KLF is Gonna Rock Ya!- Library of Mu
- Library of Mu record:
- Title: KLF is Gonna Rock Ya!
- Date: 1991-04-01
- Journal: X Magazine
- Author: Lazlo Nibble
- Type of resource: Interviews
- Status: text
- No. views: 6262
- Description: Drummond discusses sheep, the road trip at the heart of Chill Out, short attention spans, plans for the Black Room and US record deals.
KLF is Gonna Rock Ya!
By Lazlo Nibble (1991-04-01, X Magazine)
LAZLO, X Magazine's intrepid Music Director, shares words with BILL DRUMMOND,
the more visible half of Britain's most unpredictable new export: THE KLF. Oh oh
oh it's magic!
IN THE BEGINNING
Bill Drummond isn't a newcomer to the British music scene by any means. The
short list: member of the late-'70s Liverpool band Big In Japan (with
later-to-be-frontman for Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Holly Johnson). Founding
partner with David Balfe of the Zoo record label (releasing early efforts by
friends that included Julian Cope and Echo And The Bunnymen; Balfe's Food
Records is now home base for Jesus Jones). Former manager for Echo And The
Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. Former A&R man for WEA records, where he
signed Brilliant (June Montana, Killing Joke's bassist Youth, and a guitarist
named Jimmy Cauty).
The formers are over now. The current is The KLF, Drummond's collaboration with
Jimmy Cauty which has survived two point five name-changes, a handful of number
ones, a sampling controversy that led to the withdrawal of their first album,
and an unfinished movie project that almost put them in the poorhouse.
Their debut LP, released under the name of The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, was
unassumingly dubbed 1987 Q WHAT THE FQ IS GOING ON. Recorded by Drummond and
Cauty, under the aliases 'King Boy D' and 'Rockman Rock,' in Cauty's tiny
apartment on a hip-hop inspired whim, the album was a complete homebrew
in-your-face masterpiece, combining drum machines and loud Scots shouting with
sound bites from everyone from The Monkees to Abba.
Unfortunately, Abba bit back. The Jams, it seems, had lifted virtually every
ounce of the Swedish disco band's hit "Dancing Queen" and dropped it unaltered
into a track the Jams has dubbed "The Queen And I," predating the
loop-and-sample antics of MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice by three or so years. It
wasn't so much a cover as it was an unauthorized remix, and the threat of an
expensive lawsuit inspired The Jams to Do The Right
Thing Q burn all the unsold copies of the album.
They were soon back in the game, though, and after a similar (but mercifully
lawsuit-free) escapade with Whitney Houston on "Whitney Joins The Jams" and
another full-length album (WHO KILLED THE JAMS), they hit #1 in summer 1988 as
The Timelords with what even they admit to as being the most nauseating record
in the history of the world: the "Dr. Who"-inspired dance track, "Doctorin' The
TARDIS," and a book Q THE MANUAL (HOW TO HAVE A NUMBER ONE THE EASY WAY). This
apparently worked for Eurotrash band Edelweiss, who read the book, stole Abba's
"S.O.S.," and sold five million copies worldwide with "Bring Me Edelweiss."
Next, a compilation album and another change of name, this time to The KLF Q
"Kopyright Liberation Front," if some people can be believed. Then, a handful of
tepidly-received ambient-house singles through late 1988 and early 1989, and a
summer 1989 pop track ("Kylie Said To Jason") that didn't even manage to break
the top 100. The band pulled back and regrouped, deciding to put together an
album that you could listen to after the dance music was over. The result . . .
The album is Cauty and Drummond's first full-length album in the US under the
name The KLF. Released in the US on WaxTrax this past January (almost a year
after it's original UK issue on the band's label, KLF Communications), it's a
frighteningly evocative composition: a single forty-five-minute-long ambient
road-trip across the southern gulf coast of the United States. Surprisingly
(especially after hearing the record), it's a trip that the band's never
Drummond's up-front about that aspect of it. "I've never been to those places. I
don't know what those places are like, but in my head, I can imagine those
sounds coming from those places, just looking at the map."
