The Sermon On The Steps

The Sermon On The Steps

By Stephen Clarke 1980


It’s 19:23 on Saturday the 16th of December, 2017. I’ve been asked to write a story about the night that I didn’t get to meet Bill Drummond. The night in question was last night, although there have been other times when I have not met Bill Drummond. Once, sometime around the beginning of the millennium, my brother and I managed to get locked inside Belfast’s Botanic Gardens. At the same time, Bill Drummond was in Belfast and at a loose end. He thought he’d give me a call, but realised that he didn’t have my contact details with him. This was a shame, because he seems like the kind of man who could help to get you out of a locked park – he has a GCE in Metalwork, and everything. On another occasion, Bill was doing a talk in Waterstones, on Princes Street in Edinburgh. I thought it’d be the kind of thing you could just show up at, totally underestimating the pulling power his name seems to have. I was told that tickets for the event had sold out weeks in advance – I was even surprised that someone had needed to print out tickets for a reading in a book shop. So, I walked home in the grey, misty, drizzle, and I wrote Bill an email. Bill replied and said he was sorry that I had missed out on seeing the show, but would I be interested in writing a Score for his choir, The 17? I was interested, as it happens, and I wrote this;


Sit in a place where journeys begin

Look around you for sixteen people you connect with

Think about these connections and absorb them deeply

Close your eyes

Clear your mind of all thoughts

There will be noise

Your body will turn the volume up

The sixteen people you connect with share this feeling

They will each contact you through sound

Focus your mind on making the greatest music you have ever heard

You will believe that this is possible for you

You will feel this possibility on every level

You will feel it as if it has already happened

The greatest music of all time is inside you

Wake up

It is time for you to begin your journey


Bill seemed to like this Score, as it now has a home here;


Now, to the business of last night. The gig in question was Neu! Reekie! Xmas SnowBlinder, at Central Hall, 2 West Tollcross, Edinburgh. The first artist advertised as appearing at the event was Bill Drummond. I bought an early bird ticket. I contacted Neu! Reekie! to enquire as to what Bill Drummond would be doing at the event, they wrote back to say “Bill will be being Bill.”, which helped to clear things up for me. So, I imagined it would be some kind of talk on a stage, you know, with a microphone and lights, maybe one or two of his paintings as a backdrop. What a fool I am! Other artists added to the bill included Charlotte Church, Irvine Welsh, Aidan Moffat and my favourite poet, Hollie McNish.

My Twitter friend Budgie then told me he had got a ticket to the show. I sent Bill a copy of my book, Deleted Scenes (  ) and I emailed him to let him know that Budgie and I were going to the show. Bill got back to me with a lovely, and thoughtful email, and let me know that he would read my book on his journey to Edinburgh. This kind of freaked me out slightly, as I mention Bill and his old band The KLF, numerous times in my book. Anyway, there was nothing I could do about it now. If he didn’t like it he could bin it.

The week leading up to Bill’s Edinburgh show was an interesting one for me. Firstly, I heard that my book had been ordered by Leeds Beckett University Library. I found this incredible, as I’d left school with four GCSE passes at grade C level, and now my book was going to be in a library in a university. That meant that clever people could read it, or at least look at it’s spine whilst they hunted down a proper book. I emailed Bill rather excitedly to tell him the news that my book was now almost a proper book. He congratulated me, and let me know that he had, in fact, left school with the same grades as me. He’s done alright for himself, I thought. He’s even written proper books, and everything. That night the good lord, or ice and gravity, decided to bring me back down to earth with a bang. My left knee is now twice the size of my right knee. I’m already on a waiting list for spinal surgery, and eating 32 pills a day. So, you know, just stick it on the tab. My aunt, Michelle, got in touch to say that she knows the guy who looks after the keys to Bill’s Curfew Tower in Cushendall, county Antrim. That’s good, I thought, when I meet Bill, and if there happens to be a lull in the conversation, I’ll mention his name – there’s a good 30 seconds of chat right there. Charlotte Church pulled out of the gig. Bill Drummond was now the headline act! Neu! Reekie! said the other artists had all agreed to do something special. This was going to be good. I got excited, and I don’t normally encourage that kind of behaviour in myself.

Friday. Gig day. I woke up around noon. Sometimes I’m awake for days, and sometimes I sleep. This goes back to an all night blood vomiting session this Summer that is detailed in my book. Anyway, I woke up. Somewhere in the world, Bill Drummond was on a train reading my book. I got ready, and decided not to wear any KLF/JAMs clothing. I didn’t want to turn up like a fan. My Mum had phoned me and said something like, “Wow, your hero is reading your book!”. I told her that Bill is not my hero, he’s an artist who’s work I admire. Anyway, I didn’t want to turn up looking like I’d just been dressed by Dead Perch. I decided on walking boots, so I wouldn’t slip on any ice. Blue jeans, a black t-shirt and a long black coat that my flatmate described as a “Flasher’s jacket”. I did not flash anybody as I made my way across town to Tollcross. I found an old man’s pub called The Kings Head, or The Kings Arms, or The Kings Arse, or whatever. £3 a pint, sorted. I phoned Budgie, or he phoned me. He was filling his head with a burrito, and would be with me shortly.

When Budgie arrived we got on really well, and had plenty in common. We were both excited for the show, but neither of us really knew what to expect, although we thought it may involve shining shoes. Budgie had even chosen a pair that would buff up well, just for the occasion. By the time it got to around 6:40pm we decided to make our way over to the gig. We climbed the grand steps at the entrance, each one of them sheer agony for my left knee. Once we reached the summit a young lady checked my ticket and asked me if she could draw on my wrist. I hate people touching my pulse. She touched my pulse. In fact, she touched it twice, in order to draw a, slightly odd, cross on it. I asked her if it was religious, and she told me that it was just in case I had to go outside and come back in again. Why would I want to do that? I thought. Must be for smokers. I had no idea that it would be needed if you wanted to see the sodding headline act, which did, in fact, turn out to be religious.

Budgie and I had some mulled Buckfast, followed by lots of overpriced beer, as we watched the show unfold. Great venue, we both thought. This was going to be awesome. The night started off with lots of folk lying around on the floor like some kind of hippy gathering, watching various poets come on stage and perform a single poem. These included Leyla Josephine, who was brilliant, performing an impassioned take down on travel pillows, and Hollie McNish. I think Hollie is great. Like most people, I discovered her work on Youtube. Her Abbey Road show is great. I met her a couple of weeks ago when she performed at NEHH: Cold Turkey. Her poems are fantastic. They are so thoughtful, passionate, funny and at times very, very, sharp. I wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of her anyway. At the Cold Turkey show she performed a poem about an old weekend job she used to have at Boots Photo (“Working In The Photo Department Of Boots The Chemist”, from her latest book, “Plum”), and how the highlight of her shift would be putting dick pics at the top of a customers order, so that the lady who worked on a Monday (Maureen) would have to check the photo with the customer and ask “Is this yours?”. I’ve worked for Boots for 12 years, mostly as a Photo Consultant. So, when I realised that she was standing beside me later, I wound her up a bit that I was going to contact her old branch and complain about her. She said “Nooooo!”, then giggled. She was really nice. At the Neu! Reekie! show she performed “A Dead Pig, I Mean?”, also from “Plum”, and brought the house down.

My ex-wife used to listen to Arab Strap. So, when Aidan Moffat took to the stage, I thought it might be a great time to go for a piss, but he was actually really funny, and I’d go to see him again. Irvine Welsh came on and performed a piece about the Transpotting crew at a Hibs match. Things were going well, but time was marching on and there was no sign of Bill. Well, we thought we saw the back of his head at one point, but that didn’t justify the entrance fee. I went to the bar, which was now closed. This was worrying. Was Bill Drummond a no-show? As I walked back towards the main hall Hollie McNish asked me, “Are you Stephen?”, to which I replied “Yeah, I’m the dick head from Boots.”. She said “You’re not a dick head.”. So, I gave her a copy of my book and she gave me a big hug. Surprisingly, despite the height difference, this didn’t hurt my back, and she smelt nice – if you’re curious about that kind of thing. I then went and found Budgie, and we both decided that the night was fucked. I asked Hollie if she had seen Bill Drummond, and she was really helpful and took me to meet one of the organisers, but they had no idea where Bill was. Balls. Time to go.

Back out on the street, I sent Bill an email. This wasn’t a well thought out, or pleasant correspondence. It said something along the lines of, “Was not appearing on stage some kind of hilarious jape?” – I’d never use the word jape if I were sober. I blame the mulled Buckfast. It finished with a line about wondering where the fuck he was. Yeah, I’m not proud of it. It’s a bit shit really isn’t it? I apologise. I’m sober now, and I’m going to try and tackle my demons. Budgie and I then made it back to The Kings Swingers just before last orders, and comforted each other about the gig that never was. Budgie then left me chatting to a rather funny girl in the bar. I should never talk to girls in bars, funny or otherwise. She was nice, but I think her friend has probably killed before, and may kill again. I made my excuses and hobbled out the door. I got home and emptied the pockets of my flasher; £26 in pound coins – a classic, “Stephen’s been to the pub.” find, and in my inside pocket, that once held the copy of my book that I’d given to Hollie McNish, was half a bottle of overpriced beer. I couldn’t remember putting it there. I went to bed. I didn’t meet Bill Drummond, again. Fuck it.

