(From Smash Hits, UK pop music magazine, February 1985)

Killing Joke

"Now we've had a hit we're going to inflict our horrible personalities on everyone!"

And they're perfectly serious. They hate U2. They loathe Wham! and Culture Club. They detest Howard Jones. And they're not terribly kind to Chris Heath either.


"Do you want me to smash your face in or something?" Killing Joke's lead singer, Jaz Coleman, leans forward and prods me gently on the cheek in warning. I'm sitting rather nervously on a high stool in the middle of a warehouse-turned-photographic studio. Still, I was warned that they've got a bit of a reputation for this sort of thing.

"We really get up people's noses," boasts drummer Paul Ferguson with obvious pride. "People are right. We are an arrogant bunch of bastards."

"Us being successful," gloats guitarist Geordie, plainly chuffed by the chart placing of their "Love Like Blood" single, "means a lot of trouble. For other people."

"Now..." Raven, their bassist, continues, "we're going to inflict our horrible personalities on everyone."

I don't think Killing Joke are the sort of lads you would take home to meet your parents.

"So many people have hoped we'd split up - but we haven't," exclaims Jaz defiantly. "We've been going six years and now we're near our peak. We've got a big audience. We've got a hit single. We're not going away."

At least not for the time being. After all, this is what they've been waiting for ever since Jaz and Paul got together in Cheltenham in mid 1979, to be joined shortly after by Geordie and original bassist Youth (now in Brilliant).

"We formed out of frustration," Jaz recalls. "We wanted to create a band of our dreams. We knew it would be a long hard struggle."

And it was, though it didn't seem so at first. Their first single, a surprisingly poppy affair called "Nervous System", created a bit of a stir, and the subsequent "Wardance/Psyche" and "Requiem" singles, and the "Killing Joke" LP seemed to really get the ball rolling. Suddenly thousands of malevolent-looking leather-clad rebels were flocking to Killing Joke concerts to experience their relentless wall of sound. Since then that following has never deserted them, possibly because they're "the best live band in the world - devastating - people leave our gigs with a sense of imbalance and shock".

Nevertheless the record buying public did seem to lose interest in their records - apart from one single, "Empire Song", off their third LP "Revelations". It sneaked into the bottom of the charts but, after a quick look at the band on T op Of The Pops, the nation gave them the thumbs down and the record disappeared.

Soon afterwards Jaz vanished. It later transpired he'd upped and fled to Iceland without so much as a goodbye or a postcard to the rest of the band. What happened?

"The best way to explain it is that I'm an imperfect species with a vision of something perfect," explains Jaz. "I couldn't really see any future in this country as a place to launch any project of progressive significance. And, apart from that, it was the culmination of the emotion of travelling from one industrial wasteland to the next. And also the way I worry about the world situation."

So now we know. But why Iceland, of all places?

"There's no pollution. No industry .It was very underdeveloped and underpopulated; exposed to the elements. I wanted to be independent from the music scene. And also," he confesses, "I was going a bit mental."

He used the time to record a few tracks with local band Peyr and also, believe it or not, to work on his symphony, which he has recently finished. "It took three years to complete," he says. "It's currently being reviewed by a man from the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra - I'm going to see him this afternoon."

After three months in Iceland Jaz relented, said his 'sorrys', and restarted the band. "I missed the excitement of the concerts and the people," he now reveals. "The idea of alienating myself in the wilderness on some farm is against my nature." But isn't he likely to bunk off somewhere else when the fancy takes him and leave the band in the lurch again?

"I don't think so," he answers, though he's obviously given it some thought. "I've got the deal that if I do I'll tell everyone in the band beforehand. I made that clear when we started again."

The new single, and the accompanying "Night Time" LP, seem to mark a mellowing for the hand. The relentless barrage of guitar, voice and drums that characterised their earlier outings has been replaced by more open spaces and rather better tunes. Paul won't admit this, insisting that "we haven't changed, it's just that people have gained an appreciation of what we do" but Jaz understands.

"There's a contrast now," he agrees, though he's quick to deny any suggestion that such hard lads as Killing Joke could be wimping out: "The more intense parts are even more intense now because of the contrast. There are elements of tranquility prior to explosion."

As I scratch my head he explains further: "Our objective these days is to be in total control of our environment. We meet interesting people and inflict our music upon them. It's a great music. A beautiful music. A music exclusively for the '80s.

"People should listen to 'Love Like Blood'," he continues, "I think it's a very moving and disturbing piece of music. It was recorded at a difficult time in my life and it adds an emotional depth to the charts. It's a pleasant change."

The next single, a song called "Kings And Queens", apparently sums up the Killing Joke philosophy of life. "It's about the necessity of just looking after oneself," Jaz sneers with satisfaction.

Hold on. That doesn't sound very nice. I mean, what if everybody just looked after themselves?

"The world would be a better place," Jaz replies flatly, obviously finding my concernrather amusing. "The weaker would fall and the strong would get stronger."

I see. I wonder if l should mention Band Aid, but one look at the four of them leering at me is enough to put me off. So "looking after oneself" is really what Killing Joke are all about?

"Killing Joke is a vehicle for our own personal destinies, our own freedoms," answers Jaz evasively. Paul expands the point: "We will use anything to our utmost advantage."

Charming. I'm beginning to really warm to these kind-hearted sensitive blokes.

"We'll take any opportunity that arises," continues Jaz with growing contempt. "There's no sort of vile Christian morality with us," he adds, spitting out 'Christian' as if it were the most obnoxious and repulsive word imaginable.

Presumably then, I guess, they've no qualms about having big hit singles, going on Top Of The Pops, and becoming rich pop stars?

"We've got no qualms about anything actually," replies Paul emphatically. "We're very selfish people."

Killing Joke are obviously rather enjoying all this; they seem to absolutely revel in saying nasty things and being a bit threatening. But under this pretence of being horrible and anti-social I'm beginning to suspect that the real Killing Joke are actually rather unpleasant too. Are they really some of the nastiest people in pop music?

"No, we're not," objects Jaz, though I suspect he quietly regards the suggestion as a compliment. "We don't take no crap though," adds Geordie quickly, doubtless concerned that people might think Killing Joke are turning into softies. "People think we're rude," explains Raven, "because we speak our minds."

They most certainly do speak their minds. In fact they've got absolutely no tolerance at all for their fellows in the chart.

U2 are "vile Christian creatures", The Big Sound Authority are "Paul Weller's little cancerous offgrowth", and as for Wham! and Culture Club, Paul says he personally objects "to their facile natures, what they perpetuate".

But they reserve their real venom for poor old Howard Jones. "He's insipid," spits Paul. "Very insipid. His morals are weak."

Jaz takes up the theme with relish. "We're fundamentally opposed to someone like Howard Jones in every possible way, in every aspect. I think somebody like that epitomises the entire music scene. The fact that someone is in that sort of position and does that sort of rubbish, that piffle. It perpetuates the mindlessness of the record buying market, patronises young people. It's vile. Inexcusable. Severe measures should be taken."