Watch CBS News

Killing Joke guitarist Kevin "Geordie" Walker dies at 64

Kevin "Geordie" Walker, a founding member of influential British post-punk band Killing Joke whose unique guitar attack helped define the group's sound, has died at age 64, according to the band.

The band confirmed Walker's passing on social media, saying that he died early Sunday morning at his home in Prague surrounded by family after suffering a stroke. 

"We are devastated. Rest In Peace brother," the post read in closing.

Kevin "Geordie" Walker of Killing Joke
Kevin "Geordie" Walker of Killing Joke Getty Images

With an unorthodox downtuned guitar sound coaxed from his signature Gibson ES-295 hollow body and knack for writing melodic figures and monstrous riffs, Walker earned the praise of iconic guitarists including Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and My Bloody Valentine architect Kevin Shields. The guitarist's ringing tone and multi-layered textures with Killing Joke served as a signpost for much of the modern rock produced in the '80s and prefigured the sound of the shoegaze movement that emerged a decade later.  

Walker was born on Dec. 18, 1958, in Chester-le-Street in northeast England. He developed an early interest in guitar and had his own instrument and amplifier by the time he was a teen after his family moved south to Buckinghamshire (his mother bought him a Gibson Les Paul when he was 16).

Walker later moved to London to study architecture and became one of the founding members of Killing Joke after answering an ad placed by singer/keyboardist Jaz Coleman.

One of the leading bands of England's second wave of artists who emerged in the late '70s and early '80s, Killing Joke forged a dark, apocalyptic sound that resonated with a host of punk, metal and industrial bands that followed in their wake. Alongside British contemporaries Bauhaus, Killing Joke helped create the template for goth rock.

Killing Joke - The Wait by jabronie25 on YouTube

Drawing together elements of punk, dub, funk and experimental electronics, the influential outfit crafted their own distinctive brand of heavy yet eminently danceable rock. Killing Joke wove pulsing synthesizer with Walker's corrosive, hook-laden guitar riffs that were powered by titanic rhythms pounded out by drummer Big Paul Ferguson and bassist Martin "Youth" Glover and topped with Coleman's bellowing, effect-drenched proclamations of doom.

Though the original line-up of the band recorded only two full-length records -- their self-titled debut and the 1981 sophomore effort What's THIS For...! remain post-punk landmarks -- Killing Joke would continue to produce important work through the the decade with bassist Paul Raven filling Youth's shoes. The group moved in a more reserved and melodic direction that scored gothic-tinged new-wave hits ("Love Like Blood") while still showing flashes of their earlier intensity (the iconic rocker "Eighties" that Nirvana notoriously nicked the guitar melody from for "Come As You Are").  

Killing Joke - Eighties by KillingJokeVEVO on YouTube

With Walker and Coleman as the sole constant members of the group, the legend of Killing Joke would only grow in the decades that followed. The band released a string of brilliant albums with a variety of musicians that ranged from brutal explorations of industrial heaviness (Extremities, Dirt and Various Repressed Emotions in 1990 and 2003's Killing Joke, tracked with Nirvana/Foo Fighter drummer Dave Grohl) to more global sounds (the Egyptian-influenced Pandemonium in 1994 that included recordings made inside the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Giza) and electronic dance (Alchemy: The Remixes). 

Walker would also branch out with the first of two industrial-rock supergroups in 1991 with Murder, Inc. featuring Extremities drummer Martin Atkins (who also played with Public Image Ltd., Ministry, and Nine Inch Nails among many others) and Revolting Cocks/Ministry guitarist/singer Chris Connelly. A second version of the group called the Damage Manual featuring PIL bassist Jah Wobble came together a decade later.  

Absolute Dissent by Killing Joke - Topic on YouTube

The passing of longtime collaborator Raven in 2007 served as the catalyst for the reconciliation of the four founding members of Killing Joke, giving way to a celebrated concert tour and the recording of the original line-up's first album since 1981 -- the stunning 2010 juggernaut Absolute Dissent. A powerful collection of songs that hearkens back to the band's early classics while still pushing the Killing Joke sound into bold new territory, the album ended up on numerous best of lists at the end of the year. 

Killing Joke continued to perform and record with that reunited quartet line-up in the years that followed. The band released its latest song -- "Full Spectrum Dominance" -- earlier this year and was scheduled to appear at the Sick New World festival in Las Vegas next April. So far, there is no word from the band whether they will attempt to continue performing in the wake of Walker's passing.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.