[kj] Interview: Big Paul Ferguson from Killing Joke [Louder Than War]

Rahman Baloch rahman.baloch at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Oct 7 16:41:03 EDT 2016

Thanks for taking the time to respond and  funnily enough before interviewing BPF and Youth the only interraction I've ever had had with any of the band was with Geordie  in 2003.

After a gig in Manchester  a chap came in a quite naff and empty bar a pal and I were in post-gig and said 'do you mind if my mate sits at your table and has a chat as he's just played a gig and wants to chill out?' - well feck me it was the Guitar Genius himself and he was brilliant company for the next two hours telling us all kinds of sleazy stories about Youth, Alex Patterson (I wont divulge!) and about jamming with Jimmy Page and Mick Jones.

They say you should never meet your heroes but in some cases I'd say that's complete tosh!

By the way your description of BPFas 'measured, thoughtful and very generous' is something I wish I'd come up with because it hits dead centre bulls eye!


On Fri, 7/10/16, Alex Smith <vassifer at earthlink.net> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [kj] Interview: Big Paul Ferguson from Killing Joke [Louder Than War]
 To: "A list about all things Killing Joke (the band!)" <gathering at misera.net>, "A list about all things Killing Joke (the band!)" <gathering at misera.net>
 Date: Friday, 7 October, 2016, 16:37
 #yiv7593563819 #yiv7593563819 -- DIV
 Geordie is
 invariably the toughest nut to crack. The rest of them all
 speak effusively when engaged, but even getting
 Geordie's attention is a feat. I've spun this yarn
 here before, but upon interviewing Youth, Jaz and Geordie at
 the No-Tell Motel on Avenue A here in NYC circa PANDEMONIUM.
 Geordie was (a) fully distract by the vintage porn being
 shown on the monitor above the bar ("ooh, she's got
 a nice one!") and somehow managed to surreptitiously
 abscond with my tape-recorder between chats, rewind and
 effectively erase most of my interview with him. That's
 my fault, but still... boo!
 Big Paul,
 when I spoke with him back in 2004, was measured, thoughtful
 and very generous as an interviewee. And a damn nice
 - Ale xin NYC
 -----Original Message-----
 From: "wessidetempest ." 
 Sent: Oct 7, 2016 9:17 AM
 To: "A list about all things Killing
 Joke (the band!)" 
 Subject: Re: [kj] Interview: Big Paul
 Ferguson from Killing Joke [Louder Than War]
 Thanks for sharing.  Nicely done and he seems pretty
 open and honest when asked. I wish there was a good Geordie
 On Oct 7, 2016, at 9:11 AM, Neil Perry <65snoopy at gmail.com>
 Good interview. I always wished BPF had participated
 more in interviews. When I interviewed them
 he was content to sit back and observe proceedings, but that
 was a different time, different dynamic, admittedly.
 Although I remember that when he did join in, the others
 would shut up immediately instead of all shouting
 over each other. 
 On 6 October 2016 at
 23:13, Paul <dubecho at gmail.com>
 Interview: Big Paul Ferguson from Killing Joke
 Written by Rahman The
  October, 2016
 ‘Big Paul’ Ferguson is the drummer and
 percussionist and founder member of the mighty musical force
 of nature known as Killing Joke. Along with singer Jaz
  another founder member, he called for a ‘New
 Renaissance’ and over the last four decades he has been
 responsible for some of the most distinctive and iconic
 rhythms in music; ultimately he is quite simply one of the
 finest and most formidable drummers in modern
 He has also co-authored many of the band’s most
 insightful and intelligent lyrics with Jaz, and it is a
 testament to the man’s generosity of spirit that he has
  taken time out of a busy schedule to answer a few hopefully
 pertinent and interesting questions.
 When did the idea of playing drums first occur to
 you, did you take formal tuition, or are you
 self-taught. The first and only drum lesson I’ve had was
 with a drummer that played with Howard Jones! He had a
 beautiful red Premier kit & insisted that I learn the
 double stroke roll, but in
  my eagerness to play the whole kit this seemed fairly
 I took a book of
 drum rudiments from him, which I still have, but the lessons
 didn’t get me to the heart of drumming as fast as I
 wanted. I don’t remember when I first thought of becoming
 a drummer
  but according to my mother, I’ve always been bashing
 I did become
 obsessed by drums & drum kits during tedious geography
 lessons in the fifth form. My first kit was made mostly from
 wooden rubbish bins with drumheads stretched over them. I
 bought that
  with my pocket money when I was about 14 years old. I did a
 brief stretch in the high school military band as a snare
 drummer & I suppose that’s when any formal learning
 should have occurred, but we spent most of our time at the
 end of the school field smoking
  cigarettes & having a laugh rather than learning how to
 play anything.
