The Chronicled Mutineers- Library of Mu
- Library of Mu record:
- Title: The Chronicled Mutineers
- Date: December 1996
- Journal: Vox
- Author: Gavin Martin
- Type of resource: Interviews
- Status: text
- No. views: 36731
- Description: excellent Bad Wisdom promo interview, well illustrated with photos of the authors in a field. Some interesting details about the legal problems and sequels to BW
The Chronicled Mutineers
By Gavin Martin (December 1996, Vox)
THE TWO self-proclaimed Zen masters speed through the lush and leafy
lanes of England's green and pleasant land to meet us at the train
station. Bill Drummond -- the mastermind behind chart-topping
phenomenon The KLF, K Foundation art warrior, the towering Scot who
bucked the national sterotype and burnt a million quid -- is at the
wheel of the battered open-top flat bed Ford truck. By his side is
one-time comic-book artist and sometime heavy metal hero Zodiac
Mindwarp, aka Z, aka Mark Manning -- a tarot-toting, vodka-swilling,
tattooed South Yorkshire man whose mouldering public image conceals a
considerable literary and intellectual bent.
The truck pulls in at the car park of Cheddington station -- just a
few miles up the track from the scene of The Great Train Robbery, not
far from Mr Drummond's current abode or the country pub where, in a
small room at the top of some rickety stairs, Z and Bill are
rehearsing for their latest adventure -- the Psychotic Reality Roadshow.
Heaped on the back of the truck is a bundle of dried twigs. Sitting
atop these twigs are two aged and balding armchairs with straw
stuffing spilling forth. Drummond -- unshaven, sparse of thatch
(looks like he's been pulling his hair, as well a man who burnt a
million quid might), swathed in the familiar battle-scarred KLF-era
black leather trenchcoat, a strained, perplexed expression never far
from his face -- invites us to climb into the armchairs. He is
anxious that we don't stand on the blue plastic sheeting covering God
knows what at the bottom of the truck.
This makes getting aboard a chore. Once we're settled in for the
short journey to the pub and Drummond drives off, the wind stirs up
the smell of old flea-ridden dog from the chairs and the al fresco
passengers engage in a furious session of scratching and itching.
I'm aware that Drummond lives an agrarian life out here in the
Aylesbury countryside and that at one time during his retreat from
the music business he took a job as a gamekeeper. But I can't help
wonder what the twigs are for.
The KLF movie, shot in the Isle of Jura three years before
Drummond, KLF partner Jimmy Cauty and cameraman Gimpo returned there
to burn a million quid, featured the ritual burning of a pagan effigy
similar to that enacted in the film 'The Wicker Man'. So the twigs
beneath the armchairs set the mind racing -- a journalist and
photographer as Drummond's latest sacrifice? Or perhaps Bill and Z --
Zen Masters, Rocking Renegades, Literary Arseholes -- saying farewell
cruel world in an act of spontaneous self-combustion? I ask Z what
purpose the sticks might serve. "I don't know, it might be kindling
for when he burns the next million," he sneers.
PSYCHOTIC REALITY is a by-product of the big adventure undertaken by
the daring duo in November 1992. It had been the year of Bill's
'breakdown', when The KLF, perched on the peak of greater-than-ever
success, quit the music business, (toy) machine gunned the tuxedo'd
twats in the front row of that year's Brit Awards ceremony and dumped
a sheep's carcass on the steps at the after-show party.
The person Drummond kept closes contact with during the period of
intense personal and artistic turmoil that both preceded and
succeeded this public act (despair, divorce, the ditching of 'The
Black Room', considered by those who've heard it as his and The KLF's
finest album) was Manning.
The pair had known each other since the early '80s when, as a
producer and A&R man at Polygram Records, Drummond signed up to
Zodiac Mindwarp and The Love Reaction's world domination plan.