You don't even have to listen to the album to get a feel for the journey. Titles
like "Brownsville Turnaround on the Tex-Mex Border," "3 a.m. Somewhere Out Of
Beaumont," and "The Lights Of Baton Rouge Pass By" almost tell the whole story
"I've always loved those titles like 'The Lights Of Cincinnati' and, you know,
'Galveston'," Drummond explains. "American cities and towns and places, to us
over here, have a real romantic feel to them.
"It was only after we recorded it that we decided . . . that we gave it those
titles," says Drummond, "and we thought that it had the feeling of that sort of
trip. I love maps and atlases and I love place names, and I just sat down with
the atlas and picked, you know, and saw the journey that it was and it all
seemed to fit."
THE MACHINATIONS THAT MAKE IT ALL WORTHWHILE
The sound of CHILL OUT is gentle and fluffy, much like the sheep that grace its
cover. It seems appropriate in its UK context, maybe, but on WaxTrax? Former
home of Front 242 and A Split Second and a thousand other beat-noise bands?
"To be honest, I've never ever heard a record on WaxTrax," Drummond admits. "The
only reason why those records came out on TVT and WaxTrax is because they phoned
us up and said 'Can we license them?', and we just
said . . . 'Yeah, okay!'
"We've never even thought about [targeting] America, you know. When you're in
Europe, it's like another
world . . . you just don't think about it. I mean, America means Jon Bon Jovi to
me, or Aerosmith . . . we've never thought seriously that our music fits into
anything over in America."
Okay, fine, but what's with the white fluffy animals on the cover?
"The sleeve is a very very English thing. The Pink Floyd album ATOM HEART
MOTHER, do you know that album? The sleeve with the cow's head on it? That's a
very English thing and it has the vibe of the rave scene over here. When we're
having the big Orbital raves out in the country, and you're dancing all night
and then the sun would come up in the morning, and then you'd be surrounded by
this English rural countryside . . . so we wanted something that kind of
reflected that, that feeling the day after the rave, that's what we wanted the
"So when we went to the photo-library, we had a copy of ATOM HEART MOTHER under
our arms, and we went in: 'Okay, we want a picture of sheep, like this.' They
didn't have any pictures of sheep that were like the cover of ATOM HEART MOTHER,
but they had these other pictures of sheep . . . hundreds, thousands of pictures
of sheep, and we picked the ones we used because it had that same sort of
THE WHITE ROOM
Currently charting overseas is the band's new album, THE WHITE ROOM, which has
just been released by Arista in the US. The album's been a long time in the
making . . . last summer's leadoff single 'What Time Is Love?' saw its first
release in October of 1988, and most of the rest of the album's tracks have been
released on promos or compilations here and there in the two-and-a-half years
since. X MAGAZINE even reviewed the demos in a snotty moment last summer.
"The songs were originally written for our film THE WHITE ROOM, which we still
haven't finished," says Drummond. The movie, which was originally funded by
#250,000 of proceeds from 'Doctorin' The TARDIS,' has been in limbo for the past
two years due to lack of money to continue the project.
Last summer, the remix of 'What Time Is Love?' blew into the top ten. "So we
thought," Drummond says, "let's, y'know, let's just get in there, finish these
songs, and get the album out. Once we finish the film Q which, goodness knows
when that might be, sometime in the next millenium or so Q then we'll do another
soundtrack for the film. I dunno what we'll call the soundtrack then . . . "
But THE WHITE ROOM isn't just a collection of previously-released stuff. When
the band decided to pull together all the tracks they'd written for the film,
they also decided to remix the best-known songs into a completely new context
that Drummond calls the "Stadium House Trilogy." Officially, the Trilogy
consists of the 'live-remix' versions of 'What Time Is Love?,' '3 a.m. Eternal,'
and 'Last Train To Trancentral,' all of which have been pumped-up with beats,
raps, and an audience. The songs aren't really live, of course . . . it was much
easier to just drop in crowd noise sampled from U2's RATTLE AND HUM.
OOO WHAT A GIVEAWAY!
Drummond informs me that the band is just putting the final touches on the
'Trancentral' single Q the last one they're releasing from the WHITE ROOM album.
"As soon as we've finished that," he pronounces, "we're straight in doing THE
And how does that album relate to THE WHITE ROOM, aside from being, uhm,
opposite in color?
