80’s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ Killing Joke

Today’s entry is a walk on the Post-punk wild side. You may know Killing Joke for their quasi-hit “Love Like Blood” released in 1985. Truthfully, they are another 80’s band I wasn’t aware of until many years after their debut, thanks to the tasteless wasteland of South Florida radio.

Killing Joke formed in Notting Hill, London, England in 1978, right in the midst of a punk scene taking the world by storm. Founding members were Jaz Coleman (vocals, keyboards) and Paul Ferguson (drums). Geordie Walker (guitar) and Martin Glover (bass) joined after responding to an ad.

Starting out as purely punk, the group’s style was eventually coined as “industrial.” Several well-known bands that formed later on cited Killing Joke as an influence: Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Jane’s Addiction, to name a few. Legendary DJ John Peel became enamored of the band’s early sound and promoted them with heavy airplay. Coleman’s caustic vocals, along with instrumentation that evolved more towards heavy metal, earned them a large and enthusiastic following in the UK. The band took its show to the road and gained some well-deserved fame.

As with most bands that never really broke through in a big way worldwide, Killing Joke was plagued with controversy. They were accused of promoting fascism with their appearance and the design of their album covers. The band denied any link to fascism, claiming instead they were apolitical and merely making an ironic statement against the state of the world. At one point, the members moved to Iceland to avoid what they perceived as the upcoming global apocalypse. Once they realized the world wasn’t really coming to an end, they returned to the UK to pick up recording and touring.

After releasing a couple more moderately successful LPs and several singles, Killing Joke changed their sound and veered towrds the use of more electronica. By 1987, Coleman was recording on his own and trying to make a go as a solo act. The record company resisted for budgetary reasons, insisted the material be released as Killing Joke, and the album Outside The Gate was met with mixed reviews. Killing Joke went through another in a long, persistent series of personnel changes, hit the road to tour, and began to once again experience insurmountable personality conflicts. The 80’s were over at this point, and effectively, so was the 80’s iteration of the band.

Coleman and Walker have persevered off and on thoughout the years, and Killing Joke continues to record and tour today. Even though the band was continually plagued with internal squabbles, music critic run-ins, and negative appearance issues, that fact remains that it was strong enough to influence other fledgling-to stardom groups, as well as its own genre of music. If you’re not familiar with Killing Joke, and like your music with a healthy dose of raw edginess, this is a band definitely worth listening to.

Purchase Killing Joke music here.

“Love Like Blood” via YouTube user jim90290:

“Requiem (Demo)” via YouTube user spineyExtra:

“Requiem (Live)” via YouTube user wattage:

“Eighties” via YouTube user dentoxic:

80’s Discography

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)
The Coutauld Talks (1989)
Extremities, Dirt & Various Repressed Emotions (1990)