(From the daily USA newspaper Minneapolis Star Tribune, 26 November 1994)
Killing Joke unites for a (dysfunctional) family affair
By Michael Mehle
Killing Joke once cornered the market on a frenzied mix of hypnotic techno-beats, chunky guitar riffs and angry battle cries as ready made for dance tracks as they were for a murder spree.
In the past 15 years, however, the Killing Joke sound has grown like thistles across the musical landscape, and several of the band's disciples have blown by their mentor on the way to greener pastures.
Nine Inch Nails, Faith No More, Soundgarden and Metallica all tipped their hats to Killing Joke on their way up the Billboard charts.
In the meantime, the British trio's own style began tumbling toward the mundane just as the genre was gaining a toehold.
As 1994 winds down, the band is out to reclaim some of the lost ground it homesteaded.
The original lineup is intact for the first time since 1981 [sic], with bassist-producer Youth back in the fold. The latest release, "Pandemonium," is filled with the same fierce instrumentation, off-the-wall guitar parts and techno-rhythms that prompted a flock of imitators.
"It was really strange being in the studio again with the old mates," said guitarist Geordie Walker, whose band will perform Saturday at First Avenue in Minneapolis. "It was like being kids again, just 10 years wiser."
It's still the ego tug-of-war between Walker, singer Jaz Coleman and Youth, who has spent the past decade producing recordings for everyone from Crowded House to Paul McCartney to Tom Jones.
"It's a perfect situation. Killing Joke is such a family spirit," Youth said in a telephone interview.
Tales of tumult between the neo-hippie tendencies of Youth, the Middle Eastern influences of Coleman and the heavy-metal hankerings of Walker have been Killing Joke's constant.
It must be the spirit of a dysfunctional family that Youth finds so, well, perfect.
"What family do you know that isn't like that?" Youth asked. "We're secure that we can be ourselves with one another. We're not the most easy people to be around. None of us ever compromises. You have to struggle to find the resolve. That's the beauty of it. There's always resolve."
Those differences push and shove on Killing Joke's discs, one of the few spots to find the snake-charming melodies of the Middle East layered over the growl of distorted guitar and the thumping beat of European disco.
The members' varying philosophies extend to how each views bands that have borrowed from the Killing Joke sound.
Walker bristles and admonishes a few guitar players for ripping off his licks. Most recently, he fingered J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. for borrowing bits from Killing Joke's fourth album on the single "Feel the Pain."
"He only changed the last note," Walker contends. "It's from one of my least favorite songs, but there's only one cool bit, and he's all over it."
The philosophical Youth offers a different viewpoint: "It's a great validation of our work. You're trying to move people, and if you move them to the point where they rip you off, you're doing something right."