Welcome To The Sheep Seats- Library of Mu

Library of Mu record:
Title: Welcome To The Sheep Seats
Date: 29 February, 1992
Journal: NME
Author: Danny Kelly
Type of resource: Interviews
Status: original
No. views: 14696
Description: The full story of the infamous KLF Vs The Brit awards: guns, lawyers, buckets of blood, Jonathon King, Simon Bates, Extreme Noise Terror and an essential look into the workings of Drummond's mind.

Welcome To The Sheep Seats

By Danny Kelly (29 February, 1992, NME)

Ewe would not believe it, ladies and gentlemen! Out the back, THE KLF with a dead sheep, machine guns, Extreme Noise Terror and a crutch! Yep, if the BRITS will never be the same again, spare a thought for DANNY KELLY (words) and KEVIN CUMMINS (pictures), led a merry dance around pop's Big Night Out by Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty - the most dangerous (and easily the most successful) thirtysomethings in the charts. Let's flock!

THE KLF vs THE BIZ - Part 1 - The Brits

The KLF at the BRITS? Where to bloody start? This is a story about the Kopyright Liberation Front (KLF), Britain's greatest pop group, and their continuing love/hate rollercoaster with the music business and us, the pop-consuming public.

This story contains guns, fireworks, lawyers, Abba, abattoirs, punks, police, eight gallons of fresh blood, Jonathan King, meat cleavers and a recently deceased wool-bearing quadruped. It is a story about success and failure, vanity and anger, innocence and manipulation, confusion and inspiration. It is a snapshot of the inner workings of the brilliant but brittle minds of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, the masked ringmasters of the whole KLF circus. Like I said - where to bloody start?....

The caper was meant to be simple enough. The KLF haven't done any press for 18 months (after Bill decided that he "just didn't want to *articulate* any more"; since they became a huge-selling singles band in half the countries of the world), but lensman Cummins and I had been granted imperial permission to tag along on the day the band attempted to bring life - and, as we shall see, death - to that annual festival of complacent self-congratulation, the BRITS awards.

They would, they said, electrify the whole proceedings with their performance, then bugger off to an Alternative BRITS Rave at an old JAMS/KLF haunt, before finally gatecrashing the posh post-awards do in a blaze of something closely approximating glory. Sound cool? You should know better. The best laid plans of mice and men and blokes in cowls with tusks sticking out their heads....

Thus it is that we find ourselves at 10am (infernal) in the yawning expanse of the Hammersmith Odeon, accompanied only by a pair of Fleet Street photographers and gangs of TV people. The rehearsals for this afternoon's BRITS (to be transmitted a few hours later on telly) are in full swing; there is, of course, no sign of The KLF or their unlikely cohorts in this particular adventure, Ipswich punk zealots Extreme Noise Terror. This is a portent of things to come.

Jonathan King wanders around in a shell suit that'd get him chucked out of Eurodisney for tastelessness and a big hat with the word 'KING' stamped into its metal front...Mick Hucknell mimes his way through the rather pretty 'Stars', that can't-believe-my-luck grin that Paul Young used to wear never far from his features; our Lisa (the TV producer calls her 'Miss Stansfield') keeps everyone waiting before dragging herself through that song about housewives and *classy ladies*. Imagine how dull the BRITS themselves are - now imagine *the rehearsals*, where TV slunkies stand in for the gushing award winners. We are in hell.

And then it happens. A curtain rises to reveal rows and rows of flashing lights and stacks (heavens above!) of real, humming buzzing, bastard-loud Marshall amps. The Fleet Street guys, who've been barred from taking pictures of this act, mutter unhappily: "Dunno nuffin' 'bout this KLF lot, but my papers bound to want a picture, just for the files or something." Suddenly Extreme Noise Terror bound into the middle of the flashing lights and smash their way into the first, earsplitting chord of "3 am Eternal".

