Jimmy Cauty

Jimmy Cauty
Birth name James Francis Cauty
Also known as Rockman Rock, Lord Rock, Space, Graybeard,
Scourge of the Earth, Advanced Acoustic Armaments (AAA)
Born (1956-12-19) 19 December 1956
Totnes, Devon, England[1]
Genres Ambient house, electronica
Occupation(s) Musician, record producer, artist
Instruments Guitar, synthesiser
Years active 1981–present
Labels KLF Communications, Blast First
Associated acts Angels 1–5, Brilliant, Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction, The Justified Ancients of Mu-Mu, The Timelords, The KLF, The Orb, K Foundation, 2K, Blacksmoke, Solid Gold Chartbusters, Transit Kings

James Francis Cauty (commonly known as Jimmy or Jimi Cauty, also known as Rockman Rock) (born 19 December 1956) is a British artist and musician born in Totnes, England. Cauty is best known as one half of the hitmaking duo The KLF; as co-founder of The Orb and a leading innovator in the birth of the ambient house genre; and as the man who burnt one million pounds.

Cauty was married to Cressida (née Bowyer), with whom he has twins, Daisy and Harry, and a younger son, Alfie.[2] He later married artist and musician Alannah Currie (formerly of Thompson Twins) in 2011.

Early career

As a 17-year-old artist, Cauty drew a popular The Lord of the Rings poster (and later, a counterpart based on The Hobbit) for British retailer Athena,[3] as well as the cover for the concept album The King of Elfland's Daughter.

In 1981-2 Cauty was guitarist in a band called Angels 1–5, who recorded a Peel session on 1 July 1981.[4] Lead vocalist was Cressida Bowyer, whom Cauty later married. He then joined the band Brilliant with which he remained until its break-up in 1986. Cauty was also an original member of Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction, in 1985.

Artistic partnership with Bill Drummond, 1987–1995, 1997

Cauty joined with Bill Drummond to form The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (The JAMs), a collaboration that played out in various guises and media over much of the next decade.

As an A&R man, Drummond had signed Brilliant to WEA.[5] Concocting a scheme for a hip-hop record on New Year's Day 1987, Drummond needed a like-minded collaborator with expertise in current music technology. Jimmy Cauty instantly sprang to mind, so Drummond telephoned him. Cauty "knew exactly, to coin a phrase, 'where I was coming from'", said Drummond. A week later, The JAMs had recorded their debut single, "All You Need Is Love".[6] Several singles and three albums as The JAMs followed (their debut, 1987; the follow-up, Who Killed The JAMs?; and compilation Shag Times) before a change of direction saw the duo mutate into dance and ambient music pioneers, The KLF. Along the way, the duo scored their first British number one hit single as The Timelords with the Gary Glitter/Dr. Who novelty-pop mash-up "Doctorin' the Tardis".

The KLF released two ground breaking albums – Chill Out and The White Room – and a string of top 5 singles, becoming the biggest selling singles act in the world for 1991.[7] In 1992, suddenly and very publicly, The KLF retired from the music industry and deleted their entire back catalogue.[8][9][10]

Drummond and Cauty re-emerged in 1993 as the K Foundation, releasing one limited edition single ("K Cera Cera")[11] and awarding the £40,000 K Foundation art award for the "worst artist of the year".[12] In 1994, the duo courted infamy by setting fire to one million pounds in cash on the Scottish island of Jura.[13] In 1995, they undertook a screening tour of a film of the burning,[14][15] before signing a moratorium on K Foundation activities.[16]

Cauty worked with Drummond again in 1997 with a campaign to "Fuck the Millennium", the highlight of which was a 23-minute live performance satirising the "pop comeback" – in which Cauty and Drummond appeared as grey-haired pensioners and wheeled around the stage in electric wheelchairs.[17]

Throughout The KLF's career, Drummond was most often the mouthpiece of the group and is often viewed as their chief protagonist. NME, for example, wrote: "One suspects that the real boiling genius of the duo is initiated by Drummond. The elements of the K Foundation affair are classic Drummond – honesty mixed with deranged publicity-seeking, pop terrorism ideas mixed with utter strangeness and mysticism..., and a sense that the things pop groups do should be visionary and above all should not be mundane."[18] Perhaps a little ironically, then, the initial idea for the K Foundation's one million incineration was actually Cauty's,[13] although he was beginning to express regret in 1995 at which time Drummond remained resolute.[19]

