Let's all go to the Fire Dances
October 5, 2007 3:46 AM Subscribe
Original drummer "Big Paul" Ferguson once described their music as "the sound of the earth vomiting". Killing Joke's music typically consists of hypnotic, metallic guitars and heavy, tribal, and danceable rhythms. Coleman's vocals are sometimes in a talk-sing style, sometimes a malevolent-sounding growl and sometimes emotional and melodic. Dark, ominous synthesizer loops and even sweeping, gothic keyboards appear to varying degrees, and indeed were a song-driving element on their mid 80s albums. Geordie never plays solos but his unique style has earned him praise from the likes of Edward Van Halen and Jimmy Page.
Their albums have evolved stylistically from one release to the next, whilst always retaining the band's distinctive flavour.
In late 1979, they began the Malicious Damage record label with graphic artist Mike Coles as a way to press and sell their music; Island Records distributed the records, until Malicious Damage switched to E.G. Records in 1980. Their 'Nervous System/Turn To Red' EP came to the attention of legendary DJ John Peel, who was keen to champion the band's urgent new sound and gave them extensive airplay. They quickly progressed this sound into something denser, more aggressive, and more akin to heavy metal, as heard on their first two albums, Killing Joke (1980) and the more abrasive What's THIS For...! (1981). They toured extensively throughout the UK during this time, and both fans of post punk and heavy metal took interest in Killing Joke through singles such as "Follow the Leaders" (1981).
Killing Joke became notorious largely due to the controversies that arose from their imagery. The images that appeared on their records and on-stage while performing live were, typically, bizarre and potentially shocking and inflammatory. One promotion poster featured an undoctored photo from the Spanish Civil war, of Pope Pius being shown off to rows of saluting Nazis. Shortly afterwards, the band was banned from performing a concert in Glasgow, Scotland. Strangely enough, at that time some NME's leftist journalists were suspicious about Killing Joke's image and wrote that "Killing Joke's music includes certain fascist tendencies...". This was a common misconception because, if anything, Killing Joke were a politically apolitical or being exact - "meta-political" - with much of their disturbing imagery acting as ironic or cynical symbols for a world which they perceived was becoming ever more materialist, unjust and conservative.
In 1982, Coleman (obsessed with the occult) decided that the apocalypse was near, so he left the group and ran away to Iceland. While there, he worked with a number of Icelandic bands, most notably Theyr, which would later evolve into (with Björk). With no sign of end of the world, Killing Joke reformed in 1984.
Towards the end of 1988, Coleman and Geordie decided to get Killing Joke up and running again as a live band, and they began looking for full-time bass players and drummers. First on board was drummer Martin Atkins, who had gained notability in Public Image Ltd. and later Ministry and Pigface.
The reactivated Killing Joke released two strong and well-received albums on Youth's Butterfly Recordings label, Pandemonium and Democracy, which saw the band shift back to the simpler arrangements of their early albums. Pandemonium (1994) wove a metallesque ritualistic sound with mosh beats and loops and provided Killing Joke with a memorable Top of the Pops performance for the single 'Millennium' (check out the young Jon Stewart introducing them), which was a UK Top 30 hit. Democracy (1996) successfully introduced acoustic guitar into the mix, as well as adopting more of a "live band" sound again.
Killing Joke also sued Nirvana during this phase, alleging that the riff for the latter's song "Come as You Are" was copied from the riff for their song "Eighties". The lawsuit was dropped after the sudden death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.
Coleman, Geordie and Youth reformed Killing Joke in 2002, and recorded their second self-titled album with producer Andy Gill, released to much acclaim in 2003 on the Zuma/Sony label - a powerful addition to Extremities and other visceral 1990s albums, and considered one of their finest recordings. The War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq were cited as major factors in their reforming and this is reflected in the lyrical content of much of the album, based on themes of war, government control and Armageddon. The album was their heaviest to date and spawned two singles, "Loose Cannon" and "Seeing Red". The songs are all credited to Coleman/Walker/Glover/Gill, although Raven's name is also on the list of musicians on the liner notes, marking his return to the band after more than a decade. It remains unclear who actually played bass on which tracks on the album and in some interviews with Geordie he hints that it may have been he who actually played bass on most of the songs, with occasional contributions from Youth. Raven played on the subsequent tour however, with Youth appearing to have retired from the band by this point. Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Probot), a longtime fan of the band, occupied the drum stool for all tracks. The original plan had been to use many different drummers on the album, including Grohl, but he was so enthusiastic about the material that he persuaded the band to let him do the whole thing.
In summer 2005 they provided unlikely support on the British leg of Mötley Crüe's world tour and then began work on their next album in Prague. Coleman had been working there for a few years on classical and traditional music projects and it had come to be Killing Joke's de facto base.
KJ Released Hosannas from the Basement of Hell in 2006, and is planning to reissue the classic 1990 album Extremities, Dirt & Various Repressed Emotions, this month. It is hoped that the long-delayed second batch of EMI reissues will be released at around the same time, completing the Killing Joke reissue series.
This post was deleted for the following reason: I know you put a lot of work into this, psmealey, but when you end up reworking your post as an edit of an existing wikipedia article, you've wandered into kind of weird, not-cool territory. You might want to consider doing this again later on with your original research + a link to wikipedia as your post content, but this is pretty crazy, bad-precedent stuff as is. -- cortex
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