The film was premiered last September at the Fantastic Fest in Texas, despite objections from The KLF’s publisher.
Snippets of the London duo’s songs, including ‘3am Eternal’ and ‘What Time Is Love?’, are used in the documentary under the fair dealing defence – which allows for the use of copyrighted work without payment or permission if it’s being used for the purpose of criticism.
However, in a report from last October, lawyers on behalf of The KLF told Atkins and his production crew that they take any alleged infringement “extremely seriously”, and tried to block the film’s release.
The group were also against the film’s production when it began. In 2016, member Jimmy Caughty told an interviewer that he was unhappy about the documentary plans, saying: “We don’t want to do it – it’s like an archaeological dig through the past. We’re doing other things that we think are much more interesting.” Atkins moved forward nonetheless, making Who Killed The KLF? an unauthorised documentary.
Take a look at the trailer below:
— Chris Atkins (@scatatkins) April 4, 2022
Responding to their efforts to block the release of Who Killed The KLF?, Atkins brought up the group’s own history of unauthorised sampling. “The irony is they used very big uncleared samples in all their early tracks,” Atkins told The Guardian.
The KLF’s debut album, ‘1987: What The Fuck Is Going On?’, contained so many unauthorised samples of copyrighted music that ABBA threatened legal action, leading the duo to withdraw the record from sale and dump unsold copies in the North Sea.
Atkins stressed that he was a lifelong fan of the band, with the intention behind making Who Killed the KLF? being to introduce the duo to new audiences.
“The whole point is to introduce their genius to a generation that doesn’t know they exist,” he said. “You watch this film and you think Bill and Jimmy are amazing. It’s the definitive telling of the greatest music and art story of the 20th century that’s never really been told, because the two protagonists won’t talk about it.”
In his tweet sharing the trailer, Atkins revealed that theatrical screenings of Who Killed The KLF? will take place later in April. These are yet to be announced, though it’s assumed that more news will come in the following days.
The KLF, who scored a series of global hits in the late ’80s and early ’90s, famously walked away from the music industry in 1992. It followed an appearance at that year’s BRIT Awards, during which they fired machine gun blanks into the audience and then dumped a dead sheep at the after-show party. With their exit, they discontinued their entire discography.
The KLF would eventually make their return to limelight in 2017 (following brief comebacks in 1993 and ’97), releasing a book titled 2023: A Trilogy. 2021 saw the group release their own documentary, Welcome To The Dark Ages, which chronicled their 2018 effort to build “The People’s Pyramid”: a pyramid built from bricks fired with the ashes of 34,592 dead people.
Following that release, they issued a new album titled ‘Come Down Dawn’ – a redux of their 1990 album ‘Chill Out’ – as well as a new compilation album, ‘Solid State Logik 2’, that included a previously unreleased collaboration with Jarvis Cocker. It followed ‘Solid State Logik 1’, a greatest-hits release that marked the first time fans could hear The KLF on streaming services.
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