While that particular campaign may have been a failure, Bill and Z
forged a mutual taste for grand guignol
acts of quasi-mythic
proportions, which grew greater as the years went by and their lives
became increasingly messy and complicated.
"We were both fucked by rock," says Z. "Well, I was definitely fucked
by it, and Bill was spiralling out of control. He phoned me and he
was obviously distraught -- I think that he decided I was the only
one who would understand him. We decided not to meet or phone each other."
As 1992 came to an end they unburdened the darkest corners of their
psyches to one another in a correspondence that consisted of threats,
insults, waste matter and animal corpses sent through the post. It
was shortly after Drummond sent a copy of Albert Goldman's
biography with the word 'lies' scrawled in his
inimically demented handwriting on every page, that these two
overgrown boys in the throes of perpetual male life crisis hatched a
plan to save the world.
TO OVERCOME the bad vibes threatening to engulf the planet, they
decided to plant a picture of every self-respecting white rocker's
patron saint, the 20th century Dionysian Overlord -- Elvis Presley --
at the top of the world. By burying this Kingly sacrament at the
North Pole, they thought they could send good vibes, universal peace,
harmony and hamburgers radiating across the globe.
The two-week journey towards the pole was fuelled by vodka, bizarre
sexual fantasies and the additional exploits of Gimpo (Z's manager,
Falklands veteran and all-purpose Neanderthal man). It is all brought
to (something considerably larger than) life in the fantastical,
uproarious and controversial tome Bad Wisdom
-- just published by
Penguin, complete with Jarvis Cocker's cover endorsement: "...This is
a very beautiful book." Big laughs, outrage, hysteria and
enlightenment, all for only £7.99.
And this is only the first instalment in an adventure trilogy. When
we meet, the Fearless Three have just returned from their second
trip, a heart of darkness voyage up the Congo in a Victorian steamer
boat, which will provide the raw material for book two.
Drummond: "It's a colonial book, but we're not travelling as
colonials -- we were in third class."
Z: "Down there with the natives, sleeping in shit."
Drummond: "But we have been ploughing our way through the collected
works of Richard Burton, Livingstone, Stanley."
Z: "And all those other racist bastards."
For the third and final book in the series, they plan to go to the moon.
"Well," says Z, "we're going to try. The initial plan is to go to
Cuba and see if we can get to Cape Canaveral and from there hitch a
ride. It's back to your roots in a weird sort of television way.
We were going to get two kayaks and try to row home to Sheffield and
Edinburgh by waterways and canals, but that seemed too much like hard work."
But right now, attention is squarely focussed on Psychotic Reality.
Described not as a book-reading but two 30-minute full-frontal
performances featuring chainsaw violence, scatalogical sex, rampant
misogeny, gruesomely detailed masturbatory frenzies, supermodels,
Oscar Wilde, Madonna, Jack the Ripper, Keith Richards, Nazi
stormtroopers, hallucinogenic drugs, The Chippendales, the baby Jesus
and whatever else they can salvage from the intense but sprawling
Drummond: "Right from the beginning of working together we'd always
talked about performing. I don't think we actually wrote the words
thinking we were going to be reading them out loud -- in any case,
the performance will go beyond that. It's back to telling a story,
not getting into all the descriptive stuff that's in the book, but
telling what actually happened. When we wrote it we wrote separately,
but when we're onstage we'll bounce off each other, at least I think
that's what we'll do."
INSIDE THE pub, Drummond chows down two helpings of what the menu
board dubiously described as "probably the best curry in the world"
-- the voracious appetite constantly hankering for a full cooked
breakfast in Bad Wisdom
obviously undaunted. Manning, something of
a curry connoisseur, eyes the food suspiciously, twirls his walking
cane and helps himself to several vodka and tonics while Bill eats
and Chris Brooks (tour manager, Psychotic Reality director and tour
support act) puts their performance schedule into perspective.
Manning grimaces as the photographer recalls their first meeting, 12
years ago, to shoot Z's Prince Albert pierced penis.
