(from Spiral Scratch, published in Cambridge, January 1991. Special thanks to Karsten Roekens for supplying this piece.)
by Albert Edward
To most people aware of it, the Malicious Damage label is usually associated with, and was indeed owned by the band Killing Joke. Yet the irony is that despite three years of independence most of Killing Joke's recordings belong to the E.G. Management Group, an association which provided the finance for the label but took away its finest assets. This feature concentrates mainly on that early and most interesting part of Killing Joke's career - the period when they were with Malicious Damage.
Jaz Coleman was introduced to Paul Ferguson after chatting to a chap (possibly Brian Taylor) whom he had met while signing on in late 1978 in Holland Park, London. Paul was drumming for something called The Matt Stagger Band which Jaz later joined on keyboards. But the two
of them finding they had mutual interests in, amongst other things, the occult, tarot and astrology, decided that their present situation was just too limiting and so quit to form their own group placing an advert in the Melody Maker: "Bass, lead, to tell the Killing Joke, we mean it man! Total exploitation, no information, total anonymity."
Geordie (K. Walker), born of Newcastle but re-located to Milton Keynes, was recruited after his first encounter with Jaz. He hadn't played in a band before and didn't even bother to bring his guitar! It must have been a brilliant audition. Finding a bassist proved a little more difficult and time consuming. Matters weren't helped when Paul's flat, which Jaz and Geordie were by now sharing, was burned down while he was visiting his parents in Egypt. The trio had little option but to accept an offer of moving to Cheltenham to live with Jaz's parents.
The band's first bass player, of whom very little is known, quit after only a few weeks, their second was nearly kicked out after a few days but luckily Martin "Youth" Glover persevered and the line-up was now complete. Youth was quite literally the group's last hope. They had seen scores of bassists and were ready to pack it all in. He lived in a bedsit reputedly above a gay brothel in Earls Court and had played with a Vortex support band called The Rage. His first practice sessions with Killing Joke were, however, a disaster and led to Jaz and Paul storming out of the studio shouting
and cursing his musical abilities. But all was not lost since by the time they returned Geordie had worked wonders and managed to inspire Youth with a few simple bass lines. Liking what they were hearing, Jaz and Paul joined in and the whole group spontaneously launched into what became "Are You Receiving"- they had found their magic formula, one which a thousand new bands would later try desperately to replicate.
It was now around mid-August '79 and things began to move fast. The band re-located back to London to a squat in Notting Hill Gate and friends paid for a rehearsal studio. Soon Jazīs girlfriend suggested they make a single and she put up the cash. The "Turn To Red" EP was recorded and mixed in two nights and released in October on 10" vinyl with stunning 11" square glossy paper insert (graphics courtesy of Mike Coles) and four small card inserts. Unfortunately for the collector not every EP came with all the card inserts, which incidentally depicted "Advert For Shadphos",
"Wreath With Chortle Chortle", "45 RPM" and full lyrics to "Turn To Red" (i.e., no-dub version or later known as "Almost Red").
Killing Joke had only played one proper gig before the record's release but gigged furiously afterwards. As well as this, Youth joined Jimmy Lydon and Jock MacDonald in forming 4"Be 2",though he was to quit them some months later. Sex Pistols fans will know that MacDonald/Lydon, a.k.a. The Bollock Brothers, are responsible for a great number of dodgy Pistols LPs and true to form the Killing Joke connection seems to have been milked to the full with credits appearing on several of these. As far as 4"Be 2" records go Youth definitely appears on their first single but itīs difficult to be certain on everything else.
The "Turn To Red" EP was self distributed and when John Peel received a copy
he played all three tracks on his radio show that very night. Killing Joke also
did what was to become John Peel's most requested session ever, recording
"Psyche", "Wardance" and early songs "Nuclear
Boy" and "Malicious Boogie".
Island Records took an interest in the band and in December re-released "Turn To Red" in both 7" and 12" formats, the 12" having an extra track "Almost Red". The one-single deal with Island reaped enough money to finance their next single and to set up Malicious Damage properly, being joint owned by each band member and their manager Brian Taylor. "Wardance"/"Psyche" was
released in February 1980 and marked a change in style for the band being heavier and more aggressive than their earlier reggae/funk influenced sound. Collectors should note that early copies came with a "conscription form" insert and there is also a mispress in existence playing both sides of the Blue Orchidsī 45 "The Flood"/"Disney Boys".
On the 10th February Killing Joke played at London's Venue. 200 tickets were given away free and for those interested a bootleg LP of reasonable sound quality surfaced some years later capturing the whole set which included "Nuclear Boy", "Malicious Boogie" and something called "What's The Matter" with Honey Bane from support band The Fatal Microbes on vocals. Their most important
gigs, however, came at the end of February when they supported Joy Division. They already had a sizeable following but this broke them as a definite big-name attraction and they never looked back.
