Gruff Rhys

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Gruff Rhys
Gryff Rhys.jpg
Rhys on stage with the band Mogwai in Scotland, 2001
Background information
Born (1970-07-18) 18 July 1970 (age 44)
Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Origin Bethesda, Wales
Occupations musician, songwriter, filmmaker, author, producer.
Instruments guitar, vocals, keyboard, saz, drums, harmonica
Years active 1988–present
Labels Turnstile, Rough Trade, Team Love
Associated acts Super Furry Animals
Ffa Coffi Pawb
Neon Neon
Gorillaz
Website www.gruffrhys.com

Gruffydd Maredudd Bowen Rhys (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈɡrɨ̞fɨ̞ð maˈrɛdɨ̞ð ˈbowɛn ˈr̥ɨːs]; born 18 July 1970 in Haverfordwest)[1] is a Welsh musician, composer, producer, filmmaker and author. He performs solo and with several bands, including Super Furry Animals who obtained mainstream success in the 1990s. He formed the electro-pop outfit Neon Neon with Boom Bip. Their album Stainless Style was nominated for the 2008 Nationwide Mercury Prize. He won the 2011 Welsh Music Prize for his album Hotel Shampoo. His latest solo album, American Interior, was released in May 2014, accompanied by a film, a book and a mobile app.

Musical career[edit]

Ffa Coffi Pawb[edit]

Main article: Ffa Coffi Pawb

As a teenager in 1985, Gruff Rhys played drums for the North Wales band, Machlud, appearing at the Pesda Roc festival in Bethesda.[2]After playing drums for the band Emily, Rhys found fame in Wales as the front man of Ffa Coffi Pawb. Translated, the name means 'everyone's coffee beans', though if said quickly in Welsh, it can sound like 'fuck off everyone' in English and Welsh combined.

On signing to Ankstmusik, Ffa Coffi Pawb became one of the leading bands on the Welsh music scene, and released three albums - Clymhalio, Dalec Peilon and Hei Vidal!'.[3][4][5][6]

Rhys plays the guitar in an unusual style. Although he is right-handed, he learned to play left-handed on his brother's left-handed guitar. Once his brother left home, Rhys only had access to a right-handed guitar. As he had already learned to play left-handed, and rather than invert the nut and re-string it, he taught himself to play the right-handed guitar upside down so the bass strings are on the bottom. Today, Rhys still plays left-handed on an upside down right-handed guitar.[7][8]

Super Furry Animals[edit]

Main article: Super Furry Animals

When Ffa Coffi Pawb disbanded in 1993, Rhys and drummer Dafydd Ieuan, of Rhoscefnhir, Anglesey, who had played for Catatonia, Anhrefn, Hanner Pei and many other Welsh language bands, formed the basis of Super Furry Animals. They soon settled on a line-up consisting of Rhys on vocals and guitar, Ieuan on drums, his brother Cian Ciaran (formerly of WWZZ) on keyboards, Huw Bunford (formerly of U-Thant) on guitar and Guto Pryce on bass. This line-up has remained constant to the present day, although the role of each member has become more flexible, particularly in the studio.

In 1995, following a couple of largely Welsh-language EPs on the Ankst label, they signed to Creation Records. Apparently, when offering them the deal after a gig, Alan McGee, head of Creation, asked that they sing more songs in English. Rhys pointed out that all the songs that night had been in English. Super Furry Animals went on to release their critically acclaimed first album, Fuzzy Logic, in 1996 - the first time Rhys had recorded in English. He later observed that his singing sounded like a random collection of accents - but it was nevertheless very successful.

Follow-up albums included Radiator in 1997, Guerrilla in 1999 and Mwng in 2000. They also became particularly famous for their 40-foot inflatable bears and the SFA blue tank, which toured summer festivals playing techno music at high volume. Super Furry Animals made a further mark on history in July 2001, when they released their first album for the Sony label, Rings Around the World, on CD and DVD simultaneously: they repeated this for 2003's Phantom Power. Unfortunately 2005's Love Kraft performed poorly commercially and SFA agreed to leave Sony. They are presently signed to Rough Trade and released Hey Venus! in 2007 in the UK. In 2009 they released their latest record to date, entitled Dark Days/Light Years.

Solo[edit]

On 24 January 2005, Rhys released his first solo album, Yr Atal Genhedlaeth, on the Placid Casual label. It was a loose, sketchy, all-Welsh-language album, with most of the instruments played by Rhys. A tour of Wales and several festival appearances followed. After SFA signed to Rough Trade, the new label agreed to take on his solo work as well, and on 8 January 2007 they released Candylion, a batch of acoustic pop songs in English, Spanish and Welsh, which Rhys wrote whilst touring Love Kraft but which didn't fit with the direction of the new Super Furry Animals album. A third solo album by Rhys, Hotel Shampoo, was released on 14 February 2011. On 4 March 2011, it was announced that Rhys will be playing at Glastonbury 2011.

