Confessions of a BADGER KULL HARDCORE FAN
A Journey Through ‘Welcome To The Dark Side’ in Mixed Social Media
On the morning of July 23rd, at around 23 minutes past 11, I secured my ticket for ‘Welcome To The Dark Ages’, then a few days later, the school year ended and I was on my way to France for a very special event. My favourite band, Pixies, were playing Carcassonne in France, one of my favourite places in the world. They played in the amphitheatre of a medieval castle and as gigs go, it was going to take some beating. I recorded some decent enough footage of some of the concert on my phone to set up a YouTube channel to share it with anyone interested.
Carcassonne is a magical place for many reasons, one of which being the ties the region had to the Knights Templar, a mysterious, quasi-military religious order that flourished in the time now referred to as The Dark Ages. Active from 1118-1314, their 23rd and final Grand Master was Jacques de Molay. As well as being closely linked to the Crusades, they were instrumental in the creation of an economic infrastructure throughout Christendom and are often credited with the introduction of the first letters of credit, cheques and loopholes around the sin of usury. The seal of the Knights Templar featured two Knights on one horse and a circular temple.
After another week away in Girona – six weeks is a long time to fill as a teacher – my thoughts returned to Welcome To The Dark Ages. The information I’d received so far was refreshingly vague, but towards the end of the email was this cryptic message.
We’d already been informed, even before we’d paid for our £100 tickets, that there would be no new or old music performed by Bill and Jimmy in ANY of their guises, so who on earth were the mysterious Badger Kull and what was their problem? My initial guess was that maybe it was a continuation of Bill’s work with The 17, but that fell down when I imagined how you would accommodate a 400 strong choir in a night club. I needed answers or at least some half-baked theories, so I headed online but found very little. My next search was in the events section of Facebook, which can often have plenty of information on forthcoming gigs, but again there was nothing. I requested to join The KLF fan page on Facebook and my first post there solicited a helpful link from a future member of Dead Perch Menace.
The Big Liverpool JAMs Adventure Club had managed to skilfully avoid all of my carefully worded searches, but once I was in, I could immediately sense that this was a special group of people and that something special was coming our way.
I arrived at the Dead Perch Lounge around 2pm, registered my bass playing skills and then stuck around hoping to meet a few like-minded folks to pass the time with until the midnight book signing. The Facebook group had set up a chat called The Liverpool Situation and halfway through my first pint of IPA, a message popped up that Aden was imminently in-bound to the DPL and was up for a pint.
The skills we had to declare had really stirred up the discussions. Singers, guitarists, bass players reinforced my idea that Badger Kull would be made up of volunteers, but the other skills just added the increasing sense of what the fuuk is going on?
After an afternoon snooze break, I met up with a few of the ever growing 400 at Kazimier Gardens, a seemingly random choice that was actually infused with a synchronicity that I discovered on my return. Adan and I got to the News From Nowhere around 2210 and were surprised to see less than a dozen people there, but soon after the crowds started to swell and by 2300 the queue was snaking around the top of Bold Street.
As the Liverpudlian night owls walked past the queue many made a few comments about Bill’s links with Liverpool including one guy who would tell anyone that listened that he was supposed to play trumpet on Reward by Teardrop Explodes. Then, just before midnight, another blast from the past arrived in the form of Ford Timelord, which we later discovered was not part of Bill and Jimmy’s plan. Then, after a chant from the always wonderful Discordians, the Ice Kream Van rounded the corner of Bold Street playing its own twisted versions of What Time Is Love and It’s Now Or Never. Gloriously decorated in an array of new cryptic messages – Ukranian, Mumufication, bricks – it reminded me of the 80s Popemobile, slowly driving through the adoring crowds, with two of our very own Popes on board.
Then, a few minutes later and ninth in the queue, I was in the presence of The JAMs, who, despite the harsh tone of the posters outside, were warm and friendly and seemed genuinely happy to be meeting their fans. Somehow, the BBC were on hand to record a segment for Breakfast News and it turned out that they filmed my book being stamped and my stomach as I walked away.
Hey Mom, look! I’m on television.
Arriving back to my room at Oliver House for about 1am, my brain was buzzing and I was in no state to fall straight to sleep, so I read the first few chapters of 2023. Big mistake! This is not a bedtime book with cocoa. Every paragraph seemed to be shooting off at new, more insane tangent and this was not helping with my gentle passage to slumberland, so I gave up after three chapters and popped Chill Out on my phone and drifted off soon after.
Thankfully, the timetable for Day 1 allowed for a bit of a lie in and my home for the next few days was miraculously in middle of Mu Mu Land, so getting to Constellations for 1300 was easy enough. Outside, I met up with a few fellow volunteers that I was now on nodding terms with, including Drew who ended up in my chapter and who went on to produce the best document of the events currently on YouTube, most of it filmed just 23 cm to my left or my right.
We were soon herded into a back room and the allocation of jobs began, expertly MC’d by Oliver Senton, who played his role magnificently for the duration of the three days.
Some of that meeting was broadcast later that day on Channel Four News, and this screen grab captures myself along with many others who were about to play significant roles: Becci – the stylist, Adan – who could tell people ‘no’ and became a member of Dead Perch Menace and Bill’s own personal bodyguard, the legendary Jeff Minter – Choir Member and Dan Badger – Badger Kull.
