Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Welsh Grapevine

Think I've mentioned before my mild obsession for old Welsh music fanzines. This one, Welsh Grapevine (see pic), began its life in 1974 when it was all Man, Budgie and Badfinger. Its editor was John Perkins.

After disappearing for a few years the mag suddenly resurfaced again in 1980 to ride the Welsh new wave. It came out of Newport and despite being quite primitive in terms of production, carried the occasional interesting tidbit. Below are some samples from a 1980 edition: a Crass gig in Barry; a review of a Puritan Guitars single (author John Williams was in this band); and a feature on Foel Studios:

Crass/Poison Girls - Barry Memorial Hall, 30th June

This is one gig I could have done without. There was a body and bag search by six untamed gorillas on the door. Then the shock, horror came when I couldn't get 2 pints of lager and a packet of crisps please, because only soft drinks were on sale - well the young cult Crass worshippers were only 15-16. The attendance was around 300 and most of them were dressed in the Crass army colour black. 7.30pm was the starting time, droning sounds came from the PA which sounded like a one key organ. 8.45pm Poison Girls came on but they didn't do much 'til 9.10pm (and that was the best part of their set). I'd rather listen to a morris minor revving. Pigs were well in attendance which didn't help make a relaxed atmosphere. 9.30pm came and I went, pissed off with the whole hype of the Crass machine (Amen).

The Puritan Guitars - £100 in 15 Minutes (Riverside Records)

The Puritan Guitars live in Cardiff and this is their first single on their own label.

The song is about a party that the band attended, held by Rough Trade Records when a £100's worth of drink was consumed in fifteen minutes. It's rock'n'roll, rock'n'roll, rock'n'roll, hypothetically speaking.

More info can be obtained by writing to them at: 68 Neville Street, Riverside, Cardiff.

Inside Story: Foel Studios

Think of the Young Marble Giants album which came out a few weeks back to five star reviews from the rock weeklies. Add to that the recent highly acclaimed singles from The Pop Group, The Slits and The Modettes. Also the Delta 5 single currently topping the independent labels chart. They are part of a steady stream of high quality recordings coming out of the Foel Studios in the heart of mid-Wales.

The studios at Cefn Coch, Llanfair Caereinion, Powys, is owned and run by Dave Anderson a bass player who saw action with Amon Duul, appearing on the Phallus Dei and Yeti albums; and with Hawkwind, appearing on the In Search of Space LP. He also played with the quixotic Van Der Graaf Generator who were the first band to start working in the Foel Studios in the early 70s. Their first album there was The Long Hello and they went on to record four more in the studio. The band's vocalist Peter Hamill also did solo work there.

A mixed bag from jazz to punk has emerged from the studio between then and now. The Stranglers did their early tapes there, and others have included Ian Gomm, Alexis Korner, Here and Now, and the first of the Rough Trade label series done at the studio, a dynamic but sadly overlooked album from Essential Logic.

In addition to Rough Trade, the studio is also now getting a lot of work from Red Rhino records and the new Legless Records label.

Cardiff band Zipper were there recently recording and lined up are sessions with The Raincoats, a return from Delta 5 and a new solo project with Stuart from the Young Marble Giants.

At present the studio has 16 track facilities but plans to expand are in the pipeline. Building work is continuing to provide accomodation for visiting bands to save long trips to village hotels. There will also be a 17 foot extension to the studio including the doubling in size of the control rooms and the installation of a new 24 track desk.

For those with a technical turn of mind the control rooms includes MIC tape recorders, a John Bales desk, Neumann AKG and Senheiser mics, JBL monitoring, an AKG stereo echo plate and the full complement of extras and fancy fiddling bits.