Bill Drummond produced some of the biggest-selling anthems of early 90s UK acid house with partner Jimmy Cauty as The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The Timelords and The KLF. Provocateur since the sample disputes of his early productions, he officially retired from the music business in 1992 only to become notorious for stunts as The K-Foundation including the burning of a million pounds cash. He has written several books, produced a various art projects, and helped set-up an arts centre in Shoreditch, London.
Bill Drummond (1953) was born to Scottish parents in Butterworth, South Africa, but moved with his family back to Scotland when he was 18 months old. He went to art school in Liverpool where he was involved with the set design for the first stage production of "The Illuminatus! Trilogy". He left his studies to pursue a variety of jobs, in psychiatric hospitals, steel plants, building sites and deep-sea trawlers.
In 1977 he formed Big In Japan – a band better known for its member’s later successes than for their own music – with Holly Johnson, later of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Budgie, Jayne Casey and Ian Broudie. Drummond was for a while a fixture in Liverpool's post-punk scene. After the break up of Big in Japan in 1978, he and another member, David Balfe, started Zoo Records, acting as both producers and managers. Their first release was Big in Japan's posthumous EP, From Y To Z and Never Again
, and they followed with debut releases from Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. Drummond also managed both bands in his idiosyncratic manner. Between 1979 and 1980, Drummond was in Lori and the Chameleons, a short-lived new wave band with David Balfe playing bass and keyboards and the singer Lori Larty.
The 80s saw Drummond become a major label A&R man, launch his solo career and the musical project he’s become best known for, the KLF. After Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes both left Zoo Records for major labels, Drummond did the same, taking a job as an A&R executive for the label WEA where he worked with Strawberry Switchblade, Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction, The Proclaimers and Brilliant. Brilliant member Jimmy Cauty (1954) would become Drummond’s long time collaborator.
After quitting WEA in 1986 Drummond issued a solo album, The Man
, a country/folk music recording backed by Australian rock group The Triffids. The following year, Drummond released a rap/sample studio project with Jimmy Cauty under the name of The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, an early incarnation of the KLF. They released the sample-heavy "All You Need is Love" followed by an album, 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?
), in June of the same year amidst a high-profile copyright dispute with Abba and the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society. The pair released a second album as The JAMs, Who Killed The JAMs?
, in February 1988, but it was outshone by the success of their track, "Doctorin' the Tardis", recorded as The Timelords (Drummond was Time Boy), which reached number one in the UK the same year.
Drummond and Cauty renamed their record label "KLF Communications" (from the earlier The Sound of Mu), and from 1988 onwards were known as The KLF (Kopyright Liberation Front). Taking the monikers King Boy D and Rockman Rock, Drummond and Cauty drew on the The Illuminatus! Trilogy for inspiration and became notorious for antics including the defacement of billboard adverts, placing cryptic advertisements in NME magazine and the mainstream press and unusual live performances. They released their first singles as The KLF "Burn the Bastards"/"Burn the Beat", in early 1988 before changing direction musically with signature tunes "What Time Is Love?" and "3 a.m. Eternal" later in the year.
On May 14, 1992, after becoming the biggest-selling singles group in the world, The KLF announced their retirement from the music industry and the deletion of their entire back catalogue. In 1993, the pair re-emerged as the K-Foundation, ostensibly a foundation for the arts, whose most infamous stunt was burning the remaining earnings of The KLF – one million pounds – at a boathouse on the Scottish island of Jura.
Since the mid-90s, Drummond has remained active as a writer, artist and patron. He has written and published several books including From the Shores of Lake Placid and other stories
(Ellipsis, 1998), Annual Report to The Mavericks, Writers And Film Festival
(Penkiln Burn, 1998), 45
(Penkiln Burn, 2000), How To Be An Artist
(Penkiln Burn, 2002), Wild Highway, with Mark Manning
(Creation Books, 2005), and Scores 18-76
(Penkiln Burn, 2006).
Drummond is also co-founder of The Foundry, an arts centre in Shoreditch, London and owner of The Curfew Tower in Cushendall, Northern Ireland. Via an arts trust called In You We Trust, Drummond loans the tower to young artists and exhibits their work. He runs various online projects, Openmanifesto.com for example, a forum for discussing the purpose and significance of art, and mydeath.net for making precise funeral arrangements.
In 2005 Drummond brought the "No Music Day” into being. Most recently, Drummond has been working on a choir project called "The17". "The17" addresses Drummond’s ideas about recorded music as a historical artefact, as a genre in itself, and explores alternatives in the form of live performances from 17 member choirs.
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