Interview: Super Furry Animals

Interview: Alex Kocan
Wednesday 21 September 2005
reading time: min, words

"When we play places a few times we get a bit bored, but with Rock City i'm still excited. It's got a lot of history"

Perhaps the most famous underground band in the world, Super Furry Animals, are back with their long awaited new album, ‘Love Kraft’, and are touring the UK this September, including a stop off at Rock City on 21 September.  According to critics these Welsh sound concocters, who formed in 1994, are now portraying a more mature sound with their latest release. Are the days of turning up to festivals in a blue techno tank well and truly behind them? Super Furry Animals are Gruff Rhys (vocals), Huw Bunford ‘Bunf’ (guitar), Guto Pryce (bass), Cian Ciaran (keyboards) and Dafydd Ieuan ‘Daf’ (drums). Prior to their gig at Rock City, on September 21, Huw ‘Bunf’ Bunford took time out to talk to us about the new album, their recent single ‘Lazer Beam’ and their long and exciting career.

The Furry’s have played at Rock City several times over the years. It’s coming up to the 25th anniversary of the venue. What are your memories of the place?
“It’s the hottest venue we’ve ever played. It’s boiling in there. It’s always a bit of a headache for our crew when we play there because it is tiny and we bring to much gear. But that adds to the organised chaos on stage. When we play places a few times we get a bit bored, but with Rock City I’m still excited. It’s got a lot of history as well.”

Where did you get the name Super Furry Animals from? 
“To begin with we went under the name of American Heroin Addicts which was completely false as we weren’t American or heroin addicts. We scrapped that when a girl suggested we call ourselves the Super Furry Animals, for no reason at all. Then the next weekend we saw her again and she had made bootleg t-shirts with Super Furry Animals written on them. All of her girlfriends were wearing them around Cardiff. We couldn’t really let them down.”

Band influences aside, who makes you tick? Influence wise!
Probably Orson Wells. He’s always been an interesting figure. I wouldn’t try and emulate him, but he’s amazing. Chuck Berry as well. I’ve got a red Gibson 335 guitar which is the same as his. Musically you can get influenced by all sorts of things.”

Tell me about ‘Love Kraft’, released on August 22. According to critics it has a more grown up sound compared to your previous releases. Do you agree?
I have no idea where they got more mature from. I think it’s less in your face. You can find anger in the songs though. The anger is tempered with hot weather; you’re just too hot to get angry. The heat was also a factor while recording it.”

It was recorded in the Pyrenees. Why did you decide to record there? 
It was cheap. It was also a compromise. Our producer on the album, Mario Caldato, didn’t want to come to England and record in the rain and we couldn’t go to LA, where his studio is. So we recorded in Spain and mixed it in Rio.

Did all the band contribute songs to the new album? 
They did actually. This album is quite unique as it has four song writers on it. It’s quite a step for us. Daff’s and Cian’s songs seem to have a more intimate element. Their lyrics are quite personal and heartfelt. It’s quite a different approach to our other songs.

You are a band renowned for experimenting in the studio. What new instruments can be found on this album? 
We used a dulcimer, which is a Middle Eastern percussion thing. We usually fuck around a lot in the mix. After Spain we went back to our own little studio in Cardiff and tweaked it for about 4 months. We never mess around with things to much, not to the extent that it ruins the song. Hopefully the things we alter do enhance the tracks.

Tell me about your recent single ‘Lazer Beam’! 
It is a groove machine of a song. Gruff wrote the lyrics. I think there were three versions of the song made but we released this version as the single. It’s a song about making your own reality. Today’s reality is insane so we may as well make our own. It’s about Aliens coming down from space and zapping humans with amazing lazer beams that make them intelligent rather than being jerks. It’s obviously a highly unlikely scenario. The B-side ‘Sunny Seville’ is a nice song.

What are your thoughts on the music industry: 
It’s survival of the fittest and all that shit. We are not high up in the pecking order. We live in the weird basement. People come across us every now and again and say “Jesus, we didn’t no you existed. How ya doing?

What was it like playing with Oasis in Glasgow and Manchester? 
That was the first time we‘ve played with them. It was great, crazy! The audience was beyond words. We played our new stuff so it was quite challenging for the audience. No one knew who the fuck we were.

Tell us about the Supr Furry tank...
We used to have a blue tank we took to festivals. We’ve sold it now though. Insurance on a tank is cost effective but storage is a problem. We weren’t allowed to drive it on the queen’s highway. So we had to carry it everywhere on a lorry. It was the most impractical thing to drive but a great publicity tool. People listen to you when you’ve got a tank!”

What’s been your favourite Super Furry’s track, to date? 
I’ll say ‘Sunny Seville’. Let’s plug the B-side of the recent single.

Your band remixed some old Beatles tapes in 2000. What was it like working with such material? 
I think it was a tape from the Penny Lane sessions. It was interesting getting your hands on stuff never heard before. There was lots of talking. We sampled Ringo’s drums as well. That was like gold dust. The work was originally shown as an exhibition called Liverpool Sound Collage. Then Paul McCartney released it without our consent in America. We could have taken him to court, but we decided to ask him to crunch some celery on one of our songs. It was surreal!

Can you name a couple of things about Nottingham? 
I know about Trent Bridge. Also at one stage the city had the highest female to male ratio. Probably all the men have gone there thinking it’s a winner, but that probably balanced it out. Also Robin Hood, but he’s not from there, is he!

Did you hang out in Nottingham when you’ve played here in the past? 
Not really, it was a one stop affair. We arrived, played and then headed off to the next venue straight away. We don’t want to outstay our welcome.

What artists have you noticed this year? 
There’s a new Welsh band called Elgoodo. Very psycadelic pop. They have killer melodies. The album comes out in September some time.

What’s your most embarrassing record in your collection? 
I’ve got a David Soul album, that’s pretty bad. I don’t want to say anymore about that.

What’s your most memorable experience of being in a band? 
We had an interesting time in Japan; it’s quite an alterative place. Also mixing the album in Rio was good. We went round places you wouldn’t go on the tourist map.

What’s your favourite place in the world? 
Hmmm. There’s a place in North Wales called Nant Gwrtheyrn. It’s a very old village. It’s quite spooky as well. It’s not beautiful, it’s quite baron. It’s nice to get away.”

If you could start this interview over what question would you like me to ask you first? And what would the answer to that question be? 
What’s your favourite football team? And the answer would be Cardiff City.

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