FEATURE: The Return of The KLF



PHOTO CREDIT: Built by The JAMs  

The Return of The KLF


EARLY this morning; The KLF’s Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond…


PHOTO CREDIT: Faber & Faber

launched their new book, 2023: A Trilogy by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. The launch, in Liverpool, saw the duo arrive in a battered ice cream van with a spooky jingle. The rules set down – to those attending the launch – included (the fact) people could kiss them (but no tongues allowed) and they would get their book stamped – none of this signing malarkey! It was a typically unique and quirky spectacle that, perhaps, indicates a new phase for the Scottish innovators?! I have been following the duo since their early days and am amazed at how many guises there have been. We all know the time they set a cool-million on fire – more on that below – and an infamous stage appearance. where they fired a machine gun into the crowd (nobody was injured in that publicity stunt).

They are not an act that entertains conventionality and predictability. Over the last few months; there has been rumour and chatter something is happening in the KLF camp. Before I go on further, sourcing a couple of articles from The Guardian today, news and revelations concerning The KLF’s new book. The first looks at the publicity stunts and ending their career – providing an extract from their new work:

So why exactly did the KLF set £1m on fire? It’s been a burning question for 23 years, as pop’s greatest provocateurs chose to let rumour, conjecture and myth around the publicity stunt – held on the Scottish island of Jura and ending their career on 23 August 1994 – swirl about unanswered for two decades. Until now.



GoogleByte v Beyon-Say: an exclusive extract from the KLF's chilling novel about the world in 2023

The KLF, the band that burned £1m, are back – with a futureshocker in which AppleTree and GoogleByte are global powers. But is a shadowy group called the Illuminati actually in charge? And is it true J-Zee and Beyon-Say are members? 

The project formed by Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty in 1987, which has lain dormant in a self-imposed moratorium of 23 years, returned at 00.23am on the morning of Wednesday 23 August. As Drummond and Cauty drove into a backstreet of Liverpool in an ice-cream van to begin three days of events, their first new work – a trilogy of dystopian fiction, an “end of days story”, called 2023: A Trilogy – simultaneously dropped online.


IN THIS PHOTO: Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty

Yet this is not a book for those looking for straightforward answers, and is as obtuse as the KLF themselves, who have published it under their other moniker, the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. It is a multi-layered, self-referential meta tale, starting with two undertakers, Cauty and Drummond, who discover a life-changing book called 2023: A Trilogy on a hotel bookshelf. It was written by “George Orwell”, the pseudonym for one Roberta Antonia Wilson, 33 years ago. “What you are about to read is what they read – well almost,” reads the preface, adding that it has been translated from Ukrainian.

It is a tale which switches between the diary of the author, Roberta, in April 1984, and her fictional novel set in 2023, in the tax haven of Fernando Po, which is the last nation state on earth (on a small island off the coast of Africa). “It was once part of Equatorial Guinea, before Equatorial Guinea did their lucrative deal with Wikitube,” notes the book.

It is littered with bastardised references to 2017 culture in a nod to the grim future that could befall us all – the Big Five who rule the world are GoogleByte, Wikitube, Amazaba, FaceLife and AppleTree. Winnie, the main protagonist, has had an affair with Julian Assange in her younger years, and now uses an iPhone23; Michelle Obama has been the first female president of the US in 2020 but now models for Damien Hirst; Putin was crowned (ceremonial) czar of Russia; Simon Cowell was murdered by a former contestant live on China’s Got Talent in 2017. An alternative history for the Beatles and their role in world peace is also offered. Yet for all the technological progress, today’s social flaws, particularly the degradation of women, remain unchanged in 2023.



KLF’s re-entrance into the world on Wednesday night in their battered ice-cream truck also almost exactly mirrors a passage of the book, which points to a note scrawled on a warehouse wall in Liverpool. “I found myself in a dusty, sooty city. It was night and winter and dark and rainy. Then I saw an ice-cream van pull around a corner and pull up beside a derelict building.”

While the book is not specifically about Cauty and Drummond, they crop up as self-referential characters, at one point referred to as “men in their late sixties” who “meet up in a red brick two up, two down terraced house in Northampton, alongside comic book author Alan Moore. It is the first time they have been in the same room together since 1994.” In the book, these three men withdrew £1m in £50 notes and burn them in a bonfire in front of the Houses of Parliament. What follows is a passage which is the closest to an explanation for the publicity stunt that the KLF have ever offered”.



The second article gave us an exclusive extract from the book: providing a sense of what it is about and the fascinating imaginations of Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond…

09.27 Sunday 23 April 2023

There are some who have decreed order is the natural order of not only the human condition but of everything that has ever existed and is ever likely to exist.

And there are those who have proclaimed chaos is the natural order not only of the human condition but of everything that has ever existed and is ever likely to exist.

And there are those who have made it their lives’ work to exploit our natural hunger for order.

And there are those who have made it their lives’ work to exploit our natural hunger for chaos.

It is a free market for all of you living in the free world.

Whereas I am on the island of Fernando Pó, off the west coast of Africa. It is where I was born and bred. I may have disagreed with the island being a tax haven, but I so abhor it being bought by AppleTree. Or, for that matter, by any of the other Big Five. I am totally and completely against what they are doing with the world. Womankind needs to have war, famine and inequality to function properly: without them we as a species will be over within a couple of generations. As for religion, we need as many as we can have to compete for our souls. The more radical the religion, the better.

