Joolz – War Baby

Sounds, 18th August, 1984


What about your menstrual cycle then, how does it affect your creativity?
“PERIODS! Ooooh God, don’t talk about it,” groans Joolz, grinning from beneath a volcanic eruption of lava-red hair.
“I suffer from them very badly and I’ve tried everything you can try to help ease period pains. I’m having some acupuncture at the moment which is quite soothing, although I don’t know if it does any good.
“Basically I can overcome anything on stage , but I come offstage and, well… You sort of vaguely try to work around it in the sense of on the first day of your period you try not to get a big gig, but obviously you can’t turn any down. And I can’t take any aspirins and I can’t drink anything before I go on…
“Actually, I have one, whisky before I go on,” she self-corrects, looking to her soul-mate Justin Sullivan for confirmation. He, better Known perhaps as New Model Army’s Slade The Leveller, nods positively.
“And I also usually take another whisky on with me.” Continues the poet.
What can you say? You don’t have to mention much, she says plenty …for all of us. I can’t think of another artists I’d have no qualms quizzing about being “on” Equally, I can’t imagine any other female within the UK music scene who’d be happy to elucidate on the topic. I mean, trying to visualise Sade menstruating, whatever her many merits, is a bit like attempting to determine whether Cliff Richard defecates.
Does this make Joolz mad/an exhibitionist/a pioneer/a…?
No, merely – hah
MERELY! – truthful and blunt. That’s her talent, be it painting or poetry or simply chatting – bold lines unfettered by social niceties. It doesn’t matter whether she’s conversing with one person or several hundred, her personality turns taboos into entertainment and… thought.
Ah but my question wasn’t totally out of the blue. Periods, at the appropriate time, figure in her stage patter, so I’m told – “The girls laugh and the blokes cringe with embarrassment”. And although I’ve never seen her perform outside of the sitting room of the flat she shares in North London, Justin assures me she is just as vital on the boards, even more so than her records.

The poet’s last vinyl outing, `War of Attrition`/`Denise`, was so graphic in it’s portrayal of bigotry it riled the broadcast media and was banned in this country. Peppered with multiple curses, “Obviously we knew it would be banned. But it was a shame it wasn’t promoted more and picked up on in this country”.
The record was blacked for all the wrong reasons, since it was neither prurient nor gratuitous but simply REAL in it’s narrative.
At least her latest collaboration with Ollie Marland and Jah Wobble – “he’s God” – shouldn’t suffer a similar fate. Called `The Kiss`, it’s a tale of youth violence in which a girl, partly through vanity, unwittingly initiates the carve-up of her ex-boyfriend. The poem smacks of the sordidness of every serious fight you’ve ever seen.
And having been a bouncer at Bradford’s Queen’s Hall Club in the past, you can believe Joolz talks with authenticity when it comes to rucks. Indeed, she has an interesting attitude towards violence…
“If you’re frustrated and your life has no dignity and you have no work then fighting can become very addictive,” the poet elaborates, the snake tattoo on her left wrist writhing and the rose on her shoulder weeping blood.
“You become an adrenalin addict… It has also got a lot to do with pride and face and not backing down. My whole life has been associated with people in gangs to whom pride and face and honour are still the most important things, as they are to me.” (Her former husband, if I gather correctly, used to be a heavy duty biker with a taste for mayhem).
“I wasn’t unarmed for years. It’s only because he (she casts appealing apple green eyes at Justin) won’t let me walk about London armed that I don’t. Violence is just a part of life, I don’t think it’s shock-horror deplorable thing people make it out to be. That’s not sating I condone it, that you should fight, but it’s saying violence is an inevitability in this society… But I’m getting too old for fighting and me hands are knackered anyway.”
I’m glad to here it! The knife at her hip is best left in it’s sheath. While `The Kiss` is based on a composite of incidents, real life – or death – has an evil habit of taking on the shape of a Joolz poem.
“After I’d written it I showed `The Kiss` to Rick (her road manager). About a week later he went home to Wolverhampton and he told some friends about the poem. Then another friend of his called Johnny (same monicker as the victim in the poem) came along and it turned out a similar experience had happened to the guy. It was quite creepy.
“It’s just like you can assemble a set of facts and logic about people and their behaviour patterns and they will follow that path of logic and it will happen. At least that’s what I think,” she assesses, concerning the coincidence.
Time for an, ahem, `wacky` interchange, or so I hoped. What about Boy (cue cheap target) George the, Joolz? The expected invective doesn’t arrive. Seems the poet has met him and reckons he’s a bright lad.
“Even he has got his living to make,” she admits. “He is just an escapist entertainer and like any other drag act. I wouldn’t go out with him, but there again he’s not my type of a man at all. My type of man is Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Conan The Barbarian.”
Some match! Joolz isn’t exactly petite. And the leather skirt and knife affair she’s wearing today makes her a dead ringer for an Amazon in a sword and gore muscle spectacular, albeit a punk fashion…
“Punk fashion?! It’s just any kind of fashion because it’s a fun toy to play with. I don’t like fashion when it rules peoples lives. Otherwise it can be amusing and a good hobby.”
The self-help streak which runs right through from her wardrobe to politics is illuminating. It’s part of her Northern attitude, designer clothes and the people who wear them aren’t the woman’s preference.
“I’m not interested in appealing to that type of person. The people I want to get through to are those on the estates around Bradford and Wolverhampton.”
Maybe if she was a skinhead man-ranter (God forbid!) she’d have more success in her chosen field, in fact the poet is sure about it.
In this business, if you’re a woman you’re not taken seriously. I know in my heart if I was a male I’d be four times more famous that I am now, if that’s what I wanted. But…
“It’s not just the music business, the whole world is sexist, there’s nothing you can do about it. All men are sexist, they can’t help it. I dislike when they pretend otherwise. I don’t care for feminist men because I don’t think it’s possible.
“If you’re in a pub with a bunch of estate boys you know they’re sexist but they don’t apologise for it so you know where you stand. That’s the whole point, and it’s a lot easier handling them than a disguised enemy.
“Half the feminist men just want an excuse to bed somebody and it’s an easy way of going about it, it’s just another line in chat. The first year student-ette types, you know?” Joolz, a rose by any other name. Red, wild and barbed.


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