During research for my articles I have been blessed with being able to interview an assortment of experts and specialists in a variety of fields. One of the most interesting interviews I ever conducted was for my piece about The KLF (Digital breadcrumbs: Tracking down The KLF in 2017), where I spoke to Stuart Marshall of Regia, who was one of the Viking re-enactors from their music video for “America: What Time is Love?”
Unfortunately, I ended up not using this material, but thought it was so entertaining that it was worth sharing here, as it offers a glimpse into the creative anarchy that was The KLF…
Me: Could I ask what your involvement with The KLF has been?
Stuart: I was specifically involved in the What Time Is Love America video at Pinewood Studio, Elstree in 1992. I was there when that video was recorded. I don’t know whether the KLF band members were there in person because I don’t know what they look like. I was informed that the two blokes in bucket helms were not them.
The KLF had got hold of one of the replica longships built for the film Erik The Viking, and we used that. Turns out there were several replica longships built for the film. The one in the music video was the one used in the scenes where the longship flew through the air, so it had big holes in the sides because they’d put colossal bolts through it and suspended it by a crane. The bolts were semi-repaired but not properly repaired ready for the KLF video, so the longship was taking on water like crazy all the way through the filming. Filming was in winter, and that studio at Pinewood consisted of a big concrete swimming pool full of water, in a structure like an aircraft hangar. It was absolutely freezing.
They had hot air blowers running constantly, and every few minutes we would all get out of the boat for it to be bailed out, and we’d try to dry our clothing and get warm. So, we found ourselves all snuggling up very cosily around the heaters, together with Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple (who’s the singer) and the young lady who was wearing sunglasses, four bits of masking tape, a chain round her neck, and some lipstick. Her skin was practically blue.
There was an automatic rain making machine in the hangar but it wasn’t making it rainy enough for the video director so they got some spotty little bugger with a hose to spray us with water continually.
Filming took 2 days and when it started I quite liked the song. Can’t listen to it now.
Me: Someone mentioned that at one point everyone got bored and a spontaneous sword fight broke out, to the horror of the crew.
SM: There was an extended period at the start of filming while the boat was being patched and they were recording the bloke in the white robe standing on the rock, so the extras weren’t needed. Some overenthusiastic fools decided to do a little training session in the car park to pass the time (and help keep warm). It wasn’t where the filming took place and I don’t recall anyone in the crew being horrified.
Me: Were you ever given direction as to the intent of the video, or was it “row like crazy while we spray you with water.”?
SM: We were told to row like crazy, bop to the music during the rap bits, mosh during the Motorhead samples, and do several other mutually incompatible things if I remember rightly. We were also told not to throw the bloke with the hose in the icy water at the end of the gig, but we accidentally chucked him in after all. — During the “discovery of America” bit we got told to point and then raise our arms as if we were having some kind of religious experience, and during the ending bit we were told to storm ashore and run at the camera.
Me: In terms of creative control, did you and Regia offer any feedback for authenticity or was there a very clear direction in mind?
SM: Looking back now, as I’ve done plenty of other film work since, the KLF video felt very un-directed, not like the bloke didn’t have a plan, but like he wanted us to go out there and row about and rock out and see what just sort of emerged. He wasn’t making it up but he was giving us plenty of space and I think he liked what just happened and sort of went with it.
I didn’t offer any feedback on authenticity. There were much more senior members of Regia there who may have done but at the end of the day, we’ve got a rapper and flying guitars and a drum kit on the boat.
Me: Who was the scantily-clad girl?
SM: Her name is Cressida. Very pleasant, down-to-earth, easy to talk to. Will of iron to stand around in those temperatures very little short of naked for two days. She was there wearing her bits of masking tape when we arrived and she stayed until after we were gone. You can’t hear, but she was singing her heart out.
Me: Were there any ideas that were filmed but did not make it to the finished video? Were you ever told “We don’t want that.”?
SM: We told them “We don’t want that”, lol! I’ll never forget the expression on Kim Siddorn’s face when they said they wanted the boat to be burning in the last scene. Didn’t do his blood pressure any good. They came up with a compromise that was supposed to look like the boat was burning but without risking our pay.
There was nearly a whole day where we filmed with the camera off the boat and from my point of view it just seemed to be rowing about Pinewood. Then there was half a day where we filmed with the camera on the boat and we stayed much closer in. Must have been dozens of camera angles etc. that didn’t make it.
The “discovery of America” was done in one take, then they filmed the three ladies on the rock separately but from the boat’s point of view it was one take. There was a lot of narration filmed and some of that may have been cut, but I was in the car park by the burger van for most of that
The charge onto the shore was done in two takes and I remember thinking they’d used the wrong one because I get my cloak stuck as I come on shore
Me: Stuart, thank you very much.