(From Flipside, a California-based magazine, Issue #71, March/April 1991)

Killing Joke

by Al

Will wonders ever cease?  Not when you think that Killing Joke, the one-time highly influential and inspirational band, after a steady decline, can pull off an incredible comeback with just one record and tour.  But it's true.  No one can ever predict what singer Jaz Coleman, the lyrical and directional leader behind Killing Joke, will come up with next.  Their previous two LPs went seemingly opposite to what early Killing Joke was all about.  Jaz's inspiration, he claimed, was somehow pre-determined.  But now, as if Jaz got a hold of the Ladder (from "Jacob's Ladder"), Killing Joke are back on course.

The Killing Joke lineup has periodically taken a few gear shifts, but always included Jaz and Geordie, on guitar.  After a short departure, Paul Raven is back on Bass and handling the drums is the infamous Martin Atkins.  This lineup is stronger than ever, and during the recent tour the band added a keyboard player to let Jaz cut loose with the vocal duties. 

Shortly after "Extremities, Dirt And Various Repressed Emotions" was released, Killing Joke departed for a worldwide tour.  During their February performance in LA, I found myself chatting with Paul Raven about some of the things Killing Joke are going through.

Al: At what point did you join the band?

Raven: Before me there was a bass player in the band, Youth.  He was in the band from 1979 until 1982.  In 1982 I joined the band.  I left just before the Outside The Gate album - myself and the drummer split - and I have just rejoined the band.  I left because of the Outside The Gate album, in fact.

Al: I guess that was over musical differences then.

Raven: Yes, as boring as it may sound.  And I think I was proved right with this album.

Al: I was wondering about the decision to go back to the older style.

Raven: Because I'm back basically, and from what comes from myself and the drummer, Martin.  the rhythm section is so fiery that you can't really do much else with it, to be honest.

Al: Oh, I like that style much better than some of the previous releases.

Raven: Me too.

Al: Besides that time that you left, was there any time when the band broke up completely?

Raven: No.  We went through two and a half years of litigation - the reason why there were no records released.  Now we're signed directly with RCA and everything's fine.

Al: Did that litigation just involve the previous label and distribution --

Raven: Yeah, and management, publishing, all sorts of shit. But it was all worthwhile. We've always been ... we're really aware of our business end of the whole affair.  We're always trying to take care of as much of it ourselves as humanly possible. Unfortunately it got a little out of hand. But now everything is back on track.

Al: At that time there was also some psychiatric treatment on somebody's part--

Raven: Yeah, yeah. You know, the two years prior to this album had been tough for everybody. I think it just manifested itself in different ways. Jaz went through a bit of a funny turn shall we say ... but it's no big deal. It's got nothing to do with the music.

Al: He's always been a very intense character.

Raven: Yeah, some might say intense. I mean, there's no love lost between him and I but you don't have to like each other to be in the same band.  The music is the only thing that connects him and I in any way, shape or form.

Al: Did you rejoin to write the new record, Extremities, Dirt And Various Repressed Emotions or had the others already been working on it?

Raven: Part of it.  Four of the songs were songs that came from ideas myself and Geordie had been working on before I had left anyway.  The rest of it was kind of put together in my absence but I injected my end of it on the album as much as anyone else.  Myself and Martin Atkins struck up an immediately great musical relationship.  He makes me sound great and I make him sound great, you know?

Al: Is Martin a permanent member even with all his other projects?

Raven: Oh yeah.  We all have other projects happening.  Jaz has his stuff with Anne Dudley and the Art Of Noise shit. Geordie produces an Italian band named Brain Damage who are on tour with us; they're like a thrash band.  Myself and Martin have even another project which is my band, the Hellfire Club.  Me, Martin and Al Jourgensen and Chris Connelly from Ministry.  We have a record coming out on the 20th of March.   Killing Joke are going on tour in April with Pigface, me and Martin, Chris, David from Jesus Lizard, Trent from Nine Inch Nails - and Steve Albini is coming. It's going to be a really good show.

 Al: Are most of the lyrics on the new LP Jaz Coleman's?

