What Are The KLF About?

This is what KLF is about, also known as the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, furthermore known as THE JAMs!Ricardo Da Force (Last Train To Trancentral, 1991)

One may well ask. We believe that this is no easy question and any answer we can give will be far too simplistic for what is a very complex concept.

On one level the KLF was about a duo of music business veterans who initially used their knowledge and experience to utilise cheap sampling technology later leading to commercial success and acclaim (though not necessarily to a comfortably filled bank account).

BD: “We’re kind of free-form. We never sit down and think, ‘oh God we have to come up with a new idea’. It just happens. We just get up in the morning and have to finish things, that’s the biggest thing in our lives. We’re not sitting around thinking, let’s make a statement, let’s be subversive. We spend most of our time thinking, ‘hell we´ve got to get this done, we´ve got to get that done’.

JC: “We can play instruments and we can do other things. Nobody seems to be able to do more than one thing without not getting taken seriously; not that we mind not getting taken seriously. We just think, ‘that looks interesting’, so we do it.”Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty (Sound On Sound, Apr 1991)

JC: We put all the money back into the records. We don’t keep anything for ourselves. It’s an expensive business. It costs a lot of money. Record companies can afford to let a band go half a million quid into the red and see if it happens. We can’t.

BD: It’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever get rich. It costs a fortune making albums, even singles. And, unlike a major record company, we’ve no forward plan.Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty (Melody Maker, 16 Feb 1991)

But then they also conducted this part of their careers in such a way that it challenged the traditional models of the music-business, and even rebelled against them.

If we were a proper group we’d obviously keep to one name and one style of music and we’d try to build up a career and make sure that we didn’t upset any following that we might have. But we aren’t and we don’t. We do exactly what we want to do at any given time.Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty (Melody Maker, 10 Mar 1990)

A lot of The KLF’s activites might look like situational pranks from the outside, yet they always insisted to be entirely serious about their activities.

We’ve always loathed the word scam. I know no-one’s ever going to believe us, but we never felt we went out and did things to get reactions. Everything we’ve done has just been on a gut level instinct. […]

I think with whatever we do, if we stopped to think about it, it’d be ‘What are we letting ourselves in for now?’ But we don’t. We think ‘Yeah! Let’s do that!’ And it’s a genuine excitement. Something that gives us a buzz. We’re not thinking ‘That’ll impress the bastards!’ Or ‘This’ll take the piss ouf of that!’Bill Drummond (NME, 12 Jan 1991)

To anyone wanting more, we can only suggest they read ALL the material in this FAQ, and examine ALL other related literature and material (including the music itself) and then come to their own conclusions.

I think if we wanted to make it easy for ourselves we’d sign to a major company, sign a deal for a million quid and make all the compromises. Because whatever bands say, you’re always completely compromised when you sign to a major label. I know that, if we signed a band, we wouldn’t let them behave like us, doing what the hell they wanted, that’s for sure!Jimmy Cauty (Melody Maker, 16 Feb 1991)

While not given as a direct answer to the question the 2003 audio book release of The Manual features a foreword voiced by Bill Drummond giving the following advice:

If you want to do something, really want to do something, don’t wait to be asked, don’t seek permission. But be prepared to risk complete failure. Whatever it is: start now. Today! Tomorrow is always too late.Bill Drummond (The Manual Audiobook, 2003)

… which certainly fits The KLF’s modus operandi.

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