"I was confused. It was the most ridiculous thing I've ever done in
my fucking life. I still to this day don't know why I did it. You're
not going to write about this are you? I don't want to talk about my
bloody penis," pleads Z.
But in Bad Wisdom/Psychotic Reality, Z does indeed talk about his
penis -- bloody and otherwise. Be it "leaking glycerine tears",
"spurting viscous white paste" or as "a blood-gorged tool"
alternatively punished then soothed by a "Nazi kung fu sex bitch".
"Well, that's just writing, it's not real. Well, it's real in some
respects. Actually, all the stuff I was writing I did think, because
it's inspired by real people. You know how your mind flies when
you're walking down the street and you see a young girl and you'd
just like to push her under a car and jump on her while she's still
warm? Those ordinary kind of things that everybody thinks about."
Drummond: "I used to have this fantasy about the two girls that used
to back up Betty Boo. They were identical twins, models,
half-Indonesian, exotic-looking. I actually had this fantasy that I
wanted to cut them in half and sew the two different halves back
together again and... it seemed to stop there. I remember when I was
a kid, reading about the Siamese twins that were both married and
both had kids and one lived nine hours longer than the other. It used
to fascinate me, I mean, when I was 13... Whooah."
Before writing Bad Wisdom, where did they put such thoughts?
Z: "Probably between the pages of pornographic magazines. That's why
I had to keep buying new ones -- 'cos the pages were all stuck
together. A lot of it came out in my songs. Doing this book and these
performances is my revenge on techno because I felt redundant when
dance music appeared and singers were disappearing from records. I
thought 'Right, we'll do the reverse and get rid of the music.'"
Drummond: "I've got another theory which runs completely parallel to
that -- the reason I liked techno was you didn't have to put up with
singers and their arrogant, petty ways any more. They were always a
problem -- any time I was involved with a band, singers were the
problem. I loved techno because it got rid of that."
THE CAST of characters in Bad Wisdom is long and potentially
problematic. Tracey from Voice Of The Beehive is depicted as an
insatiable fellatrix unable to keep her mouth away from "Gimpo's
blushing helmet". A longtime friend of Bill and Z, Tracey was happy
to be depicted thus. Will others feel the same way? Three supermodels
called Linda, Claudia and Naomi are subjected to some of the vilest
acts imaginable, while Madonna has a starring role as an MTV-powered
Satan planning to destroy the world with the dreaded anti-chord,
between drinking warm blood, defaecating over her servants and
bathing in goat sperm. A little strong, one might imagine, for
Penguin's legal department...
Drummond: "Well, the book is coming out as it is. Each book that
comes out has to be insured against things that might be a problem.
In the case of this book, those things were libel and... what's the
Drummond: "Yes, obscenity. So they got a barrister to write a
28-page breakdown of all the things he thought would be a problem.
Basically it was summed up in one line, which said 'This book is
"The editor at Penguin tried to fight his corner and he got this
far more mature barrister who had been involved in cases concerning
NWA and extreme right-wing Nazi Aryan stuff. He just did a three-page
repory which said 'Change this and that', and pointed out that there
hadn't been a successful libel case taken against a book that is
deemed literature since Last Exit To Brooklyn
. He said it would
help if you got two respected professors to verify that this is
literature -- and Jarvis Cocker is hardly good enough. So that's what
they did, and the professors -- one of whom was a woman -- said, yes,
literature, though one of them, the man as it happens, had
misgivings about it."
Drummond: "That it overstepped every boundary of what the man in
the street considered obscene. But he didn't think it was obscene --
the definition of obscene is something that depraves and corrupts. It
was felt that people who read this book..."
Z: "...are already depraved and corrupt."
Drummond: "People won't be buying this as a porn book."
Z: "Because it doesn't have any pictures."