Compared to what's preceded it, this is a turbo-powered metallic wolf breaking into a coop full of particularly sick doves. "Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu versus Extreme Noise Terror - this is television freedom!" howls Bill Drummond. What a racket, and what a sight! Jimmy Cauty, with his post-apocalypse-Chris Lowe crusty cool, and the lads from ENT are mad looking enough, but Bill is something else. Dressed in a Drummond tartan kilt (a 21st birthday present, he later reveals) and the leather greatcoat in which Martin Bormann escaped to Bolivia, he lurches manically about on a crutch. He is a gangling cross of Jonny Rotten and the great Robert Newton's leering, eyeball-rolling Long John Silver.

And the noise? Well, the noise is hardcore punk thrash through a disco Techno hit played by crusties. All bases covered, brilliantly. Clever, *clever* bastards.

The whole shebang - not as shocking as promised as feared, but plenty for the likes of the BRITS to be getting on with - ends in a fusillade of fireworks. The Fleet Street photographers have long since put away their cameras, lit up a fag, and relaxed. Pretty pictures of glamorous stars will have to wait...

The hours between the run-through and the real thing are filled with tension, rumour and confrontation. In the pub, Extreme Noise Terror (who play every night of the year but aren't exactly used to the media whirl) and The KLF (who've never played a 'proper' gig in all their born days) cling together for mutual support. Attempts at communication are brushed aside, either politely (Jimmy), or, in Bill's case, with a fixed stare from the top of his six-foot five and the tremulous mantra "I can't talk...I...can't...talk..."

They have, it escapes in hidden whispers and coded winks, got plenty to be both excited and apprehensive about. Word has gone out that The KLF's van contains a dead sheep (to be cut up during their number) and a quantity of blood, to be chucked on the front rows of the gathered music biz dignitaries. Jonathan King has had them in to make his feelings on the shape of upcoming events clear. So, more pertinently, have the BBC's lawyers. Drummond and Cauty's wildest ideas of subverting the whole BRITS event are beginning to look like impossible dreams. Nerves snap tighter, more ale gets drunk.

And then it's showtime. The Odeon's great tiers of seats are full of pigtails in suits. Even humble rock hacks have been forced into their demob whistles. Jonathan King comes on like Jimmy Tarbuck and makes some half-laughing apology for the opening act, the "really talented KLF". The really talented Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu (no, I'm not entirely sure how they decide which band they are on a day to day basis either) splash on to the stage as he departs, grinning like he does. Behind Bill is a large bucket; people in the first *70* rows visibly flinch. Sir George Solti, the puff, gets up and leaves...

There is an almost demonic intensity about the KLF/ENT now. They mean it, maaan. On your telly they may have been reduced to cartoon-silliness, but there, among the pearls and perms, they were pretty awesome. As the song hurtles to its close, Bill suddenly exchanges his crutch for a massive machine gun which belches tongues of flame (and, thankfully, blanks) at the increasingly bemused audience. The band scramble off to their van, the engine already running, as the PA booms out : "The KLF have now left the music business...!"

You won't have seen that last bit on the TV. It was, for whatever reason, cut, as was the later, and equally bizarre incident. The KLF, you see, were (along with Simply Red, natch) awarded the title Best British Band (hurrah and hear hear!), but had long since left the borough of hammersmith come presentation time. But they'd taken care of it, sending along sidekick Hector, resplendent in motorcycle messenger gear, to pick up the bauble. Having been told there was no way he was being allowed access, Hector had had to dash onstage and grab the trophy from startled Martika and escape into the labyrinth of corridors behind the glittering stage. Later, he was cornered by security, who wrestled the gong back off him.

Meanwhile, out on the streets of a rainy rush hour London, the race was on to get to the 'Alternative BRITS Rave' located in Jimmy Cauty's old gaff in downtown Stockwell. This joint, we've been assured, will be Fun Central, the place where we'll get to commune matily with The KLF, basecamp for the rest of the nights escapades. We should have known better.

Hector's House - for it is here that the award-grabbing biker abides - is, from the outside, remarkably quiet for a building housing A Big Rave. Remarkably derelict too. Still, we knock and gain access to a large semi-furnished, erm, building site. This is the house Jimmy Cauty lived in until six months ago. On getting ready to move, legend has it, he found an uncashed royalty cheque for .25,000 - The KLF are coining it bigtime. Inside, the ceiling appears to be held up by an RSJ, there's a punchbag hanging from a temporary lintel, a ripped Judge Dredd poster on the wall and a very large hole where the back wall should be. Not much sign of the Big Rave though.

