One Coronation Under A Groove- Library of Mu
- Library of Mu record:
- Title: One Coronation Under A Groove
- Date: 12 January, 1991
- Journal: NME
- Author: Roger Morton
- Type of resource: Interviews
- Status: original
- No. views: 5490
- Description: At the video shoot for 3am Eternal and preparing for a xmas Heaven PA, Bill and Jimi discuss ley-lines and roads, humour, irony and scams, and train rides across Russia.
One Coronation Under A Groove
By Roger Morton (12 January, 1991, NME)
Who wants to be the Disco Kings? Are the KLF still rebels, or are
they content with monarchy in the UK? ROGER MORTON finds them
dodging explosions near Cleopatra's Needle and dreaming of ley
lines, pyramids and corn rings. Crown pics CHRIS CLUNN.
THE KLF are waiting for the explosives. Like some sinister terrorist
cell on a ghastly mission of destruction, the Cauty-Drummond Gang
are holed up in a camper van in Battersea Park car park. Outside, in
the icy blackness, shadowy figures fumble with wires and detonators.
In the steamed up interior, coffee and cigarettes are nervously
consumed, but no-one has the stomach for the tray of cream cakes.
Rapper Rikki pensively rubs the back of his head where the cult
letters KLF have been brutally shaved into his hair. and moans out
loud that no-one wants to take pictures of his face any more. Jimmy
Cauty, however, appears to have more serious worries about his own
face. Like whether he'll have much of one left in ten minutes time.
The seconds tick by like a metronome on dope. Jimmy stares at his
feet with eyes as blanked by fear as an astronaut's visor, gingerly
fingering his eyebrows like a man about to cremate his favourite pair
of pet caterpillars. Maybe this time, The KLF were going too far. The
van door bangs open and a head pokes in.
"Don't worry Jimmy. We've aimed the explosives away from you, " it says.
"Oh yeah?" says Rikki. "Isn't that what they said to Michael Jackson?"
"Aren't you going with him?" someone asks Bill Drummond, as his partner
Jimmy heads out for his appointment with fire.
"Erm, no thanks," says Bill. "Gening blown up isn't my calling in life."
EXACTLY WHAT Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty think their calling in
life really is, is something a lot of people would like to know. Or,
to be more succinct, few people seem to have the faintest idea what
The KLF are up to.
On the night when I met them in Battersea they
were not. in fact, attempting to tum Jimmy into a human cannonball
and land him on top of Battersea Power Station for a night's sampling
of the traffic noise from the A3205. Nor were they planning to fire
bomb the Virgin Megastore. Although given The KLF's history of
splendidly aberrant behaviour, neither activity would have been too
out of charact er. They were rnerely filming a video for their
murderously powerful, remixed re-release of their 1989 club hit '3am
Being The KLF, however, this involves Jimmy sitting in the
ruined hulk of The KLF's customised US cop car, being dragged on a
trailer through the streets of London while technical assistants
attempt to blow up the dashboard, two feet from his face. The KLF
are not mad. They just have a problem with doing the conventional
thing in pop.
What are men of 37 (Bill) and 34 years (Jimmy) doing
making pop records?
Bill: "Ha Ha Ha Ha . . . I wish I fuckin' knew!"
Are you employable in any other capacity?
Bill: "Well. I mean if there was something else we could do. . "
Jimmy: "But then if we were into, say, dog racing, which we
could be, we'd still be the same if we were doing that."
Bill: "People would be saying to us
'Everybody knows it's greyhounds you're supposed to be racing. So
why exactly are you trying to race Highland terriers?' "
When Bill and Jimmy first started to behave oddly (Abba-rantly)
in public, back in 1987, their intentions seemed fairly clear: they wanted
to bite pop on the ankle. Then, they were the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu
(The JAMMS), white-boy indie raiders of hip-hop, splicing hard beats
on to a personally sampled history of the pop greats (The Beatles,
Led Zep, Sam Fox, Julie Andrews). High on the ne w technology, they
made copyright trashing assaults on kitsch pop, thieving Abba's
'Dancing Queen' for 'The Queen And I', and kidnapping Whitney Houston
for 'Whitney Joins The JAMMS'. They were the D ancing Kings Of The
Lunatic Fringe, climbing the National Theatre to graffiti its walls,
running amok in Sweden when Abba sued them. To South Bank Show
researchers they were, erm, post-modern neo-situationist pranksters.
