Welcome To The Dark Ages Pt.4 – Friday: Toxteth Day of the Dead and MuMufication

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Friday – the day of The Great Pull North, the Day of MuMufication, the Graduation Ball and many other things. At 2pm I was to be at The Florrie, a community centre / flourishing arts lab in the heart of Toxteth to complete my task as ‘Skull Painter’. Trying to second guess what I’d be doing all week I’d run through several scenarios: they had built a huge skull effigy that needed to be decorated? Badger Kull needed a backdrop painting? The JAMs had 400 Toxteth Day of the Dead masks that we would wear that needed customising? I was almost correct with the last one, not masks though, faces – I and 22 others had to face paint skulls onto the 400 and we set to work transforming many friend’s and stranger’s faces alike.

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The Ice Kream Van was parked up outside, now with looped rope attached to the front and graffiti’d Dalek on wheels* behind – so that’s what we were going to pull North then, but what fate lay at the other end? (*Update: see comments below for Dalek origin)

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At 5pm we were ushered upstairs to a church-like auditorium with seating arranged either side, three vertical video screens framed by an arch above the stage at the far end. A ‘hymn book’ was on each seat which contained the words to ‘Justified & Ancient’ inside but on a quick scan some of the words had been changed. “They called me up in Sheffield town, they said ‘Jarvis, stand by The JAMs'” – surely not? Was Jarvis Cocker going to join the JAMs? The room fell silent and all phones were ordered to be turned off (hence no photos for this part), this didn’t deter some people as you may well have seen by now on the web but it did mean that one of the highlights of the week was captured at least in part.

We were treated to the 23 minute version of the film ‘2023’, a triptych of dark, menacing imagery and iconography that was beautiful, disturbing, baffling, unnerving and loaded with symbolism, the soundtrack mostly ambient industrial sounds and radio noise finishing with Nilsson‘s ‘Everybody’s Talking ‘Bout Me’ over the end credits.
I’ve yet to read the book so most of the imagery has little context at the moment but I noticed revolving grapefruit and Yoko Ono as the Starbucks logo (already seen on some of the merch and the free paper cups when you bought drinks at the Dead Perch). These are both surely a reference to Yoko’s book ‘Grapefruit’ and could allude to the ‘Grapefruit Are Not The Only Bombs’ book we all contributed to the day before, itself an allusion to Jeanette Winterson‘sOranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ maybe? The Shard blazed, black pyramids turned above seas and rolling corn fields, stormy skies filled with black clouds, a fox padded the London streets and four bullets from North, South, East and West collided in slow motion in the final scene.

What followed was a long presentation / sales pitch by ‘green undertakers’ Claire and Rupert Callender – a very dark, depressing, occasionally humorous but deadly serious meditation of death that served to bring the mood down to rock bottom. The assertion was not to be afraid but that we were already dead, that The JAMs were now in business with them as undertakers to the underworld and we were all invited to take part in ‘MuMufication’. In a nutshell this meant that they had engineered their own house bricks (stamped with the words ‘Mu Mu’) which each participant could have part of their ashes poured into when they died. These bricks would be collected annually on November 23rd which was now designated ‘Toxteth Day of the Dead’ and a ‘People’s Pyramid’ would be built, year on year, until it was 23 feet high. The pyramid will be situated in Toxteth (site yet to be determined) and it will take 34,592 bricks to build it. Participants who sign up pay £99 and get a brick plus Certificate of MuMufication – this is all real, anyone can do it, check out www.mumufication.com for more info. IMG_5118

The ‘MuMufication’ sticker I’d snapped a few days earlier on the side of the Ice Kream Van suddenly made sense, and the 99 Mu Mu Bricks, the signs had been there all along. This was the one point where the internet jokes that we’d all be committing some Jim Jones-style suicide pact by the end of things started to gain some credence and I started to wonder if there was anything in the face paint we’d just all applied. I pity anyone in the crowd who had recently lost a loved one or was preparing for a funeral. It was wrist-slashingly sombre.

But Lo! Suddenly a procession sweeps into the room, standard-bearers holding a Toxteth Day of the Dead banner, monks in Mu Mu gowns, coffin-bearers carrying two no-frills bare wood coffins, gravediggers, I also remember traffic cones worn on heads, a choir, there were more but it’s all a but of a blur. Also a blue robed, hooded figure in their midst, face concealed, who mounted the stage behind the congregation and started to speak; ‘They’re Justified, and they’re Ancient, and they drive an ice cream van’ in a soft northern brogue that could only belong to Jarvis Cocker. As the choir mournfully intoned the lyrics the cloak was pulled back to reveal the man himself, brilliantly hamming it up for all his worth in a slow, understated gospel version of their 1991 hit. The videos on the web don’t do it justice without the proceeding events described above, the song lifting the mood higher and higher as the incredulous crowd joined in with the end chant of ‘All Bound For Mu Mu Land’ before exiting the hall in a procession that followed Jarvis, the choir and all performers from the stage and out into the street.

