Killing Joke run hot and cold. No in betweens. Honest, direct, suspicious, funny, aggressive, living by reactions, living...
They cut frills and roar: gut-churning slabs of heavy dance music straight to your body and Babylon's chest. Words are clipped to screaming relevance.
This ain't A. Ant's lickle bow-and-arrow Cherokee chic. Or even the use of didjereedoos a la Skids. Certainly not the Eno set's ethnic rhythm dabblings.
The Joke project the way they live. Survival by instinct and wits, energy and strength poured into the music.
That's the Killing Joke manifesto as I see it, put very simply...and seriously, looking back on it. Get this established: they are deadly serious, but day to day life is how it comes, and could range from a heated argument on the approaching uninhabitability of the country, to pissing it up at Youth's sister's barbecue.
|They've been painted as perplexing, unfriendly, and negative by certain quarters.
They could be all three, depends how you take 'em. They don't pose. You're welcome
to try your luck being nice, crawling, trying to impress or expecting to be
One day I went to Youth's flat off Ladbroke Grove to talk to the four. It weren't easy. It was an "off day" and they're not wild about interviews anyway.
They don't feel they've been fully represented in the Press, but not particularly misrepresented. "It's more just not saying what we feel" says Paul. "It's taking a superficial atmosphere and reaction to the situation."
"Anyone who was into us would have to be with us a week before they can really get any idea," adds Jaz.
|Paul again: "That's one of the few objections I have to interviews. Between
now and then-pack it all in. Today we feel totally uninspired, tomorrow could
We just talked a bit and got outofit...
Well I was there to try and get a bit nearer to the Killing Joke, something no article seems to have really done yet. And this probably won't, on the strength of quote volume, but through the gigs, records, lyrics, our talk and the glimmers in other pieces. I think the point is clear enough now to try and convey here...
"We conceived all this before we did it. The name too. We set this band up and determined it. We got this far and we're going to go even further" - Jaz.
Offspring of two teachers who live in Cheltenham, Jaz has eyes as sharp and dark as his brain. He's upfront and questioning, obviously intelligent. He tries you out but beneath there is consideration for my (and his) predicament - he knows I'm not after trivial flab-fax or furthering my own journalistic superstardom through cantankerous horn-locking, though we do tussle.
"Ask us questions, inspire us!" he taunts.
In the sickly, hand-to-mouth treadmill fashion in which the music biz feeds itself and keeps wheezing on traditions, routines and the willingness of those who grow fat on it, keep it all in motion, this piece appears the same month as Killing Joke's first album. I saw that LP as some-thing I wanted to hear, be affected by and tell you about, not a prestige promo to keep wallet bulging (fat chance here) and keep K. Joke bomber jackets rolling in.
You readers are a cog in the fruit machine in which the record companies slam their product, pull the lever and hope they hit the jackpot so they can scoop up pennies and sign another of the 8 million mediocre post-'76 hopefuls regurgitating someone else's already derivative and irrelevant ideas. The Killing Joke operation is nowhere near that. The one-off singles deal they signed with Island for 'Turn To Red' got 'em enough cash to set up their Malicious Damage label on a footing firm enough to put out another single -'Wardance' / 'Psycho'. Now EG Records have signed Malicious Damage for distribution through Polydor.
That was how I dabbled my big toe into the interview.
The album will be called 'Killing Joke'. It was recorded as "basic" as possible with "no overdubs to speak of": There's a new song called 'Bloodsport', which is in the near-instrumental mould of 'Change', which has also been recorded in the sessions (it recently saw the light of day as a bootleg single, coupled with 'Tomorrow's World', both taken from the band's Peel session and re-recorded during the album sessions. 'Change' will be one side of the next single). "Bloodsport" and 'Change' are both giant slabs of relentless, funked-up riffing, spiked by synth and the studio and topped with minimum effect vocals. Also recorded are "The End", a power-grinding new one called 'Primitive' and a re-recording of 'Wardance' with more force on the drums.
Jaz: "We recorded the album as live as you can get in the studio. We wrote half of 'Bloodsport' on the night. It just happened. Literally the track you get on the album happened as we were playing it"
Paul: "The mixing is where the difference is."
Youth: "Most bands have a producer, but we didn't have anything to do with that."
Do you find it hard to get going in the cold studio?
