Archives for September 2010

Interview: Bright Light Bright Light

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 09:58 UK time, Thursday, 30 September 2010

I'm always writing about rock bands, so I thought for a change let's celebrate one of Wales' newest pop sensations, aka Bright Light Bright Light (also celebrated in this week's NME which is pure coincidence!).

Bright Light Bright Light

Bright Light Bright Light

We've supported Rod Thomas - who is Bright Light - for a while on my radio show BBC Introducing in Wales, but he's definitely heading for the big time right now, so I thought we'd have a little catch up as he prepares to head off on a university tour with Ellie Goulding.

How did your university tour with Ellie come about?

Luck and timing really. I was put forward, like lots of bands are, as a support option, and everyone thought it would be a good idea. I did a remix of Under The Sheets months ago, and her team liked it, and her booking agent had seen BLBL play, and then Ellie okayed it, so I ended up as support. Which is very exciting!

Let's remind everyone who you are, and what you've done. What's the Bright Light Bright Light history so far?

Between 2006 and 2009 I released a few singles and mini album as Rod Thomas (cunningly, my own name) and gigged pretty much constantly. Then in 2009 I worked with Boom Bip as I wanted to make a more electronic, pop album.

We did two tracks together, then in 2009 I spent a few months writing and demoing - by myself and with Andy Chatterley (who wrote and produced for Kylie and Diana Vickers, Kanye West and Unkle) - and came up with my album. I recorded solidly in the early part of 2010 and in March released a free download of A New Word To Say, which sparked off a meeting with PopJustice and then signing to the label, which brings us up to date!

Tell us about the deal you have with Popjustice.

Popjustice is one of my favourite websites, and luckily Peter who runs it likes my music! We met up and talked about my songs and his label, and I signed to Popjustice HiFi who have this week put out my first single as Bright Light Bright Light, Love Part II. The album, Make Me Believe In Hope, is pretty much there apart from some songs I've just written, and should be out early 2011.

What inspires your songs?

Lots of very different things. I write mostly about things I observe rather than about myself, so if I overhear something, or have a connection with a place or person, then that sparks ideas. The album is all about connections - how places you go and people you meet chance your outlook, so I guess how I see people interacting is what inspires me. Oh, and Ace Of Base.

You've come a long way from busking on the London underground - it's taken a lot of determination too. What advice would you give to people struggling to get ahead in the music biz?

Work out what your strengths are, and what you want to achieve. It's easy to try and do bits of everything at the start, so you need to think quite hard about what you want to focus on and make sure you work as hard as you can to be the best you can at it.

What's been the most fun thing you've ever done as a musician?

Maybe going to SXSW. It was an amazing feeling to be going to Texas - and New York on the way - as a musician, surrounded by other great bands, in the sun, for a week. Such a great atmosphere and such a blast.

You've got a bigger line up of musicians now for this tour, how's the dynamic changing you as a performer, or the music you write?

I don't know if that particularly has changed the way I write, but the move to pop rather than folk-pop has. I'm much more focused on melody and harmonies, I want to make something that really connects, so I'm working hard on pushing myself to write in ways I maybe haven't before - like work really hard at production, and to think of new ways to phrase things.

It's definitely changing me as a performer though. Having more people around me on stage is really making me think about how I hold myself or project myself on stage. Gives me a bit more confidence too - it's really amazing having someone to bounce off and share the experience with.

What's on the cards for next year?

Album, tour and hopefully festivals. I'm doing lots of writing and co-writing, so hopefully something exciting will come of that. Basically, lots of hard work, but hard work that generates fun.

How can people find you online?

I have free downloads on my website at, I'm on Twitter at, my MySpace is and lastly there are lots of bits and bobs and remixes on

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Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 26 September 2010

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 09:33 UK time, Thursday, 30 September 2010

This week's show previews and celebrates next month's Sŵn Festival. Sŵn celebrates a wide variety of predominantly new, mostly leftfield, music across a multitude of Cardiff's venues from 21-23 October. It's one of the key events on the Welsh music calendar, right up there with the Green Man Festival, and it provides a great platform and music-hungry audience for the most interesting new Welsh artists.

As well its patronage of indigenous talent, Sŵn brings amazing new bands into Cardiff from outside Wales, frequently for their first appearances in the UK. Last year the now ubiquitous Marina And The Diamonds and The Drums made key appearances at the festival. It's a great opportunity to catch the key sounds of tomorrow in intimate venues.

Swn was co-founded by Radio 1 and C2's Huw Stephens and Cardiff promoter and label owner, John Rostron. Huw's authoritative knowledge and passion for new music shapes much of Sŵn, as does John's insatiable hunger for the best new sounds - an appetite that drags him to Europe and the States in his search for great music to share every autumn at the festival.

John is my special guest throughout the programme. We play a broad selection of the artists - both from Wales and beyond - and talk about many of the aspects of staging an event like this. In a year of incredible musical occurences, last year's Sŵn was the absolute highlight for me. Three days of gawping wonder, ear thrills, smiling faces and good beer. I couldn't recommend it any more highly. And - judging by this year's line-up (, 2010 is going to be even better!

Elsewhere on the show, Strange News From Another Star, whose phenomenally fierce debut EP, Full Frontal, was released in all its 10" vinyl glory on Monday, share their musical DNA with us. You're advised to listen to the EP wearing a welding mask. It has been described - admittedly by themselves - as 'face-melting'. It's a warning worth ignoring. Otherwise those of us without adequate facial protection would miss out on a brilliant EP of uninhibited spirit and propulsive fuzz.

Please send Welsh demos/new releases as high quality .mp3s/download links to:

And if you have any release / event info for the Welsh Music Calendar, please mail that to the same address too.

You can follow the playlist for the show, and keep up to date with any programme-related announcements, via:

This coming Sunday night, Bastions share a mixtape of their favourite noises with us. It's going to be greatness cubed to the power of ace.

Heavy Metal Uncle [session Version]

If You Wanna


ISLET (Cardiff)

We Hug In Bed

Wish I Was Made Out Of Steel

Moon Crooner

Oh My God They've Given Me The Suburbs

Big Brother

Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family


Deaner's Last Weekend

THE SCHOOL (Cardiff)
Hoping And Praying


Y NIWL (Llanrwst)

CYRION (Llangefni)
Bail Out

BASTIONS (Anglesey)

Careless Talk Costs Lives

Y BANDANA (Caernarfon)
Dal Dy Drwyn

We Got Tazers

Flag Day [single Version]

Ladder's Bottom Rung


H. HAWKLINE (West Wales / Cardiff)

Immigrant Song

A Distance I Can't Bear


THE BLACKOUT (Merthyr Tydfil)
Children Of The Night

Something Low This Way Comes

Love Made An Outlaw Of My Heart/p>

Mr Peterson

There Goes My Ghost

The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air

I'm Aware

theAbsurd Festival, Mold

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 15:56 UK time, Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Whenever I write about my hometown - Mold, Flintshire - I preface the piece with a lot of out of date reminiscences detailing how rubbish a place it was to grow up in in the 80s.

"Move on, Walton!"

Okay, will do. But forgive me that initial mention of its prehistoric awfulness to a BMX pedalling 80s indie kid (well, it was a Raleigh Striker and the rumours about my owning a couple of U2 albums are unfavourably accurate)... but banging on about Mold's past throws into some necessary contrast the amazingness of what is about to happen there in the first week of November.

We need to plunge into the past again, for a couple more paragraphs. I wasn't just a passive whinger in the Flintshire wastelands. Frustrated by the lack of gig opportunities in Mold, my bandmates and I persuaded Theatr Clwyd to let us hire their prestigious Clwyd Rooms in 1991 for our own baggy 'happening'.

Theatre Clwyd might have been one of the finest arts complexes in Wales, but they rarely muddied their hands with 'young people's music'. The annual showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show would have the managerial staff in palpitations. And although I saw gigs at the Theatr that were key to me (Lonnie Donegan and, er, Disciples of Spess) the Theatr on its anointed mount might as well have been a universe away from the scummy noise we made in our garages.

The gig was a success. Simple photocopied tickets that meant anyone could buy one ticket and then go out and simply photocopy a fistful to sell on meant that 400 people turned up instead of the allocated 200-ish. The crap PA meant that it sounded like one long-drawn out guitar solo. Although this might have been more to do with our singer's atonal larynx and a discerning sound engineer. Under age kids roamed the galleries, theatres and studios spilling plazzy bottles of cheap cider everywhere. Someone got caught doing something unmentionable on an HTV newsdesk. The police came, but - despite my best efforts - didn't try to shut us down. God, how I wish they had.

Of course, we lost our desposit. And, of course, Theatr Clwyd laughed in my face when I asked if we could use the room again.

"Over my dead body," said the manager, and he meant it.

But 19 years later, I'll be back as part of an excellent bill for the inaugural Absurd Festival. I've written about theAbsurd before, a couple of times. In a city like Cardiff where there is a multitude of promoters running frequent nights with multiple bands and DJs on the bill, you may be wondering why I'm making such a big fuss over a little festival. Well, for us in Mold (although I don't live there any more, I'm still allowed to claim it's my hometown because every notable first in my life happened in an alley behind Water Street) this is a massively big deal. It's exciting to the power of jawdrop.

What's happening?Well, inspirational local leftfield chroniclers, promoters and enthusiasts, theAbsurd, have hired the Clwyd Rooms for the day on Saturday 6 November, and they're going to fill the room with incredible noise and expression. The area's second-as-likely-to band (the first being the town's Joy Formidable who recently signed to Atlantic and will redraw Flintshire's rock n roll history) Gallops will play; the sonically peripatetic and infinitely entertaining Spencer McGarry and the Season will play; Cyrion will bless our ears with shimmering electrical noises... and there is much more besides. Check out the festival website.

I was in Switzerland interviewing physicists when the festival was announced 'properly' last week. But that didn't prevent me from emailing the organisers, Andy and Sophie, a few questions to find out what catalysed this notable day for the area.

First and foremost, theAbsurd had stopped doing its regular nights at local pubs a few months ago. Sophie explained the change of emphasis:

"The monthly nights were great, we learned an awful lot in those two years but when you're doing something every month there's a certain commercial aspect that hangs over your head in order to keep the audience coming back - we did manage to empty the pub on a couple of occasions - they were the acts that we liked the best but not necessarily what the venue wanted to see. People might not want to come every month to see this less commercial type of music but they'll hopefully come to a 'one off event'.

"These one-off events enable us to book a variety of artists. For example, I organised the Bailey Hill Festival in Mold and that had a strong community aspect to it that worked brilliantly for that particular event. It's also good that we have moved over to give other people chance to establish their own nights without us having a monopoly on things - it's the only way a real art scene can flourish."

What are your ambitions for the first Absurd Festival?

"Well we'd really like a decent audience to turn up. The response so far has been fantastic and we've been limited by the Theatre to just 250 tickets as they're worried about us being over-run! Our main focus has always been about promoting the arts, music and culture of Wales. We're not being insular about this, but a lot of the bands that we book don't get as much exposure as they should.

"We don't do tokenism; we book people because we love what they do and because we want to see them play live. This festival is basically our wish list that's concentrating on the less commercial side to Welsh art (there's still others we would add but we've only got eight hours!).

"Basically we want to create an event that will grow and grow as the years roll on... and we want people to remember that we started this with a Welsh line-up."

You have an eclectic ethos at a time when many clubs and venues are becoming more narrowly defined. Why is eclecticism important to theAbsurd?

