THE MUSIC MAGAZINE FOR WALES
Killing For Company we kill time with the boys
The Blackout, Attack! Attack! Mea, The StopMotion Men
Bullet For My Valentine Mike Peters, Cerys Matthews Goldie Lookin’ Chain, Gallows
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SONIG YOUTH MUSIC INDUSTRY, YOUTH ARTS & DIGITAL MEDIA Will Be Running An Exciting Series Of Creative Industries Workshops Throughout 2008 Here’s a Taster of What’s on Offer: sessions for Music Journalists sessions for Photographers Creative Industry Surgeries Music Industry Masterclasses/Seminars Film-making Workshops with Zoom Cymru Music Technology/Production Street Fashion Workshops & Showcase Digital Design Peer-led Forum Theatre Break Dancing DJ sessions Music & Performance Showcase Events For further information, contact: Tanya Walker, 01443-490205, email@example.com Liz Driscoll, 01443-490208, firstname.lastname@example.org Anne Hayes, 01443-490239, email@example.com
Contents firstname.lastname@example.org www.pluggedinmagazine.co.uk
elcome to another exciting issue of PLUGGED IN. The magazine is getting bigger and better — and more pages means more features with your favourite artists and more live reviews. But what’s best of all is that with its third issue PLUGGED IN is breaking past the borders of its birthplace and is becoming the music magazine for WALES. Whether you’re in Cardiff or Caernarvon, Anglesey or Aberdare, Prestatyn or Pontypridd, we want to hear from you and we want your gig reviews and listings. This is your music magazine and whether a band is playing in the local pub or a huge arena we want to know about it. PLUGGED IN is the only music magazine concentrating soley on what’s going on in and coming out of Wales — you no longer have to look to London to know about the music scene, because there is a magazine right here in Wales doing it for you.
Gail & Darren
MANAGING EDITOR Gail Griffiths CREATIVE DIRECTOR & CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER Darren Warner CONTRIBUTORS Adam Perkins, Danny Owen, Gary Bolsom, Josh Green, Kally Pugh, Kayleigh Edwards, Laura Watkins, Leah Evans, Maria Murphy, Mia Wingfield, Richard Samuel, Stephen Lewis & Stephanie McNicholas
4 Music News
a round-up of what’s happening
5 Gig Listings
who’s playing where and when
6 Killing For Company rocking their socks off in 2008
8 The Blackout
playing with dynamite
loud and proud
12 Attack! Attack!
back from LA and on tour
on our Welsh-language page
16 Hand Of The Daedra preparing for invasion
17 Jam With RoBina a taste of Welsh-Italian
18 Live Reviews
18 pages of live music
exclusive photograph for you!
35 Ffred Jones
live on gtfm Showcase Wales
36 CDs Reviewed
including unsigned bands
38 Last 10 Questions with The StopMotion Men
win great stuff — all signed!
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PLUGGED IN is the creation of Haul Fryn Publishing & Mentoring Services (firstname.lastname@example.org). All rights reserved. All contributions to PLUGGED IN must be original. Haul Fryn Publishing reserves the right to modify any material submitted for publication in PLUGGED IN. Reproduction of any of the content of PLUGGED IN, without prior permission, is strictly forbidden.
music news new music
Carbon 12 is a new operatic work which will celebrate the rich industrial heritage of Wales, its landscape and its people. The main work is being written by Errollyn Wallen and will be performed at the Wales Millenium Centre at the end of June. This exciting project will include performances from many different groups in the Valleys — a chorus of women singers from Merthyr, the Parc & Dare Brass Band, the Risca Male Voice Choir as well as the chorus and orchestra of the Welsh National Opera.
spreading the word
Last month PLUGGED IN went on air and presented a show on Rhys Radio. In keeping with the ethos behind the magazine, we had a band come into the studio to play a live set. Wayne and Vanessa from Mea played an amazing acoustic session which we thank them for. Maybe this will become a regular feature for the editorial team!
In a new venture, Super Furry Animals front man Gruff Rhys has teemed up with LA electro producer Bryan Hollon (Boom Bip) to form a new band called Neon Neon. The pair have released a debut album called Stainless Style which is a retro-futuristic, genre-crossing pop epic about the rise and spectacular fall of 80s playboy John Delorean — the guy who designed the fabulous but weird-door-opening car that features in the Back To The Future movies. Read our album review on page 36.
get yourself heard
Early March saw the launch of a new compilation CD of some of the best unsigned Welsh bands. Featuring 10 tracks and recorded at the Unit 40 Studios, Outside The City was the brainchild of Dewi Gray of Clwb Y Bont who approached PLUGGED IN’s very own Creative Director Darren Warner to provide exclusive photography for the front and back covers of the album. The CD costs just £5 and is available to buy from www.myspace.com/outsidethecitymusic and iTunes — read our review on page 37.
Showcase Wales (www.myspace,com/ showcasewales) is an integral part of gtfm 107.9’s evening programming (www.gtfm.co.uk). Hitting the airwaves every Wednesday night between 8-10pm, presenters Adam Perkins, Lee Wood, Mark Stanfield and Paul Williams, showcase the best unsigned talent that South Wales has to offer. Featuring a live session each week, Showcase Wales gives unsigned talent in the region the chance to get heard. And for over four years has pioneered the unsigned genre in South Wales. See our feature on page 35.
magazine back issues For those of you who didn’t get their hands on a copy of issues 1 & 2 of PLUGGED IN, it’s still available to buy from our back issues department at our introductory launch price. Simply send a cheque or postal order for £1 per magazine, plus £1 p&p, to: Haul Fryn Publishing, Haul Fryn, Courthouse Street, Pontypridd CF37 1JW. Please make cheques payable to PLUGGED IN magazine — £2 for one magazine, £3 for two magazines. Your hard-earned cash will be a contribution towards the cost of producing further magazines for your reading pleasure.
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in the news
PLUGGED IN has made the news here in South Wales, with local and national newspapers writing about the glossy magazine that’s taking the music scene by storm. Journalists were among the guests at PLUGGED IN’s recent exclusive music industry event, which saw Viva Machine play an amazing acoustic set watched by Darran Smith from FAFF and Stuart Cable & Greg Jones from Killing For Company, among others.
gig promoters Deadstar Events not only put on the legendary Fight Night gigs at The Muni in Ponty, but also a regular new-rock/ metal night at Clwb Y Bont under the banner Versus as well as Blow The Fuse club nights at Minsky’s in Cardiff. Bands looking for gigs should get in touch via www.myspace.com/ deadstarevents
competition winners... Anyone who entered the exciting competition in Issue 2 will want to know if they’ve won the fab signed stuff on offer. Well, here’s the list of lucky winners... Kellie Jones from Pontypridd — gets a guitar plectrum and copy of Issue 1 both signed by Darran Smith of Funeral For A Friend; Jessica Thomas from Pontypridd — is now playing the signed LostProphets album Liberation Transmission; Diane Ward from Derbyshire — wins the signed Stereophonics album Pull The Pin; Jade Hallett from Pontypridd — is enjoying listening to the signed DeadEnd EP TURN TO PAGE 39 FOR A CHANCE TO WIN THIS MONTH’S FAB PRIZES!
live gig listings
10 10 11 13, 20 & 27 14 14 18 19 20 23 23 25 26 26 26 27 29 30
1 1 1 2 2-5 3 3 4 & 11 7 9 10 10 11 12 14 14 16 16 21 22 23 29 29 29 31
JUNE 1 4 5 7 13 15-17 19 21 24 28 28
Lethal Bizzle @ The Point, Cardiff Lethargy @ The Castle Hotel, Neath Mea @ The Pop Factory, Porth Youth Gone Wild @ Tom’s Bar, Pontypridd King Django @ Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff Jethro Tull @ St David’s Hall, Cardiff Sound The Attack @ Doll’s House, Abertillery BenSem @ Cwmaman Institute, Aberdare The Blackout/Attack! Attack! @ Sin City, Swansea Sugababes @ The CIA, Cardiff Salsa Celtica @ The Muni, Pontypridd Kick Box Riot (acoustic set) @ TJ’s, Newport Fight Night (Plugged In Special] @ Muni, Pontypridd Bensem @ Tom’s Bar, Pontypridd Cursed @ Le Pub, Newport Along Came Man @ The Point, Cardiff The Automatic/Viva Machine/Attack! Attack! @ The Point, Cardiff Friends Electric @ The Barfly, Cardiff Jam with RoBina @ Bar Co, Swansea Black Lips @ The Point, Cardiff The StopMotion Men/The Unsung/Death Of An Icon @ The Barfly, Cardiff Ffred Jones @ Globetrotters Bar, Pontypridd Mumbles Mostly Jazz & Blues Festival, Swansea Radio Luxemburg @ MilkwoodJam, Swansea Sound The Attack @ TJ’s, Newport Youth Gone Wild @ Tom’s Bar, Pontypridd Lightspeed Champion @ The Point, Cardiff Sound The Attack @ The Pop Factory, Porth Genod Droog @ MilkwoodJam, Swansea The Automatic/Viva Machine @ Blake Theatre, Monmouth The Automatic/Viva Machine @ Y Galeri, Caernarfon The Automatic/Viva Machine/Along Came Man @ Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon Rachel Taylor-Beales @ The Point, Cardiff Patrick Street @ Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan Fight Night @ The Muni, Pontypridd Melanie @ Pontardawe Arts Centre Friends Electric @ The Barfly, Cardiff Mark Knopfler @ The CIA, Cardiff The Guns/Kick Box Riot @ TJ’s, Newport The Automatic/Viva Machine @ Central Station, Wrexham The StopMotion Men @ Buffalo Bar, Cardiff Solas @ The Muni, Pontypridd New Model Army @ Sin City, Swansea Youth Gone Wild @ Tom’s Bar, Pontypridd The Guns @ Sin City, Swansea Eric Bibb @ Parc & Dare Theatre, Treorchy Blind Ambition @ Clwb Y Bont, Pontypridd Fight Night @ The Muni, Pontypridd LostProphets @ Download Festival Neil Diamond @ The Millenium Stadium, Cardiff Mike Peters @ Y Galeri, Caernarfon SaidMike/Attack! Attack! @ Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff Racing Cars @ Pontardawe Arts Centre Funeral For A Friend @ Blenheim Palace Funeral For A Friend @ Wakestock Status Quo/Killing For Company @ Cyfartha Castle, Merthyr Tydfil Rock n Roots Festival , Ross-on-Wye
few years ago Stuart Cable decided that although he enjoyed his new career on TV and radio, he wanted to get back to doing what he does best — playing the drums, playing live and writing songs. So he hooked up with guitar-playing brothers Andy and Steve Williams (both from Swansea band Powder) and went in search of a vocalist. They found Greg Jones, liked what they saw and asked him and guitar-playing bandmate Richie King (both from Cardiff band The Teeth) to come up and ‘jam’ with them. The session went really well, the guys just sort of clicked and there we have it — a new band literally brought together by a love for music. So all they needed now was a name — over to Greg. “The name...aaah. We used to rehearse at Stu’s garage where he stored some books. During one rehearsal I spotted the spine of a book with a black cover and bold white writing, KILLING FOR COMPANY. It just grabbed my attention. Mid-song I grabbed it and showed it to the rest of the guys and we all agreed it was something we could use. We were in the studio soon after with Greg Haver (Manics, Kids In Glass Houses), and we had to put something on the CDs and before we knew it we were called Killing For Company. The book itself is very macabre and I don’t want people to think the name came from the actual content of the book, but maybe the name says different things to different people. I just think it sums up the way people are right now, the way we all communicate via myspace, facebook, in our own little safe worlds, it’s an extreme message but no worse than saying you’re ‘dying for a cup of tea’ I guess.” Killing For Company of course sound a lot different to Cable’s previous band, due to the guys’ different personalities. “It’s a combination of all our music tastes — a little bit of old school rock with some new influences mixed in. I think we would appeal to most people who like guitar-based music with a good mix of emotions running through the songs. Our influences come from lots of different bands and eras — Stu as you all know is really into AC/DC, but he’s also a big fan of Tragically Hip and Rush, Richie loves The Manics, Steve is into The Cult, for Andy it’s ZZ Top and I like Pearl Jam. These tastes in music both crossover and stand alone, but I think that’s a good thing otherwise you’d end up just sounding like your favourite band. When you have five different influences I think you get a good mix of styles coming through, there’s something there for everyone. But it stretches across the performance side of things also, not just the style we play, come see for yourselves.” PLUGGED IN saw these guys play The Con Club in Aberdare in 2006 and then days later they opened for The Who in The Liberty Stadium. It must have been surreal to go from a small venue to a stadium virtually overnight. “Yeah, the gig in Aberdare was for Mike Headford a close friend of Stu’s who’d passed away earlier that year, and it was only our second gig together. The Who gig was our third...very mad indeed. This year I guess we’d like to play the festivals, but the smaller venues are good too — we love playing up front and personal.” There are plenty of festivals out there and this is a band that relishes playing live and look comfortable doing so. “Well, it looks like we may get to play at Download this year so that’s a bit exciting to say the least, and there’s the big Status Quo gig at Cyfarthfa Castle in July, that should be a lot of fun. We’ve put a lot of things on hold for this year to get some songs recorded with the American producer Bob Marlette, who worked with Evanescence and Hoobastank, but it’s tricky matching free time with studio time. So we’re shuffling things around and have a few things coming up that will be confirmed shortly, so keep an eye on our myspace and web sites.” As with most band myspace sites there are a number of tracks available to listen to, but this isn’t necessarily a taster of what will be on the album the boys are currently recording. “The stuff on myspace is a year old now, and although we love the songs and