In May 2014, Rhys released his new work, American Interior, a combined project of an album, a film, a hardcover book and an app for mobile devices. The film was co-directed by Dylan Goch, who's also worked with Rhys on his previous film, Separado! (2010).

Neon Neon[edit]

In 2007 Rhys launched a new electro-pop collaborative project with Boom Bip under the collective moniker Neon Neon.[9] Their album, titled Stainless Style, is a loose concept album based on the tumultuous life of De Lorean Motor Company founder John De Lorean,[10] and was released on 18 March 2008 via Lex Records. The album includes a number of high-profile guest appearances from Fab Moretti of The Strokes, Har Mar Superstar, Yo Majesty, Spank Rock, Cate Le Bon and The Magic Numbers. The first single, "Raquel", was released on 26 November 2007.[11] The follow-up single "I Lust U", featured fellow Welsh artist Cate Le Bon on vocals. The album was nominated for the 2008 Mercury Prize.

On 29 April 2013, Neon Neon released their second studio album, Praxis Makes Perfect, followed by a limited run of live performances featuring actors from National Theatre Wales. The album and live show are based on the life of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli.

Collaborations with other artists[edit]

Rhys has occasionally collaborated with other artists, providing vocals for the track "Dial: Revenge" on the Mogwai album Rock Action as well as guesting on the songs "Fear of Guitars" (from the album Machine Says Yes by FC Kahuna) and "Do's and Don'ts" (by Boom Bip) as well as "Just War" from Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse's album Dark Night of the Soul. He has also featured on the myspace remix track "I'm Not Lying" by Goldie Lookin' Chain. He features on the track "Cream Dream" from the 2009 Simian Mobile Disco album Temporary Pleasure. He also eats carrots on the Misty's Big Adventure album Television's People, continuing the vegetable relay started by Brian Wilson on Smile.[12] Miles Kane has also called for him to produce the next album by his band the Rascals. Rhys also collaborated with influential hip-hop group De La Soul on a Gorillaz track titled Superfast Jellyfish. The track is on the third Gorillaz studio album, Plastic Beach.

In 2010 he released an album with Brazilian artist Tony da Gatorra on Turnstile Music. The album featured both compositions by Tony da Gatorra, who is relatively unknown in his native Brazil, and Gruff Rhys.[13]

On 17 December 2011, Rhys joined Manic Street Preachers on stage during the band's 38 song A Night of National Treasures one-off live event at the O2 Arena in London to provide the lead vocals for the song Let Robeson Sing. Introducing Rhys to the stage, lead singer James Dean Bradfield explained that Rhys had been set to perform the song at the band's 2001 performance in Havana, Cuba but circumstances had prevented this from happening.

Documentaries[edit]

In 2010, Dylan Goch's film Separado! premiered. It is a documentary about Gruff Rhys's trip to Patagonia to meet members of his family whose ancestors had emigrated in Victorian times.

In 2014, the pair co-directed a film about the Welsh explorer John Evans, American Interior. It was released in cinemas in the UK on 9 May 2014.

Computer game music[edit]

In 2011 Rhys composed the music for the successful iOS and Android game Whale Trail[14] which has been an iTunes game of the week.[15]

Film scores[edit]

In 2014, Rhys composed the film score for Set Fire to the Stars about Dylan Thomas and starring Elijah Wood. The jazz group he formed to record the music features drummer Chris Walmsley, double bassist Jim Barr (Portishead), pianist Osian Gwynedd (formerly of Big Leaves and Sybridion) on piano, with strings arranged by Gruff Ab Arwel (Y Niwl)[16][17]

Personal life[edit]

Rhys was born 18 July 1970 in Haverfordwest, Wales.[1] He has a brother and a sister; his father was Ioan Bowen Rees (13 January 1929 – 4 May 1999), a "poet, essayist, polemicist, mountaineer, internationalist ... and a White Robe Druid of the Gorsedd of Bards".[18][19] Bowen Rees "campaigned all his life for Welsh rights, language and culture" although he did not believe in the narrow view of nationalism, glorifying one country over another, rather that the "battle for Wales is the battle for all small nations, all small communities, all individuals in the age of genocide".[18][20] Rhys's mother shared his father's love of writing and was a poet.[20]

Rhys was educated at Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen, Bethesda, Gwynedd, North Wales and was awarded a degree in art at Manchester Metropolitan University. He supports Bangor City F.C. of the League of Wales.[21]

He formed ieie Productions with his partner Catryn Ramasut in 2006 to produce film and television projects.[22]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Year Details Peak chart position
UK[23]
2005 Yr Atal Genhedlaeth
2007 Candylion 50
2011 Hotel Shampoo 42
2014 American Interior 24
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

Singles and Extended plays[edit]