Contrasting with Drummond's image, Jimmy Cauty was perceived – or presented – as "Rockman Rock – cool dude";[20] the "quiet", enigmatic one, a "long-haired and quietly spoken chain-smoker: a leather-jacketed misfit [who] has carried his adolescent rock obsession into adulthood".[21] However, as the previously quoted NME piece cautioned, "We can't underestimate the importance of Jimmy Cauty". Cauty was the musical bedrock of The KLF, whether laying down the starting track for "Doctorin' the Tardis",[22] or playing electric guitar, bass, drums and keyboard on "America: What Time Is Love?".[23] He and his wife, Cressida, were at the centre of KLF operations, living and working at Trancentral (actually the Cauty's squat in Stockwell, London) and driving the "JAMsmobile" (Cauty's 1968 Ford Galaxie American police car) as their regular, everyday vehicle. Cressida, too, helped out, taking on an organisational role for KLF Communications,[24] in addition to design and choreography work for The KLF, and her own work as an artist.[2]

Ambient house, 1988–1992

In the late 1980s, Cauty met Alex Paterson and the duo began DJ-ing and producing together as The Orb. Paterson and Cauty's first release was a 1988 acid house anthem track, "Tripping on Sunshine" released on the German record compilation Eternity Project One.[25] The following year, The Orb released the Kiss EP, a four-track EP based on samples from New York City's Kiss FM.[25] It was released on Paterson and Glover's new record label WAU/Mr. Modo Records, which Paterson and Glover created out of a desire to maintain financial independence from larger record labels.[26] After spending a weekend of making what Paterson described as "really shit drum sounds", the duo decided to abandon beat-heavy music and instead work on music for after-hours listening by "taking the bloody drums away".[27] Paterson and Cauty began DJ-ing in London and landed a deal for The Orb to play the chill-out room at London nightclub Heaven. Resident DJ Paul Oakenfold brought in the duo specifically as ambient DJs for his "The Land of Oz" event at Heaven.[28] Though initially The Orb's Monday night performances had only several "hard-core" followers, their "Chill Out Room" act grew popular over the course of their six-month stay at Heaven to the point that the small room was often packed with around 100 people.[29] The Orb's performances became especially popular among weary DJs and clubbers who sought solace from the loud, rhythmic music of the dancefloor.[30] The Orb would build up melodies using multitrack recordings linked to multiple record decks and a mixer. They incorporated many CDs, cassettes, and BBC sound effects into their act, often accompanied with pieces of popular dance tracks such as "Sueño Latino".[29] Most often, they played dub and other chill out music which Bill Drummond described as "Ambient house for the E generation."[25][31]

Throughout 1989, Paterson, Cauty, Drummond and Martin Glover developed the musical genre of ambient house through the use of a diverse array of samples and recordings. The culmination of Cauty and Paterson's musical work came towards the end of the year when The Orb recorded a session for John Peel on BBC Radio 1. The track, then known as "Loving You", was largely improvisational and featured a wealth of sound effects and samples from science fiction radio plays, nature sounds, and Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You".[32] The Orb changed the title to "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld". In 1990, Cauty and Drummond held a chillout party at Trancentral, a recording of Patersons DJing was made with a view to releasing it as an LP but the mix contained many uncleared samples and other records and was unusable. Later that year Cauty and Drummond went to the isle of Jura, Scotland to record a techno record called Gate. Instead they created a long form ambient film called Waiting (1990). During the same year Cauty and Drummond went into the studio and made the ambient LP Chill Out.[33] The Grove Dictionary suggests Chill Out to be the first ambient house album.[34] When offered an album deal by Big Life, The Orb found themselves at a crossroads. Cauty preferred that albums by The Orb were released on his KLF Communications label, whereas Paterson wanted to ensure The Orb did not become an offshoot of The KLF.[35] Due to these issues, Cauty and Paterson split in April 1990, with Paterson keeping the name The Orb.[30] Cauty removed Paterson's contributions from the recordings in progress and released the album as Space on KLF Communications.[36]


In 1999 Cauty produced several remixes under the alias The Scourge of the Earth for artists such as Placebo, Marilyn Manson, Hawkwind, Ian Brown, The Orb etc. In December 1999 he joined with Guy Pratt to record and release a mobile telephone-themed novelty-pop record "I Wanna 1-2-1 With You" under the name Solid Gold Chartbusters.[37] It was released as competition for the Christmas Number One but only got to 62.

In 2001, Cauty joined with former collaborators Alex Paterson and Guy Pratt in a London recording studio, together with Dom Beken, an associate of Pratt.[38] Recording later continued in Cauty's Brighton studio. In 2003, the group released their first single, "Boom Bang Bombay", under the name Custerd.[39] Subsequently, they settled on the name "Transit Kings". Cauty left the band in 2004 to work on other projects. In 2006, the Transit Kings released their debut album, Living in a Giant Candle Winking at God; Cauty is listed as a composer on 7 of the album's 12 tracks.[40]

In 2002, Cauty's two remixes of U2's "New York" were featured as B-sides on the band's Electrical Storm single. Until mid-2005, together with James Fogarty and Keir Jens-Smith, he was part of art/music collective Blacksmoke.


