Killing Joke

Killing Joke started on the unemployment line. Whether fact or fiction, it was while waiting in line at a British unemployment office in late 78 early '79, that singer/keyboardist Jeremy(?) "Jaz" Coleman ran into a friend and started discussing his musical aspirations. Upon hearing Coleman speak, the friend said, "I have someone you should meet," and later brought him to a London flat, where drummer Paul Ferguson was waiting. According to Coleman, without speaking, the two realized they were destined to play music together, music that Ferguson would later describe as the "sound of the earth vomiting."

In order to flesh out their musical ideas, Coleman and Ferguson placed an ad in a local music paper stating: "Want to be part of the Killing Joke? Total Publicity - Total Anonymity - Total Exploitation". Shortly thereafter, guitarist Kenneth (?) "Geordie" Walker and Martin "Youth" Glover joined the band and Killing Joke was alive. Taking their name from a British phrase referring to an ironic or paradoxical situation or event, they started writing songs, performing in concert and soon gained quite a reputation throughout London, performing such early numbers as "Malicious Boogie," "Wardance," "Pssyche," "Turn to Red," "Nuclear Boy," and even a cover of the Pistols' "Bodies." According to Jaz, Killing Joke was formed with specific intentions: "define the exquisite beauty of the atomic age in terms of style, sound and form.

After releasing the four-song Nervous System/Turn to Red EP on their own Malicious Damage label via E'G Records, Killing Joke released their first full-length album, "Killing Joke," in 1979. Black and white, anonymous, an apocalyptic sonic boom. Shrouded in an electronic cloud and featuring tribal drumming, pulsing bass, and a unique rhythmic guitar sound, the album spawned the song "Change," which became an underground club favorite on both sides of the Atlantic. "It's aggressive music," said Ferguson, "it's not polite entertainment...we've got songs in the dance charts here [U.S.], and that pleases me. As far as I'm concerned, Killing Joke is dance music. I'm not at all displeased with getting into the disco charts. I think it shows great hope for the world."

Killing Joke wrote all of the songs for their next album, "what's THIS for....!," while in the studio. According to Geordie, this process was a bit difficult, as the group had a year's worth of material for the first album before they actually recorded. Released in late 1981, "what's THIS for...!" found Killing Joke focused and developing their own sound. From the seven minute "Madness" to "Tension" and "The Fall of Because", the new album continued KJ's prediction of the end of rationale and reason, and a return to a more primitive man. The album also hinted at the perverse humor behind KJ. The tourist/housewife watching a nuclear explosion and lyrics such as "I wonder who chose the colour scheme? It's very nice!" made listeners wonder who was this anonymous group that chided us to "Follow the Leaders."

After a worldwide tour, Killing Joke ventured to Germany to record with veteran producer Conny Plank. The first time KJ worked with an outside producer, the result was "Revelations", which was released in 1982. Another anonymous sonic blast, the album featured the driving "Empire Song," but also revealed many of the seemingly personal and record company pressures the group was under. "Land of--better change your tune now, Milk and--oh so negative, Honey--and we're so content now, Land of Milk and Honey."

Unsure of their musical direction and faced with another daunting world tour, the group cracked. Jaz, who was allegedly on the verge of a nervous breakdown, left the group and ventured to Iceland, which he claimed was the place to be when the "big one" was dropped. Geordie joined him in Iceland, where he recorded briefly with an Icelandic band called Peyr, while Youth and Big Paul, formed their own group, Brilliant, presumably named after the title of the b-side to the Empire Song single. However, before Brilliant could release a single, Big Paul left the group. Verbal sparring intensified in the English music newspapers, and Youth, along with various other players, finally released a single "That's What Good Friends Are For," an obvious jab at his former mates. From Iceland, Jaz labeled Brilliant a group that made "money music" and dismissed them.

Possibly motivated by Brilliant, Jaz rejoined Geordie and Big Paul, who together recruited unknown bass player Paul Raven. They toured Europe and the US in 1982, allowing Raven to cut his teeth on American stages. Several shows in Toronto were recorded during this tour and released as the 10-inch "HA, Killing Joke Live." Killing Joke then signed with marketers Polydor and seemed to make an contrived attempt to appeal to more record buyers, a move Jaz had blasted Youth for. The result was 1983's "Fire Dances" which was a landmark in that it was the first time a band photo appeared as part of the album artwork. A mixed bag, Jaz proclaimed the album "their best ever" (which he seemed to do upon the release of each new album) and "Let's All Go (To The Fire Dances)" was trotted out as the first single. The album contained several gems, including "Frenzy" and "Harlequin." The group then seemed to reach another low in 1983 with the release of the 12-inch "Me or You" in which the group seems to be asking, in between choruses of "woo hoo," whether it is the band or the audience that has to change in order for their records to sell.