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Outside the crowd spilled onto the road and a small gaggle of locals had gathered to watch, Gimpo quickly got the first team to man the ropes of the ice cream van and we were underway on the three mile pull North to The Invisible Wind Factory. Heading the procession were a bagpipe and drummer duo, standard bearers, the pullers, the van with Drummond & Cauty inside, the choir, assorted Mu in robes and sacks and then the rest of us spilling out on both sides and behind. Ragwort was thrown from shopping carts at the front and then collected by more carts at the back and run up to the front again.

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The police turned up within half an hour to escort us along the busy riverside road and contain traffic, at one point trying to stop the procession but failing – did they have a permit to march? FUUK knows.
Halfway along the route a car parked up and helpers proceeded to throw yellow kagools out to the marchers, emblazoned with the pyramid blaster and JAMs logos and the legend ‘Delivering Sustainable Death’. The sea of yellow with black and white skull masks moved forward at a brisk pace…

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Finally we reached a waste ground, opposite the Invisible Wind Factory, the sunset earlier was a blazing orange sky which would have framed the occasion all the better had we arrived an hour before. A wooden pyramid / pyre was erected in the centre of a circle and the wooden coffins in the back of the Ice Kream Van (I did mention those didn’t I?) were ceremoniously loaded into it. Bill and Jimmy, Mu Mu horns now on their heads, wasted no time, lit long torches and quickly set fire to the structure, it catching almost immediately, going up in a yellow blaze against the night sky as the robed 400 watched and cheered. I’m not going to lie, I was hoping they’d pile the Dalek, the T-Speaker and the van onto the pyre too, cleanse their past in one fell swoop and put the lid on it once and for all but it wasn’t to be.

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Some said the plan was to drive the van into the Mersey but I don’t think that happened. After this events got confused, Daisy Campbell, megaphone in hand, struggled to make herself heard to the widely assembled crowd, some of who wanted to eat and drink after the fun and games and some who made for the toilets nearby. The undertakers were in the Ice Kream Van signing up people for ‘MuMufication’, bricks on display, but now wasn’t the time for this on a dark patch of wasteland with the light gone and the temperature dropping. A huge queue formed but with only a small window to explain the process from they were fighting a losing battle.

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I retired to the club opposite to set up the decks for my set later on and grab some food backstage. Pete Wylie was there in the dressing room, having schooled Badger Kull half the week and we could see the gathering outside winding down from our high vantage point on the top floor. Punters started arriving at 10pm, a mixture of the 400 and paying public who could also buy tickets, you could tell who was who from the face paint. Greg Wilson was on stage whipping the crowd up with pumped up versions of electronic classics like Gary Numan‘s ‘Cars’, The Human League‘s ‘Being Boiled’ and ‘The Message’ and Kermit from Black Grape was dancing around in bunny ears.

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The T-speaker was behind the merch table, selling Badger Kull T-shirts to the faithful and the bemused and it was all about their impending one and only performance at 23 seconds past midnight, a fitting end to the proceedings. The mood was electric as they took to the stage, four guys, all on bass guitar, in face masks and robes with yellow and black warning tape decorations, playing their one note riff over and over to strobes, chanting ‘Toxteth Day of the Dead’ repeatedly, leaving the stage three minutes later to a squall of bass feedback. It was never going to win any prizes for subtlety but it was all the crowd needed.

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Lastly it was my turn, pretty daunting to step up to the decks after that performance to a club packed to the rafters with JAMs fans on a total high after what they’d just witnessed I can tell you (I took the photo above as I stepped up). When Jimmy asked me to play at the Ball my first question was, ‘Should I play any JAMs / KLF?’ and the answer was an unequivocal ‘no’, which was fine. Bill wanted ‘no revisiting of one’s acid house days’ and gave me a superb brief to play dangerously, wide and lateral. They also provided me with a glimpse at a page from ‘2023′ where it lists the line up for a fictitious Xmas day episode of Top of The Pops.

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(photo by George Stewart-Lockheart)
I took that list fairly literally and decided to source as many original samples that The JAMs, Timelords and KLF had used as possible, I wouldn’t be playing their records, just the records they’d played with. I opened with the MC5’s ‘Kick Out the Jams’ (of course) and proceeded through Abba, The Monkees, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, various TOTPs themes, Tommy Vance spoken word, The Sweet, the Dr Who theme, The Human League‘s version of ‘Rock n Roll’, themes from Jesus Christ Superstar, Sly & The Family Stone, James Brown and more before dropping a ton of club classics and a full final hour of downtempo tunes including ‘Wichita Lineman’ and ‘War Is Over If You Want It’, ending with ‘In The Ghetto’ at just shy of 3am.

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(photo by George Stewart-Lockheart)
As gigs go, it was a milestone in my career that I’ll never forget. As an event it was a success on so many levels I doubt the participants will ever fully get their heads around it. As a comeback it was unparalleled, everything and more that a fan of this duo could have wanted but never dreamed up. As an exercise in the closing of one chapter and the opening of another, with the fans helping to write that chapter from the building blocks the JAMs had put in place, it was genius. That they closed the event with the opportunity to eventually place part of those fans and others inside the blocks and build a People’s Pyramid to commemorate the event on the very ground it took place in was another nice touch. Best graduation party ever…

 

Saturday, the aftermath:

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Some graduated early that night and received their certificates at the club, for most though it was one final trip to the Dead Perch Lounge on Saturday morning to be met by an unexpected series of posters that had been plastered up outside overnight. Someone had expressed their displeasure at the events in a very JAMs-esque way, enough to make most question if these weren’t an elaborate double-bluff by Drummond & Cauty themselves.