To us, the whole point of having a more defined or specific night would be for commercial purposes - people know what they're getting so they'll come back each week/month. theAbsurd has always been about challenging people's ideas; we'd feel too restricted to just stick to one genre. Also we'd get bored very easily and we'd have to ignore stuff that we loved. We both have very eclectic tastes in music, poetry and art and theAbsurd reflects that."

"We were never about commercialism, we've never made any money from theAbsurd. We're both freelancers in other capacities and make our money that way. As soon as cash get involved compromises set in so we give it to the performers, and this way we're happy that theAbsurd stays 'pure' in a sense."

What can people expect on the day?

"They can expect to be challenged. They can expect to see 25 artists who all excel in their fields and who are creating something really interesting and different right now. There's a good dose of visual arts and experimental sound, there'll also be dancing. Well, we will be anyway!"

Theatr Clwyd hasn't traditionally been a forum for leftfield music, how did you persuade them? "Well they came to us. The theatre has quite a specific audience but they're looking to bring a new and younger demographic to the place. They approached us as they like what we're doing and have seen how we've succeeded over the past two and a half years. It was a huge compliment for us that they'd noticed us and wanted to bring our events to the theatre.

"This is why we're also running quarterly 'spoken word' events in the theatre, the first one was in July, the next one is 26 October - we've got Patrick Jones, Dizraeli and Stephanie Finegan."

And finally, where can people get tickets?

"Tickets are exclusively from the Theatre Clwyd's box office. The first act starts at 4pm. We can't run late as the license is only up until 12pm midnight and we have to finish at that time."

The tickets are a piffling £15, and all to support a new festival that delights in supporting new Welsh talent. Oh, and me.

Just don't photocopy the tickets.

Millennium Stadium Ryder Cup gig gets royal presence

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:36 UK time, Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Tonight's Ryder Cup gig at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, featuring Shirley Bassey, Lostprophets, Shaheen Jafargholi, Only Men Aloud and Katherine Jenkins, will have a special guest: Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

BBC Wales News understands that the Welcome2Wales gig is almost sold out.

Prince Charles will also be visiting the Newport venue for the Ryder Cup, the Celtic Manor, and will attend a celebratory gala dinner in Cardiff Castle.

Mr Nice film première in Cardiff

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 15:09 UK time, Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Fur coats, leopard print catsuits, Hollywood stars, South Wales gangsters, GLC, Dirty Sanchez, and me. Yes, a handful of Welsh celebrities gathered last night on the red carpet to toast the première of Mr Nice, the film adaptation of Howard Marks' autobiography.

Rhys Ifans (© E1 Entertainment Films/The Press Association)

Rhys Ifans (© E1 Entertainment Films/The Press Association)

It's a long time since I read Mr Nice, the amazing true story about the Kenfig Hill Oxford graduate/pot smoker who became the FBI's most wanted. What a story to make into a film - it has everything: humour, glamour, illicit activities, tension, danger, and daftness aplenty.

Casting Rhys Ifans for the main role was also genius: a proper wild, Welsh, and funny man of the movies. He was born to play this role of Marks' 'lovable rogue'.

Marks wrote the book following his release from the Terre Haute Federal Penitentiary in 1995, where he was sent originally on a 25-year sentence in 1988. True to the book, the film is full of well-documented moments from Marks' life on the wrong side of the law, opening with a scene from one of Howard's (also legendary) talk-show tours and campaigns for the legalisation of cannabis.

During his time as a smuggler in the 1980s he had 43 aliases, 89 phone lines and 25 companies trading throughout the world as fronts for laundering drug money, according to his official website.

Rhys Ifans (© E1 Entertainment Films/The Press Association)

Rhys Ifans (© E1 Entertainment Films/The Press Association)

The film was written and directed by Bernard Rose, who was introduced at the Cardiff première last night. Rose didn't want to give a long speech prior to the film so he introduced the main stars of the film to the audience, and a warm and lively round of applause welcomed Howard Marks and Rhys Ifans.

Rhys then grabbed the mic and said: "He's Rhys Ifans and I'm Howard Marks!" which was pretty much it for introduction to the film. Speaking to BBC Wales at the Edinburgh film festival, Rhys Ifans said he and Marks were old friends. "It's an honour to step into the shoes, the sandals and many other garments of a great man," he said.

"You'd think it would be a huge responsibility [to play him] but I guess it's a testament to how well we know each other. It was very simple - put a wig on, talk deep and sound like you've had a smoke."

The film is funny, endearing, beautifully shot and tender, with stunning performances from Ifans, Chloe Sevigny as Marks' wife Judy, and David Thewlis as the slightly psychotic IRA leader Jim McCann. The retro stylings of the cars and clothes in the film were delightful, and the ups and downs of this line of business all too clear, from LA poolsides scenes to the harrowing raids and courtroom drama.

Rhys Ifans and Chloe Sevigny (© E1 Entertainment Films/The Press Association)

Rhys Ifans and Chloe Sevigny (© E1 Entertainment Films/The Press Association)

As a story it's a great one, as a film connected to one of Wales' best loved folk heroes, priceless. Go see and enjoy!

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Ryder Cup inspires Martyn Joseph's Celtic Morning

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James McLaren James McLaren | 13:34 UK time, Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Following on from Abergavenny's Sara Kempe, Martyn Joseph has written and released a song inspired by this week's Ryder Cup.

Martyn Joseph

Ryder Cup

The 'Welsh Springsteen' - and ex-top amateur golfer - has recorded a song called On This Celtic Morning. "With the Ryder Cup coming to Wales for the first time, I found myself toying with a few lyrical ideas that eventually became this song," Joseph told TalkSport.

"I looked online for other Ryder Cup music but only found some very jingoistic efforts. On This Celtic Morning tries to embrace the unique spirit of this ancient game and is hopefully an acknowledgement of the past as well as the amazing skills of today's fairway magicians. It felt right to put it out there amidst the excitement that is building by the M4 intersection with Newport."

You can watch a video clip for the song on Martyn's new YouTube channel.

Martyn Joseph was a promising amateur golfer before he decided to concentrate on his music. At 15 he played off a handicap of one (no, me neither) and competed in the British Amateur, British Youth and British Boys championships in the 1970s and 1980s.

He was ranked in the top eight Welsh amateurs and won the Glamorganshire Golf Club championship four times. He remains a big fan of golf and is attending the Ryder Cup.

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Tom Jones on being a sex symbol

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:54 UK time, Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Sir Tom Jones was the guest of Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs on Sunday 26 September, and he talked about his sex symbol status.

Listen to Sir Tom on the programme here.

In a revealing interview, he said he had only himself to blame for his image. You can listen to the full programme here.

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Radio 1 United Nations in Wales

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James McLaren James McLaren | 15:09 UK time, Friday, 24 September 2010

West Wales duo Vanguard are to headline a free Radio 1 United Nations gig, hosted by Bethan Elfyn from BBC Introducing in Wales.



She said: "Introducing is a wonderful, massive BBC family; it's all about sharing some of the most exciting new acts in the UK every week. Every now and again we have a get together called Radio 1's United Nations - a gig to bring together some of the best artists from the four nations of the UK.

"In November last year, we went to Belfast; in April we did it in Glasgow but in a couple of week's time we're going to be doing it all again, and this time it's on home turf here in Wales.

"Huw Stephens, Rory McConnell, Vic Galloway and I have have picked out the best electronic acts to represent live at Cardiff's Clwb Ifor Bach on Thursday 7 October."

Headlining the gig and chosen by Beth are Vanguard. "This wonderful duo are the best Welsh producers at the moment, making great French house music."

Full line-up and details:

  • Vanguard (Wales)
  • Hot City (chosen by Huw Stephens to represent England)
  • Not Squares (chosen by Rory McConnell to represent Northern Ireland)
  • Kobi Onyame (chosen by Vic Galloway to represent Scotland)
  • with C.Y.N.T. DJs
  • Doors 8pm, first act on 8.20pm

Highlights from the night will be broadcast on Radio 1 on Wednesday 3 November.

All tickets for the night are absolutely free but there are only a limited number available. To apply for tickets click here:

Sara Kempe 'Flying' for Ryder Cup

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:00 UK time, Friday, 24 September 2010

Sara Kempe, a 20 year old singer from Abergavenny, is celebrating the Ryder Cup next week with the release of her theme tune for the event, Let Me Fly.
Sara Kempe

Sara Kempe

The single is out on Monday through Virgin/EMI and has thus far been used in promotional material and adverts for the enormous golf event which kicks off next weekend. Kempe has a solid golfing link, having been discovered by Celtic Manor owner Sir Terry Matthews.

"He'd come across me singing at various events and he's a great supporter of live music and essentially asked me to sing at a few dinners," Kempe told The Western Mail.

"Then when Let Me Fly came along that became a really impactful song that seemed to sum up the whole occasion and it grew from there really."

Kempe had singing lessons at school, which inspired her to become involved with the music industry. Showing an admirable application to learning the ropes, she got work at a recording studio to learn the ropes.

"I wanted to know what to expect from the business, what it was going to take to break in. But even as a tea girl, I knew that wanted to be there, that this was my future," she said.

She has a commercial sound that differentiates her from comparable artists such as Katherine Jenkins. "We do share a similar range but I don't sing like her," she told the Western Mail. "I concentrate on more popular music, I don't do the arias or anything operatic."

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Vinyl's dirty glamour

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:42 UK time, Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Vinyl Factory in Middlesex used to manufacture one million slices of shiny black vinyl a week, and had factory visits from The Beatles, Pink Floyd and other major stars in its time as the EMI plant.

These days it produces 25,000 records a week, catering for a tiny proportion of the UK music industry still in love with vinyl. The Guardian has produced a lovely audio slideshow about the factory, its work and its history.

It got me thinking about vinyl. It's a cliché for those of us of a certain vintage to say things like, 'oh yes, I love the romance of vinyl. It's a tactile medium you know' before riding off on a chopper with a Puma-branded satchel. But Nathan Barley-isms aside, clichés sometimes are true.

I listen to most of my music online now, in those compressed, lossy formats that have become the norm for those of us with iTunes and the like. There will be many young people these days who have never bought an uncompressed tune. Neither will they have bought something that has a sleeve.

I think this is a shame. Technology is ever more reductionist in its development. Compare this to the consumption of music just 20 years ago. The main format for records was still vinyl (just) but a couple of years later mass-produced, cheap CD players would start the rapid diminution of vinyl's market share.

But having grown up with my parents' record recollection, and to be honest, stolen it, I carried on buying vinyl alongside CDs. Sometimes bands would put different b-sides on the different formats so I'd buy multiple copies of the same releases.

While new records are pristine and static-stuck to their sleeves, old records have a very particular smell. I can be transported back to the Eighties in an instant by having a good sniff of Jethro Tull's Aqualung. Likewise, there's a sensory aspect to the opening of a tasty gatefold sleeve in full artistic splendour.

Here are six of the vinyl records that I have affection for, as they used their format well. We'd love to hear about the vinyl records you have fondness for too.

Sgt Peppers sleeve

The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
An obvious choice, but I vividly remember opening up the sleeve for the first time, seeing the cut-outs drop out and the Peter Blake collage - a riot of colour with so much to see.

Welcome To The Pleasuredome sleeve

Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Welcome To The Pleasuredome
In the inner sleeve of this huge album from 1984 are details of how you could order a range of Frankie clothing and accoutrements - including pants and socks. Genius.

My House sleeve

Terrorvision - My House
The Britrock band had a single from their first album featuring a Magic Eye sleeve of a house that took me at least three days to see.

Sticky Fingers sleeve

Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers
Oh my god! A working zip on a record sleeve. Of course at age eight the whole sexual shenanigans of the sleeve (not to mention Sister Morphine) was lost on me. I think I ruined the vinyl as I played with the zip. Superfuzz Bigmuff sleeve

Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff
In the 1980s and 1990s on Seattle's Sub Pop label, virtually all the sleeves were photographed by Charles Peterson. In black and white, he captured the sweaty intensity of the burgeoning grunge scene and this is a great example. As soon as I saw it, I knew the music inside would be as exciting.

Aqualung sleeve

Jethro Tull - Aqualung
The aforementioned record featured the grizzled form of the titular character of the album and title track. He's a vagrant of questionable habit. The sleeve was heavy, grainy and dirty - so appropriate to the themes of the album.

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Guests announced for GLC's alternative Ryder Cup

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James McLaren James McLaren | 08:45 UK time, Thursday, 23 September 2010

It's just two days to go until Goldie Lookin' Chain's alternative Ryder Cup Celebrity Golf Tournament and gig, and more details have been announced for the afternoon's nine hole round of club 'n' ball fun on the Caerleon municipal golf course.

The Goldie Lookin' Golf Tournament is free for the people of Newport to watch, and they'll get to see a line-up of stars including 'entrepreneur' Howard Marks, Pritchard and Dainton of Dirty Sanchez, members of Super Furry Animals, The Automatic, ex-Wales rugby player Craig Quinnell, Olympic athletes Jamie Baulch and Matt Elias, footballer Nathan Blake, Radio Wales' Owen Money, our own Bethan Elfyn, Red Dragon's Leigh Jones, BBC Wales sports reporter Jason Mohammed, Torchwood's Gareth David-Lloyd, The Sun's Bizarre editor Gordon Smart and Richard Norton of Neighbours.

A line-up of appropriately strange guests to engender a nicely chaotic and comedic sense of fun, I think. No doubt the GLC boys will be enjoying their position as ringmasters for the day, bringing golf back to the people of Newport.

The evening's gig features GLC, David Garland Jones, 2Rude and Dirty Goods at Newport Centre.

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My session band this week: Town

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 08:08 UK time, Thursday, 23 September 2010

The final band in our trilogy of the new school term of bands that we're excited by are called Town, a fourpiece 'britwave' band from Newport. I threw some questions their way to coincide with their session on Radio One Wales this week.


Are you a full-time band, or do you have other occupations?

We are very much a full-time band but we also have part-time jobs to keep the band afloat and make sure we can fund everything we do. We've always said though, no matter what happens, this band comes first.

What's the band's potted history?

We met through the local music circuit and formed in 2008. We came together with a mutual love for such bands as The Undertones, The Who and The Police. We worked hard to put together a strong set and have gigged pretty much constantly since.

We self released a download only single called Smug Alert earlier this year, and are releasing our début EP, Original Design, on 9 November.

What was the defining influence in the band's sound and aesthetic?

There wasn't really any defining influence. We all listen to the same music, as well as do pretty much everything together; so it all came naturally really. We simply aim to work as hard as possible and write the best songs possible. We can be best described as a new wave garage outfit, with a clear cut, no nonsense approach to writing good quality songs.

You've got a bit of a mod sound. Is that a lifestyle choice as well as musical interest?

We wouldn't call ourselves mods but we listen to the bands from the mod era. We take inspiration from the music, the fashion and everything in between. Being a band is not just about playing your music. There was a time in the 60s and 70s where music and fashion came together; it was a iconic era that lives on. With every music style there's the lifestyle and attitude should come with it.

Tell us about some of your favourite live gigs so far.

The one that springs to mind straight away was in Germany when we drove to play at Berlin fashion week. We were travelling through Europe en route to Berlin and we got pulled over by the German police and ended up having to empty everything out of our van for a drug raid. Sniffer dogs, drug tests, the whole shebang. Nothing was found, and they 'politely' left us to re-pack the whole van again. Not forgetting that it was 40 degrees outside. That night ended up playing an incredible gig and went on to party with models at Berlin Fashion Week. We won.

Another great show was when we supported Buzzcocks in Cardiff. To be given the opportunity to play with a band that has inspired us was amazing, but to be welcomed by their die-hard fans was more than an accomplishment.

You've been recording with Romesh Dodangoda. Is this for an EP or an album?

It's for our EP, Original Design, for which we'll be playing a launch show at Cardiff's Clwb Ifor Bach. Romesh knew exactly what we wanted to do with this EP which is why we work with him.

How will it be released?

For the time being we will be self releasing it on CD format but it will be available for download in the future.

What's been the band's career highlight so far?

Having the opportunity to record at Rockfield Studios. The roster of bands and artists that have recorded there makes it the dream location for any musician to even step inside. To be able to have recorded songs in the same room that the Oasis wrote some life changing songs, and to sit at the piano that Bohemian Rhapsody was apparently written on, speaks for itself on how inspirational that was for us.

What are your plans for the future?

We want to release this EP and get as much of a buzz that we possibly can, while continuously playing as many shows all over the UK and Europe and spread the word of TOWN as far and wide as possible.

You can hear the full session for seven days at

Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 19 September 2010

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 09:11 UK time, Tuesday, 21 September 2010

What a technicolor explosion of amazing Welsh sounds this week's show (and tortuous metaphor) is. You may have realised a change of focus on the show, since the 30 New Welsh Artists Challenge I've tried to get as much music into each show as is humanely possible, at the expense of my waffly links, our occasional interviews and non-musical content. The show is here to showcase fascinating new Welsh music, and regardless of how interesting a band are at talking about their music, to my mind - right now - I think we'd all rather hear their music rather than me asking them toe-curling questions about it.

So, I've gone from playing somewhere in the region of 30 - 35 tracks a week to playing 40-ish a week. It's not about numbers, it's partly about sharing as much ace music as possible, but it's mostly about giving you a show that's worthy of your precious time and attention.

I'm keen to know your thoughts.

And - against some of my instincts - within the playlist info below, you will find direct links to the part of the programme where each particular track is featured. This has only (really) been possible with the new version of the iPlayer. I'd implore you - as much as is possible - to check out the whole show and not just your/your mate's band, but I know you're busy people, and I'm having a sabbatical from being sanctimonious! For this week at least. Let me know if it helps or if it's useful. Let me know if you think the complete opposite. It took bloody ages to get all the info together, that's for sure.

Please send demos and gig info to: - your best track as a high quality .mp3 with a short biography and a contact number.

The postal address is: Adam Walton, BBC Radio Wales, Library & Arts Centre, Rhosddu Rd., Wrexham, LL11 1AU

Next week a Swn special! John Rostron, co-founder of Swn Festival, will be with me for the duration of the show to play a wide selection of the amazing artists who'll be featuring at this year's festival (21-23 October 2010, various venues across Cardiff).

See you then. Have an excellent, music-filled week.

Artists I have never played before are marked with a +.

CODEX LEICESTER (Leicester / Wales)+
Strong Like Bull

CULPRIT 1 (Newport)
Flow Ecstatic

I Don't Want To See You Like This

Stop The Music (Martin Rushent Remix)


GALLOPS (Wrexham)

WE ARE ANIMAL (Caernarfon)
Black Magic [session Version]

Sumting New

Revolution Radio

Y NIWL (Llanrwst / Bangor) Saith

Finders Keepers (Foreign Legion Remix)

A Letter To Yourself

BASTIONS (Anglesey)
Island Living

SHY AND THE FIGHT (Llangollen / Chester)
How To Stop An Imploding Man


Leaving Town

I Want You Girl

THE METHOD (Cardiff)
Whip Around

WUW (Bangor)
Stoned Circle

Kola Koala


DANCERS (St Asaph / Denbigh)+
Oh! Bicycle

WE ARE ANIMAL (Caernarfon)
Fold / Unfold (session Track)

Alan Holmes resurrects something North Walean and ace

I Am The Dad Of George Noman

MIN-Y-LLAN (Pembrokeshire)+
Regulate Condition

MUTO LEO (Buckley-based label)

Real Power

LITTLE ERIS (Cwmaman / Cardiff)

YR HOGYN GLAS (Cardiff)+
Da I Ddim

KARL MORGAN (Swansea)+
Dirty Little Secret

KUTOSIS (Cardiff)
Small Cities

ROLLO MASON (Cardigan / Cardiff)+
Kenneth's On A Come Down

HOWL GRIFF (Aberystwyth)

Who Would Have Thought

WE ARE ANIMAL (Caernarfon)
1268 (session Version)

Adar Y Nefoedd

HELEN LOVE (Swansea)
Pleasant Valley Sunday Estate

THE SHORTCUTS (Creigau / Rhondda)

A man called Ben talking about...

Chicken Pox

Path Of Least Resistance

Distant Memory

Katherine Jenkins shocks with un-Diva-like backstage rider demands

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James McLaren James McLaren | 13:47 UK time, Monday, 20 September 2010

This morning The Daily Telegraph published a non-story about Katherine Jenkins' backstage tour rider (the foodstuffs and whatnot artists like to have at their disposal).

Katherine Jenkins

Katherine Jenkins

As much as I'm sure the paper would have loved to expose Katherine Jenkins as a J-Lo-like diva par excellence with demands for white doves, out-of-season pomegranates floating in eau de cologne and gold-plated exercise bikes, she is pretty much normal for someone of her sales and stature.

It's reported she likes a loaf of brown bread, an electric juicer, 12 Cokes, some chocolate, wine, water, herbal teas, a pineapple, candles and a toaster. Hardly the demands of a diva I think. She asked on her Twitter today: "So Twitter World, after today's 'revelations' (I use that term very loosely) in the Telegraph... What would you ask for on your rider?"

If you've never heard of the more outlandish demands of the world's biggest stars, I suggest a quick trip to The Smoking Gun.

They reprint the backstage demands of a huge amount of the biggest stars, smuggled by roadies or the like. Elton John likes a six foot sofa, a six foot banqueting table covered with white linen table cloths a large arrangement of coloured flowers (but no chrysanthemums, lilies, carnations or daisies). Among other things.

When it came to riders, though, James Brown took it to the bridge. A two bedroom suite. Two junior suites. A deluxe single room. A limousine, black or white, 186 inches long (current year model). He also needed a room for his 'wardrobe mistress'.

Famously, it was Van Halen who demanded that all brown M&Ms be removed from their backstage sweet selection. They also wanted herring in sour cream, four cases of Schlitz Malt Liquor beer (in 16 ounce cans) and a large tube of lubricating jelly.

For a real laugh, take a look at the wonderfully tongue-in-cheek Iggy Pop demands. There's no better reason for demanding two big fans than: "So that I can wear a scarf and pretend to be in a Bon Jovi video."

All of which make Jenkins' demands seem positively pedestrian.

What would you have on your rider? If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

Duffy steps on from Sixties sound

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:54 UK time, Monday, 20 September 2010

The follow-up to Duffy's 6.5 million-selling Rockferry album is out this November, and her record company believe it marks a significant step forward in her songwriting.


Endlessly will be released on 29 November, preceded by a single, Well, Well, Well, which features hip-hop band The Roots.

Speaking to music industry magazine Music Week, Duffy's A&R man Simon Gavin said: "She wanted to move on to other areas and try something different, to come back with a fresher approach. She didn't want to make the same album twice."

Rockferry was co-written and co-produced by former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler with involvement from 60ft Dolls' Richard Parfitt. It had a noticeable Sixties sound that Endlessly is moving away from. Duffy has lately been working with veteran singer-songwriter Albert Hammond, the father of Albert Hammond Jr of The Strokes.

A&M Records' managing director Orla Lee believes that Endlessly will solidify the north Wales singer's reputation. "We see her as a classic artist that has a career around the world and she has delivered an album that feels like it can sustain that," she said. "It will be a fresh new album at the end of the year."

Are you looking forward to the release of Duffy's second album? If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

Manics Mastermind?

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:37 UK time, Monday, 20 September 2010

Geoff Weller, a contestant on last week's Mastermind, had Manic Street Preachers as his specialist subject.

Read the rest of this entry

Manic Street Preachers - Postcards from the media

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 10:29 UK time, Friday, 17 September 2010

I reviewed Manic Street Preachers' Postcards From A Young Man last week, and with the record about to be released this coming Monday, more reviews are coming out every day

Here we round up those we've found so far. The consensus is that it's a very good record - eights and nines out of 10 are common.

If you know of any others, please let us know.

(NB: If you're a Manics fan you may enjoy the in-depth discussion about all aspects of the band on unofficial fansite and forums on Forever Delayed.)

BBC Music
"...for those Manics fans whose bearing on the band is centred by a Britpop firmament, rather than The Holy Bible, this record will prove a joy. It's jolly, but jolly good."

Western Mail
"As you'd expect from the Manics, it features soaring tunes and there's still plenty of rage - and I love it."

Western Mail
"On Postcards From A Young Man, they have lost none of their raging melancholia within the soaring tunes."

The Independent
"...surely the Manics' best album since Everything Must Go."

The Guardian
"As it plays, you're struck by the fact that no one else does anything like it: reason enough for the Manic Street Preachers' continued existence."
"As far as being an album that shows progression it doesn't succeed, but it also at times represents a love letter to former glories and if this tenth release should be their last it's a fitting reminder of what a great band they used to be."
"There is a sad wistfulness to Postcards From A Young Man, at times heartbreakingly so."
"Postcards From a Young Man is a wonderful album; the sound of a band practically bursting with justified confidence in themselves and in their songs. Where their previous work often seared, this album instead glows."
"As luck would have it, someone recently swapped Nicky Wire's gruel and water for Coco Pops and Fanta. The result, on the band's 10th studio album Postcards From A Young Man, is a gutsy burst of string-washed stadium pop rock."

Just Played
"There will be plenty of people who opt to be snobby about the fact that this record is so commercial, so polished and so brazen but those people are all, to a man, idiots. If you can't love these songs, you are incapable of experiencing joy itself."

Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

Welsh Music Foundation is 10 - Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 14:36 UK time, Thursday, 16 September 2010

Future of the Left/We Are Animal/Exit International, Friday 10 September 2010

The Wales Millennium Centre is bigger than the village I grew up in. Future space alien archaeologists will muse and theorise about the strange shapes carved into the front (but probably not as much as I did, on account of their superior alien intelligence). Given its awe-inspiring size and vaulted ceilings, they may draw the conclusion that it was a place of worship for the primitive bipedal folk who once trod this backwater planet.

It transpires that it is a place of worship, of sorts. They'll definitely let gods of all denominations in. But if you're the god of rock'n'roll, you'd better be on your best behaviour, otherwise an ignominious exit will be your fate.

Can't have the likes of you spoiling it for all the fine, cosseted, (capital 'c') Culture-loving folk. With their finely-attuned set of morals that allows high brow contemplation of Greek tragedy and its dissolute children, but is utterly unforgiving of a swear word spat out beneath a low brow.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I am at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, participating in Welsh Music Foundation's 10th anniversary celebrations. It is a day of high contrasts. Welsh Music Foundation supports and encourages the Welsh music industry in all its facets and forms. One of its roles is to offer advice to members of that industry. Mostly the advice is offered to businesses rather than individual artists.

The idea is to ensure that there is an indigenous industry here in Wales to support and propagate the talents of the country's finest musical artists. Welsh Music Foundation isn't a government quango. It's so much more than that. Its funding is an acknowledgement of the key contribution music makes to the Welsh economy, and the opportunities that gives to creative folk throughout the country, especially in these depressed times.

If you visualise this as a diagram in a tatty biology textbook, the prime factor in this ecosystem - the thing that all of the other convoluted species rely on for sustenance - is the music, in all its forms: whether puppy-nice and eager-to-please, or pitbull-angry and eager to rip you to shreds.

So, there are seminars during the day to offer insight, advice and inspiration to Welsh labels, music professionals and artists. I chair one on getting your music heard on the radio. It feels like we do some good work, offer finely considered advice, meet some interesting people with their industry on hot CDs or business cards proffered once the meeting is finished.

Rt. Hon. Cheryl Gillan MP, Secretary of State for Wales. Photo: Mei Lewis for Mission Photographic

Rt. Hon. Cheryl Gillan MP, Secretary of State for Wales. Photo: Mei Lewis for Mission Photographic

Then we have a reception where the scabrous rock'n'roll hoi polloi get to rub shoulders with the political suits whose patronage of Welsh Music Foundation has enabled its very existence. There is an inspirational speech from Feargal Sharkey (head of UK Music) and an uncomfortable appearance from the Rt Honourable Cheryl Gillan MP, Secretary of State for Wales. A bit of research beyond the most obvious and hackneyed Welsh musical landmarks would have served her better than hamgobbed namedrops for Tom and Shirl. As would getting some of her key facts right, like who founded Green Man Festival. Especially given the fact that the reception is co-hosted by, yes... get ready to blush on her behalf... Green Man Festival.

Her, or her aides', rather unfortunate lack of research into the current Welsh music industry give the impression of tokenism, in front of an audience that have done much work to move attitudes to Welsh music away from that tokenism. And it went to show how far - still - music has to go to prove its economic and cultural worth along certain corridors of power.

But her speech underlines, as much as Feargal's has, why WMF's continued work is important in helping raise awareness of the critical part the creative industries have to play in the Welsh economy.

While Cheryl is speaking, an unholy racket breaks out in the foyer below. Watching her wince as squeals of feedback shrapnel tear through our room is a thrill in itself. But down in the foyer, another battle - of sorts - is taking place.

This two-day event isn't just about the suits and seminars. Welsh Music Foundation have ensured that we have music to enjoy as well. And given that the Wales Millennium Centre has, hitherto, been more or less impregnable to the rallying forces of youthful noise on the streets of Cardiff, it's a brave, uncompromising bill that has been served up.

And I applaud that. I applauded it in my mind the moment I stepped into the foyer.

Future of the Left! Exit International! We Are Animal! Are all going to play here!

These are anomalous surroundings for a rock'n'roll show because the foyer floor isn't covered in sticky beer; the toilets don't look like a plumbing and graffiti Armageddon; everything is light and airy, where most venues (but not all) are dark and suffocating.

It is like we'd all managed - temporarily - to break into heaven. And it's not as if we're Hells Angels come to defecate on their floors and claim their souls with hideous murder. Most of the audience, I'd say, are - or have been - part of the city's student population. They're educated, informed, nice middle class kids. The kind of people this place will rely on in future years. You know, before the aliens get here.

But someone, somewhere in this edifice is practising their well-subsidised opera, and given that that is proper art and high culture, Future Of The Left's sound check comes to an abrupt halt. They'll have to wait until the arias have been sung. Surely this could have been foreseen? Maybe not.

This is the kind of thing that happens when you break into new territories. It actually emphasises how ground-breaking and exciting this event is. Unless you're in Future Of The Left, or the other bands, who end up being short-served and given the backhanded impression that they're not as important as their big-voiced brethren in the other room.

It doesn't matter in this environment that Future Of The Left are one of Wales' most critically-lauded exports, a band whose Welsh innovation tours the US, Australia and Europe. Or We Are Animal, who've been played on 6 Music and Radio 1, and got themselves a record deal on Too Pure records. Or Exit International, who played in front of thousands at the Reading and Leeds Festivals. None of these achievements counted for much, here...

You're allowed to swear in literature, you see. And on Radio 4. But we aren't allowed to swear. Not us. But we haven't got to the swearing bit yet. The Swearing Bit.

Exit International. Photo: Mei Lewis for Mission Photographic

Exit International. Photo: Mei Lewis for Mission Photographic

Exit International are on stage. They are swearing a bit. A few cuss words fall out of Scott's mouth between the songs. He's excited. He's like a Ramone, transported to the future via a time machine that had a bit of Megadeth's DNA accidentally left in it.

These are cartoon, heavy rock songs. Pop with a capital 'P'. It doesn't even register with me that they're swearing because I'm an adult, this is a rock'n'roll show, and I live in the modern world where much more offensive things happen with a lot less fun noise and ludicrous theatre every second of every day.

Ah, but this show is an All Ages Show. It's obvious from a casual glance that there is no one under the age (of what, I don't know) among the few hundred assembled in the foyer. No one has complained about Scott and his nautical language. But the WMC staff have been sensitised. They're our moral guardians. This multi-million (and then some) monument to Welsh culture has our best interests at heart, paid for out of the pounds from our back pockets. We should be grateful.

I haven't got the time to go through the WMC's programme over the years, but I suspect that there have been many occasions when 'high' art of moral dubiousness has been grandstanded to the public. If they've staged a single Shakespearean tragedy to a coachload of schoolkids without dragging the cast off stage the moment they put someone's eye out, tore someone else untimely out of a womb, or had an oedipal moment, then what happened during Future Of The Left's set is massive hypocrisy.


(We Are Animal are very good, by the way. But their goodness rather gets in the way of the point.)

The point being that Future Of The Left, in the act of being excellent at what they excel at, are warned for swearing in their songs. Eventually, after they try and then (thankfully) refuse to compromise what they do, their set comes to a halt as the house lights are faded out and the PA shut down. It's amazing the fuss that little Anglo Saxon words mostly associated with our universal biology can still cause in 2010.

Future Of The Left. Photo: Mei Lewis for Mission Photographic

Future Of The Left. Photo: Mei Lewis for Mission Photographic

Andrew Falkous is, to my mind and many others', the finest lyricist in Wales at the moment.

You'd hear more swear words in the opening five minutes of any 10pm TV show featuring Gordon Ramsay than you would in your average Future Of The Left show. Actually, I haven't scientifically researched that and now, having typed it, I suspect I'm exaggerating for effect. The point remains: Falkous swears a bit when he gets aerated. He swears a bit when he wants to emphasise something. He swears a bit, occasionally, to make us laugh. He's just like the majority of the rest of us, in these respects, at least.

So which sanctimonious arbiter got to draw the moral curtain down on this set of exceptionally-delivered live music, to an audience 600 strong, some of whom had travelled many miles to be here?

Who treated one of the most highly-regarded live bands in the UK like errant schoolkids, probably with the misguided intention of protecting schoolkids, despite the fact that there were no schoolkids there?

I mean, I'd say that that was a schoolboy error. Or schoolgirl.

It was farcical and all of this needless bother detracted from Future Of The Left's new line-up's excellence on the night, and deflected some of the praise and good feeling that WMF has justifiably earned for its work over the last decade. Despite all the words I've dedicated to the piffling and more farcical elements of the day, please let us remember that and be thankful we have such an organisation toiling day in day out to give our most creative people an outlet for their abilities.

Interview: Manic Street Preachers

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James McLaren James McLaren | 13:20 UK time, Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Last Thursday I spent a very enjoyable 30 minutes in the company of Manic Street Preachers' Nicky Wire and Sean Moore, talking not about their new album, Postcards From A Young Man, but about 10 of their own songs - songs which mean something to the band.

Nicky Wire and Sean Moore

You can listen to their selection here.

The choice of songs was chronological, and fascinating. They have a great deal of affection for all their choices, naturally, but I was struck by the way in which those songs created when Richey Edwards was present were talked about.

Indeed, five of the 10 choices cover the period up to 1995 (however, nothing comes from Gold Against The Soul, which for myself is something of a disappointment). Any fan of early Manics will be glad of the inclusion of Motown Junk, Motorcycle Emptiness and Faster.

They trace their ascent from self-releasing singles to their Number One hits - and their efforts to reignite their career in the past few years.

What are your 10 favourite Manic Street Preachers songs? Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

Only Men Aloud seek more Boys Aloud

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James McLaren James McLaren | 12:04 UK time, Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Classical Brit Award winning choir Only Men Aloud are looking to recruit more members to the ranks of the successful Only Boys Aloud initiative.

Only Boys Aloud performed live for the first time only six weeks ago at the opening night of the Blaenau Gwent National Eisteddfod. Since then they have made numerous TV and concert appearances, including a BBC documentary, and a role in the forthcoming Ryder Cup 2010 Welcome to Wales concert at the Millennium Stadium with Shirley Bassey and Catherine Zeta Jones.

Now mentors Only Men Aloud are looking for more boys to join the choir for the future. Musical Director Tim Rhys Evans said: "It's been a fantastic summer for the boys, but this is just the start. We want to bring in many more young men from the Valleys to be part of this wonderful initiative, and hopefully, now they've seen how exciting it is to be part of Only Boys Aloud they'll be eager to get involved."

The project is part of The Valleys Heart and Soul campaign, a three-year campaign which aims to raise awareness of the region as a tourist destination and bring long-term economic benefit to the area. This project is part of a wider £42 million investment to regenerate the Valleys and highlight the vast amount of activities and attractions on offer for its residents and visitors.

The choirs are being mentored by experienced members of Only Men Aloud, teaching singing skills as well as life skills to help build aspirations for the future.

To get involved you can contact

Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 12 September 2010

Post categories:

Adam Walton Adam Walton | 14:28 UK time, Tuesday, 14 September 2010

This week's show fair bristles with Welsh musical innovation and ability. It's like the Kids from Fame (ask an ageing uncle or auntie), but spread across most of Wales and with fewer leg-warmers (and much more innate musical talent).

I spent Friday at the awe-inspiring edifice to Welsh artistic expression (so long as it doesn't have the temerity to swear in rock 'n' roll, that is) that is the Wales Millennium Centre, celebrating Welsh Music Foundation's 10th birthday. WMF has spent a decade advising, aiding and encouraging Welsh music's significant contribution to the economy and cultural landscape of this country. I talk about that a little, and get to play some Mclusky on my show as a result, which has to be a good thing.

One of WMF's founders is Huw Williams. He's our regular archaeologist with special knowledge of obscure, almost-forgotten, under-celebrated music from south Wales as his remit. This week, he reminds us of Yes Let's.

My role here is to compile as much intriguing and fresh Welsh music as is humanely possible in 180 minutes from the demos and releases that have blessed my inbox in the last week. So, whether it's the joyous, cosmopolitan sounds drummed up by Drymbago, The Diogenes Club's sophisticated synth pop, Gardening's mind-melting glitch techno, or any one of the many ports of call we visit this week, there are sounds to be marvelled at. Guaranteed.

Please send demos / tips / gig info and coupons to - make it your/their best track and include a short biography & contact number, please.

Also, to keep you abreast of the key Welsh releases that are incoming feel free to check out the Welsh Music Calendar.

Each week I share the playlist for the programme with my colleagues at BBC Wales so that they have an opportunity to check out the music that might best fit our daytime and evening playlists (music marked with an asterisk below.)

Artists I have never played before are marked with a +.

If you have any questions regarding the show/the tracklisting below/Welsh music in general, feel free to contact me at

Have an excellent, music-filled week,

ALEX DINGLEY (Llansteffan)*
Cats Eyes

GALLOPS (Wrexham)
Oh The Manatee (EP Version)

DRYMBAGO (Bangor)*
Long Finger

Capture The Flag

WE ARE ANIMAL (Caernarfon)*
Black Magic

C.R.S.T (Cardiff)+

ARCUS (Caerphilly)+
This City Is Afraid Of Me

Too Soon

DRAFTS (Newport)*+

I AM AUSTIN (Connah's Quay)



SUPERGENE (Camarthen)*
My Lying Tongue

ALEX COMANA (Cardiff)+
Untitled 1

Carried Away

Fuck The Countryside Alliance

MCLUSKY (Cardiff)
To Hell With Good Intentions

CUB CUB (St Asaph)
Sunny Day In North Wales


GARDENING (Llanfarifechan)
Pussy Blood Acid

MAGDEN AUDIO (Cardiff)*+
No Fate But What We Make

Bob Grainger: Sexual Pervert

I'm Weatherproof [session For Beth Elfyn]

TACSI (Holyhead)
Flatpack King

Genik Riddim


Son Of A Gun

CATHERINE A.D. (Merthyr Tydfil)*

Fixed Penalty Points

STRAIGHT LINES (Pontypridd)*
Say It For Your Sake

Once Upon A Time In Ynysmaerdy (Will I Ever Queue Again)

HECTOR'S FANCLUB (Tregaron / Pontarddulais)*+

DRYMBAGO (Bangor)*

All That We Keep (PLO Remix)

Don't Let It Go

HUWIE PRICE (Cardiff)*+

PORTALS (Swansea)
The Duke

IN FRED'S HOUSE (Valleys)*+
Mother Of Three

Houdini Dax interview

Post categories:

Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 14:11 UK time, Tuesday, 14 September 2010

We're in our second week of our new school term of sessions from brand new Welsh bands that are exciting us on the show. Please welcome this week's band, Houdini Dax.

Hi Houdini Dax!

Hi Beth!

Who's in the band?

We've got Jack on lead vocals and guitar, David on drums and Owen on bass, but everyone chips in with a bit of singing.

What's the story so far with the forming of the band?

We all went to school together and played in bands through our early teens. When we finished our GCSEs we thought we'd start up a band that would really go somewhere.

We just spent two years hiding away in a falling-apart old studio writing songs on out-of-tune pianos and guitars when we were supposed to be learning things. When we had enough material we started gigging and recording, we've just improved from there.

What have been some good moments for the band?

There have been a lot of good moments so far, like signing to See Monkey Do Monkey Records and recording our début album. We've had most of the tracks for about a year, so it's been great to finally get a lot of them down, and we had such a great time recording them as well.

We're lucky enough to be signed with See Monkey who have their own studio, so we just went down there for a couple of days a week with Rich from The Method, who is our producer. We locked ourselves away and just played through the songs.

Listen to a track recorded for my show this week:

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I heard that early recording sessions with Carl Bevan [60ft Dolls] were a bit crazy. Was this the Adam Walton session?

Yeah, we'd really not done much at that time. We were all 17 and we'd gotten an email from Adam asking if we'd do a live session for him. We had no idea what to expect, but were all really excited, so we turned up at Carl's studio expecting a couple of hours of recording. The thing we probably spent the longest on was a cover of I'm A Man which Carl wanted us to play as soon as he heard we knew it, and created a fuzzy, messy, animal noise-filled version that's only ever been heard by us.

After recording, we ended up staying in Carl's studio until the early hours. Watching an intoxicated Mr Bevan move from instrument to instrument jamming the blues with us was a pleasure and remains a great memory. We are good friends with Carl now. We dropped him off at the pub on the way home.

What memorable live gigs have you played?

There are always a few that stick out in your memory for certain reasons. Getting kicked off stage at the CIA is always one that springs to mind. Also, supporting The Bluetones singer Mark Morriss was an honour. We recently played with two other welsh bands called OK and Toy Horses at Clwb Ifor Bach which was a great night too.

What's been the creative driving force for the band?

It's the desire to be the biggest band around which means getting your music out to as many people as possible, whether that be live or in the studio. We've always written a lot of songs together and songs that we're happy with, so it's a good feeling to know that other people are into our music as much as we are.

Outside of music, we've taken far too much influence from The Office, to a point where we have complete conversations in quotes, but somehow it's always helped us to stay sane, which is always nice.

When did you hook up with See Monkey as a label?

We were contacted by them through MySpace. We were asked to play an acoustic set at one of their beer festivals, so Dave and Jack went down with two acoustics and a bass drum. We didn't know at the time that the label we're interested, so the set was filled with Flight Of The Conchord jokes and bad covers thinking it would be funny, but we still managed to get signed.

We released our first EP on the label. It is a great label doing so much for its bands and the Cardiff music scene at the moment. We're all fans of every band on the label too.

What are the plans for the band after the session this week?

We're heading to London this Sunday to play the Dublin Castle in Camden, followed by playing in Buffalo Bar on Wednesday 22 September. We're playing Bethan's night at Oxjam at City Arms within the next few weeks so we've been breaking out the acoustic guitars and reworking the songs with some lovely harmonies, it's been like heading back to the old school rooms, so that's been fun.

Manic Street Preachers - Postcards From A Young Man review

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James McLaren James McLaren | 16:26 UK time, Monday, 13 September 2010

So it's time to take a first listen to the new Manic Street Preachers album Postcards From A Young Man - their 10th studio set. It's been widely reported that James Dean Bradfield has declared it to be their "last attempt at mass communication". I take this to mean that like on their 2007 return to form Send Away The Tigers, they'll be going overtly for a radio presence to ease their way back into the nation's brains.

Artwork for Postcards From A Young Man

The Manics have always been dab hands at constructing radio-friendly singles; the songwriting duo of Bradfield and Sean Moore creating epic hooks, tethering the lyrics of Richey Edwards or Nicky Wire. At their very best, they've subverted the charts, with socially- and politically-charged missives allied to the very poppest of pop melodies.

So let's see what's what here then.

(It's Not War) Just The End Of Love
As previously discussed on this blog, this single has a great hook, a graceful power and a superb video featuring Michael Sheen and Anna Friel. It's superb and no doubt you've heard it already. It's out today (Monday 13 September).

Postcards From A Young Man
The title track has an upbeat, uplifting ambience that's again laden with strings. Bradfield pushes his voice, providing a growly counterpoint to the sweeping grandeur of the chorus. It benefits from a second - and third - listen to get that melody to work its way into my head. "I will not give up and I will not give in" shouts Bradfield - and that fire in his voice is good to hear. A small gripe would be the strange multi-layed choral ending with Bradfield joined by a gospel choir. To me, gospel choirs belong in gospel churches or on 1980s Genesis live tours.

Some Kind Of Nothingness
This song features the monotonous tones of the instantly-recognisable Ian McCulloch and the return of the gospel singers low down in the mix. Bradfield and McCulloch trade lines that build to a crescendo of strings and backing vocals. But it all seems a bit aimless, lacking a distinct focal point. On listening back to the whole album, I think it's the weakest track here.

The Descent (Pages 1 & 2)
Lacking the overt sheen of the previous two tracks, The Descent sounds a lot more like conventional latter-day Manic Street Preachers, with a mid-tempo 4/4 beat that breaks down into a gleefully simplistic middle-eight with wobbly guitar lines being coaxed out of James' guitar. It then returns to a final chorus, rhyming 'descent', 'defence', 'sense' and 'left' on each of Sean Moore's thumping fourth beats.

Hazelton Avenue
This song kicks off with a guitar sound most closely akin to Sleepflower, the opener of Gold Against The Soul, but instead of a brutally tuneful punch to the guts, Hazelton Avenue is a totally straight-ahead, pop song that has a big Radio 2 sign draped across its shiny-suited shoulders. The strings kick in 15 seconds in and it has a strange atmosphere, with a near-lullaby feeling. It's certainly one of their very safest, least combative songs ever.

Promisingly-titled, this song starts with a tension-building bit of acoustic guitar before a fuzzy guitar and Bradfield's voice comes in, with a robotic, artificial style. It's mod-ish. Then we get a lengthy Pink Floyd-y breakdown into a chorus that returns to familiar territory - Bradfield delivers the lines with a passion and a snarling fervour. It's the song that so far most recalls the best bits of the years when they wanted to play enormodomes but lacked the sales to do so. It has a hunger.

Golden Platitudes
Introduced by a piano and a sotto voce vocal from Bradfield, this polite songs starts quiet and builds up and up... The gospel choir is back to add their capacious lungs to this song. "Oh, what a Shangri La/Oh, what a shell we are/Oh, what mess we've made/What happened to those days?/When everything seemed possible," sings Bradfield. It's contemplative, it's epic, it's powerful. Then the choir sing "Lalalalala" and he appears to have answered his own question: "Where did it all go wrong?"

I Think I've Found It
"I think I've found it/And I think I love it," sings Bradfield and I realise that they - really - have approached the recording of this album in the frame of mind of contented middle age, with barely a vestige of the ancient fire that many fell in love with. There's a really nice melodic line that is second only to that of It's Not War... in its ability to stick around. It's a light, airy song that nevertheless has one of those classic Manics choruses that has Bradfield singing a melodic line that - whisper it - reminds me of one of the tracks from Pearl Jam's latest.

A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun
Another proper rock tune, this song shimmers with a menace in the verse which is exploded by a joyful, flag-waving chorus that is accompanied by a fantastic lead guitar flail, like Bradfield has decided to be Slash for all of eight seconds - and yes, this is the song featuring Slash's former GN'R bandmate Duff McKagan. It's a crowd favourite in the making.

All We Make Is Entertainment
"All we make is entertainment/A sad indictment of what we could have/We were part of the grand illusion." Well, quite. While the Manics once wanted to change the world and blaze brightly, selling millions while referencing continental philosophers, they now understand that all pop music is ephemeral, and you have to do what you can within the system. As far as the song goes, it's another smart melody - a chorus that you'll find yourself singing along with.

The Future Has Been Here 4 Ever
Oh my god... how many songs can one song remind me of? And in my dotage I can't pin a single one down. Suffice to say that this song contains elements of quite a few other works on the fringes of my musical consciousness. Its chorus - again with female backing vocals - is superb. There's a stadium rock sound to this that is offset by Nicky Wire's vocals on the verses. It's probably my favourite on the album, simply because of its oddness.

Don't Be Evil
Manic Street Preachers go out on a high with a brash, flashy rock'n'roll song that lets its hair down. It's a three minute pop song that bears a resemblance in style (at least on the verses) to Roses In The Hospital. The chorus is a bullet-brisk little pop nugget... and then it ends, as all good rock tunes should, on one chord and the last shimmer of cymbals.

I'm confused. I think I like it overall. It's certainly improving with repeated listens. It has elements from all periods of their career, but it also covers new ground for them. There are some moments that beg to be skipped, but there are also some genius moments.

If this is an attempt for mass communication - to be embraced at a national consciousness level once more - then I'm far from convinced it's going to work. The twin albums of Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours caught the nation napping. They combined massive choruses with wide support for homegrown rock - the time was ripe for hiding anti-establishment, intelligent, philosophical lyrics in elegant choruses and have Chris Evans, Chris Moyles and Terry Wogan play them.

But those massive audiences have moved on; the two million people in the UK who bought those records will mostly be people who are unaware the band are still going. I'm not convinced that the songs on Postcards From A Young Man will lend themselves to massive radio play in today's pop world. It's a very interesting album, and certainly it's the younger, edgier sister of Send Away The Tigers, so it'll do all right. Any more than that? I remain to be convinced.

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Mike Peters joins Big Country

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:48 UK time, Monday, 13 September 2010

Nine years after the death of Big Country singer Stuart Adamson, The Alarm's frontman Mike Peters has been asked to take the mic for the Scottish band.

Adamson, Big Country's original singer, hanged himself in a Honolulu hotel room in 2001.

Big Country, l-r: Mark Brzezicki, Stuart Adamson, Tony Butler, Bruce Watson

Speaking to the North Wales Daily Post, Peters said: "When Bruce [Watson, guitarist] called and asked me to sing for Big Country, it was something I didn't need to think twice about.

"I'm looking forward to meeting all the fans again and playing a part in keeping the spirit of Stuart Adamson alive and celebrating the music of a band I have loved from near and afar for the whole of my adult life."

"To play again as Big Country was something that was only going to happen if we could find someone who could complement the band and sing the songs in the way they need to be sung - with heart and soul," said bassist Tony Butler.

"Mike Peters from The Alarm has stepped in. It's about time that the songs got another airing, and we think Stuart would be pleased too."

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Gallops, Manchester Roadhouse - Tuesday 7 September 2010

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 12:34 UK time, Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Manchester, you big old breezy place - lovely to be back. Now, where is your Roadhouse venue? I used to negotiate Manchester via Hulme towerblock landmarks, crumbling Victorian warehouses and straggles of indie kids avoiding muggings.

But you're unrecognisable, these days. You're new, wide, impressive, spacious. I haven't got a clue where I am. And I used to come here regular, like, in my Joe Bloggs parallels, hanging round Afflecks, really - and I mean really - irritating the hell out of the fashionistas at Eastern Bloc by asking them about Cud 12"s.

Some of the new apartments here look like spaceships. Spaceships that have landed on top of cultural Meccas like the Haçienda, crushing them well below the bankruptcies that shut them down in the first place. So it's not all good 'new'.

Thankfully The Roadhouse still exists. How many great bands first learnt their licks here and at the Boardwalk a stone(rose)'s throw away? Hundreds, easily. Both venues must be looking nervously above their head expecting the shadow of an imminent block of luxury apartments. But they survive for now.

I'm here to see Gallops.

"Are you, Adam? Again? Seriously? Isn't there someone else you should be checking out or reviewing for us?"

Well, it's been a quiet, flat summer, gig-wise. The preponderance of festivals and the economic u-bend the venue industry has got itself stuck in hasn't helped. And maybe - after six months of 50 gigs a week - I discovered the middle age delights of crap TV and Ben and Jerry's. But I'm back on the road tonight. And I'm here to see Gallops again because they fascinate me and they have - deservedly - found the crest of their (first) wave.

Their début EP came out a couple of weeks ago. That in itself could suck a thousand words of dribble and chaff out of my keyboard. Suffice to say that it's new shapes. NEW SHAPES, people! How ace is it to have NEW SHAPES? It's available on Holy Roar now.

Pesky band had told us they'd be on at nine. Driving like Clarkson up the M56, we get to the Roadhouse with five minutes to spare.

"We're on at 10 now," says a rather knackered-looking drummer Moz.

See, this is the second date of their first national headline tour. And Moz is already shagged out. He's contemplating a couple of cans of Red Bull before they go on to shake the torpor from his limbs. Apparently the fire alarm at their hotel in Sheffield the night before went off twice.

"I feel a right old git," he says, or words to that effect, perhaps unaware that this is like a panda complaining to a grain of sand about the difficulties of finding your own space and asserting your individuality.

When we walk in there are three people in the venue, and I think they work there or are driving Gallops. My heart does a little whimper for the band. It's an international football night. It's a Tuesday. None of the student population these venues survive on are back, yet. The Roadhouse has all the allure of an S&M solitary confinement cell.

But the staff are good and friendly, and toilet circuit venues have rightly evolved this way so as not to detract from the music. More accurately because investing in neon lights in the floor, or poncey pictures on the wall, would mean that the petrol money for the next month's worth of bands wouldn't get covered. So, a backhanded salute to the Roadhouse. Gentrify these places and a whole dependent ecosystem of new bands wither on the vine. For evidence to support this hypothesis, see what happens in Cardiff now the Barfly has shut down.

While I'm pondering this and mulling it over with my mate, people start arriving in dribs and drabs. By the time we extricate ourselves from our conversation and look up there is an incredibly healthy crowd here. Fifty-ish people, for a band on their début release, in a foreign city. This is a great turnout. My mate (Andy) says: "Just goes to show how important BBC Introducing getting them on at Reading and Leeds can be."

Gallops, you see, headlined the Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds. They were on telly and everything. And they sounded great.

A familiar rumble of laptop and the thunderous sound of Moz beating seven tonnes of holy hell out of his drums announces the band.

I will now attempt to switch my hyperbole filter ON.

So, I'm used to getting hammered over the head by Gallops, getting physically assaulted by their power. Power is a massive part of their armoury. And this leprechaun PA isn't up to it. At least, that's my first impression. As the set progresses I find myself hearing things - oh, the cleverest things. I can make out all the lines weaving in and out of each other with a beauty and complexity that could fry my meagre brain if those lines didn't - on the verge of becoming too clever for their own good - crumble into a simple but brilliantly effective melody or riff.

That's as close as I'll get to summing up the Gallops live experience. Some people call this math rock because, I assume, math rock infers a systematic rigidity, a stark predictable clarity. But Gallops are none of those things. They are shape rock. Or fractal rock. Like spirographs of sound, but without getting drawing pins stuck in your kneecaps. Sure, the sequences of notes have some algebraic quality to them; whatever happens to Mark's guitar or synth stage left has to be mirrored stage right by Brad balancing the equation, not necessarily simultaneously.

You know those visualisers that Windows Media Player and iTunes have built in for stoners? Well, Gallops are like an aural representation of the best, most mind-blowing, graphical flourishes from those. Unexpected bursts, great beauty from complexity that seems beyond comprehension, but manages to resolve itself into a breathtaking whole.

They most frequently get compared to Battles. Yawn. Might as well compare a rose to a rhododendron, or a band who had a tendency to get lost in their own bluster to a band who absolutely delight in embroidering their succinct music with as many ideas, twists and turns as is humanely possible.. It's why - as a thoroughly instrumental band, who'd obviously prefer not to have to talk to the audience at all - they captivate that audience. Boredom has never been so lacking. All necessary communication is via the surges and shallows in the music, and in the way that music contorts the bodies and faces of those performing it.

And there are far more shades to these shapes than I'd heard before. Loud, very loud, gentle, a whisper, supernova. And these kids - brought up, partially, on the oh-so-predictable four-to-the-floor pound of the dance music bass drum, reject that conformity in favour of proggish, or jazz-inspired - time changes that surprise and amaze. BUT they're not clever for clever's sake. It's not Weather Report.

I'm all written out.

I think you'd be much better off checking them out yourselves, in all honesty. Briefly and to conclude, it's music that won't reduce itself to easy description. And it isn't shape rock, after all - it's shapes rock, and there are millions of them.

Interview: Strange News From Another Star

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 11:38 UK time, Wednesday, 8 September 2010

We're feeling like we're starting a new school term this week here at at BBC Introducing - a month of fresh new sessions are on the way from Houdini Dax, Town and tomorrow, kicking things off, Strange News From Another Star.

Strange News From Another Star

Strange News From Another Star

They'll be no strangers to the music hubbub in Cardiff itself, but for those of you outside the gig circuit of the Welsh capital, meet the most fun, strange, fuzzed-up rock 'n' roll band since The Bronx or Mclusky. I recently caught up with Jimmy from the band.

Hi Jimmy. Time to tell me about the band Strange News From Another Star. What's the potted history?

Strange News From Another Star formed in 2007. I'd just ended my athletics career and was looking to start a band. I knew Harry because I used to train with him, and he wanted to get together and have a jam down at [Cardiff rehearsal studios] Music Box.

We gelled straight away and wrote 12 songs in a month. We played for a year as a two piece, and then Mark Foley joined the band in 2008. This took things to a whole new level of madness, and we actually started to sound like a proper band.

Your gigs are often much talked-about. Which one is the most memorable for you?

Hmmm. Our gigs can vary so much. Some of them can be completely shambolic, where guitars break or I'll talk nonsense for far too long, and some gigs can be really tight. I enjoy the shambolic ones quite a lot, but my favourite gig so far is probably the one we played at Swn last year.

We played upstairs in the [Cardiff venue] the Model Inn at midnight. The place was completely packed, I had a plastic bag on my head, Foley had a cowboy hat on and Harry was almost naked. It was a great fun. I think it was the first show where it occurred to me that people might actually like our band.

When did you discover you were destined to be a rock god?

Ha! I'm definitely no rock god, although my earliest memory is of locking myself under the stairs and pretending a tennis racquet was a guitar. I sometimes worry that I'll never be able to be normal and stop showing off!

So the NME have written about you - what did they say? Was this while you were moonlighting with Future Of The Left?

There was an article about the greatest living guitarists, and Andrew Falkous from Future Of The Left was listed there. The accompanying article said something like 'Future Of The Left have just gained a new guitarist. This must be the hardest job in rock and roll. Playing guitar next to Falkous must be like writing a diary entry next to Bret Easton Ellis'.

I disagree with this on two fronts: 1) My job is to sell wool to wealthy Welsh speakers, which is easy and 2) I don't keep a diary. I've had plenty of stick from Falco because of this article, but I'm cool with it. I'll be top of the list this time next year!"

What are the Strange News lyrics about? What inspires the writing?

It varies. Most of the lyrics are inspired by what I'm reading at the moment. I find that books and rubbish TV shows inspire a lot of lyrics. Having a terrible job also inspires lyrics.

I used to work in a call centre, and the experience inspired a lot of songs. We have a song called Miss Maidment which is almost word for word what someone wrote in a complaint letter. I sometimes skim through a newspaper and write down random words. This is how I wrote Oh My God They've Given Me The Suburbs.

I try to avoid writing personal lyrics. I find it a bit uncomfortable. I'm much happier to shout daft lyrics from a surreal world which exists in my head. Saying that though, Where'd All The Bullets Go? is a brand new song and the verses there are personal. The chorus is inspired by a Spike Milligan book of the same name.

Are you solely responsible for the double denim fashion this summer?

Absolutely. I wrote to The Guardian after they did a big article on who'd started the double denim trend this year. I said that we'd been doing it since 2007. They wrote back and said they'd never heard of my band.

You recorded a lovely session for my show. Where was it produced, and how was the experience of doing four tracks in one day?

It was a great day's recording down at Music Box with Charlie Francis. He filled a rehearsal room with microphones and we just played live and loud. I later added my vocals after a few cups of coffee and a cheeky cold can of beer, I really like the pressure of having to nail a few songs in one day. There'll definitely be some mistakes there, but that ragged ethos suits Strange News From Another Star. Sometimes the mistakes are my favourite bits.

Anything else I need to know?

Our debut EP is officially released through Music Box records and Flowershop records on 27 September. We're recording the follow up EP on 3 October. We're also playing with Pulled Apart By Horses on 14 September in Clwb Ifor Bach.

The Welsh and the Mercury Prize

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:06 UK time, Wednesday, 8 September 2010

So last night The xx won the 'coveted' Mercury Prize, waltzing off with £20,000 and the more nebulous benefit of critical acclaim.

It used to be that a Mercury win would benefit an artist, boosting sales and public profiles substantially. And back in the day, the prize was given to some pretty commercial offerings: the first five winners were Primal Scream's Screamadelica, Suede's Suede, M People's Elegant Slumming, Portishead's Dummy and Pulp's Different Class.

Then things began to get a bet weirder as the judging panel pushed the boat out. Roni Size and Reprazent, Talvin Singh, PJ Harvey, Dizzee Rascal (back when he was a grime star, not a chart-bothering pop colossus), Antony And The Johnsons and last year's abject failure Speech Debelle have all been winners.

The only recent winners with significant sales have been Franz Ferdinand, Elbow, The Klaxons and Arctic Monkeys. It's a fairly random award, with no pattern to the recipient. There's always a feeling that a million-selling, MOR, indie rock choice is the easiest one - but that leads to accusations of conservatism when the UK music scene is as inventive and vibrant as ever it was.

But when they've given it to someone of more selective appeal, they get the accusation of wilful oddness. And that's the difficulty of operating a non sales-based, arbitrary judging system that's not a Brits-style 'oh-you've-made-the-record-industry-lots-of-money'. They're caught between a rock and a hard place. Speech Debelle is the first time they've really dropped a clanger, but M People's godawful début is also far from a classic, judging by the amount I see for sale in charity shops.

We shall see whether The xx's xx manages a sales surge in the next couple of weeks. More likely, people will simply listen to the album on Spotify and make their judgement there. I doubt the Mercury really has much relevance any more.

One side issue, one that each year nags at my mind, is the lack of Welshies in the mix. Tracking back through the years, Manic Street Preachers were nominated in 1996 (Everything Must Go) and 1999 (This Is My Truth...), Super Furry Animals were nominated in 2001 for Rings Around The World and - from leftfield - Scritti Politti's White Bread Black Beer was nominated in 2006.

Four nominations out of 190. That's less than two per cent, and Wales accounts for five per cent of the population. What's up?

I think our musical output is often either cool or sufficiently successful, but very rarely both. There's no way the Mercury Prize would nominate Lostprophets, Funeral For A Friend or Bullet For My Valentine. They just wouldn't. Duffy's début was a soulful massive seller but it missed out as being maybe too obvious or insufficiently inventive.

It would have been great and entirely justified to have had a Mclusky or Future Of The Left album in the mix over the years... and I have no idea why the Super Furries missed out in the Britpop years - they had more ideas in one bar than Oasis did in an entire album.

Wales does rock very well and always has done, but it's unreconstructed, uncomplicated rock. If the Mercury Prize is about doling out gongs to acts pushing the musical boundaries then we may have to wait a while. Not that it matters: I love unreconstructed, uncomplicated rock and any prize given to the foghorn that was M People isn't worth hankering after.

What do you think? Why aren't Welsh acts nominated more often? And does the prize matter? If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

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Blind Ambition on Radio Wales

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:05 UK time, Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Following Caerphilly Council's request that Valleys band Blind Ambition clear up fans' promotional graffiti, the rock band have found their public profile rocketing as media pick on their story.

Three members of the band came into the Radio Wales studios to talk to Jamie and Louise about their plea to their fans and the media interest that has surrounded them since the story broke last week.

Listen to the interview here:

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Dame Shirley Bassey to headline Ryder Cup concert

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:18 UK time, Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Dame Shirley Bassey has been announced as the headline act for the Welcome To Wales Ryder Cup concert at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

The concert, to be held on 29 September, will be the first time the Welsh diva will have performed in her native country for five years. She will be joined as previously announced by Lostprophets, Shaheen Jafargholi, Only Men Aloud and Katherine Jenkins.

Dame Shirley said: "I'm honoured to be asked to perform at Welcome to Wales and proud to be part of such a fantastic celebration for The 2010 Ryder Cup.

"This is a huge opportunity for Wales and with Katherine Jenkins and Catherine Zeta Jones also taking part, we'll certainly be adding the glitz and glamour to golf. I can't wait."

Read more on the BBC News website.

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Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 5 September 2010

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 17:29 UK time, Monday, 6 September 2010

Welcome to the storm of Welsh noise, with occasional cloudbursts of transcendent beauty, that constitutes this week's programme.

Rather enamoured with the example set by last week's quickfire feast of Welsh artists I had never played before, I've again left the focus fully on the music. I hardly talk at all. And I'm beginning to enjoy the silence. Depeche Mode were onto something. Maybe I should wear more S&M gear?

So, we get to veer all over Wales from Cardiff (The Method's horn-singed grit pop) to Camarthenshire (Trwbador reimagine a pastoral Cornelius - to great effect), from Swansea (Taint's mountainous and breathtaking album title track) to Denbigh (Recognise You's plaintive heart filled with spider webbed guitars).

Elsewhere, the godfather of the Welsh underground, Alan Holmes, reminds us of the long seam of intriguing experimental music-making that stretches behind cult Bangor hero Gary Cut. I'm glad I didn't try and describe him like that last night. Tired mouths have a habit of dropping in unexpected consonants. Lucky escape.

A man called Ben imports inspiration in from over the border - just so we know where, exactly, to set the bar. Undoubtedly high, this week, with a prime piece of Shadows from the period before Hank Marvin forgot to turn the gain up and aim his artfully chosen notes at the craniums of the crazed kid cats.

An endless purgatory on a lake bereft of dayglo metaphors awaits me. This show's musical riches should keep me distracted for a while, at least.

Please send demos (high quality .mp3s, please) for the show to: with a short biography and a contact number.

Please also check out the Welsh Music Calendar, where you'll find an expanding source of info on key Welsh musical releases and events. Feel free to contribute by mailing your own to the address above.

This coming Friday and Saturday, the Welsh Music Foundation celebrates its 10th birthday at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff. I'm chairing a seminar called Radio Heads that aims to advise Welsh artists/labels and music people the best route to get their music on the radio. The panel features BBC Introducing's Bethan Elfyn; Town and County Broadcasting's Ben Evans (responsible for Nation Radio); Head of Music at Xpress Radio, Daniel Potts; BBC Radio Wales' editor Steve Austins, and me. So if you're interested in signing up for this FREE seminar that should be able to give you advice on all different aspects of music radio, register at the Welsh Music Foundation's website.

The WMF's 10th birthday celebration also includes a couple of amazing free gigs. Future of the Left/We Are Animal and Exit International perform, again for FREE (on a first come, first served basis) at the Millennium Centre on Friday night - Spencer McGarry Season, Jonathan Powell and El Goodo are responsible for the entertainment on the Saturday evening. I hope you can come down for one, or both, and join in this celebration of Welsh talent and ingenuity.

And I'm off to see Gallops play at the Roadhouse in Manchester on Tuesday night. It's their first headlining tour. And the gigs are FREE. See the above link for more information.

There's a lot going on.

It's making my fingers tired.

Have an excellent, music-thrilled week.

See you next Sunday for a lot of noise from Bastions.



