Rave provocateur, anti-Illuminatist, magical realist and performance art seditionist Bill Drummond is going on tour for the rest of his life, and he’s got seven years left. He’s worked out his life expectancy as 74 based on his family tree, but he’s giving himself a year to wind down at the end.
As one half of the The JAMs, The Timelords and the KLF with Jimmy Cauty, Drummond infiltrated and subverted the mainstream in the late-80s, first by desecrating the Beatles and ABBA with sloppy hip-hop beats, Samantha Fox samples and ‘Clydeside rapping’, then ramming their 1968 ‘Pyramid Blaster’ Ford Timelord cop car into the number 1 spot for ‘Doctorin’ the Tardis’ – a bizarre, anarchic pile-up of Gary Glitter, Dr Who and Harry Enfield’s Loadsamoney.
After publishing the handbook The Manual (How To Have a Number One the Easy Way), they released the ‘Stadium House’ petrol bombs 3am Eternal, What Time Is Love?, Justified and Ancient and Last Train To Trancentral, becoming the biggest selling singles band in the world in 1991, fuelled by fanatical white robe occultism and Tammy Wynette.
The KLF (“also known as the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, furthermore known as The JAMs”) announced they were leaving the music business in 1992 after performing ‘3AM Eternal’ at the BRITs with grindcore metal band Extreme Noise Terror, topped off by Drummond pulling an assault rifle from under his trenchcoat and spraying blanks into a scandalised crowd. They then dumped a dead sheep at the after-party, deleted their back catalogue and burned a million quid in cash as their final performance — only for Drummond and Cauty to resurface in in 2017 as The JAMs with a new novel and a three-day avant-garde happening in Liverpool. Which really is another story.
But the KLF is only a fraction of Drummond’s artistic work. As well as his art books and riotous memoirs 33⅓, and 45, he documents his many wild tangents under his Penkiln Burn banner: The17 Choir (“All recorded music has run its course”), his ley line soup kitchens, shoe shine events and cake sales… it goes on and on.
Best Before Death digs into his other performance art happenings. It’s a play in three parts, with the middle act a film by Paul Duane, who shadowed Drummond for three years. Acts 1 and 3 are stage performances of the play White Saviour Complex, based on the book of the same name, and featuring Drummond and Tam Dean Burn (playing Drummond).
He says the production is “about life, death, art, money and cake. And some knitting”. All aboard, all aboard…
- Bill Drummond is presenting Best Before Death at IFI Dublin tonight (Friday) and QFT Belfast tomorrow.