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
"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.