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Bill Drummond: Four Chapters from a local artist

Essay
a local artist
Bold Street
Disappearing
Echo & The Bunnymen
Fabulating
Frontperson
Hit single
Isle of Jura
Liverpool
Music industry
Novel
Posters
Spaghetti Junction
The KLF
The Teardrop Explodes
Unnoticed

In the late 1980s, after several successful careers – as a set designer, a label manager, and an A&R consultant, among others – Bill Drummond decided to write hit singles that would conquer the billboard charts. And he actually succeeded. Together with Jimmy Cauty, Drummond formed the bands The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The Timelords, and The KLF, which were responsible for several no 1 singles. In fact, The KLF was the biggest selling singles act in the world in 1991. Shortly after, the duo decided to quit the music industry. But Drummond and Cauty wouldn’t just stop producing music, they actually deleted their entire back-catalogue. During that time they made other things disappear, too – most notably Drummond and Cauty burned one million pounds at a boathouse on the Isle of Jura.

Drummond has remained active as an artist realizing projects in a variety of mediums – from books and graffiti to performances and interventions. Currently, Drummond is writing a novel called a local artist. It probably will never be published in the conventional book format, as the artist writes, and we are all the more excited to share four chapters from a local artist as both audio recordings and texts as a part of our focal theme on “disappearing.”

Text Bill Drummond
Title Image Tracey Moberly

TO GO UNNOTICED

Text version

SURELY…

Text version

LEAVING

Text version

GONE

Text version

TO GO UNNOTICED (text version)

11:16 Sunday, 1 October 2023

To go unnoticed was always my ultimate ambition.

This ambition goes all the way back to when I was four or five. I was a middle child with a clever big sister that was praised for all her achievements, and a cute little brother that all the women in the congregation cooed over. This meant I could slip out the side door and roam free on my own. And I knew this is the way that I wanted things to stay for the rest of my life.

But…

When I turned 16, I began to become taller than my school friends. This meant that any time we walked into a bar or dance hall, I stood out. I hated this standing out, so I stooped or hid in the shadows.

There were times that I would dress up, and hide behind what I was dressing up in. But that brought with it numerous other issues. People would be drawn to who I was dressing up as, and I would end up in entanglements that would always go wrong when they realized the person I had been dressing up as and they had been drawn to was not me. Whereas I just wanted to slip out the side door and roam free unnoticed.

This next bit is something that I have written about before, but feel I have to say it again to make sense of the bit after it…

When I was working doing stage security at Eric’s in Liverpool between mid-1977 and mid-1978, I could not help but watch the audience focusing in on the frontperson of the band they were watching. And how that frontperson reading this as a signal that they were the most important person in the room. I don’t know if the audience or the frontperson thought this to be the case the next morning or not.

What I do know is, by 1979, when I was working with Echo & The Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes, the frontmen of both these bands had to believe they were the most important person in the room when the band they were fronting were performing, or the gig did not work. At the time I was not aware of the downside of this for the mental health of a frontman or woman, when the gaze of the audience moves elsewhere.

But…

I can be held accountable for encouraging this mindset of these particular frontmen.

One day I overheard one of them say to a young woman that you must learn to walk down Bold Street as if you were being filmed for a movie. As if you were the only person of any importance walking down Bold Street on that day, or for that matter any day. And that your walking down Bold Street should turn heads, even if they did not know who the fuck you were.

Now…

The Bold Street in question is a very straight shopping street in Liverpool, where many of us would walk down every day, heading for the hub of the city.

Now…

I was not going to argue with this particular frontman, what he said was all part of the delusion a frontman must believe in to do his job properly.

But…

Overhearing him say these words to this young woman triggered something else in my head. The next day, as I got off the bus outside the Bombed out Church, and about to walk down Bold Street, I made a conscious decision. This decision was to see if I could walk down Bold Street without anybody noticing me. That first day, five people noticed me. The next day, only three people noticed me. The next only one. But it took almost three weeks before I had mastered the art of being able to walk all the way down Bold Street without anyone noticing me.

This was brilliant and totally freed me up.

But…

Ideas are the only thing worth having, however fleeting they might be. And however bad or good they might be. A day without new ideas is a day not worth living. And having ideas cannot be commodified, like youth and death and all the rest.

Anyway, back to what I was supposed to be trying to tell you.

