start a project, but was it something you had in mind?
Yes, absolutely. Opiate Sun had a similar feel, but this is even more developed than that.
Yes, far more pronounced on this one.
Exactly. When Jesu has that live band approach, it actually works more, I think…Ironically the album in demo form was all programmed apart from guitar and bass. And again, ironically it was never recorded in a room as a band. It has that vibe somehow with Ted Parsons’ drums, you know? Even though he’s in Norway and I’m nowhere near that part of the world, it still sets up the recording somehow. d.
Did Ted play on this record?
Yes, yes, that’s Ted Parsons on drums.
Oh, for some reason I thought this was all solo.
No, no… Opiate Sun was. And I really wanted to get Ted back on there. But that’s a nice compliment, thinking it’s me drumming, but I’m not that good. [Laughs] I can really tell because Ted’s solid, and there’s a looseness to my drumming. And I’m fine with loose drumming, but Ted really sounds organic… I just couldn’t have physically done some of those drum parts, didn’t have the confidence.
There’s moments that sound very much like a home recording; you can hear backing tracks still playing at the end of songs, some keyboard clacks…
Was this circumstantial, or was it part of the aesthetic?
To some extent, I’ve always been absolutely enamored with those aspects…I’ve always been quite a fan of records, particularly from the ’60s and ’70s, where at the end of a song you can hear someone put the guitar down, or the drumsticks clack, or somebody shouting to someone across the studio. Quite often I did it in in Godflesh; I’d just leave the tape running after. That rarely got picked up on, but with this album—as you clearly noticed—I really did leave tapes running after doing certain overdubs, particularly overdubs for the acoustic guitar…There’s even stuff like my partner calling me when tea’s ready and stuff like that. Things like click tracks or somebody walking around in the background…There’s something about even the way the sun shines through a bit of the window, or the way that the wind is blowing outside, or the people who are walking past the house. You’re capturing time, I think, when you’re capturing performance. And I like this whole idea, this whole concept, that you are capturing a slice of time and it’s not just you and your performance, but all this peripheral noise as well. It suggests that life is going on during these recordings, you know what I mean?
Yeah, I’m very much in love with that concept—a song has a life outside of the recording, so when you’re making a recording you’re not capturing a song, you’re capturing a moment in time.
Absolutely…I often find that I’m not even hearing the song anymore, I’m hearing everything around it. Obviously you can be really nostalgic about it. It captures time, doesn’t it? It captures even just the most ridiculous things like an expression from a fellow bandmate when you did one part, or all this sort of stuff. All this captures so much more emotion than just simply capturing a song you’ve worked on for six months. There’s so much in there. I find it hard to even listen to my own music for those reasons. I just can’t listen to the music anymore; there’s too much baggage. You’ll make a record and you’ll think three months after you’ll listen to it and that it will sound fresh, but it never is. There’s so much other baggage.
You’re one of the few musicians I know who is secure enough with your own sound to kind of admit the references or influences that you bring to your music, and at any given time it’s a different palette. So I’m curious what influences you brought to the table this time.
Pretty vast, but really some of the usual bands and songs. It’s really nothing that new since my last album, just some of it more pronounced this time. I’ve spend quite a while talking about a Chris Bell song called “I Am The Cosmos.” Do you know that?
Yeah, I do.
That has been a huge, huge song for me. While Godflesh still existed, the bass player Ben Green discovered that song. He turned me on to Big Star and then he turned me onto that Chris Bell record, and that song in particular, which he worshipped. I went fucking crazy for it. That song alone has been my bible for years, I’ve been constantly trying to find ways to emulate it with my own sounds. I’m just going to cover the fucking song; I may as well. Get it over and done with! [Laughs]
For me, there’s so much in there. It’s such a loaded song in terms of the structure, the sound of it, the emotional content, the back story, the history of Chris Bell himself…that it had a huger impact than normal, I think. And Big Star generally, as well. Particularly the first two albums. Most people I know really love Big Star for the third because it’s such an out there sort of record, but I really like the first two albums, particularly the more poppy, jangly stuff. And of course Mark Kozelek’s work, I’m always informed by his stuff. That just runs through my veins and has been for years…Again of course, there’s stuff like certain periods of Pink Floyd, particularly Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd…and then another unsung band, who’s had a huge impact on a good amount of this album, is Bailter Space.