will continue to play them in the live set we’re writing songs at such a rate and in so many styles that I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised at the new stuff. Even playing the acoustic set with Mike Peters on St David’s day caught a lot of people off guard, the songs stood their ground in that stripped down format and it’s something I think we may do a little more of in the future as we enjoyed it so much.” So how does a five-member band go about writing new material? “It comes from lots of different angles, like someone can be just playing a riff to warm up off the top of their heads and we’ll just jam around that. Or we’ll bring in a song that’s almost completed and all get to have input on it. Sometimes the lyrics and melody come out at the rehearsal or sometimes Greg’ll take it away and bring it back for the next time. But as yet we haven’t really ‘laboured’ over a song, if it doesn’t work after a few arrangements we’ll move on, maybe come back to it at a later stage.” PLUGGED IN has heard that Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody in the same studio the band are currently working in. “We think it was recorded at Rockfield Studios, but the desk it was recorded on is the one that now lives in Monnow Valley Studios — so indirectly yes. But Monnow has its own catalogue of history with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and so on, it was originally the rehearsal studio for Rockfield.” Getting back into the recording studio is something that the boys are getting really excited about. “The songs are all there for the album, in fact we keep writing so much that we have enough for two albums and then some… but at this stage we just need to build the band’s profile, we are happy to support up-andcoming bands in order to spread the word. We feel it’s important for people to have a format, like a CD, they can get hold of and get drawn into. The music industry is very unsure how to deal with the way we obtain music right now, and I’m all for downloads but you can’t beat having something that the band you’re into has put their personalities into, in terms of lyrics, pictures, art and scribblings you miss out on when you just have a file on your PC. When did you go to a mate’s house and browse through their music files to get an idea of their music tastes? It’s back to that private little bubble we all live in... there’s nothing better than to have a rummage through someone’s CD collection — there’s always something you’ve not heard of or played for years.” Having mentioned spreading the word about upand-coming bands, PLUGGED IN wondered what the guys think of the Welsh music scene at the moment. Who would they recommend readers go out and watch live? “What people seem to forget is that Wales has always had a steady foot in the door of the music scene but tend to focus on just a few bands. But right now it’s all kicking off. We’d just say go and see as many local acts as you can, there’s a lot of uncertainty in Wales and the UK in general I guess about supporting up-and-coming bands until they ‘make it’, I’ve never really understood that. You should give bands a few tries before deciding who you do and don’t like, the next song they write could be the song that really gets to you. Have an open mind and show support.” It sounds like Killing For Company are gearing up for a big year, and PLUGGED IN thinks they’re on the way to getting their name known in 2008. “Getting the new songs down on a format that people can get hold of, learn the words and come shout them at us at a gig soon is the goal this year. There are also a few interesting things coming up — like the Abrahams Point film with Mackenzie Crook which is out soon, we have a few songs in that and a very small background scene as a band. Coincidentally there’s another film producer who also wants to use some of our tracks for a movie. The Status Quo gig will be a blast, and we’ll be playing a few gigs over the coming months — so get yourselves on our mailing list on the website and we’ll keep you posted of all the events as they happen.” Visit www.myspace.com/kfcband for info
Interview by Gary Bolsom
FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A SIGNED KILLING FOR COMPANY T-SHIRT, TURN TO PAGE 39
FACE TO FACE
Interview by Kayleigh Edwards Photograph by Leah Evans
ettling into the comfy corner of Cardiff University’s Great Hall I’m joined by one of the fastest-growing bands to be blooming out of South Wales — The Blackout. Seeing what Welsh bands were aspiring to, a few schoolboys from Merthyr decided it was worth giving it a go themselves, and so The Blackout was created, unbelievably just four years ago. Sean “having no talent” thought he could be useful at least some way in a band and after trying it out as a DJ thought it a lot easier to carry just his voice around rather than “two big metal coffins.” After Matthew joined when they were looking for a new guitarist the band officially started work on their dreams of joining their peers as rock stars. Over the past year or so this band has gone from playing to nobody, “not even the bar staff” at Cardiff Barfly, to playing to roughly 20,000 fans at the Give It A Name festival in May of last year. It’s been an absolute rollercoaster ride for them, culminating in the release of their almighty debut album
We Are The Dynamite — and they have to admit, they’re loving every minute of it. “Touring and playing different places almost every night has been awesome,” and these guys are relishing their newfound glory. But, as many of our homegrown bands have stressed, there will never be a better show to play than one on your own turf. In 2006 The Blackout played The Full Ponty festival with hardly anyone really knowing who they were. Then when they played again in 2007 there was complete chaos. “Going from having a handful of people knowing who we were and singing our songs back to us, to being one of the main highlights of the show where just about every person there knew and loved us was truly mind-blowing.” It was an honour to be playing so big a show, so close to home, especially as they’ve become part of Wales’ ever-growing music scene. They are one of the many bands within Wales, and some from out, who believe our music scene is “the best in the UK, even the EU.” Having bands
which can create “such definite, recognisable songs and hooks” and coming from the Welsh valleys, makes the boys proud they were able to contribute to the phenomenon. I’d barely got into my next question when I was rudely interrupted. “You’re good friends with LostPro—” “We are not!” At that moment I felt about an inch tall, but thankfully it was their witty satire talking. When I did manage to end the question, on how they became such good friends with the Prophets, I was told how Ian Watkins rang Sean up one day in despair. “He told us he was too old to carry on being the star in the limelight, and that he was passing us the torch. Of course we accepted, and told him we’d be better than him because we aren’t half as whiney, ugly, fake or tanned. Well, not really...” I didn’t know whether to be grateful or not for them saying that last sentence, but even when I did get a real answer it ended with yet another joke. “We met Mike Lewis after hanging out one day, emailed him and he came to a
few of our practice sessions, and when the Prophets needed support on their Liberation Transmission Tour they asked if we wanted to fill one of the slots. We didn’t see why not. I mean, why wouldn’t they want the best band in the world to support them?” They carried on with the ‘LostProphets larky’ for the next 15 minutes or so. In all fairness to them, they had both me and Leah (photos) trying our hardest not to burst into fits of laughter while attempting to carry on with the interview, but the greatest thing I realised was that there was such a strong camaraderie between the two bands, they knew they could call each other every name under the sun and still manage to stay the best of friends, and that’s what’s awesome to see within the Welsh music scene. It’s the companionship between bands, rather than bands at each other’s throats all the time, that we see. And in my opinion, this amity is the prime example of what all other bands should take note from.
When asked how it felt to hear that their whiney, tanned friend Mr Watkins had actually said he was prouder of them and the other Welsh bands than the big American bands that played Full Ponty 07, for once I was actually answered with some reality. The guys looked quite surprised that their not-really-archenemy was saying nice things about them. “Well it’s true, and at the same time that’s awesome! Before we knew them, the Prophets were always a big inspiration. We loved them, Ian was our hero.” Being thrown high into the music scene in Wales, then broadcast across the rest of Europe has certainly been quite a frenzy for the band, but even though they’ve appeared to become one of the most favoured bands to hit the picture, they definitely don’t see themselves as being any bigger or any better out there. When it comes to up-and-coming bands though, they’re all up for giving advice on how
they managed to hit the big time — but most of it really isn’t what most other bands would tell you. “If you want to make it, get better. Get up off your lazy a***s and stop waiting for everything to come to you. Play everywhere. Don’t let anyone tell you to change. Tour your a***s off and put the hard work in. Be nice to everyone, no-one is better than anyone.” They laughed and joked about everything throughout the interview and it’s nice to see that for a change, rather than having to be so serious all the time. It’s good to know that the music business hasn’t swallowed them up and turned them into robots or something of the like. It’s good to know that we can always expect to hear exactly what they feel and exactly what they want us to hear. And if you don’t like it? Sean Smith is waiting for you to fight him for it in Merthyr. Visit www.myspace.com/theblackout for details of gigs and where to buy the album
FACE TO FACE
alking up to the recording studio, the hum of a bass guitar being played got louder with each step. It was a sunny day so instead of a few muffled sounds being heard through the soundproofed studio walls, a melody of notes floated out of an open window and door. Pushing my way through a small group of people gathered outside in the sunshine I went in to meet up with one of PLUGGED IN’s favourite bands, Mea. The band was at the Unit 40 Studios to record their track Grace for the compilation album Outside The City, and the music I’d heard on my approach was Huw laying down his part of the song. Watching him intently were the other three band members Vanessa, Wayne and Gareth — each of them seemed pretty pleased with the way things were going. Taking a break Huw came to join us, and so the interview could begin — as like all things this band do, everything’s a joint effort with each of them having an equal input. “People have called us a female-fronted band, but we’re not, we’re just a band with a female singer,” said Huw. “Yeah,” added Wayne, “Vanessa is a unique selling point for us, granted, but as far as the music goes we all have our part to play. We write together and play music together and the passion we all have for what we do comes over in our music and live performances.” Playing live is what they all love and do best, and the number of gig listings you see with the name Mea on is testament to the hard work the band put in to getting out there and getting their name known. Being part of the Welsh music scene means playing all over Wales and building up a fan base that goes beyond just family and friends where you live. “I think we’re lucky to be part of something special,” said Vanessa. “A lot of good bands come from this area of Wales and everyone tries to support each other. The Wales scene is bigger than, say, the Manchester scene or the Sheffield scene, so we can drive for up to an hour away to do a gig and still be part of the main scene. There’s a good network of bands out there and everyone knows everyone, giving each other support along the way. There’s a lot going on if you look for it and work hard to be part of it.” And hard work is something that Mea doesn’t shy away from — just watch them on stage and you’ll feel exhausted by the sheer effort that goes into their live performance. “I don’t care what I look like when I’m singing, I go into another zone,” Vanessa told me. “Our alter-egos take over and we all just let the passion for our music take us.” And it does — it’s something that PLUGGED IN has noticed on the numerous occasions we’ve watched these guys play live. Very reminiscent of Siouxsie & The Banshees — also a four-member band who were all serious about the music they played and performed live, and even though the band’s singer was a strong force in herself, no one personality stuck out over another. The Banshees band had a persona all of its own — and it’s the same with Mea. Just over two years ago Mea won best Welsh unsigned act at the Global Battle Of The Bands after only being together about 15 months. Two more years down the line and this is a band that’s going somewhere. “We don’t sell ourselves on being Welsh as we play our music anyway, anywhere. Yes, of course we have aspirations, but we want to keep on writing what we want the way we want to. Though if ‘it’ comes our way we won’t turn it down. Hopefully we won’t ever be percieved as selling our souls, though saying that people find it difficult to compartmentalise us, so a label may not pick up on us easily.” So the future for now includes playing at as many gigs and festivals as possible. “We’re hoping to play at V2008 — so are asking everyone we know to vote for us. It would be awesome to play to such a large audience.”