But hold on; there, huddled in the corner around a few Special Brew cans and listening to Abba, are Extreme Noise Terror. And, an abandoned crutch tells me, The KLF are here too. Not 'are here', the ENT lads inform me matter-of-factly, but 'were here'. Now they've gone "on a mission", possibly something to do with getting a TV, watching the BRITS on (there isn't one in Hector's House), possibly not. They're supposed to be coming back, but...

While we wait (me for the Kings Of Low Frequencies, ENT to see themselves on the box), we natter, rather dolefully, about how five such nice boys from Ipswich came to be involved in such a carry on.

"What actually happened," begins blond singer Dean brightly "was that Bill heard us on Peel when he was in the bath and got in touch. They had wanted to do rock versions of their songs with Motorhead but something fell through, so he rang us...

"The message said it's Bill from The KLF, but I thought they said 'the ALF' so I didn't take much notice..."

"I thought it was from EMF", chimes in the drummer, like a drummer.

"Later," continues Dean, "we got anther message saying it was definitely Bill from The KLF and I said 'f--- off! What does he want with us?' But it all got explained eventually."

The upshot of this unlikely coupling has been not just the Metal version of "3am Eternal", with which we're all now familiar, but a series of recordings that form 'The Black Room', book-end alter-ego of last year's 'The White Room' LP. How have the ENT crew found working with the pop genius of the age? Much discussion ensues before the band agree on a party line:

"Just say that he's mad, barking bleedin'mad..."

Then something happens that sends an already bizarre day spinning into even stranger orbits. One by one, Extreme Noise Terror ring their respective parents to remind them to watch their offspring on the any-minute-now TV broadcast of the BRITS, then leave to go watch the show in their van. Cummins and I are left sat, side by side and dressed to kill, on a sofa in what would pass, no problem, for a squat. No KLF, no Big Rave, no action; just the sound, floating from the distant kitchen, of the house's other residents (apparently oblivious to our pathetic and incongruous presence) preparing their evening meal and listening to Nirvana. We are like Gilbert & George on a particularly bad night out. The KLF do not return, the phone does not ring, we wait...

As the minutes, and then the quarter hours, pass, I find myself having to remind myself just why I am bothering to wait. We could, after all, be chain-gobbling quail's eggs and freebasing champagne at the BRITS blowout. Why are we waiting ?

We're waiting because The KLF (and their alter ego The JAMs) have, over these last five or so years, pulled off a seemingly impossible double. They've gone on from commercial triumph to ever greater commercial triumph while making more and more interesting records (actually, they're more and more interesting variations of the *same* records, but that's another story). We're waiting because Drummond and Cauty flung open the debate on sampling and copyright, because they made cracking records with Gary Glitter, Tammy Wynette and without Whitney Houston, 'cos they've driven a Galaxy 500, went to Sweden to bollock Abba, wrote 'Shag! Shag! Shag!' on James Anderton's face, dressed as giant ice cream cones on *Top Of The Pops*, threw money to the punters at raves, wore miners' helmets and Cistercian hoods, wasted a cool million on their *White Room* movie, and used Bill's knowledge (gleaned from running a label - Zoo - ad two top bands, the Bunnymen and the Teardrops) to celebrate, rather than merely dissect and use, the record industry. They have, in short, been both *the* generation terrorists, and the Pet Shop Boys you can dance to.

This reverie is broken by the phone going. No-one comes from the Nirvana kitchen to answer it, so I pick it up. It's Drummond; his voice is hushed and distant; he speaks without waiting for a reply: "Where are you guys? You should be with us...we're doing...stuff..."

The phone goes down. Cummins and I make instant decisions. The KLF must be over at the posh Lancaster Gate hotel where the BRITS shindig is being held. We flee Hector's House - scene of the world's smallest and worst attended rave ever - and speed across London, notebooks and cameras at the ready. As we approach the hotel, blue and yellow flashing lights are splitting the darkness. A police car prowls around as a rubbish lorry disposes of the carcass of a dead sheep which has been left on the forecourt. Around it is tied a sign; 'I DIED FOR YOU - BON APPETIT'. Once again, The KLF have been and gone...


