(From Buzz, UK music and fashion magazine, Autumn 1986.)
by Brother C. and Collective Effort
For months, the Buzz have been trying to nail down the silent pair behind the thunderous rhythm and bass section of Killing Joke. As far as interviews are concerned, the duo always seem to sink into stifled silence behind the dark, apocalyptic shadows of lead singer Jaz's unnerving rantings.
The pair in question are drummer Paul Ferguson and bassist Paul Raven, who always seemed to be most definitely under the lock and key of the rehearsal studio during the majority of their precious time. This fact is hardly surprising when one considers that a British tour is looming on the horizon, although the tour has had to be put back a month due to the delay of the new album. Raven seemed to be the most impossible to pin down, as he was always either out or 'tired' sounding when he actually answered the phone. Therefore Paul Ferguson was informed of our intentions, and Hey Presto! an interview was arranged almost immediately at the Nomis rehearsal studios in West London.
We began to wonder if Killing Joke had changed their image overnight as we had to wade our way through a horde of teeny-boppers outside the door, but were later informed that Spandau Ballet were also in the building, hence the batch of pigtailed autograph hunters.
As we arrived in the Killing Joke studio, Raven took one look at the cans of Tennants Extra that we had brought for refreshment and said "Oh no, not Tennants," in a voice that made you think that he'd either developed an allergy or total immunity to the stuff, and it was therefore decided that the Tequila of the local pub would be a safer bet. We all trooped to the local, with certain members of 'The Damned' in hot pursuit. Much to our annoyance, we only had one tape recorder; otherwise, we could have killed two jokes -- er, sorry, birds with one stone. The unfortunate Raven got the worst position at the bar, and was just buying his round when the rest of the entourage arrived, therefore making his round a little more expensive than expected, but nonetheless, after a few lagers to set the tongues wagging, the silent pair opened up -- with a vengeance . . . .
The opening part of the conversation revolved around Berlin, the band's chosen writing and recording environment:
Paul: "Berlin is so real that it's addictive. We were staying and rehearsing in this studio that a lot of bands use, and it's right next to the wall. You could see all of the guards rushing about."
Raven: "I think Berlin signifies the beginning of the end for the West. Everyone there is just living under pressure. There are a lot of young people who are there just trying to escape conscription. If they stay, they don't have to join up."
Killing Joke keep returning to Berlin because, like many other bands, they find the atmosphere incites them to write songs.
Paul: "Well, everyone writes songs about Berlin and the wall. Night Time from the last album particularly captures the atmosphere there. It was perfect for it, really manic. That's the way I like it. When I think of all the shit we went through when we made it, like the first night we arrived, I ended up climbing the wall naked. With both Raven and myself, Berlin is like a tug. We just have to go back."
Given that Berlin drives a seemingly sane young man like Paul to the stage of naked wall climbing, we were beginning to wonder what effect Berlin had on someone like Jaz. Did he become even more manic than usual?
Paul: "Well yeah, being in a place like Berlin which is close to the apocalypse, he did tend to become very introspective, whereas the rest of us just went apeshit. Raven and I like listening to Jaz because he inspires us. It's like he's pushing two magnets together. There's a great area of friction within the band and we don't talk to each other a lot of the time. Jaz lives just around the corner from me and I've never been round there."
Perhaps Paul has enough of Jaz during their communal interviews, when Jaz appears to take over everything.
"The thing with Jaz in interviews is that he tends to say a lot which is different than the norm, and therefore everyone wants to print it. Hence the interviews which are full of this mega-thesis about mankind. It's not that the rest of the band don't do or say anything; it's just that what we say usually gets left out. Sometimes we don't mind and sometimes we do. If we do mind, we say something. We've never been people who hold back."
Even when the band are writing songs, they do not hold back at all when they disagree with something, and quite often horrific rows ensue, which play a large part in the writing of the song. Ideas are thrown in, kicked around and eventually evolved. This is how the whole Killing Joke sound evolved, and nothing was ever contrived to aim towards any particular sound . . . .
Paul: "It's all to do with our personalities. Jaz and I met Geordie, and he was instantly in the band. We'd never even heard him play. Raven got in because he was a personality. We get on, we share ideas, and so the music comes out this way and satisfies us all, and that's what really matters."
Raven: "For example, Paul writes lyrics, and I've never really been interested in that side of things. I'm really more interested in getting people to move."
Although Killing Joke have always had a distinctive sound, which almost suggests 'war within the home fortress', many of their critics and observers began to hint that the band were 'selling out' and 'changing' around the memorable Love Like Blood era.
Paul: "It doesn't really annoy me because I expect it. I don't assume that people are going to be broad-minded. I loved what we did earlier, but now we are doing something else. I mean, fuck it, we can't play Wardance for the rest of our lives. We experiment all the time, and as long as we are getting satisfaction, that's all that matters. To a very large degree, the same things still motivate us as they used to do in the past. We have all got wise, an maybe calmed down a little, but we still have the same driving force, and the same things that bugged us back then still bug us now."
One thing that 'bugs' the band is the fact that songs that they feel are not as strong as their own become cult anthem songs and shoot up the charts, whilst Killing Joke anthems always remain more underground.
Raven: "I think that is just an illustration of how easy it is to be successful like U2 or Simple Minds. If a bunch of fucking idiots can nick a few riffs, stick them together and be successful, then I don't want to be any part of it. When I look in the music papers and see those bands, and you look at their faces and you know they don't mean it. You can hear the record on the radio, and you can tell that it's absolute shit."
Paul: "I would find satisfaction from people's attitude changing toward us, because we are excellent musicians. We have more talent in our little fingers than most of the fucking bands around England. We do, honestly. For example, it always annoyed me that Kings And Queens never made it bigger, because that was an anthem type song. It was accessible to people and very danceable."
Besides the obvious escape of thrashing out stresses and strife on stage, the members of the band also escape the pressures through other mediums. Whilst Jaz and Geordie dream of fishing in remote places, Paul and Raven prefer various forms of art as another type of release:
Paul: "I think that Raven and I find more beauty in the things that we create. We both paint and Raven wants to sculpt, so we find our release in that sort of dreaminess."
"Achievement really comes down to satisfaction, and in a way, that is very hard to define, because a lot of things make you satisfied, and in my way, that is very hard to define because a lot of things make you satisfied, and in my own terms, satisfaction would be to have more recognition from England -- appreciation without us instantly being labelled 'doom and gloom', because I don't really think that our music has ever been like that -- except perhaps on the second album. We have always aimed to make music grabs hold of you and sends a shiver down your spine. We have sometimes done songs that haven't quite achieved that physical feeling, but whatever piece of music we do, that is always our aim."
It seems that as long as the aim and anger is still within the band, the achievement will always be of the best possible grade, as we will find out with the imminent release of the new album. Whatever the aim, whatever the price, Killing Joke will always remain in a class of their own.