To vote for Mea to play V2008, visit www. myspace.com/meaofficial and follow the link
FACE TO FACE
t’s with anticipation that PLUGGED IN waits for this particular performance. The Barfly in Cardiff with its basement darkness is the perfect place to watch those up-and-coming bands that could rip the heart out of the soulless manufactured pop that come from money media moguls — and especially tonight. Sandwiched between Along Came Man and Tonight Is Goodbye we find Attack! Attack! Now these guys don’t just live under this name, they seem to believe in it. They attack your mind, body and soul. The band’s previous performances that PLUGGED IN has witnessed have never been disappointing and never a compromise. Full on with powerful kinetic energy you can’t help listening and being impressed. Tipped by everyone as the next big thing to rise from Wales it’s funny that what you find behind the performance is four very together guys who just love music. Give them the opportunity to play and whatever the location, they’ll play as if their lives depended on it. Tonight is no exception and PLUGGED IN just knew we had to talk to Attack! Attack! about what drives them.
You’ve recently recorded an album in LA, what made you choose to go there instead of somewhere in the UK? We decided to go there ourselves. Stuart Richardson approached us about going to LA to record with him and we jumped at the chance. We felt it was an unmissable opportunity. LA — sun, Hollywood; Wales — rain, Blackwood. It’s a no brainer. Who did you work with in the studio over there and what was the experience like? We worked with Stuart Richardson, Mike Lewis and Justin Hopfer. The studio we recorded in has recorded artists like Beck, Eric Clapton, Ok Go. The experience was life changing! What did you think of LA — could you live there, did you go anywhere interesting? We all said we could easily live there, it was so relaxed and the weather was awesome! We went to Six Flags, Santa Monica, we ended up in Compton at one point too, took a wrong turn and thought we were going to die — haha! PLUGGED IN has heard there’s a Nirvana connection with your LA trip — can you tell us more about that and are you big fans? Me [Neil] and Mike are massive fans, we stayed in the same apartment complex that Nirvana did when they recorded Nevermind — that got us well excited. You recorded the album yourselves with no financial backing — what are your plans with the finished product? We are currently in talks with managers/labels about releasing the album, we then intend to tour as much as possible in 2008. How many tracks are on the album, and can we look forward to hearing some different sounds from you as a band? It looks like a 10 tracker right now, straight to the point, only the hits. We think people will be surprised with the different dynamics that we have within the songs, we have pop songs, rock songs, slamming songs and a softer number, too. You’ll be touring the circuit over the next few weeks and months, no doubt — will you be playing the new music?
We’re touring right now so check out our myspace site for details, the set is full of plenty of new material. Your performance on stage is full of energy — what do you like best about playing live? We get to play the songs the way they were meant to be played, full of energy, passion and balls — haha! We think the live experience is an extra dimension of Attack! Attack! that can’t be captured on CD. Neil & Ryan, you obviously love what you do as you’re both in two bands together — is there any crossover with Dopamine or can you keep things completely separate? We’re doing our best to keep things separate, we feel the two bands have a lot of different things to offer, plus 50% of each band is different so it helps keep things fresh. What was it like for the band to be nominated for Best Newcomer at last year’s Pop Factory Awards? We were quite shocked to be honest, but flattered, too. We have a lot of time for the Pop Factory so we felt really chuffed to be considered for that award. Though you didn’t win, has anything changed because of your nomination? Yeah, we got more exposure because of it and hopefully made some new fans, too. You recently recorded a live session for Radio 1’s Bethan Elfyn show — how did that go and have you had a good response? We had a blast recording it. Bethan is a legend, the stuff she has done for Welsh music is awesome. We were well pleased with the end result and the feedback from the fans has also been great. So what are the future plans and aspirations for Attack! Attack! as a band? We want to make this a long-term career. We see this as just the beginning of a long and happy road for us. Plans for 2008 — release the album, tour as much as possible and meet new fans along the way. For up-to-date gig listings and album info, visit www.myspace.com/attackattackband
Sibrydion Cyfweliad gan Maria Murphy
Mae Sibrydion yn enw trawiadol ar fand. Sibrwd/sibrydion yw un o fy hoff eiriau yn y Gymraeg. Sut wnaethoch chi ddewis yr enw? Un o’r caneuon cyntaf i ni recordio oedd Dafad Ddu. Doedd gynnon ni ddim enw yr adeg honno. Gan mai “dwi di clywed sibrydion”, oedd geiriau cynta’r gan, fe ddaeth enw’r band ddatblygu oddi yno’n naturiol. Roeddan ni hefyd wedi penderfynu o’r cychwyn nad oedden ni isho gwthio petha’n ormodol fel lot o fandiau’r dyddiau hyn. Dwi ddim yn licio pobol rhy amlwg. Os yw bandiau yn ymddangos fel yna, dwi fel arfer yn colli diddordeb yn syth. Felly roeddan ni’n licio meddwl ein bod ni’n cychwyn sin bach distaw ar ben ein hunain, gan adael i bobol eraill ffeindio allan amdanon ni. Hefyd, roedd y gigs cynnar i gyd yn cael eu cyhoeddi drwy word by mouth heb hysbysebu ffurfiol — dim posteri o gwbwl. Mae Sibrydion yn siwtio’r ddelwedd ac yn dangos o lle ’da ni’n dod fel band. Mae Simsalabim wedi cael adolygiadau gwych. Pa gan o’r albwm oedd eich ffefryn wrth weithio arni, a pham? Nes i rili fwynhau gwneud Madame Guillotine. Fe wnaethon ni benderfynnu o’r cychwyn ein bod ni am sdicio at offerynnau oedd ar gael yn
yr Oesoedd Canol. Felly mae yna boteli cwrw yn gwneud y bas yn lle gitar fas. Pan fyddai’n ffrindiau neu gerddorion eraill yn cerdded i fewn i’r stiwdio yr adeg honno, oeddan nhw’n meddwl, “they’ve finally lost it!” Hefyd dwi’n licio’r ffordd mae’n cychwyn hefo un alaw, a llwyth o bethe eraill yn ymuno wedyn, fel pibau seicedelig sy’n casau’r teulu brenhinol! Rydych chi’n ffrindiau gyda’r Super Furry Animals. Mae Simsalabim wedi’i gymysgu gan allweddellydd y Furries — Cian Ciaran. Sut brofiad oedd cydweithio a nhw? Da ni wedi gweithio dipyn hefo Cian o’r blaen, felly roedden ni’n gwybod ein bod ni’n cael rhywun hefo profiad a thalent. Ond hefyd, da ni wedi bod yn ffrindiau ers oedden ni yn ein harddegau. Fe wnaethon ni dyfu fyny yn mynd i weld bandiau Cymraeg yn y gogs, a steddfodau a ballu. Hefyd, mae Osh a fi wedi bod yn gweithio ar albym Daf — sef Y Peth. Pan mae’r Peths i gyd yn y stiwdio, mae petha’n gallu mynd yn fler! Yn ail rifyn PLUGGED IN, fe wnaethon ni gyfweliad a Huw Stephens am wyl Swn. Roeddech chi yn perfformio yn yr wyl honno, ymhlith nifer o fandiau eraill ffantastig.
Beth oeddech chi’n feddwl o’r Wyl? Mae Gwyl Swn yn arbennig o dda — syniad arbennig. Rydw i ac Osh wedi chwarae yn SXSW Austin, a dwi’n meddwl mai o betha’ fel hyn y cafodd Huw y syniad. A nath o weithio yn wych. Fe wnaethon ni chwarae yn Café Europa, sydd yn fach iawn, ond roedd yr awyrgylch yno yn gret — y lle’n hollol llawn, a llwyth o hwyl. Hefyd, y gigs eraill nes i weld dros y penwythnos, roedden nhw i gyd yn llwyddiant. Mwy o Swn, plis!! Beth oedd y dylanwadau cerddorol mwyaf arnoch chi pan oeddech chi’n tyfu fyny? Roedd gen i gaset o gerddoriaeth gymysg oedd ffrind i fy nhad wedi’i roi at ei gilydd, ac roedd hwnnw’n llawn petha fel Stones, miwsig doowap y 60au cynnar, Maurice Williams, a llwythi o betha dwi’n dal i drio cael gafael arno. (Mae’r tap wedi hen ddiflannu bellach!) Ron i’n chwarae hwnna drwy’r adeg rili — dim ond miwsig oedd fy rhieni fi’n gwrando arno — y Beatles (lot) a Simon & Garfunkel ayb. Wedyn, pan oeddwn i tua 13 oed, nes i sylweddoli faint o fiwsig oedd o gwmpas! Hendrix oedd fy arwr i (ac yn dal i fod!). Hefyd, roeddwn yn gwrando ar lot o fiwsig Cymraeg fel Tebot Piws a phetha’ fel’na.
Mae llawer o bobl yn dweud eu bod yn dwli ar eich cerddoriaeth ond yn ei chael yn anodd ei ddeall pan yw wedi ei gyfyngu i’r Gymraeg yn unig. Beth yw eich barn ar hyn? Mae’n debyg os nad ydyn nhw’n siarad Cymraeg ei bod hi’n fwy anodd iddyn nhw ddeall yr holl beth. Ond wedi dweud hynny, mae cerddoriaeth yn iaith fyd-eang. Yn bersonol, ’rwyf wrth fy modd yn gwrando ar gerddoriaeth mewn amrywiol ieithoedd. Un o’r cryno-ddisgiau diweddaraf i mi ei brynu yw Cymbals gan Vinicius Cantuaria. Mae’n dod o Bortiwgal neu Frasil a fedra i ddim deall yr un gair ond rwyn dwli arno! Peidiwch a phoeni — byddwn yn cymysgu’n albwm cyntaf Saesneg yn fuan, felly, gobeithio bydd mwy o bobl yn llwyddo i’n deall a’n gwerthfawrogi ni. Ydych chi’n meddwl ei bod hi’n fwy anodd cyfansoddi caneuon yn Gymraeg? Na, nid yw’n fwy anodd ysgrifennu yn y Gymraeg. Ond mae’n rhyfedd... mae rhai caneuon (i fi) yn swnio fel y dylen nhw fod yn Gymraeg, ac i’r gwrthwyneb gan fod yna filoedd ar filoedd o ganeuon yn Saesneg. Efallai, o bosib, ei bod hi’n haws defnyddio cliches... neu efelychu pethau sydd wedi’u gwneud o’r blaen, er nad ydych yn ymwybodol o hynny ar y pryd. Pe byddwn i’n ysgrifennu
10 can yn y Gymraeg, yna byddai’n cymryd amser i eistedd i lawr a’u cyfieithu i’r Saesneg, ac o’r Saesneg i’r Gymraeg hefyd. Yn ddiweddar, fe wnaethoch chi set ar gyfer sioe radio gafodd ei recordio yn Y Canteen yng Nghaerdydd. Wnaethoch chi fwynhau’r profiad? Do a naddo. Rydyn ni bob amser yn mwynhau chwarae gyda’n gilydd a chael cyd-ganu hwyliog. Ond ar y noson honno, wnaethon ond canu pedair can oedd yn rhyfedd. ‘Roeddwn i’n teimlo ein bod yn twyllo neu’n siomi’r gynulleidfa. Wedi dweud hynny, ‘roedden nhw’n ymwybodol o’r hyn oedd yn digwydd — mai dim ond pedair can fyddai’n cael eu perfformio. (‘Roedd y cyfan yn rhad ac am ddim) Wel, ‘roedd yno awyrgylch dda yno, pan gyrhaeddais i adre’, ‘roeddwn i’n cicio fy hun na wnaethon ni gario ‘mlaen tan i rywun ddiffodd y trydan. Pa un oedd eich gig orau a’r gig waethaf hyd yn hyn? A pham? Y gig orau — Steddfod llynedd, gig Cymdeithas yr Iaith. ‘Roedd pawb ar yr un donfedd — y bandiau i gyd a’r holl gynulleidfa. Cafodd ei chynnal mewn pabell enfawr — un parti mawr — ac mae yna glip ohoni ar YouTube. Wrth
edrych yn ol, ‘roedd ychydig bach yn wallgo’. Y gig waethaf — fe wnaethon ni berfformio un erchyll yn Rhyl rai blynyddoedd yn ol. ‘Rwyn meddwl eu bod nhw’n ein casau! Maen nhw wedi arfer a bandiau’n canu caneuon enwog gan bobl eraill yn y clwb arbennig yna ac...wel, ydyn ni’n edrych fel jukebox?! Fe wnaethon ni fwrw ‘mlaen drwy’r set er mwyn dianc oddi yno ar frys! Oes yna fandiau Cymreig — naill ai yn canu yn y Gymraeg neu’r Saesneg — ‘rydych chi’n meddwl y dylen ni fod yn gwrando allan amdanyn nhw ar hyn o bryd? Mae yna lwyth o fandiau ifanc da ar gael y dyddiau hyn. Mae yna sin fywiog o amgylch Blaenau Ffestiniog. Mae yn fwy o fandiau nag sydd yna o bobol! Mae yna bob math o gerddoriaeth yno yn amrywio o Death Metal i Indie o Ska i pync, o Bonkers i Madness, rap, roc — pob math o beth... a’r cyfan yn digwydd o dan ambarel Cell/Gwallgofiaid. Chwiliwch amdano! Dymuniadau gorau i bawb o ddarllenwyr PLUGGED IN! Gobeithiwn eich gweld ar hyd y lle! Heddwch, Sibrydion. www.myspace.com/sibrydion
