Prison, lawsuits and a locker with fake cash: the movie that KLF did not want to see | The KLF

IIn 2009, my troubled producer, Ian Neil, sent me a message: “You really should be making a movie about KLF.” This enigmatic and brilliant band was a mainstay of Top of the Pops in my youth and was best known for burning all its money in the mid-1990s when I was a middle-class teen anarchist and believed that to burn a million pounds was by far the best thing you could do with it. “Aren’t they dead?” I answered.

It turned out that the two members of the KLF, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, were very much alive, but they had made every effort to destroy their heritage. They had deleted their entire back list in 1992 and wrote a vow of silence on a car, which they immediately pushed off a cliff. Some research has revealed that we were not the first people to suggest making a documentary, but the band had told everyone to get pissed.

However, I had just made a documentary, Starsuckers – in which we were selling fake tabloid stories – which was partly inspired by KLF’s acrobatics. This coincidence made me sit down with Bill and Jimmy and they insisted on meeting at a dirty cafe in Farrington, London, like the one at The Apprentice where The the losers gather before being fired.

The couple was then in their mid-50s and listened patiently as I explained to them how our film would plan their amazing journey from a sample of stolen records to a squat in south London until it became one of the biggest bands in the world a few years ago. later: six UK The top 10 hits in 18 months that shattered an entire mythological rave universe in transatlantic pop culture. They nodded wisely and very politely told me to poke.

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Normally this would be the end. The rules of filmmaking dictate that musical documentaries require the consent of the artists. Without access it meant no right to music, no first-hand stories. But I kept thinking about this outrageous paradox: that the band with the most seamless story imaginable was slipping into obscurity because they did not want their story to be told. It was my cameraman Chris Smith who made the mistake of asking drunk: “So what would KLF do?” The answer was suddenly obvious: they would set the rules and move on. That is exactly what we did.

To make Who Killed the KLF? We started by remaking the band’s most dramatic gestures and started with the big one: Bill and Jimmy raised εκατο 1 million in cash on the remote Scottish island of Jura. The Bank of England has quite strict rules regarding the reproduction of the Queen’s currency, for obvious reasons. But my mother found an old λι 50 Houblon banknote, which had not been released for a long time, and printed it worth half a million pounds. We drove to Scotland where I hired some extras that seemed fleeting to Bill and Jimmy, and took the ferry to Jura. Burning money is extremely satisfying. we got a little carried away and accidentally set fire to a hut. Fortunately, my fake Bill was also a firefighter and went out quickly.

Later I got my car for a MOT and received a very anxious call from the garage. “There is 50 cash in your closet, man.”

“Do not worry, everything is fake,” I replied, before realizing that this probably did not help.

the real Bill, Jimmy and Ford Timelord, on the Abba trails in Sweden
All Abroad, All Abroad; the real Bill, Jimmy and Ford Timelord, in the footsteps of Abba in 1987. Photo: Lawrence Watkins

We then recreated the KLF by pushing a car from Cape Wrath. I spotted the same model, a Nissan Bluebird. People like me pushed it to the edge of the cliff before the elderly owner braked. In hindsight we should have used stuntmen and safety ropes, as his vision was not very good and he almost overcame it twice.

Bill and Jimmy always brought witnesses to their original adventures, who were very happy to give us first-hand testimony. Journalist James Brown, later the publisher of Loaded, was still a teenager when he accompanied them to Sweden in a doomed attempt to persuade Abba not to sue the KLF for illegally sampling the Dancing Queen. It turned out that Abba lived in Henley-on-Thames, so they burned half of the offensive files in a field and dumped the rest in the North Sea. Claire Fletcher was a young Radio 1 producer who was told to get on a plane without knowing where she was going. She landed at the Jura where her KLF logo was stamped on her passport, handed her a yellow cape and attended a huge Wicker Man ceremony. Claire met her future husband in rave afterwards and now they have four children, one of whom writes KLF. We put together a lot of similar surreal stories, but we still had the same central problem: I made a film about two people who refused to talk to me.

