Fuck Yeah Gruff Rhys!

A blog* dedicated to the immensely talented Gruff Rhys.

*Not a news feed or official blog (please check The Gruffington Post and Turnstile Music for all official news and information). None of the content on this blog belongs to me unless otherwise stated. If you find anything here that belongs to you that you would like removed, please send me a message and I will take it down immediately.

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"Caption: Welsh rock group, Super Furry Animals, relax during sessions for the album ‘Radiator’, north Wales, April 1997. Singer and guitarist Gruff Rhys is at centre. (Photo by David Tonge/Getty Images)"

A band like Gorky’s developed quite organically; they were always bilingual. Whereas we did two Welsh EPs and then went straight into English. We were as subtle as a sledgehammer. And I think we got on a lot of people’s nerves at the time - especially the Welsh-language media. When we went on our first tour, there was a documentary crew following us around England, but not actually speaking to us. There were instances when they’d have a stopwatch in the gig in order to work out the percentage of the set which was in Welsh. People were genuinely worried that we were airheads who didn’t give a shit about our culture. And I think that’s fair enough. Our take was that we were still singing some Welsh-language songs and were taking them around the world and introducing them to people who wouldn’t know about it otherwise. I think people understand that now, but they didn’t at the time. I had to argue it out with members of my family. I don’t think we sold our culture out, it was just we didn’t have any phobias towards other cultures, specifically the English culture, which is next door and is there to be celebrated as much as anything else.

Candylion..with a false start.

Adam Walton also played some new tracks from Gruff’s new album, American Interior on his radio program on Saturday (April 12th). Click the link above and then fast-forward to the times below to listen to the songs.

33:26 — Allweddellau Allweddol
02:37:36 — 100 Unread Messages

(via musicradar.com)

Super Furries singer talks solo project

by Ric Rawlins

Gruff Rhys shot to fame as singer of Super Furry Animals, the Welsh psychedelic pop group acclaimed for bringing together melodic guitar pop and electronica. Also known for dressing up as yetis, blasting EDM out of army tanks and playing live in surround sound, SFA have released nine albums to date.

With the band currently focusing on solo projects, Rhys has spent the past few years working as one half of the electro-pop outfit Neon Neon, and releasing increasingly conceptual solo records. The latest of these is American Interior, which is released this May as an album, a book, an app and film.

The project is a biographical retelling of the story of John Evans, a historical Welsh explorer who set off on a quest in 1792 to find a lost tribe of Welsh language speakers who’d supposedly settled in America.

Two centuries later Gruff Rhys announced an ‘investigative concert tour’, whereby he would trace the Evans expedition while playing a series of concerts along the way, with Flaming Lips’ Kliph Scurlock on drums. Somehow the gigs turned into an album. And a book. And, well, you know the rest. We caught up with Rhys to discuss the extravaganza…

What was it about John Evans that got you fascinated with him?

"A combination of things. It’s a family story [Rhys’ father is said to be a descendant of Evans’]. And also as we were touring America and going through some of the places he’d been, I started getting curious about the other places he’d gone to. So I asked if I could book a tour along the roads that John Evans took all those years ago."

And he went out to find a Welsh tribe in America?

"Yeah it was believed that this Welsh Prince had discovered America, based on very little evidence. By the time of John Evans, people really believed it and wanted to go and find the tribe. And by finding them, that would be a way out for Welsh people living in poverty, and to find other people who speak their language.

"At the time nobody would give them any money for the expedition, but by that time, John Evans was so into the idea that he borrowed enough money to reach the States. And then once he was there he just kind of walked into the wilderness! He gave his whole life to trying to find the tribe."

Have your recent adventures with Neon Neon influenced your approach to playing with digital instruments?

"I think it’s inevitable, in a way. I was working on both records at similar times, and I had one of the synths from the Neon Neon shows lying around when I was recording some of American Interior. So it definitely influenced me.

"Also partly, I recorded in America with an American producer and some American musicians, and some of the songs kind of suggest Americana, but I was probably reacting to that. I really didn’t want to make an Americana record because of the title and all the American references. I don’t feel qualified to make a rootsy Americana record!

"And although I love country rock and bits of it go into country rock territory, I was really keen for it not to be a some kind of weird, purist roots record. So I was probably reacting to that by throwing loads of synthetic synths over the top!"

You’ve said before that your approach is to feel for good sounds, rather than having a technical knowledge of their workings.

"A good example might be how a lot of DJs become really good producers often, because they don’t have really good technical engineering knowledge. They kind of break rules and their techniques are based on just having listened to thousands of records.

"So it’s often that I work quite intuitively, and sometimes things don’t quite work out because of it! It’s sort of trial and error."

So if you had a synth, for example, would you improvise your way into it without looking at the instruction manual?

"Yeah, I mean… I’m not particularly diligent technically. I’m not a great musician really, either! And partly what I love about studios is that you can become any musician in the studio because it’s not a performance. Even I can play piano in the studio, although I’m not the world’s greatest piano player, but you can get a sound out of almost anything. Especially in the studio!"

How did the different strands of media for American Interior come together?

"It’s all come about from a film I made with Dylan Goch about five years ago called Seperado! I did an investigative concert tour, Dylan filmed it, and I recorded the soundtrack. It was pretty straightforward with the film appearing, but I didn’t get it together to release the soundtrack. I’ve still got it, and I need to sequence the songs and things!

"So when I did the tour for American Interior, which Dylan also documented and I recorded an album for, I was really keen to get it together and put the songs out at the same time [as the film].

"There was no contemporary book out about John Evans’ story, so I ended up writing an account of the tour that weaves John Evans’ story into it.

