Bill and Zed's bogus journey- Library of Mu

Library of Mu record:
Title: Bill and Zed's bogus journey
Date: 27 October, 1996 ?
Journal: The Scotsman (Weekend)
Author: Craig McLean
Type of resource: Interviews
Status: original
No. views: 2371
Description: A good review of the Club Disobey reading, with pictures and a few quotes from Bill'n'Zed

Bill and Zed's bogus journey

By Craig McLean (27 October, 1996, ? The Scotsman (Weekend))

MY SPHINCTER is being tickled by Bruce. It is not pleasant. Bruce used to be in a post-punk group called Wire. Maybe he still is But tonight, in a long, low dim room above a north London club, the Garage, Bruce is a disc jockey. That is, Bruce is standing behind a set of record decks, neatly dressed in shirt, tie, glasses and bald head. On one of the decks is a seven-inch platter of vinyl, vividly splattered by Jackson Pollock's colour-blind kitten. On the other deck is a packet of fags and a lighter.

Bruce plays the seven-inch for a while, then picks up the needle and drops it on the start of the "tune", approximately one inch from the outer rim of the record.

Now the sound is no longer the ultra-bass lowing of electronic cattle but the squeals of piston-driven piggies. My nether regions, parked on the floor, are no longer being assailed, but something inside my head rattles loose. Over at the front end of the room, near the stage, sat round a table three people move their fingers to their ears. Hear no evil, hear no evil, and hear no more of this bloody evil racket.

This is how Bill Drummond and Mark Manning started their spoken-word literary tour.

BILL DRUMMOND AND MARK Manning decided to take a picture of Elvis Presley to the North Pole. Within a few days of deciding to go, they were off, flying to Helsinki because, says Mark, we liked the way Helsinki sounds".

They took no provisions, and even fewer plans. "Ranulph Fiennes is not an adventurer, he's an explorer, which involves a lot of planning. An adventurer has no forward planning," Mark reasons. "We didn't need all those supplies and things. We just need an Escort."

He means a Ford, not a native guide. Along the way Bill, Mark and their technical assistant Gimpo (Falklands vet, rock band roadie) encountered a host of Finns and Laplanders crazed on home-brewed moonshine, some Chippendales and the "burnt charisma" of Keith Richards. They looked for rock's Lost Chord and decided that they were the Three Wise Men and that Jesus too had a part to play in this story. Ultimately they discovered that it was physically impossible to get to the North Pole from continental Europe but found salvation when Gimpo won a game of Radio Bingo and as a result they met the keeper of the most northerly lighthouse in the world - their own North Pole. Their odyssey was not in vain after all.

Then they decided to write a book about their journey. Along the way this book, Bad Wisdom, would turn into an entertaining, psycho-babbling update of Hunter S Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (albeit more scatological and less narcotic). Random chapter titles: "Teenage Supermodels Eat Shit", "Sons of the Homed One", "Homogeddon" and "Ride the Moebius Rollercoaster and Twist Infinity (Epiphany No 2)". The book alternates bits of Bill's account with Mark's. As Bill puts it, Mark's imagination is a lot more "aaaargh" than his, so he provides the book's colour and Bill provides the narrative thread. Or, as Mark puts it: "I did the shagging and drinking and he did the bus fares."

Then they decided to perform the book, first in New York, then in London, then round the country. So. One question. Why? Bill Drummond - one-time rock group manager, associate of Julian Cope and Echo and The Bunnymen, erstwhile member (with Jimmy Cauty) of highly successful pop group The KLF, sometime partner (again with Cauty) in shadowy "art terrorist" outfit The K Foundation, co-conspirator in the burning of 1 million (his own), once a child in Galloway, currently a gentleman farmer in Buckinghamshire, right now sitting in a pub outside the Garage - says: "It evolved out of these letters we were sending to each other at a furious rate."

