12 Things You Never Knew About…The KLF

Or more precisely, Bill Drummond

Few men in music have given less of a fuck. From allegedly burning a million pounds to deleting the entire back catalogue of his KLF records, Bill Drummond, alongside his partner-in-crime Jimmy Cauty, is a self-confessed art terrorist and pop troubadour.

1. Many remember the notorious BRITs show where Drummond, wearing a kilt, hobbled around the stage supported by one crutch, got the lyrics wrong and ended the performance by firing a machine gun into the audience. He and Cauty then dumped a dead sheep backstage and set off to delete their entire back catalogue. Many don’t know that they also intended to shower the crowd in sheep’s blood but couldn’t quite find sufficient quantities. And dry cleaners wept…

2. After almost accidentally becoming the manager of Liverpool rockers Echo And The Bunnymen, Drummond became obsessed with ‘Echo’ being a higher spirit guiding the band. Whereas the band referred to ‘Bunnymen’ in a Playboy sense, Drummond privately thought of them as “the scattered tribes that populate the northern rim of the world and are followers of a mythical being, divine spirit, prime mover who takes the earthly form of a rabbit.” And this was way before Donnie Darko!

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The KLF – America

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3. Never one to leave an obsession half finished, Drummond went on to book a tour for Echo And The Bunnymen around the Hebrides and the north of Scotland in the shape of giant rabbit ears.

4. Ever the maverick, when Sire Records, the epitome of cool at that time, tried to sign Echo And The Bunnymen for a five-album deal, Drummond told head label honcho Seymour Stein they could have a single and that Drummond himself “personally felt that they [EATB] didn’t have it in them to record a truly great single.” Treat ’em mean to keep ’em keen, Bill.

5. After Joy Division’s singer Ian Curtis committed suicide and their sales exploded, Drummond set about trying to get Echo singer Ian McCulloch to kill himself. He then adjusted his aims to getting ‘Mac’ to disappear for a few months before magically popping back out, thus still bolstering sales. Bill’s still holding out that Richey from the Manic Street Preachers went for the same ploy.

6. Drummond became obsessed with ley lines whilst living in Liverpool and believed that there was a cosmic line of energy descended from space that bounced off Iceland, before being channeled down Mathew Street in Merseyside, through a manhole, and then exited Earth via Papua New Guinea. He tested this theory by getting Echo And The Bunnymen to play in Reykjavik whilst he stood on the manhole cover. Nothing happened. At least he tried.

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The KLF – What time Is Love?

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7. After founding a digger firm called ‘K2 Plant Hire’ with Jimmy Cauty, they nearly bulldozed Stonehenge on the basis that it either needed fixed up or flattened as ‘unworkable’. After looking into hiring helicopters to repair it, they realised all the airspace around there is military controlled, so Drummond and Cauty decided to have their photos taken with Gary Glitter in front of the ancient site before flying off to the Sierra Nevada to blow all their cash making a road movie. No children were involved.

8. Drummond was angry that Q magazine’s encyclopedia about The KLF was wrong about him, something that he described as “a pack of lies”. It reported that his last name was Butterworth, instead of Drummond. Cue Scottish identity panic. It turned out his fame had been mis-researched – in fact he was born in Butterworth, a town in South Africa, and his mum drove “fifty miles over dirt track to get to the nearest hospital”. She was a month overdue, and when Bill came out he weighed ten pounds and ten ounces.

9. Before Drummond and Cauty allegedly burned a million pounds on the Scottish Isle of Jura, they first tried to sell £1,000,000 nailed to a board to London’s Tate Gallery for £750,000. The Tate said it was a security risk, despite the K Foundation pointing out that they would immediately make a profit of a quarter of a million, which they could use to buy some ‘real’ art.

10. Drummond’s second shot at the Tate was in 1993 when they usurped the gallery’s Turner Prize Award for the Best British Artist by offering £40,000 to the worst British artist of the year. Significantly, this prize money was double that of the Turner Award and, in a wonderful piece of irony, Rachel Whiteread won both. In fact, she refused to collect the K Foundation award until Drummond threatened to set fire to it outside the gallery.

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The Klf – Last Train To Transcentral (Stadium House Trilogy)

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11. While it didn’t quite qualify as world peace, The KLF did return to the recording studio to honor a peace accord struck between Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine’s Yasser Arafat, releasing a limited single, ‘K Cera Cera’, in Israel with the Red Army Choir, under the K Foundation name. The duo also contributed a track to the 1995 HELP charity benefit album under the name One World Orchestra, which became a hit in the war-torn former Yugoslavia.

12. Before Christmas, a newspaper advert had promised free cans of lager to those who turned up to the Brick Lane showing of the Watch The K Foundation Burn A Million Quid film. As things turned out this didn’t happen, so Bill and Jimmy made a huge cube of 6,237 cans of Tennents Super. A planned publicity stunt didn’t really work out, so they spent Christmas Eve distributing them to the homeless before being bollocked by a Crisis worker for being “utterly irresponsible.”

Words by Anna Conrad and Matthew Bennett

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