"Then the app combines everything, really. American Interior is in three acts, so the app has three maps, and you go from A to B along these maps which follow John Evans’ routes, and you pick up pieces of text and pieces of film, or fragments of song and photography.

"[The app is] based on the song 100 Unread Messages, which is one of the songs on the album, so you basically travel along three maps and you pick up 100 messages in different types of media."

Would you imagine people using it all together, with the app connecting to the book, which connects to the record and so on?

"I think the album hopefully works without having to know the story of John Evans. Although it is some kind of biographical album, it is pretty loose.

"And then if you see the film, which is like a cartoon depiction of John Evans’ life, you get a lot of information in it, in an hour and a half, that’ll give you a kind of basic knowledge of him.

"The book is more in-depth, and I’ve been able to go into a lot of detail. The app kind of ties a lot of loose ends together, although a lot of the stuff on the app is unique, in terms of the writing and the films.

"So I think they all compliment each other and they’re all pretty different, but you could plausibly read the book and listen to the record at the same time! Which maybe is what the app is like: like watching a film and reading a book and going for a road trip as well."

What do you think John Evans would have made of all this if he was alive today?

"I think for the most part he’d be pretty horrified by it, by these weird, modern day people who don’t go to chapel, and are building a weird muppet of him as a visual aid. You know, he might be really offended. I can only really speculate!"

American Interior is available for pre-order now.

For more information visit the official Gruff Rhys website or connect with Gruff on Twitter and Facebook.

Lisa Gwilym played three new tracks from Gruff’s new album, American Interior, throughout her radio program today. Click the link above and then fast-forward to the times below to listen to the songs.

1:11:37 — Iolo
1:47:21 — Allweddellau Allweddol
2:40:46 — 100 Unread Messages


(from Clash Magazine)

by Robin Murray

The vast expanse of the American West, the story of its discovery by Colonial Powers and the decline of Native American culture is one riddled with myth, speculation and tall tales. But even amidst this morass, the story of John Evans stands out.

A simple Welsh farmer, Evans attempted to trace a lost tribe of Welsh speaking Native Americans. Tracing a route across the American frontier, his journey has been passed down in Welsh folklore for generations – until it reached Gruff Rhys.

“It’s just something that I’ve been told about all my life, really. It’s a story in the family and he’s well known in our village” he tells Clash. The Welsh songwriter gradually became entranced by the tale, and in 2012 launched an ‘Investigative Concert Tour’ across the American continent, tracing the journey of John Evans in the process.

“I’ve done a lot of tours and I thought it would be interesting to make use of the tours instead of just selling records, y’know? That was an ‘Investigative Concert Tour’, so I booked more gigs along the route that John Evans took through America between 1792 and 1799” he explains. “I did that tour three years ago, collected information and I wrote and recorded songs along the way. Then I filmed it all as well, before I came back and finished the record in Bristol.”

A lengthy journey in both time and distance, the process of recording new album ‘American Interior’ took Gruff Rhys into some unexpected places. “I did some cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Cinncinati, St. Louis and then I did the Omaha reservation and some other reservations. I played small towns, villages and towns that didn’t exist anymore” he says. “I encouraged people who came to the gigs to help me out and I met a load of random people. Some were academics, some were archaeologists, some were homeless boatmen. I met a voodoo priest. They all helped me out in different ways.”

Collating information as he travelled, Gruff Rhys was able to find time to sketch down his thoughts. Stopping past the Saddle Creek collective in Omaha to lay down initial parts, the songs themselves are deliberately intended to sit alongside but not within the overarching story. “The songs for the most part are pretty opaque, impressionistic. I think they can stand on their own – I hope they can stand on their own beyond the narrative of the story” he says. “It’s in some kind of order, but I think you can listen to it without that in mind. There’s a few songs which are really specific, like ‘100 Messages’, but others are more opaque or inspired by the weather conditions.”

Accompanied on the tour by film maker Dylan Goch, ‘American Interior’ is also set to become a feature length documentary. “Well, Dylan’s been editing for about a year” he explains, “and I know nothing about cameras so my role is, I suppose, putting the tour together and doing a slide show and singing songs every night. Its Dylan’s take on it although we were interviewing people together, choosing colour schemes together. It’s very collaborative but Dylan directed it and had an objective eye over the whole thing.”

A sprawling, cross-media effort, ‘American Interior’ will also be turned into an app featuring unseen clips from the journey and biographical information about John Evans. Returning to somewhat more traditional forms, Gruff Rhys has decided to pull together his experiences into a new book. “There’s no contemporary book about John Evans” he reveals, “so I ended up writing an account of the tour. I suppose it’s about half my tour and half John Evans’ history in a lot more detail than I could get into a film or an album. It’s got fragments of the song lyrics, so I suppose it’s connected to the album like that.”

At once fragmentary and also uniquely unified, the ‘American Interior’ project could not exist without the mythology surrounding John Evans’ journey. Searching for a lost tribe of Welsh speaking Native Americans – often attributed to be the Madog people – it’s a tale of hopeless ambition in the face of overwhelming circumstances.

“ It’s all referring to the danger of myth” the songwriter explains. “The danger of mythology and the havoc it can cause in the world. In terms of stuff I’ve taken away from it, I’ve had some profound experiences meeting people I never imagined I would have ever met. Being in situations that are completely unimaginable and learning knowledge I had no idea I would ever be able to learn. Meeting the last speaker of the Mandan language was a really profound experience.”

Ultimately, it is America – it’s unimaginable size, the enormous diversity of culture – which shines through in this most Welsh of conceptual documents. “Every community on Earth is represented in America” Gruff Rhys reflects, “which is one of the fantastical things about the place.”

'American Interior' is set to be released on May 5th.