Killing Joke – Malicious Damage Records – 1979

Nervous System / Turn To Red

Are You Receiving

The mighty force that is the debut single from Killing Joke. This 10″ raised a few eyebrows when released, clean clinical choppy guitar with some nice dubby bass lines.

Some of the imagery used on Killing Joke records and shirts were second only to Gee Vouchers collages for Crass. Mike Coles who designed just about all the artwork (everyone I knew had a ‘Pope blessing Nazi’s’ shirt!) used provocative images which are still stunning many decades later. Jaz Coleman, the vocalist’s attention to the occult, and later to Iceland and Icelandic music added to the band’s mystique.  

Killing Joke were absolutely awesome in the studio and on the stage for the few years from this earlier material up to the ‘Fire Dances’ LP released in 1983. I have not heard material after this 1983 LP, but would recommend anyone to look up any product available on CD and to grab it quick especially if it is in the time-span 1979-1983.

  1. chris
    April 19, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Early Killing Joke stuff is absolutely amazing. And still sounds incredible today. I think the fact no band has ever tried to emulate their sound is ample testimony to their originality. And yes, a stunning live act. Great artwork too, which I must say i infinitely prefer to Gee Vaucher’s though obviously they are very different, though I would say both heavily influenced by John Heartfield and to a less extent, Linder.

    Don’t suppose you have that live 10″ ‘Ha!’ Micky? or that bootleg live lp that came out around the time of the first LP. lent both to a mate at school, never got them back and haven’t ever seen either since 🙁

  2. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    April 19, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Yeah I have ‘Ha’ 10″ here, but not the bootleg…will put up at some point. One band that tried for the sound of KJ and failed miserably was Play Dead.

  3. Trunt
    April 19, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Yep! you are right, I had the ‘Pope Blessing’ T-Shirt, loved it as it caused quite a stir around the area where I live. had the ‘Ha’ 10″ but never seen the bootleg. Killing Joke are doing a gig down London Oct 3rd the Forum doing all their early stuff, with the original line up. didn’t mind Play dead got them to play at a night club in Whitehaven 85 think it was, decent bunch of people. Better live than their vinyl though.

  4. johng
    April 19, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    i bought tickets to see kj in manchester at the osbourne club(factory 2) only they cancelled at the last minute,the osbourne mangement decided to book the ‘cockney rejects’ as replacements for kj,what a crap choice and a crap gig that turned into! oi oi

  5. Final Curtain
    Final Curtain
    April 20, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    There were other bands who dabbled with the Killing Joke sound. Check out 1919, Plague Of Fools, The Headhunters, & Red Beat (who even released a single on Malicious Damage).

  6. zeroid
    April 20, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    The band VEX who had a 12” on Fight Back records, called ‘Sanctuary’ I think, had a fair go at mixing a Killing Joke sound with straightup punk as well.
    Not forgetting early Amebix who (self-admittedly) were very influenced by KJ.

  7. Nuzz
    April 20, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    I didn’t think Playdead were too bad, anyone got their last album? It was a live one recorded here in Stevenage, at their final gig way back when..

  8. Al
    April 20, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    …way back then we did a gig with Play Dead in the 80’s in Leeds when we were still going (A touch of hysteria) and not one paying person turned up. We played to about ten people including them, Play Dead decided not to bother!

  9. simon
    April 20, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    This site just gets better and better… totally agree with Chris’s comments about early KJ stuff, and this release was absolute quality. Played it to death when it was released and can still listen to it now. KJ bring back great memories, the tracks ‘Wardance’, ‘Love like Blood’, ‘Requiem’, ‘Change’ are all classics too, to my battered eardrums anyway!

  10. luggy
    April 21, 2008 at 10:52 am

    I only saw them once at the Electric Ballroom.
    Felt a bit like what being at a Nuremburg rally must have been like to me. Being in the middle of an audience worshipping Jaz doing passable Hitler impressions didn’t feel right with me.
    Maybe I was having an off night though!

  11. Stockholm monster
    Stockholm monster
    April 22, 2008 at 10:14 am

    I’m destined to never get to see KJ. First time they were in town, 84/85-ish, they were booked at a night club with a 26+ door policy. None of us kids were admitted inside… the street outside of the club was packed with upset fans. Jaz came out and tried to smooth-talk the bouncers, alas to no avail. A minor riot ensued, someone called the cops, and we fled. Next I was going to see KJ last year, but they cancelled the Scandinavian leg of the tour, supposedly due to poor ticket sales (who the hell buys in advance anyway?).

    I do have the “Live in London” bootleg LP though… bought it in Berlin in ’83. Fantastic recording, gotta be the next best thing to seeing them live in the flesh. Oh, at least I did attend a Play Dead show, which I thought was fair enough.