I woke up this morning and read on Facebook that Bill had in fact performed on the steps outside the venue. He’s certainly a man who plays by his own rules. So, while Budgie and I were listening to Tom Petty cover songs, or whatever, Bill was outside, giving a sermon and shining shoes. I sent Bill an email apologising for my rather brash one from the night before, and he got back to me to see if I had received an earlier email that he had attached – I hadn’t. The email said that he had in fact seen me as I was entering the main hall and he was leaving. He also told me that he had my book on him for me to sign, and that he had a copy of his book “Man Shines Shoes” to give me. Fuck. I probably put my head in my hands, as I’ve just done that now and it feels familiar.

The strange thing about this is that my Mum had said to me that he’d probably like a signed copy. I told her not to be ridiculous. However, on Monday, I’ll be posting a signed copy of my book to Bill Drummond, along with instructions that he should then give his unsigned copy to somebody he thinks would like the book. Bill being Bill, your guess is as good as mine as to who gets the unsigned copy. Along with Bill wanting a signed copy, and Hollie asking me if I’m Stephen, I was also in touch with Jez from the Utah Saints last night. We reminisced about the time he had booked my friend Alan Hostage and Annie Mac to play at his club night, Sugarbeat, in Edinburgh. He wished me all the best with my book. I’ve also heard from Sir Magnus Linklater this week, who writes for The Times, and was the former editor of The Scotsman. He wrote, “Your book is a really impressive work, and the reception it has had is remarkable. Good luck with the writing career.”. CAREER! Writing career! That’s really my ideal life, and it’s becoming apparent that this could actually be something that I might be able to have a go at.

I’m 37 now, and I’ve been bagging other people’s shopping for a long time now. These last 6 months my health has been an absolute disaster zone, but at the same time my writing career – if that’s what it’s becoming – has blossomed. The mysterious figure behind   phoned me tonight and said that he still finds it funny that one of the best articles written about the return of The JAMs was written by a guy who wasn’t even at the event – me. My article, “Liberation Loophole”is in the top 5 articles on the site. Right up there with Daisy Campbell and Oliver Senton. Maybe I can begin to build a career based on the shows I didn’t go to, and the people I didn’t meet at gigs? It’s certainly a unique angle.

In the short time since my book has been published I’ve been contacted by several people who say that they have been inspired to write their story after reading mine, and I try to help them out with little tips if I can. Some people have even contacted me privately just to tell me their own stories, of difficult childhoods, and some pretty heavy stuff. I guess they feel that they know me, now that they’ve read about me, and they feel like I’m someone they can trust. That’s probably the same way that I’d feel about Bill or Hollie, in that I’ve read what they’ve written, and connected with it. I think the next step for me, once I get my health back on track, is to start dedicating a lot more of my life to writing. It feels like I’ve finally found the thing I should be doing. A little part of the world in which I fit in, and have a voice.

I emailed Bill my address, so that he could send me my copy of “Man Shines Shoes”. He replied with an electronic Penkiln Burn poster called “1,000 Pairs Of Shoes.”. To be honest, I have no idea if that means I’ll receive the book, or not. Maybe he only gives it to people who’s shoes he’s shined? In some ways I’m glad that he didn’t shine my shoes. I’m not sure I like that dynamic. I’m sorry I missed his Sermon On The Steps though. As Budgie wrote to me today, “Our tale of the night was that we were so-oo close, but yet so far.”. Bill was probably only 50 metres away from us for most of the night, but he may as well have been in New York, or Liverpool.

I have lots of books at home. I decided to sort them out this week, as they were all over the place. After pissing about for a bit, I decided to just put them onto my shelves in the order of the size they were printed. I’ve just had a look for my copy of my own book, which I am now going to sign for Bill Drummond. I hadn’t noticed until now that it is flanked to the left by the Penkiln Burn book “Ireland Versus Israel”, and to the right by “Plum” by Hollie McNish. It actually looks OK there. It holds it’s own. I think I might have written a proper book after all.

Keep dreaming,

Stephen Clarke 1980











Deleted Scenes

I’ve written a book. It’s called “Deleted Scenes: My Autobiography, and it’s available on Amazon as a paperback, or for Kindle;

Deleted Scenes: My Autobiography

It’s also available as an eBook, as part of a Super Deluxe Edition, on Bandcamp. This version includes a further two photographic eBooks, “Self Portraits 2015 – 2017” and “Abstract Photography 2015 – 2017”, along with six music tracks and a few other extras;

Deleted Scenes: Super Deluxe Edition

I wrote the first chapter, “Fried Chicken”, on the 17th of November 2016, just over a year ago. Prior to that I had really only ever written lyrics, poems and the occasional blog post. However, once I’d written this piece I thought, “Well, it looks like I can actually write.”. So, I decided to work towards writing a collection of similar stories. I’ve read several successful authors and songwriters who have given the same advice – write about what you know. At that point in time, my life had just crumbled around me. I was going through a divorce, and I’d just moved back to Edinburgh to live in a room in a shared house with strangers – after living in my own two bedroom flat in Perth. Things weren’t exactly going well, but they hadn’t been going well for a long time. I could easily have written about the stuff I was going through at that time, but I decided to do my best to work with a ten year rule – I’d try to only write about things that had happened in my life a decade or more ago. This wasn’t completely adhered to, as I did make plenty of references to my current life, but I did avoid writing about the circumstances that had lead me to be where I was.

So, I wrote. Sometimes I would manage to write only a single chapter in a month, as I had a full time, physical, job to do, and failing health to contend with. But, by the 6th of October, 2017, I was writing the final chapter, “On Deleted Scenes”. That was it, finished. I had written a book. My original idea was to release it as a pdf file as a bonus item with a music release on Bandcamp, which is exactly what I did on the 23rd of October, 2017. What I hadn’t counted on was the extremely warm reception that it got. On the day I released it I had three people contact me to say that they had read the book in one sitting, and loved it. I was really surprised by this, as there are only a few books that I have done this with in my whole life – and they are all books that I love. Within a few days I was contacted by a reader who lives in Norway, on the border with Russia, who told me that my writings on growing up through The Troubles in Belfast, Northern Ireland, had triggered memories of his own childhood, and the large NATO manoeuvrers that he witnessed at that time. After that, a partially sighted reader got in touch to tell me that he had had my book read to him by Siri, his iPad’s personal assistant. So, he now reads my Tweets in Siri’s voice.

Along with a small army of fans on Twitter, I’m really thankful for the help and assistance of two people in particular. Tommie Sunshine, the New York DJ and political activist, who took a little time out of his day during Amsterdam Dance Event to Tweet the following to his 148,800 followers, “Know your history. Stephen Clarke 1980 wrote a book that discusses The KLF amongst many other things. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.”. Along with Hoxton FM DJ, producer, and label boss Scaramanga Silk, who has been very supportive of my work since the return of The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu in August. It was he who asked me to write an article on the return of The KLF for his website , which is featured in my book. This piece drew a lot of KLF fans towards my Twitter feed, in particular, and over the last few months we’ve had a lot of fun in the run up to Burn The Shard, and with the various side projects that these people are putting together. I’d like to thank fellow author Andy Gell for his help in pointing me towards getting my book printed as a paperback on Amazon. Andy’s own book, “Whatever”, is out now;

Since the publication of the paperback, on the 17th of November, 2017, it has sold steadily – around three copies per day at present. This has been enough to earn it a ranking of 521 in Amazon’s “Biography, Film, Television and Music” category but, unfortunately, it isn’t quite enough to earn me my dream lifestyle of living in a little cottage in the countryside, writing books and driving an old battered up, but reliable, Land Rover. There is time yet though. This book’s quality is really being spread by word of mouth – which is just as well, as I have no budget whatsoever for advertising. So, I’m assuming there will be a slow, and hopefully steady, rise in sales over the coming months.

In the meantime I’ll be getting on with finishing up my next music project, then doing a little work for another top secret collaborative project, before settling down to write my next book. I have told a few trusted friends and acquaintances the general outline of my next book, and they all seem to think that there will be a large market for it. In truth, I wasn’t thinking of markets when the idea occurred to me, it just seemed like a book that would be worth writing. So, I’m looking forward to working on it. I also have spinal surgery to contend with, likely in early 2018. So, that will be a new experience for me. Although, not one that I’m particularly excited about.