After a brief silence, Killing Joke returned in 1984 with a pair of 12-inch singles, "A New Day" and "Eighties," which got more airplay than any of their other singles. Playing in front of large US and Soviet flags, the group toured and seemed to be trying to project a new image by wearing coordinated black outfits, and Geordie and Raven wearing these large rubber and metal, KISS-like, boots. Capitalizing upon the success of "Eighties," the group then released "Nighttime," which was recorded in Berlin and featured the song "Love Like Blood," which propelled Killing Joke back onto the dance floors in the US and Europe. A scant eight songs, which included the previously released "Eighties," the album featured more melodic keyboards and more of Geordie's fine guitar playing on songs like "Kings and Queens" and "Europe." On their sixth full-length album, "Brighter Than A Thousands Suns," (named after a Japanese description of the atomic blast), Killing Joke scored a few big hits and even bigger album photos! Hits such as "Adorations" and "Sanity" got modest airplay, while songs like "Chessboards" and "Rubicon" kept the faithful interested. That was 1986.

Then things cracked again. During the recording of what was supposed to be a Jaz Coleman solo record, Virgin Records/E'G Records grabbed the demos featuring just Jaz and Geordie and planned to release them as a full-length Killing Joke album, in what seemed like an attempt to bleed the Killing Joke moniker of any last revenue. Jaz hastily finished the tracks, and 1988's "Outside The Gate" was released. While uneven, the album was underrated and features "America," which takes a sarcastic poke at a country and culture that he seemed to be courting on the last two albums. Outside the Gate has interesting time signatures, while One Jump Ahead features some rap-like lyric delivery. The album appeared, then disappeared, and so did Killing Joke. A lawsuit ensued with the record companies over the release of the album, draining the group's spirit and cash.

Like a cat using up another life, Killing Joke returned once again in 1989. While reading a local music paper in New York, I noticed an ad for a concert by an English band that featured a joker. Hmmm...Killing Joke had returned! But without a record contract. In an attempt to garner a new contract and pay off large legal bills, the group embarked on a short US tour playing small clubs. They also brought along a guitar case full of new songs, a new drummer (Martin Atkins, formerly of PiL and Brian Brain) and an unknown bassist, Taif (who was part of Lloyd Cole's live band). (British music newspapers originally announced that the new bassist was former Smiths bassist Andy Rourke, who did join but was quickly sacked or left for unknown reasons. Atkins was quoted as saying: "He was a total bastard.") A low-budget affair, the tour also included long-time roadie and mate, Fil, and keyboardist John Bechdel. Feasting on sandwiches and traveling by van, the group played intense sets that featured almost all new songs. In the New York area, they played three dates and held a spoken word (speech) performance in Greenwich Village, where Jaz seemed to rail against the record companies that had eaten up and spit out the group. Fans were invited to this speech, which was filmed by MTV's 120 Minutes, and afterwards Jaz spoke of buying out the rights to the Killing Joke name, which he shared with Big Paul, and of the difficulties the group faced. It seems that the group had trouble even getting record company execs to come to the gigs. At this point, Killing Joke tried a grass roots approach to popularity by forming the Organization of the Distant Island Charter, a fan group which was based out of Atkins' hometown of Chicago that sold KJ shirts, buttons, bumper stickers. They even sold a video of a performance in Miami and offered a spoken word/musical vinyl album called "The Courtald Talks."

Finally, in 1990 the group was signed to a one-record deal by Noise Entertainment, a division of the German conglomerate, BMG, who thought they were buying credibility in the alternative music market, and released one of their best albums, "Dirt, Extremities and Various Repressed Emotions." Reflecting their desperate state, the album is an avalanche of disgust, anger, sarcasm and loathing, in short, all the ingredients needed for a great album. And it was real. No lip gloss and mousse. Just crunching guitar, great drumming by Atkins, and Jaz yelping and screaming at anyone who would listen. The group played a few European shows (one of which I caught at London's Finsbury Park) after the album was released, with Raven on bass. Then nothing. With two strong personalities in the band, Coleman and Atkins, it was reported that tensions grew until the band dispersed. In what was widely reported as a coup by Atkins to rid the group of Coleman, Atkins invited Raven and Geordie, along with former KJ drummer Big Paul, keyboardist Bechdel and singer Chris Connelly, to join him and record an album for Atkins' Invisible label under the name Murder Inc. Recorded in Minnesota, the album featured Geordie's inimitable guitar sound and the pounding of Atkins and Ferguson. It was released, then rereleased, and then gone. The group fizzled without ever touring in support of the album.

