With the formation of Godflesh in 1988, Justin Broadrick and G.C. Green launched a genre. Their sludgy, bass-heavy industrial, perhaps best showcased on their 1989 debut Streetcleaner went on to influence countless industrial and post-rock bands. The group, who initially disbanded in 2002, got back together to tour several years ago, finally made their way over to the United States earlier this year, and recently released their first new music in 13 years, with the Decline and Fall EP coming out this past summer and A World Lit Only by Fire landing on October 7. Calling from the UK, Broadrick spoke about the band’s hiatus, what influence (if any), his post-Godflesh project Jesu had on the band’s new music, and how the industry’s changed since the last Godflesh album.
I guess I’ll jump right in and ask, why did it take so long for Godflesh to reform?
Yea it’s a long time, inn’it? It’s a long 13 years between records, and we’ve already existed virtually four years since reforming. It’s an interesting gap.We played our first reformation show in 2010, and Godflesh was over by the end of 2001, even though it didn’t really exist at the start of 2002. There was the ill-fated tour of the US that I canceled on the day of the tour, rather unwisely (laughs), but the band was essentially over, in my mind, in 2001 really. So it’s a good nine years since we played any shows and a good 13 years since records. So we didn’t exist for nine of those years, and I don’t think either of us ever thought that Godflesh as an entity would ever exist again, honestly. As a lot of people have been saying it took that long to get these records together. But as much as anything, that was really just down to getting it right. We set our own standards in a way and we wanted to make new records that stood up against the back catalog. For us, the early records are very strong records and we certainly didn’t want to rush anything and do something that could be potentially viewed as lackluster. Of course there are always gonna be naysayers and people saying we were much better then, and we’re just going through the motions, and every other predictable criticism.
Given that you had no intentions of the band existing again, what made you reconsider?
I’d been pursuing my other project, Jesu, for X amount of years, which is another proposition altogether. Essentially a very melancholic, somber, introspective, personal experience more so than the implosive attack of Godflesh. I basically towards the end of the 2000’s very much started to miss Godflesh. Definitely felt that it was quite clearly ingrained on my soul, and as the late 200s rolled on I was feeling the need to write again like that, to compose like that, and was missing performing like that. Meanwhile, as a band, we’d had an awful lot of requests, very attractive requests to do a number of festivals around the world. Just to reform and do, which, by and large, I either ignored or politely said, “It’ll never happen.” I was just guessing the other half of Godflesh, Ben Green, would never want to do this again. So I never even brought the proposition to him. Because we pursued separate paths and lived some distance from each other, we were only socializing intermittently anyway over about the eight-nine year period. There was no adversity. There was no argument and we never fell out, but we just led separate paths. Didn’t speak so often anymore. One day it just occurred to me after X amount of offers about 2009 or something, simultaneously with me starting to fantasize about writing more Godflesh material. I actually just thought, “Right. Fuck it. I’m gonna propose this to Ben Green. There are a lot of nice offers out there. I simultaneously feel like I could write this material again because I would like to.” I put it to him, purely as an experiment actually. My expectation was that he would not wish to do it ever again. And I thought, ‘if so, then that’s it.’ It’s shelved for good. Fortunately he got back within a matter of hours saying how much he’d love to do it again. Really surprised me. So it became reality. It took me a long time to even absorb the fact that It was gonna be real. Even when we got back to the festival that had been requesting year in and year out, Hellfest in France. Fairly legendary metal festival, essentially. Even when we said, “Yea, we’re doing it,” I still couldn’t believe for a week before that we were actually doing it. So we were quite in shock ourselves. But by the time we hit the stage and things rolled again it was obvious we were back into it. Even when we rehearsed, we couldn’t believe how easily we fell back into being Godflesh and what a thrill it was and how exciting it was to do it again.
So, when you reformed, were you thinking about new music, or did you just consider doing the previous material and being a nostalgia act?
The impetus was entirely wishing to write new material. Even more so then anything. Ultimately, I don’t have a great liking for reunions as it is. If it’s just reliving former glories and just some nostalgia trip, It’s just not a valid existence as a band, just to repeatedly relive former glories. It seems pointless to me. Unless it’s just for monetary value, I can see why people do it. But for us, we’ve always been sincere about this form of expression. Throughout the exisitence of Jesu in the late 2000s, I really felt this need to want to write material like Godflesh again, but I didn’t want to do it in Jesu because that would be the opposite of what I was trying to achieve in Jesu. And I didn’t want to simply make another project that would just be some sort of homage to the compositional process of Godflesh. That again would be a waste of time. It was sort of like biting the bullet and seeing if we could do this again. I definitely fantasized about making this music. I barely wrote anything but I literally fantasized about how thrilling it would be to make new Godflesh records. I always loved the blueprint of Godflesh. The original concept, is something very dear to me. I always thought we were quite a unique voice so to do it again would be a pleasure.
What was the writing process like? Was it easy to get back into the headspace where you were creating it? And how collaborative was it?
Godflesh, the compositional process and writing process, was always initiated and pretty much rolled with by myself. And then Ben enters the fray when I’ve got the songs sort of in place. Generally no vocals, but most of the writing is there. And then his input is obviously entirely valid, because the bass is the driving force in this band, arguably. The bass sound and texture, this is an integral part of the Godflesh sound. People often say that the bass is so loud in Godflesh they’ll barely find another band where the bass is so loud. And that’s entirely intentional obviously. The compositional process with Jesu was somewhat different. I could compose that stuff acoustically. But with Godflesh, writing the stuff was always amplified and loud. It’s just by its very nature that is was a necessary part of the writing process. It was getting back to that in a way. And a lot of early Godflesh, some of it was just born from rhythms, which Jesu, no song would ever be born from a rhythm. It was all born from melody. And that was the intention. So it was me getting back to that. And again, I’ve been fantasizing and imagining this for a long long time. I had many rhythms in my mind for many years where I thought, “Wow. I’d love that rhythm to be a Godflesh rhythm, and hopefully we can re-begin at some point and I can use that rhythm.” That’s a lot of what Godflesh is about. Compositionally, half of it is born from riffs in a traditional sense, and the other half is born from beats, literally machine beats, and all we’re trying to do is musically interpret rhythms. Because Godflesh is simple. It’s all about groove, really.
Jesu and Godflesh are very different from each other. Was there anything you took away from Jesu when doing the reunion?
Very little in a way. It’s odd, because some people have arguably said that they hear a tiny bit of Jesu in the new Godflesh. I think that is just because some people have become accustomed to Jesu since Godflesh. I hear very little personally, and intentionally so, I’ve wished to try and divide the projects as much as possible. But I think I’ve just learned a lot with Jesu. I’ve learned a lot about what I wanted to achieve with Godflesh. The Jesu thing was a constant reminder of how I missed Godflesh, and missed that expression. It’s a real joy that both can exist in tandem. It seems to deal with a lot of what I wish to express creatively, so it’s become fantastic, therapeutically. Because that’s essentially how I use this music anyway. It’s great for that. I feel like I couldn’t be any luckier to be part of two projects that by and large have a minor sense of popularity on a very underground level. And you know, some people can’t stand Godflesh and love Jesu, and vice versa. So, that’s interesting. That sort of proves that I’ve kept the two somewhat separate. Probably very little is shared. But it’s open to debate.