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Inside, The JAMs were handing out signed Certificates Of Graduation with stern handshakes and little banter and we stayed for a drink and an explanation on how exactly The People’s Pyramid was going to be constructed by the architect who had drawn up the plans, now displayed in the gallery. Finally we were ushered into a previously hidden back room where a tower of TV sets showed video loops whilst the choir’s A cappella from Friday’s ‘Justified & Ancient’ quietly played in the background.

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Whether Bill and Jimmy ever do another event, make another record or create any more art together ever again (and there were rumours that this could happen elsewhere in the future) doesn’t matter. They and the team around them pulled off an incredible experience that could have crashed and burned (pun intended) so many times and in the process must have inspired many of the participants to go forth and continue this kind of work and thinking in their daily lives from this point on. There were rules, there always is with Drummond, but these were also guidelines to break out of conventional thinking and you have to know the rules before you can break them – always accept the contradictions with The JAMs. Worth the £100 ticket price? Many times over. The experience was priceless and SO much more thought-provoking, entertaining and genuinely life-changing than most of what’s happening in current music, literature and art at the moment.

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Travelling back home, to ‘real life’, was surreal, what had happen constantly churning around in my head, the NEED to get this all down and make some kind of sense of it for my own selfish reasons of paramount importance. The desire to talk to people about it burns bright, to those that were there and friends who witnessed it secondhand via the web. The urge to look further into The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, the Green Funeral Company and, of course, read ‘2023’ – things that were completely alien to myself and many others a week ago – is strong and will no doubt point to other people and places as The JAMs begin a new chapter…

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Welcome To The Dark Ages Pt.3 – Thursday: The Day Of The Book

ChurchThursday – dubbed ‘The Day Of The Book’ – started with drama. At the Dead Perch first thing I was passed by Jimmy who was holding a tin of white paint, his face and shoes flecked with spots of it. Upon arriving at 10am at the Bombed-Out Church (originally the Church of St Luke – a stone’s throw from the Dead Perch), word quickly went round that he and Bill had painted Phil Blake‘s Ford Timelord car white, erasing the JAMs and KLF logos, much the same as they did in The White Room film. Footage was already on YouTube, dubbed The Death of Ford Timelord’ in which a smiling but obviously mortified Phil turns up as they’re finishing and, seeing they mean to cover the whole car, drives off before they can quite complete the task. It was a strange way to start the day and one which wasn’t mentioned again save for one request for film or photos of the deed from those who’d witnessed it.

Later the web was aflame with keyboard warriors proclaiming it was a premeditated stunt, set up by those involved and that the paint was emulsion and could easily be washed off. I’ve known Phil for years and spoke to him later and I can assure you it was no stunt, he was absolutely gutted that two of his heroes were erasing his tribute to their past and it was not emulsion. He drove it away and immediately set to work with white spirit to undo the damage, managing to get most of the paint off before returning and making sure he parked well away from proceedings from that point on. Phil is one of the mellowest people I know, he’s just not the sort of guy to fly into a rage, especially at two people he admires so much despite what they were doing to his property. For all the armchair commentator know-it-alls out there watching from the outernet – he bought a ticket like everyone else and he’d have much rather not have had this happen despite the incident now placing him firmly within the Liverpool events for all eternity.

Why did they do it? Erasing their past maybe? Blotting out what they saw as an object that threatened to upstage them and didn’t fit into their plan? They certainly weren’t afraid to reference their past throughout the proceedings with the T-speaker, the Ice Kream Van, the Mu Mu gowns and the Dalek from the ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis’ video present at various points. The act left a bad taste in the mouth and I felt sorry for Phil, hoping it hadn’t ruined his enjoyment of the event. The JAMs have never shied away from pissing people off, defacing other people’s property or doing the unexpected and this seemed like a spontaneous but cruel reaction. For all the acts that they’ve perpetrated over the years there’s never been a direct victim in the way there was here. Perhaps Phil got off lightly as rumour went round that they were planning to steal it and drive it into the Mersey.

So, back to the plan for the day, we lined up either side of a central pathway inside the church and were given the designation ‘even’ or ‘odd’ by Oliver and Daisy again, depending on which side we were on. Drummond & Cauty arrived and then proceeded to tear out a page of their ‘2023′ book and present it to each of the 400, if you were in the odd line your page was the odd number and vice versa. We were instructed to respond to anything on our given page within the next eight hours and report back to the church at 6pm to present our findings. Whoever got the first page of the chapter you held the page from was the Chapter leader who we reported to and who would collate the creations for later.

