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Killing Joke

Heavy and slow, Killing Joke (at least early in their career) were a quasi-metal band dancing to a tune of doom and gloom. They eventually became less heavy and more arty (the latter seems almost impossible) -- more danceable, even -- but early on they made some urgent slabs of molten dynamite that oozed with the power of thick guitars, thudding drums, and over the top singing. The origins of Killing Joke lie in the Matt Stagger Band. Paul Ferguson was drumming for the group when he met Jaz Coleman (vocals, keyboards) in the late '70s. Coleman joined the Matt Stagger Band briefly, but soon he and Ferguson split to form Killing Joke in late 1978. The duo recruited bassist Youth (born Martin Glover Youth), who had previously played with the punk group the Rage, and guitarist Geordie (born Kevin Walker) to complete the band's lineup. Killing Joke moved to Notting Hill Gate and recorded their debut EP, Almost Red, with money borrowed from Coleman's girlfriend at the time. BBC disc jockey John Peel was impressed by the EP and offered the group a session on his show, which became one of the most popular shows he broadcast in the late '70s. By the end of 1979, the group had signed with Island Records, who allowed them to set up their own label, Malicious Damage.

Killing Joke released "Wardance," their debut single on Malicious Damage, in February of 1980. Following its release, Killing Joke and Malicious Damage switched from Island Records to EG and the band released their eponymous debut album. The group began playing shows regularly throughout England and gained a reputation for being controversial. Their artwork often featured repulsive or inflammatory images, and after one of their concert posters pictured the Pope blessing legions of Nazis, the group was banned from performing a concert in Glasgow. Despite the controversy, the group began amassing a following of both punk and disco fans with hard-edged but danceable singles like "Psyche" and "Follow the Leader." The band released its second album, What's THIS For...!, in 1981.

After recording and releasing the group's third album, 1982's Revelations, Jaz Coleman -- who had developed an obsession with the occult -- decided that the Apocalypse was near, so he left the group and ran away to Iceland with Geordie. While in Iceland, Coleman and Geordie worked with a number of Icelandic bands, most notably Theyr, which would later evolve into the Sugarcubes. Youth followed Coleman to Iceland shortly after his departure. After a few months with no sign of the end of the world, Youth returned to England and formed Brilliant with Ferguson. However, Ferguson left shortly after the group's formation and moved to Iceland with Killing Joke's new bassist, Paul Raven. Youth continued playing with Brilliant, while Killing Joke's new lineup -- featuring Coleman, Geordie, Ferguson, and Raven -- worked in Iceland for a brief period. Soon, the group returned to England and recorded Fire Dances, which was released in 1983. Fire Dances demonstrated a calmer, more straightforward band than the one showcased on the group's earlier records.

