FEAR, EMPTINESS, DECIBEL: BONUS CONTENT FROM THE KILLING JOKE HALL OF FAME!
Before there were blogs there were these things called magazines, and the only metal magazine we still get excited about reading every month is Decibel. Here’s managing editor Andrew Bonazelli…
There’s been a lot of buzz about remaking The Crow with Bradley Cooper. Because, you know, nothing conveys goth-punk flair, existential angst and an unyielding appetite for vengeance like the frat guy who probably stuffed fans of the original into lockers. The producers should’ve just gone to Killing Joke mastermind Jaz Coleman. Not only would it at least be novel to see a 50-year-old Crow, but he’s been dressing the part for years.
In 1980, Coleman and his band were bloodthirsty rebels in spirit, not image. Their eponymous E.G. Records debut careened unpredictably between post-punk, metal, prog, disco and what we now know as industrial. Killing Joke influenced, well, pretty much everybody in the interior and exterior of Decibel and MetalSucks’ Venn diagram. (If you’ve never heard them, somehow, drop a jaw at the third paragraph of their Wiki page.) Add incendiary, prophetic, political screeds to taste, and you’ve got a recipe for a wicked Hall of Fame, appearing in our Ghost issue.
As usual, author Chris Dick went above and beyond to make this HOF one of the most thorough Killing Joke interviews ever; hence, we have reams of bonus content. Here’s a little bonus bloodsport to whet your appetite.
Rhythmically, Killing Joke was very different from everyone else.
Jeremy “Jaz” Coleman: We listened mostly to black music when we kicked off. It was the big passion in the band. It had an effect on us, the dance element. If you look at us compared to Joy Division it was always interesting. Everyone would stand still for Joy Division and then go crazy—physically crazy—for Killing Joke. It was two beautiful contrasts.
Martin “Youth” Glover: What I always tried to be was an extra string to Geordie’s guitar. I’d try to pick out some of the subliminal riffs within his guitar on a lower tone. The same kind of repetition and consistency that dub had, that’s what I was aspiring to: an economy of notes. I also wanted to pull in the hidden 3D riffs that underlie the guitar. Also, possibly pull in a bit of melody, counterpoint to the guitar
What was the build-up like to the writing and recording of Killing Joke?
Coleman: We were writing for almost a year before the album was recorded, so all the songs had been written and played live. It was quite a straightforward approach. We refused to have a producer, which was a great move. We wanted to produce the whole thing ourselves. Of course, we had no real experience. We made some bold moves in the studio and those experiments had lasted for years. Like putting the vocals through fuzzboxes and effects. Ten years later, they were used by Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and the rest of them. The thing was to be different and not sound like anyone else. We still sound like Killing Joke. Most bands are derivatives now.
Were you trying to provoke?
Coleman: I don’t think so. It was more about survival, really. To be honest, we had friends that were on the editorial meetings of the main music papers, so if they sent someone who didn’t like Killing Joke, we had a reception for them. [Laughs] We were quite a unit then. Quite violent.
Paul Ferguson: I think we still are. In a way of social commentary. I don’t think we ever wanted to be typical rock ‘n’ roll band. It’s about trying to instigate not just thought, but action. Trying to open eyes. Even if perhaps a lot of it is based on paranoia, I think it’d be foolish to ignore the messages. We need to wake up. We need to change. So, the answer is yes. [Laughs] We wanted this band to be something shook the foundations. The foundations are shaking still. There’s a lot of complacency—always has been—so we wanted to startle people into action.
Glover: I don’t think we were naïve enough to believe that we were going to change the world. We were happy enough to express how we felt about the world. The politics of the time. Ludicrous absurdity of it all. We were trying to inspire and create our own realities and our own counterpoint to what was considered entertainment. Music is a social function. That music had to facilitate a community at the time. We were very single-minded, but we felt we wanted the tribal energy that was coming through from the audiences of other bands. The whole idea of personal power, re-appropriating your power that had been taken away from you by the pervading social bourgeoisie. We wanted to strip that down and return sovereignty to the audience. In traditional Irish folk music you could be working in an abattoir all day as a complete worker-slave, and then Friday night the musician could become a king on the dance floor, regaining personal sovereignty. Films like Saturday Night Fever had that folk aspect to it. We were quite influenced by German artists like Joseph Beuys. Again, they were folk-oriented, breaking down the classical, hierarchal concepts of what was considered high art. It was more about expressing yourself viscerally. Being honest to yourself.
Decibel’s June 2011 issue, which also features Mastodon, Hate Eternal, Gorguts, Protest the Hero, Born of Osiris, and Scale The Summit is available here, or make your mama proud and just get a full subscription.