Cauty exhibits art work at the L-13 Light Industrial Workshop gallery, London. He has worked in conjunction with the gallery on the Cautese Nationál Postal Disservice: he designs stamps and the gallery sells them as stamps, first day covers and limited edition prints.

Following 2003 media speculation that Saddam Hussein could launch a poison chemical attack on London, Cauty designed the Stamps of Mass Destruction for Blacksmoke Art Collective. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd class stamps featuring the Queen's head wearing a gas mask were released as limited edition prints and exhibited at Artrepublic Gallery, Brighton.[41] Following a legal battle over alleged copyright infringement, the stamps were sent to Royal Mail for destruction.[42][43]

In 2004, Cauty installed a gift shop, Blackoff, at the Aquarium Gallery, based on the government's Preparing for Emergencies leaflet. The installation included "terror aware" items, such as "terror tea towels", "attack hankies" and "bunker-buster jigsaw puzzles" (missing one piece). He commented, "The gift shop becomes the place we can explore our branding ideas, Cash for trash – it represents the futility and the glory of it all."[44]

James Cauty artwork Operation Magic Kingdom bombed onto billboard in Old Street, 2007

In response to the Iraq War troop surge of 2007, Cauty developed Operation Magic Kingdom, a series of images showing US forces in Iraq wearing masks of lovable and friendly Disney characters, adopting the UK’s “winning hearts and minds” tactics in a bid to gain the confidence of the Iraqi people. In Operation Magic Kingdom “the rules of engagement have been changed to include “try and be more fun” before firing.” [45] The images were launched at the Bayswater Road Sunday Art Exhibition,[46] bombed onto billboards and flyposted across London, as well as being released by The Aquarium as limited edition prints and stamps.

In October 2008, Cauty opened an exhibit at the Aquarium entitled jCauty&Son which, in collaboration with his teenage son, Cauty produced work across a range of media that highighted the violence present in cartoons. 25% of proceeds go to Amnesty International.

In June 2011 he held a public exhibition at L-13 entitled A Riot in a Jam Jar consisting primarily of a series of scale dioramas depicting violent confrontations between British rioters and police, each contained within an inverted glass jar.

In 2012 Cauty premiered his short film, Believe the Magic, starring Debbie Harry, Nick Lehan and Branko Tomović, at Tate Modern as part of the annual Merge festival.[47][48]

The ideas of A Riot in a Jam Jar evolved into the Aftermath Dislocation Principle, shown at the Hoxton Arches in October 2013.[49] The 448 square foot installation at 1:87 scale (representing approximately one square mile) details the desolate and charred aftermath of what appears to have been a devastating riot. The sculpture, constructed by modifying components of traditional model railway kits, took approximately 8 months to complete includes nearly 3,000 police figures and a soundtrack pitched to match the 1:87 scale. The piece “makes a political statement about societal freedom and state control”.[50] The Aftermath Dislocation principle then toured the Netherlands, being shown at Piet Hein Eek Gallery, Eindhoven (November 2013),[51] Cultuurwerf, Vlissingen (April 2014),[52] and Mediamatic, Amsterdam (July–August 2014).[53] In 2015 the work was exhibited at Dismaland and then London.[54] Following this it was re-engineered to fit inside a 40-foot shipping container and now tours historic riot sites around the world.[55]

James Cauty Smiley Riot Shield, acrylic on appropriated ex-police riot shield, 2014

In 2014 Cauty released a series of limited edition Smiley Riot Shields. The shields are all ex-police riot gear which have been painted over with a yellow smiley face. Cauty originally designed the shields in 2012 as a symbol of “non-violent direct action” [56] and as a practical self-protective measure for his step-daughter during the Occupy St Paul’s eviction.