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At this point proceedings started to take on the air of an art project and I was getting flashbacks to the days of Camberwell college and an impending crit. People leapt at the challenge though and were creating posters and banners before we’d even left the church and we observed little clusters of ‘Chapters’ working out what they would do. I spent part of the day helping paste up my friend’s one-off single cover for a fictitious band, Flies In The Maelstrom. They were sworn enemies of Badger Kull (due to a love of badgers presumably) and who’s name, song titles, label and lyrics were all taken from page 205 of ‘2023′.

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We pasted ‘their’ single cover over existing Badger Kull street posters and hash-tagged ‘KillTheKull’ on the web. The artwork was pasted over an existing Mike Oldfield record and sellotaped into a huge book provided by Daisy Campbell entitled ‘Grapefruits Are Not The Only Bombs’. This held descriptions and examples of the day’s work by all who decided to submit it and was later presented to The JAMs. But not before we’d convinced Ian Shirley – editor of the Record Collector Rare Record Guide and new KLF history ‘Turn Up The Strobe’ – that it was an original, one-off lathe cut single which we’d recorded and got pressed that afternoon. A message was even hand etched into the run out groove.

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Each chapter had to present their day’s work to The JAMs at 6pm inside the church grounds and some had really gone to town with the conceptual nature, factoring wordplay, numerology and symbols already present into their poems, plays, songs, conceptual pieces, posters and sculptures. At one point we all found ourselves throwing tangerines at an effigy of Donald Trump, emblazoned with the words Tangerine Nightmare – a fictitious group from the book.

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Some of the work was of course toe-curlingly cringeworthy, resembling the worst excesses of student juvenilia, BUT! everyone got into the spirit, got on with the task at hand and didn’t question the instructions despite no clue being given as to exactly what this was all for. In hindsight it had the effect that I imagine punk had, saying, ‘you can do this, NOW, don’t wait, get on with it, who says you can’t? get off your arse and make or do something, ANYTHING, and see what happens’. It was liberating, taxing and frustrating, it made you competitive, collaborative and use the resources to hand without worrying about the finish or making excuses. It made us, the 400, the focus of the day rather than the passive observers of the night before and, again, the work was done by others and then observed by The JAMs at the end of proceedings with little comment although Drummond seemed to be enjoying this a lot more than the hearing. It was becoming increasingly apparent that other people were making The JAM’s comeback happen after they had put the pieces in place.

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Postscript: Speaking to Phil Blake about the car incident at length when I returned home, he told me this anecdote about the aftermath of the painting. After driving off he parked a couple of roads away and purchased bottles of white spirit and rolls of cloth with friends, then set about cleaning the car as best they could. Nearly three hours later they’d got most of it off and he drove back round the block to the bombed-out church where the proceedings were ending as people went off in their groups.
Suddenly he spotted Jimmy walking down the road so he put on the siren and shouted, ‘Thanks Jimmy!’ across to him whilst driving by. He said Cauty’s jaw dropped and he later heard that they thought he had a second car as a back up, not believing that he would have been able to clean it all off so quickly and thoroughly.

Part 4 here

Welcome To The Dark Ages Pt.2 – Wednesday: An Initiation and a Hearing

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Wednesday morning we were called to a venue called Constellations where we are given our tasks for the week by MC for the week Oliver Senton who played Robert Anton Wilson in the ‘Cosmic Trigger’ theatre production by Daisy Campbell, Ken Campbell‘s daughter. They seemed to be very much in charge for the whole week, under the direction of the JAMs most likely, but they made the events happen.

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The buckets with numbers were on stage and names were withdrawn at random, the jobs were many and most were baffling. There’s already a webpage collecting all the different cards handed out to the 400 that day plus a few bogus ones that were created in response to events later in the week, I was given the job of ‘Skull Painter’ which I was overjoyed about.

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This was the point at which the band Badger Kull were chosen and formed, the four members’ only requirement being that they could play the bass, who were then whisked away by Pete Wylie (of Wah! fame) to be indoctrinated into the ways of the rock world, rehearsed and readied for their performance that Friday. A choir was also formed, under the orders of Nick Coler, long time KLF studio associate (look on the back of the records) as well as ragwort collectors, Badger Kull street-teamers and grave diggers amongst many more. David Hopkinson from the Cube Cinema in Bristol was one of the 400 and hawking the last copies of my Million Mu notes for those that wanted them, the proceeds going to fund repairs to the building. He would come into his own later on in the week as a Badger Kull fan and the man he’s selling to here came along with his wife, son and daughter-in-law!

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At 7pm we gathered at The Black-E, a huge venue near the Dead Perch, to be greeted by the T-speaker again in the foyer and made our way into the upstairs space to bear witness to ‘A Hearing’ on why the K Foundation burned a million quid. *A screen in the main room showed a brick with the letters ‘HG’ and ‘M’ on it and then simply, ‘Why?’ What was this brick motif for? It seemed to have nothing to do with the burning episode. *UPDATE / correction courtesy of David Hopkinson – see comments below – in fact it was made from the ashes of the burnt one million pounds, fascinating that they made a brick back in 1997 and 20 years later continued the theme, as we will find out.

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Five different experts from different fields gave their angles on it and five independent witness were called to give evidence. Jeremy Deller gave an excellent presentation, complete with slides, at one point illustrating the decline and commercialisation of dance music with a gurning Norman Cook to much applause.

