Kevin “Geordie” Walker’s incredible life has sadly come to a close. For the last four decades, the guitarist for Killing Joke was anything but conventional, garnering widespread acclaim for his brilliance, ingenuity, and impact. The guitarist passed away from a stroke early Sunday morning at his home in Prague.
His death was confirmed later on Sunday afternoon by friends of Walker, such as musician Martin Atkins, as well as from representatives of Killing Joke:
Born on the 18th of December 1958 in Chester-le-Street, England, and raised in Milton Keynes, his childhood nickname came from his ‘Geordie’ accent. Walker later relocated to London to pursue studies in architecture, a chapter that serendipitously led to his pivotal role in the formation of Killing Joke in 1979. This new trajectory was set in motion when Walker responded to an advertisement placed by Jaz Coleman. Remarkably, prior to this, Walker had not played in a band, making his eventual mastery of the guitar and his significant contributions to the group all the more extraordinary. Walker and Coleman formed the foundation of Killing Joke, with their enduring collaboration being legendary for its consistency.
Although Geordie Walker shared a first-wave post-punk background with contemporaries Daniel Ash, Bernard Sumner, and Billy Duffy, his guitar chops and experimental ethos distinguished himself as a distinct entity, combining the intricate, reverberating, and scratchy textures of post-punk instrumentation with some of the most creative and memorable heavy riffs in rock history.
Geordie Walker played a rare golden arch-top Gibson ES-295 filtered through two separate amplifiers, producing a captivating sense of delay. His guitar playing, characterized by bold and assertive arpeggios, conveyed raw, visceral anger and profound beauty. At high volumes, his distorted tones created a wildly harmonious effect, evocative of both shamanic and psychedelic influences. He wove a deep, almost spiritual connection in his rhythm and energy.
Among Geordie Walker’s admirers was Jimmy Page, who extolled Walker’s guitar sound as “really strong.” Further accentuating this legacy was Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, who lauded Walker’s guitar prowess. Shields characterized Walker’s technique as “this effortless playing producing a monstrous sound,” an eloquent tribute that encapsulates Walker’s unique ability to meld effortlessness with the powerful, resonant sound that became his trademark.
The late 80s and early 90s saw a decline in new wave and synthpop, prompting Killing Joke to adopt a louder style. Walker’s experimentation during this era was diverse. Geordie Walker’s guitar artistry was a defining feature on four notable albums: Killing Joke’s Extremities, Dirt, and Various Repressed Emotions (1990), Pandemonium (1994), Democracy (1996), and the industrial supergroup Murder, Inc.’s self-titled album (1992). This period marked a significant shift in Walker’s musical style, as he embraced hard rock and heavy metal influences, reintroducing a more heavy, overdriven sound. On Pandemonium, he experimented with crunchy, repetitive palm-muted power chord riffs, indicative of a departure from his new wave roots.
Walker’s musical repertoire extends beyond the realm of Killing Joke: he was also a pivotal figure in industrial music supergroups such as Murder, Inc. and The Damage Manual, contributing his unique guitar stylings and artistic vision to these groups. He also produced UK girl punk rock act Mary-Jane.
In 2021 Killing Joke released K÷93, a collection of three long-lost songs featuring Geordie Walker, Jaz Coleman and Joy Division/New Order’s Peter Hook.
Killing Joke’s last album, Pylon, was released in 2015.
An EP titled Lord of Chaos was released in 2022, featuring the original members of the band.
The band has made the following announcement via social media confirming Walker’s death:
“It is with extreme sadness we confirm that at 6:30 am 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.”
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