To all of you who have already bought the book and read it, or are making your way through it, many thanks. Keep your comments coming, as I’m enjoying the feedback, and if you have the time to review it on Amazon, or even talk about it, or share it with your friends online, I’d be grateful. You’re the only advertising I’ve got at present. So, make as much noise as you’d like!

I have made a short video of me flicking through my copy of the paperback, whilst Scaramanga Silk and Steve Lemacq talk about me in the background;

Thanks again, and keep dreaming,

Stephen Clarke 1980










Designer Scribble

Scaramanga Silk is an enigma. He’s simultaneously a man who wishes to remain unknown, whilst holding the world record for the slowest Techno track (beating Daft Punk to the prize) and wanting to invent a word that will go into the Oxford English Dictionary. If you decide to take the trip (and it is a trip) into the universe this producer is creating the asking price can be high. An early 12″ vinyl single with his name on it sold for a cool £500 on eBay. He might not be quite as shifty and impossible to track down as an act like Boards Of Canada, but give him enough time and room to roam and he will be. You are entering Aphex Twin territory and walking the streets that Burial once roamed. For now though, Scaramanga Silk is making you an offer, and this offer has a name;
“Designer Scribble”.

The cover, designed by Konx-Om-Pax (Planet Mu), looks like something Francis Bacon would have created, had he been born sometime during the final decades of the last millennium.  It’s quite a good visual representation of the brilliant, twisted and futuristic sonic landscapes that this album will begin to paint inside your head whenever you decide to listen to it, and you should listen to it – lots.  In the course of preparing for this review I’ve probably listened to Designer Scribble about seven or eight times, and each time I’ve heard it I have formed a different opinion of it. It’s such an unusual shape shifter of a thing that it seems to float around the room like smoke circles, or squares, or triangles. Wait, is that even smoke? It looks solid. Now the room has gone. What the Hell is happening? Where am I?

In the one and only interview that I could track down, the producer states “The way you put albums together needs to be different these days. So, you’ve got to come in and hit people straight away with something.”. The something that Scaramanga Silk chooses to hit us with first is called “Barakatuk”. The name is Turkish in origin, and translates, roughly, as “She Bangs To The Beat Of My Drum”. Frankly, from a DJ’s perspective, if you drop this cut in a club the whole place will be banging to the beat. It comes crashing in like some kind of tribal marching band, before the subs start to rattle the foundations of the building it’s being played in. Little touches of Latin percussion begin to be sprinkled in here and there, giving the track a little sexual healing. The beat dances around enough so that it’s never dull, there’s always a little bit of subtle magic at play. Some slight of hand. In my opinion “Barakatuk” is the second best track on the album, and it’s one Hell of an album. So, buckle up.

The album takes a dip into “Macrynimyze”, and when the MASSIVE bass line rumbles in just before the minute mark, you suddenly realise that THIS is the album that has been playing at every decent house party you’ve been to, ever. The FEELS. A little synth line comes in that’s every bit as good as anything that the mighty Sun Electric came up with on their classic “Via Nostra” (and that is HIGH praise. I’m a massive Sun Electric fan). By the time the track is riding towards it’s conclusion, it becomes hard to tell if the man Scaramanga has passed out and been replaced by Richard D. James or not – this is FIRE.

“Alonely” stumbles into the room after this, about ten minutes late and stinking of weed. “Alonely” has a mad story to tell us that we’re not going to believe. You see, Massive Attack have just moved into one of those glass and stainless steel apartments overlooking The River Thames, and they don’t do anything in it, apart from listen to “Alonely” and gaze out the window. “Alonely” was only able to escape and tell us his mad story because Massive Attack all went for a piss at the same time, or Tricky showed up in the kitchen, or something. “Alonely” doesn’t know the facts, he can’t remember. “Alonely” wants to know if we have any snacks?

Within a few minutes “Alonely” is passed out on your couch, and he’s having a nice dream. His dream is called “Return To The One”, and it features an early club mix of a KLF song from the future. He can almost hear the
“Eter-naaal” sample drifting in and out of this late night soundscape. He’s right there, in the back of Ford Timelord, being driven over Tower Bridge by Rockman Rock and Kingboy D. The year is 2023, and everything is cool. Very cool. “Alonely” likes the future. Everything is going to be alright.

“Life In The Faslow Lane” is an ode to living in London in the here and now. However, sonically, this is the sound of the Scottish underground, from Glasgow artists like Rustie, through to nights like Wonky Wallpaper in Edinburgh. This track is the track that is warping minds and turning dance floors into neon jigsaw puzzles in the land where Mars bars are deep fried. By the end of “Life In The Faslow Lane” you will also be deep fried.

Suitably spun out, “Blind Truth” comes in to have a little chat with you. You have never met “Blind Truth” before, but since “Blind Truth” has brought you over a cold one, you decide to open your ears. You then hear “We are all the same. We are all in complete darkness.”. You nod in agreement. The cold one is nice after all. You have made a new friend at a good time, because the BEST song on the album is about to drop!

“Speak Without Tongues [With Low Poet]” is a TOTAL MONSTER of a track. It would be a standout tune on a Boiler Room set by Dave Clarke or Ben Klock if it was given the chance. This is the sound of the worlds finest DJ’s playing on the biggest sound systems on the planet. The bass line, the distortion, oh my! There’s some classic late 1980’s stuff going on here as well. I’d say it’s the record that would be made if Laurent Garnier, Caberet Voltaire and 808 State spent a Saturday in a studio together. If you are a DJ then I really can’t recommend this track highly enough. Wherever you’re playing, this is going to deliver the goods. It’s an absolute stormer. Just remember who told you though, as you now owe me a drink someday.

The “Designer Scribble” album concludes with “The Voyage Beyond Andromeda Suite”. This was inspired by Goldie and The Prodigy. (Part 1) “Soaring Above” is dark. Really dark. It’s the song that plays in your head when you’re walking alone at night, convinced that you’re being followed. This track will offer you no comfort, and no place to hide. So, don’t bother looking for either. (Part 2) “They Have Taken Control” is the kind of thing you would hear at an illegal Rave in a disused quarry at 4am – not that I would know anything about that kind of thing, officer. (Part 3) “Day Of A New Dawn [With B-Fink]” closes the album in a way that even Orbital would be proud of. It loops, twists, flickers and dances through the smoke and strobe lights in the all-life Rave that anyone who has ever truly loved Dance music holds a never ending Access All Areas pass for. It concludes like some strange death and rebirth experience. All it’s missing is a church bell tolling in the distance at the end, but you can solve that by playing this loudly near a church sometime between now and The End.

In conclusion, this is an album worth owning. It seems to grow in stature somehow with each new play. Stick this on at an after party and all will be well. Scaramanga Silk is a producer that plays hard. He tries to break the machines down and get them to speak a new language. He makes genres collide to create “Heritage Hybrids”, and on “Designer Scribble” that wild experimentation has REALLY worked. Providing he can keep this up he has a VERY bright future ahead of him. Get on it. Buy the ticket, take the ride!

“Designer Scribble” is available here;
Micro Spiral Store:

If you’d like to try before you buy, you can have a listen here;

Album review by Stephen Clarke 1980









Renewable Energy

I’m currently anemic and awaiting surgery on two parts of my spine. So, it would be fair to say that I’m not in great shape physically. However, creatively, I feel that over the last four months I’ve somehow managed to pick up from where I left off back in 2010. That was when I decided to pack up my life in the city and move to a remote part of Scotland, to live in a little cottage on a large country estate. Although I was being creative during that time and I was still getting the occasional track played on Radio 1, my main interests were hill walking, photographing red squirrel, deer and osprey, and avoiding humans. A year after that I moved to Perth, got married, and settled down to a life of next to no creativity whatsoever. It sucked. My divorce papers arrived last week though. Now, I’m back on my old stomping ground – Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland. It was from here that I had once generated enough heat to have my old club night, Edinburgh Dream Factory, written about in music blogs from America to New Zealand. I’m not sure what it is about the place, but that buzz is back, and it all kicked off with a track called “Renewable Energy”.

Over the Summer months I attended a few major club nights, and cool happenings, both here, and back in my home town of Belfast, Northern Ireland. After a few years of writing poetry and lyrics I was, all of a sudden, overwhelmed with the desire to make an Acid Techno record. Techno has always been my thing. I love all forms of music, but if I owned the only record store in the world and the place caught fire, it would be the Techno records that I would be flinging out of the window to the fire brigade. OK, maybe I’d save “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” by Fairport Convention just as the flames began to torch my ball bag, but that’s it – after that I’d be leaping out through the window, thus saving my own great balls of fire, rather than that record by Jerry Lee Lewis. One day in late July I got to work on my first Techno track in years. In my mind, I wanted to have the same power as “Energy Flash” by Joey Beltram. Of course, actually pulling that off would be impossible, but you’ve got to set your sights high. Bono’s been impersonating Roy Orbison for years, God bless his sweaty leather pants – he’s just trying his best.

