Killing Joke

Killing Joke are an English post-punk and industrial rock band from Notting Hill that debuted with an EP on small-press Malicious Damage in 1979, followed by seven albums on EG between 1980 and 1988.

Members: Jaz Coleman (lead vocals, keyboards), Paul Ferguson (drums, vocals, 1978-88), Geordie (guitar), Youth (bass, 1978-82), Paul Raven (bass, 1982-88, 1989-91), Martin Atkins (drums, 1989-91)


Killing Joke formed in October 1978 around the nucleus of drummer Paul Ferguson and keyboardist-turned-singer Jeremy “Jaz” Coleman. Both hailed from the backing band of London-based Zimbabwean singer Mataya Clifford. They found guitarist Gordie Walker and bassist Youth (Martin Glover) through an ad in Melody Maker. The name Killing Joke refers to self-reflective humor.

On August 4, 1979, Killing Joke made their concert debut at Brockworth, Whitcombe Lodge, third-billed to The Ruts and The Selecter.

Turn to Red

In October 1979, Killing Joke made their vinyl debut with Turn to Red, a 10″ on self-press Malicious Damage. It features three group-credited songs: “Turn to Red,” “Are You Receiving,” and “Nervous System.”

Two months after its first appearance, MD distributor Island Records reissued the EP as a 12″ with a fourth track, “Almost Red.”

A1. “Almost Red” (3:48)
A2. “Nervous System” (4:10)
B1. “Are You Receiving” (4:50)
B2. “Turn to Red” (4:10)

Killing Joke signed with E.G. Records, a decade-old independent label known for its association with King Crimson, Roxy Music, and associated acts (Bruford, Eno, Phil Manzanera, Robert Fripp, UK).

Peel 1. Recorded 17th October 1979. First broadcast 29 October 1979. Repeated 20 December 1979, 05 June 1984
Psyche / Wardance / Nuclear Boy / Malicious Boogie

Peel 2. Recorded 5th March 1980. First broadcast 17 March 1980. Repeated 01 April 1980, 01 May 1980, 30 July 1980 and 29 December 1980.
Change / Tomorrow’s World / Complications

28 Mar 1980
A: Wardance
B: Pssyche

Sep 1980
A: Requiem
B: Change

Killing Joke

Killing Joke released their self-titled debut album on October 5, 1980, on E.G. It features eight group-composed songs with lyrics by Jaz Coleman and Paul Ferguson, including the pre-released singles “Wardance” and “Requiem” and the popular deep cuts “Primitive,” “The Wait” (later covered by Metallica), “Tomorrow’s World,” and “Bloodsport.”

1. “Requiem” (3:45)
2. “Wardance” (3:49)
3. “Tomorrow’s World” (5:31)
4. “Bloodsport” (4:46)

5. “The Wait” (3:45)
6. “Complications” (3:08)
7. “S.O.36” (6:52)
8. “Primitive” (3:37)

Killing Joke self-produced the album in August 1980 at London’s Marquee Studio.

US copies added the cut “Change” (also released as a single) to the middle of side two. Before the year was out, the band commenced sessions for their followup.

What’s THIS For…!

Killing Joke released their second album, What’s THIS For…!, on June 22, 1981, on E.G. It features eight group-written songs, including their fifth single “Follow the Leaders” and the intensive deep cuts “Exit,” “Butcher,” “Madness,” and “The Fall of Because.”

1. “The Fall of Because” (5:12)
2. “Tension” (4:33)
3. “Unspeakable” (5:20)
4. “Butcher” (6:11)

5. “Follow the Leaders” (5:37)
6. “Madness” (7:43)
7. “Who Told You How?” (3:37)
8. “Exit” (3:42)

Sessions took place between late December 1980 and February 1981 at London’s Townhouse Studios, where Killing Joke self-produced the album in the presence of engineer Hugh Padgham, who slotted What’s THIS For…! amongst projects by Landscape, Phil Collins, The Police, and Spandau Ballet.

Nick Launay (Padgham’s assistant on XTC‘s 1980 album Black Sea) co-produced What’s THIS For…! in sequence with 1981 titles by the Birthday Party, Cuban Heels, Gang of Four, Jane Kennaway, Killing Joke, Public Image Ltd., Positive Noise, The Slits, and ex-Cowboys International singer Ken Lockie.

Peel 3. Recorded 14th April 1981. First broadcast 27 April 1981. Repeated 14 May 1981 and 13 July 1981.
The Fall Of Because / Tension / Butcher

“Follow the Leaders” first appeared in May 1981 as an advance single, backed with its dub version and “Tension.”

Peel 4. Recorded 11th December 1981. First broadcast 16 December 1981. Repeated 11 January 1982 and 04 March 1982.
The Hum / The Empire Song / We Have Joy / Chop Chop

12 Mar 1982
A: Empire Song
B: Brilliant


Killing Joke released their third album, Revelations, on July 5, 1982, on E.G. It features ten group-written numbers, including the singles “Empire Song” and “Chop-Chop.”

Revelations is the final Killing Joke album with the original lineup of singer Jaz Coleman, guitarist Kevin ‘Geordie’ Walker, bassist Martin ‘Youth’ Glover, and drummer Paul Ferguson.

1. “The Hum” (4:58)
2. “Empire Song” (3:19)
3. “We Have Joy” (2:56)
4. “Chop-Chop” (4:19)
5. “The Pandys Are Coming” (4:27)

6. “Chapter III” (3:13)
7. “Have a Nice Day” (3:13)
8. “Land of Milk and Honey” (2:38)
9. “Good Samaritan” (3:28)
10. “Dregs” (4:57)

Sessions took place in Cologne, West Germany, with veteran Krautrock producer Conny Plank, whose recent credits included albums by the Eurythmics (In the Garden), Ultravox (Vienna, Rage In Eden), and the Neue Deutsche Welle acts DAF, Ideal, Rheingold, Stahlnetz, and Zupfgeigenhansel.

