(From Non LP B Side, US music zine, 1981.)

Killing Joke

and the tension builds . . .


Killing Joke would rather act than talk.  Many of their songs, with titles like "Wardance" and "Tension", deal with the currently dismal state of our lives due to the threat of nuclear annihilation, the rule of technology over things (including the frequent loss of jobs due to technological advances), the aforementioned military mentality and, indirectly, the basic "evil" of people like Thatcher and Reagan ("Follow The Leaders").  All of these things are part of the "Killing Joke," a term (or "frame of mind" as Geordie puts it) that the band use to sum up what they see as the present human condition.

Further hostility is the result of the usual attitude bullshit that dominates the English music press. But, since Killing Joke "haven't gone away," points out Geordie, "it proves that their [the English papers] original reviews were wrong.  They still don't like us," he continues. "They slag us off, but they can't put their finger on what we do; it's just beyond them."

One listen to their music, however, puts Killing Joke into perspective.  Even without a lyric sheet (many of the lyrics are nearly indecipherable as sung), the aggressivemenss and purposefulness of the music speaks volumes.

"The whole tone of the music's important, you can hear that," comments Geordie. "It's not exactly a nice set of tunes is it."

On record (especially on What's This For, the group's current album), the sound is dominated by Paul's thunderous drumming and Youth's growling bass.  Jaz vindictively barks out the lyrics and provides industrial synthesizer noise and the whole thing is framed by Geordie's authoritative (but never excessive) power chording.

Live, Killing Joke is even more ferocious, but always in control.  Paul's drumming is once again at the center of the sound while Youth and Geordie punctuate and embellish the rhythm.  In England the band often start their shows with a fire eating display by one Dave "The Wizard," but financial and other considerations prevented the band from bringing Dave to the U.S.  Jaz, however, provides enough fire of his own.  Eyes bulging, fists perpetually clenched, Jaz lets all of Killing Joke's anger and urgency flow through him.  Next to the practically immobile Geordie and Youth, his performance is positively maniacal.

Recently, Killing Joke have inspired a whole slew of imitators with names like Red Beat and Ski Patrol (both incidentally have singles out on Malicious Damage, Killing Joke's private label).  Red Beat in particular seem stylistically fixated by early Killing Joke.  Geordie even goes so far as to suggest that Adam Ant was once under their spell.  "No one believes that Adam Ant was at one of our early gigs," he states.  "We did Wardance and all that, and that's where he got his idea from. He used to come around to all our gigs." Be that as it may, none of the Killing Joke influenced bands have even come close to focusing their energy and passion the way Killing Joke have.

--David G.