Part 2 - The interview

THE KLF interview? Where to bloody start?

Next morning, the backlash begins. From the KLF's point of view, they have subverted and disrupted the BRITS and made some sort of point. The rest of the world takes a calmer view. Sure Trevor Horn (producer of the year and the man, lest we forget, who produced Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Relax") has called them "disgusting" and the editorial leader in dusty trade mag Music Week is appalled, and people are none to happy about the sheep and blood stories, but really Martika's slovenly sway got as much attention. The difference is that the cops aren't after Martika. They are, however, keen for intercourse with the phantom sheep-dumpers.

And, amazingly, Bill Drummond (perhaps from a sense of guilt at having abandoned two suits at an imaginary Big Rave, but I doubt it) has agreed to break his self-imposed silence. Despite hating interviews, he's prepared to talk about the whole BRITS thing, but nothing else.

Colleagues counsel caution. They figure Drummond for the ultimate manipulative bastard who, having failed to make the big splash with yesterday's antics, will now try to use the NME to either re-ignite the smouldering embers or cover his tracks. But hell, isn't that what 75 per cent of the bands who talk to us are trying to do?

We meet in the deepest cranny of the Asian East End. Bill Drummond (public persona-confidence-crazed Master Of The Galaxy) is very nervous. He deflects my early attempts at jocularity with a heartfelt plea for The KLF to be taken seriously:

"There is humour in what we do, and in the records, but I really hate it when people go on about us being "schemers" and "scammers". We do all this stuff from the very depths of our soul and people make out its some sort of game. It depresses me..."

So we talk about the BRITS. But animal lovers, breakfast eaters, and those of you who like your stars nice and manageable, be warned; this is no ordinary interview...

First question ? Simple. Why ?

"It had to be done," Drummond begins, his tone as always, somewhere between deadly earnest and total mischief. It soon becomes obvious that there's a devil stuck in this man.f "You only get so many opportunities...When they asked us to do it, we wondered if the BRITS people had done their research..."

The impression was abroad that Jonathan King had told you not to spoil it for everyone else. Is that what you were trying to do ?

"Erm...Yeah. Looking back, we realise we don't really know what our motivation was. All we know is we've got, as well as everything else, this dark side to our personality. We looked into our souls and entered into the same area that Manson must have entered...and that bloke who shot up Hungerford."

Hold on. Charles Manson and Michael Ryan weren't punks or Situationists or rebels, they were nutters, sociopaths who killed innocent people. You don't really mean to compare yourself to them do you ?

"I do actually. Yes I do. It is the same area. Somebody recently used the phrase "corporate rebels" - about the Manic Street Preachers, I think - and both Jimmy and I didn't want to be just corporate rebels because there's just so much of that, shameless, in the music business. We felt we were headbutting... headbutting... trying to push at what's acceptable. It was completely pointless and you don't know why you're doing it but it has to be done. And that's what Michael Ryan did; he just woke up one morning and thought "right, today's the day I go out and get the bastards" and went out and shot the bastards..."

But they were members of the ordinary public.

"Yes, exactly. All I'm saying is that we are in the same mental area as those guys."

If the motivation for your actions remains unclear, what were the plans ?

"The plans kept changing. They varied from me going onstage and literally cutting my age, Manics style into my chest with a knife, to me snogging Jimmy onstage, to Jimmy simulating sex with his girlfriend. Then as you know, we were going to cut up a dead sheep on stage and throw blood over the front rows of the audience."

Erm, why ?

"Tons of reasons. You know, it's that whole thing about sacrificial lambs and about lambs to the slaughter. And there was something in there about that Geoffrey Howe thing, being savaged by a dead sheep."

The sheep connection is deeply embedded in the JAMs/KLF mythology. There's sheep on the cover of "Chill Out", there's sheep mentioned in the "Grim Up North" sleeve essay, when they launched The White Room film in Germany, several sheep were guests of honour, and so on.

Wasn't the sheep-hacking idea a bit like suicide ?

