The Chronicled Mutineers- Library of Mu

Library of Mu record:
Title: The Chronicled Mutineers
Date: December 1996
Journal: Vox
Author: Gavin Martin
Type of resource: Interviews
Status: text
No. views: 34182
Description: excellent Bad Wisdom promo interview, well illustrated with photos of the authors in a field. Some interesting details about the legal problems and sequels to BW


The Chronicled Mutineers

By Gavin Martin (December 1996, Vox)

THE TWO self-proclaimed Zen masters speed through the lush and leafy lanes of England's green and pleasant land to meet us at the train station. Bill Drummond -- the mastermind behind chart-topping phenomenon The KLF, K Foundation art warrior, the towering Scot who bucked the national sterotype and burnt a million quid -- is at the wheel of the battered open-top flat bed Ford truck. By his side is one-time comic-book artist and sometime heavy metal hero Zodiac Mindwarp, aka Z, aka Mark Manning -- a tarot-toting, vodka-swilling, tattooed South Yorkshire man whose mouldering public image conceals a considerable literary and intellectual bent.

The truck pulls in at the car park of Cheddington station -- just a few miles up the track from the scene of The Great Train Robbery, not far from Mr Drummond's current abode or the country pub where, in a small room at the top of some rickety stairs, Z and Bill are rehearsing for their latest adventure -- the Psychotic Reality Roadshow.

Heaped on the back of the truck is a bundle of dried twigs. Sitting atop these twigs are two aged and balding armchairs with straw stuffing spilling forth. Drummond -- unshaven, sparse of thatch (looks like he's been pulling his hair, as well a man who burnt a million quid might), swathed in the familiar battle-scarred KLF-era black leather trenchcoat, a strained, perplexed expression never far from his face -- invites us to climb into the armchairs. He is anxious that we don't stand on the blue plastic sheeting covering God knows what at the bottom of the truck.

This makes getting aboard a chore. Once we're settled in for the short journey to the pub and Drummond drives off, the wind stirs up the smell of old flea-ridden dog from the chairs and the al fresco passengers engage in a furious session of scratching and itching.

I'm aware that Drummond lives an agrarian life out here in the Aylesbury countryside and that at one time during his retreat from the music business he took a job as a gamekeeper. But I can't help wonder what the twigs are for.

The KLF movie, shot in the Isle of Jura three years before Drummond, KLF partner Jimmy Cauty and cameraman Gimpo returned there to burn a million quid, featured the ritual burning of a pagan effigy similar to that enacted in the film 'The Wicker Man'. So the twigs beneath the armchairs set the mind racing -- a journalist and photographer as Drummond's latest sacrifice? Or perhaps Bill and Z -- Zen Masters, Rocking Renegades, Literary Arseholes -- saying farewell cruel world in an act of spontaneous self-combustion? I ask Z what purpose the sticks might serve. "I don't know, it might be kindling for when he burns the next million," he sneers.

PSYCHOTIC REALITY is a by-product of the big adventure undertaken by the daring duo in November 1992. It had been the year of Bill's 'breakdown', when The KLF, perched on the peak of greater-than-ever success, quit the music business, (toy) machine gunned the tuxedo'd twats in the front row of that year's Brit Awards ceremony and dumped a sheep's carcass on the steps at the after-show party.

The person Drummond kept closes contact with during the period of intense personal and artistic turmoil that both preceded and succeeded this public act (despair, divorce, the ditching of 'The Black Room', considered by those who've heard it as his and The KLF's finest album) was Manning.

The pair had known each other since the early '80s when, as a producer and A&R man at Polygram Records, Drummond signed up to Zodiac Mindwarp and The Love Reaction's world domination plan.

While that particular campaign may have been a failure, Bill and Z forged a mutual taste for grand guignol acts of quasi-mythic proportions, which grew greater as the years went by and their lives became increasingly messy and complicated.

"We were both fucked by rock," says Z. "Well, I was definitely fucked by it, and Bill was spiralling out of control. He phoned me and he was obviously distraught -- I think that he decided I was the only one who would understand him. We decided not to meet or phone each other."

As 1992 came to an end they unburdened the darkest corners of their psyches to one another in a correspondence that consisted of threats, insults, waste matter and animal corpses sent through the post. It was shortly after Drummond sent a copy of Albert Goldman's meritricious Elvis biography with the word 'lies' scrawled in his inimically demented handwriting on every page, that these two overgrown boys in the throes of perpetual male life crisis hatched a plan to save the world.

TO OVERCOME the bad vibes threatening to engulf the planet, they decided to plant a picture of every self-respecting white rocker's patron saint, the 20th century Dionysian Overlord -- Elvis Presley -- at the top of the world. By burying this Kingly sacrament at the North Pole, they thought they could send good vibes, universal peace, harmony and hamburgers radiating across the globe.