Raven: Well, we all contribute.  It's mainly Jaz for sure; he's the person that's got to sing them.

Al: It's definitely good old Killing Joke.

Raven: Of course, because that's what it is.  No one else sounds like it.  The thing about Killing Joke is that it is greater than the parts.  It's something that I tried to get away from but I couldn't.  It's like having a piece of elastic tied around your waste, you know?  It's got nothing to do with anything but the music.  We love the music.  We love to make the music and it sounds like we mean it.  No one else sounds like it and, as the world gets crazier and the times get harder, it only becomes more relevant, I feel.

Al:   With the situation in the Middle East, Killing Joke's music and lyrics are certainly more relevant--

Raven: It's something that I think is just going to escalate and escalate.  We've always said that as the world gets crazier and crazier -- as it is -- that we've seen ourselves as the soundtrack to people's nightmares, in some respects.  I think that pop music and rock music in general is really insulting to the mentality of most people.  I think it's redundant in so far as it has no value in the present world climate at all.  People want to hear that there is someone out there who shares the fears and anxieties instead of just singing, "I love you; everything is going to be cool," and just regressing into Brian Jones haircuts and 60s psychedelia and shit, you know?  I think that it is the sound of the '90s and we are doing it right now, I really do.

Al:  Killing Joke were never a band to just be entertainment for the masses.

Raven: Right. We've established ourselves as a landmark in music.  Punctuation in the history of music.  Because our music isn't based in the blues and isn't really rock & roll, a lot of people are turning an ear to it and realizing the relevance.  We've been around for 12 years and we aren't going anywhere.  It's just part of evolution of the situation and at some point, we're going to have major success.  We've had reasonable success.   We've had reasonable success.  We all live comfortably off it and have colorful little lives.  It's a very "now" sound that we've captured on the album.  We recorded it in three days.  We captured everything that we were feeling at the time and what was going on in the last two years -- how we've seen the world change and things we're concerned about.

Al: The record starts off like it's going to be live.

Raven: Well, it is live.  We just set it up and recorded it.  We rehearsed for about ... we did a couple of gigs and just ran through the songs for a couple of weeks and then we recorded.

Al: Where is the band based these days?

Raven: In Chicago.

Al: Really?

Raven: Yeah.  Martin has a label here.  He's married and lives in Chicago.  We have an office and our studio here so we rehearse here.  Geordie is married to a girl in Detroit so he's here all the time.  I live in Amsterdam, in fact, but I spend most of my time here.  And Jaz shows up when we have to do something.

Al: I didn't know Killing Joke was based here now.  Something we had talked about before (Flipside Killing Joke interview in 1982) was the way a European audience reacts to Killing Joke as opposed to the United States.

Raven: I think it is funny, actually, because the audiences on this last tour -- that we did before Christmas in America -- were a lot like it was in Europe sort of ten years ago when I first joined the band.  The audiences are getting bigger all the time and the gigs are wilder.  We seem to be appealing to a lot of metal audiences.  Metallica are covering our songs and different things.  Lots of bands are quoting Killing Joke as being their influence, from Ministry to Revco to Jane's Addiction and lots of other bands.  I think it's quite interesting, because now I can see a turn around in popular opinion to the band -- the music gets played on the radio.  It never used to before.

Al: Is the same true for Europe? I don't know if you've toured there recently.

Raven: Yeah, we just got back and it was some of the wildest gigs we've ever done.  In Berlin and London, Hamburg and Vienna in particular it was just really out of hand.  All the gigs were sold out and there were two or three hundred people outside of the gigs every night rioting and the police had water cannons and it was just fucking madness!  Partly because no one else is on tour!  All these shitty bands like Cinderella and shitty bands from America all pulled out.  It was only Ac/DC and us touring.  MC Hammer and these people are not going to Europe.  It's too near the war.  It's like the best time in history to be going out and doing your thing but everyone wants to stay home.  They can all kiss my ass!

Al: Does the war bring more intensity to European audiences?

Raven:  Oh, what do you think?

Al: I would think it would be madness, especially in Europe. 

Raven: It's going to be the same here.  I don't think anyone else can incite that kind of feeling like we do.