[This is an interview conducted with Mark Bailey, then bass player of Extreme Noise Terror collaborating with The KLF, salvaged from the old KLF Online website. Some of the answers presented here might by slightly outdated.]
KLF ONLINE How did you get into the music business?
MARK BAILEY I grew up in Jersey in the Channel Islands. The first band I was involved in was formed by a bunch of mates at school in around 1977/8 when I was about 12. One guy could play guitar, the rest of us could not play anything. I was to play keyboards, but I never learnt. The bass player soon left and I took over bass, I learned to play by being in the band. I didn’t play live until I was 15, a version of the same band, playing old rock covers & a couple of Punk covers. Stuff like Free – Alright Now. ZZ Top – Cheap Sunglasses. Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant etc.
After that gig I was snapped up by the local Punk covers band (The Squad). After that I played in several Jersey bands including Open For Ideas, Rote Kuh, Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Bleeding Rectum.
I moved to England at the start of 1987 and started working as driver and roadie for a few bands including Visions Of Change, Bad Beach, Joyce McKinney Experience.
At the end of 1988 a new band was formed called Filthkick, I played guitar in Filthkick. Filthkick only lasted about 1 year playing mostly as a support band for Extreme Noise Terror. We also recorded a split album with ENT (In It For Life) and a session for John Peel on Radio 1.
At the time that Filthkick broke up ENT were looking for a new bass player. Jim (Filthkick bass player) turned down an offer to join. During a drunken evening at a gig in Birmingham I told Stick (ENT drummer) that I would play bass if they wanted me. Less than 2 months later I was touring Japan with ENT!
Do you still work as an active musician ? (as far as I understood, you left ENT during recording of Retrobution)
MB I left ENT at the end of the first recording session of Retrobution. After that I have not been actively involved in music. I am still signed to Earache Records which I do not like as they could in theory call on the contract and make me record for them.
If you had to describe yourself – what would you say?
MB To avoid writing an essay I’ll use single word descriptions. 36, Married, lazy, unfit, feeling old! If I try to sum it up I think that for a year or two I have been waiting for something to really inspire me – but I’ve not found it yet.
(Addendum – Ed.) The questions about myself were answered about a month ago. Since that time I’ve got a new job that I think is a big part of that inspiration I was seeking – up to that point work had been pretty shitty.
If you could work together with any artist, who would you chose?
MB Never really thought about it… maybe Malcolm Owen (Ruts)… but he died in 1980.
WORKING WITH THE KLF
What was it like to work with Bill and Jimmy?
MB Such a hard question to answer, I can only compare to what I was used to at the time.
The first encounter was the recording of 3AM. To be honest I don’t remember a lot about Jimmy and Bill at that time. I was more taken by the surroundings. We were at one of the top studios in London (Marcus Studios in Fulham / Hammersmith). We were used to small “economy class” studios, often converted rooms in houses.
Working with them was quite straightforward. We brought our own gear, setup for the sound we normally work with, they showed us chord structures. For bass they were quite easy going, Jimmy gave me a rough idea of what he wanted for the verse parts then said get on with it, play what you feel fits. We practiced a bit then recorded it.
I also got to record a whole track of guitar feedback, which was weird as it didn’t particularly fit the music, but that was a clue to what happened next.
The next session was the mixing, I didn’t pay much attention to this but now wish I had. For ENT mixing meant making sure all the volume levels were right then dumping the track to DAT – Job done.
Mark Stent was the engineer on the session, I’d never heard of him before! When the mix was finished we were totally shocked by what we heard. Jimmy had added a load of guitar solos. The big shock was how the song had changed. Big chunks of guitar and bass had been chopped out of the choruses. The track of feedback I had done had disappeared but bits of it had been sampled into the mix. Samples from the original 3AM were added (This is Radio Freedom etc.)
The next encounter was just with Bill. He came down to Ipswich and we spent about a fortnight rehearsing the tracks for the Black Room. This was in our normal rehearsal studio, a roughly converted barn, full of spiders and fucking cold.
Bill was pretty quiet throughout. For us it was very different to normal. We were used to one person coming up with a riff which we then practice and experiment and change round. With Bill we were being given some songs to play which were quite different from our normal style and there was none of the usual “let’s try it this way” or “let’s change this bit” that we were used to.
It was hard to see where Bill’s inspiration came from, he made a lot of references to Nirvana and seemed to be trying to create their energy level.
Bill said a lot of stuff that I think in hindsight was never going to happen but was really to keep us committed. Stuff like doing a KLF/ENT session for John Peel on Radio 1, doing a video for the first single from the album, doing a KLF/ENT tour. There was also talk of the amount of royalties we could expect from the album – even if it bombed – that alone was enough to keep us involved.
After the Ipswich sessions we moved back to Marcus Studios for the actual recording sessions. This time they supplied loads of equipment, they told us we had a sponsorship from Marshall, but I don’t really believe that, I think they just hired it all. Pete had 2 new Marshall JCM 900 stacks (JCM 900s had just been released). I had a monstrous Marshall bass rig which they said was previously used by Motorhead (although I don’t really believe that).