 You continue to be an inspiration to not only
 drummers but to musicians in general. Who were your own
 early influences, and by that I mean not only drummers but
  widening that if I may, to include other musicians and
 The first
 records I owned were given to me by my eldest sister. They
 were Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Are You
 Experienced?’ & King Crimson’s ‘In
  the Court of the Crimson King’. The first albums I
 bought myself were Dave & Ansel Collin’s ‘Monkey Spanner’ & T Rex’s ‘Electric Boogie’.
 So my tastes ran
 from progressive rock to glam & you could also throw a
 bit of Irish folk into the mix. My influences have been many
 & varied throughout the years. The glitter band &
 ELP may have
  had a lot to do with it – ha! ha!         Also
 Roxy Music & the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Big Youth
 & The Stranglers set me free & put me on the road to
 At what point did you think that you had reached a
 standard that was good enough to look for other musicians to
 form bands with, and which styles & genres were
  you exploring and playing before you formed Killing
 I haven’t yet
 reached the stage where I’m confident to play with other
 musicians, then even less so, but necessity being the mother
 of invention nothing was going to stop me. My school friends
  I had a progressive rock band called Beowulf and then my art school friends and I
 had a glam punk band called Pink Parts. The band I was
 playing with when I met Jaz was the Matt Stagger band, and
 that was afro-rock/reggae
 You and Jaz (in)famously performed ‘a ritual’
 after many unsuccessful attempts to find like- minded
 musicians, allegedly after which, the next two musicians who
  knocked on your door were Geordie & Youth. Was this
 ‘ritual’ part of an ‘established’ esoteric and/or
 gnostic belief system such as rosicrucianism or theosophy
 for example, and if so; do you still subscribe to this
 belief system?
 Jaz & I
 embarked upon a course together that involved Neophyte
 rituals taken from the Order of the Golden Dawn. Although we
 shared an interest in the occult, mine soon became
 intellectual rather
  than practical.
 I’ve always had a strong interest in history &
 mythology which persists to this day, but my beliefs have
 evolved over the years and & I no longer subscribe to
 any one particular belief system.
 With regards to you and your fellow
 ‘brother-in-rhythm’ Youth, you are in many peoples’
 opinion demonstrably one of the finest rhythm sections in
 music. Was that
  unique ‘simpatico’ or ‘locked in’ feel there from
 the earliest rehearsals, or was it something you had to work
 at assiduously over a period of time?
 Well I’m
 flattered that you find us a fine rhythm section. Youth’s
 sound is very distinctive and & I feel that when we play
 together our styles result in a unique and surprising
 ‘feel’. It took a
  lot of searching to find a bass player for this band, and
 whatever Youth’s ulterior motives were at the time for
 coming to Cheltenham to audition with us were, he decided to
 stay with us. Without doubt he and & I had, and have, a
 symbiotic relationship. I
  feel he adds to what I do, in an organic way; but my view
 of my own playing is that I plough through
 and take no prisoners and between the two lies the
 One of the USP’s that sets Killing Joke apart
 from the herd is that your playing is often groove
 orientated, and makes some tracks, for want of a better
 word, ‘danceable’. This
  was evidenced on early tracks such as: ‘Nervous
 System’, and ‘Change’ and continues right up to recent
 tracks like ‘Ghosts of Ladbroke Grove’ and although
 that’s more dub-like; there’s groove in their
 I think all of
 us in KJ have an unwritten rule that if it doesn’t swing
 it’s not worth it. I have no particular sets of rules or
 preferences for dance music but I have an inherent need for
  when I play. I find it very difficult to play a straight
 beat without putting a swing in it!
 With regards to your individual contribution to the
 Killing Joke ‘sound’, where often your rhythms and
 patterns ‘lead from the front’ and help define the
  on such tracks as: ‘Dominator’, ‘Tension’,
 ‘Follow The Leader’ and ‘Love Like Blood’, is this
 something you work out in your head in rehearsal, or perhaps
 later in the studio when you are actually recording the
 What I do and
 what I choose to play more often or not begins with Geordie.
 His riffs & phrases are what give me inspiration &
 the drum parts that are eventually recorded only become that
 way when
  they are married to the guitar parts. Whatever I’ve come
 to rehearsal with, indeed whatever any of
 us comes to rehearsal with, changes according to the
 atmosphere in the room and the influence that we have on
 each other.
