(From Zigzag, UK music magazine, August 1984.)
The Youth of Today
Tom Lipsa revels in Killing Joke post-mortem and the murderous soul of Brilliant.
Brilliant - a band lazy reviewers love to review, either agreeing or disagreeing with the name.
Having raised itself from the Batcave one wonders just how popular they could be, their success surely helped by the 'Soul Murder' single which, like their other material, is obviously centered around the thick and throbbing bass of Youth. With that as its core they are making some of the most innovative dance music today, so that the Brits need no longer hang their heads in shame copared to the electro-funk of New York. I could go even further out on a limb and and say 'Soul Murder' is more exciting than anything Arthur Baker could manufacture in his studio. I think that constitutes a recommendation doesn't it?
Weren't we talking about success? Well, Brilliant have just signed to Warner Brothers for their debut LP which brings with it the ever popular "Eno may be producing" rumours. They may just knock some life into the charts.
While there are other permanent members present (June Lawrence, John Chester and Stepham Hocweck), along with a flowing membership of many others, Youth is the centre of attention.
Ah but Youth! Memories of him staring blankly at his bass in a drug filled haze during a Killing Joke concert. Oh yes, Killing Joke - 'he used to be their bass player'. Having had the 'pleasure' of talking with the Joke a few weeks previously I had no desire to relive that verbal assault but what a wrong impression I had. Youth and Killing Joke are polar opposites. While one is fun and enjoyable the other is boring and ignorant. While one is making music that moves in a positive direction, the other is floundering in repetition, only worse this time around. Looking at what Killing Joke has become in their post-Youth days you can't help but think Youth was the only creative force in the band. And contrary to what good old Jaz Coleman said in the pages of Zigzag recently Youth did write bass lines in Killing Joke and a whole lot more besides.
Listening to Youth's music it should come as no surprise that he has a love of dub/reggae and there is talk of having the Mad Professor mix some Brilliant tracks. Youth, who finds more of a common bond with Marcus Miller (Miles Davis' bassist) than other such renegades as Jah Wobble, is also hopeful he will be able to work with that dub innovator Adrian Sherwood. Wouldn't that be a marriage made in heaven?
We meet at Youth's house, an interesting place ... so to speak, and jump straight into talk of Killing Joke with Youth displaying a tone of sadness in his voice as he says, "It was a grim split. People change. Jaz and Geordie decided to become very mystical. The whole idea of the band changed. For a while after the split there was this big bitch thing going on with Jaz but not writing bass lines is a new one on me. All I can say is that most of the music was based on bass lines. Me and Geordie wrote all the music and Jaz just wrote the lyrics and came down and sang and Paul would play drums. Geordie would write some bass line and I would write some guitar lines. We would swap and it worked well."
When did you start losing interest in the grand scheme of Killing Joke?
"Right about the time of 'Revelations'. I stopped being interested. I just basically followed the guitar lines. It all started sounding very samey to me."
So that was the beginning of Brilliant?
"Well after they decided to split the band, me and Paul decided to form Brilliant. And they they decide to reform the band after the record company told them they wouldn't financially support them unless it was the original band so Paul went back and the record company spent two months trying to buy me back with a lot of money but I wouldn't work with Jaz again."
After this I'd assumed the first Brilliant single, "What Are Good Friends For?", was about the split, as it revealed an intensity and personal side never displayed in Killing Joke.
"No, it wasn't about the split. I actually didn't write the lyrics for that one. Marcus, our old singer, did. I think that was more political than anything else. I write most of our lyrics though. I wrote some Killing Joke lyrics as well. I bet Jaz didn't tell you that."
No. He didn't.
Had Youth ever enjoyed being in Killing Joke?
"Oh God yes. I had a great time. It was only the last year that was terrible but that's the sort of standard thing that happens when egos start taking over. But before that it was just good fun. We couldn't seriously believe we were becoming popular (giggle). Mind you on the scale of things we weren't that popular (giggle). I was only in there for three years and that was enough for me (giggle)."
Do you still listen to that stuff?
"No, I got bored with it anyways. After three years of playing that stuff the band wasn't moving anywhere. It ended up sounding like Killing Joke trying to sound like Killing Joke."
And their new stuff?
"God, blimey, wow." (Nurse, he's out of bed again! ... Ed.) It speaks for itself, I would have thought. They're basically very much in debt and very much trying to get a hit single. They're very embarrassed by the following they used to get. They wanted to be taken seriously and all they would get was all these punks with Killing Joke written on the back of their jackets. It used to really bug them. So when I left they wanted to et away from that and they are lumbered with that now. They realise they can't shrug it off and they're going to just start making music for that strata in the commercial vein."
"The first single sold about 6,000 and then we were broke and had to remix the Peel session and release 'Colours' which sold about 12,000 so that's okay for no promotion or press."
Killing Joke sales.
"Killing Joke was never as big as everyone thought but they're in quite a good position because the record company has put so much into them already that they have to try and get their investment back. Everything EG does is a success except Killing Joke and they don't like it. It's a blemish on their books but they're not too happy with me either 'cos I'm not making them a lot of money either. 'Me And You' had a lot of promotion, massive promotion and didn't sell at all."
The song "Follow The Leaders"
"I wrote the bass and the guitar on that one. I rewrote his lyrics for that. If you'd seen the original lyrics for that they were awful. THat was our biggest success. If it was pushed it could have been very successful, got to number 23 I think. The dub version of that is the best thing we ever done."
Killing Joke's new bass player, Raven?
"I introduced him to the group because when I left I said 'Even though you don't like me anymore you need a bass player!' They don't have any friends. They never made any because they're so cynical to everyone."
Success in Killing Joke.
"I'm not boasting or anything but Jaz used to get really jealous because I would get my picture in the paper and he wouldn't. He would do it in a way to take the piss out of the way I dress. He'd go, 'That's just posing. I dont' have to do that!' He used to get really upset by that. People used to think I was the singer."
The infamous journalist-baiting.
"Jaz would start it and Geordie would usually join in and then Paul. You see if you're surrounded by them all the time it sort of gets to you after a while. You start to treat people like dirt. That's the major reason I left. I couldn't tolerate them anymore. I was embarrassed being with them. They're just kids. Jaz would say things about the band when we weren't there and they would just crop up. We would realise it was Jaz doing it."
Do you think you're a good bass player?
"I don't think I'm a particularly fantastic player. My saving grace is that I'm imaginative, more so than bass players who are 'better' than me. It all depends what you call good."
Did you make a lot of money with Killing Joke?
"That's where I was getting edgy because we thought we were selling a lot of records at the time and we were earning £30 a week wage. Also we had three managers who were on bigger wages than we were. And we were losing money touring. So I didn't make a lot of money. I made more money out of the 4 Be 2's in fact. For me to leave the band I had to take a quarter of Killing Joke's debts, which was £10,000."
About Brilliant, Youth finished in a pessimistic vein.
"It's difficult to plan ahead with Brilliant that much because it all depends on how this record is received. If it's well received it could open up a lot more opportunities for us ... and if it isn't then we'll just carry on as we are."