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Annebella Pollen made a fascinating comparison with the K Foundation/KLF/JAMs imagery and activities alongside the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift group from earlier in the 20th century and Ann Pettifor gave a perspective from the financial sector, surmising that they were destroying the promise to pay that money gave, reliving the banks of some of their financial debit.

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, founder of The Idler and Clive Martin, a journalist from Vice magazine also gave their takes before Gimpo and Jim Reid were called, both present at the Jura boathouse when the pair burned the money. Ex-publicist William Houghton and tour manager Craig McLean gave often hilarious accounts of the disastrous Glaswegian leg of the original ‘Why did the K Foundation burn a million quid?’ film showing tour as well as the Cape Wrath car episode, most revealingly telling the audience that Bill and Jimmy were both in the midst of having nervous breakdowns at the end of the KLF era.

I’ve often wondered if that was the case, in 1991 alone they released three KLF singles and an album, a JAMs single and must have been recording the beginnings of ‘The Black Room’ and ‘America: What Time Is Love’ plus making videos to go with four of the above and coming to terms with sudden massive success. Who wouldn’t crack up and pull off a performance like The Brits the next year under such pressure? Chris Brook who authored the book ‘K Foundation Burn A Million Quid’ in 1998 rambled on for far too long and members of the audience at the original film showing in Liverpool gave their accounts of the hostile reception they witnessed. Finally, with the event running an hour over time, author John Higgs all too briefly summed up his take with the assertion that it really didn’t matter why.

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We were then called on to vote for who we thought gave the most compelling reason out of the original five on the panel and chaos descended again for 15 minutes as 400 people tried to place a one pound coin they’d been given on entry into a bucket with the name of their chosen candidate on it. Annebella’s presentation was the most interesting and original but I felt the summation of what she said (“the act was part of a ceremonial magick tradition of releasing material goods via ritual (& general weirdness!)) didn’t really convey the message well and sounded contrived. Nevertheless she romped home with a clear majority and the JAMs were brought in to hear the verdict to which they simply responded, “whatever”, Drummond looking particularly unimpressed. Had John Higgs been on the panel instead of a witness I would have voted for him by a mile.

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Part 3 here

Welcome To The Dark Ages Pt.1 – Tuesday: 2023 book stamping

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Ok, I’ll attempt to get this down while it’s still reasonably fresh, there will be gaps, there will be questions raised that are never answered, there will be confusion, joy, hilarity and sadness plus everything in between. The reasons why are pointless to debate and the amount of pre-planning, effort, co-ordination and just plain luck that went into the events I just took part in may never be known. The truth is also irrelevant as everyone will have their own version and perspective on it, you’ll have to take my word for it and if you were there you may understand it better than those who weren’t. That’s not meant to sound elitist but you’re ultimately reading an account and looking at highlights of what went down from one perspective out of 400. I’m betting that if all the participants told their stories, each would differ quite radically in places, such were the multitude of experiences, tasks, responses and reactions to what unfolded over the last five days in Liverpool.

I’m going to have to post this in parts as there’s just too much to tell and here’s a quick recap for those who don’t have a clue what this is all about. The JAMsBill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty – aka The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The KLF, The Timelords, The K Foundation, K2 Plant Hire and more have reached the end of their self-imposed 23 year hiatus following the burning of £1 million of their own money back in 1994. To mark the occasion they are staging a series of events in Liverpool where 400 tickets have been sold at £100 a head and each ticket holder is a volunteer who will take part in the events that unfold over the days 23rd-25th August 2017. I was one of the 400 but I was also taking part in the event at the request of the JAMs, but more of that later. Just one more thing before we begin, even though I was asked to perform, I had no idea what was going to happen at all, I probably had two or three scraps of info that others didn’t but had no idea how these fitted into the jigsaw puzzle that was constructed over the following days.

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Tuesday 22nd: I departed for Liverpool, arriving to my hotel close to the Static Gallery, now rechristened The Dead Perch Lounge – the base of operations for the week. On my way up the street I passed a fly poster for the Graduation Ball, happening that Friday night, featuring myself and Greg Wilson on the decks and the unknown band Badger Kull performing their one and only gig. Inside was a bar and a wristband collection point where we signed in and gave names and telephone numbers, receiving a menu for the week with times, places and info on what would lie ahead. Each person was presented with a list of eight different tasks that they had to pick one of whereby their names were written next to the number and then put into a bucket for later. These tasks ranged from ‘Are you a strong swimmer?’ to ‘Can you tell people “no”?’ to ‘Are you strong and exactly 5’5″?’. I chose number seven, ‘Can you draw?’.

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By the bar was the merchandise area – run by the L-13 Light Industrial Workshop: T-shirts, mugs, posters and more – all priced at £20.23 each regardless of their size – with a couple of mystery items to be revealed at the end of the week on the price list. Most of these items are now available from L-13 at these prices – just go here.