Yes, you mentioned them to me a few years ago.
Did you ever check them out?
I checked out a couple of different things, but I’m not sure if it was the best stuff. What do you consider to be the prime Bailter Space?
That band is really all over the place. Some of my favorite records by them half the record I don’t play at all, and then the other half of it I’ll just go fucking crazy for. I Sometimes they sound like an early ’90s noise-rock band, which to me could be a little pedestrian, and the other songs will just be these fantastic, glimmer-y pop songs. Their best album for me is an album called Vortura. And Wammo. They’re a really odd band actually. Very odd. For me they’re some of the best guitar rock songs of the last 15 years, but there’s also a good portion of their records I just can’t listen to.
Those are the best bands though—the ones where you have to really dig for the good stuff, and then the good stuff is all the more rewarding.
Exactly. You get an album and there’s only two good songs on it but those two are stunning.
Have you ever heard this band from Detroit; I think it’s pronounced Paik?
No, I know the name.
They’re just like that—totally hit or miss. They have one album that’s great all the way through called Satin Black. And there’s good stuff in the other albums, but it takes digging to find the good stuff.
Sometimes I really do think, ‘Wow, what planet is this band on?’ Obviously we all have individual perspectives but still, you wonder, ‘How did they write these two amazing songs?’ and then the rest is just like ‘what the fuck is this?’ I love that. People like us clearly spend so much time invested in searching for goldmines, you know what I mean? Just the other day, I was going through loads of stuff and saying, “Oh yeah, there’s one song on that, three songs on that, half a song on that…”
“I like this one chord change here.“
Exactly. The funniest person I’ve ever known for that, who’s really selective, is Ben Green. He used to do edits of people’s songs, like “I hate this verse, but I love the chorus. And I love the middle eight.” He would literally cut the song off on a cassette recorder to just play those bits. Socially you just could not play that shit, yet he would attempt to do it socially. Everyone would say, “Oh come on man, we know you like the middle eight, but we still want to hear the whole song.” He’s a really classic demonstration of that idiosyncratic “I fucking love that chord change!” I’ve got songs like that myself…I’m sure you have as well. One chord change is just stunning, but you spend four minutes in the rest of the song just waiting for that chord change.
I have several bands, and I write so many songs, that I kind of go into it with that mentality sometimes. If you have one really good part you just have to find ways that get to that part.
Yeah, I’m in total agreement with that in a way. There are songs of my own where I feel exactly the same. It’s not like you’re not trying to do more than that part, but it’s all about that certain peak or that one climax.
Right. The payoff can’t be a payoff if everything leading up to it is also a payoff.
That’s really very true. I find that exciting anyway…You can’t always just deliver. That’s asking too much, you know?
Getting back to that whole influences thing…I feel like I’m still into guitar pop records, the music that I’ve been enamored with since I was a kid. There was always classic rock in there; irrespective of how little people hear it, there’s still elements of things like Led Zeppelin, certain periods of the Who, the Beatles. Because I am a fan of that, having been exposed to it as a kid. And of course, Husker Dü, Bob Mould’s songwriting particularly, even some Sugar records. When Mark Kozelek and I first started hooking up that was one of our mutual loves, you know.
I understood, or at least second guessed, that Mark Kozelek was a Husker Dü fan, and of course, as soon as I asked him, he was like “Yes,” straight up.
It’s interesting because he does so many covers, you’d think he’d have done a Husker Dü cover by now.
Barely anybody knows this, but… you know he does a lot of live CDs. He’s done this one album that’s a compilation of odds and ends, but it was available only through the Caldo Verde site and he covers “Celebrated Summer” live.
I don’t know that one.
Ah, okay…It’s bizarre, because it was probably my favorite Husker Dü song of all time. It’s off New Day Rising.
I know that record; I guess I just don’t know song titles well.