They may have written a step-by-step guide to achieving the No. 1 success, but the KLF story is a reminder that you rarely do anything interesting by doing things the right way. Our anarchic approach was rewarded when a co-worker arrived with some dusty audio cassettes, which had been sitting in his attic for years, containing old interviews. The quality was scratchy, but the content was gold. Some places were really dark, others made me cry with laughter. The couple finally opened up about their emotional journey and the story could now be told in their own words. However, I could remain completely objective, unlike most musical documents where the narration is strictly controlled by the artists themselves.

burning εκατο 1 million in the Jura, as recreated in Who Killed the KLF
The heat is … burning ρες 1 million in the Jura, as recreated in Who Killed the KLF? Photo: Bohemia Euphoria

Everything was going well until I was sentenced to five years in prison for tax fraud in 2016. I had used a scary tax regime to fund the Starsuckers and the HMRC prosecuted everyone involved. I spent nine months at HMP Wandsworth (mentioned in my book A Bit of a Stretch), after which I was transferred to an open prison. Conditions were much more relaxed, allowing Chris to sneak into my laptop so I could quietly start editing. Imprisonment was extremely beneficial to the creative process: free from the distractions of social media, alcohol and silly executive producers.

I released it in December 2018. I had a rough cut that looked mostly like a radio project, with amazing audio commentary but nothing to look at. Within three weeks I was doing more remodeling in an abandoned cookie factory that we turned into the Trancentral, the siege of south London where the KLFs started their empire. I located the band’s sound engineer and pumped the same equipment they used in hits like 3am Eternal and What Time Is Love? More stand-ins were hired. I think we went through four Bill and Jimmys.

But a central character was missing. The KLFs drove everywhere in a battered American police car, the Ford Timelord, which appeared in all their music videos and even appeared on the BBC Breakfast. The original car was destroyed a long time ago by Jimmy, but I found an ardent fan who had lovingly recreated this legendary vehicle, down to the seat cloth and the tax tray. We were shooting the Ford Mk 2 in Suffolk and an angry man kicked us out of a field.

A more difficult obstacle was how to deal with music. My lawyer, Simon Goldberg, helped and said that while we were criticizing the music, we could use a copyright exception called a “fair deal” for criticism and review. This way, we could use limited clips of their music, as long as we give them the proper recognition. Fortunately, my film is full of reviews, mostly from KLF itself, so it all worked out.

Everything went swimming (again) until there was a pandemic. We shot the final shot on March 23, 2020, hours after the order to stay at Boris Johnson’s house. I broke into a dirt site on Turnpike Lane in London and buried a fake Brit award, as KLF did with their actual award at Stonehenge. We edited the movie in the lockdown and waited until now, when the cinemas thrive, to release it.

But KLF was not going to stop being unpredictable. Despite vowing not to re-release their music, the band released their biggest hit on Spotify on January 1, 2021. Bill and Jimmy said they wanted to put these tracks together before their children died. they have to face it.

Shortly afterwards, we received a series of legal threats from the duo’s publisher, Warner Chappell, accusing us of copyright infringement. Apparently they did not appreciate the irony either that the underlying meaning of KLF is the Liberation Front for intellectual property rights or that the very music they were playing was full of vague samples.

A few weeks ago, Bill asked me for a coffee with him and Jimmy, at the cafe we ​​met twelve years ago. I went with both hope and horror: their blessing would ease any problems with Warner Chappell, but would they try to block the film?

In the end, they were extremely kind and hospitable. “We saw it,” Bill smiled. This hit me for six, as we had avoided sending links before the release. “And we love it.” Jimmy had a chat about the sequencer we used in the remake, and Bill noted that he was not the director of Ken Campbell Illuminatus!’S 1976 epic production, but the production designer. I told how I had spent over a decade following in their footsteps, feeling like an honorary member of the KLF.

“What are you doing now?” I asked. “It works,” Bill replied, without further explanation. Enigmatic and brilliant to the last. “See you here again in 10 years,” I told them and I was on my way.

Who killed the KLF? is now available for purchase or rental on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and other streaming services, as well as screens in select cinemas in late April.

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