Paul: "We tend to make the place our own. Everywhere we go is a total mess in five minutes. That's the way it's got to be. We want somebody (an engineer) who can put their technical knowledge into what we want, the way we want it. He's got to take us as we are."
|Geordie (to Youth): "The Marquee studios weren't too pleased with the
mural you did on the wall!" I notice the giant South Seas Island occupying
the wall by the speakers. Youth claims innocence, but gleefully recounts the
tale of how the Joke came across the master tape of Sally Oldfield's next album
in the studio and ... "That was fun! Valid musical criticism though."
Jaz guillotines the subject of the LP: "The album's gonna be fucking great. It's coming out in September, and we're gonna be on Top Of The Pops."
The Killing Joke started with Jaz and Paul in a '78 band called Matt Stagger (read that in Sounds).
When they realised the similarity of their views they broke away and started on Killing Juke, advertising in MM for bass and guitar. Geordie, from Geordieland but living in Milton Keynes' monstrous Lakes Estate, was the guitar.
There was quite a search for a bass player. Most applicants were only desirous of fame, riches or 12-bars. Unsuitable. Eventually they encountered 'Pig' Youth Martin, wallowing in a room on top of an Earls Court gay brothel. He'd been in one of the classic dire-but-fun Vortex support bands called the Rage, and now is saddled with being a kind of King Sid-clone cos of his cranial resemblance and dress sense. Youth Martin no longer plays in 4 Be 2.
Killing Joke moved to Cheltenham for four months to rehearse and came back to London to record 'Are You Receiving', which first came out as a 10-inch on Malicious Damage, then on Island. It was a striking debut which leapt out of the average: sparse, rhythmic, inventive use of the studio and saying this...
I wake up every day
Next release was 'Wardance' an 'Psyche'. The former is a thrashing cal to arms dominated by a clattering stomp beat and terrace chorus. It was 'Psyche' which really slayed me. Built on a surging monster of a riff, it rammed your gut like a caber and Jaz's livid vocal tore a complacency and demanded attention. I still leaves me knackered.
Back to the room.
Paul: "We are about what we sound like ... otherwise we'd be authors or something like that. We play music. That's what we are about. That is what we are trying to put across to people. What we say in the music and the way we play our instrument is what we've got to tell them. It's simple as that. The songs are all pretty obvious. There's room for the imagination and there's also things we say that are very relevant. That is what we want to get across to people. We want people to use their imaginations. We don't particularly want to do loads of interviews and get our pictures everywhere. It's a sideline to it all. The way we play is the way we live, it's what comes out of the way we live."
Jaz: "The words are still important It means change. Simple as that."
Paul: "Everybody's got to get up and change. It's 1980, there's not long to go before..."
Jaz: "They can bury their heads in the sand."
"And having the head to go with it", adds Geordie.
Jaz: "We're alright. We get by, as long as we don't fucking starve. All that shit again. I don't wanna go through that shit again."
Well the music biz is ruled by money.
Jaz: "My personal direction I want to go in is to become even more primitive, you know? When I live, right? And I intend to do that."
"I wanna use everything I can while I'm here and then... we have THE SYSTEM, if you like, and it's just my individual way of reaching to it. We're gonna fuck off."
Out of the country?
"No. Do it the way I reckon it should be done, as far as I can go. It could be quite fun. I wanna live by what I believe in."
Geordie: "What we believe is, we think this place probably wont be fit to live in, for one reason or another, in the next few years, so we want to find somewhere to fuck off to."
Jaz: "We hate the East. We hate the West. We have to stand in between, waiting for one of them..."
Geordie: "I do wanna stay here as long as I can. I like this island, I s'pose."
Paul: "We'll see it all through."
Youth: "I don't wanna stay here. It's boring".
Jaz: "I'm different, because I like the open, the wilds, the forests, all that kind of shit."
So how long do you give the band?
Youth: "Five years."
Jaz: "You don't fucking know. It's gonna start happening, and when it starts happening I don't think things are going to be very pleasant. Nothing is gonna be very pleasant, wherever you are."
"Can we change the subject?" asks an unidentified voice. So we do and it dissolves. Paul goes home, then Jaz. Youth, Geordie and me dissolve in a different way.
I've tried to tell you Killing Joke are different but play great music, are a force for change and remain fierce individuals. This is 1980, the dance to disintegration or a mass public wash day for bigger blandness. Killing Joke are an antidote. The choice is yours.