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1984 one person started something that would have a major effect on Welsh
music, Welsh attitudes and the way English people perceive the Welsh.
That forward thinking person set up Recordiau Anhrefn; first as a vinyl outlet for his own band, Yr Anhrefn, (releasing a green vinyl 7" single), but more importantly to promote and release Welsh language music by bands who were not going to get any joy out of an archaic Welsh music industry and dismal Welsh media.
Rhys Mwyn (born Gareth Rhys Thomas), creator and mentor of Recordiau Anhrefn can lean back in his leather upholstered chair two decades on and bask in the knowledge that it was he who sowed the seeds that for a while made Cymru cool.
For without Rhys Mwyn 12,000 of us could not have revelled in the beautiful surroundings of Llangollen in 1998 as Catatonia and Gorkys Zygotic Mwnci played and we experienced just how far up the musical ladder Wales had climbed. No longer were we the butt of Aled Jones jokes. On that day it was the English holding the ladder as Catatonia, the Manics and the Stereophonics climb way beyond their reach.
Without Rhys Mwyn a young band from Llanrwst called Y Cyrff may never have got the chance to release 7" singles, and be given the encouragement to pursue a career in music when all the odds were stacked up against them.
Without Y Cyrff we would never have Catatonia, no Mulder and Scully, Game On, Road Rage.
Having moved out of their caravan in Carmarthen, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci were capable of giving their crowd a collective tab of assassinated acid and take them on a trip to the far reaches of a mushroom field on the edge of the psychedelic city. This is psychedelia done the Welsh way; our way, no need to follow rules, let your mind write the music not the industry standards.
It would have been more financially viable for Catatonia to play the well trodden boards of Manchester Apollo or the Royal Court, but they, like so many of their countryfolk feel they owe their kin something. They know it is
In his review of the Llangollen show, Neil Crud poetically stated,
'Not many songs make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, but when I, along with the whole of the audience sing the chorus of International Velvet, I will for every day wake up and thank Catatonia that they're Welsh.'
Set up in 1983, Recordiau Anhrefn released compilation LPs and singles by the new crop of alternative Welsh bands ignored by the closed mentality of the Welsh media. The BBC website described Recordiau Anhrefn as a label;
‘…churning out what it called "dodgy compilations of up-and-coming left-field weirdo Welsh bands". This enthusiasm is a trademark of the Welsh-language rock scene. In fact, throughout the Eighties any band that couldn't get some sort of record deal would simply press their own vinyl and sell their records at gigs. The market for the music was small, but the bands made up for it with their have-a-go attitude.’
It was John Peel who probably spurred Anhrefn on to continue their cause as Rhys explained in a 2004 interview in Soundnation magazine,
1985 we put out a compilation album called Cam O'r Tywyllwch which featured
Anhrefn, Datblygu, Cyrff, Tynal Tywyll and Elfyn Presli. As part of the
'promotion' I went to London with a plastic bag full of albums and spent the
day going round NME, Sounds etc and at the end of the day I got over to Radio
One. I was told that John was in a wine bar around the corner; as I entered the
bar and caught Peel's eye he greeted me with 'You're not a mugger I hope,'
which kind of says a lot about him. I explained about the compilation of new
'underground' Welsh-language acts and a couple of days later he played Rhywle
Yn Moscow by Anhrefn, which at the time felt like we'd actually made it!'
People always made a big thing about this punk band that sang in Welsh, there was almost a novelty element to it, and the curious would leave the comfort of their armchairs behind and venture out to witness Anhrefn in the flesh. The majority who saw them for the first time were hooked, it didn’t matter that the language meant they couldn’t be understood, the message was in the energy.
Crud Crew first encountered Anhrefn in 1986 at an open air gig on the fields of
think we were thrilled to actually find a punk band in
Peel certainly did, and the Welsh punks had four tracks Action Man, Dawns y Duwiau, Defaid and Nefoedd Un broadcast
us singing in Welsh is totally natural. We don't think twice about it. But in
another way we do think twice about it because we actually do it in Welsh. It's
the same as bands in
Their prolific gigging (up to 300 concerts per year) both home and abroad brought huge underground success for a band who flatly refused to sing in English.
TV appearance on Channel 4's The Tube, hosted by Joolz Holland and Paula Yates
lack of coverage by the NME and Melody Maker did little to thwart the
burgeoning Welsh language scene, which was crucially involving English bands
and attracting English followers. People quite often commented that they didn't
have a clue what the bands were singing about but who cares, the music and
energy is great. Anhrefn had almost single handledly removed the Welsh language
from the grips of the isolationists who wanted
lot of what Sons of Glendower say is total and utter shit. Total racist rubbish
they say, "like throw the English out of
constant gigging continued at an exhaustive pace, from promoting their cause by
playing in Belfast Primary Schools where 10-year-olds were moshing in front of
them to touring another politically tense place in the shape of
This heavy schedule with no financial reward innevitably took its toll and Hefin and Dewi amicably left the band (at different times) they were replaced by Dylan Hughes (formerly of Cyrff) and Sion Jones (ex Maffia Mr Huws).