Mark Manning-aka Zed, aka Zodiac Mindwarp, aka former leader of Zodiac Mindwarp and The Love Reaction (mid-Eighties' biker-rockers), aka man with large interest in pornography and lots of tattoos, right now also in the pub - says: "At the time of our lives were spiralling out of control... into a ball of wax." Bill: It just seemed to be a good idea. There used to be books that took the form of letters, and I like the idea that you don't know what the letter that's going to come is going to shake in your head. what it's going to jar out of you. It's a continual thing - if you're just writing yourself, you know which way your mind works, you know how you're going to react, you're always playing safe within the bounds of your own mind. If you've got this other mind banging into you, and vice versa, things can happen..." Mark: Like dead squirrels turning up on your doorstep." Bill: Or setting off for the North Pole." At what point did Elvis enter into the equation? Bill: I remember sending Zed the Goldburg book." Mark: Goldman [Albert Goldman's infamous biographical assassination of Presley]."

Bill: "Goldman. And writing 'lies' over every page. And then Zed's letter back to me said that he was going to tear each page out of the book and pin them onto pine trees all round the Arctic and shoot holes through them. Is that right?" Mark: "Something like that" Bill: "And from that..." The link between Elvis of Tupelo and Jesus of Nazareth is not the most obvious of links..., "I don't know," says Mark. He delves deep into a packet of smoky bacon crisps, looking for an answer. Or a little blue bag of sodium-porkide. Or something. "Not if you come from Mexico," he says eventually. "There are proper churches called Santa Presley there, with candles. You've got simple folks in the villages, and the way that he presented himself in the Vegas days, towards the end, with all the rhinestones and colours and things, if you can't read English and you're from some village in the northern mountains of Mexico, and with all those images, you're immediately gonna thing Elvis is a saint It's a very religious, iconographic way that he presented himself towards the end. So its not ... not that far away." Bill: "But we're not saying, ironically or otherwise, that Elvis is Jesus. Mark: "And there was another thing that cropped up when we performed this in New York last week. Perhaps because music and rock 'n' roll and that period in our life had spiralled us into all kinds of vortexes of weirdness - maybe Elvis was a symbol of rock'n'roll and we just wanted to get him as far away from our lives as possible..." Bill: "Yeah, but it wasn't so much us escaping the music industry as escaping that period of our lives. So we can get on..." M: "It was well overdue -approaching 40 and still into rock 'n' roll." Bill: "You get trapped in it. Once you're in it you don't know how to get out of it" Mark: "Since doing it I can listen to music again and like it It's a mental thing. It's a symbolic thing. Neither of us think along little wavelengths. It's a very lateral way of approaching it Everybody else would have got a job as a postman. We took Elvis to the north pole." At that point somebody puts Paul Weller's The Changing Man on the pub jukebox.

MY GOAT IS BEING GOT ON BY Joe. Joe is an enthusiastic, gangly young man who once designed huge-selling puzzle books. Now Joe operates under the name of Disinformation and tonight he is to perform something called National Grid. Tonight Joe is on after Bruce but before Bill and Mark. What Joe does is, with a low-frequency converter, tune into the resonant frequency of the national grid, which is 50Hz. Then he fiddles about, utilising "various little tricks so that it's not so monochrome. Well, it's fairly monochrome". The result is, says Joe, "a ferocious roaring noise". The result, said boffins' muso mag The Wire, is "ambient music for real men" The result, says the man from Disobey - the performance-art group behind tonight's launch for Bad Wisdom - is "an amplified noise that just irritates people, basically".

The result, says the man from WeekEnd, is a noise that grows from a very large dentist's drill to a squadron of V2 rockets over flying your bedroom, to an oil-driven washing machine going into turbo-spin mode just as you're having your tea and trying to watch Neighbours on the kitchen portable telly, to Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction jamming in your head. It goes on for half an hour. For extra stimulation Joe shows a video. Of pylons. And nothing else. That also goes on for half an hour. He's released three albums' worth of this stuff. You have been warned.

At the end of these 30 minutes, people - the ones who can still hear themselves think - shout "more! more!" "Hey," Joe says to Mark 'Zodiac "Zed" Mindwarp' Manning in the dressing room before the night's star turns take the stage, "are you Mr Zodiac? Are you the one who drove through the girls' changing room window on a motorbike?" Mark grunts "might have been" and shuffles towards the stage.

