Interview with guitarist/vocalist Justin Broadrick | By Brandon Ringo
What if I told you that it’s possible to make incredibly brutal extreme metal with just two guys and a drum machine? As odd as that arrangement might sound, 25 years ago in Birmingham, England that’s exactly how industrial metal icons Godflesh started out. Starting in 1988, the duo of guitarist/vocalist Justin Broadrick and bassist Arthur Green released a monstrous catalogue of legendary extreme metal before calling it quits in 2001. Thankfully, the band has since reformed and after initially only doing live shows, Godflesh is back with new record A World Lit Only By Fire and have seriously changed the game once again.
If you really want to know what the new Godflesh album sounds like, you need only this statement from Broadrick to sell you: “I think this record is probably the most riff-driven Godflesh album out of them all. It’s all about the riff, innit?” Indeed, Justin, it is ALL about the riff. For the band’s seventh studio album- and first since 2001’s Hymns– Broadrick and Green absolutely came out swinging from the word ‘go.’ “It’s like it was really important. Every single song was about having the most driving, energized, very aggressive riffs. Really driving, pummeling riffs, that was really the bottom line for me,” stated Broadrick.
Despite the band’s lengthy absence, when it came time to come up with new material, the songwriting process was a very familiar one, “Usually I always start with being inspired by a certain type of guitar riff, which generally after that I’ll build the beats for the riff, then I’ll lock that tight and usually Ben (Green, bassist) will come along and add bass riffs. That’s pretty much how Godflesh always was, really. Apart from if we did some stuff that was like a sample,” stated Broadrick. He then added, “Sometimes some of the old Godflesh stuff would be based around a sample, like it might be like a hip hop loop, or like a weird noise loop or something like that. Some old Godflesh stuff used to begin with a drum loop -I used to come up with literally drum riffs that I would literally write a guitar riff that would be me speaking the drum machine riff.”
Sonically, A World Lit Only By Fire is the heaviest Godflesh album ever, and that’s no exaggeration. According to Broadrick, part of that has to do with his use of an eight-string guitar this time around, “I think probably the guitar takes up more sonic space [on this record]. The eight string guitar, for me, was just more of an excuse to tune even fucking lower.” He also explained, “One of the funnest parts of writing this music is coming up with the riffs and then blending the drums into it. That’s when it really comes together. To me, that’s when a riff speaks, when I lock in the drum machine with it and you add a layer of bass.”
Obviously when the band began writing these songs, they could have found any number of drummers to step in on skins, but there’s just something about the drum machine that has truly become an integral part of the Godflesh sound, “We were inspired by old school hip hop records and we really love that big, fat, old fucking drum machine sound; big fucking monolithic-sounding machines. The fact that it sounds like a machine, that was the true blend for us, that man-meets-machine thing,” states Broadrick.
In addition to their menacing music, Godflesh’s lyrics have always been known to explore quite a wide ranging set of negative emotions and accompany the music perfectly. “I mean, emotionally it’s pretty much the darkest part of my soul,” states Broadrick. “Which I always think is in everyone, we’re all good and we’re all evil. So, it’s often delving into the darkest part or the most primitive part of my responses, my emotional reactions to things and my responses to humanity and negativity.” After spending the majority of his time post-Godflesh in his less aggressive post-metal project Jesu, the release Godflesh offers is more than welcome for Broadrick, “That’s what I missed with Godflesh. When Godflesh didn’t exist, I really missed being able to externalize and express this set of emotions again, because, Jesu is a very different thing. Nearly everything I do seems to deal with fucking awful emotions; it’s a way of dealing with stuff I can’t deal with in everyday life.”
When Godflesh had their first go-round, one of the biggest issues they faced was record label troubles. Fortunately for Broadrick and Green, those issues are a thing of the past thanks to Broadrick’s own label Avalanche Recordings putting out the new record, as well as their Decline and Fall EP earlier this year. Though releasing the album himself means a huge increase in his workload and creating a much busier schedule for Broadrick, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Back in the day, we used to have managers and tour managers and other record labels and now I fulfill the role of nearly all this. It’s like a necessity, but also it’s better when you do it yourself,” he enthused. “We always wanted to do it ourselves. Essentially that’s what Godflesh is all about. We come from an old punk background from the early ’80s, so our ethics have always been D.I.Y. and so it’s back full circle, really.”