‘People now sing back to us in Welsh. That’s mind-blowing’ Question and answers with Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys ahead of Norwich date
- Credit: Ian Cheek Press
There's an old adage which says that you should never meet you heroes. Poppycok, I say. At Glastonbury Festival three years ago I had the pleasure to briefly meet Gruff Rhys, the frontman of the utterly fantastic Welsh band the Super Furry Animals.
He was as charming, nice and humble as I had hoped. So when the opportunity came to spend half an hour interviewing him, ahead of the band's Sunday night Norwich date, it could not be missed. Here's what he had to say.
DP: The band reunited just over a year ago. How has that been?
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GR: It's been amazing, the reaction from the audiences has been incredible. The reaction when you are playing songs that have been around for years is really different to when you are touring new stuff. Even the most obscure songs people sing a long too.
When we did tracks from Mwng (the band's Welsh language album), people started singing the songs back to us. That was mind-blowing. Coming back makes us appreciate how lucky we have been to be part of this band.
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DP: How did the reunion come about and are there plans for some more new songs?
GR: When we reissued Mwng a few years ago we talked about getting back but it took us a few years to get it together. People started offering us gigs again so we though we should just go for it. In the end it happened quite quickly and before we knew it we were on the road again.
There are no plans for new stuff, we all have tonnes of projects going on. We put a single out in the Summer, just for fun but it's been quite nice keeping it low key.
DP: Your latest 11-date tour will see you playing the band's first two albums, Fuzzy Logic and Radiator, back to back. What's it been like going back on the older stuff?
GR: It's been really nice because there's songs that we are playing now that we actually couldn't physically play at the time. We could just about put them together on record, but that was it. There are songs that were so tricky to do that we will be doing live for the first time. There are some we stopped playing because they sounded awful. Hopefully they won't this time around.
Emotionally I still feel really attached to these songs. I do find with certain songs I don't know the person they are on about and can't sing them convincingly, but that's not the case with these.
Playing some of them can be quite a shock because we're getting on a bit, were used to things being mid-paced and some of these are very fast and hyper.
That's the biggest change in that we've kind of stopped playing music at that pace. That's going to be fun doing again.
DP: You never seem to stop and have all sorts of projects going on. Do you prefer being in a band or working on solo projects?
GR: I've been extremely lucky in just being able to concentrate on music and there's 52 weeks in the year so plenty of time to do stuff.
I've never really had a fallow period but I don't put mad pressure on myself to write either. It's just about having the time to do it and concentrate on getting all these ideas together.
Playing solo and in a band are very different. Being in a band you can't imagine what a record is going to turn out like because it's not about individual control. That's the alchemy of being in a band. Doing solo stuff is great for the opposite reason because you can work quickly, have an idea what you want to do and just get it done.
DP: Would you envisage doing a tour like this for any of your other albums? And will the Norwich audience get to hear any of their other favourites?
GR: Fuzzy Logic and Radiator were pretty live based records, playing as a band in the studio. But a record like Guerilla would be more of a challenge as it was more studio produced.
We'll do something at the end to round it off. We're trying to stay pretty true to the songs but some of them we've developed, so it's going to be pretty full on.
DP: The band certainly seem to have all sorts of adventures. I was at Glastonbury watching you when someone drove a van through the crowd. You also famously brought a tank. It must have been great fun being in a band? Have you achieved all you've wanted to?
GR: I do sort of take getting to do this for granted. The thrill of getting a record out blows my mind, still now. I find it incredible. When I was a kid buying my own records I never imagined doing my own. It's still pretty unreal.
Fuzzy Logic was life changing for us. We've never made loads of money but we've been able to make a living and put on some pretty epic shows. We're just grateful to have had the chance to do so.
The van incident was just so insane. I was obviously really worried because I just thought someone was going to get run over. It just got closer to the stage and became a podium for a bit.
Before the song started the guy had come to the side of the stage and was shouting at people 'I need to move my van, you need to stop playing'. Ten minutes later he was trying to drive through the crowd.
We've had incredible adventures. Writing something like 'Hanging with Howard Marks', which was a dream sequence and then half of them happened, we realised how crazy it all was. We could joke about getting a tank and then the next day just sort it out.
DP: What next?
GR: I'm not in a rush to do anything really. We've been touring again for about a year and a half in South America, Japan and Mexico and we'll probably not play for a while now and start thinking of making our own solo stuff again.
DP: Finally, do you have nay fond memories of Norwich? Or have you done so many gigs they all blur into each other?
GR: I remember some of the Norwich gigs clearly. When we played in 1998 we had Grandaddy open up for us, that was brilliant.
When we toured Love Kraft we started the tour in Norwich and got to rehearse at the UEA for a couple of days. We hired a golf buggy as a stage prop. We were shouting a video for the tour, all action jumping out of golf buggies and stuff, going around the fields of the UEA.
That campus looks so modernist and amazing.
Super Fury Animals, plus support from Bill Ryder-Jones, play the Nik Rayns LCR this Sunday (4). Tickets at https://ueatickets.ticketabc.com/listings/