Year Title Label
2005 "Gwn Mi Wn" / "Ni Yw Y Byd" Placid Casual
2006 "Candylion" (b/w "Colossal Smile") Rough Trade Records
2010 "Shark Ridden Waters" / "I Totally Understand" Ovni Records
2011 "Sensations in the Dark" / "Follow the Sunflower Trail (Theme Tune for a National Strike)" Ovni Records
2011 "Honey All Over" / "Xenodocheionology" Ovni Records
2011 "Space Dust #2" / "Whale Trail" Ovni Records
2011 Atheist Xmas EP Ovni Records

Ffa Coffi Pawb[edit]

Year Title Label
1988 Dalec Peilon Ankst
1991 Clymhalio Ankst
1992 Hei Vidal! Ankst
2004 Am Byth (Compilation) Placid Casual

Super Furry Animals[edit]

Further information: Super Furry Animals discography
Year Title Label
1996 Fuzzy Logic Creation Records
1997 Radiator Creation Records
1998 Out Spaced Creation Records
1999 Guerrilla Creation Records
2000 Mwng Placid Casual
2001 Rings Around the World Epic Records
2003 Phantom Power Epic Records
2005 Love Kraft Sony BMG
2007 Hey Venus! Rough Trade Records
2009 Dark Days/Light Years Rough Trade Records

Neon Neon[edit]

Year Title Label
2008 Stainless Style Lex Records
2013 Praxis Makes Perfect Lex Records

Tony da Gatorra vs Gruff Rhys[edit]

Year Title Label
2010 The Terror of Cosmic Loneliness Turnstile Music

Bibliography[edit]

  • Gruff Rhys (2014) The Quixotic Journey of John Evans, His Search for a Lost Tribe and How, Fuelled by Fantasy and (Possibly) Booze, He Accidentally Annexed a Third of North America (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Books Ltd.) ISBN 9780241146019

Filmography[edit]

9 Songs (appearance with Super Furry Animals) (himself)
Beautiful Mistake (Welsh: Camgymeriad Gwych) (appearance with Super Furry Animals) (himself)
Separado!
American Interior

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Gruff Rhys biography". BBC. Retrieved 2007-11-09. 
  2. ^ Naylor, Tony (16 April 2010). "Fidget, schranz, doom – what? Folktronica not leftfield enough? Try this beginner's guide to obscure music genres". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  3. ^ Owens, David (2011). Cerys, Catatonia And The Rise Of Welsh Pop. Random House. ISBN 9781448116362. 
  4. ^ Elfyn, Bethan. "Pre-Cool Cymru: the pioneering bands". BBC Wales. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Buckley, Peter (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock (in English) (3rd ed.). London: Rough Guide, Penguin. pp. 1034–1035. ISBN 1843531054. 
  6. ^ Hill, Sarah (September 2007). Blerwytirhwng?: The Place of Welsh Pop Music (in English). Cardiff, Wales: Ashgate. p. 200. ISBN 978-0-7546-5898-6. 
  7. ^ http://www.planetmagazine.org.uk/documents/PunkRockinBethesda-MalcolmLewis.pdf
  8. ^ Hobbs, Mary Anne (12 May 2013). BBC Radio 6Music http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p018xtlj. Retrieved 21 May 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "Beck to the Future? Neon Neon hit 88MPH!". Kruger Magazine. Archived from the original on 2007-11-12. Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  10. ^ "Super Furry Animals Frontman, Boom Bip Join Forces". spin.com. Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  11. ^ "Super Furry Animals man to release brand new album in February". nme.com. Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  12. ^ http://www.nme.com/news/mistys-big-adventure/40250
  13. ^ Tony da Gatorra vs Gruff Rhys - The Terror of Cosmic Loneliness (2010)
  14. ^ Cragg, Michael (2011-09-28). "New music: Gruff Rhys – Whale Trail". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2011-12-15. 
  15. ^ "Whale Trail on the iTunes App Store". Retrieved 2011-12-15. 
  16. ^ http://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/music-nightlife-news/gruff-rhys-scores-jazz-soundtrack-7112820
  17. ^ "IMDb: Set Fire to the Stars (2014) Full Cast & Crew". IMDb/Amazon. 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  18. ^ a b Perrin, Jim (1999-06-07). "Obituaries - Ioan Bowen Rees". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  19. ^ Meic Stephens (1999-05-09). "Obituary: Ioan Bowen Rees". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  20. ^ a b "I Like The Idea Of Creating Cultural Havoc", Melody Maker, 19–25 January 2000 
  21. ^ "Super Furry Animals - Frequently Asked Questions". BBC. 2009-01-29. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  22. ^ Ownes, David (10 May 2014). "Watch our exclusive videos of Gruff Rhys - king of the wild frontier". Wales Online. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  23. ^ http://www.officialcharts.com/artist/_/gruff%20rhys/

External links[edit]

Reviews