I began by laying down the beat. What mattered to me was that it sounded mental, and hard. I wanted to lay down the whole track very quickly in order for it to sound urgent and not overworked. I think the basic parts of the track were all written in ten minutes. Originally the kick drum wasn’t playing the fours, as I’d purposely created something that sounded crazy. I then toned it all down, ever so slightly, in order for it to rock a dance floor. I created a simple acid line, then mixed the whole thing down using tiny speakers – I knew that if I could make the track sound as hard as nails through those, that it would shake the foundations of a club. “Renewable Energy (Live In Leith)” was the first version that I recorded. I played the whole thing live, on the spot, without even remembering exactly what each of the parts sounded like before I added them into the mix. I think it sounds really exciting, and the way great live Techno should sound. After that I panned the various channels – Percussion and Hi-Hat etc, left and right, then I recorded “Renewable Energy”, followed by the “Geothermal Mix”. These were more considered, and aimed towards potential airplay. Beyond that I just had a lot of fun making the rest of the mixes in various styles, but employing the same sounds. I always find the best way to do this is to pretend that you are another producer for the length of time it takes to put the remix together, trying ideas that you normally wouldn’t go for yourself. By the time I’d finished, I had ten different versions of “Renewable Energy”, and they were sounding good.

I decided to go ahead and release it on my own label, Unna2ural Wax. I didn’t have any budget at all for fancy artwork, videos or promotion, but these days that kind of stuff doesn’t need money thrown at it, as long as you have a vision and a bit of know-how. The track was called “Renewable Energy”, so I spent an evening  surfing the web in search of images and videos that had a creative commons licence, and didn’t require being credited to anyone. This worked really well, as there was quite a lot of work out there that fitted the bill, provided I was prepared to spend a few hours clicking through a load of shit stuff in search of it. In the end I was able to piece together two digital booklets – one for the official release, and one for a limited edition that I was going to send out to DJ’s as an advance promotional copy. I also found a load of drone footage that was free to use, and some crazy nightclub graphics as well. From that I was able to create two different videos – one for the Geothermal Mix, and another for the Driving Rain Mix.

Initially I was going to release the record on the 23rd of August, as that was the date that my favourite band of all time, The KLF, were set to return, after a 23 year hiatus. However, impatience and common sense got the better of me – who the Hell would be interested in a new record from me on the same day that Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty arrived in Liverpool in their Ice Kream Van? Not even me. So, I immediately sent out around 23 copies of the Limited Edition, and waited for the feedback. The thing that I found really interesting about that was, I started to get good comments trickling in from New York based DJ’s who seemed to be hooked on the Tidal Mix. Little pockets of people from here and there began to give feedback, all positive, and referring to things like the timbre of the song. So, I had to look up the word “Timbre” before I could grasp what the Hell they were on about. Something that I found odd though was the complete silence from my close friends. Although a lot of them said that they’d give it a listen, they never got back to me about it. Did they think it was shit? Did it intimidate them? Regardless of that, the feedback that I’d received was good enough for me to go ahead and release the full remix album to the world on August 5th. It’s good that I did it then, because just a few days later my health had deteriorated to the point where I had been admitted to hospital. I had no phone signal in the ward I was in, but I had put out a Tweet on my way there, to promote the release, and that seemed to do the trick. By the time I was discharged, “Renewable Energy” had been bought and paid for by music lovers in America, The U.K., Germany, Italy, Belgium and Holland. There wasn’t an enormous amount of individual sales, but what was interesting was that a lot of the people that had bought the album had opted to pay more for it than the asking price of £4.23. Many paid £5.00, some paid £10.00, and a handful of people had even paid £20.00 for the release! I’m still really not sure why, although I’m certainly grateful. Some of them may have just loved the record and wanted to support me as an artist, others I suspect wanted to use the opportunity to donate some money to me, as a way of saying they appreciate what I do – my blogging, photography, poems and lyrics had maybe struck a chord with them at some point over the last year or so, and this was the first opportunity they’d had to give something back.

By the time that The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu had returned, my sales got another boost thanks to Scaramanga Silk, who not only asked me to write an article, Liberation Loophole ,for his website about the return of The KLF, which was hugely successful, but he played “Renewable Energy” on his BadMan Material radio show on Hoxton FM as well, saying that it sounded heavy duty through the studio speakers. This spurred me on to do my first mass mail out to radio DJ’s since the turn of the millennium.

The underground success of “Renewable Energy” has given me enough confidence to start pursuing my dreams a bit more. They are relatively modest dreams, as far as Rock n Roll ones go. I’d simply like to be making enough money from my creative endeavours to at least go part time with my day job. I’m happy that finally I’m beginning to build a small, but interested audience, and I’m quietly confident that, with decades of creativity under my belt, I’ll be able to deliver the goods on a regular basis.

“Renewable Energy” by Stephen Clarke 1980 is out now.




Liberation Loophole


Words by Stephen Clarke 1980

Music by The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu

Earlier this afternoon I was contacted by Welcome To The Dark Ages. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing about the recent return of The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, from the perspective of someone who wasn’t in Liverpool between Wednesday the 23rd and Saturday the 26th of August, 2017, and wasn’t one of the 400 “volunteers” who paid a hundred quid each to be there. I was perfect for the job, with my skill set matching their requirements to the letter. Being in such a strong position, I quickly managed to negotiate a fee of £0,000,000 for my services, and within minutes the job was mine.

I was 7 years old when Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty first topped the charts, as The Timelords. I lived in Belfast at the time, and I can remember the sounds of army helicopters, gun battles and bomb explosions a lot more clearly than any of the Pop records of that time. Once their “Stadium House Trilogy” songs were on the radio though, I was a bit older, and getting into all of the hip new sounds that my Dad hated. The first KLF song I played, repeatedly, was the All Bound For Mu Mu Land version of Justified & Ancient. This mix doesn’t feature “The First Lady Of Country”, Tammy Wynette. It had Maxine Harvey on vocal duties, and a running time of almost 8 minutes. As far as I can recall, it was the second track on a Rave compilation CD I’d bought with some money I’d been given for my birthday, and I can’t remember any of the other songs on the disk. I just kept playing the same song, over and over. I’d never heard anything like it before (or since). It had, amongst a maelstrom of other noises, a sound like a school bell or a fire alarm running through it, and a rap about an ice cream van. When it finally drifted away all I was left with were questions. I mean, where are the Rivers Of Life? Do you need a licence to fish there? Where on earth is Mu Mu Land? I’d heard that the last train had left an hour ago, but I was hoping there would be a replacement bus service, or a connecting flight that I could catch to take me there.

Sometime after that girls, and underage drinking, began to creep into my life, and that early, magical, rush provided by brilliant Pop music began to drift away, never again to be captured in quite the same way. It happens to us all, I guess. Just like you’ll never forget your first kiss, you’ll never forget the first time a great song takes your brain to another dimension. For Bill Drummond, that song is Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles, and for me, it’s Justified & Ancient (All Bound For Mu Mu Land) by The KLF. To be honest, the rest of their activities completely passed me by. That is until I bought a copy of Bill Drummond’s book “45”, a few years after it was originally published. To this day, it remains my favourite publication of all time, and, in fact, I can tell you exactly where I was when I was first reading it.

On the second day of November 2002 I was being driven on a coach from Belfast to Prague, via the Irish and North sea’s. I was reading the chapter Towers, Tunnels And Elderflower Wine as the coach headed towards Bill Drummond’s old stomping ground, Newton Stewart. Suddenly there was a diversion, both in the book and off the route the coach I was on was supposed to be taking, and then, all of a sudden, both I, in the present, and Bill, when he wrote the chapter (9th of September, 1998), are in the village of Minnigaff. Then my mobile phone began to ring. I didn’t recognise the number, but I answered the call and heard; “Hello, this is Bill Drummond. Is that Stephen?”. What followed was the most surreal, let’s say, 23 minutes, of my life. I’d posted Bill a letter about a week, or so, previously, saying that I was enjoying his book, and that The KLF should think about putting out a Greatest Hits CD (This was the peak time for CD selling, profit wise. Just before Napster, and, well, you know all the rest). Bill said he had just arrived home from Belfast. He’d been repairing his Curfew Tower, and had found himself at a loose end, but he didn’t have my contact details with him. So, he thought he’d phone me now that he was home and catching up on business. I asked about The KLF and he said “I feel that I have totally left the music business. That stuff doesn’t interest me any more. But, I’m still friends with Jimmy. We met up last year actually. We we’re thinking of maybe doing something with our film footage. We have loads of film, and we actually started working on it.”. All the while we were talking I could hear his kids playing in the background. It was a lovely, easy, conversation. The kind of chat that you’d hope you could have with an artist who’s work you admire, but how you often dread that they’d actually be an arsehole if you ever spoke to them in real life (In fact, in “45”, Bill does have that exact kind of, soul destroying, conversation with his own hero, Peter Green). At the end of the chat we both wished each other a happy Christmas and said goodbye. As the coach I was sitting in continued to trundle on through the Scottish countryside, I gazed out of the window and smiled, for a long time. In the years that followed I exchanged the odd email with Bill, and in 2008 he asked me if I’d like to write a Score for his project, The 17. This is what I wrote;


Sit in a place where journeys begin. Look around you for sixteen people you connect with. Think about these connections and absorb them deeply. Close your eyes. Clear your mind of all thoughts. There will be noise. Your body will turn the volume up. The sixteen people you connect with share this feeling. They will each contact you through sound. Focus your mind on making the greatest music you have ever heard. You will believe that this is possible for you. You will feel this possibility on every level. You will feel it as if it has already happened. The greatest music of all time is inside you. Wake up. The sixteen people you have connected with will have moved on. It will be time for you to begin your journey.

