Killing Joke

Killing Joke are an English post-punk band formed in October 1978 in Notting Hill, London, England. (Several sources state that they formed in early 1979.) Founding members Jaz Coleman (vocals, keyboards) and Geordie Walker (guitars) have been the only constant members.

A key influence on industrial rock, their early music was described by critics Stephen Thomas Erlewine and John Dougan as “quasi-metal … dancing to a tune of doom and gloom,” which gradually evolved over the years, incorporating elements of electronic music, synth-pop, gothic rock, and alternative rock, though always emphasising Coleman’s “savagely strident vocals.”

Finding modest commercial success, Killing Joke have influenced many later bands, such as Nirvana, Ministry, Amen, Lamb of God, Nine Inch Nails, Porcupine Tree, Napalm Death, Amebix, Big Black, Opeth, Godflesh, Tool, Prong, Metallica, Primus, Jane’s Addiction, Soundgarden, Foo Fighters, Faith No More, The Banner, Blacklist, Shihad, Pitchshifter, Das Oath, Rammstein and Korn, all of whom have at some point cited some debt of gratitude to Killing Joke.



“Big” Paul Ferguson was drummer in the Matt Stagger Band when he met Jeremy “Jaz” Coleman (from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire) in Notting Hill, London. In October 1978 (or early 1979), after Coleman was briefly keyboard player in that band, he and Ferguson left to form Killing Joke. They placed an advertisement in the music press which attracted guitarist Kevin “Geordie” Walker and bassist Martin “Youth” Glover. According to Coleman, their manifesto was to “define the exquisite beauty of the atomic age in terms of style, sound and form”.

By September 1979, shortly before the release of their debut EP, Turn to Red, 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 (then aligned with Virgin Records) in 1980. The songs on Killing Joke’s early singles were primitive punk rock sometimes mixed with electronic (“Nervous System” and “Turn to Red”). Turn to Red 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. Typically the images that appeared on their records and on-stage while performing live were bizarre and potentially shocking and inflammatory. One promotion poster featured a photo of a priest walking among rows of soldiers offering Fascist salutes, which was later used for the cover of the band’s compilation album, Laugh? I Nearly Bought One!. Shortly afterwards, the band was banned from performing a concert in Glasgow, Scotland. At the same time, some journalists were suspicious about Killing Joke’s image and wrote that “Killing Joke’s music includes certain fascist tendencies…”. Killing Joke had various ‘run-ins’ with a number of music journalists at the time.

Killing Joke’s third album, Revelations, produced by Conny Plank, was released in 1982, and supported by a pair of performances on BBC Radio’s The John Peel Show and by the singles “Chop-Chop”, “Empire Song”, and an unofficial release of “We Have Joy”. The LP reached #12 in the UK Top albums.

By 1982, members of Killing Joke, especially Coleman, had become immersed in the occult, particularly the works of occultist Aleister Crowley. In February of that year, Coleman, with Geordie and Youth following shortly after, moved to Iceland to survive the Apocalypse, which Coleman predicted was coming soon. While in Iceland, Coleman and Geordie worked with musicians from the band Þeyr in the project Niceland. After a few months, Youth decided there was no indication of the Apocalypse, and decided to move back to England. Youth then began the band Brilliant with Paul Ferguson, but the latter defected and traveled to Iceland to rejoin Killing Joke with new bassist Paul Raven (previously of Neon Hearts and the rock / glam band Kitsch) in tow. After spending some time in Iceland, Killing Joke returned to England and began touring and recording again.

The new line-up soon produced, again with Conny Plank, the single “Birds of a Feather / Sun Goes Down / Flock the B-Side” and Ha!, a six-track 10″ EP of a live performance recorded live at Larry’s Hideaway in Toronto in August.


Studio Albums

1980 Killing Joke –

1981 What’s This For – Coming soon 08/01/2018

Night Time –

One Response to “Killing Joke”

  • Marion:

    Dear people,

    Killing Joke are the best boys, where it ever gives. I wish them an very long
    life and a lot of health.


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