Reason #447 Why The ’80’s Didn’t Suck: The KLF
With Partner Jimmy Cauty, Bill Drummond formed one of the most controversial and important rock bands of the century, the KLF, which stands for ‘Kopyright Liberation Front’ . They released many excellent slabs of wax and plastic during their time, the best of the lot being the ambient “Chill Out”, the dance/ rock masterpiece “The White Room” and the incendiary and extremely popular “Doctorin’ The Tardis”, which blended Gary Glitter’s Rock And Roll with the theme music for the television program Doctor Who.
From the beginning they adopted the philosophy of anarchists, manifested by the defacement of billboard adverts, the posting of prominent cryptic advertisements in NME magazine, and highly distinctive and violent performances on Top of the Pops. Their most notorious performance was at the February 1992 BRIT Awards, where they fired machine gun blanks into the audience and dumped a dead sheep at the aftershow party. This performance announced The KLF’s departure from the music business, and in May 1992 the duo deleted their entire back catalogue in a final act of defiance.
But things get real interesting after the “breakup” of the KLF…
“Despite The KLF’s retirement from the music business, Drummond’s involvement with Jimmy Cauty was far from over. Infamy followed when, on 23 August 1994, the K Foundation burnt what remained of The KLF’s earnings – one million pounds sterling – at a boathouse on the Scottish island of Jura. A film of the event – Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid – was taken on tour, with Drummond and Cauty discussing the incineration with members of the public after each screening. In 2004 Drummond admitted to the BBC that he now regretted burning the money. “It’s a hard one to explain to your kids and it doesn’t get any easier. I wish I could explain why I did it so people would understand.”Rumor has it that the £1 million was “bought’ from the Royal Mint – and was to be incinerated anyway (as notes that have become too fragile to remain in circulation usually are). It is reported that the £1 million actually cost the KLF £40,000 – the publicity generated by the “stunt” was well worth the financial outlay. However this seems unlikely; Banknotes deemed for destruction have to suffer that fate at the Mint, they cannot be sold. Equally, when the ashes of the notes were sent to the Bank of England for analysis so it could be confirmed they were the remains of £1 million in £50 notes, the Bank refused to touch them as they could not believe anyone in the public domain would willingly destroy their banknotes. The K-Foundation had to use an independent analysis company to confirm they were the remains as claimed.
On 4 September 1995 the duo recorded “The Magnificent” for The Help Album. In 1997, Drummond and Cauty briefly re-emerged as 2K and K2 Plant Hire Ltd. with various plans to “Fuck the Millennium”. K2 Plant Hire’s published aim was to “build a massive pyramid containing one brick for every person born in the UK during the 20th century” Members of the public were urged to donate bricks, with 1.5 bricks per Briton being needed to complete the project. Drummond also contributed a short story titled “Let’s Grind, or How K2 Plant Hire Ltd Went to Work” to the book “Disco 2000”.
In the years after the final activities of the K Foundation, Drummond has sought a career as an artist and writer.
In 1995, Drummond bought A Smell of Sulphur in the Wind by Richard Long, his favorite contemporary artist, for $20,000. Five years later, he attempted to sell the work by placing a series of placards around the country. When this failed to work, in 2001, he cut the photograph and text work into 20,000 pieces, to sell for $1each.
In 2002, Bill Drummond was involved – along with Turner Prize nominee Tracey Emin – in a controversial exhibition at the deconsecrated St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, Liverpool. Drummond contributed a guestbook which asked visitors “Is God a C***?”. It was later reported that the artwork had been stolen and a £1000 reward offered for its return. Drummond himself said that he would answer “no” to his own question: “God is responsible for all the things I love, the speckles on a brown trout; the sound of Angus Young’s guitar, the nape of my girlfriend’s neck, the song of the blackcap when he returns in Spring. I never blame God for all the shit, for the baby Rwandan slaughtered in a casual genocide, the ever-present wars, drudgery and misery that fills most of our lives.”
Other projects have included MyDeath.net, where people can plan their own funeral.
Drummond is also co-founder of The Foundry, an arts centre in Shoreditch, London, and owner of The Curfew Tower in Cushendall, Northern Ireland. Via an arts trust called In You We Trust, Drummond loans the tower to young artists and exhibits their work.”