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At 23 seconds past midnight (technically Wednesday) the JAMs were to drive their Ice Kream Van down Bold St to the News From Nowhere bookshop to stamp hardback copies of their new book, ‘2023′. In the window was the infamous ‘T-speaker’ from ‘The White Room’ LP cover – now with the addition of a small TV with single roving eyeball video on top, giving it a more religious, crucifix-like shape – and a list of rules for the event that forbade the signing or memorabilia, the taking of selfies or jovial conversation with the band.

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The queue had formed hours before and by midnight half the street was full with the 400, onlookers, press and organisers with the odd taxi struggling to get through the mass. Super-fan Phil Blake was one of the 400, arriving in his customised Ford Timelord police car, complete with siren. At the appointed time the JAMs arrived in their van, blaring out the ‘Just One Cornetto’ theme alternated with their own ‘What Time Is Love’ in classic ice cream van distorted bell form. The media scrum around the van was unlike anything I’d ever seen, fans and paparazzi alike rushed the van as it made its way down the street and chaos reigned for 10 minutes while they tried not to run anyone down and were quickly ushered into the bookshop.

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Each book was stamped with a variety of different insignia ranging from ‘Built By The JAMs’ to the pyramid blaster to the new ‘Toxteth Day of the Dead’ skull that I’d spotted earlier stuck to the back of the speaker and was now plastered over the van outside with another mysterious 99 Mu Mu brick sticker. Channel 4 News were doing pieces inside and outside of the shop and you can just see me above getting my book stamped with the Moody BoyzTony Thorpe to the right. People hung out until 2am at least, catching up with friends, new arrivals and speculating what we would be in for during the week. Rumour was rife, faces were spotted and names bandied about, this very much seemed to be a coming together of the original crew again save for the few who had since passed on like Ricardo da Force and plugger Scott Piering. It was an exciting start to the three days we would be taking part in, the JAMs were back, there were more questions than answers but we’d soon be finding out what the FUUK was going on… part 2 here

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DJ Food live set from Emotion Wave

Emotion Wave pano webIt’s been very quiet here because I’ve been on a holiday of sorts in Liverpool. A holiday of the most bizarre, intense and pleasurable kind taking part in the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu‘s return to the public eye with their ‘Welcome To The Dark Ages’ 3-day situation. You may have seen some photos if you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen parts of it on the news or in the papers and I’m still writing up the whole episode for this blog. In the mean time, here’s my set from Emotion Wave last Saturday – a night not dissimilar in concept to my own Further nights, so much so that I even brought along some of my projections. Run by Neil Grant aka Lo Five it runs every two months at 81 Renshaw on Renshaw Street, Liverpool (which has a great little secondhand record shop down in the basement).

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As I’d just played the closing party for the JAMs the night before I had a laptop of KLF-related samples and pieces and decided to play an ambient set with them. Imagine a version of the KLF’s ‘Chill Out’ from an alternate dimension, completely improvised live on turntables, sampler and FX with all sorts of additional oddities chucked in and you have the idea.
Check out the other sets by Lo Five and Melodien on Mixcloud too – both excellent – and follow the Emotion Wave facebook page for info on the next night.

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Deep concentration – photo by Andrew Bates.

DJ Food in Liverpool: Graduation Ball & Emotion Wave

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The cat’s out of the bag – I’ll be playing at the Graduation Ball on August 25th after the three day event The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu are holding in Liverpool commencing August 23rd. Greg Wilson will also be playing and, topping the bill (for 3 minutes) will be the mysterious Badger Kull. This is free for the existing 400 ticket holders for the Welcome To The Dark Ages events but additional tickets just for this gig can be bought here. Be there for the birth of FUUK.

The day after, I’m playing at Emotion Wave, a night not a million miles away from my own Further nights in concept. I did a quick Q&A with organiser Neil Grant, aka Lo Five with a recent release on the Patterned Air label. All on the bill is Mark from Loka with a DJ set, Melodien and Neil himself.

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Electronic Sound issue 33

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The latest issue of Electronic Sound magazine is a cracker, a huge interview with Gary Numan, an appraisal of Trevor Key’s artwork and an opening page by me, showing the final Rite of Mu with The JAMs that happened in Liverpool recently. You can also get a great remix of Numan’s ‘My Name Is Ruin’ by Meat Beat Manifesto on 7″ if you buy the bundle direct from their website.

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Interview with ‘Future Shock’ doc director Paul Goodwin

(Quick disclaimer to avoid confusion: ‘Future Shock’ – the documentary about 2000AD – is completely unconnected to my own ‘Future Shock’ DJ mix sets. This is a happy coincidence but both stem, in part, from the short one-off tales in the comic called…‘Future Shocks’. I can see that it might get confusing as I’m now interviewing the director but it’s a small world and great minds think alike and all that. With that cleared up, let’s get to the interview which I conducted for the Front Row Reviews website.

I run into Paul Goodwin – director of ‘Future Shock! The story of 2000AD’ – outside the green room where I’m due to interview him at the BFI. We’ve never met but I recognised him from the many photos he’s posted on the Future Shock documentary blog, enviably posing with various legendary comic creators, looking like a kid in a sweet shop. Like any nerds of a similar age with a common love of a subject it’s easy to break the ice and I’m eager to find out what drove him and producers Sean Hogan and Helen Mullane to make a documentary about the Galaxy’s Greatest comic, the wonderful weekly dose of Thrill Power that is 2000AD.

