With a reputation forged in fire, brimstone and magic, plus a fierce collective intellect, Killing Joke have long been one of rock’s most iconic, influential and contrary outfits, with a string of revered recordings to their name…
Their story (a genuinely extraordinary tale) dates back to 1978 and the post-punk scene of West London where classically-trained musician / vocalist Jeremy ‘Jaz’ Coleman, drummer ‘Big’ Paul Ferguson, guitarist Kevin ‘Geordie’ Walker and bassist Martin ‘Youth’ Glover set about establishing a new, idiosyncratic manifesto for reinventing the rock ‘n’ roll wheel.
Right from the start, Killing Joke were unwilling to conform to the artistic restrictions of a particular scene; rather, they took a broader view, fusing together a host of musical elements to create something both different and timely. Pitched somewhere between the snub-nosed aggression and bleak primitivism of UK punk and the epic grandeur and cool detachment of German electronic rock bands like Tangerine Dream and Can, the band’s sound emerged fully-formed and ready to go – a vibrant, punishing antidote to virtually everything else happening in music at that time.
Both their self-titled debut album and its 1981 follow-up, ‘What’s THIS For..!’, cemented their reputation as a maverick and creative force, and due to a penchant for controversial imagery plus a refusal to pull punches in terms of the truth (as they saw it), the quartet rapidly became the most notorious band in the UK. For Coleman and his fellow musicians, conventional notions of politics or propaganda were not to be accepted blindly; they urged people to think for themselves, to question old orthodoxies and their surroundings in general, conjuring up images of an impending apocalypse with music that was never meant to be pretty yet often attained a ragged and glorious beauty, a tattered flag in the wind.
As a result, an intense and passionate relationship started to grow with an ultra-loyal international fan base, a relationship that remains intact to this day, with the group’s philosophical stance and soundtrack to the modern age – a deep, dogmatic howl documenting our calamitous descent into chaos – seeming more and more plugged-in as the years progress.
Difficult, perverse and willfully unpredictable, Killing Joke continue to be a group that actually stands for something; Youth will tell you it’s “honesty, commitment and illumination”, and the others will doubtless have ideas of their own, but one thing’s for certain: what once seemed paranoid now seems downright prophetic, and for all of their adherence to darker hues, the future for Killing Joke looks brighter than ever.
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