    Marten, a Stockholm monster

  12. John No Last Name
    John No Last Name
    April 22, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    So the original line up of Killing Joke are back together and rehearsing for a world tour, so you may have your chance to see them. I always loved Killing Joke, both live and on record and can’t wait to see them back with Big Paul beating the hell out of the drums again for the first time in something like 18 years.

  13. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    April 22, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    A gig I will venture out for also, John Last Name when they play London again!!! Saw them quite a few times and always enjoyed the gigs in the early 1980’s

  14. simon
    April 22, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Never actually saw KJ, rather embarrassingly even though I was ticket in hand for one of their gigs… we ventured out after a large quantity of illicit tea that had been made and consumed, but I got freaked out on the tube thinking that everyone around me knew that i was off my tits, I got as far as the queue but then had to go home to a darkened room to chill out!

    Seems funny thinking back now. Go on have a laugh at my expense…


  15. John No Last Name
    John No Last Name
    April 22, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    I’m way too scared to laugh at you Simon, if you don’t kill me again you might pull out some embarassing photos.

  16. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    April 22, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    I have had a chuckle, thank you Simon, needed that. Now I sit and wait for the Ju Ju.

  17. lee23
    April 22, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Killing Joke could certainly whip up an atmosphere, what with the fire breather and the panda make-up. Their misanthropy wasn’t everyones cup of tea but for sheer intensity KJ live in the early 80s was pretty unbeatable and enthralling for your average post punker round town…

  18. dan
    April 23, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    The Unperverted Pantomime was a great semi-official cassette release collecting their Revelations-period Peel session and some astonishing live stuff from 1979. Jaz’s vocal is way up in the mix and he’s enunciating unusually clearly! I believe it’s been re-issued on CD, possibly with extra material. Well worth checking out.

    I only saw them live once. I forget where (Hammersmith Palais?), but it would’ve been around the time of Revelations. Charge and UK Decay were support.

  19. Mike
    April 29, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Zeroid-you mentioned VEX,so I dug out a couple of live tapes someone sent me,one from Norwich in 1983,the other Electric Ballroom in 1984.The former is a racket,but the latter (I guess using Conflict’s PA) is actually amazing.Total KJ in places,but the singer reminds me of Kirk Brandon, if less irritating (tho’ that’s just personal taste).If anyone has any more info on this band,let me know,they only manage 5-6 songs on the EB gig (and one of the best ones seems to cut off halfway).

  20. alistairliv
    April 29, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Killing Joke/ Turn to Red is featured in Grand Theft Auto IV- Liberty City. Tune into to radio station ‘Electro-Choc’ to catch it. Game out today 29 April.

  21. Curious Guy
    Curious Guy
    April 29, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Found this info on Last.FM on Vex:
    Singer Richard Zsigo (known at that time as Scrote) went on to form the band Triumvirate, then travelled for a few years between Glastonbury (UK) and Sedona (U.S. Arizona)performing celtic folk tales and known as Yanu, a name he uses to this day. Living near Glastonbury, his current project is a blues two-piece called HollowBone.
    There’s also a Vex fanpage on MySpace:

  22. Nic
    April 30, 2008 at 7:54 am

    I saw Killing Joke once in 1980 (at a CND rally in Trafalgar Square – we went down on a coach organised by Coventry CND), and then about 6 times in the years between 1982 and 1990…I must admit, they never seemed as exciting after that first concert (after Youth left, they lost some of the drive for me)…
    But – their sound on those first few releases is just fantastic – such a great amalgam of Punk energy, Post Punk angularity, the abandon of Disco, and the Dub aesthetic…
    Their sound always struck me as one that appeared as if from nowhere almost fully formed – it seemed so hard to trace any discernable influences in it (unlike so many groups)…

    It’s quite interesting just how many ex-‘anarcho punks’ wind up playing a variant on acoustic folk music…
    Perhaps they can never get the ‘Protest Music’ out of their heads (like Pete Seeger)…

  23. johng
    May 1, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    shame the only venues that they are playing on this new tour are down in ‘that london’.apparentley its the original line up with youth too………..

