(From Record Mirror, 6 December 1986)
Come inside the dark, mysterious and slightly loopy world of ...
"I listen to our music and what we come up with is just fucking mental," says Geordie, as our Nancy Culp goes on the road with Killing Joke, does an interview in the middle of the night, sinks a few drinks and finds out some funny things about these four young men of the apocalypse. Photography: Joe - half a mo' - Shutter
Imagine. Two days on the road with Killing Joke. Something that'd make some journalists (especially those who've been on the end of a spot of 'Jaz's Revenge') tremble in their shoes. "Hard work?" spits Jaz. "It's just like writing a fucking school essay!"
You are, however, far more likely to get your head kicked in by some over-enthusiastic member of the audience as they fling themselves around in time to the deafening noises coming out of those speakers. ("It's no good unless we make you deaf!" says Geordie.) Killing Joke are loud with a capital L, and don't my poor ears know it after spending two nights next to the PA. The music is like that, though. It makes you want to climb right into it and stay there until you - or it - explodes. (The latter, indeed, does, in the form of the last number in the set, 'Rubicon'.)
|Watching Killing Joke is always interesting. There's Jaz doing his
weird war dances, those big black Doc Martens thumping merry hell out of the
stage. His face is completely entranced by, and entrancing, the
audience. Even when he's covered in gob, he takes it in good part.
Cackling at them one minute - manic as Punch - the next, waving his finger
in avuncular disapproval, quietly yet firmly.
If you disassociate yourself from what's coming offstage, you'll notice a curious energy exchange going on between Jaz and the dancing masses. They throw it at him, he absorbs it completely then, charged up, he raises his hands and they follow every move. Almost Messianic, and rather creepy to behold. I'm not sure if he's simply getting carried away with adrenalin or what . . . I've certainly rarely seen such control over the rowdier elements of an audience, the likes of which used to intimidate me at Killing Joke gigs.
Geordie: "It was intimidating then, but if I can be so bold as to suggest it, that element was there, but at other gigs they would probably look for trouble, while at ours they never did. They danced."
And dance they do. We join the tour at its starting point, Glasgow. From past experiences at Barrowlands gigs, they are always that bit special and it reflects in the band's performance.
Paul: "Glasgow was a great example of going onstage and everybody's right up there, and there's a grin as soon as you get on. You know you're welcome and it's easy from there on, because it gives you such a terrific buzz."
So for the first of two nights, I take my life in my hands and get bounced up and down on the sprung floor, along with the heaving mass up against the front barrier.
The next day dawns, chilly, crisp and sunny. Eschewing the train for a hire car, Joe Shutter and I drive ourselves the 170 miles from Glasgow to Newcastle. Whacking the new album, 'Brighter Than A Thousand Suns', onto the car stereo, the neo-Celtic melodies, the majestic crescendos, biting rhythms and soaring fullness of the music take on another depth in this setting. Last time I'd spoken to them, Big Paul had likened the album to Celtic music with its stirring qualities, and here, on the low road from Scotland, it all fits.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a curious blend of new concrete and buildings so ancient that the world's dirt is encrusted on them. It's also Geordie's home town (though his parents are now in Milton Keynes). He's not lived here since 1973, but his moniker attests to his roots even if his accent doesn't. He talks later about how much it's changed and how odd it feels to come back. It most definitely puts the Devil into him, causing him to act peculiarly -- but more of that later.
After taking hours to find the Mayfair Ballroom, we enter the soundcheck at an ill-advised time. Things are not going well, and Jaz and Paul are in a foul mood. Geordie is hot to trot off into a can to see his 90-year-old auntie (I kid you not) so the photo session is so fast I blink and miss it. Joe disappears growling.
Sitting in the bar with Raven, the proposed is forgotten as he's feeling nervous, so we just sit and chat. He lets something slip out of his murky past which leads me to believe he's not quite the pussycat he appears. Incredible as it might seem, Killing Joke can turn on the charm full blast, with devastating ease. There's no way I'd want to get on the wrong side of Raven in a hurry. Nor Jaz. Which is why I decide to leave him be this time, as he's had more than enough coverage in the past. I sense, too, mainly from Big Paul, that this is a slight irritant. Jaz looks visibly relieved.
I finally corner Big Paul in the dressing room after another explosive gig. It's coming up to midnight and Paul is still 'up' from the onstage energy. That and the tequila. I'd heard they were good drinking men - bar Jaz who was seen with nothing but Perrier in his hand.
P: "On occasions, sometimes, we're very straight. In fact, a lot of the time. I'm a bit of a fitness freak myself, but I've just got this side of me and occasionally can't stop it!"
In what way are you? "I think too much of a drummer. A lot of the time, I absolutely see the futility of being a drummer. It's, like, a stupid occupation!"
