You don’t have to have ever even heard of Killing Joke to have felt their influence — it has trickled into popular culture via students of the band’s seminal records. Those disciples include some of the biggest musicians in the world, who’ve help spread the KJ sound — a varying mix of Alt, Post Punk, Industrial and Goth stylings — to generations of Alternative Rock, Hard Rock and Metal fans.
The band’s current tour on North American is an arena jaunt opening for Art Metal juggernaut Tool. Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Metallica did a version of Killing Joke’s classic song “The Wait” on their popular 1987 EP Garage Days Re-Revisited; singer James Hetfield has said KJ frontman Jaz Coleman is one of his favorite vocalists of all time. (Coleman is joined in the current version of Killing Joke by founding bassist Youth, who has produced huge artists like The Verve, Take That and U2.)
On Nirvana’s game-changing album Nevermind, Kurt Cobain used a slowed-down version of the main riff of Killing Joke’s song “Eighties” for the basis of “Come as You Are.” Though Killing Joke called the band out for the theft and reports suggest Cobain and Co. were well aware of the (rather obvious) similarities, Coleman and the rest of KJ were never officially credited for their contribution.
Perhaps as a bit of payback, Dave Grohl would later play drums with the band in early ’00s; his Foo Fighters covered “Requiem” for one of the B-sides to their huge single “Everlong.”
The Nirvana situation is somewhat indicative of Killing Joke’s place in music history. Even a novice browsing through their extensive catalog would be struck by just how familiar the music sounds — it’s that prominent in the DNA of modern Rock.
But they hardly get the credit they deserve. Still, like Grohl, the high-profile Killing Joke stans are at least generous in their public comments about taking inspiration from the group. Other artists to name-check Killing Joke as a major influence include Jane’s Addiction, Soundgarden, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Ministry, LCD Soundsystem and My Bloody Valentine. Even Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page has said he’s a big fan.
You might not know their name, but Killing Joke is all around us.