RIP Geordie Walker (Killing Joke)

27th November 2023 · 1980, 1980s, 2020s, 2023, Music, Postpunk

Requiem has to be the song to remember Geordie Walker, the Killing Joke guitarist who has died. Not just for its title but for his vast metallic slabs of electric guitar that scythe through the synth bass.

Geordie weaponised the instrument with a distinctive tone that made the traditional guitar riff less of a bludgeon than a richly textured noise that shimmered with sustain.

It was a style favoured by fellow travellers including both Banshees guitarists, John McKay and John McGeogh (later of Magazine), Keith Levine of PiL and The Cure’s Robert Smith, and went on to influence countless more, including Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and MBV’s Kevin Shields.

I saw Killing Joke several times at the start of their career, usually in support slots, where their uncompromising style fused the aggression of punk in Jaz Coleman’s angry vocals and lyrics, with the power of metal (thanks to those distinctive riffs of Geordie’s) and a darkness all their own.

I bought their debut EP Turn To Red in October 1979, when they introduced themselves with the reggae-tinged social commentary of Nervous System – a song suggesting they might go down a similar road to The Ruts – and the militaristic Wardance, with its insistent riff and apocalyptic lyric.

This was their second single, taken from that landmark debut album, with its iconic Don McCullin cover shot of rioters in Derry during (or after) Bloody Sunday.