It’s a beautiful song. I saw them do it live the last time they ever played in the UK. It was about 1986 at the Glastonbury Festival, on about five tabs of acid. It was pissing down rain—mud everywhere, real Apocalypse Now, you know? And then Husker Dü played this fucking song that, for me, was just one of the most emotional pieces of hardcore music out there. It was just one of those magical moments. Even though I was playing in Napalm Death at that point, I knew I’ve got to make music that emotionally loaded, you know what I mean? I just couldn’t believe it when I saw that Mark had covered it. That’s my favorite Husker Dü song of all time, and it was the same for him. Maybe this is where the lines blur between someone like Mark Kozelek and myself…But I digress…
No, this is great. You’re giving me so many records to listen to.
Some of the stuff you already knew…
Yeah, but some records you go back to at a different point in your life and you experience it differently.
Oh yeah, I love that shit. I do that often myself, rediscovering records that I had heard years ago. That’s just beautiful…You’ll suddenly see the complete logic in a record you couldn’t see 10 or 20 years ago….
I have a huge record collection and I won’t get rid of anything anymore because I’ve had so many periods of rediscovery where something that I didn’t like when I got it I discover later that I love it.
So now I just have loads of records that I don’t like because I’m waiting for that moment [laughs].
That’s absolutely true; I do that all the time. I think I have records I’ve had since the ’80’s, and I’ve done exactly that. I’ve done the opposite as well—dig out records that I think I love, but I haven’t heard in 10-12 years, and I’ll listen and be like, “Why the fuck did I like that?”
Yeah, I’m too familiar with that one too.
Particularly with a lot of electronic music—stuff from the early ’90s, when I went crazy for Aphex Twin and IDM. I was doing too much Ecstasy and buying too many rave records. So I’ve got this whole collection, this chunk of records that’s based purely upon taking copious amounts of Ecstasy…and I listen to them now and I’m like “you fucking idiot.” It’s really bad, horrible, pseudo-ambient techno. It’s just disgusting…
Well it was probably made by people who were taking loads of Ecstasy and they thought it was really good at the time too.
It’s exactly that. I’ve laughed about that with many people. You were listening to it on Ecstasy; they were making it on Ecstasy…Now I have about 150 fucking records and it’s like, “Do you want this shit? I don’t know.” After the Ecstasy thing is over, no one even wants to buy this shit off of you. eBay doesn’t work…
Speaking of lots and lots of records, after Conqueror, you came out with a really solid stream of EPs and splits. If I counted correctly it was four EPS, three splits, two compilations, and then the 50-minute song…
I’ve never even counted that stuff. When you put it like that, it’s shameful almost. [Laughs]
What is it that attracts you to EPs and other odd formats? The whole time you were doing these EPs, was the idea for Ascension kind of incubating, or was it something that you arrived at after you got these other ideas out of your system?
It’s weird. I think I’ve been so enamored with all this stuff [because] there’s something non-committal about making that sort of record. When I make an album, there’s such a sense of totality. It’s such a statement that you really have to commit to. Yet with EPs, it’s a concise way of demonstrating a concept. And ultimately I prefer EPs for my own music, even though for other artists I enjoy LPs more than EPs, generally.
I do feel like I make very singular records. I’ll make an album, and always come away thinking, ‘Wow, I made a really dynamic record there.’ And then all I’ll read are these people saying, “It sounds like one song”…I think that’s the beauty of an EP is that maybe it doesn’t outstay its welcome. That’s what does gets leveled at Jesu a lot—how mind-numbingly boring it is. For me that’s fine; most of my collection is made up of what people deem boring music. The way I personally listen to albums, I’ll just listen for two or three songs, and that’s fine by me. I feel when I make an album that if people find two or three songs they love, then that’s mission accomplished for me. I don’t expect people to play my record and go “I love every fucking song!” I find that to be a complete impossibility.
The industry barely recognizes EPs, yet falls over itself for albums. I come from that single generation—the 7″ single with the B-side, which I love. I rarely listen to an album from start to finish, nor do I expect people to sit down and play my albums from start to finish. If they do, fantastic, but I find that hard. You know what I mean?
This makes me curious about Infinity because it seems like a one, 50-minute song is a major commitment to make. What was driving that? And what sets that apart from being an album? I’ve seen interviews with you where you say it wasn’t really intended as an album…
I think the whole one song thing was just me writing something progressive. I do consider Infinity somewhat progressive, by my standards, which isn’t extremely… my standards aren’t progressive! For myself I thought it was proggy. And I think that was the thing; I couldn’t view it as an album, even though the song itself contains a lot of chapters which could be seen as separate songs…I wanted to try and make something coherent out of these fragments.
It’s a very hard record. I’m not even entirely sure it works how I imagined it would work, and again I think that’s why I didn’t want it to be seen as a big album. Hence releasing it myself; anything I release on my own label, Avalanche Recordings, is intentionally unsung. Because I don’t use PR, and I don’t use advertising. It was essentially meant to be online only; I wanted it to have that personal touch to it. But that’s an argument I have with myself all the time. As soon as you release a record, it’s not personal anymore; it’s everybody else’s, and it’s just me trying to succumb to that.
An album like Ascension for me isn’t experimental. Because it’s quite clearly a structured and cohesive demonstration of my songwriting and a vehicle for that in ten somewhat long or not so long songs, you know, but Infinity was indulgent, this idea of bridging these quite fragmented parts together…By my own admission, first and foremost, I don’t think it entirely works. It’s an interesting experiment, but I didn’t want to commit to it as being an album, basically.
You touched on something I wanted to ask about, which is how you figure out which project gets released on Avalanche and what requires outside involvement… Could you clarify?
With Avalanche, the first X amount of releases, you could only buy on the internet. And I didn’t even want to get into distribution.
If I remember right, the first one was the Godflesh Messiah EP right?
Exactly, which was centuries ago…
Yeah I remember Larry (of Pelican) bought that, and that was the first time I had ever heard of a digital download before. Weren’t you supposed to buy the AIFF files and burn your own CD?
I think we did that at one point…That was in the early stages of people being self-sufficient. Not many were doing that when we first kicked off the site…At the early stages I really embraced the technology. I am a bit of a tech head; I’ve always been a computer nerd and I’ve always been into programming. Obviously a good portion of my music is programmed…I’ve always been involved in that other side of things, like learning how to use sequencers and samplers in the the ’80s. In Godflesh, we were there, infatuated with technology quite early, I guess. In a way, it’s a selfish thing, self-indulgent in the sense of “I’ll get a machine to do your job!”
With Avalanche, I wanted to keep a personal context, but when distributors started coming to me, it was like, ‘Yeah, I might as well take this to the next level.’ But I still won’t be using PR or booking full-page ads in Kerrang!, you know what I mean? I still like that aspect of being private; it’s me drawing a line between what I see as the big album I make for a label that’s going to market and sell it, and records where I can be, you know, self-indulgent. [Laughs] All my music is, but sometimes even more so. An album like Ascension is me abbreviating what I do to some extent. There’s even—god forbid—four-and-a-half minute songs on there! And of course these four-and-a-half minute songs are a struggle, because I could turn them into a nine-minute song at the drop of a hat. You know yourself, being a purveyor of long songs; the difference is that you are involved in groups that do long songs, but are genuinely progressive. They cover a lot of range. But I can milk a riff for 20 minutes. [Laughs]
We’ve done our fair share of that!
Yeah but you still spread it out with lots of dynamics, compared to my own music.
You’ve really backed away from live performances in the past few years. Do you have any intention to present any of the Ascension material live?
Yeah, we do! There is a band and all the rest of it. For me, its succumbing to the fact that Jesu never hits the mark live. Out of the many shows that Jesu’s done in its existence, I could probably count on one to two hands maximum the shows that had been satisfactory. Which is a real shame. Whereas something like Godflesh, it’d be something like 50-percent of the shows we’ve ever played have been superb. But again Godflesh is a different deal that relies upon bombast and a sense of implosion which is much easier to present in a live situation. Jesu live is just a battle against its environment, generally. There’s too many variables, one of the main ones being my voice. My voice is hardly the strong point of Jesu, but it works. And that’s the fact that it is a very frail, weak voice, I think is somewhat part of the charm…If you’re into that sound, you’ll find it charming, and I find the melodies I come up with work. It’s just the actual quality and texture of my voice…live, it’s a complete fucking struggle..It’s just a compromise…Besides the fact that I’m not the greatest fan of being stuck in a van for two months anymore. Never was anyway, but I find it so mind-numbing now. I just find it destructive, ultimately.
