? (The horny old devils)- Library of Mu

Library of Mu record:
Title: ? (The horny old devils)
Date: 29 August, 1997
Journal: Guardian
Author: John O'Reilly
Type of resource: Articles
Status: text
No. views: 3752
Description: Analysis of their past career and what 2K is about by journalist who was a Turner witness.


? (The horny old devils)

By John O'Reilly (29 August, 1997, Guardian)

[caption? Which way now?...2K pose for the cameras]

They invented stadium house and published a book on how to get to number one. Then they deleted their entire back catalogue and burned a million quid of their own money. What on earth can the men behind The KLF be up to this time? John O'Reilly analyses their latest visitation

The horny old devils

How do you get Radio 1 and MTV to go to the expense of covering an event? If you are Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, you tell them absolutely nothing about it, and take out a series of obscure ads in the press announcing the reappearance of "2K". Ten years after they released their first record, 1987 - What The F*** Is Going On?, Drummond, Cauty and artist Jeremy Deller are doing something at the Barbican next Tuesday. The event probably relates to their first single for 5 years. Then again, it might not. Because if we don't know what's going on, neither do Drummond and Cauty. Which is why they continue to fascinate.

Drummond and Cauty are media monks. Imagine Howard Hughes with an occasional need to step outside the Desert Inn and dance naked down the streets of Las Vegas. They become pop stars by default and love and loathe the business. They have maintained anonymity behind names and characters like The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The Timelords, The KLF, and The K Foundation.

Guitar heroes...the KLF days

I tried to speak to them, but it's easier to get an interview with the head of MI5. So I faxed them with a series of questions, because I was told they might respond. They only answered one: "What the fuck's going on?" The reply: "If we knew the answer we would not need to keep asking the question. Exclusive interview with Bill and Jimmy." My first experience of them was on the K Foundation event in 1993. They took out a series of ads through which people could vote for the worst artist in the Turner Prize. 25 journalists were driven out to a secret location, given £1600, and in a typical K ritual, asked to nail the money to a board, I could have pocketed it. I didn't because I am a sheep. Because as a media tart you want a good story, so you go along with it. Because it was fun. And because you wanted to see what was going to happen.

The result was presented on the steps of the Tate to Rachel Whiteread, who won the Turner. She was told the money would be burned if she didn't accept it. We were surrounded by policemen who took exception to a guy with a canister of petrol.

Superficially the recent Oasis campaign resembles a typical Cauty-Drummond media tease. But the contrived mystery of Oasis's campaign was an unnecessary exercise in marketing as striptease. 'What it was about was completely transparent - selling product. At the end of it you stuff your 12 quid into Liam and Noel's G-string. 2K's manufactured mystery is transparent, but what they are selling, even when revealed, is completely unclear.

Drummond is often bemused that people think they're hoaxers - that they are not for real.

But remarkably, when they burnt £1,000,000 of their own money, it got little or no press for ages after the first article in The Observer. There were three stages of reaction. Firstly, disbelief. As it dawned that they really had burned the money, it was treated as a moral question. It's indefensible; shouldn't they have given the money to some needy cause? And finally, why? But the point is that it seemed like a challenge and it's confusing, because in a world where everything has its exchange value, and can be bought, we don't know what to do with such an event.

Cauty and Drummond are jokers, and you find them funny, juvenile or simply annoying. But the strange thing is that they have never hoaxed anybody. And Drummond, who genuinely loves pop music, is often bemused, perhaps disingenuously, that people believe that they are hoaxers or scammers, that they are not for real.

So though Drummond and Cauty won't talk about the record, I've been told that everything is revealed in their press adverts. See the one on page 27. The ads also disclose their trademarks. Let's play 2K.

White-on-black lettering

This format is a visual cloak, so the message is immediately shrouded with the veneer of mystery. As a house style it was first used in 1987 for an ad in The Face offering the last 5 copies of The JAMMS' debut album for £1,000. Only 5 remained because the rest had to be destroyed as a result of a threatened lawsuit by Abba. The band sampled Dancing Queen for a song called The Queen And I. They disposed of most of the records, they drove to Sweden to present a gold disc to Agnetha. They, didn't find her, Instead they happened on a blonde prostitute at 3am in the morning and donated it to her along with some records and £10 for allowing them to take a photo of her with the award They burned the remaining records in a farmer's field outside Stockholm.

