Still Furry after all these years

By BBC News Online’s Robert Andrews

The Super Furry Animals dressing room in the bowels of Cardiff International Arena is a flurry of activity.

Roadies are collecting equipment, music is coming from the stage beyond, a PR person is keeping her distance.

The band, originally from Wales’s both poles, formed in Cardiff in 1993 – an experiment to marry techno music with traditional guitar songs.

It worked spectacularly well. The Furries went a long way and have come home at the end of the UK leg of a tour promoting new album, Rings Around The World.

Not to read too much into that homecoming – Wales, says drummer Dafydd Ieuan, sat in a plush sofa surrounded by mirrors, is merely “where I’m from.”

Homeward bound

“I’d be proud to come from anywhere,” he tells BBC News Online. “It’s like having a nose.

“It doesn’t matter where you go – you take a bit with you and pick up more on your way.”

Ieuan laments the split of friends Catatonia, but lives in London and has missed the entire “Cool Cymru” period.

Nevertheless, the CIA venue is roomy enough to get the Furry thumbs up for what is a “sonic and visual bombardment at different levels.”

“This is probably the biggest gig we can do at the moment,” adds Ieuan. “It needs to be quite intense.

“It’s been the fullest, biggest, loudest multimedia extravaganza of a tour we’ve had so far.”

“We’ve got films and visuals with us. We brought out a DVD so we are showing them live and cutting them up.”

The DVD in question, a version of the Rings Around The World LP, was the first to be released along with a CD album, incorporating 12 specially commissioned short films and typically psychedelic animations.

Tour crowds have witnessed the visual assault on 17 screens scattered around the stage, triggered by music coming from the band.

The band has reservations about forcing visuals on viewers, as with traditional music videos, so optional DVD animations are the order of the day.

International language

In 1999, singer Gruff Rhys – who has scuttled about the dressing room but declined to sit – branded Prime Minister Tony Blair a “war criminal” and a “mass murderer” over NATO bombings in the former Yugoslavia.

It is something the band re-iterate as new strikes take place on terrorist targets in Afghanistan.

Adds Ieuan: “America and Britain have bombed Iraq daily and nobody seems to say anything about that.

“What happened in New York was tragic – I had friends there and I didn’t know if they were alive.

“I get the feeling they are bombing it to appease public opinion back home. It scares me.”

Digital design

None of the Furries are scared by modern digital music and distribution, however.

The Super Furries’ 1999 CIA gig was webcast around the world but, says Cian, the band decided not to repeat the feat until internet speeds pick up.

Says Ieuan: “It’s not just a duty to do it – we just enjoy messing around with it.

“We try to embrace it and don’t understand why more people don’t.

Even controversial internet music software Napster is warmly welcomed as “superb.”

“Our last four albums were hardly available in mainland Europe and South America – they’re better free than not at all,” adds Ieuan.

“There are 17-year-old computer geeks out there who know so much more than the people who run the companies – they have to play catch up.”

Techno lust will come in handy – the Super Furry Animals tour heads for Japan on 14 October.