The recording was straightforward; we put down the tracks that we had rehearsed in Ipswich. The big difference was how perfect it had to be. With ENT studio time was always pressured by time and money, so small mistakes would be left in if we thought no-one would notice. There was no way we were going to get away with any mistakes in this session. It was like playing to a panel of judges as Bill, Jimmy and Mark Stent were all listening out for the slightest bum note or bad timing. It felt quite pressured at times.
After each track I recorded they would ask if I was happy with it. After 3 scrapped attempts at a track if I made a tiny error on the 4th go I might not say anything, however every time they would say are you sure you’re happy with it? If I still said yes they would then highlight the error and play it back if I still thought it was OK. We were soon to learn that money was of no consequence to Bill & Jimmy.
We soon learned that there were no pressures on studio time what so ever. We also noted that if we mentioned something in general conversation such as a really expensive cheese or bottle of wine that we had seen, it was likely to be waiting for us in the studio the next morning.
The next sessions were rehearsals for the Brits by now Bill and Jimmy were getting quite excited and coming out with all sorts of ideas for what they were going to do.
How did they get in touch with you?
MB We had a newish album out (Phonophobia) which was getting some airplay on Radio 1 thanks to John Peel. Bill heard a track and contacted John Peel to find out how to get in touch with us. John Peel put Bill in touch with Dean (vocals). This was quite ironic as they didn’t actually want the ENT vocalists! When it came to the first recording session Dean sniffed the chance of making some money and made sure that he turned up at the studios and talked his way into doing some vocals. This is why there is only 1 ENT vocalist on the studio version of 3AM.
Did you know the KLF before?
MB I was certainly aware of them, it was pretty hard not to be! They were the biggest singles selling band in the world at the time. Actually I had been aware of them for quite a long while as there escapades as the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu were often featured in Sounds (Music paper).
Why did you decide to collaborate with them?
MB Give me one good reason why not! They offered us £1000 – we get to work in a top recording studio – we get to be on TV (Top of The Pops) – loads of exposure for ENT – Etc., etc., etc.
Did B&J plan to record a whole album from the beginning, or did they only think about the 3AM single in the first place?
MB When they first contacted us the proposal was for the ENT backline (Guitar, Bass & Drums) to record a version of 3AM for the Xmas Top of The Pops. The BBC banned the version of 3AM that we recorded. Although they had agreed to a rock version of 3AM they decided the new version was too far removed from the original. As a result of that Bill and Jimmy got it sorted for us to play at the Brits instead. Initially there was no mention of the Black Room, perhaps they had it in mind but wanted to see how the 3AM track worked out.
Were there any other versions of 3 a.m.? (regarding Jimmy’s remix activities, one never knows…)
MB The only other KLF/ENT version of 3AM that I know of is the live recording from the Brits which was fairly easy to find on Napster when it was running.
Why were the Black Room tracks never finished?
MB All the music for the Black Room was recorded, all that remained to do was the vocals and the mixing. As you know at the end of the performance on the Brits the PA announced The KLF have now left the music business. At the time we thought nothing of it but that was exactly what they meant. No further work was ever done on the tracks.
Are there any finished tracks except 3AM? You wrote about Terminator 10 and another track – how would you describe them?
MB Yeah, 2 tracks were completed, Terminator 10 and The Black Room. I don’t think a final mix was made of either track but there was certainly a rough mix put onto cassette. The 2 tracks were quite similar, they were the 2 slow tracks of the bunch. I have downloaded the Napster version of both although they have the wrong titles attached to them. The Napster downloads were titled Turn Up The Strobe and Thirty Eight. I have not heard the versions with vocals on. Dean & Phil (ENT Vocals) were the only people to have copies of the tape and they both said they were embarrassed by it and would not let anyone hear it!
Can these finished tracks be found anywhere? (demo tapes or whatsoever)
MB Dean & Phil brought cassettes out from the last session but weather those cassettes still exist or not is anyone’s guess.
One of the tracks that made it into Napster is called Turn Up The Strobe (TUTS). The KLF planned to record and release a track called TUTS back in 1988/89 as part of their Pure Trance series. Do you know if the ENT track is in any way related to the KLF’s original, never released version?
MB The track that was named TUTS on Napster was actually either Terminator 10 or The Black Room. TUTS was one of the tracks we recorded (as was Thirty Eight) but I can’t remember which one.
Any idea how the demo tracks made it into Napster?
MB Thinking about it I think the Napster tracks are actually from the original rehearsals from the studio in Ipswich and not the actual tracks recorded at Marcus. We all had a copy of the tape. I doubt if anyone from ENT apart from myself would know how to convert cassette to MP3 so I think someone in the band did a copy of the tape for a friend who in turn converted it, or the guy fropm the Ipswich studio may have done it. I think the tracks are from Ipswich because the quality is pretty rough.
