Youth (left) and Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman.
ROCK, JAZZ, CLASSICAL … KILLING Joke? Some groups strain the framework of any musical genre, leading fans to place the band in a category of its own. Killing Joke is one of these influential groups. Founding bassist Martin “Youth” Glover has returned periodically throughout the group’s prolific 30-year career, much of which featured the late Paul Raven on bass. Simultaneously pursuing a successful production career that includes work with U2 and the Verve, Youth has witnessed his band’s growth beyond the various genres it helped to create—industrial, post-punk, and modern metal among them. His playing approach, a pairing of aggressive pickstyle with fluid fingerstyle, is in abundant evidence on Killing Joke’s blistering new release, Absolute Dissent. Opposite Paul McCartney, Youth makes the other half of the experimental electronic duo the Fireman.
How would you describe your bass approach?
Melodic, but hypnotic. The tone is rounded—a lot of bass, not so much in the middle, and a lot of top end. It’s like a subbass supporting the drum kit, adding tone to the kick drum. That said, I like to veer off to sync harmonically with the guitar, and create melodic counterpoint with the vocals.
In your playing, you seem to borrow elements of dub and reggae. How have those styles informed your sense of groove?
With dub—and to a degree, disco and funk—there is repetition of a line, and you get locked in for many, many bars of a groove. Even with a band like the Stooges, there is hypnotic repetition of a riff. With dub, I think that becomes an absolute science. It’s very Zen—all decoration and extraneous material is rejected, and you are reduced to a primal element of absolute simplicity. It’s both primitive and beautiful.
How does your experience as a producer connect with your life as a bass player?
There are similar underlying philosophies. When playing on a production, I would sometimes find it hard to be objective about my role as a bass player. Bassists are often subject to polar dynamics; in one moment we think we’re amazing, and in the next we think we’re awful. As a producer, you have to transcend that and look at the work objectively.
When playing, being totally present is key. Bass tones, amplified or recorded, are sounds that never disappear. They just go off into space, adding resonance to the universal throb.
HEAR HIM ON
Killing Joke, Absolute Dissent [Spinefarm, 2010]
Basses Rickenbacker 4001, Status Vintage P/J bass, Gibson EB-1
Rig Ashdown ABM 900 EVO III head, Ashdown ABM 810 Cabinet