The music press began taking a big interest too. Some loved them, most hated them, but hardly a week went by without Killing Joke being mentioned somewhere and of course there were those inevitable band comparisons; often cited names being Joy Division, early Ants and even the UK Subs! But Killing Joke weren't some kind of freakish hybrid; they were something unique. They had a new sound and striking shock-imagery thanks to the talents of resident Malicious Damage artist Mike Coles and much appreciated by many a fan with a leather jacket to paint.
Killing Joke's second Peel session was recorded in March and shortly after there appeared a curious blank red labelled 7" coupling "Tomorrow's World" and "Change" from the session (where "Complications" was also recorded). This does not seem to be a bootleg being in excellent sound quality and having the respectable "a porky prime cut" inscription, but nor was it available on general release. As a guess it was probably used for demo purposes as it could be obtained on asking from Malicious Damage, though of course it was never advertised and is extremely rare.
The band were by now in a relatively strong position after selling over
16,000 copies of "Wardance" and succeeded in signing a three album contract with
E.G. Records (after first turning down Virgin's ten album deal). The contract
gave them artistic control and kept Malicious Damage as a label in its own
right. In return Killing Jokeīs future recordings would be handled by E.G. who
first licensed them to Polydor then switched to Virgin in 1986, altering sleeves
in the process.
Killing Joke continued gigging around the UK and Europe and in the studio
recording for their first LP; meanwhile, Malicious Damage managed to sign new
bands Red Beat and Ski Patrol. Ski Patrol (featuring Ian Lowery, once of punk
band The Wall and future founder member of the Folk Devils) had already released
a single on their own Clever Metal label in early 1980. Red Beat on the other
hand were a new inexperienced band and soon left Malicious Damage after
arguments over money. They went on to form their own label -- Manic Machine --
releasing two singles before
In September Killing Joke released "Requiem" followed closely by their
awesome first LP which musically exceeded all expectations. It was harsh and
bleak and went straight to the point dealing with, amongst other things, war,
pollution, apathy, social failure and broken dreams; something of a true
reflection of the times.
A special CND event in Trafalgar Square saw them playing to some 15,000 spectators, then a month later begin their first major UK tour. On some dates they were aided by a friend Dave "The Wizard",a mysterious character who would paint a pentangle and mystic symbols on the floor before dancing around the band and audience, chanting and breathing fire. The tour was a huge success, the only sour note being when their Glasgow gig got banned after council officials of this deeply religious city took offence to the infamous "Pope" posters plastered all over town. The poster in question, a genuine photograph from 1938, shows the then Pope Pius apparently giving his blessing to two columns of Hitler's Brown Shirts in Nazi salute. Black humour indeed, but in retrospect it was pushing way beyond the limits.
Killing Joke saw out the year in America playing three packed nights at New York's Rock Lounge, and by all accounts the audience just didn't know what hit them. Meanwhile back in November, Island Records were capitalising on Killing Jokeīs success by re-promoting "Turn To Red", which probably accounts for the fact that Island's issue is not particularly rare. Also in November, Malicious Damage issued Red Beat's "Machine In Motion" 12",followed in December by Ski Patrol's excellent "Agent Orange" 7" which may have included an insert. Incidentally, Ski Patrol's line-up for this single featured Ian Lowery on vocals, Nick Clift-guitar, Peter Balmer-bass, and Alan Cole replacing Bruce Archibald on drums.
After a wonderful first year,1981 was something of a black year for Killing Joke beginning mid February when Youth went on a bender after taking a bad tab on LSD. According to reports at the time his "trip" included a visit to his bank where he managed to secure a loan whilst inappropriately wearing a Ronald Reagan t-shirt and boxer shorts. Withdrawing all the money he stepped outside and proceeded to burn the whole lot to the complete astonishment of on-lookers. Next he went to a friend's house to announce he was going on holiday and emerged in the early morning to take a stroll down Kings Road in nothing but a pair of swimming trunks. Not surprisingly he was arrested for his own protection and ended up in mental hospital for a few days. Gigs had to be cancelled and E.G., playing it safe, sent the whole band off to a studio in a remote of Wales where they resumed recording for their second LP. Thankfully Youth made a swift recovery; nevertheless it was said in later years that the event seemed to mark a change in his character from a happy-go-lucky chap to someone who became temperamental and gradually more
depressive. Whether this was true or not it didn't affect the music; the band were on fine form and for an excellent Peel session in April they recorded "Butcher", ,"Tension" and "The Fall Of Because" as a taster for the new LP.