face to face
Interview by Kayleigh Edwards
n the 19th of May 2006, a supremacy was unleashed upon the world. It was a force so strongly driven by passion, honesty and rebellion, that it’s been terrorising the heart of the Welsh music scene ever since. It was on this fateful night that Hand Of The Daedra were set to reign in splendour, using intense riffs, blasting double-bass-beats and intertwining it with deliciously powerful vocals — and since have given us nothing but this perfection. Okay, so their first show was only in Llwynypia’s Workingman’s Club, but this is just the kind of reaction they provide, just the kind of over-the-top entertainment they boast. Just think back to 2007’s January and February Fight Nights, which they sold out. They built up the tension as they came onstage, then exploded into a display of playing metal that would these days give scene kids nightmares. After being brought together through a mutual love and addiction to metal, five friends were drawn closer to show us what Wales has to offer. Of course, they have been mainly influenced by many of the bands you’d expect, Ill Nino, Slayer, Pantera, Machine Head, but it
Photograph by Kally Pugh
also appears that S Club 7, Steps and The Spice Girls were a major inspiration. “When I was nine I liked The Spice Girls because everybody else did. I listened to a Steps CD and decided to be in a metal band,” said Mike, then started to sing, “Don’t stop, never give up...” I pointed out that this was actually S Club 7. With a recent line-up change this masterpiece of a band now has Jonny Foxhall and Gavin Sutton both shredding the axe, Tom Taylor on bass, Frazer Evans on drums and the wonders of Mike Foxhall and Chris Chedzoy on vocals — it’s no wonder they have such big things ahead of them. The band has come a long way in the past two years, going on tours with Distorted Dreams and Complete Control Music, being endorsed by Darkside Clothing, supporting Ill System and Destruction among others, recording a track for a CCM compilation CD with Ben Honebone from Losing Sun, even so far as recently getting signed to Life Burns Records. An absolutely amazing achievement, which is going to help them fly further to stardom. When it comes to the Welsh music scene though, they’re not that impressed. “Lee Evans is all the Welsh scene is good for,” says Jonny. “Bands get exposed who don’t deserve it, they do the smallest thing and get way
too much recognition. I believe there are too many bands who actually work really hard but don’t get as far because, basically, they aren’t thought of as trendy enough.” These guys don’t need to play with their hair ironed flat and glued to their heads, or their eyeliner overpowering their eyes to put on a good show, and as their fans know from their outrageous face paint they don’t need to rely on their pretty boy front men...or getting the attention of 13-year-old girls with glowsticks to make it. Their success is based solely on their outstanding talent which shines through in a scene where so very few bands seem to follow their hearts rather than the crowd. They let the crowd follow them and have a loyal and strong fan base who they won’t let down. They play a fair game and it’s what keeps them favoured both locally and beyond. The boys have a new EP coming out in the summer and it’s going to have worldwide release thanks to Life Burns Records, and there’ll be a tour coming along with it too. So watch this space and prepare yourselves, because Hand Of The Daedra could be invading a town near you soon. To keep updated on the EP news and more, visit www.myspace.com/handofthedaedra
face to face
cold, dark evening in January saw us making our way to the Globetrotters Bar in Pontypridd. Awaiting us were two musicians — Romano Marenghi, otherwise known as Ro, and Mark Tambini. Quickly getting the drinks in and settling down, we started chatting about where it all began. “We met in Cardinal Newman School at the age of 14,” Mark told us. “We were in and out of bands together for 10 years, and being friends for so long we decided to try out as a duo. It’s a lot easier to do gigs because we only have to pick up the phone to each other.” Ro added, “It’s a lot less stress.” So on to the name — one of the best names I’ve heard since Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong. Ro took it on himself to explain, “Well Ro is my name obviously, Mark’s surname is Tambini and his nickname in school was Bini. There was a beer-making competition in school and a mate suggested we should add a bit of ribena and call our drink robina. We thought, hey, that’s actually a good name!” After discovering through myspace and google there was already an artist called Robina they decided to add a quirky twist rather than change the name completely. Being an acoustic two-piece outfit, the boys always liked the idea of having guest musicians to play or ‘jam’ with them. So the name Jam With RoBina was born. In an area dominated by heavy rock and metal we asked if they found it hard to get gigs in this area. “No, some of our earliest gigs were playing after metal bands in the Malsters Arms in Pontypridd,” Ro told us. The guys initially got together to write a few songs as mates and with the dream of recording an album. This dream was finally achieved after spending weeks in Mark’s attic recording and drinking many cups of tea — Visions Of A Runic was finished. “I was listening to a lot of Zero 7 at the time, which was the biggest influence on my voice,” said Ro. To which Mark added, “I’ve always been influenced by Led Zeppelin.” Both of these bands are two that they would love to support right now. The album has had a good reaction from local music industry professionals as well as friends and now new fans. Visions is Mark’s favourite track with If It’s Quick being Ro’s favourite. The boys play in Italy every year in a village just outside Parma which they visit each summer. “It’s great fun in Italy,” said Mark — both boys were smiling at this point. “It’s always going to be a winner. We play at the top of the main street, with the lit-up village castle as our backdrop for three hours straight. It doesn’t really feel like a gig.” This is one gig we would love to see live and are planning a trip to Italy right now! The two revealed they’re working on some new material at the moment, so expect that to be debuted live towards autumn of this year. Local bands they recommend checking out are Waking Life, Mea, Kyshera, Ockhams Raiser and The Amber Hour. For any readers in a band, I asked them for their advice. “Don’t let the scene influence you — do it for fun.” said Ro, to which Mark added, “We do it because we love doing it.” Sound advice to us! As we chatted into the night about anything and everything, we pondered that you couldn’t meet two nicer guys doing what they love to relax. So put down this magazine for 15 minutes and listen to them on myspace and be well and truly blown away, just like everyone else at PLUGGED IN.
By Richard Samuel & Amelia Wingfield Visit myspace.com/jamwithrobina to hear their music FOR A CHANCE TO WIN ONE OF THREE UNIQUELY SIGNED ALBUMS, TURN TO PAGE 39
18 pages of live music Once again PLUGGED IN is bringing you a wide variety of styles, genres and ages in its live music pages, all backed with a full exhibition of stunning performance photography that captures the excitement and atmosphere of the gigs. But remember, this independently produced music magazine is for you and you too can be a part of it. We want you to tell us about the brilliant bands that play your local centres and will publish gig reviews supplied with pictures. PLUGGED IN is dedicated to spreading the word of live music in Wales at grass roots level — whether the bands are Welsh or playing in Wales, and with your help we can do that. For further information and writer/photographer guidelines, please email us at email@example.com and become part of a revolution that’s saying, “Watch out world, the Welsh are coming.”
Bullet For My Valentine Newport Centre, Newport
he title of Bullet For My Valentine’s latest album Scream,Aim,Fire can actually sum up their music for you (www.myspace.com/ bulletformyvalentine). As they scream at you they take aim and fire their brand of nu-metal into your heart, it’s up to you if you want to survive or not. Unsure of what I was about to step into I travelled along the roadwork infested M4 to Newport to what doubles up as a Leisure Centre — though I’m not sure the Badminton crowd would have approved of what I was about to experience. The setting was surreal from the start with the entrance full of Emo/Goth types with more black hair and slogan T-shirts than in a Tim Burton film, while through a window to my left swimmers gently caressed the waters of the centre’s pool, the smell of chlorine permeating the air. Nike tops mixed with Nine Inch Nails T-shirts as within the auditorium the sounds of the support act crashed through the doors seemingly pushing them open for me as I entered. I was late due to a mix up with my pass and only caught the last song of their act. Whoever you were I apologise because that was a great number. But it was the Bridgend Boys I’d come to see and already the crowd were hot and sweaty and ready to rock with a capital R. Then they were on and
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff straight into the title track of the new album. The volume was pumped up to 11 and they had read the book of cliché rock poses from cover to cover, but that didn’t matter because that was the act and their performance was like being thrown into a fire. Frenetic and fast they took the mantle of rock giants and smashed it over the head of every other wanabee rock group. Nobody else could fit on this stage, this was theirs to own and keep. They thundered through a set of both old material like Hand Of Blood and new numbers with standout songs like Eye Of The Storm and Hearts Burst Into Fire gaining them new admirers and respect. Moose attacked his drum kit with a ferocity of a pneumatic drill keeping the beat crashing at breakneck speed while the screaming guitars of Matt, Jay and Padge careered around like fighting banshees. By the time they reached their final song — the so heavy it’s made of lead Waking The Demon — you know you are witnessing a band on its way to the top of the rock ladder alongside AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. A band that can fill a staduim with sound. And although I feel I’ve resorted to rock clichés in writing this review I feel that these words best sum up this brilliant band — because I came away impressed.