To everyone else they were 'those funny blokes in the News pages'
with the sillynames (King Boy D, Rockman Rock).
Then the complications set in. Acid house arrived, and
while trying to make a house record Bill and Jimmy accidentally
recorded an international hit, 'Doctorin' The Tardis', which they put
out as The Timelords. A horrifying fusion of House, Gary Glitter beat
and the Dr Who theme, 'Doctorin'. . .' was, they claimed, made by
As rave culture grew, Bill and Jimmy mutated into The
KLF and miraculously, via 'What Time Is Love' and '3am Eternal',
became creators of classic club tracks
Even more miraculously, they maintained this respect
after straying into the tranquil, bleating-sheep-filled pastures of
their 'Chill Out' Ambient house album.
JIMMY CAUTY used to be in Brilliant. Bill Drummond used to manage
Echo And The Bunnymen. So neither of them can blame their bizarre
recent careers on fresh-faced naivety. Which brings us to the ever-
present suspicion attached to The KLF, that they might just be the
biggest scheming, chancing, scam-mongers in pop.
Just because their recent Top Five version of 'What Time Is
Love' and the current '3am Eternal are seemingly novelty-free, stunt-
free, irony-free dance hits doesn't mean that The KLF are all scammed
out. Or does it?
Jimmy: "We were never scammed-in in the first place."
Bill: "That's just the way it was interpreted. We've always
loathed the word scam. I know no-ones ever going to believe us, but we
never felt we went out and did things to get reactions. Everything we've
done has just been on a gut level instinct."
There is a suspicion that The KLF might just be a couple of
chancers who got lucky by riding the wave of dance music.
Bill: " I completely deny that. I can see why people
think that because we both existed beforehand and we weren't 17 and
naive, but I think our past has just given us strength."
Jimmy: "If the dance thing hadn't happened we'd still be here."
Bill: "We kind of started off as a reaction to a lot of the rock
things that had been going on, reacting against 25 years of the history
of rock 'n' roll. We were inspired by hip-hop and rap and stuff and it came out
in a very punky British way. Then the dance explosion came along and
obviously, maybe that was reacting against the same kindsof things."
Do people misunderstand you because they think you're still
'rebelling' even though you're now just making dance hits?
Bill: "Both of our hits I still think have got a lot of depth. There's a
lot of us in there, even though I don't know if a joumalist could
say we were rebelling against this or that. You can't be The Sex
Pistols forever.Once you've said 'Fuck off to something you can't
keep on saying it."
How much of what you did with the JAMMS was just gimmick?
Bill: "We didn't listen to ' 1987 What The Fuck's Going On'
(the first JAMMS LP) for a long time, and when we did we were
embarrassed by it because it was so badly recorded. But I still felt we
were able to get a lot out of ourselves through it.
"I think with whatever we do, if we stopped to think about it, it'd
be 'What are we letting ourselves in for now?' But we don't. We
think 'Yeah! Let's do that!' And it's a genuine excitement. Something
that gives us a buzz. We're not thinking That'll impress the
bastards!' Or 'This'll take the piss out of that!"'
Was part of the attraction of Acid House that you could do it
without embarrassing yourselves?
Bill: "Well, we don't have to pose. I think we embarrass
ourselves all the time though. Every time we're in the paper we pick
it up and it s like 'Oh no! What are those two blokes up to now?"
ON THE bank of the Thames, Cleopatra's Needle thrusts up into the
sky, looking like some sort of discarded stylus of the gods. It's
gone midnight and the KLF video shoot has re.located to the ancient
Egyptian obelisk on the Embankment. Drunk Sloanes and bow.tied
office workers wobble past, leaving trails of alcohol and perfume
behind them, too brained to notice anything odd about the scene going
on around them.
Unconcerned by the parked American cop car with its
cargo of pop people, one of whom is waving a fake handgun out of the
window, the Sloanes sway up to The KLF's camper van, trying to buy
burgers fr om the driver. Meanwhile Maxine Harvey, who sings on '3am
Eternal' is standing next to a giant sphinx, trying not to look cold
while she has her close-ups done. She has the sort of voice and the
mode l looks which could turn The KLF into her backing band.