Though some songs had been recorded way back in December it was not until June, after much delay, that the new single was released. "Wardance" had been a constant seller, the first LP had sold 40,000 and "Requiem" had peaked at number 65,so judging by the quality of the double A-side single "Follow The Leaders"/"Tension" it was not without reason that many people believed Killing Joke would have their first big hit. Sadly, it was not to be. There are conflicting reports as to whether the single actually made the Top 40 or not, and it seemed to disappear completely after only a few weeks, so all in all it was a big disappointment.
The new LP What's THIS For...!, featuring both songs off the single, was in similar vein to their first LP but with a crisper sound and with more of an emphasis put on bass and drums it was also a lot louder. Fans should note that unlike the LP the original cassette release includes the lyrics to all the songs with the exception of "The Fall Of Because" (as does the CD). Ski Patrol were also busy around this time with their new single "Cut" and there were plans for a follow-up 12" with four or more tracks on it. Whether it was released or not I don't know, but they had definitely recorded three more songs: "Extinguish", "Concrete Eternal" and "Version", rumoured also to exist is a version of the later Folk Devilsī song "Where The Buffalo Roam". Ski Patrol played a series of dates to promote their single and also supported Killing Joke at a few of their gigs.
Ski Patrol disbanded in August after the guitarist quit and the drummer was kicked out. Ian Lowery decided it was better to have a band of loose musicians. He put out another single in 1982 as Ski Patrol then released records as the Folk Devils.
Killing Joke had in fact been touring extensively throughout the year since becoming an internationally renowned band. By August they were touring America and were due back in the UK to headline the Leeds Futurama Festival on September 27th when disaster struck. Apparently Paul, while fooling around in the dressing room, decided the air was too stuffy for his liking and so
put his fist through a bolted window cutting his hand in the process. A couple of days later he decided to remove the bandages using a flick-knife but slipped and severed some tendons in his wrist. He had to undergo delicate surgery to restore movement to his thumb, the remainder of the tour was cancelled and the band had to pull out of Futurama.
Luckily Paulīs injury healed quickly and by December he was playing as
normal. The New Year came and Killing Joke found themselves in Berlin recording
for their third LP and for the first time they were using a producer- Konrad
Plank. A Peel session was also recorded around this time and featured "Empire
Song", "The Hum", "Chop-Chop" and "We Have Joy". The latter two later
appeared on another excellent quality 7" of dubious origins. It has black and white picture labels and is relatively easy to find, though some copies came with a picture insert stuck on to the sleeve and these are much harder to locate.
Recording of the new LP was finished by February and the band embarked on a mini tour to preview the new material calling at Leicester on the 20th,then Manchester, York and Hammersmith before finishing on the 24th at Brighton. According to a review in Melody Maker the gig at Hammersmith Palais was filmed and this, as far as I am aware, is the only time the original line up were captured on film in concert because the next day, after their Brighton date, Jaz began events which would eventually split the band.
Problems for the remaining trio began a week later when Jaz had still failed to show up even for their first national TV appearance on the BBC's Riverside programme. A mannequin was used in his place and the performance went ahead. The first that was heard from Jaz was when he made two phone calls: one to his mother and one to E.G. He made no attempt to contact Malicious Damage or any of the band members who, determined to go on, had arranged a series of dates for April. By now the whole music press were having a field day playing on Jaz's fascination with the occult and Aleister Crowley (with whom he shared a birthday). The release of "Empire Song" couldn't have predicted Britain's Falkland crisis one week later but still had the gossip columns joking about impending apocalypse. Then it was announced that Jaz had been found in Iceland
and was working with Icelandic group Theyr. He still wasn't talking but a statement was made saying he had no intention of coming back.
Malicious Damage advertised for a new singer and the music press turned the whole saga into a kind of soap opera in weekly installments. Jaz would only talk to E.G. and the NME, much to the annoyance of the others. Killing Joke as a band were fast losing their credibility. The fact that the new LP "Revelations" would get into the top ten would do little to cushion the backlash.
The real bombshell hit in the second week of April, when it was announced
that Geordie too had left for Iceland. Jaz issued a statement saying that
they intended to continue with the name Killing Joke and wanted no further
involvement or communication with their other half. Brian Taylor was
bitter about the whole thing and it was clear in a short NME interview
that he had had enough. To make matters worse Youth and Paul had decided to go
in a new direction forming a group called
Brilliant and were quite adamant there would be no reunion; Youth dismissing Theyr as a group in awe of Killing Joke and would be to Jaz a sort of personal fan club.