Over the next few years, the group, though never having officially disbanded, splintered, with each member pursuing other musical interests. Jaz released an album of Egyptian-influenced popular music, "Songs from the Victorious City," which he recorded with the Art of Noise's Anne Dudley. He also worked on his own classical symphonic music pieces and relocated to New Zealand. Geordie got married and moved to his wife's hometown of Detroit. He also auditioned for Faith No More as the replacement for sacked guitarist Jim Martin, but decided to pass on the opportunity. Paul Raven founded The Hellfire Club, and then joined the ranks of New York metal outfit Prong. Martin Atkins was busy touring and recording with his new band, Pigface. Had the last laugh been heard?

Not yet. 1992 would be the start of the next phase in the Killing Joke. That year, Virgin commissioned the Killing Joke "Best Of" compilation called "Laugh? I Nearly Bought One," and Geordie was brought in to make sure the right tracks were included. Geordie called Youth to see if he had any old photos for the album artwork. Since his stint in KJ, Youth recorded a few albums with Brilliant (including one with Jimmy Cauty of KLF fame), and had become a much sought-after producer, working with many techno/dance bands and pop acts such as PM Dawn, Blue Nile, Crowded House and the Orb (which features former KJ roadie Alex Patterson). The two started reminiscing and, according to Geordie, Youth was "like ÔOh we should reform then.'" I thought he was joking."

In 1994, Killing Joke re-formed as a trio with Coleman, Geordie, and Youth and the group released Pandemonium, a harder-edged, heavier album than their previous records. Democracy (1996), a second self-titled album (2003), and the live celebration XXV Gathering! followed. After opening for the reunited Mötley Crüe on a 2004 tour of the U.K., the band settled in Prague to record its next album, Hosannas from the Basement of Hell, which appeared in 2006.

[ Releted links]
[ Video]
Killing Joke - Killing Joke (1980)
Killing Joke - What's THIS For...! (1981)
Killing Joke - Jaz With Peyr In Iceland (1982)
Killing Joke - Revelations (1982)
Killing Joke - Ha! [EP] (1982) pass:
Killing Joke - Fire Dances (1983)
Killing Joke - Night Time (1985)
Killing Joke - Brighter Than a Thousand Suns (1986)
Killing Joke - Outside the Gate (1988)
Killing Joke - Extremities, Dirt & Various Repressed Emotions (1990)
Killing Joke - Laugh. I Nearly Bought One! (1992)
Killing Joke - Pandemonium (1994)
Killing Joke - Wilful Day (1995) pass:
Killing Joke - Democracy (1996)
Killing Joke - Killing Joke (2003)
Killing Joke - Hosannas from the Basements of Hell (2006)
[Lives - Singles - Rarites]
Killing Joke - The Unperverted Pantomime (1979) [Live] Download or Here
Killing Joke - Bootleg - “Live at Larry’s Hideaway, Toronto, Canada (1982)” Download
Killing Joke - Lyon 13-03-85 (1985) [Live] Download
Killing Joke - BBC In Concert (1995) [Live] Download
Killing Joke - Others Songs (1996) Download
Killing Joke - Wardance - The Remixes (1998) Download
Killing Joke - The Unperverted Pantomime (2003) no need pass.
Killing Joke - Chaos For Breakfast (2004) Download
Killing Joke - Wulf War Dance [Live] Download
Killing Joke - Singles & Rarities CD 1 //CD 2 // CD 3

password for Lives - Singles - Rarites:

Killing Joke - Sessions Part 1 or Part 2
Killing Joke - Killing Joke - Peel Sessions (1979)
Killing Joke - Capital Radio, Early 1980 (1980)
Killing Joke - Peel Sessions (1980)
Killing Joke - Peel Sessions (Peel Sessions) (1981)
Killing Joke - Peel Sessions - Too Fast (1981)
Killing Joke - Kid Jensen Session (1984)
Killing Joke - Mark Radcliffe Session (1994)
Killing Joke - ... No Way Out But foward Go (2001)
Killing Joke - Rock Show Session (2004)

Killing Joke - Ha! (1982) [Remastered 2005]
Killing Joke - XXV Gathering, Lets Us Pery Live (2005)
Killing Joke - Brighter Than A thousand Suns (1986) [Remaster 2007]
Killing Joke - Night Time (1985) [Remaster 2007]
Killing Joke - Outside The Gate (1988( [Remaster 2008]
Killing Joke - Fire Dances (1983) [Remaster 2008]

Listen songs:
Seeing red
Tomorrows world
Death and Resurrection

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