Geordie Walker, the pioneering guitarist and founding member of the British post-punk band Killing Joke, known for his influential work inspiring platinum-selling bands like Nirvana and Metallica, passed away on November 26 in Prague at the age of 64. The cause of death was reported as a stroke by the band in a statement shared on social media.
Recognized for his distinctive appearance, featuring icy good looks, a rockabilly-esque pompadour, and a vintage gold-top Gibson guitar, Mr. Walker played a pivotal role in shaping both the image and the sonic landscape of Killing Joke during its peak in the 1980s and ’90s.
In a recent Instagram post, Youth, the band’s original bassist, paid tribute to Walker, stating, “No man was cooler than Geordie, one of the very best and most influential guitarists ever. He was like Lee Van Cleef meets Terry-Thomas via Noël Coward.”
Geordie Walker’s intricate and layered fretwork contributed to the dark yet danceable sound of Killing Joke, a band that played a pioneering role in blending industrial music with heavy metal intensity, new wave hooks, and punk provocation. Despite their uncompromising approach, the band achieved commercial success in the UK, with five singles reaching the Top 40, including the highest-charting “Love Like Blood” at No. 16 in 1985, and six Top 40 albums.
While not attaining comparable success in the United States, Killing Joke and Geordie Walker’s guitar work garnered respect from various artists, including Trent Reznor, My Bloody Valentine, Faith No More, and LCD Soundsystem.
Metallica paid homage to Walker’s ferocious guitar work with their 1987 cover of Killing Joke’s 1980 song “The Wait.” Nirvana, avid fans of Killing Joke, faced controversy as their song “Come as You Are” bore an uncanny resemblance to Walker’s riff on “Eighties,” leading to considerations of legal action by Killing Joke.
Despite the tension, the bands eventually reconciled, with Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer, playing drums on Killing Joke’s 2003 self-titled album. However, Walker remained candid in a 1994 interview with Guitarist magazine, describing Kurt Cobain as a “bloody good songwriter” but a “complete plagiarist.”
Born on December 18, 1958, in County Durham, England, as Kevin Walker, he adopted the nickname “Geordie” during his time at Sir Herbert Leon Academy in Bletchley. Walker, originally an avid guitarist, joined Killing Joke in 1979 after moving to London to study architecture.
Despite lineup changes and hiatuses, Killing Joke recorded music for nearly four decades. During the 1990s breaks, Walker formed the bands Murder Inc. and the Damage Manual. In 1989, he met Ginny Kiraly at a party after a Killing Joke concert and married her six months later. They had a son, Atticus, in 1992, and divorced in 2012.
Geordie Walker is survived by his mother, son, partner Alexandra Kocourkova, and their daughter, Isabella.
Reflecting on Killing Joke’s journey, Walker once said in an interview with music writer Andrew Perry, “If it had all gone according to plan, we’d have all been dead by 1986.”