((From Sonic Seducer, September 2008. Special thanks to Karsten Roekens for the translation.)
Killing Joke: Looking Back
by Kym Gnuch
What does Killing Joke stand for? Many things: Post-Punk, Gothic Punk, New Wave, hard guitar sounds; for rawness, autonomy, aplomb, for being epoch-spanning legends. And what's more, since their self-titled 2003 album the men around singer Jaz Coleman have come closer to their original sound aesthetics than in all the years between 1984 and 2002! As they obviously return to their origins it is perhaps not too surprising that Killing Joke will celebrate some concerts of a very special kind this autumn: gigs which are dedicated exclusively to retrospect. They want to make the songs of their starting years shine again live - reminisce a bit about their career, before they will return to the present in 2009 with a brand new studio album and further live activities. A conversation with singer and mastermind Jaz Coleman.
What selection of songs we may look forward to? Jaz informs us: "We will play all the songs from the first and second album, the majority from the third one, plus the majority from 'Pandemonium' from 1994. This means we will present plenty of songs which we have never played live before!"
Lately Killing Joke occasionally look back into their past, as evidenced by 'Inside Extremities: Mixes, Rehearsals And Live' or 'Bootleg Vinyl Archive I and II'. May we presume they are longing to return a bit?
Jaz remains surprisingly reluctant: "This is no melancholic travelling back in time for us. We are just searching for our origins. We just want to learn from ourselves; it is in fact some kind of learning process. Because what we were then and what we are now is one and the same, that's why I don't talk in past tense! Past tense for me is the time before I was born!"
Interesting. A downright radical conception. But some fans separate the history of Killing Joke into four phases: the early phase 1979 till 1983, followed by the moderate 'Night Time'-phase of the middle 80's; with 'Pandemonium' in 1994 began the metal-inspired era which found its climax and end with 'Democracy' - and since 2003 the era of the return to their roots. What will mastermind Jaz say to this listing?
As expected, Jaz rejects the meticulous analyst's thesis: "I never cared for such kinds of summaries; that's a matter for historians. Even so, it's nice to be compiled like that! But we never had any strategies or plans to predefine our work. Because one thing never changed: whenever we come together we have no idea how our music will turn out eventually. We meet up and play together until we develop a basic pattern, a basic idea that thrills us, that we will follow through. Periods and phases - we don't think in those categories! It's only spontaneity that counts for us. That's how it was even in the very earliest days. We wrote the majority of our second album when we were already in the studio! We just felt too much urge to waste time in rehearsal!"
The luminary bursts out laughing - of course we assume Jaz exaggerates a bit. But the said approach - to let rip in the recording studio - was renewed by Killing Joke with their 2006 album 'Hosannahs From The Basement Of Hell'…
"Exactly! We sat in this tiny basement with an 8-track and had not one completed song. We just enjoyed it to let the album sound as raw and cheap as possible!" Jaz roars with laughter. It's only lunchtime. But he sounds as one imagines a real rock star: cheerful and loud.
For the first time since countless years the original line-up of Killing Joke will play this autumn. A simple question occurs: do they still like each other? Or will all the old repressed resentments rise again?
Jaz replies: "I just can speak for myself in this matter now. I don't feel any sympathies - but real love! I want to leave it like that. We were all reunited at Paul Raven's funeral for the first time since 1982. And we felt we had to continue!" Paul Raven, who replaced Youth as a bassist in 1982 and was temporarily involved with Ministry, died in late 2007. Does Jaz want to comment on this extraordinary personality? Jaz answers with unusual gravity: "For me it was as great a loss as that of my father! He was the youngest of us, and I still can't get my head around it that he passed away. The world has become a darker place since then. He had the phenomenal gift of making everybody laugh all the time. I just can say I am grateful for the time I have spent with him. I believe we will meet again! And when we play as Killing Joke again soon, he will be with us!"