2K

Their choice of name suggests that their work is the product of some conspiratorial organisation, Their first name, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, is taken from a group of anarchists in Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus trilogy. This populist, page-turning Pynchon offers a paranoid, entropic theory of history. It's a kind of psychedelic Hegel meets The X-Files.

The specific name 2K could refer to a number of things. Kopyright, as in the Kopyright Liberation Front? More ill-advised sampling? Or K in terms of money? They have a complete disregard for money and the trappings of celebrity. On the night they shared the Brit award for the Best British Band with Simply Red they immediately disbanded. As a final gesture they dumped a dead sheep outside the hotel where the Brits dinner was held, Tied to its neck was the message: "I died for you -- Bon Appetit" They were going to use it on stage, but the young Ipswich metal band who were backing them were strict vegetarians. In May 1992 they deleted their entire back catalogue. Their K Foundation event cost over £250,000 for the press and TV ads. Then there was the burning of the £1,000,000.

The £250,000 they donated to Britart

They have none of the trappings of celebrity cliché. Drummond, who lives on a farm with his wife and kids, had divided loyalties during the ravers' right-to-party campaigns in the countryside. He apparently said: "I'm for the right to have a quiet night in."

But as we will see, the name 2K refers to something else.

Jeremy Deller Presents

Jeremy Deller is an artist who was the catalyst for the record. Earlier on this year he produced Acid Brass, which involved The Williams Fairey Brass Band performing late 1980s acid house music at The Liverpool School of Performing Arts and at the Royal Festival Hall. The songs chosen were from the slighty spooky industrial side of house, such as Let's Get Brutal, Voodoo Ray, Pacific 202 and What Time Is Love? Deller's work is about creating and presenting situations and material and it is done with a charming purity and innocence. Interested in notions of Englishness, his work is about a re-defined Folk Art rather than Pop Art.

As with any imaginative concept, the thesis behind Acid Brass was simple, yet generated multiple possibilities. Brass Bands and House were both produced by amateur musicians. Both were originally simply sources of pleasure, and became politicised despite themselves. And there was something poignant about the emergence of techno music at the very moment when the Tories had destroyed the industries and communities based around the old technology.

1997 What the f*** is going on?

A reference to the first album? Do they know? Maybe they lie awake at night wondering about the £1,000,000 and what they were doing? Maybe you voted Labour and wake up in the middle of the night and wonder what you were doing?

O Holy Spirit, Who didst brood/Upon the waters dark and rude

Fond of hymns and choirs, they used Jerusalem on the record It's Grim Up North. The verse in the ad is from the hymn known commonly as For Those In Peril On The Sea, a sailor's song. Their unreleased K Sera Sera was sung by the Red Army Choir.

A 23 minute performance during which the next 840 days of our lives will be discussed.

Either Cauty and Drummond are going to have a chat about what they are up to for the next couple of years or they are referring to the millennium. Hence the name of the band, 2K. Twenty-three minutes is the lifespan of the band.

Finally, I got to hear the record. It's a version of What Time Is Love? It's rock without guitars, a roughly mixed dance track with a brass band. It is a rousing, funny, occasionally funky polemic. It is timely in the way that all their work is. The K Foundation event occurred just before Britart became a parody of itself. The burning of the money happened on the eve of Lottery frenzy. By accident rather than design, the single is released on September 22, the same day as the next Oasis single. The only thing I've been asked not to reveal is the title, so that it will have some impact.

The single might generate outrage in sections of the media. It shouldn't -- it's only a pop song. People may remain cynical about their handling of the media, but it's not really product publicity. The single may not get airplay. There is no album to sell. No tours. The band is not reforming. If people are threatened by Cauty and Drummond, it is possibly because something in what they do communicates the fact that they both care too much, and couldn't give a shit.



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