The KLF (also known as The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The Timelords and other names) were one of the seminal bands of the British acid house movement during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Beginning in 1987, Bill Drummond (alias King Boy D) and Jimmy Cauty (alias Rockman Rock)
released hip hop-inspired and sample-heavy records as The Justified
Ancients of Mu Mu, and on one occasion (the British number one hit
single "Doctorin' the Tardis") as The Timelords. The KLF released a
series of international hits on their own KLF Communications record
label, and became the biggest-selling singles act in the world for 1991.
The duo also published a cynical book, The Manual (How to Have a Number
One the Easy Way), and worked on a road movie called The White Room.
From the outset, they adopted the philosophy espoused by esoteric novel
series The Illuminatus! Trilogy, gaining notoriety for various anarchic
situationist manifestations, including the defacement of billboard
adverts, the posting of prominent cryptic advertisements in NME magazine
and the mainstream press, and highly distinctive and unusual
performances on Top of the Pops. Their most notorious performance was a
collaboration with Extreme Noise Terror at the February 1992 BRIT
Awards, where they fired machine gun blanks into the audience and dumped
a dead sheep at the aftershow party. This performance announced The
KLF's departure from the music business, and in May 1992 the duo deleted
their entire back catalogue.
With The KLF's profits, Drummond and Cauty established the K Foundation
and sought to subvert the art world, staging an alternative art award
for the worst artist of the year and burning one million pounds
sterling. Drummond and Cauty remained true to their word of May 1992—the
KLF Communications catalogue remains deleted in the UK, but The White
Room is still being pressed in the US by Arista. They have released a
small number of new tracks since then, as the K Foundation, The One
World Orchestra and most recently, in 1997, as 2K.
In 1986, Bill Drummond was an established figure within the British
music industry, having co-founded Zoo Records, played guitar in the
Liverpool band Big in Japan, and worked as manager of Echo & the
Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. On 21 July of that year, he resigned
from his position as an A&R man at record label WEA, citing that he
was nearly 33⅓ years old (33⅓ revolutions per minute being significant
to Drummond as the speed at which a vinyl LP revolves), and that it was
"time for a revolution in my life. There is a mountain to climb the hard
way, and I want to see the world from the top". He released a
well-received solo LP, The Man, judged by reviewers as "tastefully
understated," a "touching if idiosyncratic biographical statement"
encapsulating "his bizarrely sage ruminations", and "a work of humble
genius: the best kind".
Artist and musician Jimmy Cauty was, in 1986, the guitarist in the
commercially unsuccessful three-piece Brilliant — an act that Drummond
had signed to WEA Records and managed. Cauty and Drummond shared an
interest in the esoteric conspiracy novels The Illuminatus! Trilogy,
and, in particular, their theme of Discordianism, a form of post-modern
anarchism. As an art student in Liverpool, Drummond had been involved
with the set design for the first stage production of The Illuminatus!
Trilogy, a 12-hour performance which opened in Liverpool on 23 November
Re-reading Illuminatus! in late 1986, and influenced by hip-hop,
Drummond felt inspired to react against what he perceived to be the
stagnant soundscape of popular music. Recalling that moment in a later
radio interview, Drummond said that the plan came to him in an instant:
he would form a hip-hop band with former colleague Jimmy Cauty, and they
would be called The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu.
It was New Year's Day ... 1987. I was at home with my parents, I was
going for a walk in the morning, it was, like, bright blue sky, and I
thought "I'm going to make a hip-hop record. Who can I make a hip-hop
record with?". I wasn't brave enough to go and do it myself, 'cause,
although I can play the guitar, and I can knock out a few things on the
piano, I knew nothing, personally, about the technology. And, I thought,
I knew [Jimmy], I knew he was a like spirit, we share similar tastes
and backgrounds in music and things. So I phoned him up that day and
said "Let's form a band called The Justified Ancients of Mu-Mu". And he
knew exactly, to coin a phrase, "where I was coming from". And within a
week we had recorded our first single which was called "All You Need Is