'We already are a backing band," says Bill We're a backing
band to our own stupidity"
The KLF are used to doing stupid things in mystical
settings at the dead of night. It's one of their fortes. This summer
they made a bit of a name for themselves as perpetrators of the Corn
Ring Hoax. Erm, why?
"We wanted to do this big landscape thing last
summer around Glastonbury," says Jimmy. "The idea was we'd plant
fields with poppies in the shape of a giant KLF and get it
photographed by satellite. But we didn't get it together in time,
and then the corn circle thing happened, and we found ourselves in
the middle of the night. in the middle of a corn field, without
really knowing why we were th ere. But we had to do it."
Bill: "That was one of the highlights of last year. But it
came out looking like a complete joke. It came about initially
because of our paranoia about 'What Time Is Love' not getting any
airplay. We thought the only thing we could do is get on News At Ten.
Then someone else did a hoax corn circle and it was all over the
news, and we were cut up. Gutted. But we ended up doing one anyway."
Jimmy: "After we'd been up for two nights doing one in
Wiltshire we actually started to believe that it had been us doing
them all along. It was the same as when we used 'Dancing Queen'
years ago. We actually felt that we'd written 'Dancing Queen'."
Do you take your rnystical interests seriously?
Jimmy: "What have we done that's mystical? The things in
the videos like Stonehenge, they're just props really. Obvious
Bill: "You just get your ley lines map out and there you
Jimmy: "We were doing that last surnrner. We drew out this
great pyramid ley lines map connecting churches in Wiltshire. But, I
mean, anyone can do that."
Bill: "And we like the A4 "
Bill: "The A4 . It's a classic road . Everybody knows that. It's
the ultimate motorbike road. The rocker's road."
Ah. I see.
The KLF like roads. So much so that their current 'underground'
acid-core single 'It's Grim Up North' is an aural approximation of standing
on the side of the M62, hitching North, in the pouring rain, with things
crashing into you. Or so they say. Their taste for this sort of
thing - roads, pyramids, landscape art. talking cars - is, of
course, what makes The KLF what they are. It is highly unlikely that
Deee-Lite will ever knowingly make a record based around a major
motorway, rail, ley line or canal system. So it's a fine thing
indeed that The KLF are there to do it. Somebody has to.
Though they would deny it, like they deny most everything
you put to them, it's partly The KLF's inappropriateness as hip club
gurus that makes them so valuable. You could dress them head to
toe in velour sportwear with mod trimmings, and Bill would still
strike you as a Scottish fell walker, with an interest in birdwatching
(which he is) and Jimmy would still look like his mountaineering
brother-in-law (which he isn't).
By 3am of the eternal KLF video shoot, the stars of the
promo are sitting, bored. in their camper van by the Thames,
listening to late night reggae on the radio and wondering out loud
whether it's entirely fair that EMF have nicked their 'F'. By 3.15am
nocturnal, Bill Drummond has nodded off to sleep on the floor "If
you go to my house there's nothing in my house that reflects any of
this at all," Bill says later of his Buckinghamshire home "But the
thing is, it's always been like that. I remember the days when I
used to go into the newsagent to buy The Angling Times, Birdwatching
Monthly and the NME. So it's always been the same."
Is The KLF an obsession for you?
Bill "Yeah, that's one of the things we do know.
We can't stop ourselves. It would be easier if we could stop. Get a
bit sensible about it, a bit rational....I think a bit of therapy
might help. That's why I'm doing the woodwork
THERE IS the White Room, there is the Black Room, and in the middle
of the Black Room Bill Drummond is building a three foot high wooden
pyramid. It's the day after the all night video shoot and The KLF,
presumably having purchased some extra energy means of slitting
their rapper's throat on the altar of some ancient Egyptian god, are
in a West London recording studio, building a prop for the ni ght's
'performance' at Heaven. 'We're both quite practical people," says
Bill casting a proud eye over rickety heap of wood.
This, however, is no ordinary recording studio. More of a
'conceptual space', you might say. The main part of the studio next
door, is where The KLF have recorded their more song-based album,
tentatively called 'Tunes From The White Room'. Due out early this
year. the 'White Room album is linked to The KLF's eternally in
production 'White Room' movie project; a film which you might
describe as a transcendental American road-movie. In other words,
no-one knows what the hell it's about.
We, however, are in the black room, where The KLF's
alternative 'darker' album 'The Black Room' is being recorded,
admiring Bill's pyramid. It's a bit like some edited out scene from
'Spinal Tap'. " You see. Jimmy contributes the blackness and I
contribute the whiteness, says Bill, profoundly.