You’ve obviously taken a lot of time off yourself.
It’s too hard.
Yes! That’s what it is basically.
That’s how I sum it up—it’s just too fucking hard.
Yes. And as I get older, there’s certain home comforts that I don’t want to do without. It’s as simple as that. With a lot of the stuff I do, I ask for very good hotels now and all this sort of stuff. There’s no way I’m going to sleep on someone’s floor. I lived like that as a kid, and I’m not doing it again. When I miss home comforts, I just get fucking depressed. I find tour absolutely depressing. When Jesu toured a lot in 2006-2007, I just inevitably ended up just becoming a fucking alcoholic on the road, and that’s it. And I just didn’t want to do that…I just turned to the bottle because it blocked everything out. “I feel utterly in discomfort here in so many respects, but if I drink it just nullifies it.” It’s just counterproductive.
That’s very common with musicians. It’s such a hard lifestyle that many turn to the bottle because it’s the easiest or only way to deal with it.
Exactly. And you just annihilate yourself with it. I am capable of being really self-destructive anyway. I need a really ritualized lifestyle; it gives me some sense of parameters. I’ve luckily managed to somehow still exist from music, but I’ve existed from music for such a long time that the whole self-employed/being your own boss thing…I’m not used to a lifestyle like that. It’s all set up for me but I’m not enjoying it. The one-hour onstage is great but I just want to be home besides that. And Jesu rarely fucking works…
Unless you’re a superstar, it’s really hard to fulfill your vision.
Exactly. And because of the way the industry is, we’re all forced to go and play live, even more so because it’s the only way we’re gonna generate any money in our pockets. And that’s the irony for me: I’ve become less and less wanting to tour but with the financial necessities…But a lot of the time you’ll go on the road for two months and as you know you’ll come back with a few hundred dollars in your pocket. And that’s when it’s absolutely gutting. You’ve piled it all into travel and all the rest of it. And most of my music is most popular in the U.S., but it takes a lot of money and a lot of effort, and travel, and its just like “Oh my god…”
The airfare, and renting all the equipment and the van and the drives are so long, there’s so much gas money eaten up…
That’s it. You know the drill inside out. You’ve done it. Probably as much as me, if not more. I have 10 years more then you…
So you’ve probably done it a bit more.
Well you’ve probably done it way more in the last few years. But like you say yourself you’ve quieted a bit down…Yeah…Fuck.
I recently read in a feature in Exclaim that your new electronica project Pale Sketcher has more or less taken the fore as your new musical focus…Now that you’ve completed that album with Jesu, do you still feel like that the case?
Yeah I’m not sure if the interviewer put that across as correctly as probably intended. It’s strange actually…for me at the moment the whole Godflesh reformation thing has been very exciting. It’s still a band in a way, even if it’s two of us, so it’s a tie up at the moment, with the three—Pale Sketcher, Jesu and Godflesh are the things that I’m really excited to work with. Those are the forefront.
The Pale Sketcher thing I am really excited with. I took quite a break out of electronic music for quite awhile and it was really exciting to get back to it. And I think I needed that break because I was really looking for a way of trying to develop the way Jesu… Jesu dipped into electronica a lot throughout its career, which was demonstrated on a number of EPs and stuff. But I just didn’t feel like it was developed enough because I wanted this guitar thing to be going on as well. I started to become less enamored with the guitar/electronica thing, it was starting to seem like both were suffering, so I really wanted to try to translate this emotional content of Jesu into an electronic beat-led thing. And I’ve become very excited with it… trying to develop a sound that is… A lot of the music I was making in a singular fashion in the past, stuff like drum n’ bass and things like this, but they were always informed by the angry side of my music and it was nice to actually start trying to develop a side of of the electronica which was led by the mood of Jesu—more melancholy and introspective and emotional. There’s a wide palette—a lot I can do there—which is why I’m very excited with the possibilities of that. Hence about 8 million Pale Sketcher releases in the next two years! Just like that Jesu saturation for a couple years, will now happen with Pale Sketcher probably. I’ll end up hating it, everyone else will hate it, and I’ll move on… [Laughs]
So you’ve been working on new Pale Sketcher stuff?
