Tony Dewhurst tracks the enigmatic frontman of Killing Joke down to South America to talk about Unspeakable, his spoken word tour which comes to Manchester next week plus much more

JAZ Coleman, Killing Joke’s spearhead, once described Kevin Geordie Walker’s guitar style as like a ‘fire from heaven.’

Killing Joke’s seething self-titled debut album captured the tensions of the Cold War with booming punk anthems Requiem, The Wait, later covered by Metallica, and Wardance, an ominous groove warning of nuclear destruction.

Lancashire Telegraph: Jaz Coleman

And the hook-laden Love Like Blood, arguably their most recognised work, remains one of the most fondly remembered rock songs of the 1980s.

So, Walker’s passing, aged 64, at the end of last year has sealed another chapter for Coleman and Killing Joke.

“I’m overwhelmed by a raw and unrelenting grief and I can’t explain the length and breadth of the loss I feel,” said Coleman, who brings his spoken word tour – Unspeakable – to Manchester’s Stoller Hall next Wednesday.

“I’m completely numb with grief.

“It is an immeasurable sadness. I don’t think I’ll ever recover from Geordie’s death.”

Walker was, alongside Coleman, the only constant member of Killing Joke for 40 years.

Walker had responded to an advertisement placed by Coleman in the Melody Maker newspaper - and the pair engineered the frenzied post-punk sound of Killing Joke, with admirers including Nirvana and Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page.

“I spent more of my life with Geordie than my blood brother, and we had an emphatic writing chemistry together,” said Coleman, who is also a classical composer.

“I’m a musicologist, that is to say I study the history, theory and science of music, but Geordie was an extraordinary musician.

“His guitar resonances made the sound of three guitars.

“I know time is short now.

“On the Doomsday atomic clock, we’re closer to nuclear annihilation now more than at any period since the Cuban Missile Crisis (When America and the former USSR came close to nuclear conflict)

“So, is my work with Killing Joke finished?

“The answer is emphatically no.”

Coleman promises to reveal the ‘inner mysteries’ of Killing Joke during his forthcoming conversation at the Stoller Hall and is searingly honest about the band’s struggles with alcohol.

“I had five years of absolute chaos with drink, it was insane,” added Coleman.

“Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) played drums on the Killing Joke album in 2003, and I was having black outs with drink.

“I decided that I couldn’t continue to live like that, so I stopped drinking.”

Coleman, who has been sober for 20 years, adds: “In recent times I was separated from Geordie by my sobriety, but I just wish I could have been by his side to give him comfort in his final hours.

Lancashire Telegraph: Jaz Coleman

“Because what Geordie never knew is that he was the reason I gave up alcohol.

“Geordie’s alcoholism, that’s what killed him.

“You see, alcoholism has a spiritual dimension to the illness, it is a possession of a human being.

“Geordie was one of the most beautiful people you could ever meet in this world, a kind and humble man, but in drink he would become demonic.

“It wasn’t him. He would become somebody else and the same happened to me at the height of my drinking.

“I’m scary enough without drink but I terrified people when I drank alcohol - and I’m not proud of that.”

Coleman added: “I don’t want to drink alcohol ever again.”

Coleman has lived in South America since last summer and when we talk via Zoom, he is in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital.

And Coleman says he has now decided to make the continent his home following Walker’s death.

Maybe that’s not surprising as he once told me that his favourite destination in England was the departure lounge at Heathrow Airport.

“I lived in England until my twenties and I love going back but it is unrecognisable from my youth, and the corruptness of the people who run the country sickens me,” he said.

“I have a house in Prague, near Geordie’s home, but it is just too painful now and my time in Prague is over.

“When I have a problem with a place for reasons of politics, foreign policy or something else in my life I leave, never to return.”

Coleman, who had a near death experience when he was hospitalised following a sudden diabetic coma in Mexico three years ago, touches on his final conversation with Walker.

“Geordie didn’t want to keep the current line-up of Killing Joke going (Coleman, Youth (bassist) and Paul Ferguson (drums),” said Coleman.

“He was adamant, that he wanted radical change.

“He had had enough and that upset me. I wasn’t always in alignment with Geordie, but I feel blessed for the epic journey we shared together, the hardships and the victories we experienced.

“Because out of our band has come a global network of wonderful people – I call them Gatherers – our fans, who have kindly supported Killing Joke and put food in our bellies for 40 years.”

Jaz Coleman, Unspeakable, Manchester Stoller Hall, Wednesday, March 20. 0330 130 0967