 After the tectonic plate rattling debut, on the
 follow up (no ‘difficult second album’ travails with
 KJ!) ‘What’s THIS For..!’, your tom and percussion
 work seemed
  to feature more noticeably. Was there a conscious decision
 to add particular styles, textures &
 As I mentioned
 before, I listened to the Glitter Band. There was also a
 track by the SAHB called ‘Booids’ which had a great influence on
 me. I was also deeply impressed
  by a comment from a random stranger about his aversion to
 drummers using cymbals & for some reason those words ate
 at me to the point that I deliberately started to leave out
 the hi hats & cymbals. I also listened to Mongo
 Santamaria & other Latin percussionists
  for inspiration, but I think also it was a sign of the
 times; drummers in particular were looking for new ways to
 express themselves, different ways of playing outside of the
 standard rock & roll format.
 After Youth departed how long into your search for
 a replacement to fill the void did you find Paul Raven, and
 how did his style differ from Youth’s; and did you
  and Raven ‘click’ together immediately?
 Raven was a far
 more aggressive bass player then Youth & he and I played
 very well together. It was a bit of a messy period in my
 life re-joining Killing Joke after the Iceland escapade. I
 had been
  playing with Youth in Brilliant & with another bass
 player who I thought I had a future with. I’m not sure if
 I have the story straight but I think Youth himself referred
 us to Raven himself. There was never a dull moment with
 Raven, I very much enjoyed the
  band with him in it; his style was very different & I
 miss him. I must say it’s been a privilege playing with
 both Youth and Raven in this dysfunctional
 After disagreements regarding musical direction you
 left the band in 1987.Could you elaborate on this further
 please to ‘set the record straight’, because in
  for this piece, I noticed that there’s all kinds of
 speculation across various web sites and discussion
 I can tell
 you my version of it.. As with any story
 there are always at least two sides. In a nutshell, the Outside the Gate album
  was Jaz’s solo project but because it cost a lot of
 money, the record company decided it should be a Killing
 Joke project, but that Raven & I shouldn’t be involved
 in the writing. We were both very unhappy with this
 arrangement. When I acquiesced and went
  to record drum tracks with Geordie, personal grievances
 were getting in the way & acrimony reigned in the
 studio. I couldn’t listen to any of Jaz’s keyboards
 when I recorded the drums & threw away the ‘click
 track’, so I played drums to just the guitar & it
  all made perfect sense. Unfortunately, when the keyboards
 were brought back in the timing was all over the place. My
 answer was: ‘do all the keyboards again’ & Jaz’s
 answer was: ‘’get a new drummer’’.
 Was it at this point on your ‘timeline’ that
 you decided to become a professional restorer, and why did
 you choose this unusual profession? (There
  are some incredible images of Big Paul working in his
 workshop in Mont Sherars’ stunning book of Killing Joke
 photo portraits: ** ‘Twilight of the Mortals’ –
 released November 2016).
 I had been out
 of Killing Joke for several years, I was living in New York
 and I needed a change. Knowing that my other artistic
 talents were being neglected & having always had a
 powerful interest
  in art & history, when I came across the chance to deal
 with ancient sculpture, it was a perfect fit for me. One
 thing that art restoration teaches other than the obvious
 techniques & handling of materials, is that there is no
 room for ego. It’s a very behind-the-scenes
 What were your next musical projects, and does the
 resultant work stand up to scrutiny all these years
 It may seem
 strange not pursuing something in the vein of KJ, but at the
 time I wanted to do anything but… I played with Warrior
 Soul on their first album, but I felt that I didn’t fit in
 with the
  American rock ‘n’ roll vibe of the band. Subsequently,
 a guitarist friend of mine John Carruthers (formerly of
 Siouxsie & the Banshees) and I formed a band that was to
 become Crush, which was about as far from Killing Joke as
 one could get. Does it still stand
  up? Hard for me to say. I think we were ahead of the times.
 It was innovative & short lived, and to my ears at
 least, very good.
 Did you continue writing lyrics post-Killing Joke,
 and have you ever thought of collating & collecting your
 lyrics/prose for a formal book release?
 I did continue
 writing though perhaps not as much, and the idea of putting
 a book together of my lyrical musings is not far from my
 What were your reasons for re-joining Killing joke
 in 2007-was there a sense of ‘unfinished business’
 musically & lyrically?
 I certainly felt
 that my sense of outrage at current political events needed
 a vehicle & of course, what more perfect place than
 Killing Joke! Obviously, the shock & sadness of
 Raven’s departure
  from this life was instrumental in Jaz & I healing our
 wounds, but I had carried Killing Joke with me all the time
 that I wasn’t in the band (you can ask my wife!), and if I
 had not taken this opportunity it would still be there &
 gnawing at me.
 The last few years have been very productive with
 three albums in
  5 years, the last of which, ‘Pylon’, was
 commercially successful, and won awards. Do you feel that
 the new songs stand shoulder-to-shoulder when played
 alongside ‘classics’ such as ‘Pssyche’,
 ‘Eighties’ and ‘Pandemonium’? Do you feel  any
  when  writing songs these days?