That is why I am here with these five dolls I have made to represent the founding mothers of each of the Big Five, and over the next few days I will be sticking my needle made from bamboo into them. You may think this is a futile and primitive approach to bringing about world change, but it worked for my ancestors and it already seems to be working for me. Last night I began testing the process by putting a needle just a short way into the doll that is Stevie Dobbs, and I think it was successful. I can already sense her days are numbered”.


Tom Robinson is paying tribute to The KLF from 1 P.M. on Sunday. Catch that BBC Radio 6 Music show as it provides better revelation what is happening in their creative process. It is going to be intriguing see if there is anything coming from Cauty and Drummond. Whether the book is a prelude to a new album; maybe the guys are planning a retrospective gig of some degree. The reason this current release appeals to me as it provides chance to celebrate one of the most influential acts in the House/Trance movement. After 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?) was released in June of that year – the boys were on the map and, at that juncture, known as The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (The J.A.M.s).


IN THIS PHOTO: The album cover of Chill Out

All You Need Is Love was their first single and, with that, they began their memorable, if controversial career. It is not considered their best album but did put them in the critical mindset. The fact the samples they used on the album were plagiarised sparked a huge debate. Now, an artist could not do that without facing a barrage of legal bills and court cases. It is debatable, if artists like The KLF had been more judicious with their sampling – asking the artists for permission – such strict rules would not have come in. The plagiarism on the record was a cheeky bit of creative license but did, in as much as anything, show they were willing to do whatever it took to succeed and be remembered – or maybe they got lazy and thought nobody would realise! There were some good songs (on the record) but is seems far less engaging and innovative than their later recordings. Unfortunately, owing to the reckless, unauthorised use of samples; ABBA objected to the duo’s use of Dancing Queen – all copies of the 1987 were destroyed and it led to the self-deprecating and revealing, Who Killed The JAMS. It was holy nihilism and a production of self-deprecation and pathos. Many critics were impressed by the response to media criticism and legal issues – that blighted their debut album.

It was, too, a creative and sonic step from the duo and led, with compilation and remix-albums in-between, to their third studio L.P., Chill Out. Many see that Dance album as one of the genre’s best: most agree it is a huge sonic leap with wide-open spaces and intriguing sonic complexions – developed and intricate electronic imaginations. Birdsong, womb-music (as one critic called it) and grandly epic music. It was an ambient and downbeat song that juxtaposed a lot of the more mindless and pointlessly upbeat offerings. At this point, The KLF’s creators – they were calling themselves ‘The KLF’ at this point – were more jurisprudent and were using samples more intelligently and conscientiously.

white room.jpg

There were samples from Elvis Presley (In the Ghetto) and Fleetwood Mac (Albatross) but, unlike their debut, The KLF were not forced to delete it – not being chased by vengeful Swedish Pop groups! I am stalling and hovering over important swathes of The KLF’s genius but, in truth, the height and apex of their music career was their final album, The White Room. I am typing this whilst enjoying the Tammy Wynette-heightened banger, Justified and Ancient. It is such a strange and rousing song that puts sound-effects, ice cream van-referencing lyrics – heading into Mu Mu Land – and one of the most hypnotic choruses of the 1990s. The KLF disbanded in 1992 – there were plans for a darker version of this album – but, what they left, was astonishing. The Stadium-Pop/Trance/Dance/Electronica anthems were conceived as a road film (coinciding with their film of the same name) that was The KLF’s search for the mystical ‘White Room’. It was, by anyone’s judgement, the artist peak of the late-1980s/early-'90s Acid-House movement.

The 1991-release, in its definitive forms, contains some of the biggest songs of The KLF’s career – covering the earlier incarnations, for that matter. What Time Is Love, 3 A.M. Eternal (Live at the S.S.L.) and Last Train to Trancentral are absolute classics of the time. Justified and Ancient, with that peculiar but essential Tammy Wynette turn, helps create a wonderful and hugely spellbinding tune. Yeah, there are some fillers on there – Church of the KLF and Build a Fire are not exactly essential – but it is those four tunes with, say, the title track, define an album. It was a perfect finale for Cauty and Drummond. Reviewers often include it as part of their favourite one-hundred albums ever. It is not only a definitive statement from the 1990s: it is one of the most enduring and spectacular albums from all of music.

Take away the machine gun-toting Brit Awards spectacles and money-burning stunts; the mayhem and the chaos – it is the music that overcomes and outshines all of that. Of course, being The KLF/The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu; the theatre and scene-stealing goes hand-in-hand with their music. We all miss those heady days when the duo were running riot and, away from the headline-grabbing antics – they were creating some of the most unifying and influential sounds of the day. Maybe The KLF’s dystopian and future-focus novel – in all its forebode and allure – is a standalone event but one would hope for more. Maybe there will be another album: that must be what everyone is wishing right now! The ice cream van arrival and bespoke publicity campaign cannot be for a book launch, alone! I have been compelled to look back at the legendary duo and what they have done to music; how they have changed the culture of Dance music and those incredible highlights. Whatever is coming next, you just know, it is going to be…


 IN THIS PHOTO: The KLF's Bill Drummond at the 1992 Brit Awards/PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Young/Rex

BLOODY bonkers!