(From Smash Hits, a UK-based pop music magazine, 13-26 August 1986)
They would happily tell starving Ethiopians to "get lost." They can see "the divine" in atomic explosions and murder. They think most other pop stars are useless. Simon Mills scratches his head and wonders:
Are Killing Joke The Most Horrible Group Ever?
In a converted warehouse somewhere in London, Killing Joke are waiting to have their photographs taken. While the photographer is busy changing the film and messing around with the lights, Geordie, Raven and Paul are skulking around the studio, looking suitably doomy in their dark-coloured designer togs. But Jaz, the one I'm supposed to be frightened of, the one who went a bit weird a few years back and legged it to the frozen wastes of Iceland without telling the rest of the group, the one who smears his face with war-paint for live performances, the one who once threatened to punch a Smash Hits "journalist" in the face, Jaz is nowhere in sight. All I can see is a slightly-built Diego Maradona lookalike sporting an unruly mop of curly black hair, a distinctly casual leather jacket, washed-out grey trousers and a pair of battered trainers, who's rummaging through a rather girlie British Airways shoulder bag.
"Have you heard that band It Bites?" Paul asks nobody in particular. "They sound like Yes."
"Oh well," says the bloke with the Diego Maradona hair-do, "the more shit there is around, the better it is for us." Aha! I think. That must be Jaz.
"Hello, I'm Jaz," he offers politely. "Listen, I want to talk about music today, not the usual nonsense." The usual nonsense being, he explains, "the image of thuggery and aggression perpetuated by certain sections of the media which tends to overshadow the band's music." And indeed Jaz does want to talk about music. Give him a chance and on he rattles about the "validity", "longevity", "beauty" and "fortitude" of Killing Joke's music, which he considers, rather modestly, to be an "art form".
"We endeavour to convey beauty in a contemporary way. We make beautiful, profound music and this new album (Brighter Than A Thousand Suns) is going to make Killing Joke into a massive, massive international act."
Once he's settled into one of these bragging, boastful outbursts, it's very difficult to stop him.
"I was reading this article the other day," he continues, "by Anthony Burgess, who wrote Clockwork Orange. He was saying that the majority of pop musicians are inarticulate and not particularly intelligent people and even the best of the pop world, like The Beatles for example, do not compare with the greats, like Beethoven, who are the masters of music. Well, I couldn't agree more!
"Killing Joke, however, do not fall into that pop category. We are mentally and physically fitter than we've ever been before. We make serious music, music to last, the subject matter and lyrics of which are of great significance."
"That's right," agrees Paul. "It's not trivial music. We're not talking about our girlfriends or our cars, we're talking about our lives. And you can't trivialise that."
Agree with them or not, you have to admire Killing Joke's eloquent turn of phrase. But that bit about being "mentally fitter"? Does that mean the group spend their spare time skipping and jogging and wearing matching tracksuits?
"Nothing like that," assures Geordie. "We don't need to jog or anything like that. Once you play a gig with Killing Joke you don't need any other form of exercise."
And mental fitness?
"The two Pauls are both gifted artists," says Jaz proudly, "while I study, I work. I don't live a particularly rock 'n' roll lifestyle. I'm married. I get up at six o'clock every morning to write. I like to have some order in my life. I'm currently working on my second symphony and I've just finished writing a 110,000 word book on philosophy... my own philosophy."
"Pantheism. It's when you see the divine in everything. From atomic explosions and murder to..." He pauses to think for a second and then shrugs and adds, almost apologetically, "... to beautiful things."
The last Killing Joke LP ("Night Time") was recorded in Berlin, a city which provided the group with valuable "oppressive" inspiration at the time, but which they now describe as "bloody depressing." They plan to record their next LP in sunny Australia, and they've recently spent a great deal of time in South America.
"That's a fascinating place, South America. Especially the Andes. I love it in the Andes," enthuses Jaz.
"One thing we became aware of out there was the cheapness of life," says Paul. "There are people dying of hunger all the time. Just the same as in Ethiopia except that it's not fashionable to talk about South America because Bob Geldof isn't involved."
It seems that Killing Joke don't care too much for Sir Bob's efforts to help in the distribution of food to the starving.
If I was eating a meal in front of a bunch of starving Ethiopians," says Jaz, "and I had some food left I would gladly give them my leftovers. But if I felt hungry I would eat all the food on my plate and tell them to get lost." And with that he starts administering a rude finger sign to an imaginary group of starving Ethiopians in front of him.
Charming. But does all this talk of travelling to faraway places mean that the group are not short of a bob or two?
"Money's never been a problem," says Paul.
But surely one hit single (last year's "Love Like Blood") doesn't meant that much wealth?
"Well, we don't actually make much money, but Killing Joke has always paid for itself," he says. "It's all a question of attitude, really." But attitude won't buy plane tickets, surely? "You'd be surprised," he grins.
"I've known Jaz for seven years," says Geordie, rather quickly changing the subject, "and in all that time I've never once been round to his house or phoned him up at home... and I only live around the corner."
But this is all getting a bit too personal for Jaz's liking.
"Where I live has little relevance to our music. You're trivialising things. I want to talk about our music."
And off he goes again. But, surprisingly, Killing Joke don't hate all chart music, they just find most of it "insignificant" and "one-dimensional". There are one or two exceptions though: Kate Bush (who happens to be a Killing Joke fan herself) and Phil Collins ("an accomplished musician") especially. Others, like Wham! ("entertainers but not artists like us"), The Smiths ("foppish and dull"), Prince ("a very clever thief, a plagiarist like Bowie"), all get the uncompromising, dismissive Killing Joke treatment. And Brilliant, the group formed a few years ago by ex-K.J. bass player Youth? What does Jaz think of Brilliant?
"That's a silly question," says Jaz, his nostrils flared in anger. "You're digging up things that are so far back in the past now... I mean, Raven's been in the band longer than Youth was... if you keep talking about them I'll get insulted and cut the conversation short... I don't want to talk about the past, I want to talk about NOW! ... and I don't want to see anything of this in the finished interview. Is that clear?"