In the years that followed I had a life. I ran some successful club nights in Edinburgh and had a few of my songs played on Radio 1. Then I moved to a tiny cottage on a large country estate in rural Perthshire, during the worst winter in living memory, and one of my neighbours was Dougie Maclean, who wrote the famous Scottish song “Caledonia”. I’ve had some of the honey from the bees he keeps on my toast. You can do things like eat your neighbours honey when you live out in the countryside. I got married. I got divorced. The seasons changed, and the years rolled by. All the while I’d occasionally check out what Bill Drummond and James Cauty were up to. I read Bill’s books, and I visited Jimmy’s Aftermath Dislocation Principle when it came to Edinburgh, where I’m now living, last year. However, all the while there was silence on anything relating to their previous work as The KLF, K Foundation, Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu etc. This was, roughly, due to them signing a contract relating to a 23 year moratorium on their activities, in gold ink, on the windscreen of a Nissan Bluebird that they had hired in Aviemore, then driven to Cape Wrath, Scotland. After that, they painted the contract all over the car, before pushing the vehicle over a clifftop and walking away into oblivion, or London, as it’s more commonly known. All the while, their loyal fans would tweet each other occasionally, share the odd home made remix, talk about A Riot In A Jam Jar, or The Soup Line, and basically wait around, listening to rare albums on YouTube, whilst they read the odd unofficial book, or watched a fan made video, about their old heroes. It was a long and quiet wait for all of us old, ageing, KLF fans. I wonder how many of the good men and women of Mu we lost along the way?

Then, suddenly, on January 5th, 2017, a single poster appeared on a wall in Hackney, London. At long, long last, this was the sign that K watchers the world over had been waiting for. Under the logo for the duo’s company K2 PLANT HIRE Ltd (The name under which Drummond and Cauty had once planned to “Fix” Stonehenge, and “Get it working again”, as a millennial gift to the nation) the poster read; “2017: What the Fuck Is Going On?” (A very pertinent question, for a lot of people, after the remarkable global events of 2016). It then rambled on for a few paragraphs before delivering a killer couple of lines that would set the internet ablaze for weeks to come; “The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu are currently at work in their light industrial unit. This work will not be made public until the 23rd of August 2017.”. Over the coming weeks, and months, rumours began circulating that this “Work” was going to be a sculpture, and that there would definitely be no new music made by the duo. Then, another poster appeared. It’s job was to let the world know that “K2 Plant Hire Ltd present 2023 – a trilogy by The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu”. So, it wasn’t going to be a sculpture then? It was going to be a book. A book published by Faber & Faber, no less. So, probably a descent book, but still, a book. I mean, we’ve only been waiting 23 sodding years guys! Soon after, yet another poster appeared, declaring that The JAMs would be “unearthing aspects of the 2023 trilogy across Liverpool from 00:23 on the 23rd to 23:23 on the 27th Aug 2017.”. At least this poster had the Pyramid Blaster logo on it, even if it was probably advertising a three day book reading. Maybe Bill would be doing one of his talks, whilst Jimmy made a 1:87 scale sculpture of the Pyramid Blaster live on stage, and then they’d set fire to both the book and the model while all around them yawned, or something like that. I mean, they’re getting on a bit now. Maybe that’s all they could manage. It was 2017, and all was dull again. That was until a DVD+R, with the words “2023 The Triptych Trailer 1”, scrawled on it with a black Sharpie, was found stuck to a wall in London, with black duct tape. Within 24 hours this, insane, trailer was on YouTube. It featured, amongst other things, a beeping alarm clock noise, floating, sliced grapefruit, a revolving tall pyramid that looked like The Shard, London – except it was hovering over a wheat field, with two dark figures wearing long hats and carrying walking sticks, gazing at this revolving object. Then, suddenly, The Shard In The Sky (That’s where I’m gonna go when I die. When I die and they lay me to rest, gonna go to the place that’s the best…) was ablaze. Then, ladies and gentlemen, we were floating in space. A sleeping satellite told us all to FUUK-UP. Starbucks Yoko was there too, before Vladimir Putin appeared, sitting on a throne with a fox by his side, in front of an image from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (The intense gaze of chief Droog, Malcolm McDowell, fixing us all with a menacing intent), as the words “Art War” flashed. Then we watched a fox on the prowl, walking through the city streets as The Shard burned in the background (This was before the Grenfell Tower fire in London, and watching this video now as  I make these notes, is actually a bit shocking). We could see graffiti on a wall, and it read “Kick out The JAMs”. This was all followed by some floating green leaves with the Facebook logo on them, before the video ended. By now, The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu had been asking us all the same question for 30 years. At the end of “2023 The Triptych Trailer 1”, all we could do was ask them that very same question; 2017: WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?

As the Summer of 2017 began, we were all treated to the site of The JAMs, who had now become slightly freaky looking scarecrows, as they stood in various locations. The media began to softly tickle the nation again, and more details began to emerge of what would be happening in Liverpool in August. The JAMs were going to be launching their new book in the News From Nowhere bookshop, on Bold Street. A few years ago I, and my ex-wife, had both tried our very best to get hold of Bill Drummond’s book “100” from this shop, and from any other place we could think of, but, alas, we failed. If any kind hearted readers have a copy of this book, I would dearly love to read it. Maybe it belongs to your partner, and you don’t like your partner any more? Perhaps you’re an over worked and underpaid teacher, with a disruptive class. Maybe they could copy the book out for me during detention? Perhaps you are Bill Drummond, and you could email it to me as a PDF? My name is Stephen Clarke 1980, and you can find me on the outerweb. Anyway, tickets for their upcoming return went on sale, for £100 a pop, on the 23rd of July, and they sold like hot sheep. All were sold in 23 seconds. The rest of the world, myself included, were assured this particular revolution would not be televised. There were no invited media, there was no guest list and there would be no red carpet.

I’ve just realised that there’s already a healthy word count on this piece, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of Welcome To The Dark Ages yet. That, in fact, is what this blog post is supposed to be about, after all. My sense of humour, being what it is, means that I would quite like to end this script right here, and tell you that that’s what it was like not being there. However, that’s simply not true. While I’ve been typing up the words you’ve been reading so far, I’ve also been scrawling down 4 pages of handwritten notes on what it was like, as a long time KLF fan, watching Welcome To The Dark Ages unfold from a distance. The temptation, of course, is to try and describe the events as they unfolded on the ground. However, I, along with the bulk of the population, simply wasn’t there, and that’s just not the way the information from this, rather mammoth, event tended to reach us. There are plenty of “The 400” who have written about Welcome To The Dark Ages, as they happened (Day One; We did this, then that. Day Two; No sleep…. etc), and for that, I, and many others will be eternally grateful. From this point onwards, I’m going to try to tell the truth about the event, as I saw it, as it came to me. The emotions that I felt, and the ideas that went through my mind as I watched Welcome To The Dark Ages; The return, after 23 long years in the wilderness, of the band that I love more than any other band in the eternal history of time.