Do you still got your demo tape of the Black Room sessions?
MB It should be in my loft. I had a look a couple of days ago but didn’t find it. I did find quite a few old forgotten ENT tapes but most are badly deteriorated by a combination of time and the effects of heat in the loft.
AT THE BRIT AWARDS
How would you describe what happened at the BRIT Awards?
MB I’ll try and keep this short as I could go on for days! First time I’d had stage nerves in years, I never realised how big Hammersmith Odeon was. When we actually played you couldn’t see the audience because the lighting was blinding.
We did the soundchecks the day before. That was funny in how the tabloids reported it. I remember reading an article in the Sun covering the soundchecks, shit like Mick Hucknell (Simply Red) was in a rage because his vocals were not loud enough, what really happened was he asked the mixing desk to turn up the vocals in the monitors. That’s what a soundcheck is for!!
On the actual day I was shocked by how many people were there, not the guests who were attending but the people who turned up in the hope of seeing some celebrities. It was well weird being in the middle of that, must be similar to the reception that people coming out of Big Brother House got.
We had a dressing room on the top floor, not that big. Bill had the machine gun. It was the real deal, not an imitation, a man from the MOD came with the gun, it couldn’t be let out of his sight. That was sort of funny he was so focused on the gun that he appeared to be totally oblivious to the mountain of cocaine in the room.
Before we played we disappeared to the pub next door to the Odeon. We were a lot more at home there, we weren’t the only ones, the backing musicians for Seal were also in there.
When the show started we were on first, we played and then we left (to a squat in Brixton) apparently Jimmy’s old house?
OK, that’s what happened at the show but I guess what you’re interested in is the background. The main thing was the plan to throw buckets of blood over the audience, this was a compromise in itself. The original plan was to dissect a sheep on stage, this led to some real rows just within ENT.
At the time everyone in ENT was vegetarian and we were known for pro vegetarian songs such as Murder, Cruelty to Carnivores, etc. I was totally against the idea as was Stick (drums) on the other hand Dean (Vocals) was totally in favour of it. Pete (Guitar) and Phil (Vocals) were somewhere in between. Dean’s reason for being in favour was purely financial, he was worried that if we refused to go through with it that KLF would pull out of the album and therefore we would not get any royalty payments. No real surprise that Dean started eating meat a few months later!
If it was left to democracy then it would have gone ahead, however Stick & I said no compromise, there was no way we would be part of it. We also made it clear that if they tried the stunt unannounced we would put down our instruments and walk off there and then. So the buckets of blood were the compromise, I still was not comfortable with that.
As it turned out on the day word off the plan had leaked out and Bill & Jimmy were asked to sign some kind of legal shit to say they would not do the blood stunt. We never knew but we suspected that Bill & Jimmy had decided that the blood stunt was too much and they had arranged the “leak”. Bill had the crutch for the final rehearsals but we didn’t really know why (and still don’t) We knew there was no medical reason for it. We didn’t really know what he was trying to achieve visually, Trench coat, kilt, crutch, cigar, machine gun, our best idea was Hannibal from the A-Team!
It was only when we saw the show on the TV some 3 hours after the event that we found out how shit the sound was. The sound on stage was immense, people we knew out front also said it was immense. However the sound that went out on TV was absolute shit, I’m sure you’ve heard it via Napster. Mark Stent mixed the sound and claimed that the TV company broadcast the sound from the stage monitors instead of from the mixing desk, I’m really not convinced.
Bill messed up his vocals, that I think was genuine, he had struggled with the speed of it throughout the rehearsals. Jimmy totally fucked up his guitar bits playing everything out of key. It’s something I was really pissed off about at the time and in truth still am. For KLF the sound was unimportant, it was the spectacle that counted and was of course the platform for their retirement statement. As far as I was concerned it made ENT look like a bunch of cunts.
Not sure of the events immediately after the Brits, we were left at the squat in Brixton whilst they went off “on a mission” as they put it. We wanted to go to the after show party, but they said we wouldn’t get in as it was dinner jacket dress code and we only had the ripped clothes we stood in. We left the squat and went back to Marcus Studios (Where we were staying). After a few phone calls tickets for the after show party were delivered to us and off we went. We got into the party although there was a bit of a delay at the entrance. As far as I remember Bill & Jimmy didn’t go.
Did you follow the KLF’s artistic path after the “split”? (burning of a million quid, the 1997 track “Fuck The Millennium”, Jimmy’s ongoing remix activities)
MB In a word No! I did watch the TV documentary about the million quid, I liked that as there was some extra footage from the Brits which showed me. I was hardly seen on the live footage that went out on the Brits TV coverage!
Is there still any contact with either Bill or Jimmy?
MB Certainly not from me. I used to ring Bill now and again, but that was just to hear his answerphone which changed regularly and was always amusing.