(from FFanzeen, based in Brooklyn, New York and billing itself as "Rock & Roll With Integrity." This is Issue Eight, dated 1981).
Killing Joke = Time For A Change
by David G.
Youth Martin loves reggae. His "Youthlocks" - a matted mess of tiny braids and tangles that approximates the dreadlocks he can never have - reflect this. Youth also loves electronic Space Invaders-type video games. He's mastered them all over the world. Youth plays these games with the sense of wonder and concentration you'd associate with a child, until he deadpans that the games teach him to "think militarily." Youth plays bass for Killing Joke.
Killing Joke are a new breed of band. They play with as much passion and energy as any "punk" band, but with a focus rarely realized in the past. There's no denying that these guys know exactly what they're doing, which is what makes their music so compelling. Sure their nihilistic message can get a bit heavy-handed, and the music occasionally repetitious, but they're sincere about what they do, have no illusions about who they are, and actually care about their audience.
The following interview with Youth and KJ guitarist Geordie took place after the sound check for the Ritz show. Jaz, the vocalist, was originally slated for a chat, but a sore throat that threatened to cancel the gig prevented this occurring. Paul (drums) was just missing.
Youth and Geordie proved to be quite amusing conversationalists (especially Youth, who was heard to utter "Got a quarter?" to anyone who would listen to play a video game). The whole thing lasted about six minutes.
Ffanzeen: Youth, in Jamming, an English fanzine, you were quoted as saying that, in your opinion, only about two percent of Americans can think for themselves. That was after a single gig here (last New Year's Eve at the Rock Lounge). Now that you've spent a few more days here in the U.S., do you still agree with your statement?
Youth: Yeah, I'd say the same thing now. Their minds are used in the wrong way. I'd say the same thing about England, but not as severely as America. America is a truly unique place, you might say.
FF: What is the philosophy behind the "Killing Joke?"
Geordie: It isn't a philosophy; it's a frame of mind, an attitude. That's it really.
FF: Your lyrics strive to make a statement, but since you don't include a lyric sheet, and most Americans were probably exposed to your music from a dance point of view rather than a listening point of view, do you think much of the point is lost on American ears?
Geordie: Well, the whole tone of the music's important. They can hear that. It's not exactly a nice set of tunes, is it?
FF: In England, Dave "The Wizard," a fire-eater, opened some gigs for you. How did you meet him, and will he be used again?
Geordie: We used to live in the same sort of slum as him. We still used him a couple of months back in England. It depends. We couldn't afford to bring him over here anyway.
Youth: That's the original idea, and it still is; it's five years anyway.
FF: Well, you have about three to go -- do you think you'll make it?
Geordie: Oh, we'll make the five years; in what form we don't know.
FF: A lot of bands, particularly the other "Malicious Damage" bands (Red Beat and Ski Patrol) sound very similar to Killing Joke.
Geordie: Most of them just copy us, basically. They're the worst offenders, not so much Ski Patrol, but Red Beat; they just rip us off. A certain period off the first album -- they were obsessed with it. There are a few bands we did gigs with - A Certain Ratio - and we did another tour with them and they started playing disco. Things like that, complete rip-offs of our songs. No one believes us, but Adam Ant was at one of our early gigs, you know, and we did "Wardance," you know, and all that, and that's where he got his idea from. He used to come round to all our gigs. No one believes us though.
FF: The English press, which probably chose to ignore you at the beginning, has no choice, due to your popularity, but to cover you now.
Geordie: It just proves the fact that we haven't gone away, and it proves that their original reviews were wrong. They still don't like us. They slag us off, but they can't put their finger on what we do. It's just beyond them.
FF: How does most of your material come about?
Geordie: We just knock about ideas and play 'em to death.
FF: Do you think that people, in a broad sense, ever learn from their mistakes?
Geordie: Well, they will.
Youth: Not always.