 Well, firstly
 I’m delighted that the records have been so well received.
 Calling anything that Killing Joke do a commercial success
 is a bit of a laugh because we don’t really sell the
 numbers that
  people imagine we do; but artistically I’m very happy
 with what we’ve done recently. There’s always pressure
 to write & remain relevant, but there aren’t any
 scorecards & every song is a painting. There’s no
 measurable ‘better’ while you’re recording. It’s
  rather more: ‘’is it making your head nod or
 In Montster Filmworks’ powerful & visceral
 biopic *‘Chapter Big Paul Ferguson’, Martin Atkins
 (ex-Pil & Pigface) describes the Killing Joke drumming
 workload thus:
  ‘you might as well set my arms on
 fire!’. Clearly you must have
 been in terrific shape to do all the live work then. Now you
 are in your 50’s and still touring regularly, what kind of
 physical and mental toll does
  this take on you?
 Well I have to
 prepare for it, I have to stay in shape, but I’d be doing
 that anyway regardless of KJ. I’m blessed with a physique
 that can tolerate my workload and cursed with a mindset that
  let me relax! I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t got a
 little more difficult, as along with age I’ve also
 suffered numerous incidents & injuries. Thankfully none
 have been serious enough to interfere with my pleasure of
 playing with Killing joke…
 In 2015 you launched a bespoke jewellery business
 called ***‘Boneyard Skull Rings’, whereby you personally
 make to order solid silver rings, necklaces and bracelets;
  and they look fabulous!  How’s this been
 The pieces have
 been received very well. I’m very excited at this new
 project and the way it came around was trying to find
 jewellery that I would want to wear. I’ve always loved
 sculpture & texture
  & these pieces are that & more. It makes me feel
 great to hear from satisfied customers about how thrilled
 they are with their new purchases.
 So we’re into 2016 and in Mont Sherar’s
 definitive, game-changing book of Killing Joke photo
 portraits ‘Twilight of the Mortals’. What do you think
 Mont has captured
  here that no one else has done previously?
 Mont has been
 allowed access to Killing Joke in a way that few people
 have. He is a genuine fan & an exceptionally talented
 man. The band have trusted him in the recording studio &
 into our lives.
  He was almost inside my drum kit at one point! His
 exceptional eye for composition & detail are evident in
 every frame. We’re all looking forward to the book being
 In an arch and very KJ twist to the old ‘CD
 included!’ pitch, the Special Deluxe Edition of
 ‘Twilight of the Mortals’ has two ‘old school’
 7’’ vinyl records with
  each member of Killing Joke submitting a separate, original
 track each that genuinely will not be available elsewhere.
 Possibly forever. Your solo track, where you are billed as
 BPF, is: ‘The Great Motivator’ Could you talk us through
 it please, and are you
  planning any further ‘solo’ releases at some point in
 the future?
 The idea to
 release vinyl with this book was Mont’s, and had it been a
 CD or DVD I’m pretty sure none us would have contributed
 as we did. The idea of having something in vinyl was what
  the deal! The Great Motivator is one of
 several musical experiments where I thread some of my poems
 and lyrics over a percussive background. Mark Thwaite was
 sent the tracks & has done a great job remixing them. A
 word of
  warning: they’re not necessarily the rock drums you might
 be expecting! As far as any solo releases in the future, it
 would be nice to release an EP or even an album sometime
 soon, bit I’ve got my hands full!
 Surprisingly there hasn’t been a definitive
 biography chronicling Killing Jokes’ remarkable, chaotic
 and labyrinthine career, and rumour and speculation has
  swirled around the band. What’s the most ridiculous
 rumour you’ve heard about yourself and also concerning the
 I’ve heard
 that I got a ‘phone call from Madonna asking me to play on
 one of her albums, and rumour has it I told her to ‘fuck
 off, I don’t play with girls!’  As for rumours about
 the band, well
  you know our singer, anything’s possible!
 If you wouldn’t mind playing the role of a seer
 for a moment, what does the rest of 2016 and then into 2017
 hold for Big Paul Ferguson?
 Death and
 destruction? Flowers and puppies?
 ‘Big Paul’
 Ferguson, thanks very much for your time!
 Musicians of the
 calibre and integrity of Big Paul are as rare as the Great
 Man missing a beat, so rare in fact that upon reflection one
 cannot help but come to the conclusion that he may very well
  be the last great drummer…
 If you would
 like to own a one-off piece of bespoke jewellery, crafted
 especially for you by the very same hands that still play
 all those iconic beats and drum patterns, then head over
 to: www.boneyardskullrings.com
 Chapter Big Paul
 Ferguson: Montster Filmworks www.youtube.com/
 Twilight of the
 Mortalsby Mont Sherar  can be ordered from here.
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