  24. SadBast
    May 3, 2008 at 5:41 am

    i’ve been in fairly regular contact with youth recently since he produced the “heartland” album for ‘client’ two years back, (with the youth produced new albums from the cult and futureheads now complete, client and youth started work on a follow-up album last week). in particular a group of us have hosted 6 or 7 low key club shows for his outstanding new live post-punk project “vertical smile”, the idea being to allow them to try out a host of recently written material in a live environment prior to finalising it in the studio and to get the band broken in ready for the time the wider public gets to see what they are capable of.

    the “vertical smile” material is getting pretty much the best underground reviews of any of his work post his departure from killing joke in 1982 and last time we met youth confirmed that an initial ep is in the can awaiting release. it’s hard to overstate quite how exciting these live shows have been. when they finally see the light of day songs “automatic freq” and “explode” will be the big ones!

    the next vertical smile gigs are, (no advance tickets):

    29 may, 8pm: the ceremony club @the red star, camberwell
    18th july, 8pm: whitechapel art gallery

    for more info about vertical smile and to listen to the few tracks they have made available check these interviews, reviews and the myspace:

    http://www. myspace. com/weareverticalsmile

    http://www. nemesis. to/vertinterview. htm

    http://www. nemesis. to/vertilive. htm

    http://www. nemesis. to/vert_live. htm

    http://www. nemesis. to/vertpix. htm

    youth also told me that last year youth and big paul ferguson combined to record and mix a second album of material for their ‘”transmission” project, this time with vocals. their first album was all instrumentals. the plan is for that to also be released on ‘malicious damage records’, the label largely run by mike coles. not sure who else is involved in the label but much of colesy’s artwork and the KJ back catalogue was available through their website

    http://www. myspace. com/transmissionofficial

    http://www. myspace. com/maliciousdamage79

    finally the words of a recent gig reviewer discussing both ‘selfish cunt’ and vertical smile’ in the same article:

    “Led by the most charismatic passive/aggressive singer I know, the band delivered what only they could be expected to deliver; tension, passion, aggression and humour and most of this was between the band themselves. Most notably there was onstage fighting which led to a stand-off between singer Martin Tomlinson and the rest of the band. He wanted to do the spoken word part to ‘Uncle Sam’ with no music but the band took offence at being told to stop and disobeyed their ‘leader’ extremely reluctantly – noises from the guitar, bass and purposefully out of time drumming reminded Tomlinson that they were a four piece outfit. This tension oozing from the band and the crowd packed to the rafters left the air feeling semi-strangled…would it be released to breathe or would it be annihilated?

    I was standing right at the front and right next to Patrick, the guitarist. The crowd were mesmerised by Tomlinson and even mimicked his actions – he nudged the chandelier above his head and the crowd took it a step further and actually swung the chandelier above their heads which eventually snapped off and set a live wire loose and the venue on a health and safety alert. The band, then shrouded in darkness, were aided by DJ Mark Keds who switched on a small pink granny lampshade and held it over the band. Something so fragile and inappropriate saves the day. But one disaster is mildly averted but onwards, in true Selfish Cunt all-guns-blazing-self-destructive style, hurtles another.

    A large solid wood table carrying around 20 fans suddenly snaps with the weight and pressure of the energetic moshing but the fans continue to jump up and down and slide off one by one. The table at this point looks like it’s been hacked to death by a chainsaw and I see it neatly piled up high across a sofa at the end of the night in millions of pieces. Selfish Cunt’s performance is soon over. Tensions remain high yet the audience stand feeling exhilarated and burning from the chaos that remains.

    The sound engineer comes on the mic and tells the fans to fuck off after vandalising the venue. Her rage is met with laughter and boos. People are pushed around and out of the venue – into the beer garden and spilling on to the streets. Constant chatter about ‘what the fuck is going on’ and ‘…THAT gig!’

    I feel compelled to write this because I finally feel some real passion for some bands. Bands that recently (Vertical Smile at Decasian Records launch at Macbeth and Selfish Cunt tonight at The George) have single-handedly kept punk alive by creating an atmosphere in which fans feel they can physically express themselves. The results may sound violent but I assure you, it was pure passionate energy spilling from the band on to the crowd. For me, in my lifetime, I feel very priviliged to have experienced this. At least there are a few gigs I will proudly tell my grandchildren about.

    All I can say is, get out of your house and on to the streets for real fucking music. Don’t go to orchestrated lifeless club nights in which pretty girls wear pink high heeled shoes and sit down all evening so the soles of their shoes don’t get dirty and boys wear tight jeans so they can pose and show off their back-combed hairspray hair and skinny ties. It’s all a fucking joke and luckily I don’t know many people like that and the ones I do know, I have no respect for. Girls: get your faces messy and boys: get dirty. Punk is alive in London and go out there and fucking experience it.”

  25. Keer Ray Z. Fokker
    Keer Ray Z. Fokker
    May 30, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Best band live ever. Saw ’em twice 82ish. Wish I’d gone to more.

  26. Jay Vee
    Jay Vee
    August 15, 2009 at 12:53 am

    I must admit, never seeing them before myself at a gig until recently, headlining at Rebellion Festival on 9th August 2009, I’m inclined to agree that they are possibly the most amazing band I’ve ever seen…

    clips up on my YouTube channel – /Videos4C

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