A: We Have Joy
B: Chop Chop

Revelations reached No. 12 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 33 in New Zealand. Amid promotions for the album, Coleman decamped to Iceland, where he served as a UK liaison for Reykjavik post-punks Þeyr. Youth cleared out for ex-Neon Hearts bassist Paul Raven.

11 Jun 1982
A: Chop Chop
B: Good Samaritan

29 Oct 1982
A: Birds Of A Feather
B: Flock The BSide

Fire Dances

Killing Joke released their fourth album, Fire Dances, on July 23, 1983, on E.G. It features ten group originals, including “Let’s All Go (to the Fire Dances),” a UK chart hit accompanied by their first video.

1. “The Gathering” 3:11
2. “Fun and Games” 4:05
3. “Rejuvenation” 4:01
4. “Frenzy” 3:46
5. “Harlequin” 3:57

6. “Feast of Blaze” 3:35
7. “Song and Dance” 5:13
8. “Dominator” 4:28
9. “Let’s All Go (to the Fire Dances)” 3:19
10. “Lust Almighty” 3:50

Sessions took place in March–April 1983 at London’s Basing St. Studios, where Killing Joke co-produced the album with Bryan Ferry soundman John Porter, who worked on subsequent titles by Microdisney, The Monochrome Set, Orange Juice, The Room, and The Smiths.

Fire Dances reached No. 29 on the UK Albums Chart.

Jun 1983
A: Let’s All Go (To The Fire Dances)
B: Dominator

Peel 5. Recorded 4th July 1983. First broadcast 12 July 1983. Repeated 01 August 1983.
Willful Days / Frenzy / Dominator / Harlequin

Oct 1983
A: Me Or You?
B: Wilful Days

Mar 1984
A: Eighties
B: Eighties (The Coming Mix)

Jun 1984
A: A New Day
B: Dance Day

Night Time

Killing Joke released their fifth album, Night Time, on February 11, 1985, on E.G. It houses the earlier anthem “Eighties” and the Top 20 UK hit “Love Like Blood,” an evergreen of goth–industrial DJ playlists. The album also includes the fan favorites “Europe,” “Multitudes,” the title-track, and the aforementioned “Eighties.”

1. “Night Time” (4:58)
2. “Darkness Before Dawn” (5:22)
3. “Love Like Blood” (6:50)
4. “Kings and Queens” (4:41)

5. “Tabazan” (4:36)
6. “Multitudes” (4:59)
7. “Europe” (4:38)
8. “Eighties” (3:51)

Sessions took place in August–September 1984 at Hansa Tonstudio in West Berlin, where Killing Joke co-produced the album with Chris Kimsey, a veteran seventies rock producer (Mike Harrison, Peter Frampton, Strapps, Ten Years After) with recent ties to reggae (Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff) and modernist new wave (Fingerprintz, Novo Combo).

This was forwarded by their breakthrough hit “Love Like Blood” (UK #16, NZ #6, NDL #5).

“Kings and Queens” was released as the album’s third single (UK #58).

Night Time reached No. 11 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 8 in New Zealand. 

Brighter Than a Thousand Suns

Killing Joke released their sixth album, Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, on November 17, 1986, on E.G.

Thousand Suns features eleven originals, including the epic numbers “Victory,” “Wintergardens,” “Chessboards,” “Rubicon,” and the pre-released singles “Adorations” and “Sanity.”

1. “Adorations” (4:42)
2. “Sanity” (4:45)
3. “Chessboards” (5:51)
4. “Twilight of the Mortal” (4:14)
5. “Love of the Masses” (4:40)
6. “A Southern Sky” (4:38)
7. “Victory” (7:11)
8. “Wintergardens” (5:24)
9. “Rubicon” (7:03)
10. “Goodbye to the Village” (5:26)
11. “Exile” (6:38)

Sessions occurred at three junctures between August 1985 and spring 1986 at Hansa Tonstudio, once again with Kimsey at the board.

Aug 1986
A: Adorations
B: Exile

Oct 1986
A: Sanity
B: Goodbye To The Village

As recordings commenced for a followup, Ferguson was dismissed from the band. Album seven, Outside the Gate, was recorded in July/August of 1987 and released the following June. Sessionist Jimmy Copley (UPP, Ann Lewis, The Quick, Go West) filled the drum slot. The self-produced album yielded two singles, “America” and “My Love of this Land.” The album-closing title-track is their longest studio cut, clocking in at 8:47.

Apr 1988
A: America
B: Jihad

11 Jul 1988
A: My Love Of This Land
B: Darkness Before Dawn

In 1989, Killing Joke released the spoken-word live album The Courtauld Talks. This was followed in November 1990 by their eighth studio set Extremities, Dirt and Various Repressed Emotions, co-produced between the band and Martin Rex (The Fixx, Maximum Joy, Charlie, The Boomtown Rats) and released on Noise Records. Here, the band are joined by ex-PIL drummer Martin Atkins. As their first release geared for the CD medium, it features 11 songs and a 65-minute running time.

Also in 1990, Coleman collaborated with composer Anne Dudley (The Art of Noise) on the album Songs from the Victorious City.

Select discography:

  • Almost Red (EP, 1979)
  • Killing Joke (1980)
  • What’s THIS For…! (1981)
  • Revelations (1982)
  • Fire Dances (1983)
  • Night Time (1985)
  • Brighter Than a Thousand Suns (1986)
  • Outside the Gate (1988)
  • Extremities, Dirt and Various Repressed Emotions (1990)


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