For the rest of the '80s, Killing Joke continued to release albums, all of which failed to regain the audience they had in the early '80s. After 1988's Outside the Gate, the group broke up, only to reunite two years later for Extremities, Dirt & Various Repressed Emotions. Extremities featured a new drummer, Martin Atkins, and returned the band to the noisy dance experiments of their earlier records. Following its release, the group took a four-year break. 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 its 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. In October of 2007, Paul Raven died of heart failure in Geneva, Switzerland. The original lineup of Coleman, Geordie, Youth, and Paul Ferguson all attended the funeral and decided to reunite in honor of both Raven and Killing Joke. After a worldwide tour, this lineup entered the studio and recorded the 2010 release Absolute Dissent. Touring and archival releases kept the band busy for the next few years with The Singles Collection: 1979-2012 arriving in 2013, while 2014 saw the release of both the remix set In Dub and the live album Down by the River. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & John Dougan, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Killing Joke is the first band I typed in to Pandora's box. My favorite band since 1983. Yeah, I'm old
wengerclever
No mention of ' Nightime ?? their best work ..
riverman172
The great cull is comin down.
Complication s . . . . . h o o k , line, and sinker on me in 1982 as we were more into bands like the Proletariat. . . . but too much Gang of 4 sound to a lot of KJ's other songs pushed us away.
Met you guys years ago in LA with Sean(aspen)l i n e buddy (Eric d)CIA !best times I ever had!happyreg a l i a c a s t l e ) m i s s you guys! Miss Matt Nelson! How's Mickey (Denver)!we should all hook up in vail aspen and costa rica now bus good ! Ken d hope you life better!J D miss you bud!
kendall1685
The Joke is coming to L.A. next month!
shagohodmg
Honor the fire!
To the fire dances!!
Inspires my inards! LOve
riverman172
Not by me king, but I wholehearted l y agree.
Vastly underappreci a t e d band
riverman172
The great cull is comin down!!
riverman172
Absolute dissent!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Don't be afraid, just play it.
love KJ don't agree that they started off as a quasi metal band though. they were more post punk/new wave and by 'Extremities ' they had become a sort of quasi metal band. I guess calling it one gena vs. another doesn't really change the actual music but that just kinda bugged me. Carry on.
Killing Joke is no longer just a band to me... They're a way of life! *chortle* Hosannas From The Basements of Hell is just mind-blowing l y crushing...
i dont think i've heard pandora play anything off pandemonium, or any of the later killing joke albums. thats a shame.
more killing joke please!
madmonkey419
Okay, HELLO.Pandor a ? This is TOTALLY not the lyric/song title Match-up.... . That is a live version of ANOTHER Killing Joke track, which I used to have on tape. Correction please?
Looks like George Clooney in front.
remember when they were just a catchy 80's band-brighte r than a thousand suns-then jaz took too many hits of acid and the crazy world caught up with him- i hate the song '' sanity'' so much that as soon as i publish this-i'm going to delete this f**king band-however i do love ''revelation s ' ' and play it all the time-go figure...
Yo Santa agreed and they were the best. I noticed the same thing for PIL. Post Punk never seemed so lame without those.
& the "1980" Killing Joke album is MIA too!
Where is "Absolute Dissent"? That is a crushing album.
djdedd
@Robb Peter Gabriel had four self-titled albums.
A Great band that has existed through four decades, like so many of my favourite artists!
@nosferatu i bet when you saw him you clutch your purse cos you know he could have nicked it from you and you wouldn't have done a damn thing.
I know what you mean sbholl. So so good at throwing out buzzwords, but hell, I've seen most bands that I comment on. Live. Not on video.
sbholl84
Quasi-metal band!? Sometimes I truly wonder if these AMG people have ever even listened to some of the artists in question. Anyway, Killing Joke is classic stuff. Glad to see them on here.
One of my favorites... and the only band I know of with two self-titled albums... which is probably why they have Killing Joke (2003) shown as being from 1980. Different self-titled album completely.
eddie7818
Love like blood.... Man I love this Band !!!
bromide01
Never liked them.
joetarget
I followed Killing Joke to the south of France in the 80's just to record their concert...I have been addicted to their music
since the single "change" came out in the 70's....chec k that song out my friends...
Never heard o' them til today! So glad for pandora introducing new a** kicking music into my life!!
this is really the first time I've heard it, very cool
MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEYS NOT OUR GOD!!
These guys are awesome! Killing Joke was actually my first concert that I ever went to back in the mid 80's.
I remember this voice. Growing up in the 80's, it spooked me out back then but now I totally appreciate the vocals and music.
This is one band I wished I'd gotten into earlier.
I can't stop listening to Pandemonium. It's just too yummy.
Hey, they totally ripped off Nirvana's "Come As You Are" with their "Eighties" riff... JK KJ
You are killing me Bromide
The one playing now is pretty good.
bromide01
What about the song they're playing right now?
michellecb73
The song that they're playing is not Nighttime it's Complication s the (Demo Version).
bromide01
After you see them in October can you post another comment about how awesome they were and how much fun you had?
One of the most influential yet continually under-rated bands in rock history...ca n ' t wait to see them in NYC this October!
It makes incredibly nervous and anxious...ki n d of like a step father.
I can remember hearing them for the first time...it filled me with nutness.
You can detect influences they had on other bands.
Best album for me is fire dances wonderful vocals and drums and bass. Awesome work!!!!!!!! on this album
No - actually Pandemonium was released in 1994 as the article said. I know because I bought it when it came out and still own it. The discography icon is incorrect but that's probably because it was re released and the data source doesn't account for original release dates. Same for Democracy... I've seen this with other bands on Pandora as well. Regardless, Killing Joke is a great band!
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