Fascinating documentary film telling the story of Killing Joke
Right from the very word go, the Killing Joke story gets weird. Jaz Coleman and drummer Paul Ferguson decide to summon up other band members through a magic ritual, which results in Pauls flat burning down. Bassist Youth and Guitarist Geordie eventually join the band through more traditional means – an advert in the Melody Maker.
There is an inalienable bond between that original line-up, but there are also tensions. Famously Jazz disappears to Iceland in 1982 to avoid the impending apocalypse. He is followed by Geordie and Ferguson, but Youth stays in blighty. As he says in the film “It wasn’t a case of me leaving the band, more a case of the band leaving me”.
Youth is replaced by Paul raven who becomes an important component of the band, although himself wanders in and out over the years.
The film includes new interview footage, but also a lot of archive footage and interviews all stitched together in a deliberately arty shaky punk rock style.
Raven goes off and works with other bands like Ministry and Youth has himself a career worthy of a film on its own, but these are only touched upon in the film. There is a lot of focus on jazz Coleman’s extracurricular activities though, with his classical music projects. Even that is not straight forward. One minute he is composer in residence with an orchestra in Prague, the next he is courting controversy through a performance of the New Zealand national anthem in native Maori at the rugby World Cup.
Along with the Iceland thing in 1982, there are many other magic or paranormal events, such as the time the band all had an out of body experience onstage and strange events during the recording of the Pandemonium album inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.
In 2002 the band recorded a second self-titled album with Dave Grohl on drums – which could be seen as payback for when Nirvana allegedly nicked the riff from ‘Eighties’ for their song ‘Come as you are’.
Although there was a lot of coming and going within the band – it’s clear from the film that you have to be pretty hardcore to survive the internal chaos of the band – when long time bassist Raven passes away in 2007 the original line up meet at his funeral and bury hatchets to reform the original line up. And that line up is still together as we type.
Clocking in at just over two hours this is an interesting documentary. There are exploits we remember at the time, exploits we had forgotten about that raise a smile and behind the scenes stuff that we knew nothing about. As well as interviews with the band we get contributions from managers, road crew and fellow ‘magic enthusiast’, Jimmy Page. The interview with Jazz’s mother raise a smile, although why Peter Hook is included is a mystery.
It is clear this is not your average rock and roll band. This is some sort of magical phenomenon that had manifest itself in the guise of a musical entity. It’s odd, having been a fan of the band since that very first album we were obviously aware of the spiritual connection, but it is not something that they push through the music itself. After watching this we will probably listen to the music in a different light. And after watching this film we have been reminded what a tour de force these guys are and will certainly be revisiting their back catalogue.