It did not stop there. I decided to apply this ‘going unnoticed’ approach to other areas of my life. As in working with the conflicting egos that exist within band members and in turn rival bands. Not only was I to attempt to seed ideas within the conflicting egos without anyone noticing I was attempting to seed said ideas, but to get them to feel it was them that came up with the idea themselves. In doing this, one could make things happen without the conflict of attempting to inflict your ideas on those around you.

But…

To take this to the next level, I found myself attempting to create situations where I did not even have to come up with the ideas to inflict on those I was working with, they were coming up with the ideas themselves.

And…

All I had to do was tell them how brilliant they were for coming up with such a fantastic idea. The artist in me flattered myself in thinking this had to be a great asset to have on my palette while working on that canvas of my choice.

This was all in my mid to late 20s and early 30s. The trouble was once I was properly into my 30s, my chosen canvas had become different in many ways. I was beginning to make things harder for myself to go unrecognized. For one thing, I was no longer living in Liverpool, thus could not practice my craft by walking down Bold Street. Instead, I was living in a small nondescript rural village in Southern England. Although I was able to go about my business in the village without being noticed, let alone turning heads, I was being noticed by the music media of the day. Even though I was using every disguise that I could grab, the media of the day began to know who Bill Drummond was. And in turn interpret who this ‘Bill Drummond’ was. At least they knew nothing about my life or even what I really looked like. I made sure whatever it was that I was doing contained none of my personal emotions or domestic dramas. I kept what I was doing totally focused on ideas. Some of those ideas were miniscule, some were totally brutal and in your face. The other thing that I was able to continue to do was allow situations to grow, where those around you had the confidence to evolve their own ideas and understand if it were not for them, none of ‘this’ would be happening. It is vital that everyone you work with must believe that it is their contribution that makes the thing happen. This also must be true. This might sound totally arrogant in some perverse way, but it all goes back to making both your physical and creative self, invisible to those around you. Thus, freeing them up to deliver their best.

Stop…

Most days a line comes into my head that I want to paint on ‘my’ wall under Spaghetti Junction, today’s line has just come into my head…

WHY DO YOU THINK YOU ARE RIGHT?

Anyway, back to what I was supposed to be trying to tell you.

Since turning 70, almost six months ago, I may have got a lot worse at so many things in life, but I seem to have refined my skills at going unnoticed. Not having online followers of course helps. Thus, having no online presence that can be shared.

This all helps in getting the job done while I still have the moments that lay ahead.

Anyway, I saw off Scissorman.


SURELY… (text version)

15:05 Monday, 2 October 2023

Surely…

The fact that everything is transient and life has no meaning is what gives what we do with our lives purpose. As in its lack of purpose is its driving force. 

Taking the above as a given, I hope that whatever it is that I have done and I might yet do does not have a life after I am dead.

We hold onto the idea of The Bible or the Canterbury Tales or Shakespeare or Harry Potter or whatever it is having lasting significance in the hope that whatever we do may have some sort of lasting significance in the full knowledge that even Shakespeare will be cast on the scrap heap of time and soon be long forgotten.

Thus, why waste time and effort making or doing anything that lasts any longer than our lifetime – in fact the more transient the better.

And…

Anyway…

The world does not need more stuff that people feel they need to preserve.

So…

From here on in, I will attempt to only be making stuff that has a life span of no more than it takes to become itself.

Because the previous statement is somewhat unclear, I will attempt to give an example…

That example being the life of a poster flyposted to a wall – as in from the moment the poster has been printed until the last moment a fraction of its remains can be detected on the wall it was flyposted upon. 

This last paragraph might in some way be the defining paragraph in the whole of this unfolding novel. For the past few months, I have known how I want four of the five novels that I am currently pulling together to reach beyond my laptop, but not this one. But now I know, I want this novel as in… 

a local artist

a novel by

William E Drummond

MMXXIII

To exist using the medium of flyposted posters on the wall under Spaghetti Junction, opposite the wall that I do my paintings on. I guess there will have to be hundreds of these posters to get the whole of the novel there. I won’t get them all up on the same day. It might take months to get them all flyposted. And by the time the last one is flyposted the first one will have disappeared. 