I’m going to begin by saying that Welcome To The Dark Ages was, without a shadow of a doubt, a live performance by the artists forever known as The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu. I know they don’t like being called The KLF, and they’ve always thought of themselves as The JAMs, even when they were The KLF. However, they simply don’t get a choice when it comes to this one. Every press piece, TV slot, radio broadcast and Tweet worldwide, called this The Return Of The KLF. So, that’s what it was guys. Sorry, it’s already out there, in the big, bad, world now, and there’s nothing that any of us, Bill and Jimmy included, can do about it. The good news for fans is that, despite The JAMs request for no broadcast quality equipment, the outerweb has been absolutely filled to the brim with hours worth of footage, and photos, from this remarkable, once in a lifetime, three day happening. I, personally, have downloaded over 4GB worth of videos and photographs taken over the course of this event. The bulk of these were found by searching YouTube and Twitter for The KLF or #KLF, then checking out what had been uploaded in the last 24 hours. I really didn’t find too much when searching for The JAMs. In fact, at many times during the three day event I was more likely to find fresh footage and photos by searching for the, at the time imaginary, band Badger Kull, than I was by searching for The JAMs. However, The JAMs, being The JAMs probably don’t want to be sodding found anyway. They like a bit of isolation, in order to get to work – these pyramids don’t build themselves you know. Writing that reminds me of the answerphone message at the beginning of their old, strange, film “Waiting”. It’s basically a video of Bill and Jimmy on the island of Jura, giving KLF fans instructions on what they themselves, along with their fans, would be spending the next couple of decades doing; Pissing about, and gazing into the middle distance. Anyway, the answerphone message says things like, “I’ve been trying to get a hold of The KLF…. I need to get a hold of The KLF….”. Well, that’s what the world’s media were trying to do during Welcome To The Dark Ages, but, in the main, they failed. They managed to get a couple of books stamped, and then they, rather lazily, dug up a few, old, irrelevant, Pop videos from the previous century, giggled and rolled their eyes about the money burning whilst dressed in sharp suits, and then moved on to the weather forecast. The fans, however, got the lot. The KLF live on stage, The JAMs dead in the streets (Who killed them this time?), and the Rites Of Mu(Mufication). Everything they’ve been dreaming about, and waiting years for, and more.

I spent much of Tuesday the 22nd of August, 2017, following everyone on Twitter who were discussing things like what time the love was going to start, what time the last train was going to leave and who could bring home a dime. By 11:55pm I had live feeds running and updates pouring in from every person who was standing within a 23 mile radius of Bold Street. At 11:58 a series of huge, orange, armoured cars entered the area. They had large, black, K’s on the side, and were being driven by a masked gang, wearing high visibility vests. A police helicopter appeared in the night sky, just about visible through the blinding aurora borealis. A cop was hanging out of the side of the chopper, holding a megaphone, and instructing the enormous crowd to go back to their homes, that this was an illegal gathering, and that there was nothing to see here. “Go home and watch the rolling news channels. They will keep you all informed about what is truly important in this world. Please remember to lock your doors and fear your neighbours at all times.” he said, in a calm, strong and stable voice. The swelling crowd, mostly, stood their ground. A single, brave, and almost broken, civilian (A beautiful, young, girl. Her head shaven by the Protectors Of The State) stepped forward into a small clearing. Then, as the strong beam of light from the chopper shone directly into her dazzling, weeping, eyes, and her body trembled she abruptly raised her fist to the stars and screamed “If you don’t like what they’re going to do, You better not stop them ’cause they’re coming through!”. The copper in the chopper scanned her faced with a long range video lens, and then fucked off. A few people started fleeing the scene, fearing for their safety, but they soon came back when they got a sudden, midnight, craving for ice cream. One crazed fan had climbed the rigging of an old Viking long ship that had just pulled up. Ford Timelord arrived, with a fresh paint job, and raced down Bold Street, doing his best To Serve And Protect the Children Of Mu, and clearing the way for the return of his old pals. High above Liverpool the International Space Station was passing slowly through the night sky. It was hard to make out the audio on some of the periscope feeds, but the ISS did clearly declare “Poised for main engine start.”. The feed from bold street was crystal clear though, and Ford Timelord replied, “Roger that, copy”. At that moment the bells of a nearby church began to ring, indicating that it was now the 23rd of August, 2017. The ISS said “Okay Liverpool, we’ll give you a countdown,
Twenty three, twenty two, twenty one…”. At this point the crowd were seriously losing their shit. Some people were fainting, others were holding sheep aloft and pointing them at the church. The ISS continued “Four, three, two, one…”. Just then, the figure who had climbed the rigging of the long ship appeared, just briefly, to be the King Of Pop! The crowd roared as he yelled, “TURN UP THE STROBE!”. At that exact moment every periscope stream went down for one 23rd of a second. When the broadcast returned, the Viking long ship was gone, the aurora had cleared, taking Michael with it, and the ISS was flashing the largest strobe light in the galaxy. Everything happened so fast that it was hard to keep up, but suddenly, there they were, our long, long, lost heroes!  I fainted briefly, then regained Konsciousness, as Rockman Rock and King Boy D raced into Bold Street in their famous Ice Kream Van to perform live, as The KLF, for the first time in 23 years! The old van was as knackered as our heroes looked, and they were all leaking burnt £50 notes. An effigy of Tammy Wynette was resting peacefully inside a beautiful Koffin that The JAMs had made especially for her. Grown men and women were weeping openly and holding hands, as children, with rhino horns attached to their heads, laughed, giggled, and danced around, chanting “Mu Mu!”, and “Bring home a dime, Make mine a “99”!”. King Boy D impulsively started playing The KLF’s sampler, live, for the first time since the Helter Skelter Rave in Chipping Norton in 1989. He was older now, for sure, but he still had that twinkle in his eye, and with his maniacal grin and missing tooth he seemed happy to be mesmerising the crowd again, plus he was totally fucking smashing the What Time Is Love riff. Whatever it was he used to have, well, he still had it. By the time he was mashing it up with Justified & Ancient the Mersey was filled to the brim with dancing perch. Rockman had been playing it pretty cool up to this point, tapping out the beats flawlessly on the steering wheel of the Ice Kream Van. Then he promptly stopped the van and handed his aviator shades through the window to Gimpo. Suddenly the whole world fell silent to listen to Rockman speak. “Any chance you could get the press out of the way mate?”, said Jimmy, softly. “No worries, pal.” said Gimpo, who then turned and walked to the front of the Ice Kream Van with his arms outstretched like the messiah, and the press quickly retreated back into the gutters. King Boy D rolled down his window, and held the hand of a trembling fan, I think it was Scarlett Johansson. Then Bill, in his thickest, deepest, Scottish accent, with a hint of reverb, said “And from somewhere, I hear…”. Scarlett held Bill close, and mumbled something incomprehensible, but clearly loving and affectionate into his ear. Bill turned his face away and, with a single tear rolling down his right cheek, he pressed play on the old sampler that he’d once pissed off ABBA with. The night air instantly filled with the sound of “‘O sole mio (Famous Again With The Headlines Coming Up Remix)”. It was at that moment that the most iconic photograph of this millennium was taken. The one with the Ice Kream Van in the middle of Bold Street, with The KLF and Tammy all aboard, all aboard, a-woah-ho, all smiling away, with “The Boys Are Back In Town” written on top of the van in Ukrainian. It’s the photograph that was on the front page of every major global news paper for 23 weeks after the event. By now The JAMs were pretty tired, and it was time for them to take their meds. So, they went into the book shop to drink some tea and stamp anything that was put in front of them, their eyes not being quite what they used to be. They were stamping books, boobs, Scottish Wild Cats, a signed photo of Tony Wilson, Pete Waterman’s arm, all kinds of stuff. Once their meds had kicked in though, Bill took the time to enquire politely to the News From Nowhere staff, to check if they still had a copy of “100” lying around that they could send to Stephen Clarke 1980 immediately, as a special request. “Even on PDF”, Jimmy expanded, “We like him. He’s cool with us.”.

OK, OK. There might be a few half truths in the above paragraph, but to me, watching The Return Of The KLF from afar FELT like that. You and I both know the story of this band, and the myths that surround them. However, a lot of people don’t. Maybe they missed them first time around, or they were too old, or not born yet by the time The JAMs were playing games with the universe. The story of their strange return was all over the television news by breakfast time. I mean, can you imagine what it must have been like to be a teenager who watched that before they headed off to school, or a stock broker off to work in the city? An example story, from the BBC; “You might remember that back in the early 1990’s, the British Electronic duo KLF churned out hit after hit, with songs like 3AM Eternal and Justified and Ancient. But then, in 1994 they burned a million pounds in cash and disappeared, and just before that they said they would come back in 23 years time. At the stroke of midnight last night that was when the 23 years were up; KLF reappeared – They did it!”. I’m pretty sure the reaction to stories like that, in houses up and down the country, indeed, throughout the world, would have been just as The JAMs would have wanted it; Thousands of people, of every race, creed and colour, staring at their TV screens and saying “What the fuck?” in unison. So, while “The 400” were tucking into their non-Full English breakfast the next morning, and waiting around to get allocated jobs and all of that shite, the real magic was happening back out in the unreal world.