ne week later and I get to see Bullet for a second time — at one of the last of Xfm’s special gigs at Clwb Ifor Bach. Again the power, the songs, the performance was electric and so big for a small venue it was surprising that there was room for an audience. This was so up close and personal you could see the spital flying from Matt’s mouth as he screamed through the songs on the set list. Nothing was underplayed because of the venue size, nothing was scaled down, you got what you were given — Bullet For My Valentine full throttle. If kids dream of being in a rock band then that band would be Bullet as they shotblast their music into your ear, and never a moment during their performance do they succumb to the weakness of slowing down. With guitars whaling they slice shards of flesh from your body, they’re razor sharp and deadly. Audience participation was a must at this gig as bodies bounced off bodies, though headbanging was an optional extra. The Welsh music scene is pushing its way to the forefront of live rock performance, like the steamrollers I passed on the M4 roadworks the previous week crushing and flattening all in their path. Well, Bullet are at that machine’s steering wheel laughing manically all the way. DW
*** off you ginger twat,” shouts somebody from the audience. Frank Carter stares down in the general direction of where the voice came from. “Ginger twat?” he replies, “Look at me. I’ve got a hot girlfriend, I’m in a great band and I’m making loads of f***ing money. Do you really think I give a sh*t about the colour of my f***ing hair you sad f***er.” Then he dedicates the next number to all the ginger twats out there. This is a typical Frank-ism, spitting venom on behalf of the underdogs. Throughout the performance he stands on the stage like a preacher on a soap box and constantly delivers his view on life to the audience gathered below him. Gallows (www. myspace.com/gallows) have hit the Cardiff Uni Great Hall like a punch in the face, never slowing down so that the audience really learn the meaning of the word frenzy. Playing a rapid fire thumping punk noise it’s difficult to find any sort of melody to hold on to, but then that would make them a different kind of band altogether. Front man Frank jumps into the crowd and surfs over their heads being thrown around like a ragdoll until he’s pushed towards the stage and grabbed by the security guys. Finally back on the stage we are given another taste of his philosophy, “This song goes out to the people who are often forgotten. The sound guy, the stage guy, the tour manager and the security, especially these guys,” he says pointing to the burly blokes in front of him, “as they’ve just prevented me from breaking my f***ing neck.” Again the underdogs, the forgotten few. I assume from
this unexpected tenderness of sorts that Frank was bullied at school and had to fight just to get through the day. Now it’s payback time and he’s determined to defend everybody that needs defending. Not that he advocates violence though, shouting into the moshing crowd, “Are you looking after each other down there, no fisticuffs, we’re all here for a good time.” Most of the songs come from their album Orchestra Of Wolves with numbers like Abandon Ship and In The Belly Of A Shark at their screaming best, but as Frank says, “You don’t have to buy our music. Copy it from a friend, download it for free, steal it from the shops. As long as you’re listening to our music.” He is proud to stand on the stage, proud of his band and what they’ve attained and still has both his feet placed solidly on the ground. The Gallows are a phenomenon that needs to be seen, and looking about the audience tonight I see Darran Smith from Funeral For A Friend, most of the members from The Blackout and Alex Pennie formerly of The Automatic agreeing with me. The set is short, about 45 minutes, but powerful and exhausting, especially for Frank who announces during the encore, “You guys are going to have to help me sing this next one cause I’m f**ked.” The band launches into The Ruts classic Staring At The Rude Bois, with the line “never surrender”, which seems apt as I don’t believe that Gallows are ever going to. They end suddenly, the lights go up quickly and the audience empties into the street fast. Everything is fast and furious with the Gallows. DW
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
oldie Lookin’ Chain are a funny lot — you never know how to take them (www.myspace.com/ goldielookinchainmusic). Goofing around on the Clwb Ifor Bach stage tonight is no exception. Are they serious or are they just a comedy show? Hopefully I’ll have answered that question by the end of this piece. As soon as they jumped on stage the party started and the crowd were up for it as the guys strutted around the stage taking turns to shout out lines and head the chants that are a rap tradition. It was two years ago at the Full Ponty that I first saw GLC perform their unique style but the one thing about rap is whatever your reasons for doing it, it must be remembered that it’s a close quarter street-style music. GLC’s performance was impeccable at the Full Ponty but distant due to the size of the event. At Clwb Ifor Bach they were in yer face, up front and pumping at close quarters. This is how they should be seen and why tonight was a better gig for me. Though unlike their American counterparts GLC are not ego-led and this is part of what makes them unique. Their songs are based on life in Newport, Wales, not Newport, California. Yes they may be over-stretching a gimic but underneath that semi-fake bravardo they actually have a social agenda. Songs like their greatest success Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do or Your Missus Is A Nutter are actually comments on the times we live in. Mix that in with numbers like Half Man Half Machine and the brilliantly titled Your Mother’s Got A Penis, on which they ended their performance tonight, then what you get is a uniquely talented group of individuals that get together to create a fusion between the two genres. Tonight’s gig was energetic, furious but most of all fun, and as the guys strutted, posed and sang you couldn’t help joining in with that infectious habit called laughter. Of course, in answer to my question are they serious or just a bunch of comedians — well they’re both. But who cares as long as you remember to enjoy yourself. DW
Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd
ife has been like driving on a road through the Brecon Beacons for Cerys Matthews (www.myspace.com/cerysmatthewsofficial). Lots of ups and downs, sometimes fast but often stuck in a rut behind a smelly farmer’s tractor. Back in the early Nineties she joined forces with Mark Roberts to create one of Wales’ most unique-sounding groups, Catatonia. The band’s first album faltered in the lower reaches of the charts in 1996 and during the creation of their second album International Velvet so did Cerys and Mark’s relationship. The irony is that this break-up inspired their writing and they produced their biggest hits Mulder & Scully and Road Rage. Cerys was catapulted to the front page of every magazine, each wanting their pound of flesh from the now-dubbed Queen of Welsh Pop. She lived the high life on the London scene and found the fame a double-edged sword that was difficult to handle and reflected in the title of Catatonia’s third album Equally Cursed And Blessed. Despite the obvious tensions, the band careered on producing one more album Paper, Scissors, Stone before imploding after Cerys was admitted to rehab to recieve treatment for “exhaustion and a recurrent asthma complaint — both of which had been exacerbated by drinking and smoking”. Escaping to Nashville, Tennesee, in the USA Cerys started to rebuild her life as a credible solo artist, wife and mother. Her next release was the Country & Western-tinged Cockahoop which received rave reviews and proved she had a talent away from the bars and clubs of London. But once again the drop came and she and her husband Seth Riddell got divorced and she moved back to Wales with her two children to release a mini-album, Awyren = Aeroplane, which was her first to be sung entirely in the Welsh language. So it was with some trepidation I headed for Pontypridd’s Muni Arts Centre not sure what to expect. Believing that Cerys had shunned the limelight in search of herself and her music I was quite concerned that this performance had originally been postponed due to her appearing on mainstream TV in the seventh series of ITV’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here. Was tonight just Cerys fulfilling a contractual obligation playing such a low-key event when really she had now placed herself back in the public eye? A fact compounded by the news that despite PLUGGED IN asking, she was not prepared to give interviews at this time. I wanted to know whether she still deserved the mantle Queen of Welsh Pop. When she quietly strolled on to the stage and sang the first two numbers in Welsh, as if to affirm her Nationality, I believed I was correct in my assumption. Don’t get me wrong, the performance was faultless but it lacked presence. And so it proceeded for a few more numbers until she had a quick word with a stage hand. During the next number I noticed the rather bright house lights lowering and simultaneously Cerys brightened and took on a light of her own. The performance came alive right before my eyes and my previous concerns evaporated. Could this have meant that even she was uncomfortable seeing the crowd of faces looking at her? Because from that moment on, boy, did she glow. Her voice was perfection in itself, dipping through scales and rising up to crescendos that proved the quality which has endured throughout her troubled career. We were transformed to Nashville or to Louisiana or even to the West Coast of Ireland but Cerys always kept a hold on Wales, mixing between her homeland style and the influences of other places. She started talking to the audience, apologising for the original postponement, even recommending that all mothers should spend some time in the jungle as a form of therapy, then dedicated her next song Chardonnay to them. At one comical point she brought on a vacuum cleaner attachment clamped to a mic stand to hold her mouth organ in place, saying nobody should go on tour without their Hoover. All the time she delivered song after perfect song like Ar Lan Y Mor, Arlington Way, the sublime Dead From The Waist Down and even her own unique take on the Doris Day classic Secret Love. By the time she returned to the stage for her first encore, a scaled down version of the aforementioned mammouth hit Road Rage, which she just sang alongside a piano in a torch-song style, the audience were gasping for breath. Nobody but nobody, including myself, could help joining her on the chorus “It’s all over the front page, you give me Road Rage” and by the time she screamed/ sang through her final number, Take Courage, I felt a changed man. So I must apologise for my initial scepticism and say on a personal note — Cerys go on any TV show you damn well please, even that awful one with Anne Robinson, because I know that you are and will always be a musician first and foremost. And if TV game shows, love affairs, singing with Tom Jones means that more people reopen their eyes to your music then play on. I bow down to the true Queen of Welsh Pop. DW
Youth Gone Wild Tom’s Bar, Pontypridd
nder the watchful eye of lead singer Mark’s mother, No Strings Attached (www.myspace.com/nsawales) were the first band to grace the stage, wielding their weezerish pop punk and managing to get the whole crowd moving. Drummer Andrew showed tightness behind the drum set beyond his years, and the silly hats and stage banter made for an enjoyable set. I missed the beginning of Viva Von Schnapps! (www.myspace.com/vivavonschnapps) due to hunger taking me out to buy chips, but what I did see of their old-school punk rock combined with disco beats was pretty cool, and their cover of the Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop, complete with bucket-wearing loon stage invasion, was probably one of the highlights of the night. Strength Of A Thousand (www.myspace.com/strengthofathousand) might have been peddling the same old clichéd metal made famous by the likes of Bring Me The Horizon, but fair play they did it well — singer Myles managing to sound more like Oli Sykes than any other emo screamers I can recall. On the whole they gave an energetic and enthusiastic performance, and will more than likely become regulars on the screamo circuit. Next up were Interstate (www.myspace.com/interstateexecution) sounding like a mixture of Iron Maiden and Ronnie James Dio, churning out gorgeously cheesy 80s rock. With flawless drumming and face-melting guitar solos, they were an absolute joy to watch. Having not only a top singer but a top mullet in Stuart-Cable-a-like Gareth, and multi-instrumentalist and co-vocalist Phil providing some epic synth, their stadium rock will surely see them playing a Muni Fight Night event soon! Finally, my favourites of the night were Norwich based band KunK (www.myspace.com/kunk). Sporting a shockingly loud distortion pedal and a seemingly insane drummer, their feedback driven brand of alternative rock, with some lush girl/guy harmonies, came off like the Pixies played through a megaphone. Singer/guitarist Wayne’s yelped vocals were absolutely awesome. Despite some cheap shoes resulting in a few inconvenient tumbles, they performed brilliantly — upcoming single We’re Not Who You Think We Are being a personal favourite. They’ve already become a regular fixture in my iTunes — I suggest they do in yours too. I must say, despite the age of some of the bands being (no offence) on the ancient side, the first Youth Gone Wild gig for all ages was an excellent one, showcasing some fantastic new music on the South Wales scene. An excellent idea, long may it continue. DANNY OWEN
The Ian McMillan Orchestra
Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd
reakdancers were spinning on their heads at Ponty YMCA while, just across the road at the Muni, some much gentler entertainment was on offer. Poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan was in town — backed by a five-piece orchestra — for an evening of words and music. The Yorkshireman arrived onstage looking like your favourite uncle, wearing a black and white flowered shirt, saying, “I’m an unusual man from Barnsley — I made a living from talking!” Tonight’s show Sharp Stories fused his ‘speak-songs’ with world music compositions played by the Ian McMillan Orchestra on fiddle, accordion, whistle, guitar and hurdygurdy (it’s got strings and you play it on your lap!). McMillan talked about topics as diverse as the Miners’ Strike, sea shanties and his Nan’s friend Dot who had a false leg. There was a touching tribute to ace comedian Ronnie Barker, It’s Goodnight From Him, which had a chorus we had to sing along to. And then there was the tale of McMillan’s worst gig ever. He recalled how the black leather-wearing crowd were expecting a heavy metal band, but instead got two bearded blokes who read poems. It’s no wonder this Barnsleyman carved a career from his gift of the gab — his voice is as warm and comforting as hot chocolate and his words stick in your consciousness. So, nobody got to spin on their heads at this show, but Ian McMillan and friends certainly gave our minds — and our laughing gear — a good workout. STEPH MCNICHOLAS