Which makes it unlike the previous published work by Drummond and
Manning, a supremely litigious, expensive, beautifully bound and,
according to the authors, dangerous book called The Bible Of Dreams
PUBLISHED PRIVATELY in a limited edition of 200 at the cost of £500
per copy, A [sic] Bible Of Dreams
grew out of the aforementioned
correspondences. Initially, it was a scrapbook collage put together
by Z while on tour in Scandinavia. Reproduced in print, complete with
a commentary by Drummond, it became a depraved, anguished howl,
clawing for faith and meaning in an unforgiving world, drawing a link
between modern-day hardcore, bestial porn and classical mythology.
Beneath the shocking surface was a struggle to rediscover the sense
of rite and spiritual tradition lost to porn-saturated,
gratification-obsessed Northern European males -- a theme that
resurfaces in Bad Wisdom.
Drummond: "At the time, it was something that was very important
to us, but it's a bit weird now. It's almost four years later and I'm
in a completely different emotional state that I was then. Religion,
now, doesn't provide the things that you need.
"Obviously, it was a bit like going out with a band doing this
book. It was like a hunting trip or a fishing trip."
Z: "There were no women around, so you tend to be less
restrained. It's good sometimes not to have women around."
Drummond: "Women have never done these things, they've never set
off in coracles from Ireland to take Christianity to the rest of the
world, never gone on Viking raids."
Z: "No, Bill, you didn't get many tarts in long ships raping and
pillaging and breaking wind."
But there have been ambitious women down through the years,
Madonna being the most notable pop culture example. How will she take
to her Bad Wisdom portrayal?
Bill: We argued the case that if you write songs called 'Express
Yourself' and write books called 'Sex' where you encourage young
girls to get into lesbianism -- and, what do you call it? Anal sex?
She encourages that doesn't she? -- then she's in no position to
complain. We've just followed her advice in 'Express Yourself'."
Z: "I can't stand her, basically. I saw the Madonna film. I found
it really obscene how she treated those dancers. OK, she's paying
them, but there's no need to treat them like fucking slaves, all
sitting on the bed, saying what she wanted them to say. The thing
that really got me was that it was In Bed With Madonna
, but there
was no sex or no fun on that tour at all. Obviously because the band
ain't there -- they're down the road in a hotel doing all the booze
and shagging. That's where the real action was. She was just there
with her friends being healthy and eating soup."
NONETHELESS, IT is a woman who has edited and put the two halves of
Bad Wisdom's narrative into coherent shape. Perhaps if a woman had
been involved in planning the actual trip to the pole, it would have
been better organised. But that would be contrary to the project's
spirit of adventure.
Z: "We were under the impression that the ice caps came down to
the top of Norway in winter, but we'd got the wrong continent.
That's the difference between adventure and travel. Travel involves a
lot of forward planning, but adventure involves none, and we wanted
to do adventure so we didn't do much research 'cos we wanted to be
surprised by what we saw.
"We didn't know Lapps existed -- these mediaeval people in the
middle of Europe, these fuckers dressed like hobbits. They really
were stunted, just like the Japanese have a low centre of gravity. I
think Tolkien was actually inspired by them.
"When we did get to the top, Bill was devastated when the ice
caps weren't there and we couldn't carry on. Gimpo wanted to hire a
helicopter and fly there. By that stage, even I was getting a bit scared."
Drummond: "It all happened so fast, we just decided to go. The
only map we had was from the airport. Everything was a shock to us."
Bad Wisdom is a Boy's Own
adventure that goes into Heaven and
Hell. The beauty that Jarvis Cocker perceived in it radiates through
its humour, brutal honesty and moments of pure transcendence, which
are all a product of the writers' determination to get to the craw of
their imagination, however depraved or untenable.
Z: "If you follow the new lad kind of shit to its logical
conclusion, it's not very far from this. I think of it in that
respect, turning up the volume on the Zeitgeist. Women that have read
the book seem to have been much more comfortable with it than the men
that have read it. It frightens men because they see themselves
there, and they're frightened of what they could be capable of. But
women laugh at it, they know this is what we're like and that there's
no real malice there. It's beyond malice."