You got very upset because I didn't quote you enough in the last interview. Does it annoy you that the focus is on Jaz?
"To tell you the truth, yeah. But obviously, the guy has a lot to say and I don't. It's as simple as that. He has this whole philosophy . . . if I wanted to be a philosopher, then that's what I'd be doing. What I'm happy with in Killing Joke is the music itself. I have my interest in politics, in mythology and so on; I read a lot and, as I said, I think. But basically, I'm a musician. A drummer. Which is actually what satisfies me. Getting on stage, that's what satisfies my ego and actually performing in front of people is where I get my charge."
That charge seems to affect the audience too. Last night, Raven got a pint of beer down his bass and Paul was ducking flying coins! "I think there's obviously a lot of frustration amongst people, which is something that we thrive on in a way," he says. "I mean, we thrive on our own frustrations, that's how we generate the music and that is actually our release from that."
Where do you see Killing Joke going?
"I couldn't actually answer that without compromising myself because I think we've all got different aims in sight."
Back at the hotel once more, Geordie is upstairs changing, so I drag Raven to the bar, and to the tape recorder. What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
"Difficult to answer," he says. Murdering people, maybe? I allude to our previous conversation about his temperament.
"I might be . . . I think I'd be in a lot more trouble than I am now, and that's for damn sure! 'Cos the settling part about being in this business is that all the other three seem to balance out the bad parts of each person's nature."
Paul was saying how you, he and Geordie form a pivot and generate the onstage energy, while Jaz is outside of that.
"Yeah, he is. But just by nature of the way he operates. It's good, I think, 'cos it really gives us full rein to do what we fucking want, whereas a lot of bands are geared around their front man or singer. With us lot, he really has to fit in with what we want to do -- to a degree."
Do you socialise with each other outside the group?
"Me and Geordie tend to socialise - I see him more than I see Paul and Jaz. There's a distinct split between the thinkers and the doers. Jaz and Paul both like to think and are sort of 'mental', whereas me and Geordie tend to want to get out there and get on with it."
Paul did say he thought too much. "I think it's healthy as far as his drumming's concerned, because it gives him a certain amount of control in what he's putting out. What me and Paul always had, that I felt was lacking in Paul when he was with Youth, was that when we first me, we locked-in immediately. It's a very stable thing by nature of what we're trying to do, which is make people move, you need that . . . I think the written word is obsolete these days, to tell you the truth. When we go out on a stage and two bars into that first number I can see everyone going up and down, that's what I do it for. Nothing else."
And in five years, will you still be in it?
"In various forms, yeah. Even if I don't see 'em for five years, I'll always be in it 'cos we're fucking all in it right up to our necks!"
As threatened, I go to a nightclub with Geordie and Big Paul. An odd place, full of 18-year-olds frolicking to Housemartin records. The three of us stand at the bar, staring dolefully at the partying mass. I give up on the interview idea and we go back to the hotel. I to my bed and they to the bar. Half past three in the morning, my phone rings. It's Geordie saying he feels like doing the interview now. I reply with a quaint anglo-saxonism and go back to sleep. Come five o'clock, there's an insistent knocking on my door. I get dressed, and Geordie ambles in, red-eyed ("it's me contact lenses. I only clean them four times a year") with a silver goblet in hand. From what he says, I gather he's not very fond of playing in England.
"We actually fucking hate it. It's a shame, 'cos you do meet a few good genuine people. I'm sure we make them feel guilty about what they are and where they live. I'm sure that on a really base level, because of the tension in the music, we actually make them feel uncomfortable."
Is it conscious? "No, I'm sure it's not. I mean, the real people in this country -- they don't give a fuck. They'd rather listen to the records and have a few drinks and shag something. They want nothing to do with the actual atmosphere and the music. They like a soundtrack, that's all. They just see it as a piece of plastic that can give them a large dose of fucking amnesia for 10 minutes."
He continues, chain smoking all the while, saying how he wants to appeal to the "few sensible people out there", then goes off at a tangent about the Victorian working class principle, the sins of the fathers -- and sex. "I should be a journalist," he laughs. "I just can't take it seriously . . . it's quite strange; I listen to our music and what we come up with is just fucking mental, psychologically and emotionally. There's a lot of classical music that I listen to and in that work I see a lot of padding. You know, I like rhythm too much. When you put rhythm into music, you change the ball game completely. Bringing that intensity of emotion into music, by its rhythm, is something I think has been forgotten, emotions with a savage rhythm under it. If I don't crack it in my lifetime, I'm sure I'll get a few copyists . . . I mean, there are now. There's a lot of people who get the idea of what we're doing. We've got a lot to answer for with Killing Joke . . . ."