"I know it's him," says Joe conspiratorially, "I've seen the video." Bill and Mark take the stage to read from their book. Mark is wearing a black embroidered Chinese shirt, a leather coat over his shoulders, bad Seventies' shades, greasy stubble, and greasier slicked back hair. He looks like a hitman in a Robert Rodriguez wet dream. He is standing behind an ornate brass lectern that Bill bought from a church salvage yard in Fulham that morning for A3300.The inscription on it says: "In loving memory of Thomas Maugham of Lee Park who died July29th 1868, aged 81." On the lectern are some pages from Bad Wisdom. Mark's chosen passage begins "I vomit down the back of a teenage girl dancing in front of me". His Leeds brogue is more brutal now.

Bill is wearing a kilt and the battered leather greatcoat he wore when The KLF machine-gunned the assembled music biz fat-cats at The Brits Awards few years ago. Both he and Mark carry big sticks - sorry, Zen sticks. Bill's lectern is like Stig of the Dump's bird-table, a crazed scaffold of fence posts and sycamore stumps. His passage begins: "I was shit scared. Shit scared of almost everything. It was the end of the twentieth century." His Scottish accent is much stronger now. One stands and talks and the other sits in a nasty armchair and strokes his stubble.

Bill says "gimlets". The other stands and rants and runs his fingers through shiny hair and smokes evilly.

Zed says "enemas" and lots of stuff about masturbation. Then they're both standing up, pacing the stage, Bill mulling over his twentysomething worries that he was the Yorkshire Ripper, Zed considering that "we are the children of Hamlyn of a new cynical age and Elvis is the Pied Piper",

Bill ranting "I hate MTV, I hate everyone who associated the word scam' with me and Jimmy, I hate fun!", Zed ranting about "boiled nipples with bumholes a la grecque, Japanese schoolgirls in teriyaki sauce" and yet more "fountains of sperm".

Once upon a time W E Drummond and M S Manning, as proprietors of the Curfew Press (address: The Curfew Tower, Cushendall, The Parish of Layde, in The Barony of Lower Glenarm, County Antrim, Northern Ireland) published a highly expensive, highly exclusive, highly offensive book of pornography and art-nonsense inspired by a Zodiac Mindwarp tour of Scandinavia called The Bible of Dreams. Right now Bill and Mark close their copies of their new book and leave. People clap. Ejaculations, as (Heath) Cliff had it, and celebrations. Today is National Poetry Day.

IT'S BEEN SOME TRIP BILL Drummond is at the bar, buying more beer and crisps. "The one we did after the North Pole was even weirder," Mark Manning is saying, revealing that Bad Wisdom is actually the collective title for a trilogy of travel books that, ultimately, will help this pair of ageing provocateurs accommodate their overactive imaginations and their bubbling-under Boys' Own fantasies. "We went up the Congo. That was the most terrifying journey I've ever made in my life. Made everything previously look like a trip to Nutbush."

Why did you go there?

"To find the devil."

Did you find him?

"Yeah, but he wouldn't see us. It's Mobuto. He's the richest man in the world and his country's the poorest in the world. He just nicks all the money. He's the president of Zaire. He just thinks that the country's economy is his personal money."

And he's the devil?

"I can't think of anyone who fits the bill better... we wanted to pick the three destinations. We went to the North Pole, the Congo and ... when you were seven, where did you want to go?"

Butlins in Ayr.

"The moon."

The moon?

"That's the third one.

The two of you are going to go to the moon?



"When we've finished this new book about the Congo."

Okay. On the Congo they got as far as Stanleyville, which is as far as they could navigate up river, which is where Marlowe in Heart of Darkness ends up. Their trip was, they insist, more Conrad than Coppola. They didn't shave their heads. "Actually, it was more Bill and Zed, really."

They intend going to the moon in 2001. Of course. The truth is out there.

And so are Bill and Zed. Their excellent adventures continue.


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Posted by Guest on 2018-07-03 14:47:52

22 years and I am the first, ace stuff lads.

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