Drummond: "The effect of drawing these things out of yourself is
weird. I become aware of the things I haven't revealed, and you prod
more in yourself. What's the problem there?"
Z: "The funniest bit on the whole trip was when you started
straightening up the towels in case you got a bird back. We hadn't
changed our clothes for two weeks. We were all as sticky as fuck, and
all Bill couold think about were the towels. Some deep-seated
psychological thing, no doubt."
No matter how deep journalists may dig to unveil or debunk Bill
Drummond's personality, they are unlikely to get as far as the
caricature detailed by Manning or laid bare by the man himself in Bad
Wisdom. For anyone interested in the KLF's past and possible future,
Bad Wisdom contains the darkest truths and most meaningful
revelations. But Drummond's Pained Confessions Of A Cultural Catalyst
are counterbalanced by Manning's powerful piss-take of his partner,
who he reckons is suffering from "neo-Celtic post-traumatic macho
disorder". It was a mtutal interest in music that first brought
Drummond and Manning together -- particularly early '70s progressive
"Lambasted by those public school, post-punk fascists (of the
music press) as a time of pompous, indulgent and pretentious crap.
Pompous, indulgent and pretentious were three reasons why it was
great," seethed Drummond in The Bible Of Dreams
. A deep love and
concern for music is never far away in Bad Wisdom. The book contains
passionate, thoughtful writing on the power of Elvis, the fate of
Michael Jackson, while throughout, the narrative the music of
Morrissey, Led Zeppelin and Jim Morrison make pointed, poignant entries.
Shortly after the interview, Drummond and Manning board a plane
to Helsinki, off once more without a map, hoping to put together a
soundtrack album of North Pole-area cover-version outfits to
accompany the book.
IN THE upstairs room of the pub, Brook puts the odd couple through
their opening paces. Bill fumbles with his kilt and displays the
actual Zen sticks he lopped from a neighbour's sapling crop for the
Bad Wisdom trip. Z dolled up like a Las Vegas pimp -- silk shirt,
snakeskin shoes, Elvis aviator shades -- reveals the contents of the
mysterious black bag: strong liquor, money, hot sauce, a book on
Hitler, a human skull, two packs of tarot cards.
Drummond throws his kitbag on the floor and tells how it was back
then, back in the dark days of '92 when he was going into a
breakdown, a breakdown that would eventually lead to that combustible
outrage, the burning of the K Foundation cash crop. "I was
shit-scared. Scared of almost everything..."
Standing out in the field for photographs a short while later,
Drummond's face is drawn into a tremulous, shocked expression when
the million pound question is raised. The photographer is saying that
it was after seeing that very expression that he was sure Drummond
had actually done the fiery deed.
Earlier, I told Z that, according to information on the Internet,
Gimpo's film, excerpts of which were shown on the Omnibus
Foundation documentary, of Bill and K Foundation/KLF partner Jimmy
Cauty burning a million quid, was showing at a Scandinavian porn
festival. "Well," he said, "you can't get much more pornographic than
burning a million quid. That shit disturbs me, I try not to think
But now Z laughs loudly: "I can't help it, it's Bill's face when
anybody mentions the money, the way the lip comes out and starts
trembling. It's like a kid who's just been hit and is on the brink of
Drummond is stuttering, indignant.
"Well.... So? What's the right expression? I don't know how
you're meant to look. I don't have..."
Any role model?
"No, I don't have the... the whatever."
"The money, Bill," screams Z, his laughter veering towards
hysterics. "You don't have the fucking money
With that they go back to the open-top van heaped with kindling,
back to rehearse their psychotic routine. The burning question
dissipates in laughter, something remaining beyond the comprehension
of either Bad Wisdom or Psychotic Reality.
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Posted by Guest on 2007-04-23 12:47:56