Monday, March 26, 2007
Headliner:Coldcut - A Tribute To Robert Anton Wilson
Support: Alan Moore, Bill Drummond, Ken Williams, Mixmaster Morris
Venue:Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 18th March 2007
Robert Anton Wilson was the author of 35 books, and died in January of this year. Coldcut when approached to contribute to the annual Ether festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London suggested that perhaps a tribute to the author would be appropriate.
The same night there was a beat boxing championship going on as part of the same festival. Arriving at 7.15 to meet in the bar for 7.45 start, it was a little odd wading through people making funny noises and being warned that we might be filmed for the DVD.
The night was in two halves. Throughout the two members of Coldcut provided music, while Mixmaster Morris seemed to be providing the visuals. Ken Campbell started the night, talking about his attempts to adapt the Illuminati trilogy as a play on stage. How this coincided with the murder of Robert Anton Wilson’s daughter in the mid-seventies, and the despair that Wilson fell into around that time. Suggesting that by bringing Wilson over to see the premier of the play actually saved his life, because it gave him the spark to start creating again. From there we had several sections of music, mixing with footage of Wilson and influences, heavy with his voice. Talking about his work, the perception of him as a science fiction writer, then as a new age writer, then as a philosopher, moving on to conspiracies, and drugs, and ways to rewire the mind. Through the night we had these sections, where we got an insight into who Wilson was, often at the expense of Coldcut, whose music kind of ended up being background material as I focussed on the words.
The second guest of the night was Bill Drummond, most well known for his work as part of the KLF and numerous projects that spun out over the years. When Drummond was 23 years old, he had done some set design, and Campbell recruited him for his play, giving Drummond the book to read and work with. Over the years the Illuminati trilogy has been an unconscious influence on Drummonds work, even if Wilson himself wasn’t specifically. Drummond rambled more than the other guests, kind of making you wonder why he was there. Though he did say he felt guilty, when Wilson’s friends appealed for money before his death Drummond was unimpressed, so he felt strange to then be asked to take part of the tribute night. Bumping his appearance fee, Drummond announced that he would be in the foyer at the end of the night, taking suggestions of things he could do with that money which would be a fitting tribute to Robert Anton Wilson. With a couple of chairs ready, he plonked himself square in the middle of the exit area, much to the annoyance of venue staff, who were encouraging him to move as we passed.
In the second half of the night, the final guest was author Alan Moore. He came on at first and read an extract from one of Wilson’s short stories, about four famous figures all together in a pub, dosed up on ecstasy and experiencing a joint hallucination of the end of the world - a heady piece, especially sigh Moore’s droll narration. More music and video from Coldcut and Mixmaster Morris, before Moore returned again. The second time Moore read us his own piece, a potted history of Wilson’s life, recapping all the material we had been through over the course of the evening. The piece was reminiscent of Moore’s spoken material, like Angel Passage and Highbury Working. Which for me was the highlight of the night.
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