Godflesh main man Justin Broadrick's discography could fill this paper. The Birmingham, England, guitarist/vocalist's insanely productive and variegated career began when he was a teen
with grindcore avatars Napalm Death in the mid 1980s. Too restless to toil in that group's one-dimensional style, Broadrick took total control of his musical destiny after short stints in Fall of Because and Head of David and started Godflesh with bassist G.C. Green. That unit became Broadrick's most iconic project. From 1988 to 2001, Godflesh perpetrated one of history's most powerful collisions of bombastically funky beats, blasted dubscapes, and pulverizing guitar and bass riffs, all topped by Broadrick's witheringly bleak lyrics and gruff vocals, which make drill sergeants sound like Mr. Rogers. Godflesh's self-titled mini LP and Streetcleaner were industrial metal's big bangs, their tremors inspiring scores of bands, including Pelican and Atari Teenage Riot. Godflesh make music that inspires you to fight the war to end all wars, triggering feelings of omnipotent invulnerability. Broadrick's demeanor in the following interview, though, was perfectly cheerful.
What's the main motivation for Godflesh to tour now—besides the reissue of Hymns? Will the set list consist of tracks from the entire discography? Hymns has very little to do with this tour. We're not even playing one song from this album, chiefly because it's an organic drummer-driven album, thanks to the skills of the mighty Ted Parsons, and since the re-formation, we have been honoring the original concept of Godflesh—machine rhythms and guitar, bass, vocals. We also only play from the period of the self-titled debut mini LP through to and including [1994's] Selfless.
How does playing Godflesh material make you feel compared to all of your other projects? Quite whole. It's a project that was born in my late teens; Streetcleaner was recorded when I was 19. Godflesh is fundamental to who I am and who I cannot be. It's the purest form of expression imaginable for me.
In 2014, do you still experience the same emotions that came pouring out when you wrote those Godflesh tracks in the '90s and '00s, or do you feel disconnected from those eras? Does it take some kind of extra effort to extract that intensity now? It feels entirely natural. I feel as connected now, if not even more connected, since no Godflesh track was ever born simply from angst—more from an existential pain and feeling at odds with the world, and humanity. This has not reduced—in fact, it's magnified now and matured. It's a rage that I doubt will ever subside.
How do you deal with the strain of singing Godflesh songs? Do you have any special preshow rituals? Very little! I just try not to talk too much before performing, since I need to save the vocal energy. It's quite hard, though, since I'm of an extremely sociable disposition!
What's the biggest misconception about Godflesh? It varies, and has varied throughout the band's career. It used to be that we were a metal band, per se, which used to really frustrate me since that just seems too generalized. There is so much more to what we are, but the "metal" term bothers me much less since re-forming. In fact, I embrace it now. I now find the term "industrial metal" very limiting—though it quite literally does somewhat embrace the sound and concept of Godflesh, it's still too insular.
What do you think Godflesh expresses that all of your other projects cannot? Abstract alien rage, frustration—only my JK Flesh project is similar ultimately.
Do you think Godflesh would sound the way it does if you hadn't come from Birmingham? No, not at all. It was born from and is a product of that environment.
Has the aging process affected the way you make music? Not tremendously. Creativity matures in some respects, but not in any overly dramatic way. My son, being so young, has impacted my work more than age. The result is now I am more concise about what I do, which I think is totally positive.
Please discuss the pros and cons of using a drum machine or live drummer for recording and/or live performance. I love the visible physicality of a drummer that I miss with machines, but the machines are easier—easier as in to get a monolithic sound is easier to achieve than with a real drum kit, which takes a lot of work in the studio and live. Ultimately, I love both. Machines are really convenient, too.
Do you foresee ever working with [leader of Loop and Main and occasional Godflesh collaborator] Robert Hampson again? Probably, yes! Last year he played Pure with us—well, the songs he's on, live at Roadburn in the Netherlands, and now we're soon about to play doubleheaders in the UK with Loop and Godflesh, but imagine we'll quite possibly share a recording again—not with Godflesh, but with something else, I'm sure.
A lot of people want to know about your guitar tunings. Can you discuss them? Do they?! Ha-ha! I don't use anything or do anything particularly unusual or unique. I quite literally just tune down, and what I tune down to varies from record to record seemingly. With [shoegaze band] Jesu, I use a seven-string guitar that is slightly open-tuned, and also essentially tuned to A, but that's as far out as I get really. Most Godflesh material in the past was me just using a six-string guitar either tuned down to C sharp, or B, or sometimes even A. The new Godflesh LP [A World Lit Only by Fire] and EP, I'm using an eight-string guitar exclusively, so now the tuning is F sharp! I most like just down-tuning with the odd high string tuned slightly out of the ordinary sometimes so as to be able to achieve a sense of dissonance easier.
Will Techno Animal [the radical dub/hiphop group Broadrick did with Kevin Martin] ever reunite? Are you still tight with Kevin? No, we'd more likely do something new at some point when we both get the time and energy to do this. We'd never re-form Techno Animal. And, yes, we're constantly in touch, and have been since 1988. It's a long friendship/brotherhood!
Do you ever regret not joining Faith No More or Danzig? Actually, the opposite. I couldn't be happier that I never joined either band, and that is not meant even remotely negatively. Both bands can be brilliant. I'm just happy I never compromised my own vision and time by joining other people's bands.
How would you respond if someone called you "the Leonard Cohen of industrial metal"? That's quite bizarre! I'd probably be more upset by the "industrial metal" term—so limiting!
What do you do to unwind? I never unwind, ha-ha! Sometimes I really do not feel like I do... but playing with my son, listening to music (predictably!), reading, watching films, watching really shit shallow television to empty myself, good walks—not anything unusual, really.