Drummond doesn't miss a beat. "It's the compete yang to the yin of THE WHITE
ROOM. It'll be very very dense, very very hardcore. No sort of 'up' choruses or
anthems. I think it's going to be techno-metal, I think that's gonna be the
sound. Techno-metal. Which'll be, you know, a cross between Techno and Heavy
"Megadeth with drum machines."
Drummond is on record as being not-particularly-fond of the idea that the
long-playing album is the center of the musical universe, so one wonders why The
KLF is leaping into another full-length release so soon after the release of THE
"I like singles," he explains, "I like singles a lot. But I also don't mind
doing albums when you can do them fast . . . like when we did CHILL OUT, we did
that very fast. And hopefully we're gonna do THE BLACK ROOM very fast, so it has
that one kind of feel right the way through.
"But that having to keep your . . . trying to keep your attention span going for
the time that it takes to do a proper album like it took us to do THE WHITE
ROOM . . . I can't. I can't. My mind wanders very quickly, and so does Jimmy's.
If we were able to do all our albums in two days then I'd be quite happy doing
albums, but we can't. Doing a single takes about five days for us, and that's
about as long as my attention span can keep at one thing. These groups that can
spend a year making an album, y'know . . . I often think about the time . . . I
just don't understand it."
THE KLF WORK ETHIC
Given that short attention span, I wonder aloud how long Drummond thinks he'll
be able to sustain interest in his work with Jimmy Cauty.
"I dunno, because . . . when we first started working together, it was just one
record: it was the first Jams/Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu record, 'All You Need
Is Love.' Really the only reason why we work together is to try and finish the
next record, you know . . . we've always got another idea, and we're saying
'okay, let's get that done, and then we'll have to get this done, then we'll
have to get that done . . . ' So when we've got everything done . . . we can
finish! And get back to normal life."
Which, given the completely-uncompleted WHITE ROOM movie, among other things,
may be quite a while off.
"I know, I know, that's the terrible thing of it, yeah . . . a light sentence."
THE INTERVIEWER GEEKS OUT, PART ONE
So if he wasn't part of The KLF right now, what would Bill Drummond be doing?
"I'd be writing. I mean, that's what I've always intended to do, and four years
ago when I quit doing other things in music, I quit to concentrate on writing.
It was through taking a week off, a week's break at Christmas after three
months' writing, that I had the idea of doing a kind of a hip-hop type record. I
phoned up Jimmy, and we started working together, and I thought 'Oh yeah . . .
one single, then I'll get back to the writing.'; and I haven't yet got back to
DRUMMOND IN CLUB COUNTRY (THE ETERNAL SWIPE)
Being a relatively anonymous pair, Drummond and Cauty have an advan-tage that
most big pop artists don't Q they can mingle with the public without getting
their trousers involuntarily removed.
"I've never heard '3 A.M.' . . . well, not the hit version of '3 A.M.' or the
hit version of 'What Time Is Love?' I've never heard those in a club. Ever. I
heard the original version of 'What Time Is Love?' in a club three times; I've
heard the original version of '3 A.M. Eternal' once at a rave. But that was in
1989, that was two years ago now.
"To be honest with you, I didn't even know it was our record to begin with! I
was out there at a rave, you know, thinking 'ohh I love this one, I love this,
what's this one? I wonder what this one's called? I wonder...' and it dawned on
me," he laughs, "'oh my God, this is our record!' Which is a stunning
Which brings up a problematic point in the dance-music scene, namely that
sometimes it seems like . . .
"All the records sound the same!"
Exactly. The riff from 'What Time Is Love?', for example, seems to be turning up
in half the dance singles released in Europe at the moment. But given Drum-mond
and Cauty's recent musical history, it's questionable whether they're in any
position to complain about it.
"Well, we can't, except . . . you know who Andrew Lloyd Webber is? Uhm . . . it
seems that he had the riff first, on JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR."
He's right. A trip to the record collection confirms that the 'What Time Is
Love?' riff is lifted straight out of the track "Judas' Death" in Webber's
"Well we've never heard it . . . see, supposedly it isn't even our riff, but we
thought it was our riff all this time. We thought 'Hey! All these people are
making records using our riff!' but it seems it isn't . . . seems it's Andrew
Lloyd Webber's," Drummond laughs.