(Paul with legendary artist Brian Bolland and producer Helen Mullane)

What made you think 2000AD was a good subject for a documentary, what sparked the idea?

Paul Goodwin: Like all good things it started in the pub! Sean and I go way back and we’d been talking about working together on a serious project for a while.  We were both 2000AD fans in our wayward youth and I just said, you know, it’s crazy that someone hadn’t done this yet, and it’d be something that I’d drop everything to go and see!  Sean immediately said he’d help make it happen if he could.  He suggested bringing Helen on board and once we hooked up and Helen agreed to co-produce it became a real thing.

How old are you and when did you start reading 2000AD?

I’m 40.  I picked up the odd random prog in the late 70’s when I was really young (for those of you not familiar with 2000AD ‘speak’ – prog = program i.e. issue). There was a huge choice of British comics at that time, but I never saved those or anything.  Years later, the first stuff I actually remember reading was the Judge Child Quest, which a school friend showed to me.  I specifically remember Fink & Mean Machine from the Angel gang, and trying to understand why Dredd had such enormous boots!

I just chewed up all the old progs like immediately, the Titan volumes and those Eagle collections (80’s reprints of older strips collected together before the term ‘graphic novel’ had even been invented), mostly bought from Forbidden Planet on Denmark Street or the little shop up Paradise Alley, remember that guy?.

Alas that was before my time, I lived outside of London and would come up at weekends but I definitely went to the Denmark St Forbidden Planet and remember the cramped little space before it moved.


Progs were like 20p or something.  Then I started buying it weekly from prog 500, which was the first jump-on prog that came my way.  So my era of buying it regularly featured the John Hicklenton Nemesis, ‘Oz’ (Judge Dredd story involving skysurfer Marlon Shakespear aka Chopper), Bad Company and Slaine the King, stuff like that.

Real golden era stuff :)

Basically I think there’s a real lack of decent behind the scenes material for the comics world, and I had always felt that 2000AD had inspired so many and influenced so much over the years that I really felt that the comic needed to be recognised for its impact.  So that’s what we did, hopefully..!

Are the others involved in the production (Sean, Helen etc.) big 2000AD / comics fans too or did you have to bring them up to speed?

Yup, we’re all 2000AD readers, Squaxx I guess you’d say (more 2000AD speak – ‘friends of Tharg, the comic’s alien editor).  Naturally we’ve all read the classic ‘golden era’ strips, but the variation in our ages meant we had all read it ‘full time’ at different points.  So actually there’s quite a fun spread of our favourite characters and strips.  This is very much a passion project for all of us.

Were 2000AD on board from the start and did they help with contacts or were you completely independent?

We are completely independent of Rebellion, who own the comic today.  We did, however go and meet Matt Smith (current editor) and Jason Kingsley (owner of Rebellion) before we had shot a frame, it was crucial that we had their blessing to use their artwork, otherwise this would’ve been a very difficult story to tell.  Like one of those shitty music docs about Zeppelin or whatever and they can’t play any of the band’s actual music!  So Matt & Jason were very cool, laid back about the whole thing and thankfully gave us their blessing – further to that, Matt has really helped us out by sourcing high res artwork of some of the more tricky to get hold of stuff.  Plus of course they appear in the doc!


How did you plan to fit 37 years into 105 minutes?

Ha ha yeah, that’s a funny question. Well, I figured there’s the basic chronological story of the creation of the comic, then I wrote questions that I thought would make interesting discussions and then it kind of expanded outwards from there.  From the outset we knew it was vital to get an interview with Pat Mills in the can (veteran writer who helped start the comic and still writes for it today) – no Pat, no doc. Thankfully Pat is a real gentleman, he welcomed us into his home for an entire day and gave us so much fantastic material that we left there knowing we had the spine of a very cool story!  So then we chose creators that best represented the various eras of the comic and proceeded to tour the country, the world in fact, sitting down and chatting with some of the world’s finest comic book talent.  It’s been a pure joy to be honest.  And we do actually have almost 37 years of footage backed up for special features!

Was there anyone who you couldn’t get or who refused to be filmed that you felt would have given a unique perspective on the comic?

Yes, it’s a shame that Alan Moore is not involved, being one of the most celebrated of 2000AD’s creators.  We asked, and he politely declined to be interviewed, so that was that.  It seems that Alan, along with a few other people would rather discuss their current projects, which I completely understand and accept.  It’s a shame that some voices are missing from the conversation but in my opinion the documentary itself doesn’t suffer for it too badly.

What did you think of the new Dredd movie and do you think that it helped interest in the project?

I enjoyed Dredd very much!  I love the way they resisted having Dredd deliver some James Bond shitty line after he pushes Ma Ma off the ledge and instead just says “yeah”.  That felt very 2000AD.  And I think what’s great about it is that no matter how you judge a film’s success, what you’re left with there is a cool, hard little film that will last forever to engage & inspire people long into the future.

