In the mid-1970s reggae and its darker incarnations had an influence on white kids, especially in inner city, multi-cultural neighbourhoods. Sounds and cultures clashed at parties, while police and youths clashed in the streets. Nowhere better to find the cause and effect of how young white punks and black youths of West Indian family origins bonded as disaffected youths against the police and oppression of inner city decay than in West London. From the mid-1970s the angst & spitting aggression of punk rock music and the chilled, laid-back vibe of dub reggae were polar opposite. But they effected a generation of musicians who found perfect solace in both white rock noise and the heavy bottom-end bass vibrations and echo chamber space of dub reggae. The Ruts, Slits and The Clash flirted with fusing these forces with varying degrees of success. But no other group in the late 1970s created a more powerful, mesmorising and powerful music, equal in its white punk angst and deep understanding of dub reggae culture sound than Killing Joke.
Though not originally from Notting Hill, the founding members of Killing Joke met there in 1978. Jeremy ‘Jaz’ Coleman and drummer Paul Ferguson were joined by the two members that helped forge the unique and original post-punk groundbreaking sound of Killing Joke. Kevin ‘Geordie’ Walker stroked his gold Guild guitar effortlessly to make a wailing wall of sound. Whilst Martin ‘Youth’ Glover took bass inspiration, emotion and depth from dub reggae.
In 1979 I bought the first Killing Joke release, Turn To Red 12” EP, by way of an introduction from the legendary, John Peel. It made an immediate and lasting impact on me. The classic self-titled debut album followed the following year and included a slow version of the second single ‘War Dance’ along with timeless songs ‘Requiem’, ‘Change’ and ‘Tomorrow’s World’. Both still remain regular favourites played over 30 years later in my home, in my car, at work and on my MP3 player.
After recording a second album, What’s THIS For…! (1981), Youth left Killing Joke, only to return some 27 years later in 2008 after meeting the other original members at a funeral, following the untimely death of replacement bass player, Paul Raven.
Along the way, Youth has produced and remixed a plethora of artists and has become one of the most sort after British record producers. On his travels he also found time to continually produce some amazing dub re-workings of Killing Joke songs; and for the first time ever, Killing Joke are officially releasing a dub album.
Killing Joke In Dub is a 3-CD release scoping Killing Joke’s 35 year back catalogue and on hearing the news of its forthcoming release, was probably the most excited I’ve ever been for such a collection of ‘re-workings’ in my entire life. But anticipation is not always a good thing. It can ultimately lead to disappointment. Nostalgia can be burst with hindsight as time warps our over-inflated memories.
My own interest in Killing Joke waned shortly after the third album, Revelations (1982). So I am unfamiliar with the original recordings of most of the songs collected here; and the only track I had previously heard was ‘a floating leaf always reaches the sea’ remix of Requiem, originally released in 1992 along with the Spiral Tribe mix of ‘Change’ (also included).
Please note: To witness the full force of this album and the quality of these dub plates, the following tracks and indeed the whole album should be heard at full volume through, if possible, the biggest baddest subwoofing motherfucker you can lay your ears on!
Killing Joke – Requiem (A Floating Leaf Always Finds The Sea mix)
CD1 kicks off with the deepest, darkest trance dub of Youth’s ‘This World Hell (Alive & Kicking Dub Remix)’. The drums are clean and crisp in the mix, while the sub-bass throbs like a demented bulldozer, slow and effortless, shaking everything to the ground that dares to cross its path . In my attempt to receive the full impact of what I was about to receive, I turned my stereo volume to max and turned the bass all the way down. Dub reverb filled the room, quickly followed by the first sub-bass warbling of the lowest end that literally blew my cat clean off her paws! Fucking awesome – there’s no other words that will more succinctly describe the shiver that started in the nape of my neck and fizzed the length of my spine.
Killing Joke – This World Hell (Alive & Kicking Dub Remix)
With compilation albums such as this, I normally hear two or three gems and the rest of the album is littered with re-workings that were originally used as 12” fillers at best or standard remixes with formularized lazy beats and drops. But this is Killing Joke and these tracks were produced by Youth!
Two tracks that particularly work for me, are ‘Money Is Not Our God (Babylon Dub)’ (CD1 #2) and ‘This World Hell (Cult Of Youth Ambient Samsara Dub Mix)’ (CD2 #2). Both are very, very heavy.
Killing Joke – Money Is Not Our God (Babylon Dub)
Much of the album is deep and dirty, evidence of Killing Joke’s industrial rock and Youth’s own travels into trance circles are clearly visible even in the more experimental moments. But ‘The Raven King (Never Grow Old, Forever Now Dub)’ offers some lighter relief in an upbeat tribute to the late Paul Raven which errs towards Dreadzone in its more uplifting, commercial sounding summer-hazed dub celebration.
Killing Joke – The Raven King (Never Grow Old, Forever Now Dub)
Killing Joke In Dub is 28 versions, reworking and plain dub mixes by Youth across 3 CDs titled (CD1) Apocalypse Dancehall, (CD2) Rockers Retroactive and the unimaginatively titled (CD3 Bonus Tracks). After countless hours, mainly via good quality headphones I have only encountered two, possibly three tracks I don’t care for. My CD experience is otherwise skip-free, and to be honest, I’m currently finding every else somewhat too light and fluffy, in comparison.
Killing Joke – Tomorrow’s World (Urban Primitive Dub)
Killing Joke In Dub is released on 5th May and is currently occupying #1 in my ‘Best Albums of 2014’ chart.