Variant issue 1    www.variant.org.uk    variantmag@btinternet.com    back to issue list

 

There's no success like failure

Stewart Home interviews ex-K Foundation
member Jimmy Cauty... eventually

It began with a phone call from a publicist who asked if I'd like an all expenses paid helicopter trip across Dartmoor to witness former KLF star Jimmy Cauty demonstrate his sonic gun. Next came a press release which promised that the formidable and highly dangerous Saracen Armoured Personnel Carrier Audio Weapons System would transmit sonic frequencies and run down photographers for my amusement. The press statement was accompanied by sixteen pages of recent cuttings detailing the deadly effect Cauty's 'noise tank' had on cattle when he demonstrated the weapon for the amusement of a few friends.
From the start, I suspected something dodgy was going on. Cauty built his career in the music industry on the back of stunts and scams. The first KLF album 1987 received rave reviews, but the record was soon suppressed by lawyers acting for ABBA who objected to the heavy sampling of their hit single Dancing Queen. Drummond and Cauty milked the legal proceedings for press coverage, then released a new version of the LP with all the samples removed and detailed instructions on how to recreate the original sound. Later scams included dumping a dead sheep outside the Brit Awards ceremony at which they were named Best British Group. Shortly after this, the KLF announced that they would not be releasing any new material in the foreseeable future and that their entire back catalogue was deleted.
Having relaunched themselves as the K Foundation, Cauty and Bill Drummond turned up at the 1993 Turner Prize to humiliate winner Rachel Whiteread with a forty thousand pound award for being the world's worst artist. This was followed by a controversial trip to Scotland, during the course of which the duo burnt one million pounds. In November 1995, they selected the Workshop For A Non-Linear Architecture Bulletin to announce a 23 year moratorium on K Foundation activities. This privately circulated newsletter is so obscure that news of the moratorium is only just beginning to seep through to the general public.
While Bill Drummond is currently collaborating with former rocker Zodiac Mindwarp on a series of novels, Cauty is pursuing various solo projects, including an album of his sonic experiments for release on Blast First Records. After my initial dealings with this outfit, I was more than a little perplexed when further details of the Dartmoor trip were faxed to me by a PR company working on behalf of the band Black Star Liner. Having made it as far as one of the fifty block booked seats on a Devon bound train, I was presented with a set of ear plugs and a personal safety waiver to sign. Since most of those present were acting as though they were on some Boy's Own Adventure, I moved along to the next carriage where I was able to relax. After working out that I'd switched seats, publicists began dropping by to ply me with drinks and plug Black Star Liner, who were performing after Cauty had demonstrated his noise tank.
By the time we boarded a helicopter at Exeter airport, the majority of journalists present were at least mildly drunk. Then, after a twenty minute chopper ride, disaster struck. The pilot announced that we couldn't land because a mist had swept across the moor. Instead, we returned to Exeter airport where we were told a coach would pick us up and transport us to the acoustic weapons test site. After an hour of waiting, the PR people were going crazy. Meanwhile, an assortment of journalists and photographers were having luggage cart races around an otherwise deserted passenger concourse. The airport had closed down for the night, until one of our party succeeded in activating the public address system and went into pirate DJ mode.
A security guard appeared and attempted to restore order when a bored music journalist switched on a luggage conveyer and one of his friends disappeared down it. Finally, a fleet of cabs conveyed us to the Latern Inn at Ashburton. We'd already misses Black Star Liner. The free bar only mildly improved the gloomy atmosphere that hung over the event. To make us feel better, every journalist present was promised an interview with Jimmy Cauty. We had to go through to another room and talk to Jimmy one at a time. First up was Tony from i-D, who came back quietly complaining that all he got was some incoherent babble about drugs.
When my turn came, I began by asking about the burning of the million quid. Jimmy flatly refused to talk about the K Foundation. Next, I asked Cauty if he was up on the latest research into frequency weapons, which got a much better response. "I know very little about military research into the uses of low frequency sounds as weapons. All this stuff about Advanced Acoustic Armaments is a joke, all I've done is mounted some disco gear onto my two Saracen tanks. Everything the press has written about the sonic guns I'm supposed to have built is just rubbish, the papers want to believe this stuff which is why they are so easy to hoax."
"The event cost fifty thousand pounds to put on," Cauty cackled after I told him about the debacle at Exeter airport, "and I'm really pleased with it. What happened at the airport was as much a part of the entertainment as what I did up on the moor. I'd intended to detain everyone up there, the fog coming down was a real stroke of luck. The performance was sponsored by Black Bin Liner and their record company because they thought they'd gain some radical credibility from the stunt. It might have blown up on the band, but it will still get their name around. After all, they've just played the most expensive pub rock gig ever!"
So there you have it. Jimmy Cauty the side-splitting avant-garde manipulator of the art of hype, who leaves journalists and PR people trapped in a web of their own making. Or, Jimmy Cauty the pop star whose promotional stunts end in Fiasco? The choice is yours. In a knowing post-modern sort of way, I think it's best to accept both versions of Cauty as true.