K FOUNDATION COARSE- Library of Mu
- Library of Mu record:
- Title: K FOUNDATION COARSE
- Date: January 1995
- Journal: Vox
- Author: Gavin Martin
- Type of resource: Interviews
- Status: original
- No. views: 1870
- Description: Drummond/Manning interview; with plates from A Bible of dreams
K FOUNDATION COARSE
By Gavin Martin (January 1995, Vox)
He had a novelty Number One with a song about Dr Who. He got into trouble with Abba's lawyers. He burned a million quid. And now he's publishing a book of swastikas, porn and bingo cards. Is Bill Drummond an art-terrorist or a complete arsehole?
SUICIDE MAY BE the ultimate artistic sacrifice but, if you believe the song, it's painless. Two months ago, on the Scottish island of Jura, Bill Drummond and his K Foundation partner Jimmy Cauty really suffered for their art when they burned £1 million in cold, hard cash--all that remained of the KLF/K Foundation legacy.
It's a difficult act to follow, but Drummond already looks like pulling it off with his latest venture--A Bible Of Dreams. Immaculately bound in finest silk, each page hand-printed and stitched into a calf-leather spine, it is a collection of coloured plates--reproductions of a picture collage pieced together by MS Manning Esquire (aka Zodiac Mindwarp) in a scrapbook during a 1992 Scandanavian tour--accompanied by a highly personalised commentary written by Drummond. It has a print run limited to 200 copies and costs a mere £500. The content is just as likely to shock as the price. For example: Plate 17--Nazi Assholes. Swastikas overlaid with images of anal sex and the seal of the US Presidency. Plate 30--Myth. James Bond, pop icon Madonna and a woman being fucked by a big, black dog, all together in a gold frame. Elsewhere, a happy-go-lucky Dumbo flies above crucifixes dripping blood and women's faces splattered with cum.
"l'm thought of as being some sort of humorist, says Drummond, and that I do things for a laugh. The trouble is, I'm a very dour, serious person. I approach everything I do very seriously and I'm usually the last person to see a funny side to it."
Sipping a mid-afternoon pale ale in an East End boozer, Drummond is giving his first interview in three years. He seems ill-at-ease with the process, a towering, strangely dispassionate figure seemingly at odds with his past work. Pressed on anything connected with the KLF or The K Foundation, he clams up completely.
Drummond is here with Manning, the one-time comic strip illustrator who transmuted into Zodiac Mindwarp, a drink-swilling, drug-ingesting rock'n'roll fantasy creation. They're an odd couple. Drummond is the voyeur and strategist who likes to instigate the madness and observe its effect. Manning's fantasies make him an ideal foil. Friends for ten years, they're now partners in The Curfew Press, a publishing company based in The Curfew Tower, once used to house 18th-century dissenters, in Cushendall on Northern Ireland's Antrim coast.
"lt seems there are parts of the world where there are fault lines, not like in Calfornia but in the human soul. Along the Jordan in the Middle East--a faultline in the history of man. Northern Ireland is another one of those places," explains Drummond. Sometime soon, if the cartel of European pornographers or the Disney dream factory become aware of its contents, A Bible Of Dreams may get Curfew in hot legal water, maybe even locked up in the Tower whence they came, or at least chased out of Cushendall by the town's hitherto welcoming citizens. For now, though, the duo are looking for parties interested in investing in their wares. Manning says they aren't selling the book, they are "distributing it"; there is no profit being made.
"lt's art, not commerce. Touch it, hold it, feel the silk, smell the glue," he urges. But who will pay £500 for the privilege?
Drummond: "£500 for a work of art isn't that much. You could say we're being elitist but it's not expensive if that's what you want. A lot of people spend more than that on a holiday. We hope there are people who value things in the way we do."
Manning: "lt's a unique object and collectors, whether they like it or not, will want it. There's never been anything like it before, it's an object in itself. One guy did the whole thing, the amount of time it took is phenomenal. It took him months."
Manning sent Drummond the original scrapbook of A Bible Of Dreams shortly after he came off tour. Living in his cottage in the country, Drummond found himself repeatedly drawn to its contents. In his text, Bill says that each perusal revealed more, like a collection of good verse". Manning was horrified when he suggested publishing it.
"lt was purely a personal thing; it was done the way most of my work's done; for me. l don't know why I do it; I just do it. I'm really pleased with it. Originally we were going to publish it commercially, which was what horrified me. But we made a few inquiries, and there was no way anyone would touch it, not just because of the legal thing."
Drummond: "And the pornography."
Manning: "Only in England. In the rest of the world, that stuff is common. In Spain, in the newsagents, you've got all the normal magazines and then you've got all this donkey porn and stuff, and it's totally normal. I'd travelled with a band so you lose all that moral outrage about porn, it becomes just normal. Mind you, the Spanish are kind of funny about animals, aren't they? They haven't got a reputation for being kind to animals, the Spanish. That's the only place that animal porn's big, apart from Denmark. There's a lot of farms in Denmark."
Drummond is offended by the suggestion that he's working his way though the worlds of culture--pop music, art, now publishing.
"This has nothing to do with KLF or K Foundation, but I'm still the same person. As you get older, there are whole areas that you find you've left unexplored and you're drawn to them. It happens that we were bom into an era where pop or rock'n'roll was the most immediate thing to get into. But I've always read books, they've been a big thing for me. This almost feels natural."
LATER, IN THE PUB, Drummond gets into an argument with Paul Smith (one-time boss of Blast First, the original home of Sonic Youth, and now impresario of London's Disobey club). Smith has bought a copy of A Bible Of Dreams, and is convinced that Drummond could have got the book printed through regular channels at a more agreeable price. Bill says that it's the way it is because it's the way it is, adding that the the (sic) book's true effect might not be understood for 500 years. He likes its rarified format--a singular proposition in our interactive, everything-online age.