"And obviously, he must have ripped it off Mozart or somebody in the first
place, Moz' probably got it off, you know . . . it'll go right back to the
Which, of course, makes it all okay.
WHITNEY JOINS THE JAMS II?
So who else would you like to work with, besides Jimmy?
"Uhm . . . Arista records were using Whitney Houston as a carrot for us. I was
saying well, you know, I used to really really like Whitney, the first album and
some of the second album I really really loved.
"But I was saying, 'But I'd be far more interested in working with Aretha
Franklin. I'd love to do a track with Aretha Franklin.' And so: 'We'll sign with
Arista if you let us do a track with Aretha Franklin.' And then I find out that
she's not on the label anymore!
"I think I'd like to do a track with Aretha Franklin. I'd like us to write . . .
but that'd be me and Jimmy doing that. Writing a song together and producing a
track with her."
But isn't signing with a big record label like Arista an artistic compromise?
"It wouldn't be. It'll be a short-term deal, very very short. We have to give
them more than one album, but it'll be no more than three, and it wouldn't be a
signing. We'd just be licensing the product to them.
"They have to take the product as it is. If they don't like it, fair enough . .
. I mean, if it means that it doesn't sell in America, then that's . . . nothing
you can do about it. We're not desperate to come over and fill stadiums. It's
not like we're trying to prove that we can be the greatest rock-and-roll band in
the world, 'cause it just doesn't . . . it's not what we're about."
KING BOY, WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?
From this side of the pond, the whole Drummond/Cauty collaboration seems like a
hell of a lark. Of course, there's always the argument that rock journalists are
really just frustrated rock musicians, so there's a tendency to romanticize the
situation. But I have to ask. Is the band enjoying themselves? Are they having a
Drummond mulls it over for a second. "Mmmmm . . . no, not particularly. We're
not 'good-time' people. At all. Making records is a real struggle, and we're, at
heart Q it sounds terrible Q we're never ever happy with what we do. When you're
writing a piece you may be happy for a few minutes after you've written it, or
at some point, but most of the time you're just . . . . . .
'yeah.'" He laughs for a second. "You're never really happy with it," he
So what is it that keeps them going?
Pause. " . . . Because you keep thinking... " he ventures, "you keep trying to
get it out of your system. That's it. You keep hoping to get whatever it is out
of your system so you don't have to make any more records. And you keep failing
to. You keep thinking 'oh my God, well next time we'll really get it out of our
It doesn't look like that'll happen anytime soon.
Pull quotes from the article:
Singers P good or bad P are invariably a problem; they tend to confuse their
role as singer of songs with that of would-be world leaders. -- The Manual
Every Number One song ever written is only made up from bits from other songs.
There is no lost chord. No changes untried. No extra notes to the scale or
hidden beats to the bar. There is no point in searching for originality. -- The
"Well, I don't have a record player! And neither does . . . well, Jimmy has one,
but it's broken." -- Drummond on musical habits
Spend the first day doing the twelve inch. Leave most of it to the engineer,
throw in some ideas, play some records to him that give him some idea of where
you think it should be going. Get back to boiling the kettle and brewing the
tea. -- The Manual
Have a bath; it's the last chance you'll have of one until the end of the week.
Remember to sing your chorus while you scrub your back. Sleep well. -- The
"Both bands are too old to be doing what we're doing. We should be at sensible
jobs." -- Drummond on KLF vs. Yello
There are 4 comments for this record
You can leave a comment below.
Posted by Guest on 2007-04-06 15:42:55
This article seems to have some extraneous Q's and P's in it?
Posted by Guest on 2007-12-03 06:04:32
There's a hell of a lot of samples taken from their early hit singles and (dare I say it?) included into their other timeless tunes!
Posted by Guest on 2008-02-29 09:13:05
I think the riff from Judas' Death (in JCS) is too similar to What time is love? to be any form of coincidence. I think they lifted it note for note and dropped it in their track, albeit maybe played by themselves on their synth.
Posted by Guest on 2009-05-05 05:27:53
These guys are so awesome!!!!!!!!!