As far as me calling the event a live KLF show, well, of course it wasn’t, in the traditional sense. However, if you’re thinking traditionally about The KLF then, frankly, you’re doing it wrong. The KLF were never a live act. Of course they could put on sensational, and memorable, TV performances and create colossal Pop videos, but you were never going to catch them playing your local arena, and I sincerely hope that they never do. And yes, I know they played live with Echo And The Bunnymen in Bootle, and then there’s the Helter Skelter rave in Chipping Norton where they showered the crowd with Scottish pound notes, with “We love you” scrawled on them, and there was the Extreme Noise Terror show at The Brits. However, I’m not sure I’d really like to see them play The Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury (even if it has them written all over it). These are the kinds of things that real bands do, and I don’t think The KLF are a real band. I think they are a great art project, run by The JAMs. Bill is, obviously, the project manager, and Jimmy is the artist that makes the piece, and then they both take their finished product out of their studio, or their light industrial unit, and present it to the world in the weirdest way possible, not for our benefit, but just to make themselves laugh. Just a great pair of old friends that like a giggle, and a walk around the town together with their pockets stuffed full of in jokes (They’ve always valued in jokes more than money). That doesn’t mean I’m having a go at their music, from What Time Is Love (Pure Trance Version), through Chill Out, to Build A Fire, I love them all. It’s just that I see them as great pieces of art, rather than a bunch of songs I’d like to see them perform every night for 3 months on a tour of Europe in the shape of a K, with every gig starting at 23:23 local time. That said, what “The 400” witnessed was undoubtedly a live KLF show, in the non-traditional sense. Bill and Jimmy did arrive in their Ice Kream Van playing a medley of What Time Is Love, Justified & Ancient and ‘O sole mio. I’m sticking to my Tammy Wynette in the Koffin theory, as it’s the first thought I had when I saw the Koffin in the back of the Ice Kream Van, and I’m a man who trusts his gut feelings. I’ve heard other people saying that the Koffin contained an effigy of James Brown. If that’s the case, then he’ll always be “The First Lady Of Country” to me. Then there were the two Koffins carried into the K2 gig, to the epic sounds of Jerusalem On The Moors by The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu. Again, it’s obvious that Bill and Jimmy were inside these two koffins throughout the whole gig. So, they could both be centre stage and lie back and enjoy their own funeral. This was then followed by the internet sensation of Jarvis Cocker Joins The JAMs / MuMufied & Ancient, or whatever the fuuk that was. It was pointed out pretty quickly why The KLF and Jarvis Cocker were so well matched; They had both caused anarchy at The Brit Awards, a mere four years apart. Admittedly, “They called me up in Sheffield town. They said “Jarvis, stand by The JAMs.””, was a pretty cool moment. I felt a bit like Rocky Balboa dancing about on top of those steps in Philadelphia, when he sang that. KLF fans will have noticed that this particular performance contains the beautiful breakdown from Last Train To Trancentral ( “The di-na-ni-na-ni-na-ni-na, Big Country bit”, as Bill Drummond described it to Tom Robinson in 2004). I must admit here, dear reader, that when this section of the track kicked in, and Jarvis began to pray, and because it was Bill and Jimmy’s funeral, and…. Well, anyway, I welled up, and I thought it was worth the 23 year wait just for that moment alone. Then, at The Funeral Pyre, where Bill and Jimmy torched their own Koffins, “The 400” got a live performance of America No More (Just The Pipe Band) by The KLF, whilst Bill and Jimmy walked around a burning funeral pyre, representing The People’s Pyramid, with The KLF’s iconic rhino horns on their heads. Now, seriously, if you can’t see that as the finest live KLF show of all time, then we have issues. Then, of course, we had Badger Kull and, their one and only 3 minute song, “Toxteth Day Of The Dead.”. Again, this live performance kicked off with an introduction made very much to sound like the legendary MC5 sample that The KLF famously used in their 1991 hit, Stadium House, remake of What Time Is Love. As for the Badger Kull song itself, it reminded me of the type of songs that Bill Drummond came up with when he invented a load of fake bands in Finland, then released them on his own label Kalevala Records. In fact, at the end of this whole evening DJ Food ended his set with one of those very records, “In The Ghetto” by The Blizzard King. Personally, I was so into the Badger Kull idea that I recorded two tracks myself, under the Badger Kull name, and uploaded them to the outerweb. They were basically remakes of old KLF songs, with silly updates (Badger noises, President Trump, Ice Kream Van chimes). The first track was called “What Chimes With Love (Live At TranSETTral)”, the second one was “America: What Time Is Liverpool (Just The Piped Badgers)”. The hysteria for all things Badger Kull related, meant that these tracks were played over 700 times in one day, and I’d only alerted the public about them via a single Tweet.

Apart from us being told that The JAMs wouldn’t be performing any music, which, as I’ve explained, isn’t true – they did, we were also informed that there would be no new songs from them either, this too was bollocks. The new JAMs song is called “Fuuk The World (How To Have A Christmas Number One The Easy Way)”, and it was the first Drummond/Cauty musical collaboration since their 2K “Fuck The Millennium” project in 1997. Just like the 2k performance, The JAMs themselves were made up as a pair of grumpy old men for the live show. This time, instead of a brass band and some striking dockers providing the audio content, our heroes put together a group of talented members of The 400, called Band Aid 2023. Now, if you’re going to try and tell me that this song was not a Drummond/Cauty song, then riddle me this one Batman; Without Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty giving Band Aid 2023 the opportunity to make a Christmas Number One in a bombed out church in Liverpool, after providing them with words from a book they’d just published, would this, great, song exist? It’s filled with wonderful lines, like “Selling arms around the world, at Dark Age time.”, “It’s Mu Mu time, but What The Fuuk Is Going On?”, “There’s a world outside your boathouse.”, and “There won’t be perch in Merseyside this Christmas time.”. OK, maybe they didn’t write the tune, but The Timelords didn’t write the tune to their number one either, did they? In all honesty, I think this performance is one of the best things to come out of Welcome To The Dark Ages. Like lots of the events that happened over those three days in Liverpool, it was very unexpected. But, this might have been one of the few things that even The JAMs themselves didn’t see coming, and they loved it. You can see them nudging each other and smiling as they read the lyrics. You can watch them rocking with laughter, and nodding their heads in approval when the beat kicks in. They’ve both always loved, and understood, Pop music, and that was exactly what this was. It’s perfect, absolutely perfect, and entertaining, and funny. To further back up my claim, I’ll quote something that Bill Drummond said about the duo’s first number one record, “Doctorin’ The Tardis” by The Timelords; “We were rolling around on the floor laughing because we knew it was a number one single, which we wanted. Wouldn’t you? But it was more an act of celebration than cynicism.”. Now, go and watch the clip of “Band Aid 2023 – Christmas No1” if it’s still floating around the outerweb in whatever year it is that you’re reading this, and have a look at Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty as they listen to the first playback of their new song. It might have been nearly 30 years since they first rolled around on the floor laughing while listening to one of their creations by then, but their reaction to a great piece of Pop music remained the same. The only difference is that this time we all got to laugh along with them, and it was absolutely glorious. One of my Twitter friends, Paul, who was a member of The 400, agrees; “I was right at the front and every time I glanced across at them they were both pissing themselves laughing.”. I think that’s one of the things about Bill and Jimmy, they are a pair of like minded guys with a great sense of humour. We’re all just lucky that they are also exceptionally talented artists as well, because we can get to join in on the fun too. If you’re ever feeling a bit low, have a listen to The JAMs “The Queen And I” (Unless you’re a member of ABBA), or “Whitney Joins The JAMs”. I mean even Tammy singing about an ice cream van should put a smile on your face. Why sheep? Why perch? I love that when the definitive answer to why they burned £1,000,000 23 years ago was given to them by The 400, their response was “Whatever”. They really are teenagers at heart, and despite Bill Drummond’s 10 commandments of art including; “Don’t come the rebel”, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that a rebel is exactly what he is. But, I’m sure if I brought it up with him, his reply would be “Accept the contradictions.”. I thought the pair of them giving the replica of Ford Timelord a fresh white paint job was really funny. The owner of the car didn’t seem too impressed, but if he watched the film The White Room, that’s what they did to the original Ford Timelord anyway. The owner has since cleaned the paint off, but I think he should have let The JAMs finish their job. I mean, who else on earth could say, “Oh, The KLF? Yeah I know, they were great weren’t they? They painted my car.”. Personally I thought the touch up job was cooler, and should have been donated to the city of Liverpool, for it’s safe storage atop a plinth in the centre of an area of outstanding natural beauty.