See also

External links

Notes and references

  1. Frame, P. "Rockin' Around Britain"; Omnibus 1999, p29
  2. 1 2 Sharkey, A., "Trash Art & Kreation", The Guardian Weekend, 21 May 1994 (link).
  3. "The KLF", Western Mail (Cardiff), 4 March 2005, p29.
  4. "Keeping it Peel", BBC Peel Sessions catalogue, BBC Online (link)
  5. LeRoy, D., Brilliant biography, Allmusic (link)
  6. BBC Radio 1 "Story of Pop" documentary interview with Bill Drummond. First BBC broadcast believed to have been in late 1994, and was transmitted by Australian national broadcaster ABC on 1 January 2005. Transcript taken from the KLF FAQ.
  7. Bush, J., KLF biography, Allmusic (link)
  8. KLF Communications advertisement in New Musical Express, 16 May 1992.
  9. "Who Killed The KLF?", Select, July 1992 (link).
  10. "Timelords gentlemen, please!", New Musical Express, 16 May 1992 (link)
  11. "Yasser, they can boogie!", New Musical Express, 13 November 1993 (link).
  12. Dawson Scott, Robert, "K Foundation tries to turn the art world on its head", Scotland on Sunday, 28 November 1993 (link)
  13. 1 2 Reid, J., "Money to burn", The Observer, 25 September 1994 (link)
  14. Banks-Smith, Nancy, "From cash to ash", The Guardian (Manchester), 30 August 1995, page T.009
  15. Harris, John, "Who wants to be a millionaire?", Q Magazine, November 1995 (link)
  16. K Foundation advertisement ("Cape Wrath"), The Guardian (G2), 8 December 1995 (link).
  17. "Justified and (Very) Ancient?", Melody Maker, 20 August 1997 (link)
  18. "Tate tat and arty", New Musical Express, 20 November 1993 (link)
  19. "Torch Songs", The List, 3 November 1995 (link)
  20. Sounds, 6 February 1988
  21. "Special K", GQ magazine (April 1995) (link)
  22. Bill Drummond interviewed by Richard Skinner on Saturday Sequence, BBC Radio 1, December 1990 (MP3)
  23. As credited on the sleevenotes.
  24. Cauty, C., "KLF Info Sheet 6", KLF Communications, August 1989 (link).
  25. 1 2 3 Shapiro, Peter (1999). The Rough Guide to Drum 'n' Bass. Rough Guides. pp. 327–329. ISBN 1-85828-433-3.
  26. Prendergast, Mark (2003). The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Moby-The Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. pp. 407–412. ISBN 1-58234-323-3.
  27. Doerschuck, Robert (June 1995). "Inside the Ambient Techno Ultraworld". Keyboard Magazine.
  28. Boyd, Brian (23 October 1998). "Unidentified Flying Orb". The Irish Times. p. 12.
  29. 1 2 Toop, David (2001). Ocean of Sound. Serpent's Tail. pp. 59–62. ISBN 1-85242-743-4.
  30. 1 2 Bush, John. "The Orb Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2006-10-09.
  31. Crispy, Don. "Alex Paterson". Metropolis. Archived from the original on 4 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
  32. Thompson, Dave. "Peel Sessions Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
  33. Reynolds, Simon (1999). Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. Routledge. p. 191. ISBN 0-415-92373-5.
  34. Fulford-Jones, Will. "Ambient house". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
  35. Toop, David (3 June 1994). "Don't make negative waves". The Times.
  36. "KLF Communications Info Sheet Nine" (Press release). KLF Communications. 1990. Retrieved 2006-10-09.
  37. Solid Gold Chartbusters
  38. Transit Kings' official biography, passim (link)
  39. Custerd entry at discogs.com (link)
  40. Living in a Giant Candle Winking at God entry at discogs.com (link)
  41. "James Cauty". artrepublic.com.
  42. Row Over Gas Masked Queen, BBC News, 4 June 2003.
  43. Left, Sarah. Royal Mail Stamps Down on Postage Art, The Guardian, 4 June 2003.
  44. Arendt, Paul."The art that stole Christmas", The Guardian, 18 November 2004. Retrieved 1 September 2007.
  45. Cauty, James. "Operation Magic Kingdom press release", The Aquarium, April 2007.
  46. "bayswater road artists". bayswater road artists.
  47. Believe The Magic, Merge Festival Programme, 30 November 2011.
  48. Jimmy Cauty's 'Believe the Magic' trailer starring Debbie Harry, Film News, April 6, 2013.
  49. Pilger, Zoe."Art review: James Cauty, The Aftermath Dislocation Principle Parts I and II", The Independent, 11 October 2013.
  50. Tucker, Johnny."Devil in the Detail: James Cauty's Dystopia in Miniature", Blueprint (architecture magazine), 10 January 2014.
  51. "Piet Hein Eek". pietheineek.nl.
  52. "James Cauty the Aftermath Dislocation Principle", "Cultuurwerf".
  53. "Opening: The Aftermath Dislocation Principle - A Disaster Tour with Jimmy Cauty", Mediamatic, 10 July 2014.
  54. "James Cauty Installation at Dismaland - Weston Super Mare, UK". streetartnews.net.
  55. "Jimmy Cauty: Sustained Resistance, Crack Magazine, March 2016". crackmagazine.net.
  56. Cauty: The Art of Smiley Riot Shield Protest, Skrufff.com, 17 February 2014
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