Killing Joke

Killing Joke are an English post-punk/industrial 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. The two had played in the backing band of singer Mataya Clifford. Guitarist Gordie Walker and bassist Youth (Martin Glover) were found through an ad in Melody Maker. Their band name was a play on jokes where the humor lies in the self-reflective element. They played their first gig as the opening act for The Ruts and The Selecter at Brockworth, Whitcombe Lodge, on August 4, 1979.

Killing Joke debuted on vinyl in October 1979 with the 10″ Almost Red, issued on self-press Malicious Damage. It contains three songs: “Turn to Red,” “Are You Receiving,” and “Nervous System.” It was re-released that December as a 12″ on Island Records with a fourth track, “Almost Red.” As on all subsequent releases, the songs are credited to all four members.

In August 1980, Killing Joke recorded and self-produced their debut album at London’s Marquee Studio. It was released that October on E.G. Records (UK, Roxy Music, Brian Eno, Bruford, Robert Fripp). The album features four songs per side, including the early fan-favorites “Requiem,” “The Wait,” “Bloodsport,” and the stop/start closer “Primitive.” The first of those was issued as a single, as was the track “Wardance.” 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.

Killing Joke’s second album, What’s THIS For…!, was released in June 1981. The self-produced effort was recorded at Townhouse Studios, London, and engineered by Hugh Padgham (The Police, Genesis, XTC, Split Enz) and Nick Launay. It features eight songs, including “Exit,” “The Fall of Because,” “Madness,” and “Tension.” The side-two opener “Follow the Leaders” was released as a single.

Killing Joke recorded their third album, Revelations, in Cologne, West Germany, with Conny Plank (Kraftwerk, Guru Guru, Streetmark, Ultravox) at the console. It was released in July 1982. It contains five originals per side, including “Land of Milk and Honey,” “Chapter III,” “Dregs,” and “The Hum.” The tracks “Empire Song” and “Chop-Chop” were issued as singles. During promotions for the album, Coleman took a leave for Iceland, where he served as a UK liaison for Reykjavik post-punks Þeyr.

In early 1983, Killing Joke recorded their fourth album, Fire Dances, at London’s Basing Street Studios. It was co-produced between the band and John Porter (Bryan Ferry, Orange Juice, The Smiths, The Monochrome Set) and released that July on E.G. Of the 10 songs, “Let’s All Go (To the Fire Dances)” became a fan-favorite and charting single (UK #51). Other tracks include “Feast and Blaze,” “The Gathering,” and “Fun and Games.” Youth was replaced on this album by bassist Paul Raven.

In 1984, Killing Joke teamed with producer Chris Kimsey (Peter Frampton, Strapps, Fingerprintz, Novo Combo, The Rolling Stones) and issued two singles, “Eighties” (UK #60) and “A New Day” (UK #56). Late that summer, they recorded their fifth album, Night Time, at Hansa Tonstudio, West Berlin. It was released in February 1985 and reached 11 on the UK chart. This was forwarded by their breakthrough hit “Love Like Blood” (UK #16, NZ #6, NDL #5). The album also includes the fan favorites “Europe,” “Multitudes,” the title-track, and the aforementioned “Eighties.” “Kings and Queens” was released as the album’s third single (UK #58).

Killing Joke recorded tracks for their sixth album at three junctures between August 1985 and spring 1986 at Hansa Tonstudio, once again with Kimsey at the board. Its release was preceded by the August 1986 single “Adorations” (UK #42), followed two month later by “Sanity” (UK #70). The two songs open Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, released that November. The album features six additional songs, including “Victory,” “Wintergardens,” and the fan-favorites “Chessboards” and “Rubicon.”

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.

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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