Yeah, an awful lot of it actually…There’s already another album for Ghostly in the pipeline and numerous 12″ singles for a lot of different labels. A few people caught on to it, like even people like Aphex Twin was DJing it in his sets and stuff. He’s got a huge audience and people have really started to respond to it, because he responded to it…So I’m starting to get quite a very interested audience, and I think it’s an audience that isn’t really concerned with my guitar music.
It’s refreshing. You know how my career takes odd trajectories…
You mentioned Godflesh was also at the fore… Are you guys working on new material too?
Yeah, that’s something that I’ve had bits and pieces… and it’s something we’d like to develop next year. But the album’s really got to resonate with us first, you know? The Godflesh back catalogue is fairly colorful. We, as a band, are most excited by the records we initially made. It’s not that we just want to do something regressive, retro, trying-to-capture-the-emotions-of-when-we-were-teenagers feel. [Laughs] Obviously we’re quite conscious of that, but there’s something…we’re more attracted to that sort of purity and vehemence where the first couple of records were. And I can never shake off that anger… it’s always there. Even when I delved into it again by making that Grey Machine record it was just like a reminder that I needed to indulge in something particularly hateful again, you know? [Laughs]
I know the feeling.
I think the Godflesh album is going to be a long time coming, but I do foresee that we will do something.
That would be excellent.
Yeah, I’d love to, but the thing is you always know you’re going to set yourself up to a lot of disappointment… because we know that no matter how fucking good we think the record is there’s going to be X amount of naysayers, like in any music.
It’s like you said: as soon as you release something it’s public to the world, and as soon as that happens, if you have any, any kind of history prior to that in the public eye, there are people who are going to hate everything you do that’s new.
It’s the entire musical critical culture of “oh well the demo was really better”, or ” the first EP was really were they peaked”…
Absolutely. How many times have we all heard that as an artist? You know it inside out. You begin a career with a band that gets noticed by people and all you hear is the first record, that’s it. I hate that shit! [Laughs]
For my money, Pure and Selfless are the best Godflesh records.
Wow, there you go. I think you said that to me before actually. I sort of recall you picking one of those…
I think it was Selfless when we talked about it before but I bounce back and forth between those two.
They’re more developed really. They’re more where Godflesh actually started writing songs I’d say.
Yes, that’s how I feel as well.
Yeah, they’re a bit of a distillation, as opposed to the first couple of records that are just fairly pure in brutality… of course we wouldn’t want to miss the fact that those two records… when I say I want the vehemence of the first couple of records, we definitely also want that sense of development from those records you just picked. It’s after Selfless, you know… live, we haven’t played anything that’s after Selfless, because that’s where we feel the journey became fragmented. But those were the records really…
I liked some of the stuff after Selfless but it became more like there were really good… It’s like what we were talking about… there’s really good songs on those records but as a whole I have a hard time understanding…
Yeah, to be honest I feel the same for pretty much every record after Selfless… you know I’m proud of some songs and some tracks I’m just “what was I doing?”. That felt right at the time, but it’s so wrong…[Laughs] Before that, the percentage was higher. We certainly want to make a record where it feels like the good ones…We don’t want a hits and misses record! But it’s going to take a long time.
Take your time! I want to hear a great Godflesh record.
Yeah, I hope so; really hope so.
Jesu’s latest album, ‘Everyday I Get Closer to the Light From Which I Came’, is available now through Avalanche Recordings. Pelican’s next LP, ‘Forever Becoming’, drops on October 15th through Southern Lord. Sample a couple songs from that snake-riding set below…
Pelican tour dates:
10/17 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus
10/18 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus
10/19 Boston, MA – Great Scott
11/1 Cleveland, OH – Peabody’s
11/2 Washington, DC – DC9
11/3 Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Church
11/4 Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506
11/5 Atlanta, GA – Masquerade
11/6 Birmingham, AL – Zydeco
11/7 Baton Rouge, LA – Spanish Moon
11/8 Austin, TX – Fun Fun Fun Fest
11/9 Austin, TX – Fun Fun Fun Fest
11/13 Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge