Sunday, November 26, 2023

Another Cult Hero Goes Down

Well, it's that time again. Time for another episode of "All My Heroes are Dead," this time starring Kevin "Geordie" Walker, the Non-Euclidean guitar god of post-punk metal-mutants, Killing Joke.

Geordie died of a stroke at the age of 64 at his home in Prague earlier today. Pretty decent age for a guy who put on all the mileage he did, along with all the booze and ciggies. And his spirit will be forever in his music, and he made a lot of it. So hale and farewell, madman.


I actually met - OK, encountered - Geordie back in 1982. He and Paul's Ferguson and Raven were getting food at the snack bar at The Channel, where I first saw them. They were all tall and athletic-lean, seemed incredibly confident, and had zero interest in a bunch of punk kids (I was with some guys from Gang Green and Jerry's Kids at the time) like us.

Still, I remember looking at Geordie and thinking that guy - THAT FUCKING GUY - is the one who makes that insane, chthonic racket? 

First of all, he looked way too pretty to be in a band like Killing Joke. He looked like he should be a male model, or at least playing in some teenybopper band like Duran Duran. It was a mindfuck.

Second of all, he was just way too calm and quiet. Raven and Ferguson did all the talking -- OK, the sneering -- and Georgie just sat and ate his burger, a faint smile appearing now and then. A regular sphinx.

Let the late Anthony Angstroms
demonstrate just how nightmarish
Geordie's riffs can be. 

I stood up front when the Jokers hit the stage and watched Geordie play - OK, invoke dark gods - with nothing but his big hollow-body, a Memory Man and a Big Muff. But then I noticed his hands barely seemed to move at all, and I couldn't make sense of that and the wall of otherworldly noise that burst forth from his amp. I've since seen tabs so I could tell you - roughly - what he was playing. 

But I could never tell you why he was playing what he was playing.

Bonus factoid: I saw The Clash later that week and also got right up at the stage. I also met my high school girlfriend there, which is good because the show kind of sucked.

The Joke should be familiar to OG Secret Sunners, as they played a central role in one of the first major synchro-freakouts here. That being the co-inciding of the deaths of former Killing Joke bassist Paul Raven and Heath Ledger. 

Of course, Heath Ledger also made a guest appearance in the Siren synchro-freakout some years later, so it's all in the family.

I've written a lot about the Jokers in the past, so I thought it best to repost a revised piece I did back in the days when everyone thought I'd gone insane. You know, the days when I saw what was barreling towards us just a wee bit sooner than everyone else. For all the good it did me, right?

I've got another classic I'll be putting up on the Secret History of Rock blog so keep an eye out for that.

Meanwhile, let's hit the Secret Sun Wayback Machine....

Killing Joke kicked off their 40th Anniversary (kill me) tour in Cyloneattle, a top testing ground for world enslavement that damn well could use some Joke. 

Indeed, the band's second life kicked off in 2003 with a self-titled slab of scorching apocalyptic jeremiads inspired by 9/11 and the Iraq War, and they've been raging against the (real) machines ever since.

That album, produced by Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill, not only saw Foo Fighter Dave Grohl slamming the cans as a short-term Joker, it was drenched in anti-NWO lyrics so paranoid, pissed-off, and radical, they make Alex Jones sound like Anderson Cooper on molly.

They're the kind of righteous rants Bill Cooper might have find a bit over-the-top. But that's been pretty much all their lyrics ever since. Think Lemmy singing David Icke's greatest hits.

The album inspired a host of YouTube pamphleteers who threw up homemade collages of current horror stories with KJ soundtracks faster than the Thought Police could yank them down. "Total Invasion" was a favorite and a couple are still up. Use caution if you go hunting, some of them get pretty graphic (Update: most have been yanked).

All of Killing Joke are also involved in esoteric pursuits to some extent or other. And some of you might have heard the story that the band broke up for a short time in 1982 to decamp to Iceland and sit out the approaching Apocalypse. And then they sheepishly slinked back to London when it didn't come. We all make mistakes.

(UPDATE: We found out more recently that they actually went to Iceland to get high and bang a bunch of kooky Viking babes).

And I'm sure most of you know that Killing Joke has inspired pretty much every hard rock and metal band that followed them, in one way or the other. The articles always cite Nirvana, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, but that's not even the start of it.

The Joke are also in large part responsible for inspiring Nu Metal, but we won't hold that over them.

Some of you might also know that Killing Joke singer Jaz Coleman is a serious occultist and is tight with Jimmy Page. I've been told by a very inside source that Jaz is one of a tiny handful of people that Page allows into his private Crowley library.

But for all his occult connections and all his hoodoo-mambo man posing, none of it would amount to anything more than a LARP if Jaz didn't have a human riff-factory standing behind him, tearing open dimensional gateways with his hollow-body Gibson.

What I mean to say is that Jaz Coleman is an occultist but Kevin "Geordie" Walker IS the occult. 

Let me see if I can explain.

Back in the much-maligned first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation there was an episode called "Where No One Has Gone Before." The premise was that a big-deal Starfleet engineer was coming onboard the Enterprise to tune up the engines and so forth. The problem was that the engineer was actually coding in utter gibberish and the real work was done by his alien adjutant, the Traveler.

But then all manner of spacely hijinks ensue and the crew find themselves on the other side of the Universe. Worse, the Traveler is phasing in an out of different realities, as one does, and soon reality goes kerblooey all over the ship. Then Wesley saves the day, bla bla bla.

So the engineer thinks he's the shit, but he's just a loudmouthed loon. And the magic is all being done by the quiet guy in the corner. I don't want to go too far with the analogy here, but when it comes to the conjuring, Geordie is the guy phasing in and out of dimensions and Jaz is the guy screaming about Lovecraft's Old Ones returning.

No, literally. Jaz actually released a double-album where he rants for an eternity (or an hour) about precisely that. 

It's fucking excruciating.

What actually gives Coleman's nightmare visions such heft is that they're laid atop slabs of molten-iron guitars, slamming out riffs so non-Euclidean yet so god-damned catchy that you could have seals barking over them and it would still come out totally metal.

This video here is a perfect marriage of music and movie. Geordie's guitar can often (OK, usually) sound like some infernal machine, some nightmare-factory from another world. Especially since his style is heavily reliant on trance-inducing repetition.


Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I went to Hell and when I got back, I couldn't listen to Killing Joke for two years? 


Well then, let me tell you a story...

Back in the early 80s, angel dust was a huge problem. It was especially a problem since dealers liked to sprinkle a bit of it on weed to give their customers a little extra bang for their buck.
Well, one fine day I wandered out to the smoking area (which doubled as an open-air drug bazaar) in front of my high school, and scanned around for a friendly face. I found one, handed over my hard-earned dollar, pocketed my prize and went about my merry little way.
I went home and partook it in this little wonder, and decided it would be jolly smashing fun to give Killing Joke's What's THIS for? a spin. 

Not one of my best ideas.

Art by longtime Killing Joke
house artist Mike Coles

Unbeknownst to me at the time, the parcel I'd obtained was carrying a chemical stowaway. I didn't notice anything out of sorts until all the light and color drained from the world, my limbs got filled with concrete, and my bed became an endlessy-spinning vortex.

All of a sudden, those pounding drums, distorted howls, and flamethrower guitars didn't sound quite so entertaining.
I tried to take the needle off the record, but suddenly the turntable (which was next to my headrest) seemed like it was a hundred feet away and receding. It was just one of a number of experiences I've had where I feared I had broken my mind. 

When it was finally over, I took the record carefully from the turntable, placed it gently in its sleeve, and stored it under a pile of books and things on a shelf I knew I'd have scant occasion to rifle through. It stayed there for nearly two years. 

You see, you might hear me drone on endlessly about sweet-voiced sopranos, but Killing Joke is what it actually sounds like inside my head. In fact, it was that way long before the band even existed. I knew that sound. That guitar -- especially that fucked-up, impossible guitar at the coda there -- was talking to me, and it was a voice I'd heard for a very long time.

I knew it from those holographic nightmares I'd had since I was a wee wane. And as you might expect, there are also synchronistic emanations attached to them in meatspace involving dolphins. Because why not, right?

But oddly enough, I pre-knew songs like "The Fall of Because" from those warm summer nights in the 70s, holding seances with my youthful cohort in one of the worst places on Earth you could possibly go about trying to dial up the spirits. A fact we'd all learn soon enough when the world caved in on us.

Oddly enough, that all went down smack dab in the heart of Lovecraft Country. 

Innsmouth, in fact.

So yeah, I've been thinking a lot about sound and sonic frequencies lately.

I've read reams of material speculating on the use of sound in occult practice and its use in bridging dimensions. I've been thinking about how information we haven't yet learned to decode is embedded in music and singing. I mean, it's no surprise that a lot of ancient scripture was meant to be sung or that mantras and the like are such a major part of meditation.
But I'd bet good money there's a lot more to it than that, though. More than we currently understand. I dunno, maybe more than we ever will.....

I obsess a lot over music because I grew up surrounded by it, but also because I've experienced paranormal experiences through it. Things like out-of-body experiences at concerts and spirit possession while playing guitar (I actually caught one of those events on tape if you're at all interested).
None of this is even remotely unusual to any serious musician. I mean, the very word "music" literally means to be possessed by the Muses, amirite? That's kind of the whole point.

So when I think about songs like this, where Geordie is playing chords I never dreamed could actually be chords, in a song I felt like I first heard a thousand years ago (and possibly on another planet), I do have to wonder what exactly is behind it.

Because that doesn't sound like a guitar to me. 
It sounds like a cybernetic demon-serpent spitting out horrible prophecies in the dead of night. As opposed to Optimus Prime locked in a death-cage match with Gamera, which is how it sounds on the rest of that album.
So why do I find it so invigorating?
Well, Jaz has spoken of the immense darkness Killing Joke conjure as having a powerful homeopathic effect. In other words, you draw out the poison, play with it, cackle like a minah bird at it, and then go back to your normal life feeling refreshed.
With Geordie -- and as with all true shamans, he'd gag at this kind of pretentious flooble -- it reminds me how ancient exorcists were able to gain power over demons by learning their secret names. If you are the kind of person given to believe our world is being invaded by entities from places unknown, I'd think there's a tremendous advantage in that. 

What about you?

Unlike most of their ilk, the Joke are capable of honest-to-God beauty and melodicism, probably because Jaz is a serious classical composer and Geordie was also classically trained when he was young. They all know real music.
In fact, the next album is going to be a symphony based on the Killing Joke back catalog in the same way Jaz did the Symphonic Pink Floyd and Symphonic Led Zeppelin albums back in the 90s. With a Sumerian-language choir this time.

Since bassist Youth is a producer who's worked with The Orb and Paul McCartney and scores of others, the Jokers also released an absolute killer three-CD dub album a few years back. I think the original title was Suck on This, Clash but the record company made them change it.
Don't quote me on that, though.
I should mention I had an odd experience with a Killing Joke concert. I won tickets on WFMU to see them at The Ritz in 1991, but when it came time to go, my car keys vanished. I mean they were just gone. They didn't resurface until almost a year later.

I'll take that as my guardian angel running interference. Thank you, guardian.