Their debut album 'Defaid Skateboard a Wellies' came out on Workers Playtime records in 1987 as did the follow-up 'Bwrw Cwrw' two years later. The production on Defaid was a little thin, failing to show the explosive force they emit on stage, but the album sold well and hammered home the three-chord and no guitar solos method of songwriting. The crazed punk sheep on a skateboard as displayed on the front cover of Defaid was designed by Crud Crew member Jill The Ripper (who was thanked as Jill The Kipper on the sleeve notes!). The follow up was really two albums in so much that the A-side gave the listener better produced punk numbers, such as the single (on their own label incidentally) Be Nesa '89, whereas the B-side found them dabbling in dub reggae with the instrumental Isaac Hunt and a reggae version of their very early Rhwyle yn Moscow track. The sleeve notes epitomised the bands' overall attitude to life:
‘Buy happiness. Colour TV is happiness, video is happiness, new job and car is happiness. Bollocks. Where did this dream come from? We follow gladly and blindly. But the cost of happiness rises steadily. It’s getting harder for some to afford being happy.’
The statement sounded like it was lifted from the film 'Trainspotting' only Ewan McGregor was still a snotty schoolboy when this was written.
Neil Crud surmised,
never know what Anhrefn really thought of us, the Crud Crew, did they think we
were a laugh, just plain stupid or bullies even, as it was customary to at
least empty a full ashtray over Sion’s head before washing it off with his own
pint of lager. Then after scrawling ‘Anhrefn are wankers’ on the toilet wall,
I’d have swung one of the band round by his ankles until he screamed for mercy.
Of course you grow up and instead you talk about the new Ikea catalogue or
Russell Grant’s gastronomic habits and hope no one writes about it. One thing
that still comes up in conversation however was the fate of a famous
microphone; in 1987 Cumi Pants and myself went with
Anhrefn to watch them play in
1988 saw Anhrefn play with boyhood hero, ex-Clash frontman, Joe Strummer on the 'Rock Against The Rich' tour. Sion was asked if he thought it was slightly hypocritical that the organisers, the anarchist organisation Class War chose someone as rich as Strummer was involved with the tour,
'We were quite surprised with Joe Strummer, he could have been a bloody pop star if he'd wanted to, but he wasn't, he was totally OK, totally down to earth, no shit at all. The tour was good, there was good audiences, but I don't know how many of the actual audience knew what the whole thing was about. There was one guy who introduced the bands, who would sometimes try to explain what it was all about, but the crowd would just be going "Strummer, Strummer, Strummer". So I think a lot of the crowd were just there to see Joe Strummer because he used to be in the Clash, and didn't really know what was going on, even though they gave out leaflets, most of the leaflets would be on the floor by the end of the night, because people were there to watch Strummer. It was a good idea.'
Peel invited Anhrefn to play another session which was aired on 11th September 1989 and featured a more confident band playing Edrych ar y Rude Bois, which was a stunningly superb version of The Ruts single Staring At The Rude Boys, followed by the second album track, Crafwr, the b-side of the self-released single Bach by Ben, and the outstanding cover of Welsh folk hero Geraint Jarman's Gwesty Cymru.
became numerous due to the high demand for recordings, particularly in
played many times abroad, including
wasn't for four years until the band got to record their third and final John
Peel session. First broadcast on
Anhrefn had all but dissolved by 1994, the music was changing and they had rode the storm well through the dark years of the eighties only to find themselves heading into another one in the mid-nineties. They had achieved far more than they could have imagined and within five years they would be lauded as the main catalysts and influence behind the crop of Cool Cymru bands. Brothers Sion and Rhys had a little fuel left in the tank to release 'Hen Wlad fy Mamau - Land of My Mothers' on Crai Records (Rhys' future employers) in April 1995. It also featured producer Ronnie Stone who aided the duo in creating a world beat collection of re-mixed Welsh folk music, samples and electronic sounds featuring Welsh singers Siân James, Lowri Ann Richards, June Campbell Davies and Elinor Bennett, Punjabi rapper Harvinder Sangha and African dub collective Zion Train. A far cry from the punk rock glare and as Sion admitted in a 1997 interview,
'We’re mainly into club/dance music but we’re influenced by all sorts of stuff, bands like Prodigy and Leftfield, but also there’s the Welsh aspect. We sample traditional Welsh instruments like harps and violins and come up with quite a new sound.'