For a few glorious moments, as the bucket for the Badger Kull bassists was readied, I thought my name would be pulled out , but in the end, I was given the role of Badger Kull Hardcore Fan. Nothing too strenuous. Nothing illegal. Nothing involving swimming. I can do this.
While the rest of The 400 were getting their roles, I signed the book of jobs that Lee was looking after and then went for a much-craved pint in the Constellations Beer Garden. Soon after I spotted Dan Badger and decided to go full on in my new role – got a selfie and then an interview for my, at the time non-existent, fanpage. Dan played along nicely and indulged my flights of fantasy about the Dan Is Dead theories and then he introduced me to the rest of the band for more pictures. I don’t know how much they had been told at that point by Pete Wylie, but they all looked shell-shocked at what had just happened.
Within minutes, I had created a fan book fan page and had spammed all the relevant Facebook groups along with hundreds of my bemused friends and family. Paul, a fellow freshly appointed Hardcore Fan became my first follower and he was immediately afforded admin privileges and slowly our message spread. For a while, our little circle included the Legendary Vicky Pea – who I may have persuaded to get a BK tattoo – and Patrick Clarke, from The Quietus, who added my picture to their Instagram Feed, whilst taking time off from his Dead Perch Menace duties.
Soon after, Facebook HQs super-brain computer algorithmically recognised either
(a) an exciting new cultural awakening
(b) a euphoric maniac
(c) a way to make some money
(d) all of the above
Their messages directed me to a Facebook Page Manager App and suggested ways of boosting the pages profile for the price of a pint.
I opted for £2 per day for three days of extra exposure – RAW told me to do it – and for that 510 random strangers saw an advert for my page and 2 actually signed up!
The Page Manager app allowed me to quickly share, like and recruit more victims followers to the cause, but I was lacking content and without content, I literally had nothing. They say sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but in social media that accolade goes to memes. I downloaded a meme generator app and spent the rest of the afternoon generating content like some post-millennial intern. These are the worst.
The evening of Day 1 began at the Black E, Liverpool’s very own Templar Lodge and a hastily arranged meeting with my fellow Hardcore Fans. Some had chosen Twitter over Facebook, some had moved into T-shirt design, whilst some clutched freshly minted bootlegs of the Complete Recordings of Badger Kull, that must have been ripped from my newly christened Badger Kull Central YouTube channel. There was even a Badger Kull Super Groupie in the shape of the magnificent Yoko Kunt, who simultaneously adored the group we’d yet to hear whilst planning to destroy them with her own tribute act, Badger Kunt. Positioned as we were, at the entrance to Liverpool’s Chinatown, it was quite the spectacle to the casual passer-by and the city in general as Badger Kull graffiti appeared out of nowhere.
The evening’s discussion of Why The K Foundation Burned A Million Quid came as quite a relief from the constant buzzes of notification on my phone, but as we left the Black E, having decided on ‘historical weirdness’, my phone showed I’d got a lot of catching up to do, so off to the DPL I went to enjoy an iPA with my iPhone with Clinic on the decks.
Such was the pace and intensity of Day 2, the Hardcore Fan role had to take a back seat to my new role as Artist In Residence round the back of the Bombed Out Church. Suffice to say, I made some great friends, met Lucky Joe the Mystery Tour Winner, Oliver, Daisy, Gimpo and Bill and made art and memories that will linger long. More on Twitter @reactionsto2023
For the morning of Day 3, I took myself off to Tate Liverpool and ordered myself a Badger Kull T-shirt from Jason. Our only instruction was to be at The Florrie for 1630 and to expect a late one. The next few hours are still being processed and there really aren’t the words yet, but it was very, very, very special.
Badger Kull were genuinely great. A fantastic concept, expertly executed by all involved. The fact that they were sandwiched between two of the best DJ sets I’ve ever witnessed, from Greg Wilson and fellow volunteer DJ Food, made those hours at The Invisible Wind Factory even more magical. Whilst there, I mostly thanked people. Jarvis, Oliver, Daisy, The Callenders and Bill and Jimmy all allowed me to gush for a few precious seconds. I think they got it.
I don’t think any event in my life has resonated with me quite like Welcome To The Dark Ages has. It seems to have wormed its way into every aspect of my life. I’ve started a blog, partly as a fancy scrap book of all the great stuff that’s come out since, partly for the mountains of research I now find myself doing and partly, well mostly as a kind of therapy. I don’t know what I’ve jettisoned from my life to fit it all in, but I don’t seem to be missing any of it.
Luckily, I had another week off work after Liverpool, which helped with the metaphysical mopping up I needed to do, so I got busy getting busy.
First off, I had to deal with the lucky guy who’d bought my Complete Badger Kull recordings for £46 on eBay.
Then, after uploading all my Dark Ages footage to Youtube, I had a go at editing a music video to go with Greg Wilson’s amazing Friday night set. It turned out alright, but then the lawyers got involved…
And then I started helping out with The 400 and had some stats come through from Facebook…
There are as many different reactions to Welcome To The Dark Ages as there were Volunteers. I think everyone agrees that we got our money’s worth. The 400 community will prevail and it’s great to read the new journeys people are embarking on post-Dark Ages. Intentionally or not, The JAMs inspired dozens of us to fire our own Cosmic Triggers, the results of which may only manifest themselves in 2023 or beyond.
And as for Badger Kull, well for three glorious minutes they were the most important thing in the world. Now it’s time for everyone else to step into the spotlight.