As far as helping us in the production of ‘Future Shock‘, the film has now become an important chapter in the 2000AD story, so we have covered it as such.  It seems that right now there are a fair few 2000AD projects being discussed, a potential Dredd sequel is always in the news, not least the celebrated period the comic itself is having and doing well in the US now, as well as our film so yeah I think it’s a good time to be involved in it all.  It feels good, like there’s a real buzz around 2000AD right now!

Will there be some sort of DVD or Blu-Ray with extras that didn’t fit in at some point?

I hope so!  There was a 3hr40 work print at one stage of the edit!  We interviewed over 40 people for the doc ranging from 30 mins to a few hours each.  There is TONS of stuff man, and if I was a fan waiting for this doc to be released, I’d want to see all those interviews too!  We are looking for distributors right now so I hope that we can get all that stuff out to the hardcore fans one day.

So finally, some fun, personal questions for you: who are your favourite writer / artist / characters from the comic? You can choose more than one if it’s too hard a choice :)

Agh!  That’s a killer…

As a writer surely John Wagner‘s contribution to the world of comics is second to none.  The sheer amount of crazy ideas, sci-fi prescience, comedy and deep political satire in Dredd alone represents a staggeringly high quality body of work.  Also I personally think that Peter Milligan is one of the most underrated comic writers, it was a joy to interview him.

I agree, Wagner’s high turnover and hit rate are incredible and few can write Dredd’s dialogue like he can, something I think they got pretty spot on in the film version.

Artist?  Hm, I’d probably say Steve Dillon drew my favourite Dredd, with that crazy jawline!  I love artists that can communicate story with very few lines, and for me Cam Kennedy & Mike McMahon are masters of that kind of simplicity.

As for the strips, I really love Slaine for a couple of reasons: firstly because I used to skip over it before I realised how fantastic it was!  I couldn’t get with the whole Conan thing or the magic or any of that stuff at all and then I actually read one, and it was brilliant, and of course I had to go back and raid my own back issues because they were so addictive!  I love Pat’s crazy battle cursing, “I’ll bathe my axe in your blood” and all that stuff.  And of course Mike McMahon‘s art on the ‘Sky Chariots’ story is breathtaking – that one page with the ships in formation and the eagle bringing a fish to the nest in the foreground.  Genius.

But, Nemesis the Warlock is the one that has remained my favourite over the years.  Totally unique, I have never read or seen anything like it.  Pat Mills is just letting it all go with that book.  It’s brutal and disgusting, epic, violent, funny and just fucking cool all at the same time.  All the artists that drew Nemesis over the years needed to have such a bizarre unique style to make it work, but of them all I do think that Kevin O’Neill is one of the most important comic artists of all time.  The designs for the characters and that world of Termight are unbelievable, where does it all come from?!  Just brilliant, brilliant stuff. Credo!

I agree on that one too, there’s no one like Kevin out there and Pat has created so many memorable characters over the years as well as helping start the comic obviously. Well, I’m really looking forward to the premiere and, as a fan of the comic for 35+ years it’s clear that it’s in absolutely safe hands here.


Review of the UK premiere

I saw the film last night (after having refused a preview before the interview above as I didn’t want to spoil the occasion) and all I can say is that my suspicions were correct, Paul and his team were absolutely the people for the job. They managed to fit a huge number of creators and history into the film and yet cover a lot of ground in a very entertaining way.

Pat Mills is the binding element which, along with John Wagner and Alan Grant, is how it should be being that they where there at the start and are still writing for the comic today. The comics industry in the UK in the 70’s is covered and the scene set, the troubles that beset them all gone into, the ‘dark years’ of the 90’s and the saving of the publication when Rebellion stepped in to buy them are touched on too. They don’t pull punches and it definitely isn’t all a love-fest, the original Dredd movie is given short thrift as are the copyists who have ripped off characters wholesale.

One of the highlights of the film is Mills railing against ex-editor Dave Bishop, who readily admits his failures in a smart bit of tit for tat editing. There are many glimpses behind the scenes of what went on, how rights were bandied about with little renumeration and creators seen as just grist for the mill. All this is wrapped up in glorious artwork to remind you of exactly why the comic is such a British institution and the rock and synth-heavy soundtrack is perfect to underscore the whole thing. A few creators are conspicuous by their absence – Alan Moore refused to speak (no surprise there) as did Mike McMahon and, despite several instances of their artwork there was little mention of Ian Gibson, Ron Smith, Simon Bisley, Massimo Belardinelli, Brett Ewins or Steve Dillion.

But considering they had to fit three and a half decades into 1hr 45 minutes they did a wonderful job and the abiding message that came across is that 2000AD is a very British institution that once kicked against the status quo and has now become a part of popular culture. Tellingly Mills reveals that the nearest role model at the time was the French anthology Metal Hurlant and that he has always been loath to see the comic as a stepping stone to America. The Q&A afterwards with director Paul, producers Sean and Helen alongside Mills and Kevin O’Neill was further illuminating and I left happy that the legacy of the comic had been faithfully and entertainingly laid out for both fans and newbies alike.

The next showing is at the Leeds Thought Bubble Festival on November 15th where they’ll have a Q&A afterwards too. Follow their Future Shock blog here.

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