(From Metal Maniacs, US magazine, February 1985)
Killing Joke Has The Last Laugh
by Marina Zogbi
"We did a proper record at last," chuckles Killing Joke guitarist Geordie, regarding the legendary Brits' latest work, Pandemonium. That's putting it mildly, says this writer, fully and happily enamoured with the disc. To be sure, '81 's What's This For contained several wonderful tunes, like "Follow The Leaders" and "Butcher," and '85's Night Time, a comparatively slick effort, did give us the classic "Eighties" and the lovely "Love Like Blood." The band's generally known and cherished, however, for individual songs. (Aside from the aforementioned, there were early hits "Pssyche" and "Wardance," not to mention "The Wait," covered by Metallica on Garage Days Re-revisited. The Joke's equally known for its far-reaching influence on innumerable bands and whole genres. Who else was playing tribal/industrial/dance/metal in the early '80s?)
After a couple of somewhat uneven efforts late last decade, came 1990's Extremities, Dirt, & Various Repressed Emotions, a hard, harsh, unrelenting angst-fest, rather black and white in its scope. Pandemonium, in comparison, fairly explodes in glorious technicolor, each cut an epic of sorts. From the sweeping, heavily textured title track to the grand, middle Eastern-flavored yet guitar-heavy first single "Millennium" to the driving, industrial purge of "Exorcism;" with lyrics full of supernatural imagery and forceful pronouncements, it's obvious Killing Joke are inspired anew. It's no coincidence that Pandemonium features the playing and production of the Joke's original bassist, Youth. In fact, this marks the first time he, Geordie and the infamously, um, emotional vocalist Jaz Coleman have played together since 1982. A notoriously volatile lot, renowned for not getting along with each other, it seems they needed that special tension to make sparks fly once more. "It was scary!," says Geordie about the first time the trio worked together again. "Like a time warp; ten years the wiser, but we were like kids again, ideas bouncing off the walls, squabbles and stuff ... most of the squabbles between Youth and Jaz over the lyrics. I had a rest this time! The fun part was just letting rip in the studio for the first time in ten years." The British press especially has always played up the explosive aspects of the band's personalities. An exaggeration? "I think we kind of get used to it and know how far we're pushing each other," muses Geordie, "but I think to a young journalist who comes in and observes it, it must be quite terrifying ... We've done some awful things to people, but I think they deserved it. People always remember the bad things."
The past several albums have featured Paul Raven (now of Prong, a band who've never denied their debt to KJ) on bass, and Martin Atkins, a Ministry, Pigface, et al alumnus on drums. The past decade has seen Youth become an in demand super-producer, steering the wheel for such acts as Crowded House and Paul McCartney (!), and remixing stuff for, oh, the Cult, Faith No More, INXS, PM Dawn, U2, plus major techno acts like the Orb and the Shamen. All very impressive, but something was evidently missing in the busy boy's life. Geordie recalls running into him when KJ was recording Extremities in the same studio Youth was producing Bananarama in. The two later wound up sort of working together on compiling 1992's Laugh? I Nearly Bought One, the Killing Joke 'greatest hits' LP. It was then that Youth casually said, "Yeah, man, we should re-form, it would be great," remembers Geordie. "I thought he was joking, completely joking!" Ha ha, not at all. "Within a month," the Joke was back - after it was assumed they'd packed it in for good after Laugh? - and in its almost original form. Actually, old drummer "Big Paul" Ferguson did not play on Pandemonium. "There were three drummers on there," says Geordie. " A guy called Tom 'Sweathog' from a band called Shihad in New Zealand [Jaz's home, where all backing tracks were recorded], a guy called Larry [De Zoete] who just said he wanted to do it and flew himself over from Australia - 'Alright, you're in!' We did all the tracks with them and when we got back to London, maybe five tracks we replaced with a guy called Geoff Dugmore, who's been doing all the live stuff with us since."
The band have toyed with middle Eastern musical themes in the past, but the new album has bonafide Arabic vibes. After most of it was recorded. Jaz and Youth flew over to Cairo, Egypt to add some "spice." They wound up bribing their way into the Great Pyramid to record the vocals to "Exorcism" (which sound possessed indeed) and recording some local musicians for "some of the more flutey, esoteric stuff," according to Geordie. "The main violinist, Aboud Abdel Al, is actually based in London, and some of the percussion was done there too."
This past spring, the band did a short English tour, capped off by an astounding show at the London Astoria, an "extravaganza," according to Geordie, featuring "fire eaters, dancers; the thing went on until about 4 in the morning." Also joining the band onstage were Maori warriors who'd been flown in from New Zealand for the occasion. "Yep, we had it all blessed by a Maori tribe beforehand," acknowledges Geordie, explaining, "It's something we relate to very much, it's a pagan thing and it's untapped. We relate to the pagan side of things ... say no more!,", he laughs mysteriously (or maybe just cautiously. The band has both boasted and been accused of placing curses on various poor fools who dared cross them in the past.) And speaking of pagan, there's an awful lot of wild-looking stuff going on in the "Millennium" video, including a party I wish I'd been invited to, and two Maori fellows doing some amazing moves. "They look great, don't they?," says Geordie. Unlike anything else, really. That ritualistic thing they're doing dates from "when strangers came to the shore or strangers from different tribes met." Rather than giving in to superstition and attacking each other, "They ritualized it, faced off and made a dance out of it, all the tension was taken out, and then they could discuss things with each other."
At press time, Killing Joke planned to hit the States around mid-October, unfortunately sand fire eaters and Maori, but "We're going to bring a techno light show, the lights are going to be ridiculous," promises Geordie. "I don't know if you went to see any of the techno bands like the Aphex Twin when they came over here. Because it's one guy on stage playing tapes and freaking out, the light show has to be wild, these full-on revolving things. We're bringing that."
While Youth is a respected producer and Jaz has composed music for the London and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras, Geordie's guitar skills have also been in demand. When Jim Martin parted with Faith No More (big time KJ fans) earlier this year, Geordie was one of the first guitarists they approached to play on their forthcoming album. "It was minus 40 in Detroit (Geordie's current home) and they said 'Come out, we'll pay for your ticket.' So I went over and spent the weekend with them. I started playing stuff, which I got the impression the singer [Mike Patton] liked, but the rest of the band already had their stuff written ..." Alas, it was not meant to be. "I don't know where their heads were at, but I had to go do Killing Joke, so it was 'There you go, guys, nice meeting you.'" Just as well, probably; it's hard enough being involved in one eccentric band. "Well, I'm going to be checking their record 'cos I wrote some nice little guitar things for them; I'll check if they're threre," Geordie chortles. Uh oh.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all, but when Killing Joker heard the exact same guitar riff from "Eighties" employed in Nirvana's "Come As You Are," they sued. When asked what ever came out of that lawsuit, Geordie answers with uproarious laughter. No, really, what happened?, this idiotic journalist presses. "He's dead, isn't he?," Geordie whoops. Oh, ha I get it ... say no more.