As for my statement for the day, or maybe week, or is it the year, or just the one life…

Anyway…

The statement is…

FOLLOW NO ONE
AND HOPE NO ONE
FOLLOWS YOU


LEAVING (text version)

12:32 Sunday, 26 November 2023

Do you like to leave…?
Maybe ‘like’ is the wrong word.
Are you drawn to leave…?
Even that does not feel right.
Is there something inside you that makes you leave whatever it is that you are at or in, be it a party, a film, a relationship, a band, a job, a place in the world, a life…?
As in before whatever it is has come to its natural end?
Before the credits roll?
Before you make that move?
Before you shoot your load?
Before the door closes?

If that is the case with you, then join the club: you belong.
But there lies the rub: I loath to belong.
I would do anything to not belong.
As soon as I feel I am belonging, is when I feel that need to leave.
If leaving were an Olympic sport, I might even give it a go.
If I was in the Jungle or on Love Island, I would want to be the first to leave.
Or Bake Off, or Got Talent, or any of those other shite things that…
I guess this is why I have always hated parties and festivals and riots and marches and raves. They are always about belonging. 

I have been leaving ever since I can remember.
Walking away into the night on your own – there is nothing like it.
Hearing the sound of the party fade the further you go into the darkness.

When I was a bairn, this did not seem to matter, other than to my mum. But I almost think my mum celebrated my leaving. I was not leaving in some diva way, as in, so as to be called back…to be noticed. I did not want to be noticed. I did not want to be called back.

But when I got older, me leaving caused issues for others. And these issues are still there causing pain for others. The others that I have left behind. 

But that urge to leave does not seem to have diminished with age along with all the other things that diminish with age.

Maybe I should leave it at that.

GONE (text version)

10:19 Monday, 27 November 2023

Fall 
Stop 
Make 
Burn 
Gone 
Time 
Tear 
Full
Tide 
Love

Tree 
Dead 
Life
Leaf 
Fish
Oven
Fell 
Wind
Loch
Moss

Nail 
Flow
Leap
Rock 
Feel
Claw
Bake
Pike 
Will
Soup

Moor
Lick
Dace
Road
Wipe
Over
Brig
Grit
Cake
Wren

Mend
Take
Crow
Rain
Knit
Nest
Stay
Give
Wool
Flat

Rook
List
Wave
Hill
Lost
Home
Tree 
Born
Slow 
Dive

Pine
Just
Gash
Five
Over
Seen
Moon
Even
Bite
Away

Fear
Ruin
Jump
Oats
Slip
Tube
Eggs
Tent
Gown
Mask

Camp
Blow
Fire
Wood
Line
Lane
Back
Bind
Plow
Feel

Wall
Cast
Grey
Slit
Morn
Push
Word
Hope
Dark
Late…

I could go on. And I will go on, but not now. There is a bus to catch. I love catching busses. Yet missing them can be even better. I should have put ‘miss’ in the list.

Nearly all the best words have only four letters. There are some other great words that I wish had only four letters in them, but I guess it is too late for me to do anything about that. ‘Guess,’ being one of those words. And ‘any’ being another. And ‘being’ yet another. And ‘yet’ being yet another. But I don’t like ‘but.’ ‘Yet’ is so much better than ‘but’.

And ‘only’. But not ‘best’ – I have never liked the word ‘best.’

As for ‘leave,’ I wish it only had four letters as in just ‘leav.’

And I hate ‘that’ and ‘when’ and ‘were’ and especially ‘hate.’

The list above is the current Hot Hundred – but not in any particular order.

I usually have an ongoing and constantly evolving top ten of four-letter words. Currently at the pole position – and I hope it stays there to reach that hallowed position of the Being the Christmas Number One – is GONE.

I mean…

Right now, I just love the word GONE.

GONE is one of those words where the whole ark of the story is contained within just those four letters, like its arch nemesis STAY.

But right now, GONE is top of the charts. STAY may have its revival. 

But right now, GONE is the one that I am holding fast* to.

I mean, I would rather that a film had GONE after the closing scene and not The End.

GONE

*I love the word ‘fast’ but not when it relates to speed but when something is ‘tied fast.’


Credits

Recording and voice editing by Kenny Atkin
Photography by Tracey Moberly

Text Bill Drummond
Title Image Tracey Moberly
Essay
a local artist
Bold Street
Disappearing
Echo & The Bunnymen
Fabulating
Frontperson
Hit single
Isle of Jura
Liverpool
Music industry
Novel
Posters
Spaghetti Junction
The KLF
The Teardrop Explodes
Unnoticed
Close