One Night Only/Viva Machine Sin City, Swansea
iva Machine (myspace.com/vivamachine) took to the stage in their home town to a warm reception. Chris (lead vocals/synths), wearing a headband usually seen on a basketball court, rocked the mic stand in a similar fashion to Steve Tyler of Aerosmith, while in between hammered the synthesizer keys to create a truly beautiful noise. The set started off with Robot Bodyrox which instantly had people’s ears perking up like meerkats, then moved on to the futuristic Oxygen which sounds very mysterious and eerie, the rather jolly YOHO, the time travelling Earthquakers And Love Shakers, and a rock driven A Futuristic Dracula. The band ended on a fan favourite and a firm favourite of mine Deathstar Trucker. After putting on an energetic show Chris and Tom (bass), showed they still had fuel left in the tank and leapt into the crowd to play and sing. In similar fashion to the Full Ponty they gave an extended performance of the song and again ended in a messy heap on the floor. This is definitely a band worth catching live, they are value for money. Viva Machine gave an awesome show and impressed everyone in the crowd, taking home some new fans. Definitely a tough act to follow. Next up were indie popsters One Night Only (myspace.com/onenightonlyonline). This was the week the band broke into the UK Top 10 with single Just For Tonight. The band came on expecting a huge applause, but was disappointed and George (vocals) had to shout “Come on” to the audience to get a reaction. With their roadies running across the stage whenever the smallest thing went wrong, it came across as a very unprofessional performance. They played through a set which included the hit single and a surprise Sugababes cover of About You Now, but of course everybody was there for the chart hit which is the band’s best song by far. A good indie pop band, but tonight Viva Machine stole the show. RICHARD SAMUEL
The StopMotion Men Clwb Y Bont, Pontypridd
n a bitter night in February, magic happened in the town of Pontypridd. Cardiff trio The StopMotion Men (www.myspace.com/stopmotionmen) rolled into Clwb Y Bont, enticing latenight clubbers off the streets and into the toasty warm atmosphere of the Welsh-speaking club. SMM took to the stage and from the offset put on a performance oozing with character. Complementing their music was the use of film to capture the mood of their songs, a technique used by rock royalty Pink Floyd. The audience’s attention was instantly drawn to the highly talented and enthusiastic dread-locked drummer Elias Cole who, with an ear-splitting performance, fired up the crowd into an eager frenzy. After the first song Geraint Wilson (vocals/guitar) introduced the band and thanked everyone for turning up, but the credits didn’t last long and as soon as the other band members had shown their gratitude the instruments were tuned and the film was rolling for their next classic, Attention — a song bursting at the seams with cracking riffs and legendary melodies. A passionate performance was given by Wilson, as this multi-tasking genius displayed a clear joy for playing music with his two best friends to appreciative fans. An explosive performance from SMM, ending with Ben Wilson throwing his much-loved keyboard on the floor! LAURA WATKINS
Allan Yn Y Fan
The Parish Rooms, Llanhilleth
Bitter Ruin/ Jam With RoBina Globetrotters Bar, Pontypridd
n acoustic band in an intimate venue was the perfect antidote to the usual weekend of wild drunkenness some of us participate in. First on stage was local favourites Jam With RoBina (myspace.com/jamwithrobina) whose fun, laid-back acoustic sound is totally adored by PLUGGED IN. They played through much of their debut album and included favourites ELC and I Am The Man. The upbeat tempo sound of Mark’s guitar and Ro’s beautiful voice combined on If It’s Quick was the highlight of the night. The boys also debuted a new song called Epic Mother which is a step up from the last album and left me wanting to hear more. Headliners of the night were Brighton’s Bitter Ruin (myspace.com/bitterruin), an acoustic duo who put on one hell of a show. Georgia (vocals) and Ben (guitar/vocals) sang songs that seemed to be coming from the heart. The pair also acted out songs with the addition of props which added to the entertainment and makes me describe them as theatrical acoustic. I didn’t want to get out of my seat to go to the bar, it was such a different performance to most bands. RICHARD SAMUEL
raditional Celtic music is alive in the Valleys and tonight I travel east to the Parish Rooms in Llanhilleth. A night of song and dance awaits all those who dare turn off their TVs and venture out in the cold night air. Allan Yn Y Fan are performing a charity concert and the place is heaving. Starting off with a few traditional compositions they set the pace for the night with their twirling flutes, whistles, guitars, fiddles and accordion. Some songs are jigs while others like Girl On A Rock are beautiful Celtic masterpieces. But not there just to be watched they then entice the audience up to join them for a dance. The moves are explained and everybody stomps away as if they’re in a flurry of heavy snow and trying to miss the flakes. Winter is outside but inside Celtic spirit flies and summer is upon us. DW
ales appears to be a bastion of heaviness, or so the young teenagers would lead you to believe and attracts all forms of screamo/punk/metal bands selling their brand of music. But rather than disregard their leanings, it’s better to face them and make a decision on your own. Tonight at Clwb Ifor Bach PLUGGED IN is doing just that — times four — with the Atticus/Flip The Bird Tour. Boy was I in for one hell of a ride. Hexes (www.myspace.com/hexes) gave us probably the most approachable performance of the night. Ferocious guitars that screamed with feedback played tuneful melodies and exciting songs. Yes a wall of noise but some brilliant building work going on as the layers and textures of sound created a strong foundation of amazing rock. Blackhole (www.myspace.com/blackholesound) were up next. I saw them a few months back for the first time in London and found their music unapproachable — but then I had spent six hours on a coach getting to the gig. Oh how could I have been so wrong — tonight they were brilliant, powerful and above all entertaining. Yes entertaining! Songs like Witches and the excellent Forever will stand as testament to the talent that this band possesses. The raw energy that front man Richard Carter exudes is like a dark force that pervades your innermost body, it lifts you and throws you against the wall. Obviously had the same teacher as his brother Frank (see page 22). Get their latest single Not That This Is A Bad Thing as a free download from their myspace site on 21st April — I’m going to. Then it was time for The Plight (www,myspace.com/theplight) the band who I had been invited here to see. I’d just received their excellent mini-album Black Summer and was all ears — well they got ripped off straight away and fed to the dogs. Nu-metal with great guitar riffs that were screamed over and performed with a car crash mentality. The set just got better and better as it progressed with Pull The Trigger standing out as a strong searing piece of rock. A forceful set with lots of cliché rock poses like high guitars that you’d expect but also craved. Impressive. Headliners tonight were The Ghost Of A Thousand (www.myspace.com/theghostofathousand) who I last saw at the Full Ponty. Clwb Ifor Bach suited them better as I sensed the walls crumbling. Tom (vocals) screamed so much he almost stuck his head through the floor spending most of the performance in amongst the audience. So much energy was sent out I felt knackered just watching him, he even drop kicked me in the stomach after flying from the stage (by accident I hasten to add) then collapsing on the floor. Stand out tracks were As They Breed, New Toy and the brilliant end song Last Bastion. Never since watching Alien Sex Fiend many years ago in Milton Keynes have I seen so much put into these performances. What I loved about the four bands tonight was that they were really into their music, their thing, and although it may only be a small world they inhabit, they are all worthy of being kings. DW
The Ghost Of A Thousand/ The Plight/Blackhole/Hexes Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
an attempt to bring diverse and different forms and styles of music to South Breabach InWales, Valleys Roots brought down from the Highlands of Scotland award nominees Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd Breabach to the Muni. Innovative and highly original Celtic style, they performed a series of evocative songs and tunes that transported you to the lochs and mountains of Sutherland and above. Beautiful tunes like Rolling Hills Of The Borders and Lochaber No More are blended with the fiddle, whistle, guitar and — unusual in any place — two bagpipes. This is what attracted me to their performance as I’d never seen these whaling instruments played outside a marching band and wondered if they could ever be tamed enough to be used in a subtle way. Oh ye of little faith. The integration within the different numbers played beautifully and added a dimension that I could never have perceived possible. They were technically perfect with a sound that was both traditional and unique. They even gave the audience an example of Scottish dancing. Excellent stuff. DW
Fight Night Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd
ebruary’s Fight Night saw In The Firing Line (www.myspace.com/itfl) take to the stage first. The barefooted front man Daniel, bounced around the stage like a rabbit after drinking a gallon of caffeine. They hadn’t even finished their first song when he jumped off the stage and landed in the crowd. Out of the chaos Dan pulled out a supposed friend who belts out a few songs and then jumps back into the mosh pit. In The Firing Line should definitely consider taking this guy on tour as a second singer! Next up punk rockers Haddonfield (www.myspace.com/haddonfieldaction) put on a powerful performance. Their crowd pleaser Bar Brawls And Downfalls got the crowd bouncing up and down like nutters. Half way through their elaborate set, drummer Glenn whips off his shirt and starts playing half naked — now that’s entertainment! Haddonfield are everything an awesome punk band should be — they’re talented, entertaining, full of fun and put the capital P into Punk. Next band up was Pitch Blend (www.myspace.com/pitchblend). Playing miles away from home with just their instruments for company must have got the English-born rockers scared like turkeys on Christmas Eve, but the softly-spoken front man apologised to the crowd for being English, “I’m sorry we’re not Welsh, but my grandparents live in Wales.” But Pitch Blend didn’t stay
he first Fight Night of the year back in January played host to a sold out Muni with a bit of a twist from your usual heavy rock we all know and enjoy. It kicked off with Fate Will Fall who were playing their last gig — PLUGGED IN wishes them all the best for the future. Next up from Neath were These Radio Days (myspace.com/theseradiodays) whose rock music was a touch of indie. I have heard and seen better bands than them, but with tracks Additional Parking and Exit impressing me it will be interesting to hear them again in a few months time to see how they have developed. Then there was a sudden change in quality in the performance and music as Kick Box Riot (myspace.com/kickboxriot) stormed the stage, PLUGGED IN first witnessed these guys back at Electric Friday when they stole the show, eight months on and they are now playing bigger venues and taking their sound to a whole new level. KBR’s action packed set opened with the heart-pounding We Are Nowhere, You’re Only Young Once, Seeing Ghosts and ended on the spine tingling Sharks.
In between this vocalist Mike prompted a mass stage invasion not once, but twice during the set that saw most of the crowd climb onto the stage. Next up, headliners Friends Electric (myspace.com/friendselectricmusic) were nothing short of unbelievable, taking time out from recording to give one hell of a fabulous show. Their own lighting show and the smoothness of transitions between songs gave the guys no time to breathe or the audience for that matter. They opened the set with Electric Weekends, before playing nonstop breath-taking synthesised beats, hard guitar rhythms and soulful drum beating which included the songs We Are ACTION and People Will All Remember This Year. No on-stage banter just pure music, which is what a dancerock band should be doing. Catch them while they’re just a local band because one day you’ll be paying three times the price to see them at a similar sized venue. Friends Electric have just set the standard for this year’s Fight Night, headliners the ball is in your corner now. RICHARD SAMUEL
softly spoken for long, and were off rocking Pontypridd with songs full of passion and devotion. With a tight performance, fantastic melodies and note perfect songs this band will go a long way. The sweat was rising and the anticipation was growing for headliners SaidMike (www.myspace.com/saidmike). The mighty rock fiends rocked the house with Mind Over Muscle, the first of many amazing tracks. Synthesizer keyboardist Sam may be little, but quiet is definitely the wrong word to use to describe this impressive young man with a killer voice. SaidMike owned the stage, everything they did was bursting with character and insanity, while front man Tom had more fire in his plectrum than Bonfire night. Not only are SaidMike an irresistible band to listen to, they’re also one of the most entertaining bands to watch. Ear and eye candy all around. SaidMike are a credit to Pontypridd and South Wales’ rapidly growing music scene and should be really proud of their staggering performance. The crowd were definitely awestruck by the quintet’s mind-boggling performance and demanded an encore. SaidMike were only too happy to get back on stage and carry on doing what they love most, playing another song to their hometown fans. An out-of-this-world performance from all the bands — long live Welsh music! LAURA WATKINS
Upcoming Fight Nights Saturday 26 April Friday 16 May Friday 13 June (wwmyspace.com/deadstarevents)
Tokyo Dragons/Killing For Company Big Linda/Lethargy Sin City, Swansea
riving west to Swansea gives me a sense of déja vu every time I head that way. It was over 20 years ago that I graduated from college here and left the “Lovely Ugly Town” for what I believed would be forever. Back then all we students had for entertainment were some terrible nightclubs and a few cinemas, one of which always showed skin flicks. And as for decent gigs, well they were few and far between as no bands ever travelled that far. Now I return and the place has grown into an electric city with small venues on every corner and live music galore. One of these places is Sin City which plays host to a number of up-andcoming bands and tonight is no exception. Lethargy (www.myspace.com/lethargymusic) start the night by saying, “Of all the empty places we’ve played, this is surely the best” as the place is virtually empty at this time — though this doesn’t dampen their enthusiasm as they power through their set. Rock in the same vane as Bullet For My Valentine but still with their own identity they strut and pose and perform through swirling guitars and strong lyrical content. The three guitarists all perform vocal duties and we find a rare commodity, all three can sing. Innocence, Serene, A Lost Adoration and a track I believe
