From Allied Propaganda, Issue 3, a London-based publication which called itself "Just a fanzine" and certainly looks it.
|Laugh At Your Peril With Killing Joke|
The lyrics and music of Killing Joke leave little to the imagination. After an excellent John Peel session and an equally impressive single, I was interested in finding out more about the band. I spoke to them after a gig at the Hope And Anchor. The band hadn't enjoyed the gig at all, due to lack of audience response, as Jaz, the lead vocalist, explained.
"Sometimes we enjoy ourselves, sometimes we don't. It depends on what feedback we get from the audience. As soon as we went on tonight, they were just standing there and we could see what it was going to be like. We should have gone off after the first number."
Pig Youth (bassist) agreed. "The audience didn't enjoy it, I didn't enjoy it ... none of us enjoyed it ...."
I questioned the band about their music. "The songs are about experiences I suppose, about survival," Jaz explained. "People expect you to use words, but my frustration is such that I can't use words anymore. We use the most basic sounds that come into our heads, and use the atmosphere. It's a question of survival in the future." At which point Youth pointed out, "Not just survive, live better than any other person and get out before 84."
"How can you honestly see anything lasting if the total objective is money?" asked Jaz. "The only way out is to get rid of the old way. There will be great changes. Everything goes in a cycle, there's gonna be a lot of destruction - it worries me."
I asked Jaz what the alternative was. "There's one way out. Wardance explains what we see as reality. It isn't about violence, it's about survivors - there will be survivors."
"Do you wanna live in the city? Are you worried about the future? Strange things are happening. I look at people and it worries me, it worries me sick. I'm an intelligent boy - good school, O levels, A levels, and all that - I was taught to perceive things ... I look at things and it frightens me."
The band are very critical of the music they hear. They are unanimous in their liking of the evening's support band, Hardware. "Hardware are great, they're really intense. People are scared of them because they make no compromises."
"I like music you can dance to," Paul, the band's drummer, said. "But we're very critical. We can listen to anything and slag it off."
"Are you not bored with listening to The Ruts and shit like that?" Youth asked. "There's shit everywhere. There's only a few bands around worth listening to."
"When I listen to today's music, all I hear is money," interrupted Jaz. The band agreed. "We listen to bands and turn them off in disgust. We go to see a lot of bands and turn away in disgust," Paul added.
"Crass have got the right idea, but their music's bad and they're not real anarchists," said Youth. The rest of the band agreed and felt that going on stage automatically makes you a star and by doing that, Crass contradict all that they believe in.
The band claim they formed Killing Joke through boredom and because they were dissatisfied with the existing music scene. As Jaz explained, it really came about through four people who wanted to play the same type of music getting together.
"About a year ago I was signing on at Holland Park and there was this sort of Asian guy in front of me. He started talking to me and he seemed quite a nice sort of bloke. I told him I was a musician who'd come down from a provincial town and was trying to get into a band. He said to me, 'Oh, there's this guy living in the flat I'm in, he's a drummer'. I told him I'd be pleased to meet him, so he took me round the corner to his house in Portland Road. I walked in the top room and there was Paul sitting there. It was quite strange, really, because I'd seen him somewhere before. We were into the same sort of things ... interested in sort of ancient matters and the occult. I was living in a flat down in Ladbroke Grove and Paul said, 'Why don't you move into my flat in Battersea?' We were in two separate bands at the time. The night I moved in the fucking ceiling fell in. Anyway, I joined his band and then we decided to form our own band, so we left."
"We put ads in Melody Maker: 'Want to be part of the Killing Joke? We mean it man. Total exploitation, total publicity, total anonymity. Bass and lead wanted' and the phone number. We must have had about ninety people ringing up in the first week - we saw about forty of them and they were all tossers, totally the wrong type of people. We wanted people who understood our points of view. Anyway, there was this guy who kept ringing called Geordie, and this guy kept ringing up for about two or three weeks. So we said 'come round to the flat'. Later I was looking in a dustbin for something I'd lost and I was pulling out all this shit from these dustbin bags when I heard a voice: 'Looking for your breakfast, are you?' I looked round and there was this long-haired cunt, some sort of hippy. He asked me where 158 was and I said, 'Here'. So I took him up to the flat. As soon as we sat down we had a good argument and I thought 'this might be the guy' - even though he had long hair - it was just his sarcasm that got me. He suggested we find a bass player and get some music together. Later he phoned up and said, 'I'm being kicked out, I'll have to go back to Milton Keynes', his home town, so we said he might as well move in with us."