The two-week journey towards the pole was fuelled by vodka, bizarre sexual fantasies and the additional exploits of Gimpo (Z's manager, Falklands veteran and all-purpose Neanderthal man). It is all brought to (something considerably larger than) life in the fantastical, uproarious and controversial tome Bad Wisdom -- just published by Penguin, complete with Jarvis Cocker's cover endorsement: "...This is a very beautiful book." Big laughs, outrage, hysteria and enlightenment, all for only £7.99.

And this is only the first instalment in an adventure trilogy. When we meet, the Fearless Three have just returned from their second trip, a heart of darkness voyage up the Congo in a Victorian steamer boat, which will provide the raw material for book two.

Drummond: "It's a colonial book, but we're not travelling as colonials -- we were in third class."

Z: "Down there with the natives, sleeping in shit."

Drummond: "But we have been ploughing our way through the collected works of Richard Burton, Livingstone, Stanley."

Z: "And all those other racist bastards."

For the third and final book in the series, they plan to go to the moon.

"Well," says Z, "we're going to try. The initial plan is to go to Cuba and see if we can get to Cape Canaveral and from there hitch a ride. It's back to your roots in a weird sort of television way. We were going to get two kayaks and try to row home to Sheffield and Edinburgh by waterways and canals, but that seemed too much like hard work."

But right now, attention is squarely focussed on Psychotic Reality. Described not as a book-reading but two 30-minute full-frontal performances featuring chainsaw violence, scatalogical sex, rampant misogeny, gruesomely detailed masturbatory frenzies, supermodels, Oscar Wilde, Madonna, Jack the Ripper, Keith Richards, Nazi stormtroopers, hallucinogenic drugs, The Chippendales, the baby Jesus and whatever else they can salvage from the intense but sprawling Bad Wisdom.

Drummond: "Right from the beginning of working together we'd always talked about performing. I don't think we actually wrote the words thinking we were going to be reading them out loud -- in any case, the performance will go beyond that. It's back to telling a story, not getting into all the descriptive stuff that's in the book, but telling what actually happened. When we wrote it we wrote separately, but when we're onstage we'll bounce off each other, at least I think that's what we'll do."

INSIDE THE pub, Drummond chows down two helpings of what the menu board dubiously described as "probably the best curry in the world" -- the voracious appetite constantly hankering for a full cooked breakfast in Bad Wisdom obviously undaunted. Manning, something of a curry connoisseur, eyes the food suspiciously, twirls his walking cane and helps himself to several vodka and tonics while Bill eats and Chris Brooks (tour manager, Psychotic Reality director and tour support act) puts their performance schedule into perspective.

Manning grimaces as the photographer recalls their first meeting, 12 years ago, to shoot Z's Prince Albert pierced penis. "I was confused. It was the most ridiculous thing I've ever done in my fucking life. I still to this day don't know why I did it. You're not going to write about this are you? I don't want to talk about my bloody penis," pleads Z.

But in Bad Wisdom/Psychotic Reality, Z does indeed talk about his penis -- bloody and otherwise. Be it "leaking glycerine tears", "spurting viscous white paste" or as "a blood-gorged tool" alternatively punished then soothed by a "Nazi kung fu sex bitch".

"Well, that's just writing, it's not real. Well, it's real in some respects. Actually, all the stuff I was writing I did think, because it's inspired by real people. You know how your mind flies when you're walking down the street and you see a young girl and you'd just like to push her under a car and jump on her while she's still warm? Those ordinary kind of things that everybody thinks about."

Drummond: "I used to have this fantasy about the two girls that used to back up Betty Boo. They were identical twins, models, half-Indonesian, exotic-looking. I actually had this fantasy that I wanted to cut them in half and sew the two different halves back together again and... it seemed to stop there. I remember when I was a kid, reading about the Siamese twins that were both married and both had kids and one lived nine hours longer than the other. It used to fascinate me, I mean, when I was 13... Whooah."

Before writing Bad Wisdom, where did they put such thoughts?

Z: "Probably between the pages of pornographic magazines. That's why I had to keep buying new ones -- 'cos the pages were all stuck together. A lot of it came out in my songs. Doing this book and these performances is my revenge on techno because I felt redundant when dance music appeared and singers were disappearing from records. I thought 'Right, we'll do the reverse and get rid of the music.'"

Drummond: "I've got another theory which runs completely parallel to that -- the reason I liked techno was you didn't have to put up with singers and their arrogant, petty ways any more. They were always a problem -- any time I was involved with a band, singers were the problem. I loved techno because it got rid of that."

