Killing Joke guitarist Geordie Walker has died at the age of 64. His bandmates confirmed the news on Instagram, writing: “It is with extreme sadness we confirm that at 6:30am on 26th November 2023 in Prague, Killing Joke’s legendary guitarist Kevin ‘Geordie’ Walker passed away after suffering a stroke, he was surrounded by family. We are devastated. Rest In Peace brother.”
Born in 1958, Walker was one of only two constant members of the legendary post-punk band, alongside singer Jaz Coleman. He joined the band in 1979 after responding to an advertisement Coleman placed in Melody Maker, which read: “Want to be part of the Killing Joke? We mean it man. Total exploitation, total publicity, total anonymity. Bass and lead wanted.”
”I’d just moved to London and I saw an ad in Melody Maker, I don’t know, but I liked the sound of it, it looked rather serious, fanatical, I don’t know what it was but it clicked with me,” Walker told Music UK magazine in 1984. “So I went down to see this guy and immediately started arguing with him about his taste in music and whatever, and I kept in touch and kept hassling them for some reason. I think it was the intensity of the argument I liked.”
After putting out their first EP, Turn to Red, in 1979, Killing Joke released their self-titled debut album the following year. From day one, their goal was to “create a musical renaissance via a strict musical form,” Coleman told Uncut in 2018. “That’s what I wrote in my diary in 1979. No guitar solos, no blues except in parody, no Americanisms. We talked endlessly about things like, what is an English rhythm? We didn’t have a folk tradition to draw from. Killing Joke was rediscovering the tradition.”
Killing Joke’s run in the 1980s spanned seven studio albums, including 1981’s What’s THIS For…! and 1982’s Revelations. Around that time, Walker joined Coleman in moving to Reykjavik, Iceland over concerns about the apocalypse. In 1985, the band released Night Time, featuring the hit singles ‘Love Like Blood’ and ‘Eighties’, the latter of which has been likened to Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’ riff. Gang of Four’s Andy Gill produced their self-titled 2003 album, which featured Dave Grohl on drums. The band’s most recent collection was last year’s Lord of Chaos EP, and they released the single ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ in March.
“For millions of people around the world, Geordie was the guitarist and main songwriter of Killing Joke, a rock band of legendary dimensions,” his close friend Luca Signorelli wrote in a eulogy to Walker. “Metallica’s cover of 1980 KJ song ‘The Wait’ introduced the band and Geordie’s guitar work to at least two new generations, but I hate to think of Geordie going down in history because of that. Jimmy Page (THAT Jimmy Page, of Led Zeppelin’s fame) considered Geordie one of the finest guitar players ever.”
“But I don’t want to celebrate Geordie because he was a ‘guitarists’ guitarist’ Killing Joke, the band he spearheaded through four decades of successes and crises, it’s still one of the most influential ever,” Signorelli continued. “But others will certainly talk about Geordie’s musical record better than I could ever do. None of this really matters to me now. What I want to remember is that Geordie was, for 40 years, the closest friend and most important person I’ve ever had outside my family.”