Then came the hunt for a bass player. "We just kept the same ad in for a bass player only and got loads of replies ... 'Is there any money in it?' -- these types of people -- and we just told them to fuck off. Paul had to go and see his parents in Egypt so Geordie and I looked after the flat. We were in bed one night and the whole flat burned down. Paul came back to find the flat burned down along with his stereo, all his clothes and all his possessions. In that time, we had located a bass player and got things going while Paul was away. As we had nowhere to live, we moved down to Cheltenham with my parents, who were really great. At one time they had the whole band living with them. I mean, can you imagine that? We met Paul when he got back at High Wycombe and he was laughing because he hated the flat - anyway, it moved things on. We all went down to play with this bass player and it just didn't work because he and Paul didn't get on. Then one day I asked him if he was coming down and he said 'No', put the phone down and that was the last we saw of him. So we put the advert back in and as usual we got the same old wankers. I remember Geordie saying, 'There's this prick called Youth who keeps ringing and asking if he can join'. We went through all these bassists, they were all shit, and his was the last number. We were just about to pack it all in, so we phoned up and he said, 'Come round'. He lived in this shitty little bedsit on the top of this hotel in Earls Court. Anyway, all four of us moved to Cheltenham for four months. We went to play in the studio when we got there and he was fucking shit ... Paul said 'the cunt can't play' and there was Youth shouting 'I can, I can, I can play', so we left and went back the next morning. He was shit, so me and Paul left Youth and Geordie in the studio. About an hour later we walked into the studio, really stoned, and Youth and Geordie were playing this one note. All my keyboards were switched on so I went over to play them and Paul went over to his drums and just started playing. I can remember all these people walking in open-mouthed, it was really strange ... something happened at our first jam. So we stayed in Cheltenham while my parents were on holiday. We used to know these two girls down there, and once while they were out we moved all the gear from the studio next door into their flat and put it in their backyard. We set all the gear up, tuned it all in and started playing, and all the police came, the fucking lot. We got all this on tape: there were these police leaning over the balcony and yelling down. All we could see was their mouths moving. We taped all that and then returned to London and managed to scrounge a place to stay. My girlfriend paid for a studio for us to rehearse in and eventually said to us, 'Why don't you put out a single?' So we did - the whole thing took two nights to do. I met Brian, our manager, the same time as Paul, and he was always in touch."
The band's first single, available on their own Malicious Damage label, is also out on Island as a seven-inch and a twelve-inch. The band signed a one-single contract. As Jaz said: "Island had a clause in their contract which stated that they had the option of an album or a single, but we got a solicitor on to that and changed it. So we got a nice fat advance for one single to set up the company and ourselves. They get the money from the sales and we get something like ten percent. All Island are after is money, 'cos they're going broke - they even wanted us to go to America. They always have a clause in their contract stating that if a band aren't big in America after eighteen months, they are automatically dropped ... Ultravox and Eddie And The Hot Rods are examples. They send letters to people at known addresses who are paid something like five pounds a month. They get them all to ring up the Capital Hit Line and vote for one of their records. They're all crooks. It's all wrangled ... and it's only supposed to be a music scene."
The band's manager, Brian, told me about the twelve-inch. "The extra track Island wanted on the twelve-inch was done as a pisstake out of Buggles. They paid us insignificant amounts of money to do the fourth track - we had to argue for two and a half hours to get £180. They thought we were going to sign to Virgin so they dropped all promotion on it and it appears they've pressed relatively few twelve-inch singles anyway ... It's a good lesson to us, and we've learnt that everything people say about record companies is absolutely true. They simply took advantage of us 'cos we were skint."
Jaz later talked about the band's Music Machine gig, which - as he pointed out - was far better than the one at Hope And Anchor. "After the gig I looked round at the audience. Steve Jones and Paul Cook were standing at the bar, and I was standing there after singing 'Wardance', which means a lot to me. They were just standing there, 'Nice gig, eh!' Our music's destructive - it's not supposed to make people happy. It's supposed to shake them up. I don't remember anything from when I go on stage to when I get off. I suppose I go into a trance, really."
And the name Killing Joke?
"That came up one night when we were having the usual arguments about the state and how bent politicians are, and how fucked everything is. I mean, the killing joke is like when people watch something like Monty Python on the television and laugh, when really they're laughing at themselves. It's like a soldier in the first world war. He's in the trench, he knows his life is gone and that within the next ten minutes he's gonna be dead ... and then suddenly he realises that some cunt back in Westminster's got him sussed - 'What am I doing this for? I don't want to kill anyone, I'm just being controlled'."