"When I heard him play, it was like fire from heaven": Tributes pour in for Killing Joke guitarist Geordie Walker who has died, aged 64

Guitarist Kevin 'Geordie' Walker of Killing Joke performs at Hammersmith Apollo on April 09, 2022 in London, England.
Kevin 'Geordie' Walker of Killing Joke, April 2022, at Hammersmith Apollo in London, England. (Image credit: Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

Tributes are being paid to Kevin 'Geordie' Walker, the acclaimed guitarist for influential British post-punk band Killing Joke, who died on November 26 in his adopted home of Prague after a stroke. 

Geordie and singer Jaz Coleman are the only consistent members of Killing Joke since their formation in 1978. They recorded 15 studio albums together and were an influence on Nirvana (Kurt Cobain borrowed the guitar part for Eighties for his song Come As You Are, while Metallica covered Killing Jokes's The Wait on the $5.98 EP Garage Days Re-Revisited EP. When Classic Rock magazine presented an award to the band in 2010, the presenter was none other than Jimmy Page, who revealed himself to be a long-term fan.

Geordie – so called because he was "a Geordie", the nickname for people from the northeast of England – joined the band after answering an advert they had placed in UK music paper Melody Maker. The way Coleman remembered it: "This guy kept calling saying ‘Hi, I’ve never been in a band before, I’ve only ever played in my mum’s bedroom, but I’m the best guitarist ever’." I was always like, ‘Oh God it’s this c**t again.’

Geordie was persistent and he and Jaz Coleman clicked: he started sharing a house with the singer before anyone had actually heard the guitarist play. "When he did it was like a fire from heaven," said Coleman. "I thought, ‘Thank God he can play’.”

Percussive, hypnotic, intense, nihilistic-yet-sometimes-beautiful: Walker's playing was unlike any other's and it found fans across the worlds of punk, post-punk, metal and industrial. Geordie played a hollow-bodied Gibson ES-295 and favored Burman amps. As Therapy? singer/guitarist Andy Cairn once joked: "He’s got himself a really exclusive rig there. If you’re thinking of forming a Killing Joke tribute band, fucking good luck to you."

Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan said, "Geordie was a true inventor of a massive sound that has influenced so damn many of us [and] a damn nice guy to boot."

Faith No More bassist Billy Gould tweeted: "RIP Geordie Walker, one of, if not THE, the most natural, intuitive, original guitarists I've ever seen." One of his contemporaries, Kirk Brandon of Theatre Of Hate/Spear Of Destiny called him "A great. Incomparable."

Chris Catalyst (formerly of Ghost, the Sisters of Mercy etc) called him "a powerhouse of a guitar player. Should be a massive inspiration to every rock guitarist. Tight, taut and made every note count. RIP and massive respect".

Tom Poak

Tom Poak has written for the Hull Daily Mail, Esquire, The Big Issue, Total Guitar, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and more. In a writing career that has spanned decades, he has interviewed Brian May, Brian Cant, and cadged a light off Brian Molko. He has stood on a glacier with Thunder, in a forest by a fjord with Ozzy and Slash, and on the roof of the Houses of Parliament with Thin Lizzy's Scott Gorham (until some nice men with guns came and told them to get down). He has drank with Shane MacGowan, mortally offended Lightning Seed Ian Broudie and been asked if he was homeless by Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch.