Last updated: 18 November 2008
Steffan Cravos - a fan of hip hop and punk - investigated the making of his music with a pair of decks and a mixer in 1991.
His aims were simple: "Back in the early '90s, apart from Llwybr Llaethog, there was no-one doing hip-hop in Welsh," he explains, "and I was fed up with dull guitar bands. Back then, if you could fart in Welsh, they'd put you on the telly."
People in Wales sit in pubs all day, saying 'Let's go off and have a revolution'. Tystion is about actually getting up and doing something.Steffan Cravos
Attending an Eisteddfod in the early 1990s, Cravos met one Gruff Meredith - a fellow DIY musician with a penchant for kazoos and harmonicas, and a skill for truly surreal wordplay. The pair became fast friends, and although by now Cravos had relocated to Cardiff - some distance from Meredith's home in North Wales - they resolved to mail each other tapes of new musical ideas.
For a while, Cravos travelled north to hone his sampling skills as part of Meredith's band, psychedelic indie-rockers Datsyn. Eventually, however, Meredith chose to join Cravos on the mic, moving down to Cardiff to expand Tystion into a duo.
An early demo tape garnered only blank looks from record companies, so Cravos chose to circumnavigate the music industry altogether, founding his own label, Fitamin Un. The first two releases - 1995's Dyma'r Dystiolaeth and 1996's Tystion vs Allfa Un - were scrappy, lo-fidelity cassette-only releases that did little more than reinforce Tystion's radical anti-mainstream ethos.
- MC Sleifar aka Steffan Cravos: rapping, beats, cuts, keyboards
- Chef aka Gareth Williams: rapping
- DJ Jaffa: cuts
- Rob Mackay: guitar, flute
- CJ Pegg: bass, keyboards
- Phil Jenkins: drums
But 1997 saw a debut album proper, Rhaid I Rhywbeth Ddigwydd (Something's Got To Happen), recorded with future Murry The Hump member Curig Huws. It took a spraycan to the grey slate drudgery of small-town Welsh life, Cravos and Meredith rapping about pulling handbrakes in Tesco car-park and smoking themselves senseless in a hedge - and its anarchic spirit caught the attention of Ankstmusik, who offered to give a handful of tracks off the record a national release. The Brewer Spinks EP came out in 1998, shifting several thousand copies, and scoring the plaudit of Single Of The Week in Melody Maker.
1999's Shrug Off Ya Complex was an ambitious and jumbled affair, boasting a revolving line-up of twenty musicians - among them, Gwion Ap Sion (later of Murry The Hump), the Erban Poets, and a proper backing band that included DJ Jaffa, drummer John Griffiths, guitarist Nick Fenwick, and bassist Kevs Ford.
It was most notable for the juxtaposition of Cravos' and Meredith's rapidly diverging rapping styles, however. As Cravos' purist rhymes took on a politically-charged dimension, inspired by an interest in Welsh independence and his past in Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, Meredith continued to indulge his whimsical, often surrealist muse. But after one more release, the Toys EP - a ramshackle affair featuring Frank Naughton of Rocketgoldstar on guitar - Meredith left the band. He would later sign to Ankstmusik as MC Mabon.
With Cravos at the reigns, 2000's Hen Gelwydd Prydain Newydd was the defining Tystion statement to date. A powerful, politicised collection, it ranted against the Labour government's New Deal policy, draconian anti-terrorism legislation, the bad attitude of corporate giants like AOL, and the patronising cliches that defined Welsh popular culture.
New to the band were Gareth Williams (aka MC Chef) and on bass and keyboards, Clancy Pegg - formerly part of an early incarnation of Catatonia.
By 2001, Tystion had severed ties with Ansktmusik, and Y Meistri - a taster for their forthcoming fourth album surfaced on their blossoming Fitamin Un imprint. Playlisted by Chuck D's Bring The Noise internet radio station and a number of underground European radio stations, it proved a defining moment in Tystion's mission to bring the Welsh language to the international stage.
Sadly, however, Tystion announced their split in August 2002, shortly before the release of their final single MOMYFG. The announcement was made by Steffan Cravos from the stage of Maes B, at what was to be their last gig.