they call Purification stood out. Excellent. Big Linda (www.myspace.com/biglindaband) started off in a fairly experimental vane with echo box voices and drifting guitars sometimes played with a drum stick. They created a soundscape that echoed round Sin City then settled into a more punk-type mode. The singing was strong, the playing got harder and the tunes more compact. Almost like watching a band being born then evolving before your eyes, they were both unique and captivating. Their single I Don’t Even Like You was an excellent piece of angst. Great performance. It must be a hard task to be Stuart Cable’s new band. To always be compared and judged against the Stereophonics means that you’ll have to put in that much more effort with people standing there saying, “Go on, impress me.” Killing For Company (www.myspace.com/ kfcband) sound nothing like their drummer’s predecessors and are probably more akin to Nickleback. Greg, the mild mannered front man flicks a switch and turns up the showman dial to full-on as he rules the stage and audience with a captivating performance that makes it difficult to tear your eyes away. Oh, and his singing — man, can he sing. No grunts and groans and inept screams, just
a pure and perfect rock voice that doesn’t falter, especially during my favourites Enemies and The Boy Who Saw Everything. And it’s all backed by the outstanding guitar playing of Richie, Andy and Steve, and of course one of the best drummers in the world today. I can already see the question being asked in the future, “What band was it Stuart Cable used to play in?” Do not miss these guys — ever! So the night ends with Tokyo Dragons (www. myspace.com/tokyodragons) a fast-paced hard rock group. Tight and so together they blasted the stage and the now packed audience with their AC/DC influenced rock like a machine gun on overtime, spraying tunes like Keeping The Wolf, Come On Baby and Ready Or Not in rapid fire mode. Agressive but also humorous, their raucous set put the sin into the city I had gone back to for a night. This was the perfect gig for me. Every group that performed was excellent and should be rising to the top of their game, but also all four bands possessed what many youngsters strive for, a unique individual style of music. By referring to other bands in this review I’m only giving a hint of their direction but in no way reflects their true leanings. Swansea has never had it so good. DW
The Point, Cardiff
oday is the 1st of March, St David’s Day, a major day in the calendar of all Welsh people, a day that brings out national pride that isn’t repeated in England for St George. It is a day that very few people would have the audacity to stamp themselves upon — except for Mike Peters that is. Recently awarded Outstanding Contribution To Music at the Pop Factory Awards last year, as reported in Issue 2 of PLUGGED IN, Mike has led the crowd standing at the forefront of Welsh Rock music as both lead singer of one of the most internationally successful rock bands to have come from this dominion and then as a sure-footed solo artist and singer/songwriter in his own right. Tonight he is playing an acoustic set, that’s Mike and a guitar, no more. A brave performance by anybody’s standard but Mike isn’t about to let that bother him, he has coped with demons more terrible than a solitary man on a stage has ever had to bear. It was in September 1984 that The Alarm had their first successful chart hit with the now iconic track Sixty Eight Guns which reached No 17 in the UK. As a four-piece band from Rhyl, with Mike (vocals/ guitar), Dave Sharp (guitar/vocals), Eddie MacDonald (bass) and Nigel Twist (drums), they had been treading the stage for a few years prior to the release and had already built a strong devoted fan base that exists to this day — with many at the gig tonight. Orginally hailed as the Welsh U2 the two bands did share a common ground of melodic social anthems, and indeed The Alarm supported the Irish rockers on their War tour after being signed by the IRS record label, but there was always an emphasis on the grass roots that they came from that maintained their iconic status as a Welsh rock band. The hit single was followed by their successful first album Declaration early in 1985 — described as acoustic punk for lack of easy tagging. The band followed that with their second album the stadium-fuelled rock Strength, producing a popular winning formula that was summarised in the hit single Spirit Of ’76. Relationships though were becoming strained by the time they released their third album Eye Of The Hurricane, though they continued on and toured extensively. Next the group created a collection of songs inspired by Wales which went back to basics and found the band rediscovering themselves under the guidance of legendary producer Tony Visconti who had previously worked with David Bowie. The resulting album Change was also released in a Welsh language version titled Newid. As the band prepared to tour tragedy struck with Mike’s sister suffering a brain aneurism and his father dying from a heart attack, while Nigel’s stepfather committed suicide. The band had a break only reforming for the wayward Raw album and a final tour before splitting up. Mike continued with his solo career but was diagnosed with lymph cancer, a battle that he won by 1996. Over the next few years he worked on many different projects, including ColourSound with Billy Duffy from The Cult/Dead Men Walking, a collective who toured and
featured Pete Wylie of The Mighty Wah!, Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols and Kirk Brandon of Spear Of Destiny/Theatre Of Hate. In February 2004 The Alarm staged a comeback by releasing a single calling themselves The Poppyfields to make sure they were judged on the music not their past history. It was a hit and was soon followed by a new Alarm album In The Poppy Fields. It was in December 2005 that Mike was diagnosed with another illness, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, but vowed to “fight the fight with every ounce of energy I can muster”. It was 2006 when The Alarm released their poiniently titled next album Under Attack. So with a weight of history and a massive songbook to play I await the performance of the man himself. The crowd have already been fired up by a brilliant acoustic performance from Killing For Company, this month’s PLUGGED IN’s cover stars, and the stage is set. A single white light beams onto the Welsh flag that covers Stuart Cable’s drum kit and into it steps Mike Peters. Straight away he launches into a brilliant crowd pleaser Spirit Of ’76 with perfect pitch and guitar playing, it’s amazing to think that there’s only one man performing. He never lets the demons surface, he doesn’t even stop to take on water, there’s no stopping Mike Peters once he gets started like a man possessed. He fills The Point to capacity with his voice, never wavering or faltering. And the songs just keep coming! Absolute Reality, Rain In The Summertime, One Step Closer To Home, Blaze Of Glory — the list just kept getting bigger because he never waned. For over two hours Mike played like his life depended on it, like this night was his last. The acoustic rendition of A New South Wales was absolute perfection and you didn’t miss the Morriston Male Voice Choir that had joined him on the recording and on the stage of the Big Anthem concert in Ponty Park two years previous. By the time the man left the stage you couldn’t believe that anyone could give more but, no, he returns for a two-song encore — the second being his homage to another great singer/songwriter, Neil Young — and joined by Killing For Company the entourage break into Rocking In The Free World. The daffodils were waving, the fans were singing, the performance was electric. Mike Peters’ contribution to the Welsh music scene is vast, his passion is immense, his love of music all encompassing. Witnessing this on St David’s Day should make you honoured and proud — Welsh or not. DW On Saturday 21st June 2008 Mike will be for the second time ascending Snowdon on a charity fundraising walk to perform Snowdon Rocks 2 — an acoustic concert at the summit followed by a finale gig at Y Galeri in Caernarfon that evening. All proceeds will be going to the North Wales Cancer Treatment Centre at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan, and the Alaw Unit at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor. For information visit www.thealarm.com
Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd
olid Senders, Ian Dury & The Blockheads and Dr Feelgood, that’s an impressive CV to hold your name to and Wilko Johnson is the name at the top. Wilko brought his trademark jerky strides onto the stage at the Muni and gave Ponty a lesson in rhythm — rhythm and blues to be precise. R ’n’ B served with a mix of Ska and Rock ’n’ Roll was on the menu tonight and was served up impeccably by Wilko and his band which comprised Norman Watt-Roy and Salvatore Ramundo who were also members of Wilko’s old band The Blockheads. Energy is a word too weak to describe this performance as all performers delivered a show of many a man. Norman Watt-Roy’s bass playing was phenomenal all tangled up in his bass, hitting seemingly impossible notes while wondering how his fingers aren’t mangled like… well my brain at the sheer brilliance. The bass was perfectly complemented by the synchronicity of drummer Ramundo’s well-timed playing technique at the same time playing with such volume as to burst an ear drum — but still a pleasant sound to have your ear drum burst to. Wilko Johnson’s manic wandering about on stage was a sight to behold together with
‘that’ stare he’s so famous for. Donning a red and black telecaster and a gleaming bald head I was surprised that passers-by outside weren’t dazzled. Often changing stance and mimicking a mini-gun with his guitar (as seen in Scarface) he duly delivered and blew every audience member away with guitar rhythms that a lead guitarist would be proud to use as a solo. A range of classic songs from his prior bands as well as newer original material were performed, but the two standout tracks for me and a few others were two covers, Woolly Bully and Johnny B Goode which got everyone singing along. As much as I loved the band there was a little niggle I had with the show that kind of reminded me of a red wine that leaves a taste that lasts too long — and it was the length of some of the songs, they just seemed to go on and on and on and… you catch my drift. I guess the reason behind this was to show the timing and togetherness they have created as a unit with their dying down of the music, only to bring it back up as a crescendo so I can’t really knock them for that. All in all a cheap wine complemented with a main course that money can’t buy. GARY BOLSOM
liveday performance in the life
FFRED JONES Words by Adam Perkins Photographs by Leah Evans
ack in February, one of gtfm radio’s Showcase Wales’ live session guests was Newport’s fantastic singer/songwriter Ffred Jones. Who with his catchy guitar work and a beautifully pitched voice was sure to produce a gem of a session. Ffred picked up the guitar at the age of 14, based on an obsession with bands like Radiohead and Oasis as early inspirations. Indeed, if you fuse the two together, you get somewhere near the dramatic eloquence that is apparent in Ffred’s songs. His writing is not something which is forced either. The attentative need to write something down before it’s forgotten helps his songs flow from the heart. A developed attitude, which sits well alongside his musical ability to express himself freely in the way he plays. Something which he also owes to Ben Gibbard (The Postal Service/Death Cab For Cutie) whose “lyrics and song writing over the last couple of years have really really impressed me”. He also names John Butler, Bob Dylan, Jack Johnson, Bjork and Paco de Lucia (flamenco guitarist) as other key influences. And these have served him well, given that his live appearance on Showcase Wales follows airplay on Bethan
Elfyn’s BBC Radio 1’s Introducing show and also Xfm South Wales. As with most of the live session guests, Ffred Jones got in touch with Showcase Wales via myspace. And on hearing what was on offer producers Adam Perkins and Nicola Robertson spent no time at all trying to fit Ffred into a slot. Showcase Wales always attempts to diversify its music and session guests, in order to give an active idea of what the local music scene has to offer. A listen to the tracks hosted on Jones’ myspace shows a skill and passion for writing music. This certainly warranted a live session, which came one week before the launch of his new EP Eyes And Ears. When he’s not writing music, Ffred enjoys the wild adventures of biking and snowboarding — maybe an insight to the fresh and eclectic style of his songs. However, it was much calmer in the gtfm studio in Glamorgan University’s Treforest campus the night Ffred played. Live session bands usually arrive at 5.30pm to set up with sound engineers Dan Shapley and David Williams, in anticipation of going on air at 8pm. Ffred arrives into this relaxed vibe at 7.45pm, and after the meet and greets is ready and raring to go as the show hits the
airwaves. On the night Jones delivered four heart-warming acoustic tracks, as well as an interview, through the course of the two-hour show. And his acoustic weapon of choice: a Taylor 414 CE. Jones’ ability to get creative in his writing was on full show during the session, as he kicked things off with the soulful Yellow Belly, featured on the Eyes And Ears EP. As is third track My Love, which again fuses some impressive guitar work alongside Ffred’s beautiful lyrics. In between To Catch A Thief is both catchy and infectious. But to end the night, Ffred had a surprise for gtfm listeners and Ffred Jones fans. Pulling out his Hudson Tenor Ukulele, Ffred proved his ability by prizing his way through a brand new track, to be later named Strange Place To Wake. It was so hot off the press that the lyrics were finished throughout the course of the show. The track highlighted Ffred’s enigmatic ability to write, play and sing. A successful combination. A fun end to a great evening’s entertainment on Showcase Wales. Ffred is hoping to play a few festivals this year, and dreams of Glastonbury. So go check him out on www.myspace.com/ffredjones
CDs, EPs Downloads & Demos Peachfuzz So Here We Are Tonight (CD) www.ratpatrolrecs.com I’m going to say this simply. This is excellent! Indie power pop with good lyrics that make you swing up and down with emotions, with hints of Idlewild meeting with Teenage Fanclub. Deep Blue Dream and Lost Weekend are the standout tracks for me but the difficult part of saying that is they all really stand out. Can’t wait to see this Bridgend trio live. Go Buy Now!
