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Interview taken from the Offense book 12, 1981/11/12. Copyright most likely still held by Tet Offensive Productions, 1981. TKA or Blake, get in touch!
So BLAKE GUMPRECHT re-enters the ring for some more sparring
Blake: Is there a Killing Joke philosophy or is it just music to dance to?
Paul: No, not at all. As far as our philosophy is concerned, it is summed up in the words "killing joke". I would prefer that any philosophy gained out of that be totally left up to the individual listening to it. We project as much as we possibly can, musically. Really it's for people to take it themselves however they will. Killing joke sums it up.
B: How have the individuals in Killing Joke evolved with the band?
P: Obviously, as time goes on it gets more and more difficult to exist together. You tend to grow yourself in different directions, but that is something that we've always cherished--individuality. So as it gets more difficult it gets stronger in the want to stick to that main principle.
B: When Killing Joke writes music, is it a group effort?
P: It's very much a group effort. Lyrics tend to be from one person initially, one sort of idea, a few lines, and then we all put it apart (laughs). Musically, it's the same--ideas just built on, all of us together. No one says, "All right, I want you to do this, because this is my idea." Suggestions are thrown around between us. It's a collective thing.
B: Killing Joke seem to get a hardcore following, even the Oi-Oi crowd.
P: It's not the Oi-Oi crowd, but we do get elements of that. It's mostly the media's fault. They tend to try and categorize us with mohicans, skinheads, punks, and so obviously those people tend to feel that they can come along and see us and feel more secure or something. Again, being the type of music that it is, that sort of people are more attracted to it. But over here we've already been getting played in dance halls and stuff, so already we're getting the type of people we imagined we'd get. Just people from all walks.
B: Do those people actually think about the "killing joke"?
P: There's no way it could be possible for them to think just that "this is a good dance song." The atmosphere we create tends to be pretty intense. They've got to think, "Who is this?" and "Why is the music like this?" And then they hear the name Killing Joke, and if that doesn't spark off some thought in their brain, they're not worth fucking bothering with anyway.
B: Do you find that sometimes you're preaching to the converted?
P: That's true of everything.
B: But haven't you ever thought of doing unusual gig sites, for instance, or opening for bands that--
P: We do unusual gigs over in England. We can't do that here because we don't know enough about the place. We haven't got any contacts to do that, but that is our intention. It's always been our intention to try and take it further than the normal scope of music, because the last thing we want to do is to be just another band. It is kind of sickening, playing clubs like this, perhaps that's true. But certainly so far a lot of people have been coming to see us just out of interest, things they hear.
B: What else do you do in England along those lines?
P: We played a lot with Joy Division. We just put gigs on in places where gigs aren't usually held in England. We also use a fire eater some of the time, and just other small things. We've got no money to really do what we wish at the moment; all our money is tied up in recording. The way we want to grow is to be able to do more things that will get across to people still further. I mean, music is so limited; you can play hundreds of places like this and still not get across to people. Music is instantly disposable. It creates a lasting impression on some people, but when it comes right down to it, it's a disc you can buy or not, and it passes every week.
B: Why do you use fire eaters?
P: We feel like the band is based around fire--red, and what that color sort of does to you. The energy of fire, the creativeness of fire, its destructiveness. When a tree burns down, it feeds the earth. It's that principle.
B: Five years from now, will very many people remember Killing Joke?
P: Oh, certainly, if there's any people left in five years to remember it (laughs), yeah.
B: Are you pessimistic?
P: That was merely a jest. I'm naturally a pretty despondent person, but I find it impossible to live being pessimistic about the future.
B: So how do you handle the negativeness?
P: There's fulfillment in the head--that is something that I look for. I look for ways to improve my mind, so to speak, so that I can find some certain satisfaction out of life.
B: There are certain people who think that rock cannot change anything, no matter what.
P: I agree.
B: Then what are you trying to do with Killing Joke?
P: I'm trying to prove them wrong. I'm trying to prove myself wrong. I'm trying my best. I'm trying to change myself, I'm trying to expand myself, I'm trying to find a reason for why I want to do this. That will only come from inside me.
B: Do you think music is the best medium to get across ideas?
P: No, I don't. Communication is always difficult, in whatever form. The more personal the things you want to express are to you, then the more difficult it is communicating them.
B: The Killing Joke sound--
P: The sound is different because we don't confine ourselves to types. We try to do new things constantly, but we're always playing exactly what we want, how we like ourselves to sound, ourselves individually.
B: Some say the guitar sound is almost a heavy metal sound.
P: Well, yeah, it's because it's aggressive, it's raw. But I find it extremely melodious--when I listen to Geordie play, I can hear an orchestra, and it's just sort of one single fragmented chord. I hear an orchestra, choirs even. There are very few other bands that I respect and that I enjoy, very few indeed.
B: Who do you enjoy?
P: (hesitates) An album that I have enjoyed recently is DAF, their new album. Uh, uh...(laughs)
B: How about older stuff?
P: I listen to Gene Vincent even. I like him because I can sing along to him. Like, if I want to feel mindless and I just want to use my voice and there's no one else around, I'll sing along to that. A band that does inspire me verbally and rhythmically is the Last Poets. They were an American band, early 70's, very radical, sort of Black Muslims. Heavy, heavy, heavy music. There's not much music, but there's a lot of drums and verbal. I mean, talk about social conscience.
Blake: How do you get that guitar sound?
Geordie: I've always wanted that and now I'm getting close to it.
B: You're not there yet?
