(From Smash Hits, UK pop music magazine, July 1981)
This'll Kill Ya...
There's these four geezers, really moody looking
and they're into the occult and ... well,
let Dianne Pearson do the rest. It's the way she tells 'em.
Killing Joke are notoriously difficult to interview and their press coverage has consequently been minimal and uninformative. Killing Joke, y'see, had all these theories about not conforming to "the system". They were against interviews, against radio airplay, even against regular live work, the idea being that their performances would benefit from being special events.
Unfortunately perhaps, the cold facts have been brought home to them - there's precious little room for those kind of ideals in this business.
"What we've learnt," drummer Paul Ferguson dryly observes, "is that you have to promote product, to sell it and make some money in order to make another record. Our ideals still exist but they're totally impractical."
Paul is the only member of the band here to be interviewed, as vocalist and keyboards player Jaz and bassist Youth are apparently obnoxious and uncommunicative respectively, and peroxide blonde guitarist Geordie, who was going to come, couldn't be bothered to drag himself out of bed when the time came.
Their attitudes haven't changed that much, but Paul is polite, co-operative; affable even. Along with Jaz, he is one of the founder members of Killing Joke. The two of them were previously in a group called the Matt Stagger Band but left to form a group more suited to their personal musical ideas, which happened to coincide, and enrolled Geordie and Youth.
They had two 45s, the 'Nervous System' EP and 'Wardance' out on their own independently distributed Malicious Damage label and then signed a deal with EG records through which their first album, out towards the end of last year, and their current 'What's THIS For...!' have been released. Killing Joke's music is made up of dense rhythmic coils of sound which capture the excitement and intent of punk and fuse it with a distinct funk feel which comes through strongly on both albums. Paul is adamant that this is one band who will never use a producer: "If a band can't get the sound they want themselves then they might as well give up."
Nevertheless, their own increased confidence has obviously resulted in the new album's superior sound. The lyrical themes however remain the same; songs like 'Wardance', 'Change' and 'Turn To Red' are obsessively anti-system. "That's because we still feel the same about those things. I don't know if they'll ever change. We obviously don't want to repeat ourselves too much but our feeling are so strong at the moment that they charge the music."
Other influences come out of their collective interest in astrology and the occult.
"There is a force behind each individual," Paul explains, "and the idea is to find these forces or powers and try to get them to work together. It's more than just star signs; it's a sub-conscious thing.
"There are four main elements; earth, water, air and fire, and when we started we tried to find a person from each element, to theoretically produce a more balanced and stronger whole." He laughs. "But we ended up with Geordie and I, who are fire, Jaz who's water, and Youth who is... sort of wishy-washy."
Sometime a seven pointed star is chalked on the floor when Killing Joke play live, but that is only when The Wizard is present. This long-haired and usually bare-torsoed male dances around both band and audience, leaping and bounding and breathing fire in an alarming and exciting visual display which puts an electric edge on Killing Joke's music and fires the atmosphere.
This always goes down well with their audience, the majority of whom are punks and obviously sympathetic to the band's words and ideas. It's a young audience but and audience generally aware of the politics which are behind the early punk music. Paul insists that they're not just using it as a fashion bandwagon either: "I think there are far more exciting and attractive fashions to pick up on now if they wanted to. These kids come backstage to see us and they've definitely got something to say. They're very outspoken, still very aggressive in manner and opinion. They're using punk as an outlet to express themselves, definitely.
"However, we don't want to just stick to a punk audience," he stresses cautiously. "As far as we're concerned our music's got a far wider appeal."
He would also like to be drenched in spittle less often. "Jesus, we suffer from it. It's disgusting, but there again..." he breaks off and laughs again. "That's just another way of expressing themselves, I suppose."