(From the Toronto Star, 21 April 1989.)
Killer Quartet's Anniversary Tour No Joke
by Craig MacInnis
As usual, Killing
Joke isn't joking.
The wizened deans of Britain's post-punk movement - their charter was struck when the term "post punk" actually meant something - are on the loose in North America for the first time in years.
Without a new album or even an identifiable game plan to follow, the revamped quartet has decided to tour for - dig this - sentimental reasons.
"It's Killing Joke's 10th anniversary," drummer Martin Atkins roars down the line from Minnesota, a pit stop prior to the band's show Tuesday at RPM.
"Frightening, isn't it? Basically, what's happening is we're destroying the equipment every night, hands are bleeding and we're going back to what Killing Joke was in the very beginning."
That would be an explosive, anarchic, quasi-mystical force in modern music. Or, as lead singer Jaz Coleman was fond of saying in the early days, Joke was a band that tried to approximate the sound of "nature throwing up."
Atkins, who drummed for Public Image Ltd. from 1979 to 1984, feels that most of the great groups from England's punk fallout eventually lost their bite. Killing Joke did. So did PiL, led by irascible frontman and punk grandfather John Lydon.
"What happened with PiL was that after a few years it became a bloody cabaret," says Atkins. "It was just something that neither of us intended, but John has just decided to go along with it, on the embarrassing advice of money-hungry managers and agents."
Atkins, who has made his home in New Jersey for the past 2 1/2 years, says he recently caught the new-look PiL at a show in New York.
"It was bloody awful. I mean, they were halfway through (classic PiL songs) that I had played on, and I didn't even recognize them.
"I'm suing John. He owes me a lot of money, basically. As far as I'm concerned, I own a part of PiL."
For now, though, Atkins is happy to revel in the nightly pleasures of keeping time for a band that he says has "re-discovered its purpose." Ignoring recent material, Joke is delving into its past with renditions of "Requiem," "Change," "Kings And Queens" and "War Dance," to name a few.
The band finally seems settled on a permanent lineup, which includes Jaz, longtime guitarist Geordie and new bassist Taif, who replaces Andy Rourke.
To say that Rourke and Atkins didn't get along is a bit of an understatement. The group's biography even includes a slag on the former Smiths bassist and Atkins describes him over the phone as "a complete idiot and wimp."
This is good, inasmuch as it confirms that Killing Joke is still a hard-nosed, outspoken, colicky bunch - equal parts mischief and pain.
"The gigs have been amazing," he says. "We played Los Angeles last week and you couldn't park within three miles of the venue.
"Warner Bros. wanted to come and see us but they couldn't find a parking spot. It's hilarious. All these labels are coming to check us out and we keep forgetting to put 'em on the guest list.
"We don't really care, y'know. It's just a lot of fun being back on the road."