G: Not quite, not quite.
B: How did you develop that sound?
G: I don't know. It's not set out to be that way. It's just a combination of sound and rhythm. I don't know, it just happened that way.
B: When you were growing up, were there any guitarists that you looked up to who might have had an influence?
G: Yeah, there was one. I used to like Zal Cleminson (Alex Harvey Band). He was really the most aggressive player at one point, in that time before '76 when everything was so fucking horrible. It was rubbish. It was soft rock. When I first started playing, when I was about 15, there was nothing.
B: Are there any bands you currently like?
G: There's nothing, there's no guitar players about now who are anything that I would bother to listen to much. The only thing I've liked recently are a couple of tracks on the new DAF album.
B: In past interviews, you guys haven't had much nice to say about America. What have you found?
G: America? It's just really extreme. The young people here are really the only ones who have any clue about reality. The older ones are just so, so caught upright in the fast buck syndrome. It's their religion, these people. Even the religious programs, they sort of put the points of Jesus forward as he'll even help you in your financial life. It's as sick as that. It frightened me at first. It's ridiculous.
B: Do you think the majority of the young people are any different?
G: I don't know about the majority, just the people we've seen. Most of the people that have been anywhere near what I consider sane have been young people our age and younger. They seem to have some sort of foot in reality. B: So where does Killing Joke go from here?
G: It depends a lot on the audience, how many people are going to come around to our way of thinking as far as reality is concerned. It's a lot stronger in England because the money's run out there. There's none of this sort of anesthetic about. They actually can see what is going on.
B: Are people too comfortable here?
G: They are, that's it. There's a lot of money here, but it's in times of less money that you really see the band's points.
B: Does Killing Joke do anything?
G: I hope so, I hope it inspires people to think. A lot of people just use it as a release. They're in a situation and they feel frustrated, the feeling that Killing Joke inspires. The frustration of it, the being out of control. We come along and we completely relate to that tension--the music, just the sound alone, fuck the lyrics and things like that, just the sound, the intensity of it.
B: Are lyrics unimportant?
G: People feel a need for the lyrics because they want to find out what you think. They want some sort of direction, a lot of them. But music inspires people, rather than just telling them things.
B: Why is it better than the written word?
G: There's no sort of orders to it. It doesn't make a stand. Music can't be taken literally. It's open and it inspires you. People were jumping around tonight. Why were they jumping around like that? Hopefully that will inspire something. We do sing about, you know, "relevant issues", but it's all been said before. It's just a bit more intense now. The lyrics are important, but the music is far more important. Lots of bands sing about the same sorts of things as we do, but their music that goes with it is just pop. It's just token. Ours is completely extreme, it's completely barrierless. With language, you're just dealing with the English-speaking population of the world. With music, anyone from anywhere can relate to that sound. They might be as completely fucked as they are in this country. They think we're rather a mess; they don't know what relates to it. We did this gig in Toronto at a festival (with the Police, the Specials, the Go-Go's, and others) and the DJ got on and we were introduced as, "Those mean motherfuckers from England." That's how he related to it, that's all it was, just another rock image to him. He was completely lost, an idiot, and a lot of people are like that over here. They got everything they want. Even if they consider themselves anti-society, they just hide in the wings.
B: A weekend thing.
G: It is, it is. It's very sad, very halfhearted.
B: Do you think that will change?
G: Eventually, yeah. The money will run out.
B: What's going to happen then?
G: I don't know, I'm waiting to see what happens. I'm preparing myself the best way I can.
B: How and why was the Malicious Damage label formed?
G: It was simple. We formed a band, we had material, we wanted to record it, and we wanted to put it out on our own label. So we found someone with some money, someone who was prepared to go along with us. It just happened from that. We payed for all our recording out of what we borrowed, we payed for the pressing, and we just printed our own labels and put them on the record.
B: Why were you so insistent on forming your own label?
G: We just wanted the most control as possible. We realized how bad record companies were. Certain record companies at one point were just signing up anything. In the beginning, '76 and '77, one record company signed up every band that came out, just in case, and they tied them up with contracts so that if they didn't make it, which most of them didn't because they were rubbish, then they were just totalled. They couldn't even work, because they were tied up with this company.
B: Does Killing Joke offer solutions?
G: Oh, no. We don't want to offer any solutions at all. Why? That puts us above other people, telling them what to do. That's pathetic, people should think for themselves.
B: What exactly happened to Paul's hand?
G: He couldn't breathe, so he smashed a window.
(Geordie wore a Freemason's pin on his collar, and Jaz also had one, so I asked him about it.)
G: I bought it today. I bought four of them, one for everyone. We've got an obssession with the Freemasons. Freemasons, a long, long time ago, were the people who were supposed to have actually designed and built the layouts of the cities with all this black magic nonsense people talk about. They were the people who built the towns in relation to what they called the heavens. This badge is sort of the geometry, the compass. The whole thing--got the sun on one side, the moon on the other, masculine and feminine. There was a phrase, "As above, so below." It's basically magic, what people call magic these days. These people built the cities in line with the planets, and this isn't rubbish, this is straight up. But it's just digressed these days into money. Masonry is a desirable sort of club to be in, right, for contacts. There are police chiefs, big businessmen, all sorts. They're in the government and everywhere. They're just complete martyrs to money. The original intention of it was the true science, if you like, but nowadays, it's just money. Magic is just an amusing aspect. The Freemasons were the people who had the influence, they were the thinking people, the highest, the most spiritually avowed.
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