By the end of Welcome To The Dark Ages, we had all learned that the sculpture that The JAMs had been working on was called The People’s Pyramid. At the time of it’s completion it will stand at 23 feet in height, and be built from 34,592 household bricks. Each of these bricks will contain 23 grams of cremated ashes from willing individual’s. The name given to this process is MuMufication. I’ve known that Jimmy Cauty has wanted to become a house brick for quite some time. Between the years 2003 and 2012, Bill Drummond ran a website called My Death, where users could sign up and provide details of what they’d like to have happen in the event of their death; funeral plans etc. Anyway, Jimmy Cauty wrote, “I want to be cremated and the ashes made into a house brick. If Bill or Gimpo outlive me they will know where to go, if not any brick maker will do.”. As we all know, he’s been calling himself Rockman Rock for years. The White Room version of Justified & Ancient even includes the line “Rock Man, he’s just made of bricks.”. The ashes from their burning of £1,000,000 on the Isle Of Jura on the 23rd of August, 1994, were also, as every schoolboy knows, made into a house brick. There’s a common British phrase, relating to money, that says “Invest in bricks and mortar, and you can’t go wrong.”. I have a theory that at some point in the early 90’s, when The KLF were rolling in cash, someone gave the lads this common bit of advice, but after playing live with Extreme Noise Terror their ears weren’t in great shape, and The JAMs heard this as “Invest yourselves in bricks and mortuaries, and you can’t be gone.”. Other than MuMufication, The JAMs, or CCCD (Callender, Callender, Cauty & Drummond Undertakers) have a few other services on offer. If you’d like them to build you a Koffin For Life, or K4L, made to order, from packing case material, it will cost you £999. However, my favourite service is “Ice Kream Van as Hearse with The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu as driver and knitter to carry a Koffin 4 Life containing body to a funeral – £9,999 (UK only).”. Frankly, I think that’s an absolute bargain to be driven by your favourite Pop stars to your funeral in their world famous Ice Kream Van. I mean, what’s the going rate for The Orb to get you to the church on time? That lot don’t even have an Ice Kream Van. I mean, try getting a Little Fluffy Cloud to carry you along to a funeral the next time you’re in need of one. I guarantee you you’ll have a solid excuse for being late. I wonder if Bill will be putting 23g of himself into The People’s Pyramid, or if the whole Drummond, and nothing but the whole Drummond, will be tipped into the Penkiln Burn when the time comes? (By the way, Bill, if you’re reading this, I miss the Penkiln Burn Website. in particular the work you were doing with barbers. If you made that into a book, I’d buy it. If not, just send it to me in a PDF along with “100”, and that’ll be fine.).

I’ve read a lot of Tweets over the last few days from members of The 400 who have been trying to decompress. Getting back to their day jobs, thinking that if they tried to explain to their co-workers what they’ve just been getting up to in Liverpool, they just wouldn’t get it. Some are finding it hard to get back to life, back to reality, others have tattoos relating to a band that once played a song for 3 minutes and then disappeared forever. They’ve all joined a rather elite group of people who have worked with The KLF, and I’m not just talking about now. The members of The 400 are all just as important as every dancer who ever took part in one of the bands epic videos, or Top Of The Pops appearances. Just as significant as every robed journalist who took part in The Rites Of Mu, and just as crucial as every sheep who lay down (and the one that stood up) for the cover photo of “Chill Out”. You see, at the time that all of these events happened, those people involved probably felt the same as well. Years from now, members of The 400 will be asked, at length, in late night pub conversations about what they got up to that time they did that thing with The KLF. Other times, they themselves might want to show off about it, and be greeted by faces that just don’t get it, and who’s only reply will be “What the fuck’s going on?”. I like the way it all ends up as precious old, grainy, footage making it’s way around YouTube for obsessive fans to watch on their day’s away from the grindstone. For all of The 400’s worries about how the event was reported, and how the magic just wasn’t captured. Try not to worry about it. Even the burning of £1,000,000 was hardly reported anywhere at the time. These events become whispers, and strange tales told with bits missing, or facts got wrong. That’s OK. I think it’s exactly how The Jams want it to be. Their real strength lies in mystery, and this is how mystery is created. If they’d filmed it all professionally, and released a DVD packed with extras, just in time for Christmas, it would be great. But, then again, it would also be shit. It would become something you could walk into a music shop and buy, and that is not what KLF is about. Some people get it, and some people don’t. I love the old line from the Saint Etienne song, Mario’s Cafe; “Eubank wins the fight,
and did you see the KLF last night?”. For me, that’s what they are, at their best; a great topic of conversation down your local greasy spoon cafe. Just as I hope that some schoolkids minds were blown when they watched the BBC breakfast news, and heard for the first time that some band burned a million quid, I hope that there were plenty of truckers, and shelf stackers (like me), and all kinds of everyday Joe’s who just had a little chat down the cafe about “Those fucking nutters! Did you see that ice cream van? There was a bloody coffin in the back of the sodding thing!”,”Yeah I know. I saw a video with all these zombies in robes at a Pulp gig. What the fuck’s going on?”.

I don’t think the work of The 400 has finished, it may have only just begun. In the words of Bill Drummond, “Don’t join the dots.”. It’s your job now to print the legend, be mysterious, speak the truth, tell lies, and watch the magic and mystery of the event, that you just helped create, grow over time. The JAMs gave you the seeds, plant them wisely. Like I wrote earlier, I’ve downloaded over 4GB worth of videos and photographs from Welcome To The Dark Ages. I have all of the videos in one folder of my computer, and I was going to match them up with the timetable of events that The JAMs gave out, in order that when I play them it all has a structure and a flow to it. A documentary style accuracy to it that makes sense. However, I made a wee playlist earlier from the videos that just played them all, one after the other, in alphabetical order. This meant that they were all out of sequence, and they didn’t make too much sense at all at times. In fact, it was a bit like watching Pulp Fiction for the first time; You don’t really have a clue who these people are, or what they’re doing, and it jumps around a lot. But, the dialogue is cool, and the way it jumps around means you’re going to have to watch it a few times to really work out What The Fuck it’s all about. Then every now and then, suddenly one of those brilliant, memorable, moments from the event would come on. A classic scene you’ll be quoting to your friends for years, and it’s just magical. So, I’m tempted to keep them all as they came to me, just as they would have came to everyone else on the planet who wasn’t at Welcome To The Dark Ages; A strange, crazy, amazing, jaw dropping, confusing, exhausting, exciting, tear jerking, hands in the air, rocking, mystical, trance like, ritualistic, badger filled, Christmas song in August, rhino horned, cop car painting, skull faced procession, that had something to do with a dead perch, Starbucks, Yoko Ono, traffic cones and ragworts in shopping trolleys. Jarvis Cocker was there at one point, in a choir of skulls. There were stamped books, cups of tea and a bombed out church. Oh, and the whole thing started in an Ice Kream Van and ended in a pyramid made out of 34,592 dead people. Yeah, as you can see, it’s going to be a really simple experience to process and then relate to people. Either that, or you may end up on some kind of ward with just a toothbrush and a badly designed gown for company. It could go either way, really.

I’ve called this blog Liberation Loophole, because in my 2001 edition of The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way), Bill Drummond wrote an afterword called “In Praise Of Council Homes” (It’s also in his book, “45”). In the piece he discusses the list of band names Bill and Jimmy listed for themselves at the front of the first edition of The Manual in 1988. These were; Lord Rock And Time Boy, The Timelords, Rockman Rock And Kingboy D, The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, The Jams, The KLF, The Fall and The Forever Ancients Liberation Loophole. He says that The Forever Ancients Liberation Loophole is a name that they never got to use. “It still feels like we’re holding back on it, keeping it in reserve for when things get totally out of control and we need to make a quick escape.”. Well, I reckon since Bill and Jimmy aren’t using the Liberation Loophole just now, they’ll not mind lending it to us for a bit (They’re nice like that). So, if you find that things are getting totally out of control and you need to make a quick escape, you now know what to do.

If you’re still confused about things, and really not sure What The Fuck is Going On? The only further information I can give you, are some words that were once delivered, with a powerful strength and conviction, by a man named Jervis Ricardo Alfonso Lyte (30 April 1967 – 8 March 2013).  He was better known to the world as Ricardo Da Force, or to KLF fans as Ricardo Lyte (He is a credited performer on 3AM Eternal, Last Train To Trancentral and Justified And Ancient). Anyway, sometime way back in the early 1990’s, this man walked into a recording studio with The KLF, got himself inside the vocal booth, put a pair of headphones on, stepped up to the microphone, opened his mouth and gave you the only answer that you’ll ever need to reach for the next time you’re feeling baffled by your experiences at Welcome To The Dark Ages, or, if you’re worried that the rest of the world just doesn’t get it; Remember to “Chill Out”, give yourself some “Space”, and remember;



You have been reading “Liberation Loophole” by Stephen Clarke 1980.

You can find Stephen Clarke 1980 by searching for him.



If you have enjoyed this article, perhaps you could help me out by buying my album?

– Single tracks are priced at just £1.23
– The complete ALBUM DOWNLOAD is priced at only £4.23!
That’s a saving of £8.07, compared to purchasing the tracks individually. Plus, The ALBUM DOWNLOAD also includes an EXCLUSIVE DIGITAL BOOKLET (PDF), designed by me.

If you’re a fan of my work, and you’re feeling generous, there’s also an option to pay a little more.

Many thanks, and I hope you enjoy my music.
– Stephen


This article was also published here;