THE CAST of characters in Bad Wisdom is long and potentially problematic. Tracey from Voice Of The Beehive is depicted as an insatiable fellatrix unable to keep her mouth away from "Gimpo's blushing helmet". A longtime friend of Bill and Z, Tracey was happy to be depicted thus. Will others feel the same way? Three supermodels called Linda, Claudia and Naomi are subjected to some of the vilest acts imaginable, while Madonna has a starring role as an MTV-powered Satan planning to destroy the world with the dreaded anti-chord, between drinking warm blood, defaecating over her servants and bathing in goat sperm. A little strong, one might imagine, for Penguin's legal department...

Drummond: "Well, the book is coming out as it is. Each book that comes out has to be insured against things that might be a problem. In the case of this book, those things were libel and... what's the other thing?"

Obscenity?

Drummond: "Yes, obscenity. So they got a barrister to write a 28-page breakdown of all the things he thought would be a problem. Basically it was summed up in one line, which said 'This book is unpublishable'."

"The editor at Penguin tried to fight his corner and he got this far more mature barrister who had been involved in cases concerning NWA and extreme right-wing Nazi Aryan stuff. He just did a three-page repory which said 'Change this and that', and pointed out that there hadn't been a successful libel case taken against a book that is deemed literature since Last Exit To Brooklyn. He said it would help if you got two respected professors to verify that this is literature -- and Jarvis Cocker is hardly good enough. So that's what they did, and the professors -- one of whom was a woman -- said, yes, it was literature, though one of them, the man as it happens, had misgivings about it."

Which were?

Drummond: "That it overstepped every boundary of what the man in the street considered obscene. But he didn't think it was obscene -- the definition of obscene is something that depraves and corrupts. It was felt that people who read this book..."

Z: "...are already depraved and corrupt."

Drummond: "People won't be buying this as a porn book."

Z: "Because it doesn't have any pictures."

Which makes it unlike the previous published work by Drummond and Manning, a supremely litigious, expensive, beautifully bound and, according to the authors, dangerous book called The Bible Of Dreams.

PUBLISHED PRIVATELY in a limited edition of 200 at the cost of £500 per copy, A [sic] Bible Of Dreams grew out of the aforementioned correspondences. Initially, it was a scrapbook collage put together by Z while on tour in Scandinavia. Reproduced in print, complete with a commentary by Drummond, it became a depraved, anguished howl, clawing for faith and meaning in an unforgiving world, drawing a link between modern-day hardcore, bestial porn and classical mythology. Beneath the shocking surface was a struggle to rediscover the sense of rite and spiritual tradition lost to porn-saturated, gratification-obsessed Northern European males -- a theme that resurfaces in Bad Wisdom.

Drummond: "At the time, it was something that was very important to us, but it's a bit weird now. It's almost four years later and I'm in a completely different emotional state that I was then. Religion, now, doesn't provide the things that you need.

"Obviously, it was a bit like going out with a band doing this book. It was like a hunting trip or a fishing trip."

Z: "There were no women around, so you tend to be less restrained. It's good sometimes not to have women around."

Drummond: "Women have never done these things, they've never set off in coracles from Ireland to take Christianity to the rest of the world, never gone on Viking raids."

Z: "No, Bill, you didn't get many tarts in long ships raping and pillaging and breaking wind."

But there have been ambitious women down through the years, Madonna being the most notable pop culture example. How will she take to her Bad Wisdom portrayal?

Bill: We argued the case that if you write songs called 'Express Yourself' and write books called 'Sex' where you encourage young girls to get into lesbianism -- and, what do you call it? Anal sex? She encourages that doesn't she? -- then she's in no position to complain. We've just followed her advice in 'Express Yourself'."

Z: "I can't stand her, basically. I saw the Madonna film. I found it really obscene how she treated those dancers. OK, she's paying them, but there's no need to treat them like fucking slaves, all sitting on the bed, saying what she wanted them to say. The thing that really got me was that it was In Bed With Madonna, but there was no sex or no fun on that tour at all. Obviously because the band ain't there -- they're down the road in a hotel doing all the booze and shagging. That's where the real action was. She was just there with her friends being healthy and eating soup."

NONETHELESS, IT is a woman who has edited and put the two halves of Bad Wisdom's narrative into coherent shape. Perhaps if a woman had been involved in planning the actual trip to the pole, it would have been better organised. But that would be contrary to the project's spirit of adventure.

Z: "We were under the impression that the ice caps came down to the top of Norway in winter, but we'd got the wrong continent. That's the difference between adventure and travel. Travel involves a lot of forward planning, but adventure involves none, and we wanted to do adventure so we didn't do much research 'cos we wanted to be surprised by what we saw.

"We didn't know Lapps existed -- these mediaeval people in the middle of Europe, these fuckers dressed like hobbits. They really were stunted, just like the Japanese have a low centre of gravity. I think Tolkien was actually inspired by them.