Neon Neon Stainless Style (CD) Lex Records Ltd You may wonder why Super Furry Animals front man Gruff Rhys has collaborated with American hipster Boom Bip as it’s nothing like anything he’s done before. Well isn’t that reason enough in itself, but if you think back over the SFA catalogue it’s always been experimental and jumping from style to style, so really a collaboration like this should not come as a surprise. His distinctive vocals still pervade the music but it’s more a well crafted slick piece of electronica which nods towards Kraftwerk, Georgio Morrodo and even late Roxy Music around their Avalon period, er especially on the singles Raquel and Dream P) I Lust U. Gruff Rhys has always gone ic er (E Dream /dreamermus nic a long way to prove that it’s not just ro m t o c c . le e e c ping yspa heavy rock that comes out of South www.m k! Great thum disco vibe. shoc weaty Wales. As polished as stainless steel with ks like What a eats with a s ith trac Again w s b iu e more style than James Bond, this album n c dan re ge mping bs ts of pu the sto lu proves that point — tenfold. A class act. Momen d Music and ance c d ck to an a ain’t s b e is e h h s t m Fla took rong, t w a y h e t r m o get mp ar Again t don’t his is a conte th of u B . ld a t Said Mike of o bre its feel, ene. A . Stop The Clocks (EP) retro in for a tired sc d world e ll e u f r e r n a . fe live guit www.myspace.com/saidmike your li ir in a fresh a d Dreamer in An electro-rock noise band that comes e You ne hurling at your ears at 100mph. A harsh pumping synthesizer, stomping drum rhythms and hard rocking guitar riffs make this EP come alive. Layers of sound
pour out giving you a rollercoaster ride. It
had my foot taping from start to finish — with the standout song being Mind Over Muscle. The only slight downside is that songs do get a tad repetitive, making it hard to distinguish between tracks. Neverless a very good listen which captures their live energetic stage performance brilliantly. FutureTown Shine On (five-track demo) www.myspace.com/futuretown Melodic guitars that make you sway with appreciation and a stunningly good voice as well. This is FutureTown whose demo’s title track Shine On is a perfect piece of Pop Rock in the vane of Crowded House. A blessing in a world full of screamo, I can imagine the video now as they drive round the Grand Canyon on a hot day with their hair flowing in the breeze. Guys when you make it big, as you surely will, I want royalties on that idea. Listen immediately. 38 PLUGGED IN 36 PLUGGED IN
Pitch Blend The Lines Of Unreason (CD) www.sugarshackrecords.co.uk Thirteen tracks of excellent textural rock that combines swaying guitars which drift around and interplay with the distant vocals. Superb production that has grown up from the shoegazer style of Chapterhouse but heavier. Had this CD in the car for a while and couldn’t stop playing it. Ffred Jones Eyes And Ears (EP) www.ffredjones.co.uk A beautifully played and sung six-track EP that reminds me of Ben Watt of Everything But The Girl. Ffred has created some quite delightful arrangements that are both subtle and original with a great interplay between words and the music. Yellow Belly made me imagine distant lights over rippling water, while Your Disgrace is a musical version of the pencil drawing on the EP’s cover. Just beautiful.
Go:Audio Made Up Stories (single) Epic Records From the first note you know that Go:Audio’s Made Up Stories is going to be something special. The follow-up single to their infectious debut Woodchuck is a perfect piece of indie power pop with big catchy sing-along choruses and guitar riffs topped by fantastically musical vocals. You’ll love this so I say Go:Get Go:Audio now. Kids In Glass Houses Easy Tiger (single) Roadrunner Records “So put your money where your mouth is” goes the line before one of the best hum along choruses this year. It’s catchy and will have you singing along within seconds with the instant-learn chorus. Music for the masses? Yes, but that’s not a bad thing. Can’t wait for the album, Smart Casual – out 26 May. Do doo doo, do do doo do...
Bullet For My Valentine SCREAM,AIM,FIRE (CD) Sony BMG Music In yer face, bombastic and totally uncompromising nu-metal from the Bridgend boys, this their second full-lengh CD doesn’t cut corners on anything. It’s loud full-on Rock that shatters glass and grinds it into your body, with strong catchy sing-along anthems that deserve a stadium to be built just for them. Everything about Bullet tells you what they’re about from the song titles like Eye Of The Storm and Waking The Demon to the album cover that shows a Gothic building swathed in demonic birds and a stormy sky. You know what you’re going to get and you get it hard and fast. But underneath the rock clichés you’ll find a melodic textural quality to their music that blends together like a tightly fitting glove. These guys are one step above the game and know they’re in it, they play to win and take no prisoners. Better than what the other nu-metallers have to offer, the time for Bullet has come. Move over, the gun is loaded and these guys are becoming dangerous.
send your CDs for review tO: The Editor PLUGGED IN magazine Haul Fryn Publishing HAUL FRYN Courthouse Street Pontypridd CF37 1JW
In The Firing Line Portraits Of Landscapes (demo) www.myspace.com/itfl The newest track from these Welsh metallers is a beautifully structured rollercoaster ride of hardcore heaven that doesn’t bore you or fail to satisfy your desire for good ol’ proper metal.
Jam With RoBina Visions Of A Runic (CD) www.myspace.com/jamwithrobina The acoustic guitar strums through your mind dark and eerie, but at the same time the vocals brighten it up. This is a great acoustic album that will have your foot tapping or have you singing along to the catchy acoustic folk pop of the boys. It’s a great chill out album to unwind to and relax. With great songs such as Visions, I Am The Man and ELC. So throw yourself on the settee, pick your feet up and let the boys whisk you away.
Interstate Invisible/Game of Life/Price Of Glory (EP) www.myspace.com/interstateexecution Pacey old school rock with great vocal performance over ripping guitar riffs. Dramatic and full of tension the standout track Game Of Life has a mean guitar solo that screams at you and kicks you below the belt. Straight out of the Whitesnake and Saxon songbook of style, though with enough individuality of their own. Rockin’.
Blind Ambition Blind Ambition (demo) www.myspace.com/blindambitionuk Good, positive, posing rock in the style of Guns ’n’ Roses from the boys from Aberdare. The singer’s voice is strong and never lost amongst the drums and whaling guitars that have some excellent solo spots. First track Judgement Day is a tour de force of pure energetic air-guitar rock. Need to see a live show soon. Ghostlines Goodbye My Friends/Midnight Accomplice/ Acid (free download) www.myspace.com/ghostlines Three atmospheric acoustic tracks that just make you want to close your eyes and float away as you get drawn into the songs. Catchy lyrics, beautifully sung and accompanied by brilliantly played music. A great concept of free but fantastic music created by well-known musicians who don’t really want more fame and fortune from this side-line project. Tripwires (three-track demo) www.myspace.com/tripwires Imagine your average indie band, something like Boy Kill Boy; now imagine a better Welsh sounding version. This is Tripwires who breathe new life into the South Wales scene that’s dominated by rock and metal. Uplifting, upbeat and mesmerising, the drumming is perfectly accompanied by the guitar playing. The highlight being single Kings And Queens.
Hotel Motel Road Songs (EP) www.myspace.com/hotelmotel This is best played in a convertible sports car with the top down, while driving on a big American freeway. Yet at the same time you feel the vibe of 80s British pop, reminiscent of The Petshop Boys’ sinful synth sounds. Dark songs that make you want to dance in neon clothing. The female vocals shock you at first and instantly sound similar to Kate Jackson of The Long Blondes. This is sexy electro pop at its best. Ockhams Raiser In the Evening/Up to You/Window (EP) www.ockhamsraiser.com Imagine a Californian beach party groove going on and the band that’ll be playing will be Ockhams Raiser. Beautifully mellow voice and a feel-good vibe like Jack Johnson. In The Evening’s sweet melody and smooth bass never feel overplayed. Less is more, if you know what I mean. Check them out.
SHAMELESS SELF INDULGENCE Gary Numan/Tubeway Army Replicas 2008 Tour Edition (CD) Beggars Banquet Records Nearly 30 years ago a teenage schoolboy bought a new album in his lunch break. Back at school he was surrounded by his friends who all wanted to see the weird LP. That kid was me and that album was Replicas by Tubeway Army, fronted by the then unknown Gary Numan. Now the album has been re-released as a 2-CD set — the original 10-track album and a bonus CD with all the B sides and early versions of the songs. This was one of the most successful standout and unique albums of its time. Though heavy on keyboards, the roots of the young Gary Webb (Numan) were firmly based in punk not the prog rock with influences like early Ultravox and Brian Eno. This is a concept album in the vane of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, with an ongoing theme of a depressive future society ruled by machines. Bleakness is conveyed by the use of long notes on the keyboard and almost biographical story-telling vocals. Replicas spawned the No 1 hit Are Friends Electric, which immediately came under critical fire by the music press but has been influencial ever since. People like Robert Palmer, Trent Resner of Nine Inch Nails and even the Sugababes have given more than a passing nod towards his work — not forgetting brilliant local lads Friends Electric, influenced and named after Numan’s genius. If ever you needed to know what the fuss was about, then this is the album to buy. PLUGGED IN loves it! DW
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Last 10 Questions With... PLUGGED IN: How did the idea to combine both film and music for your live shows begin? SMM: It began when we wrote the song Fake Your Death and realised that the lyrics followed a narrative that really needed a video to back it up. Geraint’s cousin’s a film maker so we asked him to help out. Now we have videos for all of our songs, two of which have won awards for Alan the producer! PLUGGED IN: Your myspace entries state that you disapprove greatly of illegal music downloads. Care to elaborate on that for our readers? SMM: Basically we believe that it devalues the work that the artist has poured their life and soul into making. When someone can download an album for free they give it far less respect then if they had bought it. However, if you want to download the new 50 Cent album... PLUGGED IN: I was also looking through some of your artwork and am very impressed. Who is responsible for the design work? SMM: Geraint has a degree in art and he does all the artwork utilising Photoshop along with his own artwork. PLUGGED IN: So what’s on the cards this year for The StopMotion Men? SMM: A lot — we have a whole bunch of gigs coming up and that list will no doubt grow. We’ve also just spent the day in the fantastic Unit 40 Studios recording a track for the Outside The City compilation which we’re excited about because it’s sounding awesome. Hopefully, a lot’s going to happen this year — it’s looking busy so far! PLUGGED IN: On stage you create a great atmosphere. What incites this, seemingly endless, supply of adrenaline and passion in your music? SMM: We just love playing to people, especially when we can see them getting into the music and enjoying what we’re doing! We’re going on our first tour in a few weeks where we will see if we can keep up the energy throughout. We love the music we’re playing — it’s no different live then it is in the practice room. PLUGGED IN: Do you have any advice for other bands out there who are struggling to get recognised? SMM: It’s a tough thing to get into, Elias spends hours every day ringing or e-mailing promoters trying to get gigs and magazines to get reviews. There’s no point in working hard to get gigs if you can’t deliver your
songs, so practise as hard as you can! At one point we were practising six nights a week for a couple of months as well as gigging! PLUGGED IN: Elias didn’t join the band until 2006 when you put him under an intense, two-week long rehearsal schedule. Do you have any fond memories of this? SMM: No! (Elias laughing) Seriously though, it was hard, but exciting to be part of a great band, and in the end very rewarding. PLUGGED IN: What are your favourite venues to play and why? SMM: We absolutely love playing at the Fight Night events in the Muni Arts Centre in Pontypridd, those nights are always awesome! It’s great to have a decent-sized venue full of real music fans that will go every month regardless of not necessarily knowing the bands on the line up. Always huge fun! PLUGGED IN: Some say the Welsh music scene is as strong as ever, what’s your opinion on the large influx of artists and the opportunities that are available to them? SMM: The Welsh scene is really strong, it’s great to be a part of it! We’re friends with many local bands — we all help each other out and try to play together whenever possible. There are also some good opportunities, as we mentioned before great gigs at venues such as the Muni and the Pop Factory — both in small towns where you wouldn’t expect to see a live venue. PLUGGED IN: Everyone has their ups and downs, what would you consider to be your highest high and, consequently, your lowest low since you first started as a band? SMM: Our high point would probably be winning the Cardiff Uni battleof-the-bands competition which consisted of two heats followed by a final at a sold out Clwb Ifor Bach. Conversely, we have always been plagued with problems and bad luck, but the worst time was one night where we drove a really long way only to discover we were playing in a small pub to nearly no one. PLUGGED IN: Thanks for your time. SMM: To hear our music go to www.myspace.com/stopmotionmen INTERVIEW BY JOSHUA GREEN
! N O I T I T E P OM
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ere’s your chance to win some fantastic goodies that have been signed exclusively for PLUGGED IN by your fave artists. There are FIVE mega prizes to win — but you can only answer one question per coupon, so if you want to win more than one thing simply buy another copy of PLUGGED IN and enter again! SORRY — no photocopied coupons accepted.
A WIN a Killing For Company T-shirt — signed by all the boys in the band B WIN one of three signed copies of Jam With RoBina’s album Visions Of A Runic C WIN two GLC CD singles — Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do and Half Man Half Machine — both signed by all the guys in GLC D WIN a signed copy of the new compilation album Outside The City E WIN a uniquely signed 7in single 4:am Forever by LostProphets NOW HERE’S THE QUESTION
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10-track compilation CD featuring tracks by Mea Britt A470 DeadEnd Argonaut The Unsung Jam With RoBina Death Of An Icon Working Class Heroes The StopMotion Men price: ÂŁ5 available from iTunes and www.myspace.com/outsidethecitymusic