By Dimitri Nasrallah2003 to 2009 "I spent about two years in the wilderness, which I spent literally on my own, shaping this sound that turned into Jesu," Justin Broadrick says of the aftermath of Godflesh and the nervous breakdown that led to its demise. "The anger had not dissipated but become a sense of resignation, and Jesu had slowly become that sound of resignation for me." Having cut all his losses in a manner befitting the brutality of the Godflesh catalogue, Broadrick moves on with the band name he envisioned during the recordings of Hymns. The first Jesu material appears in 2004 as the two-track Heart Ache EP, and if its song titles are any indication - "Heart Ache" and "Ruined" - Broadrick has siphoned his demons right back into his music and turned them into inspiration. The two tracks run approximately 20 minutes apiece, and pursue the kind of guitar-processing experiments that pick up where some of his more abstract '90s solo work leaves off. The EP appears to wipe the sonic palette clean more than reinvent its maker. To strike out in a new direction, Broadrick invests his recent vulnerabilities into Jesu's 2005 self-titled debut, which sees him reuniting with drummer Ted Parsons of late Godflesh and bassist Diarmuid Dalton, whom he's known since his teenage years. Jesu is different than any of Broadrick's earlier works, in that its aggression has been tempered by depression, and its brutality washed away in a wall of sound. But most of all, Jesu showcases Broadrick experimenting with melodic songwriting in a way he's never attempted previously. "With Jesu, I wanted to do something much more sombre, much more introspective, and using the influences for a lot of pop stuff I'd been listening to, a lot of intensely melodic stuff," says Broadrick. "So I really wanted to explore an area, albeit in a very heavy fashion, of a lot of music that had moved me over the years that wasn't just based on psychedelia or beats or anger or brutality. I wanted to explore melody. I had a problem of confidence myself. I knew I was doing something that was going against the grain of what I'd already built up. And I knew it was a massive artistic risk, because a lot of people who were following my music were not following it to listen to pretty melodies. So even though I was still making low-tuned, heavy, guttural music, at the heart of this there was something quite pretty and beautiful, just being construed in an almost ugly fashion." Despite his doubts, Jesu proves to be a universal critical success, even though like early Godflesh, it's initially greeted with derision by long-time fans of his previous work. But the strong notices are enough to convince Broadrick to continue down this new path some two decades after he first began seriously making music. The burst of reinvention at his age is thrilling, and Jesu quickly get back to work, releasing 2006's Silver EP and 2007's massive Conqueror album in quick succession. Conqueror turns out to be an unqualified success both critically and with a new generation of fans, who latch onto its metallic shoegazing drift and buried pop sensibilities. That was another completely accidental record, but it seemed to hit with a lot of people, and some of the right people as well," Broadrick says. "I started to be accepted on not just my history, and that's what really excited me. I was suddenly being taken as a new artist as well, being accepted in a completely fresh way. I was able to shake off a lot of what I'd done in the past and be taken seriously as a songwriter with a new sense of style. Especially since the Conqueror album is a very melodic proposition. A lot of my established audience, at that point, was having a lot of problems with this material, but I was reaching whole new crowd." Furthermore, a new generation of heavy bands begins citing Broadrick's prolific and heavily experimental body of work as a major influence. Jesu tours alongside Sunn O))) and Isis, and they blow away new audiences with each show. "I've met a lot of people along the way and found that people like Isis and Sunn O))) come from a younger generation," he say, "and they were fans of my music when they were kids. It's interesting to catch on to a whole new vibe, to find people who've been influenced by my music. I'm finding some sort of fresher, younger kindred spirits." As his new fan base grows, Broadrick finally finds himself back in that elusive pocket where his creativity thrives. He's an underdog again, working with few expectations and reacting to the injustices of his environment through heavy music and stylized concepts of sound, just as once managed two decades back with Napalm Death and early Godflesh. It's really amazing and complimentary. Sometimes when I scan the net and find people who are into Jesu, the amount of people who are 15, 16, 17, teenagers, a lot of young people, and I think, 'Fuck, these people must know they're listening to a 40-year-old making records.' It makes me laugh, but it also makes me feel quite honoured to be appreciated by generations, a not by a bunch of 40-year-olds who've been listening to me all my career." The period after Conqueror proves especially fertile for recorded material, yet unlike the promiscuity that accompanied Godflesh's rise to cult success, he's happy to focus all his efforts in one place. As a result, a flurry of Jesu releases have come out in the past few years, including 2007's Lifeline and Sundown/Sunrise EP's, 2008's Envy/Jesu and Jesu/Battle split albums and the Why Are We Not Perfect EP, 2009's Opiate Sun, and 2010's 49-minute epic track, Infinity. The latter appears on his new label Avalanche, which will house the majority of his releases from hereon in.
2010 These days, Justin K. Broadrick is slowly working on the next Jesu full-length, a process he say has take most of the year, which is quite the opposite of how he usually works. But by his own admission, "I've slowed down with Jesu lately. I've released an awful lot of music over a two-to-three year period and probably saturated the record-buying public." He's even beginning to spread his wings again and explore new projects. This month, Ghostly International is releasing Broadrick's debut as Pale Sketcher, his new electronic alias. Like his previous work with Techno Animal, he's using dub studio techniques to remix base tracks he's laid down with Jesu. The result is an album entitled Jesu: Pale Sketches Demixed. "This project is something I would've wanted years ago," he says. "I was doing stuff that sounds like Pale Sketcher on my own, when Kevin and I were working together. I'd often play him some of these tracks, skeletal versions of this style. It's more 4/4-based - shoegazy dream-pop that's almost techno, somewhat in the area of Gas and some of the early Kompakt stuff like Dettinger. Right now I'm totally enamoured with this electronica version of the '80s. Pale Sketcher is the project I'm most excited about now, and have been for about a year or so." At the age of 41, Broadrick is also beginning to do something he swore he'd never do: look back nostalgically. After years of rejecting outright the idea of a Godflesh reunion, this year he and Green have hit the stage for two such festival engagements: Hellfest in France and Supersonic in his hometown of Birmingham. But like most of the best aspects of his long career so far, these about-faces often yield the most surprising results. I thought Benny would just be totally negative about it," Broadrick told Quietus earlier this year. "Even though I've continued to work in music ever since the demise of Godflesh, he had stepped away from music and got a very nice job, been to university and got degrees, so I just casually mentioned it to him, but as soon as I did he was really quite thrilled about it, which took me by surprise. I thought it was a dead subject between us. If he'd have turned round and said 'no chance' I'd have agreed, but he inspired me to start thinking positively about it." Thinking positively. Those aren't words that have been associated with anything Justin K. Broadrick has made or released since he first discovered music in the late '70s. And yet, as he moves into his 40s, he's mellowed. It's a concept that might just re-invent his musical life for the next 30 years.