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










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.