From Record Mirror, a UK-based music mag, 20 April 1985)


Joking Apart

Madmen who'd curse you to damnation soon as look at you? Nope, Killing Joke are regular guys into Gary Glitter, sex, sake and self-belief. So says our man in Cologne, Andy Strike.

Killing Joke are in Germany, home of the Brothers Grimm and an apt setting for a band who've had more fairy tales written about them than tight-panted princes on white horses. Joke aren't ogres hunting for blood, they aren't dragons breathing fire into the tape recorders of the music press, they're just fed up.

Fed up with mealy-mouthed journalists intent on getting a 'good piece' whether it represents the band or not, fed up with encountering people who don't know anything about, like, or even listen to the band. Personally, I love 'em.

"We've had a lot of prejudice against us, of course," says drummer Paul resignedly as we sit backstage at Cologne's now-defunct old railway station - scene of tonight's gig.

"We're renowned for being a bunch of fuckers or whatever. Now, finally, we've got other people to listen to us who wouldn't normally, and that's what we need. We want to spread our music as wide as possible, and we want people to like and appreciate us. That's the biggest buzz, people turning up to the gigs when they would have never considered it before."

He's right, of course. Killing Joke gigs have traditionally been a hot bed of spikey-haired leather jackets, a hard core of fans who've ignored the band's up-and-down status and concentrated on - the music.

"We always think of Gary Glitter and Alex Harvey," grins Paul when I tell him how the title track reminds me of Gazza. "They're the two guys who we all really, really like musically. We're not ripping them off but there's this always this idea that that's where we see pop music."

Guitarist Geordie nods. "Gary Glitter rang us up and asked if he could do a cover of 'Follow The Leader'. That's what 'Love Like Blood' was, great pop music as it should be."

Great indeed, Killing Joke's first top twenty hit and never off the turntable chez moi, a huge pop noise and a classic pop single. It must have come as a welcome reward for the band after six years of relative poverty.

"I don't find it rewarding particularly," says Geordie, sipping the ever-present Tequila (cue raucous renditions of Mexican tunes in Killing Joke tour bus). "I find it funny because the success of 'Love Like Blood' shows we were right all the time to believe in our music. We've still got no money but the thing is, we've spent five or six years surviving somehow and if we'd had the money we'd have done the exact same things, but we'd just be in a lot worse physical condition."

Paul turns our attention to the new single.

"We may have been skint for five years but we've been living like kings and queens," he beams. 'Kings And Queens', the new single, is another slice of Killing Joke at their best. It drives along on a typically thunderous Geordie riff, showing up most so-called 'heavy' guitarists for the wimps they are, and is topped off with a suitably manic Jaz vocal. Paul and Geordie are quick to put me right when I suggest the lyrics could be taken as somewhat apathetic.

"No, not at all," says Paul. "In fact, it's quite the opposite. It's about what we've been doing for the last five years, living with no money. We're saying live as if you've got everything because you don't actually need very much. One of the things we actually would consider as a message, if there was any to be attached to us, is that you take what you want out of life because life is there to be used. If you go round thinking -- shit, I've got no money, I can't do anything, then you won't do anything, will you?"

Geordie agrees. "We started out like that, right? We were squatting and we wanted to do a record so much that we blagged some geezer out of 250, blagged someone else for another 300, recorded and pressed 500 copies, gave one to John Peel who played all three tracks the first time he heard it and that was it. We wanted it so much, it was mind over matter."

"It's saying no matter how little you've got, you can live like a king. You don't need anything, you just need to do it because you can do anything you want to -- one way or another," adds Paul. "We're not saying make the most of what you've got, make more than you've got. It's enthusiastic, not apathetic."

As the band takes the stage in the now-packed hall, that enthusiasm and self-belief pays off. As Jaz stalks the stage with the two familiar black smudges framing his cheeks, you can't fail to be impressed. This is a band that's worked and worked hard, and as the band storm through a set which ends with the anthemic 'Eighties' they don't even seem to be bothered by the rather cool reception which is the norm in these parts.

As we sit ourselves down some twenty minutes later in a restaurant which Jaz assures me is the number one Japanese in Europe, he is still excited about the gig.

"The atmosphere of a gig is the most important thing as far as I'm concerned," he says between alternate swigs of iced water and sake. "There was a feeling about tonight that was great. Those people were really for Killing Joke and most of them had probably never heard of the band until a couple of months ago. Killing Joke's in this year!"

"What more do you need to know about the taste and colour of Killing Joke?" he grins. "Wasn't that just serious business, the best food in Europe?"

"There are only three great pleasures in life, Andy," offers Geordie. "Sex, food and music!"

Bass player Raven, who would not look out of place playing the baddest baddie in a spaghetti western (except for the red DM's), asks me what I thought of the gig and with a bottle of sake warming me, I'm ready to tell him the truth.

"'Love Like Blood' and 'Kings And Queens' were a bit slow actually, Raven," I offer, half-expecting to be finally flung through the nearest window.

Raven's bear-like features break into a huge grin. "That's very astute of you," he says. "I thought so too."

Killing Joke - regular Mr. Nice Guys? Well, almost.