Theyr were in fact part of a large group of Icelanders, mainly musicians and free-thinkers, who were trying to build their own community. They were very much into Icelandic legend and their ancient past and amongst other things were experimenting with electro-magnetic waves in the hope of controlling people's minds. This of course was all stuff which would interest Jaz, and
Iceland itself with its natural isolation and its rich cultural heritage and deep rooted traditions left a
big impression. During his stay he embarked on a series of projects including writing a book, opening a club, writing a symphony and of course recording with Theyr. Three songs, "The Catalyst", "Guess Again" and "That Which Is Mine" were recorded as a joint effort but an LP by Theyr called "As Above...", which was released around this time, has no Killing Joke involvement whatsoever.
Back in the UK and with only one week gone since the formation of Brilliant, Paul was beginning to have doubts. Two songs had been recorded which would eventually be released as the first single, but Paul was far from happy with the overall sound, and so he too finally flew off the Iceland taking with him a new bass player called Paul Raven. Anyone interested in Mr. Raven's early work need look no further than the bargain bins for a band called Neon Hearts who released a handful of singles and an LP in the late seventies but the music is just about as awful as are the clothes he is shown wearing.
Brilliant continued on regardless with Youth remaining as the only constant member over the next few years; their peak came in 1985 with the top ten hit "Itīs A Man's Man's Man's World". As for Malicious Damage, the label just seemed to disappear and was all but forgotten after the summer of 1982. The last release was Killing Jokeīs "Chop-Chop" single, which didn't even make the top seventy. It was a sad end for the label and the lack of interest somewhat reflected the band's standing at the time.
Killing Joke did, however, return at the beginning of August for a two month
tour of America and released a new single, "Birds Of A Feather" in September.
It was the first to feature the new line up and was indisputably different. If
anything they had lost the broody menacing feel of their early work and hence a
lot of their character. John Peel was later to say of the new Killing Joke that
they sounded more like the bands which sound like Killing Joke, which I think
sums it up better than anything else. But that's not to say that their music
after Malicious Damage is best forgotten; after
all "Night Time" is their biggest selling LP and anything from around 1984/85 hits an all time high. It's just that, as with Joy Division and New Order, it's best to view the two periods as separate and not to relate one to the other.
To finish with I should mention the bootlegs and reissues associated with the Malicious Damage period. In December 1983, both "Requiem" 12" and "Follow The Leaders" 10" were re-issued to accompany Killing Joke's tour at the time. "Requiem" can be distinguished by its bright shiny sleeve and disproportionately small catalogue number on the back cover, "Follow The Leaders" has an identical sleeve to the original but the label has been shrunk and those "Unauthorised copying..." words added in the usual arc fashion. "Wardance" was also reissued some time in 1982,the re-issues bear a "TOWNHOUSE" stamp in the run-off grooves whereas the originals have the inscription "The Beast". Most E.G. singles have either injection-moulded labels or paper labels but not both, the only exception being "Empire Song" where the first batch were pressed in Germany with paper labels.
There are several other bootlegs as well as those mentioned elsewhere. The best is an LP called "The Bumīs Rush" which appeared in the shops in early 1983 and was withdrawn almost immediately following a high court injunction. Taken from master tapes it includes Killing Joke's second Peel session and an early session for Capital Radio featuring a truly brilliant version of
"Are You Receiving", the LP also includes takes of "Psyche", "The Wait" and a different lyrical version of "Follow The Leaders". Collectors, please note that the front cover should show a still from an early slapstick comedy but the LP has been pirated and can be more commonly found with a picture of Jaz in its place. In a similar way, "The Original Killing Joke Live In London 26-7-81" came and went from the shop shelves to the record marts in 1983. The sound quality is very good for a live LP and if you can believe the sleeve it seems to have originated from West Germany. "Live At The Odeon" offers nothing special except that it was recorded in Italy (I think), and "The Joke's On You" should be avoided at all costs; the sound quality is quite appalling despite using Peel sessions. Finally, well worth tracking down is a limited edition cassette (2000 copies) called "The Unperverted Pantomime", which features the 1982 Peel session and a very early live recording from 1979. The live tracks are "Psyche", "Nervous System", "Animal", "Change", "Nuclear Boy", "Turn To Red", "Malicious Boogie", "Wardance", "Are You Receiving", "You're Being Followed" and "Bodies" and capture Killing Joke in something of a party mood!
If you haven't heard Killing Joke's early work, then you're best advised to go out and buy What's THIS For...! at once, but don't expect to hear anything like "Love Like Blood". As for collectability, now is probably the best time to buy since their early records can still be found for reasonable prices and are sure to rise in value provided Killing Joke can pull themselves out of their present rut. A Peel session LP would almost certainly revive interest but apparently Strange Fruit approached them some time ago for permission to release a 12" and it was blocked. We can only hope for a change of mind one day.