“Prolific” is an understatement when applied to British singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer Justin K. Broadrick. A partial list of the 44-year-old’s aural adventures includes 24 bands, projects and solo work, 11 of them more or less “current/ongoing,” including Napalm Death (which he’s been with since 1981), as well as Head of David, Jesu and White Static Demo. The musical adjectives, too, are legion: Industrial, post-metal, drone metal, shoegaze, grindcore, electronica, ambient, noise. But it’s Broadrick’s most-recognized band, the influential and innovative Godflesh — who formed in 1998 with bassist Ben Green, disbanded in 2002 and reformed in 2010 — that’s his most prominent raison d’etre for the immediate future.
The chatty, likable artist is as obsessed about music and bands — his own and others’ — as fans are about Godflesh. Which is why, this tour, Godflesh’s first in the US since the late ’90s, the gigs are “entirely about honoring the back catalog. ‘Best of’ is a horrible terminology,” he acknowledges with a grimace, “but it’s almost what we’re doing. We want the audience to get what this band is all about.”
As a mega-fan who “tried to follow around Killing Joke in the late 80s” and admits, “even in the ’90s, when Godflesh was established, I followed [New York band] Codeine…” he understands what it’s like to be “desperate” to hear band’s “classics” in a live setting. Broadrick’s empathy is a huge part of what makes Godflesh’s industrial, machine-driven musical approach, surprisingly immersive and appealing. That “exhaustion” of compassionate consideration, he notes, is “sometimes soul-destroying, disabling, in everyday life. Also, it’s probably part of why I make this sort of music to some extent. I look at everything from every possible angle, without being blinkered. Without outside opinion. That’s how I like to approach things, and that’s part of the philosophy of the group. It’s about freedom of expression and understanding.”
That’s furthered in the completed but yet to be released A World Lit Only by Fire album, the title taken from old medieval texts Green and Broadrick were perusing. “We only read bits of the book,” Broadrick admits, “but we just loved the title and it evoked a philosophy that we still sorta had, that the world will only be lit by fire — this resignation of man as savage, irrespective of advancement or so-called evolution. Of course, it’s melodramatic, but it’s what we still see on a day to day basis, socially, on the news; the same abuse of power that’s been happening since man could pick up a rock and hit someone else with it.”
Though fans won’t hear songs from A World Lit Only by Fire this tour, rest assured, Godflesh purists will be pleased. “Time afforded the luxury of hindsight in a very clear fashion,” Broadrick explains. “I was more struck with going back to the roots of what Godflesh was intended to be: Stripped back, maximal-minimal concept, still driven by machines with rhythms, but organic-based with guitars. It’s as direct a record as we could make.”
Godflesh play Irving Plaza April, 10, 8 p.m. With American Sharks