"When we did get to the top, Bill was devastated when the ice caps weren't there and we couldn't carry on. Gimpo wanted to hire a helicopter and fly there. By that stage, even I was getting a bit scared."

Drummond: "It all happened so fast, we just decided to go. The only map we had was from the airport. Everything was a shock to us."

Bad Wisdom is a Boy's Own adventure that goes into Heaven and Hell. The beauty that Jarvis Cocker perceived in it radiates through its humour, brutal honesty and moments of pure transcendence, which are all a product of the writers' determination to get to the craw of their imagination, however depraved or untenable.

Z: "If you follow the new lad kind of shit to its logical conclusion, it's not very far from this. I think of it in that respect, turning up the volume on the Zeitgeist. Women that have read the book seem to have been much more comfortable with it than the men that have read it. It frightens men because they see themselves there, and they're frightened of what they could be capable of. But women laugh at it, they know this is what we're like and that there's no real malice there. It's beyond malice."

Drummond: "The effect of drawing these things out of yourself is weird. I become aware of the things I haven't revealed, and you prod more in yourself. What's the problem there?"

Z: "The funniest bit on the whole trip was when you started straightening up the towels in case you got a bird back. We hadn't changed our clothes for two weeks. We were all as sticky as fuck, and all Bill couold think about were the towels. Some deep-seated psychological thing, no doubt."

No matter how deep journalists may dig to unveil or debunk Bill Drummond's personality, they are unlikely to get as far as the caricature detailed by Manning or laid bare by the man himself in Bad Wisdom. For anyone interested in the KLF's past and possible future, Bad Wisdom contains the darkest truths and most meaningful revelations. But Drummond's Pained Confessions Of A Cultural Catalyst are counterbalanced by Manning's powerful piss-take of his partner, who he reckons is suffering from "neo-Celtic post-traumatic macho disorder". It was a mtutal interest in music that first brought Drummond and Manning together -- particularly early '70s progressive music.

"Lambasted by those public school, post-punk fascists (of the music press) as a time of pompous, indulgent and pretentious crap. Pompous, indulgent and pretentious were three reasons why it was great," seethed Drummond in The Bible Of Dreams. A deep love and concern for music is never far away in Bad Wisdom. The book contains passionate, thoughtful writing on the power of Elvis, the fate of Michael Jackson, while throughout, the narrative the music of Morrissey, Led Zeppelin and Jim Morrison make pointed, poignant entries.

Shortly after the interview, Drummond and Manning board a plane to Helsinki, off once more without a map, hoping to put together a soundtrack album of North Pole-area cover-version outfits to accompany the book.

IN THE upstairs room of the pub, Brook puts the odd couple through their opening paces. Bill fumbles with his kilt and displays the actual Zen sticks he lopped from a neighbour's sapling crop for the Bad Wisdom trip. Z dolled up like a Las Vegas pimp -- silk shirt, snakeskin shoes, Elvis aviator shades -- reveals the contents of the mysterious black bag: strong liquor, money, hot sauce, a book on Hitler, a human skull, two packs of tarot cards.

Drummond throws his kitbag on the floor and tells how it was back then, back in the dark days of '92 when he was going into a breakdown, a breakdown that would eventually lead to that combustible outrage, the burning of the K Foundation cash crop. "I was shit-scared. Scared of almost everything..."

Standing out in the field for photographs a short while later, Drummond's face is drawn into a tremulous, shocked expression when the million pound question is raised. The photographer is saying that it was after seeing that very expression that he was sure Drummond had actually done the fiery deed.

Earlier, I told Z that, according to information on the Internet, Gimpo's film, excerpts of which were shown on the Omnibus K Foundation documentary, of Bill and K Foundation/KLF partner Jimmy Cauty burning a million quid, was showing at a Scandinavian porn festival. "Well," he said, "you can't get much more pornographic than burning a million quid. That shit disturbs me, I try not to think about it."

But now Z laughs loudly: "I can't help it, it's Bill's face when anybody mentions the money, the way the lip comes out and starts trembling. It's like a kid who's just been hit and is on the brink of tears."

Drummond is stuttering, indignant.

"Well.... So? What's the right expression? I don't know how you're meant to look. I don't have..."

Any role model?

"No, I don't have the... the whatever."

"The money, Bill," screams Z, his laughter veering towards hysterics. "You don't have the fucking money!"

With that they go back to the open-top van heaped with kindling, back to rehearse their psychotic routine. The burning question dissipates in laughter, something remaining beyond the comprehension of either Bad Wisdom or Psychotic Reality.

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Posted by Guest on 2007-04-23 12:47:56

Yay!


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