(From the Vancouver Province, Canadian daily, 11 November 2003.)
And hardly anybody gets the Joke: Highly influential group still playing after 25 years
by Stuart Derdeyn
Name the aggro artpunk unit that
Metallica covers, Nirvana ripped off and Nine Inch Nails cites as a major
influence. The group whose growling maniac of a lead singer is
composer-in-residence of a New Zealand symphony whose works have been recorded
by such luminaries as Nigel Kennedy and Sarah Brightman. The band credited by
many with launching the industrial/ dance sound with its debut single, "Wardance,"
way back in 1978.
If you didn't guess Killing Joke, you're not alone.
Twenty-five years into its career, the group is still working on the whole respect-and-recognition thing. Jaz Coleman likes it that way. The Anglo-Indian frontman doesn't mind a new generation of fans discovering his music via the furious new Killing Joke CD.
"It's wonderful to be taking one of our most explosive albums ever on the road, surrounded by my longtime friends," says Coleman. "But the majority of the audience were hardly even sperms or eggs when the first album came out.
"There's a lot of happiness about that, coupled with extreme exhaustion because we're, quite honestly, somewhat more mature."
Most bands specializing in anger and powerchords mellow with age. On Killing Joke, Coleman, guitarists Geordie and Youth, bassist Raven and guest drummer Dave Grohl -- former Swans/Prong skin-basher Ted Parsons is behind the kit on tour -- tear through 10 raging new tunes that easily out-heavy and out-angst most younger contemporaries.
"Before I ever started Killing Joke, I had three conceptions of what I thought any band of mine would sound like," says Coleman. "We got together, it wound up sounding altogether different. But the music indeed always matched our level of extreme frustration and anger."
At many times in its on-again/off-again history (the group never officially disbanded), the frustration and anger extended far outside the musical realm.
In the mid-'80s, Coleman and Youth left England for Iceland, rumoured to be fleeing the apocalypse. Today, Coleman says that the press confused things. It was an extreme dislike for England that lead to his leaving. He revoked his U.K. citizenship years ago and travels under a New Zealand passport now.
In the '90s, Killing Joke nearly launched a lawsuit against Nirvana over the identical intro in Kurt Cobain's "Come As You Are" and Killing Joke's '80s dancefloor hit "Eighties." Was Grohl mending fences?
"I guess it was a bit ironic, a bit like community service," says Coleman. "But really it was the guitarist that ripped us off, not the drummer."
All riffs under the wreckage as Killing Joke enters its fourth decade with three of the quartet's members relocating to Prague. That's where Coleman has a four-year contract with the Prague Symphony as conductor/composer. Coleman insists that the two worlds he's involved in rarely meet.
A BBC-initiated project to orchestrate Killing Joke's music may change all that.
Where: Richard's on Richards
When: Tonight at 8
Tickets: $18.50 at Ticketmaster