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Last Updated: Friday, 30 April, 2004, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
What Drummond did next
By Greg McKevitt
BBC News Online

What do you do with your life after deliberately burning a million pounds of your own money?

It's the obvious question to ask former KLF pop star Bill Drummond but almost a decade on, he still doesn't have an easy answer.

A trained visual artist, Drummond, 51, forged a reputation built on a series of art pranks which shocked and delighted in equal measures.

Bill Drummond
Bill Drummond has a history of confounding expectations
For starters, his pop career included writing a manual on how to have a number one hit (or your money back), a novelty number one based on the Doctor Who theme tune and having country star Tammy Wynette sing on a dance hit.

What about dumping dead sheep at the Brit Awards, giving 40,000 for the worst art in Britain to Rachel Whiteread on the same night she won the 20,000 Turner prize and, most infamously, burning 1m of the proceeds of pop fame on a remote Scottish island.

Drummond's latest project may be less dramatic, but it is equally eccentric - on every night of Belfast's Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in May, he will go to someone's house and make soup for their family and friends.

He remains unclear whether this has any artistic significance, but says he hopes to find out in the future "or perhaps somebody will tell me".

"In 1998, I was asked to come over to Belfast to take part in an exhibition at a house up Botanic Avenue," he said.

"I decided not to put an exhibit in, but make soup for everyone in the house, as a kind of event and it went really well."

He says he has always enjoyed making soup, and took the idea a step further when a listings magazine in Nottingham asked him to provide a competition prize, "expecting a signed book or something".

"I decided that the prize should be me coming around to the winner's house to make soup for their friends and family," he said.

"It went really well, just the idea of turning up with my ingredients and pots and pans.

Map

"I drove home that night, and in the larder door in the kitchen, I've got a map of the British Isles.

"I drew a line across the map through Belfast and Nottingham, and decided it should be the Soup Line. If anybody living on the line contacted me, I would come to their place and make them soup."

Drummond says he is fascinated by maps, especially borders between relatively newer countries which effectively are straight lines, like the one dividing the US and Canada.

Of course I regret it - who wouldn't!
Bill Drummond on burning 1m
"I kind of like the idea that somebody just got out a pencil and ruler and drew a line. I decided to have my line on the map and called it the Soup Line."

He has been a regular visitor to Northern Ireland ever since he was a child growing up in Scotland.

"I come from near Stranraer in Galloway, and as a child, it was easier to come across to Belfast than go to Glasgow or Edinburgh for things like Christmas shopping - it was the nearest big city."

Drummond also owns property in the province - not your average ex-pop star's mock Tudor mansion but a fortified tower built in the 19th century, complete with a dungeon.

"It evolved into becoming an artists' residency, where they can get on with work there for two to four weeks at a time," he said.

The Timelords
Drummond (right) was part of novelty band the Timelords
Despite his many projects since he and collaborator Jimmy Cauty disbanded the KLF at the height of their fame, one thing in particular continues to baffle people.

In August 1994, the pair travelled to a boathouse in the Scottish island of Jura with 1m of money earned by KLF hits such as Justified and Ancient, 3AM Eternal and What Time is Love?

They lit a bonfire and burned the 50 notes, recording it for a film called Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid.

"Of course I regret it - who wouldn't!" Drummond now says.

"My children especially regret it, but I don't regret it all the time.

"I remember once, one of my children came home from school and said 'somebody told me in the playground that you once burned a hundred quid - is it true?'

"I said, 'I wish that was true!'"

Significance

As with the Soup Line, Drummond says he is still waiting to be told the artistic significance of burning the money.

"A long time ago, we realised that everybody wanted us to have the smart answer, and we felt we owed it to people, especially our families, to have this.

Even if I followed The Manual to the word, it would be a disaster and an embarrassment
Bill Drummond rules out a return to the charts
"After a while, we realised that whatever answer we came up with would not be good enough.

"It was more for other people to take from it whatever they wanted, whether it be 'they obviously didn't do it' or 'it's a terrible thing' or whatever. It's for other people to explore."

Having written a book with Cauty called The Manual: How to Have A Number One The Easy Way, you might think that all he had to do to make the money back was release another single and have another hit.

Money-back guarantee

The 1988 book came with a guarantee that if wannabes who followed their instructions to the letter failed to have a number one hit within three months, they would refund the price of the book.

Austrian duo Edelweiss did just that and sold two million copies of a single called Bring Me Edelweiss.

However, Drummond feels he would not be able to hit the top of the charts in 2004, partly because of his age.

"I know when I stopped doing pop music, if that's what it was, I made the decision to stop at a point when we were at a reasonable height and hadn't outstayed our welcome.

"Even if I followed The Manual to the word, it would be a disaster and an embarrassment," he said.

Despite his retirement from the music business, projects like the Soup Line are proof that Drummond has not lost the ability to surprise and confound people's expectations.

The Soup Line is part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. Running throughout Belfast until 9 May, it features a varied programme of events in music, comedy, theatre, literature, film, circus, street theatre and visual art.




SEE ALSO:
Reward for stolen expletive art
01 Oct 02  |  England


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