(From Wahrschauer, a German-language magazine from Berlin, March 1991. Special thanks to Karsten Roekens for providing the article and English translation.)
KILLING JOKE - HATE HATE HATE HATE
(Interview done following a gig in Loft, Berlin 21 January 1991)
After a creative break of two years, Killing Joke have a successful comeback LP, Extremities, Dirt And Various Repressed Emotions, released in November.
The once-thought-dead band, which drifted off into poppy-synthetic regions with their last two records (and nearly crashed totally), scream out all their accumulated anger and hate of recent years. They return to their old strengths again: the unmistakable confirmative vocals and the monotone, tense wall of sound which made them a cult band at the beginning of the Eighties.
Killing Joke started in 1978 with Paul Ferguson (d) and Jaz Coleman (v) in the precursory Matt Stagger Band. A year later, Geordie (g) and Youth (b) joined and the 10 inch EP "Are You Receiving" was produced on their own "Malicious Damage" label. Influenced by both the ebbing away Punk movement and the upcoming New Wave, they struck the nerve of the times and sculpted their sound for the eighties. So they opposed the No Future atmosphere with concentrated power - AGGRESSION NOT REPRESSION!! - and branded social and political defects in Great Britain relentlessly.
Paul (´80): "The way we play is the way we live."
The brilliant debut album Bloodsport (sic) was released, from which the single "Wardance" was lifted.
The appearance as a close-knit unit improved their own unique sound. They composed, recorded and produced together (which made them extremely flexible and independent). They came together at the right time and often recorded an album live in two or three days.
Youth (´80): "Today we feel totally uninspired; tomorrow could be different."
In 1982 Paul Raven replaced Youth in the band who, based on the success of Bloodsport (sic), had changed to the EG/Virgin label, on which in the same year their second album, What's This For...! was released. Three further records followed, and with hymns like "Follow the leaders", "Empire Song" and "Eighties" they reached absolute cult status.
Their music reflected the Eighties and the expression of a generation. With the album Night Time and the hit single "Love Like Blood" they reached the commercial and popular peak of their career.
But with this success started a phase which lasted six years and nearly broke Killing Joke: demanding more hits, EG/Virgin put pressure on them and forced their own producer on them, taking away the freedom they needed. So Brighter Than A Thousand Suns reached the shops, an already atypical and "soft" album which audibly announced the band´s demise.
Reaching their nadir in 1988 "Killing Joke" released Outside The Gate, despite being more or less a Jaz Coleman solo record (Ferguson and Raven had left the band already).
Jaz: "I wanted to do something different. The record company said Geordie and me had overdrawn the budget, so Outside became the new Killing Joke album, although it had nothing to do with Killing Joke. There wasn't even a band - just Geordie and me."
The band reached its end. After inevitably departing from Virgin, a forced two-year pause followed, and Jaz nearly fell victim to madness.
Jaz: "I was under psychiatric treatment. I really cracked up. I wanted to kill somebody."
In 1990 they reformed with ex-PiL drummer Martin Atkins on board. They produced (themselves and live!) their 65 minute double LP in August for AGR within three days.
This LP reflects the band's history. Back to their roots ... but better!!
It started after a pause of 90 minutes and an unknown Italian hardcore band- "Loud", the original support band, dropped out unexpectedly. The initial song "Money Is Not Our God" moved the enthusiastic, pogoing crowd instantly. Bigmouth Jaz wriggled across the stage electrified, accompanied by manically hammering instruments loud beyond the pain threshold.
This gig shows what an improvement the ex-PiL drummer is for the Joke. Maniacally and unbelievably precise, Martin Atkins hammered on, making "Intravenous" into a real obsession and in my opinion the high-point of this concert. There was a good rotation of old and new songs (as promised, no songs from the last two records were played!!!).
So the gig was a thrilling row. At the end, "Money..." was played again. A very credible statement from this band. (PS: I’ve rarely had such a terrible buzz in my ears despite earplugs!!)
THE INTERVIEW (note: with Paul Raven):
W: For a start: what was the reason for changing from Virgin to AGR?
R: Virgin fired us because we owed them so much money. Me and Paul left the band so as a result, there wasn't a band anymore. And nobody except AGR wanted to sign us. So we signed with them. All record companies are totally crap. It doesn't matter if it's a big one or a small one. Do you want a beer?
R: If your company works for you it's OK; if not, then it isn't. Night Time was such a hit and we made so much money that we were under enormous pressure, and they wanted us to be more commercial which caused a lot of problems within the band. I think we should hire a bunch of skinheads to beat the shit out of these AGR people. Karl Weitenberg is just a stupid asshole,but Ulla is alright. I hate it when people always say "yes, yes" to everything you say and as soon as you leave the room they stab you in the back.
W: Did they do this to you?
R: Yes, constantly. I run a record label myself and I really try not to be that way because I know what it's like to be ripped off. I also have my own band called "Hellfire Club". I know what this business is like. They ought to sell Bratwurst.
W: The last two records were rather lame?
R: Yes, that's right. We’d been together ten years at that time and it's difficult to know at what point you have to change. I believe in the band the way it started! We compromised too much. We never played material from these two records at gigs. At that time, everybody minded his own business and in the end they mixed out my bass and the drums. We recorded the new album in three days. We are very proud of the record!
W: Do you spend much time together in your private lives?
R: No. Martin lives in Chicago, Geordie lives in Detroit, Jaz lives in New Zealand and I live in Amsterdam. We meet if we want to do a record, and often Jaz has already prepared everything and we just have to play it.
W: Why did you leave England?
R: Because England is a total mess. Somebody just has to grab a teacup and go out on the street and clap with a spoon against it, and everybody would run after him and do the same.
W: What are your political opinions?
R: Basically I'm a socialist, I think. But sometimes I'm so fed up with democracy that I wish there was a dictatorship.
W: What music do you listen to?
R: Motown and soul music to relax, but I also listen to other stuff.
W: Did you have trouble with your parents because of your music?
K: No. My parents are all right. My mother was 15 when I was born so she is still pretty young. My father is a writer and showed great understanding of me. Sometimes they came to our gigs.
R: Yes. Well, they don't do stagediving, but they have fun.
W: You once lived in Berlin.
R: Yes, that's right, I even have a child here. I lived in the Bluecherstrasse and had a lot of fun. But I never really liked Berlin.