As soon as we got on the phone to Bill Drummond, it was clear that things weren't going to go the way we thought. Bill only gives two interviews a year, so he was adamant that this wouldn't be us interviewing him, rather the other way round – Bill Drummond would be interviewing Dazed. We were to be the first interviewees in his new project Forty Minute Interviews.
Drummond is a legendary polymath, a first a musician who played in 80s legends Big In Japan and most famously the KLF, who once burnt a million pounds of their earnings. Now he works predominantly as an artist and is currently based in Birmingham at the beginning of a world tour that ends in 2025, after residencies that will take him to Berlin, Guangzhou, Memphis and Damascus.
Drummond could be facing police action after he covered a UKIP poster on Tuesday in his own brand of paint, Drummond's International Grey. Bill told us that the paint is a "slight play on International Blue by Yves Klein. Grey was always my favourite colour as a kid." The paint's ultimate purpose? To cover anything that its owner finds morally or aesthetically offensive. Hence the UKIP poster.
"Yesterday morning I walked past that billboard in Heath Mill Lane that was very cynically trying to pander to us at our most vulnerable and negative and not to our better selves," Drummond recounts in his Birmingham Post column. "I may be in danger of overstating it, but this would have been exactly the same appeal the National Socialist German Workers’ Party would have had in Germany in the years after the First World War when the German people were feeling at their most beaten and vulnerable. This billboard not only offended me morally and aesthetically it also went against everything that I feel political discourse should be about. Thus there was nothing for it."
Drummond made 1,000 tins of the grey emulsion paint ten years ago and held on to the stock. UKIP have now replaced the defaced poster and made a formal complaint to the police, and Drummond now awaits his fate. When we spoke to him yesterday he was in fine spirits, resolutely committed to discussing anything but UKIP. Which included introducing his alter ego, Tenzing Scott Brown.
"Tenzing is thinking of DJ-ing, I'm not sure where yet," Drummond told us. "He'll only have 40 records – Tenzing is quite retro and looks back, whereas Bill Drummond looks forward. He only plays 40 records, well he hasn't played them yet. He's just considering doing a DJ set. I know what kind of wig he has and what kind of suit he wears - it's a double–breasted, black and white polka dot suit with an orange wig. Can you please recommend me a record for Tenzing's collection?"
As it happens, we could:
We went on to discuss a recent poll that showed that one in five people would have sex with a robot, which prompted Bill to remember his days as an apprentice trawlerman.
"Do you know anything about skate, the fish?" he asked. "When I was out at sea, we caught a huge skate one day. I was just a boy back then, the other 6 or 7 fishermen were men. They nailed the skate to one of the doors on the boat, with its underside out. It's got these huge lips, kind of like a cartoon version of women's lips – big and voluptuous. Below the lips are the fish's sexual organs. Anyway, I was told that if I wanted to be a proper trawlerman then I was expected to 'ride the lady'. I was expected to fuck the fish. I didn't, so four days later I quit and ended up in Coventry, then Liverpool. There are a whole section of people out there at sea who are probably still fucking skate."
We barely spoke about UKIP. Bill declared that he'd said all that he needed to say, although he was delighted to find out that the man in the poster that he'd defaced was in fact an Irish migrant.
Later that afternoon, Bill asked us if there was anything we thought fit for a lashing of Drummond's International Grey. Then he sent us images of the controversial frontpage of yesterday's Daily Mail, which featured the headline "Millions are eating Halal meat without knowing it". He'd covered it in Drummond's International Grey.
Visit Eastside Projects to find out more about Bill and his latest exhibition.
Follow Thomas Gorton on Twitter here @angstromhoot
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