(From Zillo magazine, published in Luebeck, Germany, March 1991. Special thanks to Karsten Roekens for providing the article and English translation.)
Killing Joke: Not Life-Long Blood Brothers
"The first thing I said when I arrived in London and Jaz and Geordie asked me if I had listened to Outside The Gate was: 'No, I listened to the first three songs and threw the CD out of the window. It's crap!' They were shocked", remembers Martin Atkins, the new Killing Joke drummer, when he joined two-and-a-half years ago.
"After a few months Geordie admitted that to himself and me. But it took Jaz two years until he admitted that the record had nothing to do with Killing Joke. But he still thinks it's an inspired album."
Outside The Gate, released and flopped in 1988, is the big sore point
in the history of the band founded in 1979 as one of the last outcomings of
Punk, whose unrestrained energies soon led them down their own paths and which
became one of the leading post-Punk bands thanks to Geordie Walker's
unmistakable guitar work and Jaz Coleman's manic singing. Their greatest
success was 1985's "Love Like Blood" single, which gained them some reputation but also set them under enormous pressure to succeed.
Brighter Than A Thousand Suns, the follow-up LP, was a lot smoother
and commercial than its predecessor Night Time and left a stale
aftertaste with their audience. As a result, the band members wanted out
to do something else. Outside The Gate wasn't originally planned as
a band project.
Martin: "Originally it was intended to be a Jaz Coleman solo album. Being a classically trained musician, Jaz wanted to do something different from Killing Joke. But the recordings used up so much money that the record company said the only way to recover the costs would be to release it under the name of Killing Joke. To destroy the career of Killing Joke is what in effect they did, and it's just ... those people are the scum of the earth."
This frustrating story led to the departure of Paul Ferguson (drums) and Paul
Raven (bass), who lost
interest. Jaz carried on with Geordie, who took part as a kind of guest musician in the recording of Outside The Gate, Coleman's solo album.
"When I came back to England", Martin remembers, "their songs had developed even further than on Outside, very, very complicated and ornamental, crap, just terrible. I think Jaz and Geordie were surrounded by people who gave them bad advice and just swallowed everything they did. But now there are some people again who say 'just a moment, this is crap'."
How did Martin, who was the drummer of PIL from 1979-84, come to join Killing Joke?
"I met Jaz and Geordie in 1979,when I worked on Jah Wobble's first solo
album. We were doing the final mix, and they were the next in the studio. We
didn't see each other too often after that, but we always knew vaguely what each
other was doing. When they needed a drummer, they got hold of my phone number
through a mutual friend in London and called me up. Perhaps it sounds
stupid now, but it was something that was meant to happen."
Anyway, the band's chemistry is right again, as evidenced by the new album
Extremities, Dirt And Various Repressed Emotions, which is admittedly rather
special: "There's constant friction in Killing Joke. We certainly
aren't 'best friends'. We do it together because of the music, and not because
we like to hang around with each other. We get along, but we aren't life-long
blood brothers," Martin characterizes the relationships. "Theoretically each
show on this tour could be the
last, and we came near it a few times already. If it's no fun anymore we all have different things to do, I could make a lot more money somewhere else... a few months ago, I was asked to join Blondie. I would never do that, but each one of us has something which could draw him out
of Killing Joke."
For instance, Martin has a project called Pigface. Bill Rieflin and Chris
Connelly from Revolting Cocks, Ogre from Skinny Puppy, David Yow from Scratch
Acid and Jesus Lizard and producer Steve Albini are part of it, and he runs the
Invisible label together with his wife. Then there's his own merchandising
company and the new Ministry album, which he'll record after the "Extremities"
Paul Raven, who rejoined two days before the recording of "Extremities"
started (Martin: "We're still becoming acquainted with each other"), will take
part in the Pigface US tour; Geordie is producing (Brain Damage from Italy,
among others) as is Jaz (Loud and Nitzer Ebb), who recently recorded the album
Songs From The Victorious City with Anne Dudley from Art Of Noise, an
album on which both of them fulfill their preferences of Arabic music and on
which Coleman, who studied
classical music, plays violin and flute.
"It had a very positive influence on the Extremities album", Martin says. "Jaz could approach Killing Joke after satisfying his classical, romantic ambitions and make a real ugly noise, instead of putting it all into Killing Joke like on Outside The Gate."
Another work of the "different" Jaz Coleman ("I hardly ever listen to rock
music, I can't find anything I like"), whose favourite piece of music among
others is the third movement, the adaggio, of Beethoven's ninth symphony
("That's God working through Man"), is the orchestral cycle "Idavoll".
The composer: "I completed "Idavoll" two-and-a-half months ago; the first sketches are from 1982. When I was in England for a few hours ten days ago, I received a letter from the conductor of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra: This is a great piece of work, we want to record it together with you and go on tour with it, we'll pay all expenses...'- I just cried. Not because of the money but because of the emotions. It's my legacy. After all those years with Killing Joke I want to leave
a dream of something pure and complete to the world."
Idavoll is a term from Nordic mythology, a sacred place of enlightenment which will survive the destruction of the world by fire. The mystical-mythological touch of Coleman's lyrics in the past stays rather in the background on the new Killing Joke album, doesn't it?
Jaz: "Yes, that's true. For ten years, I was occupied with occult philosophies and ideas without thinking much about morals. I thought anything goes. But not anymore. With the band we went through three hard and difficult years and, as a result, the album came out much more down-to-earth, or existentialistic if you like."
"I think Extremities is in many aspects a compromise, an intermediate stage. The next album - if we stay together until then - will let Extremities sound like a Depeche Mode record. But anyway, it had the effect that people dug out their Killing Joke shirts from the bottom of their cupboards or from under the bed, and they can wear them with pride again instead of being ashamed," says Martin. Wow, what a final word.