Keith Levene

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Keith Levene
Keith Levene, May 16, 2012
Keith Levene, May 16, 2012
Background information
Birth nameJulian Keith Levene
Born (1957-07-18) 18 July 1957 (age 63)
Muswell Hill, London, England
GenresPost-punk, experimental rock
Occupation(s)Musician, Composer record producer
InstrumentsGuitar, bass, drums, piano, synthesizer, keyboards, violin, cello, double bass, harmonica
Years active1974–present
LabelsEMI/Virgin, Underground, Inc.
Associated actsThe Clash, The Flowers of Romance, Public Image Ltd, Cowboys International

Julian Keith Levene (born 18 July 1957)[1] is an English musician, who was a founding member of both The Clash and Public Image Ltd (PiL).[2]


Levene was born in Muswell Hill, London, and was an early fan of progressive rock - at fifteen he worked as a roadie for Yes on their Close to the Edge tour.[3] In 1976, he became a founding member of The Clash and The Flowers of Romance. Levene was responsible for helping to persuade Joe Strummer to leave the 101ers and join the Clash. Although he left The Clash before they began recording, he co-wrote "What's My Name", featured on their first album.[4] Levene wrote the music at the Black Swan club in Sheffield when the Clash and Sex Pistols performed there in July 1976; on the same night, Levene suggested to Lydon that they consider a possible future collaboration.[5]

After the Sex Pistols disintegrated, Levene and Lydon co-founded Public Image Ltd (PiL). Levene's guitar work was later imitated by others, including The Edge of U2. Levene was one of the first guitarists to use metallic guitars, such as the Travis Bean Wedge and Artist as well as the Veleno, the latter of which was nicknamed the "Leveno" in his honour.[5] He was involved in the writing, performing and producing of PiL's early albums: First Issue, Metal Box and Flowers of Romance.

Levene left PiL in 1983 over creative differences concerning what would eventually become the band's fourth album, This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get. In 1984, he released the original versions of the songs on his own label[6] under the title Commercial Zone which was the original working title of the album. In 1985 he moved to Los Angeles where he formed a company with his second wife, journalist Shelly da Cunha.[7] In mid-1986, Levene was asked to produce demos for the album The Uplift Mofo Party Plan by the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Master Control in Burbank with engineers Steve Catania and Dan Nebenzal. Also in 1986, Levene worked together with DJ Matt Dike, experimenting with sampling techniques and hip-hop for Ice T and Tone Loc on their early recordings for Delicious.[8] In 1989, he released his first solo release, Violent Opposition, on which members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed.[9][5]

In 2003, Levene contributed to industrial rock supergroup Pigface's album Easy Listening.... He has since released several solo records, among which was the Killer in the Crowd EP in 2004.

At an impromptu appearance at the Musicport Festival in Bridlington Spa on 24 October 2010, where they were joined by vocalist Nathan Maverick, Levene returned with former PiL bassist Jah Wobble. In 2011 Levene contributed to three tracks on the album Psychic Life, a collaboration between Wobble and Lonelady.[10]

In early 2012, after some planned Japan gigs were cancelled because of visa issues, Levene and Wobble played various venues in England, Wales and Germany as Metal Box in Dub. This was followed by the release of a four-song EP,[11] Yin & Yang.[5]

In spring 2014, Levene went to Prague to record "Commercial Zone 2014", an album backed via a crowdsourcing campaign funding website at Indiegogo.


Studio albums[edit]

  • Violent Opposition (Taang!/Emergo/Rykodisc 1989)
  • Murder Global Demos (Archive 2008)
  • Yin and Yang (Cherry Red 2012) (Jah Wobble & Keith Levene)
  • Search 4 Absolute Zero (self-released 2013, Gonzo Multimedia 2014)
  • Commercial Zone 2014 (self-released 2014)

Extended Play[edit]

  • Back Too Black (Iridescence 1987)
  • Keith Levene’s Violent Opposition (Fundamental/Taang! 1988)
  • Looking for Something (Taang! 1988)
  • Murder Global: Killer in the Crowd (self-released 2002, Underground, Inc. 2004)
  • EP aka Mississippi (Pressure Sounds/30 Hertz 2012) (Jah Wobble + Keith Levene)
  • Meeting Joe aka The Guardian (self-released 2015)


  • If Six Was 9 (Rykodisc 1988)
  • Stille Im Meine Hamburg/ Clothesline (Overzealous Editions 1990) (Kendra Smith/Keith Levene & Hillel Slovak)


  1. ^ "Search birth records 1837–2006 | Fully indexed birth records". Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  2. ^ Di Tondo, Kathy. "Recalling PiL: The Commercial Zone Era with Keith Levene and Maureen Baker". Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  3. ^ Reynolds, Simon (18 February 2006). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984. Penguin Books. ISBN 0143036726.
  4. ^ Gross, Jason (February 2001). "Keith Levene Interview". Perfect Sound Forever. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d Di Tondo, Kathleen M. "Keith Levene's Search for Absolute Zero". Mudkiss. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  6. ^ "PIL Records, Inc". Archived from the original on 7 February 2011. (registered 30 January 1984 by Keith Levene, 1 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10003, dissolved due to inactivity 26 September 1990)
  7. ^ "Multi-Image Group". Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. (registered on 19 June 1986 by Shelly Da Cunha, 830 North Kodak Drive, Los Angeles CA 90026, now suspended)
  8. ^ Dan LeRoy (2006). Paul's Boutique. Continuum. pp. 14, 17.
  9. ^ Fused Magazine | Keith Levene interview (January 3, 2015)"Violent Opposition" | Red Hot Chili Peppers
  10. ^ "Jah Wobble & Lonelady To Explore Psychic Life". The Quietus. 16 August 2011.
  11. ^ "Jah Wobble & Keith Levene EP". 30 Hertz Records. February 2012. Archived from the original on 18 June 2013.


External links[edit]