I was introduced to Jesu when they released Conqueror in 2007, and I was immediately sucked into the hazy, heavy-but-spacious ambience. The simple melodicism of Justin Broadrick's vocals set atop gorgeously brutal stoner-metal is surprisingly accessible. Jesu knows how to properly craft an elegant pop hook and launch it into the great beyond with sheer metal destruction and patient, patient songwriting. The actual guitar parts are not overly complicated, and they allow plenty of room for Broadrick's soft and inviting voice, but the aesthetic and execution are crushing. I can think of several bands that attempt to mesh pop simplicity with the sonics of metal, but very few actually succeed at capturing the essence of both, and none so well as Jesu.
Broadrick continues to plunge into new waters with his recent forays into electronica, and he shows no sign of slowing down. In our interview, he talks about an upcoming split, an upcoming full-length, and his experience at Primavera.
The Jesu/Envy split is finally getting a proper release in the states. How did that split initially come about?
It was suggested by Daymare Recordings head, Tadashi; Daymare domestically released Jesu in Japan. He is very good friends with Envy and considered this to be an exciting split, initially intended for Japanese market.
Did anything in particular attract you to Envy's music?
I like their use of dynamics and their general eclecticism. They also seem unafraid to use "pop" melodies and structures within a broadly speaking "hardcore" context.
You use certain elements of electronica very prominently on this split; did anything in particular motivate that decision?
I guess it was just where I was at around that time; I was attracted to this juxtaposition of the staple Jesu sound and skittery electronica. For "Hard to Reach," I was specifically influenced by the Donnacha Costello album Together Is The New Alone, which is like very emotional/melancholic electronica. This album has been very influential on Jesu generally, but goes unnoticed; I wanted the influence of this album to be more marked on "Hard to reach." Unfortunately, I'm not so happy with either song on this split now, but this isn't in any way unusual for me to feel this way after the event, chiefly production issues amongst other things...
"I am not a singer per se, but I consider myself an imitation of a singer, which works in the studio but very rarely works live."
Early on, you staked your reputation on crushing guitar sounds. Even the lush pop majesty of Conqueror was still really guitar-heavy. Do you ever worry that you might alienate some of your fans by exploring so much electronic and synth-based territory?
It's not something I can be overly concerned about. I'm quite accustomed to alienating my "fans." I think I may have a made a career out of this, haha... I mean, I attempt to get nearly every influence I have into my music and generally something I passionately wish to get into my sound and work at hard will be something I feel very different about months to years after the event. I tire easily of my own output and ideas. I contradict myself often with what I'm searching for and often do the opposite of what I did previously. For example, all forthcoming Jesu has barely any electronics and is most definitely guitar-oriented.
Critics throw a lot of different labels at your music: stoner rock, post-metal, shoegaze, etc. What genre do you feel most appropriately describes Jesu? No one likes to be pigeonholed; how do you refer to your music?
I have a hard time with any classifications, of course... it's very loosely speaking pop/rock/metal/electronica -- its songs are as far as I'm concerned. I'm intentionally writing what I consider to be coherent "pop" songs, structured pop songs. I don't consider Jesu to be particularly outlandish nor do I wish it to be. I do not consider it to be drone/doom or any of these limiting and narrow terms. I consider Jesu much wider than this...
From what you've mentioned online, your next full LP will be a single track called "Infinity." Can you talk about that? Do you have a release date?
Yes, this will be released late July 2009 on my own label Avalanche Recordings. It is a single song in two conjoined parts running for over 50 minutes in total. It is an album, but not THE new Jesu album, which is being written and recorded in winter 2009.
Is it going to follow suit with more electronic sounds as well?
Not at all -- this is the first Jesu release in some time that is primarily guitar-oriented and a return to amplification and organic recording methods for me too; it sounds very "live," but it's still ambitious and expansive.
Will you be playing everything on the record?
Yes, the first part of "Infinity" has programmed beats only; everything else is live instrumentation where I play everything. The second part is all live instrumentation, where I play live drums too...
"I contradict myself often with what I'm searching for and often do the opposite of what I did previously."
Is Jesu more artistically satisfying when you play everything yourself?
It's just more selfish then; over time and age, I have become clearer about what I'm trying to achieve and don't wish for Jesu to sound so collaborative in any way. I'm wishing for it to be as pure expression as possible. Playing everything enables this direct and clear expression of ideas without any other personality, something I'll no doubt tire of in the future.
What does your current live setup entail? How much of the show depends on your laptop?
Jesu is doing very few shows currently. I'm being extremely selective and do not wish to tour in the foreseeable future; I find it damaging mostly in so many respects, and I do not seem to have the health to withstand large spouts of touring anymore. I'm far from being 20 years old and being resilient. So, recently Jesu has been just Diarmuid [Dalton] on bass and I, with laptop providing the beats and keyboard parts. A good portion of the programmed material does depend on the laptop providing this in an live environment; it does or did on the records thus far, so naturally the laptop has to provide what the machines do in the studio on the records. Generally speaking, I think this doesn't please too many people in a live setting since there isn't a bunch of people on stage playing what is programmed in the studio, but it's just not possible both logistically and financially. Of course, if Jesu was the size of Nine Inch Nails or something, then sure we'd have an incredible stage show with lots of screens and no doubt a thousand people playing every part, but this just isn't possible for a band of our size. It's all or nothing a bit for me...
Have you been able to incorporate visuals into most of your shows?
Not most but some, recently, yes, with just Diarmuid and I. It's imperative that we have films; without them, I feel pretty lost on stage, especially without a live drummer.
According to your Twitter, Primavera didn't work out quite as well as you'd hoped. Was that simply because ultra-introspective music doesn't easily translate to bright sunny festivals?
Hmmmm, we couldn't use the films either, quite simply just because it was so bright and sunny on stage that the films just would not have been seen, but we couldn't get a later slot in the dark since bigger artists were playing in those slots, so we couldn't demand anything other than what we got. It was a shame and far from ideal. Jesu should be in the dark with films and intense volume; it's rare that we can achieve all these factors.
Aside from that, were you able to enjoy the rest of the festival at all?
Of course. The weather was wonderful, as it is in Barcelona generally. It was actually too hot, which is yet another factor that damages my voice, which is extremely sensitive to seemingly anything, probably because I am not a singer per se, but I consider myself an imitation of a singer, which works in the studio but very rarely works live... and heat is yet another damager to my voice live, regardless of my consumption of copious amounts of water. Seeing Neil Young was quite beautiful regardless of that fact that we had to endure standing around 25,000 other people to enjoy him!