Justin Broadrick is one of the most revered names in (post) metal. He made quite an impact with Godflesh, which earned him the status of being one of the leading figures in the industrial and post metal scenes. He also explored pretty everything between techno, ambient, hip hop and whatnot. Ghost Cult caught up with Justin to talk about the new Jesu album, Godflesh, his impressive cv as a remixer and performing at the Incubate festival.
Some time ago you performed at Dutch independent music festival Incubate. How was the whole experience for you?
I really like the festival and I performed there before. Tilburg is almost becoming one of my second homes, because I love both the Incubate and Roadburn festivals. I like the city and the people that are living there and everytime I end up there I have a fantastic time. The 013 is a fantastic venue. The show with Jesu went really well, although some people walked away. Perhaps we have a different audience compared to the bands that performed earlier that day. All in all it was a fantastic experience being there.
The new Jesu album is quite different from the more guitar-driven Ascension album. How so?
Like you said, Ascension is a very guitar-driven album. The idea was to write a series of very guitar-oriented singer/songwriting type of songs. As with every album I go through a phase that I want to change a lot of it. I haven’t written a lot of Jesu-related material for quite a while and I was very busy with Godflesh with both writing new material and performing. This gave me a new perspective where to go next with Jesu. I really wanted to broaden things up again, just like on the Silver EP. It’s still one of my favourite Jesu records I ever made, mainly because it’s so cinematic. I wanted the new record to be less concise and to let it have a broader musical perspective. That feel of melancholy and introspection is something that I wanted to keep, because it’s very much the proverbial red line through all the Jesu material. I really wanted to convey that sombre feeling on the new album, but with a much wider set of dynamics. It almost took me two years to build the album, from starting to release. I wanted to encapsulate an awful lot of textures. Melancholy is a very singular mood you know, but I wanted it to convey that feeling in as many ways as I could. The new record really sets the precedent for the forthcoming Jesu record, because I really found my feet again on this one.
Every Jesu album is a sort of reflection of the period wherein its written. What does Every Day.. represent?
The themes are pretty centered around the usual Jesu themes, such as isolation, loneliness, introspection and many spiritual things. One of the bigger influences was the birth of my son. All the emotions that came with the first two years of being a father is covered in the new Jesu album. In particular my sensitivity of being responsible for being a parent and a provider and being a spiritual guide for one’s child, you know. It’s something that impacted me greatly on every level, especially philosophical. It’s so extreme and full of emotion, but at the same time it’s so empty. It’s a reminder of the birth – death cycle I think and of one’s own mortality. The whole philosophy behind being a parent is so loaded and so powerful that it’s pretty much the biggest source of inspiration for this record and I’m sure it will go being a source of inspiration for many Jesu records to come. For me having a child isn’t an easy ride and I certainly don’t take it for granted as some people tend to do. Being a parent is a very powerful experience for me.
You’re always working on something, be it Jesu, Godflesh, JK Flesh, White Static Demon or other projects and you’re covering a myriad of different styles. When you’re start working on something new do you already have an idea where you’re going and do you just go along and see whatever comes out?
Generally speaking I do have a concept and I know where I want to go with said project. I’m quite focussed and when I’m inspired by a single guitar riff for example, I know in which context I should use it. The way I write and create music is quite direct and that goes along with the context I want to use it in as well. There are some grey areas definitely. Sometimes it happens that a piece that I write for one project ends up being used on another project, albeit after being molded and twisted to fit the style of that particular project. It does happen, but not a lot. Usually I set myself a specific set of goals and I try to stay within those parameters. I have to be, because I’m one of those people with so much inspiration that I could write on forever and end up in this big eclectic mess. There are a lot of grey areas obviously. Some parts from Jesu end up on Godflesh and some of it may end up on Final, my ambient project. Final is very similar to Jesu and Godflesh in terms of atmosphere and ambience, but it’s without the beats. Some of the Godflesh material has a lot in common with JK Flesh, so it goes on and on, you know what I mean? I have to hold the reins and set myself some parameters.
You’re a respected name in metal, hip hop, post metal, techno and pretty everything in between. How do you manage to move around like a musical chameleon through all those different scenes?
Sometimes I wonder myself how I do that (laughs). I guess I’ve been lucky to have been a part of some records in my early teens that caused quite a stir back then (Scrum from Napalm Death and Streetcleaner – Godflesh) and those records essentially set up my musical career. Those records came out in an age where people still bought a lot of records and music was still an essential part of life. That’s quite in contrast to which technology has brought us now and how it shaped people’s interest. I come from an era in which music was very resonant and valid and I was lucky enough to get in this position where I could indulge myself in different styles of music as much as I do. I think there are a lot of musicians in heavy music that would love to indulge themselves creatively, but found that their audience would wain. I don’t have a particular big audience, but I do have a lot of people that follow what I’m doing musically. This is the result of many years of building this career and never let go. I’ve always worked it and I’ve always been passionate about what I’ve done. I doubt if I could have this musical career nowadays and make the same type of impact when I was a teenager. We’re living in different times now and I’m very lucky that I still have an audience really.
You’re also one of the most sought after remixers with Cult Of Luna and Mogwai being your latest projects in that regard. What do you try to add to the original song as a remixer?
Remixing is an art form that I absolutely adore. When I was exposed to the art of remixing as a kid I was absolutely fascinated by it. When an artist approaches another artist to appropriate their own vision on the original song is just magical to me. Remixing is a very creative process that is really inspiring to me. For me as a remixer it’s fantastic to take a piece of music and use it to my own sends. That’s effectively what one does as a remixer. People ask me to shape their music to my own agenda. Music to me is infinite and endless. When I finish a piece of music or a song I still have enough ideas to change it. That makes it hard for me to stop working on it. Ending something is to suggest that I’m completely happy with it as an artist. That’s very rare for me actually, but I have to stop at some point, because of deadlines and the things that are associated with releasing a record. This is great for someone like me, otherwise I’d spend twenty years working on the same record (laughs).
Finally, you mentioned that you’re working on a new Godflesh record. What can we expect and when will it be out?
It’s an extremely direct record. Hymns, the last Godflesh album, was very organic and rock band-orientated. The new album will be more like the older albums. The new material is much more brutal, direct and minimal and it’s ballsy with the usual Godflesh repetition. There’s a mantra-like effect with the psychedelic riffing, it’s just a very unforgiven record. Nothing hypothetical, no showmanship. It’s as brutal as it gets. It’s very Godflesh and that makes me proud to say. It has a modern production, which makes it a very direct release. We’re hoping for an end of May, 2014 release. A lot of labels are ardent to release the record, but after all the shit I’ve been through with labels previously, it will be most likely released via Avalanche Recordings. In this day and age and how the record industry is developing I really feel that artists and band should release their music via their own labels, so that they can actually benefit from its generated revenue for a change.