"There's so much information readily available that it becomes worthless. In medieval times, you'd go to a cathedral once in your life--the sunshine through the stained-glass windows, the harmonies of the choirboys, the reverb in that building... the effect would have been more extreme than any amount of acid we could take. The same goes for the geezer who headed halfway across Europe to see a book he's been hearing about all his life. Eventually he gets to it, he turns those pages and it's a special thing. I'm drawn to the power of that."
Manning grins: "But the text is available on the Internet. Bill sees it as a sort of hi-tech leyline."
Drummond's text, which becomes a progressively more feverish, challenging, outrageous and deadly serious diatribe on art, religion, sex, misogyny and the future of the species, is an essential part of the book. At times he writes like a madman, a self-propelled prophet on the edge. He raises an eyebrow.
"Teetering? Any art to which you give any time starts unloosening things in you. I think it should; most of the time, you're trying to keep your mind shut but I was starting to open up, unravel."
Midway through the text, he decides it's a miracle that, given the way women present themselves to men throughout their lives, all blokes don't end up as the Yorkshire Ripper of their parish".
"Reading that back I thought: What are people going to to think? But that's what I'd written, that the way I felt. That's for real. I don't think I wrote anything I can't stand by."
The text ends in a terrifying confluence of artistic exploration and real-life horror. Drummon has decided that mankind, and indeed this book (which Manning agrees contains "heavy, forbidden knowledge"), are dangerous, not to be trusted. He has duly hidden it away from his children. But now has come the news that a local doctor has been charged with the murder of his own four-year-old daughter. Drummond wonders how to break the news.
"That was what happened that very day and sometimes I wish I hadn't put it in. I have honestly tried to shut my mind to that because it was such heavy thing for me and my family to go through. I try not to think about it."
Manning talks at length about the book, how Nazi Assholes was borne out of his feelings of anger and impotence during the Gulf War, how the images of hard-core porn were an attempt to rescue "natural sexual acts" from pornographers.
Manning: "If you look hard enough and your soul is pure enough, you won't see ugliness in the world, you'll see beauty. There's lots of animal shagging in classical art; Greek mythology is full of it. That's a precedent for the book."
Drummond: "We're doing nothing that hasn't been dealt with in the Bible or classical mythology."
Manning: "Or in any attempt to come to terms with the machinations of the human soul--that's what we're dealing with."
In Europe, where he's just finished a tour and is due to release an album, Manning keeps his Zodiac persona alive. Drummond won't say whether his musical exploits are at an end, although his press officer is confident that his discography will one day extend beyond 'America: What Time Is Love?': "I know he'll come back to it some day. I know how much it means to him."
Meanwhile, Drummond and Manning are open to applications for publishing ideas (and it's a good bet that any proposal would need to be several leagues beyond the norm to make it on to Curfew). For now they have several joint ventures in the pipeline. The first is The Lighthouse At The Top Of The World, a journal documenting the heroic journey undertaken by the intrepid pair last year when they set out to plant a picture of Elns Presley at the North Pole. Following that comes Correspondences, a transcription of the exchanges made between the two friends around the time the KLF announced their "retirement".
Manning: "We were sending each other blood, dead animals, pain, anguish. I'd been through a nervous breakdown and Bill was on the verge. Six or seven letters a day insulting each other, threatening each other to fights. I think we'll have to release it when we're dead--I couldn't face people quizzing me about it. If people think A Bible Of Dreams is extreme, they should wait until they see this."
Pictures: Dark grey sticky-tape bound cover with cross: 'The Bible's original cover'
Distorted coloured Bill looking like a member of Laibach and Zed with thick glasses looking like a nerdy hippie, beneath The Curfew Tower: 'Looking like the cats who got the dream: Bill Drummond (left) and MS Manning'
Plates from A Bible Of Dreams (All captions by Bill Drummond)
1: Crude collage of porn, Tyson, Tom and Jerry and large croc. Plate28--Me And My Shadow "Iron Mike, cheered on by the posse of Spike, Jerry and all us lads."
2: Less crude collage of medieval art, a cute seal, a cow, soft porn, blue fur and a still from the video of America! Plate 25--Daisy "The baby seal angel lives unclubbed and sends us dancing girls and his benedictions."
3: Abstract collage made up of a repeated ink stamp of a man blowing a trumpet, with a you could be in Blue movies ad. Plate 41--Men "Dialing an 0898 number costs the caller nine times the regular peak rate... the only person getting £500 a day is the bloke who put the ad in the paper."
4: Collage of packaging for candles, tobacco and neon crucifix bulbs, and Indian currency. Plate 4--Neon Crucifix "There is no point in asking what precisly is valid, it is enough to know that it is."
5: Gold 'NICE' on pink swastika on yellow background. Plate 15--Nice Cops "To Manning the swastika had one overridding meaning: the Baddies. For him to find it being used in India as one of the myriad symbols used to gaily decorate taxi cabs, trucks, shop awnings and any other availible space they could enliven was a pleasant surprise."
6: Collage of male porn, Dumbo, A Clockwork Orange, a bird of prey, and lots lots more.
Plate 26--Stolen Sweets "The hanged man sees the world at a different angle from the rest."
7: A Bingo card with red ink circles round some of the numbers. Saarijarven Pullistus ry. Plate 39--Enlightenment "I don't know if he had played the game himself or had just found the completed card in some Scandanavian gutter."
[There's also a side bar called Bill's excellent adventures which is yet another reprisal of his career, with some mistakes.]
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