"Exactly, that's in there too. That's what the "KLF have now left the music business" was about..."

Interesting, but not as interesting as...where did you get the sheep ?

"From an abattoir in Northampton. I drove up there on the morning of the show and got it."

You didn't kill it yourself, did you ?

"No, but it had been alive that morning. We got the blood at the same place, eight gallons of it."

What the hell was that for ?

"The original idea was that two thirds of the way through the song this altar would appear with the sheep on, it would come on and... we'd bought the meat cleavers, the knives, the tablecloth, got everything. But of course in the end Extreme Noise Terror made it blatantly known that they were totally against the idea."

No surprise. ENT are after all, hardcore veggies. But they wouldn't have been the only ones totally outraged by your plan.

"Oh look, we'd gone through agonies about this, spent sleepless nights knowing that it was a terrible thing to do. But the sheep didn't die just for us. It was going to die anyway. We actually prolonged its life by 12 hours or something."

Prolonged its life in an abattoir. Big brownie points there! Despite Bill's, erm, sheepish laughter, I tell him that all of The KLF's myriad stratagems - instinctive and premeditated - down the recent years, this was probably the first one that would've really alienated tons of people who normally applaud their every move. He seems mystified, but it's simple really. Right thinking people probably view the use of dumb (not to mention deceased!) animals for some madcap pop/art caper in the same light as they do the Benetton AIDS ad; there's just no need for it.

What for instance, did Bill's wife, unconnected with the pop world, make of this behaviour ?

"She was horrified...disgusted, completely disgusted. But y'know, we just can't be the safe little pop group. But it is only pop music... we ain't terrorists...it's all make believe..."

Not for the sheep, it's not.

"I know," he splutters, "but we don't always think things through beforehand...we just do them. Jimmy really had me going. After we couldn't do the sheep, he suggested that I use the cleaver to cut my own hand off!"

There's no stopping him now. We are in bonkers sheep talk mode. Lots of this sounds crazy, but it's articulated with a passion, and a disgust at the business he's in (and actually, in some way, adores) that's pretty convincing, Scary too. Catch this lot:

"Whatever people think, there was a lot of symbolism about the sheep thing. It said to those people at the BRITS, "If you can't take the contradictions and the shit within pop music, tough; you're all willing to go into this big hotel and eat whatever but you don't wanna look at a dead sheep". I was brought up in the country and I've seen dead bodies and dead animals and I worked on a trawler and saw *millions* of dead fish. Actually, though, when the other trawlermen weren't looking, I threw some of the still-living fish back into the sea.

"Anyway, the next plan was to take the sheep down to the hotel and leave it there on the stairs, dead, and pour the eight gallons of blood over the entrance. They might've been able to ignore the sheep, but wading through blood ? That's symbolic too. It's like the industry wants your blood. And then, when you've given them everything, they want to make you a part of the "rich tapestry of rock". When you're dead, when you're gone, it's all nice, all "Joe Brown And The Bruvvers - weren't they great ? Sid ? Wasn't he great! ? Jimi - what a great album!"

"I mean, we're like everyone else, disgusting. We want to be loved, just like all those other people at the ceremony. But there's a twisted part to Jimmy and me too that wants to be hated. Really hated..."

But in the end, particularly because TV always diminishes rock, you didn't get to commit any atrocities and even the version of "3am" ended up being somewhat small. Overall, the reaction was rather mild.

"Yeah, I know," he begins miserably before brightening up, "you go on stage with your toy gun and you think "Sid did this 15 years ago and its pathetic". Only it wasn't a toy gun, it was real! Brilliant! Did you see the cartridge cases whizzing out the side ? Sensational feeling, but at the end of the day they weren't real bullets."

Would you like to have really killed anyone there ?

"No, I'm not a violent person, it's just those feelings again. The morning after the BRITS, though, I'm driving to the studio to make a bloody pop record and I've still got eight gallons of blood in the back of the van. Simon Bates is on the radio, giving out the "truth" about the awards. He's saying how he and his producer foiled the dastardly KLF plot to throw fake blood on the audience. And I'm thinking "Oh Simon is that the 'truth' ?". I'm driving along with eight gallons of real blood not *fake*, in the van. Maybe I'll go over to Radio 1 right now and dump it on him...But I haven't got the guts. There's that side of me that would like to do it...heave the blood all over the bastard."

Back to what The KLF actually did, rather than what they wish they'd done. The band have, perhaps more than any other, benefited from the blanket popularity of dance music in recent years, but their performance on the BRITS, and many of their ideas, are, I'm choosing my words carefully here, deeply punk.

"Yes, a lot of what we are is punk. Both Jimmy and I have been deeply involved in the rock tradition, me straight from Elvis, and both of us like heavy rock and punk. But I loved heavy rock *at the same time* as loving punk. Hendrix, Purple, Led Zepplin. Actually, I hated Purple and Sabbath at the time but, as well as the crap there is *something* there. I mean, obviously, you just can't beat "Smoke On The Water" or "Paranoid". They're just very British, regional, *not London*, and if you're a British bloke, a mechanic, it touches something. It's Triumph motorbikes and small towns and I just love it. Actually, it doesn't matter whether I love it or hate it...it's just part of me."

As well as being punk, The KLF are, contrarily, also very Hollywood. There's an extravagance about everything they do.

"That's 'cos we don't have a manager or a record company. There's nobody to tell us what to do or what not to do, so me and Jimmy just drive each other on. Last week, when we half guessed that the Extreme Noise Terror lads wouldn't go for the sheep thing, Jimmy said "Right, we'll buy an elephant from a zoo and cut off it's legs with a chainsaw...onstage...live..." I don't think it would actually come to that. I couldn't kill a worm. You know when it's been raining and the worms all get washed on to the pavement ? I stop and put them back into the ground."

Christ, it's like *Wildlife on one*! Back to real matters - guitars. There's tons of them on The KLF's new single "America: What Time Is Love"; what with that and the ENT projects, has rock returned to the revolving dance universe of The KLF?

Bill Drummond smiles, "I've been waiting ages to use this quote... There's always been a rock element to our dance music..."

THE KLF versus the music business. And the general public.

Where to bloody end?

What are we to make of all that ? Deliberate outrage to stir up an already boiling-point reputation ? Media manipulation by a total master of the black art ? Drivel from someone who actually needs a good kicking and to grow up ? Or the genuine contradictions fighting within an artist ? For the answers, we can only turn to the very thing that probably made Bill Drummond give up interviews in the first place - our old friend Untrained Journalistic Psychology...

It is, someone with several GCSEs once said, the gap between our dreams and our reality that makes us mad. Bill Drummond's canteen of cutlery is certainly missing a few fishknives, but he's by no means bonkers. He does, however, seem to have himself nicely skewered on the horns of an almighty dilemma. He has taken over pop music and it has been a piece of piss to do so. And he hates that. He wants to be separate from a music industry that clasps him ever closer to its boso. He loves being in the very belly of the beast, yet he wishes he was something that'd cause it to throw up too. He wants not only to bite the hand that feeds but to shove it into an industrial mincer and stomp the resultant pulp into the dirt, yet pop, as long as you continue to make it money, would let you sexually abuse its grandmother. There is, Bill old boy, no sensible way out.

So where does this all leave us, the adoring millions who slaver after each new KLF release ? Sitting pretty, actually. The tensions and contradictions that appear to rack Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, whether real or imagined, will continue to push and spark the two most brilliant minds in pop today. And we, like gamblers at a malfunctioning fruit machine, will gleefully harvest the musical treasure.

Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, Kopyright Liberation Front - nothing compares to ewe.


There are 7 comments for this record
You can leave a comment below.

Posted by Guest on 2007-03-27 09:58:00


Posted by Guest on 2008-01-29 05:01:40

lol at that he didn't get the message that they were REALLY leaving the music business

Posted by Guest on 2010-11-10 11:47:02

moo moo baa baa bah humbug its only rock n roll

Posted by Guest on 2012-05-10 01:07:12

Eccentricism at its best.

Posted by Guest on 2013-06-26 07:53:58

Pure Genius !

Posted by Guest on 2013-07-20 17:45:39

23 stars

Posted by Guest on 2017-08-24 06:40:28


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