Formed in the post-Sex Pistols melee of the late 70s, Killing Joke formed in London when South London punk Martin Glover (more commonly known as ‘Youth’) answered an advert for a bass player in Melody Maker which had been placed by singer Jaz (real name Jeremy) Coleman and drummer Big Paul (Ferguson) – a teddy boy from High Wycombe.
Newcastle-born guitarist Kevin “Geordie” Walker found his way into the band via the same ad, and together the group bridged the curious gap between punk, funk, metal and Goth-rock, while occasionally predicting the end of the world.
While their astrological credentials were always in doubt, they maintained a formidable reputation as a live band.
After 10 months of rehearsals in Cheltenham (Coleman’s hometown), Killing Joke returned to the capital and cut the dub-soaked Turn To Red EP, which found a champion in Radio 1 DJ John Peel.
In mid-1980 the band signed to EG Records, home to Brian Eno and King Crimson. They proceeded to cut a string of albums which locked into the dread mood of the Thatcherite era while pointing the way to myriad sonic futures.
Despite boasting of having an IQ over 190, swivel-eyed singer Jaz Coleman fled England for Iceland in 1982 because he was sure the apocalypse was imminent. The band appeared on Top of the Pops with a shop dummy standing in for him . . .
Coleman was nothing if not consistent in his madness: displeased with a British music paper in the early-80s, he scattered liver and maggots around the Melody Maker office. He also conducted entire interviews in a made-up language.
Youth wound up in Springfield Hospital in South London in 1982, where he was given electro-convulsive therapy and the anti-psychotic drug Largactyl. He was then released and began eight years of recuperation – after which he started taking acid again.
The band split in 1986 (though they resurfaced in 1994) when their traditional doom-laden funk was suddenly replaced by chart-friendly anthems such as Eighties and Love Like Blood.
Bassist Paul Raven died of a suspected heart attack in October 2007, aged 46. The Wolverhampton musician’s body was found in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was recording.
Raven’s music career included stints in Neon Hearts and glam rock band Kitsch before he replaced original bassist Youth in 1982.
He left the band in 1987 before forming Murder Inc and joining Ministry, Prong and Mob Research. Prong bandmate Ted Parsons found Raven in a chair and called an ambulance crew, which was unable to revive him.
After Raven’s death, the original line-up of Killing Joke (Jaz, Youth, Geordie and Paul Ferguson) reunited. They received a lifetime achievement award from Kerrang! and continue to record and tour.
Coleman moved to Auckland (New Zealand) and became a lay preacher. He has released several orchestral albums, including symphonic treatments of Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and The Doors. In 2001, the Royal Opera House commissioned his first opera, The Marriage at Cana.
Guitarist Geordie Walker died in Prague on 26 November 2023, two days after suffering a stroke. He was 64.
Kevin ‘Geordie‘ Walker
Martin ‘Youth’ Glover
‘Big’ Paul Ferguson