(from Scene, a free music newspaper from Cleveland, Ohio, 20 April 1989)

Killing Joke: Extremely Dangerous

by Mark Holan

It's been over six years since Killing Joke, one of England's most influential bands of the past ten years, has toured in the U.S. Vocalist Jaz Coleman and guitarist Geordie, both original members, have re-formed the group just in time for Killing Joke's tenth anniversary. Joining Coleman and Geordie are former Public Image Ltd. and Bad Brains drummer Martin Atkins and a Welsh bass player named simply Taif, who replaced former Smiths bassist Andy Rourke after only three days.

The "new" Killing Joke has yet to go into the recording studio, but they are currently in America until May 1, after which they will head for Germany to record an album already titled Extremeties. This Monday, April 24, Killing Joke will make their Cleveland debut at the Phantasy Theatre. Besides playing classic Killing Joke anthems like "Change," "Requiem" and "Love Like Blood," the group will be working out the arrangements to a number of new songs yet to be recorded. It's this spirit of experimentation that has made Killing Joke a constantly intriguing musical group.

"We're exploring new ground," Martin Atkins says. "We're combining all of the elements of everything we've all done in the past. A lot of bands don't possess the ability to cover the ground that we're covering at the moment. The music is rooted in energy and sweat and physical exhaustion and blood. It's not rooted in sampling and computers."

The combination of Atkins, one of the most innovative time keepers around today, and Killing Joke is a match that makes more and more sense as time goes on. Atkins, an original member of PiL, first met Coleman and Geordie while recording with Jah Wobble at a London recording studio. When Wobble's session went over into Killing Joke's time, Atkins and Coleman met and kept bumping into each other throughout the next couple of weeks. They didn't meet again until last October. Atkins, however, thinks that it was inevitable that they would join forces.

"I think all of the time I was interested in what they were doing," Atkins explains, "and they were interested in what PiL were doing. When, by chance, we got in touch, it was so right. Within about two minutes of playing together, we knew it was going to be extremely dangerous."

For Jaz Coleman, the new lineup represents a new beginning for his band. After Killing Joke's last album, Coleman took two years off and completed a five-movement orchestra arrangement that he'd been working on for the past six years. The movement, "Idavoll," will soon be performed by symphonies in East Germany and New York City. Still, it's Killing Joke '89 that excites the intense Coleman. "We've got a new audience that's never heard us before," he says, "and it's going down a storm so far."

"The music's taking a turn for the radical," he continues. "By the time we see you up in Cleveland, we'll have about eight or nine new songs in the set. We thought that there should be an emphasis on the new stuff, instead of going backwards."

But will longtime Killing Joke devotees like the new sounds they're producing?

"They'll like the new album," Coleman replies, "because, again, we're going back to our roots. It's like it's gone full circle, and it's strange that it coincides with our tenth anniversary as well.

"We're doing things now," he continues, "that we couldn't have done properly ten years ago, like some of the bizarre rhythms and changes. Instead of doing verse-chorus-verse-chorus-verse-chorus like every other pop band or rock group does, we're now breaking it into bizarre, new formats that I don't think anybody's come anywhere near yet."

There will be sparks flying in the recording studio when Killing Joke goes to record Extremeties with noted German producer Connie [sic] Plank. Having worked with Rolling Stones producer Chris Kimsey and Plank as well as others in the past, Coleman sees the new album as an attempt at recreating a live sound.

"When we worked with Connie Plank and Chris Kimsey," he explains, "the first thing they tried to do was capture the live sound because they saw that as one of Killing Joke's primary assets. I think we'll master that rawness when we get on stage in the studio and really get an edge on it that's never been achieved before. I mean, to the extent that we can achieve it now on record."

"I want it painful," Coleman concludes. "I want this next album excruciating to listen to. But beautiful music at the same time."