At this point rumours of Bill and Jimmy's youthful
dalliances with LSD start to look like they might not be entirely
exaggerated. All the more so when they start to explain their plan
to use a wind machine to blow a sackful of one dollar notes into
the audience at Heaven that night. Dollar notes, you see with their
creepy pentangle and pyramid markings, are mystically potent.
The KLF are not mad, they just have an eccentric sense of humour.
"The humour is only a very small percentage of what we
do," says Bill. "But because it isn't there at all in other person's
things, a lot of the time, it's more conspicuous. Although, y'know,
people will say there's all this irony with Morrissey or someone.
But most of the time we're serious about what we do and we just
get on with our work...we're not funny people, you see."
Jimmy: "I've never told a joke in my life."
Bill: But it's like if you're 18, and you've got your first band,
you desperately want to be taken seriously. You have your heroes, it
might be Lou Reed or Leonard Cohen or whoever, and you think they're
deadly serious and you want to be like that. And we don't have that
so much, so at times that absurd thing comes through."
Maybe you're just free of serious ambition?
Jimmy: "Yeah, well we're not striving to get anywhere."
Bill: "There's no empty stadiums waiting for us in
America. But then we're both aware, and I think anyone who's read a
music paper for the last five years should be aware, that even if
you get to th e stage of filling stadiums, you're no further forward
than when you were playing the Marquee. I mean it's dead obvious
THAT EVENING, at the Rage club night at Heaven, the joy-boys and
gooned-out girls on the dancefloor have their evening's disco-piging
interrupted by a throughly strange performance from two men dressed
head to toe in deep sea fisherman's garb. For 15 minutes The KLF
stand absolutely motionless on stage, one on either side of a
pyramid which supports two battered speakers arranged in a 'T'
shape, blinding lights beam from behind them. The club sound system
plays the crushing acid grind of 'It's Grim Up North'. And video
cameramen record the half-struck, half-delighted crowd.
This is not the behaviour of a pair of men who want to be
the Disco Kings. This is the behaviour of The Kings Of The Low Frequencies.
"We're not Empire builders," says Bill. "But there are things
we'ed like to do which we haven't done. Totally ludicrous things. We
want to buy ships, have submarines. They really are stupid things I
know, but I feel confident that in the event of us selling ten million
albums we would definitely go out and buy a submarine....Just to be able to
say 'Look we've got submarine and 808 State haven' t."
Earlier this year I sat through The KLF's ambient video-film
'Waiting' which was shot on the Scottish Isle of Jura depicting Bill and
Jimmy deciding not to make an acid album. Watching them spend a
couple of days doing a tremendous amount of nothing (apart from a bit of
birdwatching and recording the sea) it occurred to me that there has
to be a grand purpose to the KLF. Like they were making some big
point about pointlessness.
"Waiting was just us being normal," says
Jimmy. "That's the sort of thing we do normally. People are missing
the point if they say it's boring, because waiting is boring."
Bill: "Some of the things we do are quite pointless, but we're
not trying to make a big thing out of it. We'r not saying 'HEY! LOOK! IT'S
POINTLESS, THIS!' "
Jimmy: " I mean you've got to do something,
haven't you? So you may as well go on a train ride across Russia.
And a lot of these things are easier than you'd think to organise.
if we get the chance we'll do that. We want to hire tow carriages,
and put a studio in them so we can record a heavy duty Techno album
on the way."
Bill. "With flags, though. There'd have to be flags. A
lot of flags outside."
Jimmy: "It's something to do isn't it?"
Bill: "Don't you ever think about the tundra...not the
tundra but this rolling mass of land...you look at the map and you
see this dirty graet chunk of the USSR from there to there, and you
see that railway line running across there, and you have this kind of
In the White Room, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty
sit in front of the rolling mass of the mixing desk's knobs and
dials, gazing quizzically at the TV screen opposite with its
MTV-tuned parade imagina tively-dead pop people. You do know, I tell
them, that in pop-media terms The KLF are thought of as wacky
"Yeah, well, that's just something we've got to cope
with," says Jimmy. "It could be worse...We could be taken as serious
(Pictures: Bill and Jimmy with golden crowns on, holding an orb and
septre: "Fool in the crown: Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond")
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