The Red Dragonhood
The label is rooted in Welsh counter-culture, as exemplified at different times by the music of bands such as Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, Catatonia and Goldie Lookin' Chain, and the literature of Rachel Trezise, Niall Griffiths and John Ellis Williams. It draws on references from rock music, the Welsh language, Welsh history and the typically self-deprecating Welsh sense of humour to express a non-conformist, contemporary representation of Welsh identity.
Worn by musicians Richard Jones, Javier Weyler, Nicky Wire, Dafydd Ieuan and Guto Pryce, actors Rhys Ifans and Matthew Rhys, television presenter Lisa Rogers and writer Rachel Trezise, the label has a cult following in Wales and sells to Welsh expats the world over by mail order.
Davies originally created the Red Dragonhood (meaning brother/sisterhood of the Red Dragon or more simply Welsh people) to subvert traditional Welsh iconography, such as the emblem known as the Prince of Wales's feathers. Buckingham Palace and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) both claim exclusive commercial rights to an emblem that many Welsh people consider to be a symbol of Wales itself. So he began using T-shirts as a protest medium. Rejecting what he considered to be hackneyed and stereotypical examples of Welshness - blazer-wearing male voice choirs, traditional Welsh costume, leeks, daffodils, lovespoons etc. - he printed, for example, T-shirts with an image of a sheep's skull and glow-in-the-dark ink to highlight the plight of North Walian farmers in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster.
Having previously sworn that he would never produce anything rugby-related, he designed a T-shirt to coincide with the 2009 Six Nations Championship, where the claws of a dragon appeared to rip out of the shirt from the wearer's heart through a symbol not unlike that used by the Welsh Rugby Union.
Davies created a more direct vehicle for his political and economic ideas when he founded Newid (change in Welsh), a political party in Wales, in 2009. The Red Dragonhood subsequently appears to have evolved into a more mainstream fashion-orientated brand, albeit one with some underlying political themes.
The Jimi Hendrix Welsh national anthem hoax
Davies wanted a subverted recording of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the Welsh national anthem, to play automatically when visitors clicked on the first page of The Red Dragonhood's original website. So he sent guitar chord notations to a friend from art college days, the guitarist John Ellis (The Vibrators, Peter Gabriel, The Stranglers) who, despite coming from North London rather than Wales, duly obliged. Another friend remarked that the howling, heavily distorted, over-the-top guitar rendition sounded a bit like Jimi Hendrix. Davies immediately saw an opportunity to make a point about how some modern Welsh icons had been imposed through establishment propaganda.
He wrote a short story about the finding of a lost tape, putting Jimi Hendrix in the frame for making the recording without actually claiming it was Hendrix. He based the story within a tight geographic location in North London and dressed it with real characters and places he knew well, such as a thinly disguised Stuart Goddard (aka Adam Ant), another friend from college, and Ellis's old recording studio in Crouch End. The real protagonists in the story were dead (Hendrix and his manager, Chas Chandler) as were the characters Davies had invented, except for a possible eyewitness, an archetypal Welsh bass player called Viv Williams from a fictional 1970s band, The New Flames, whom Davies claimed he was looking for to prove the veracity of the story.
He published the tale on the Red Dragonhood website and for a while nothing happened. Then a journalist from the Western Mail noticed it. The Guardian picked up the story and ran it on New Year's Day 2007. The New Musical Express ran the story on the same day. The next day, the BBC news and current affairs flagship television programme, Newsnight, closed with the story.
Davies's hoax traveled around the world within hours. At one point, a Google search for 'Jimi+Hendrix+Welsh+National+Anthem' produced over 40 million results. The Red Dragonhood website received more than 30 million hits from people wanting to hear the recording. This sparked a global debate amongst Hendrix fans as to whether the recording was genuine. Speculation was rife about the identity of the player if it wasn't Hendrix.
Interest in the story had begun to wane by Saint David's Day (1 March) 2007, a national day of celebration in Wales, so Davies accepted an invitation from the BBC to come clean about the hoax on Newsnight. Reasoning, correctly as it turned out, that the show's producers would reduce the political points he wanted to make about Welsh myths to concentrate on the deception itself, he agreed to meet the BBC crew in a pub where he plied them with Brains Welsh beer and Penderyn Welsh whiskey. He was then interviewed wearing a T-shirt that featured a large representation of the Prince of Wales's feathers on which the German motto, 'Ich dein' had been subtly replaced with a vulgar Welsh phrase, 'Twll dîn pob sais'. In response to calls from viewers who knew what it meant, presenter Jeremy Paxman issued a clarification the following night, describing Davies as "Either a visionary or a Taff time-waster".
John Ellis's 'Hendrix' recording and Martin Davies's original story can still be found here..
- "Stop using my three feathers, Western Mail, Wales News, 2 March 2007.". Media Wales Ltd. 2007-05-02. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
- MacAlister, Terry; Carter, Helen (2009-05-12). "Farmers still restricted by Chernobyl Fallout, Guardian, Environment, 12 May 2009". London: Guardian News and Media Ltd. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- "Designs inspired by street identity, South Wales Evening Post, 2 March 2007.". Northcliffe Media Ltd. 2009-01-13. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- "Discovered: Hendrix's Welsh anthem?, Western Mail, Wales News, 30 December 2006.". Media Wales Ltd. 2006-12-30. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- Morris, Steven (2007-01-01). "Lost tape could be Hendrix version of Welsh anthem, Guardian, 1 January 2007.". London: Guardian News and Media Ltd. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- "Did Jimi Hendrix record the Welsh national anthem, NME, 1 January 2007.". IPC Media Ltd. 2007-01-01. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- "Genuine Jimi?, BBC, 2 January 2007.". BBC. 2007-01-02. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- "Hendrix riddle starts stampede, Western Mail, Wales News, 31 January 2007.". Media Wales Ltd. 2007-01-31. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- "Newsnight solves Hendrix Welsh national anthem mystery, BBC, 28 February 2007.". BBC. 2007-02-28. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- "Newsnight's rude T-shirt surprise, BBC, 2 March 2007.". BBC. 2007-03-02. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- "Hendrix Welsh anthem recording a hoax, Western Mail, Wales News, 2 March 2007.". Media Wales Ltd. 2007-03-02. Retrieved 2010-08-25.