The itch that couldn't be scratched got the better of Rhys and Sion once more and they formed a new band, Mangre in 2000. By their own admission they had nothing to prove and nothing to gain; as Anhrefn they’ve been there, done that and shagged the girl behind the T-shirt stall. They’re too old to get signed and the music doesn’t quite hit it off with the new young crowd, which left them in a purgatorial state of a band in search of an audience, but outwardly they didn’t care, they did it for their own kicks and would, if they so wished, invent an audience. The girl singers accompanying Sion’s vocal were supposed to create a bit of soul but the project never really hit it off, and although a fly-on-the-wall documentary was screened by S4C, the project fizzled out.
Under the guise of Hen Wlad fy Mamau (this time the title of the band, rather than the title of the release), came another album on Crai in 2001. Entitled 'Anhrefn Post-Punk Post-House Post-Welsh' it was an 18-track compilation of remixes, demos, live tracks and new songs, almost as if it was putting a lid on the past.
you'll find Rhys Mwyn working as an agent for ELO and a host of Welsh artists, he did head the Crai label for a few years and
managed The Gogz as well as girl band TNT.
He is also writing his autobiography, initially to be published in his mother tongue in 2006, which he jokingly says is called, 'Cumi Pants - The Truth.'
MSM: So is the Welsh language your first language?
Well before we went to school, at home we spoke Welsh. You pick up a bit of
English anyway, we don't actually remember but we probably did learn English as
a second language. You don't remember it because it just happens naturally in
MSM: A lot of people make a big deal about the fact that you sing in Welsh, but it's because it's your first language then?
To us it is just totally natural, we don't think twice about it, but yet in
another way we do think twice about it because we actually do it in Welsh. It's
the same as bands in
MSM: I read in a fanzine once that the National Front have given support to the campaign being waged by the Sons of Glendower on the grounds that it's a nationalistic sort of thing. What is your opinion about all that?
There's a lot of weird stuff going on with all that at the moment. I think over
the last year the National Front have been trying to get organized again in the
UK, and at the moment what I think they have been doing is that they have been
trying to latch on to any group that they think they might get sympathy from.
And so they're doing it with all sorts of movements, trying to get in on it.
Nobody seems to be taking any notice of that, thank God! Same thing with the
Sons of Glendower, a lot of what they say is total and utter shit. Total racist
rubbish they say, like throw the English out of
MSM: Would you say then that you were broadly sympathetic or unsympathetic to them?
Sion: I can understand why they would burn down a holiday home, but that's about the only thing of their policies that I can understand. But their other policies, like I said before, like not letting English people in are just shit.
MSM: So it is nationalistic in the real sense?
Sion: yeah, they're trying to build up nationalism in a shit way.
Well, what do you think of
We've only been here for about three days, I dunno it's the kind of thing you
could spend hours talking about. It's almost impossible to say in a couple of
minutes what you think about it. On the one hand, the first place we landed in
was in Falls Road, and it's the kind of place you hear a lot about, and when we
landed there we thought "Bloody hell, this is the FALLS ROAD!" Five
minutes afterwards we thought, "Uh, this is the Falls Road. We could be in
MSM: Well what about CLASS WAR then, you went on the ROCK AGAINST THE RICH Tour with JOE STRUMMER. Anything to say abut that, any regrets or whatever?
Sion: No regrets, no. We were quite surprised with JOE STRUMMER., he could have been a bloody pop star if he'd wanted to, but he wasn't, he was totally OK, totally down to Earth, no shit at all. The tour was good, there was good audiences, but I don't know how many of the actual audience knew what the whole thing was about. There was one guy who introduced the bands, who would sometimes try to explain what it was all about, but the crowd would just be going "Strummer, Strummer, Strummer". So I think a lot of the crowd were just there to see Joe Strummer because he used to be in the CLASH, and didn't really know what was going on, even though they gave out leaflets, most of the leaflets would be on the floor by the end of the night, because people were there to watch Strummer. It was a good idea.
MSM: A lot of people, probably myself included, thought it was pretty ludicrous picking somebody like JOE STRUMMER for this tour (Blasphemy!-Dan/LARiot), someone who has made himself a lot of money out of the Rock 'n' Roll business, and for CLASS WAR to turn round and to start defending him, with crap like "If you're going to be successful in the Rock industry, you have to make a lot of money".
Sion: I think the problem that they had was that they wanted to try and raise money and get a lot of publicity. To do that they had to have somebody quite famous, and anyone who is quite famous is bound to have a little bit of dosh. But then again JOE STRUMMER probably has only got enough dosh to, I dunno if he has got his own house. He's probably only as well off as a fairly low-paid teacher. I don't think he's really loaded, maybe he's got his own house.
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