THE METHOD (Cardiff) Whip Around

PORTALS (Swansea) Onwards

GALLOPS (Wrexham) Defbox (live At Reading Festival)

HELEN LOVE (Swansea) Pleasant Valley Sunday Estate

TOWN (Newport) Eighteen

TRWBADOR (Camarthenshire/Cwmbran) Off Beat

UNDERPASS (Cardiff) Microblog

ALUN TAN LAN (Llanrwst) Picwach

LOVE PARRY III (Cardiff/Aberystwyth) Draw


A LULL (Cardiff label) Weapons Of War

COLORAMA (Benllech) Box

BASTIONS (Anglesey) Soar

DEZ WILLIAMS (Bangor) Real Power

NO ROOM FOR HEROES (Wrexham) Brown Eyes

PULLED APART BY HORSES (Cardiff gig) Back To The F**k Yeah

SWEET BABOO (Bangor) I'm A Dancer

TAINT (Swansea) All Bees To The Sea

AUDIODROID (Pontypool) B33p!

KIDS IN GLASS HOUSES (Cardiff) Live At Reading For Bethan Elfyn

P.L.O. (Cardiff) Novachord

EFA (Pwllheli) Following The Sun


100 CANNONS (Newport) Debauchery And Revel

Y NIWL (Llanrwst) Undegpump (album Version)


HARBOUR (Cardiff) Mercurial

CERI FROST (Cardiff) Dig Way Down

PULCO (Bangor) Return To Undersea Adventure

CUT TUNES (Bangor) Shapeshake

SWITCH FUSION (Llanberis) Equinox

LOOSE BUOY (Wrexham) The Demon's Tail

RECOGNISE YOU (Denbigh)+ Saturday

LUNGWAH (Bangor) Visitors Of The Mind

THE PETH (Anglesey/Llanfairfechan/Ruthin/Bangor) Weeve Got Our Own Thing Going On (tom Ellis Love Song Edit)

JOY OF SEX (Cardiff) Red Rocket

GINDRINKER (Cardiff) Y Chromosome

JOY FORMIDABLE (Mold) I Don't Want To See You Like This

MARTIN CARR (Cardiff) The Only Life I Know

THE SHADOWS The Rise And Fall Of Flingal Bunt

RATATOSK (Cardiff) The United States South Seas Exploring Expedition

Bethan Elfyn backstage at Reading Festival

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:11 UK time, Monday, 6 September 2010

Bethan Elfyn's Radio Wales show has been concentrating on her jaunt to the Reading Festival for the last couple of weeks. Her colleagues at Radio Wales and BBC Wales Music have compiled a backstage video with interviews with Kids In Glass Houses and Pendulum's Peredur ap Gwynedd.

Watch the video here:

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Cardiff Barfly closes

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:26 UK time, Thursday, 2 September 2010

Cardiff Barfly is closed until further notice, and the internet has been a-buzz with lamentations of the venue's demise since the information first surfaced a couple of nights ago.

Photo: Glyn Mottershead

While it might not have been the best venue in the world, the 150-capacity space has played host to some amazing bands and was a stepping stone for many local bands since it was launched in 2001.

Be Rozzo, managing director of the Barfly, gave us a statement this afternoon: "After 10 years in the Welsh capital, Barfly has closed its doors for the last time. Over the decade, we've had the opportunity to present an array of extraordinary up'n'coming artists - some of whom have gone on to become festival headliners and household names.

"Cardiff has a rich musical heritage and many genuine music lovers, for this reason we hope at some point to return to the city in a location that better reflects the needs of the current generation of the artists and audiences.

"In the meantime, we would like to wholeheartedly thank the staff that helped to take us this far and all those we've encountered along the way - promoters, agents, tour managers and more - who helped to make sure bands made it there on time, sounded great, and ensured the shows were the best they could be. Most of all, we'd like to thank everyone that attended our events over the years.

"Regarding current shows, we will endeavour to place all forthcoming gigs at alternative locations. Where this is not possible, tickets will be refunded."

Rozzo, speaking to Guardian Cardiff continued: "It's just the recession and a downturn in trade. There's not enough people attending the shows and the clubs. Hopefully if we find somewhere better suited we might give it another go but it's an economic thing.

"Barfly is also part of the Mama Group and resources we used to have are part of the Group and so staff are involved in the bigger venues. We are part of the bigger picture now and that company has grown. The resources that made Barfly successful are being deployed in bigger parts of the country."

Barfly was brought to the city by Welsh Music Foundation as the chain expanded from its Camden base. At the time I was 23 and still going out as many nights a week as I physically could. The addition of the venue to the city's live music scene was welcome - and I remember some amazing gigs there.

Barfly Cardiff opened with a fanfare with a series of high-profile celebratory gigs including a superb headline set by Lostprophets. I've seen Franz Ferdinand and The Killers play there on their way to the top of the charts. I've seen awesome stoner rock band Clutch play one of the very best gigs I've ever seen. And in 2003 I was one of 35 people watching The Darkness play the underground room like it was Wembley or Knebworth.

Frankie Poullain, bassist for The Darkness, told me: "I'm sad to hear The Barfly in Cardiff has closed; it was a great little venue. We felt a kinship with the Welsh, I think it was something to do with being stuck out on the flanks of the UK and forgotten about it, like sides of bacon."

John Rostron, a veteran Cardiff promoter and label manager, told Guardian Cardiff "Of course losing a venue of that size, which promotes so much new music, is a blow for the music scene in Cardiff.

"I saw Kings Of Leon, Interpol, Scissor Sisters, Black Keys, The Darkness and other bands there who all went on to bigger things.

"These small venues are the lifeblood of a music scene in a city - beyond just live music - as they are where technicians and promoters learn their trade, where labels and bands form, where zines start up, where budding managers fall in love with bands - it's a big loss."

Jamie Fullerton, a Cardiff resident for some years, wrote yesterday on the blog: "the sad thing is that because of a combination of the recession and the general lack of hyper-buzz guitar bands setting the toilet circuit alight every night at the moment, this sort of news has become a depressing inevitability."

He recalls seven of his favourite gigs at the venue including The Libertines, Mclusky, Electric Six and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and mentions missing Kings Of Leon on their first UK tour. All of which shows that there were some serious bands coming through the venue. He's right, also, in his analysis that the lifeblood of venues such as Cardiff Barfly - indie bands with a public buzz - are in short supply.

Of course things go in cycles and no doubt at some point those bands will come back in large enough numbers to support a venue in that mould. Lisa Matthews, manager of Welsh Music Foundation hopes that the city's live music scene doesn't suffer.

"Barfly is a great loss to the live music scene in Cardiff, " she says. "WMF were instrumental in bringing the venue - the first of the chain outside London - to Cardiff and as a result many more bands played in Cardiff in the early stage of their careers than would otherwise have done. Everyone has their own story of a band they saw there before they 'broke'.

"Barfly also brought over 20 jobs to Cardiff so we need to be mindful of that loss too. The city has been lucky in recent years with new venues such as Cardiff Arts Institute, Millennium Music Hall and The Globe adding much vibrancy to the music scene. Let's hope that it's in that direction that Cardiff's live music sector heads."

What do you think of the closure of Barfly Cardiff? Who have you seen play there? Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

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Kids In Glass Houses at Reading

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James McLaren James McLaren | 14:08 UK time, Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Backstage at Reading Festival, immediately after they played a triumphant set, Bethan Elfyn grabbed Iain and Joel from Welsh indie rockers Kids In Glass Houses for a sweat-drenched chat.

Watch our video as Beth probes the duo over their set, their career trajectory and what happened to singer Aled when he went awol.

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Kids, Kele, Mumford & Sons and the festival to end all festivals

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 11:08 UK time, Wednesday, 1 September 2010

It's always best to write a review when the event is fresh in your mind. Sadly it's difficult to write when your mind isn't so fresh!

This year was my 10th year working, hosting and DJing at the Reading Festival. A strange twist of fate and some patronage from Steve Lamacq back in the Evening Session days gave Huw Stephens and me the opportunity to host the Radio 1 stage, and we've been there ever since.

The Reading Festival organisers and team of stage crew become more and more like family with each passing year. The bands come and go, but the festival is one monster that keeps on growling, and 2010 was a fine beast of madness.

I work on the Radio 1/NME stage, which is the second stage of the festival and holds up to 20,000 people when the surrounding areas are also full. It's an intense experience compared to the main stage. It's all about the bands that have worked and grafted and suddenly see the culmination of their work: it's hot, sweaty, packed, a crowdsurfing, shoulder-jumping, mosh pit heaven.

It's always good to kick off with some lovely people, and a band that has a bit of a buzz. Frankie & the Heartstrings were the perfect call; all flair and poise, grace and melody. They were swiftly followed by young, fresh faced Surfer Blood, whose anthem Swim has such a classic feel about it. Friday was shaping up to be a great day with a constant buzz about how nuts Mumford and Sons would be later that night.

I was also recording plenty of interviews for the radio throughout the weekend, and caught up with Mike from Lostprophets, Marina & The Diamonds and Peredur Ap Gwynedd from Pendulum. Listen to the show this Wednesday and Saturday on BBC Radio Wales from 6.30pm for some of those chats.

Marina and Beth backstage

Marina and Beth backstage

Back to Friday at the R1 stage, and from mid afternoon the excitement was mounting. Two Door Cinema Club threw the tent into sheer chaos with their electro pop; Yeasayer brought fun, tunes, and their otherworldy vibes; Delphic provided another notch of anthemic hits; then all hell broke loose as Mumford & Sons' shindig caused riots all the way through the tent. It was the moment when Reading forgot to 'rock' but threw a proper hoedown, and will probably never recover from the shock.

Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Sons

Having the unenviable task of following the hype and radio hits of Mumford & Sons, Phoenix were outstanding and really shone. Their canon of hits over the past few years came together perfectly for a superb set. Headliners LCD Soundsystem played a storming show, and I'm a superfan so they can do no wrong.

A perfect end to an amazing day.

Saturday was all about Kids In Glass Houses on the Radio 1 stage. They're one of the best bands to come from Wales in recent years, and each time I see them perform they just get better and better. Aled is a mesmerising frontman, and they all have golden personalities - a brilliant festival band in every way.

Kids In Glass Houses

Kids In Glass Houses

Then the line up got a little weird with Frank Turner, who is such a huge star, Serj Tankian, the lead singer from System Of A Down, the ever-baffling screams of Crystal Castles, and the super-pumped Enter Shikari. Finally there was the juggernaut of live drum and bass, with extra speakers and pyrotechnics, from Pendulum!

Sunday is always a weary start, especially after DJing the Silent Disco till 3am! Thankfully, the opening band have the sweetest most incredible songs, melodies, harmonies - and did I mention SONGS? Then it's a whirlwind of bands from The Joy Formidable, Local Natives, Los Campesinos!, Wild Beasts, The Drums, and then the biggest shock of the day...

Kele, formerly of Bloc Party, was a man possessed, possessed with some sort of happy drug. He came on in the maddest outfit, danced wildly, raved it up completely, was funny and entertaining, climbed all over the stage and stacks, and threw the crowd into a wild frenzy.

The last evening then came and went with Band Of Horses, Foals, We Are Scientists, and Klaxons bringing this huge beast of a festival to a close. We partied till dawn, and struggled home on the bank holiday with another official end to the summer hols and summer festivals. Muddy fields I bid you officially goodbye for now.

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