I will always argue that music should make people think, but I also want them to dance too.
Take a mix of reggae, folk, rock and pop influences, and infuse them with the politically aware lyrics of people like Morrissey, Frank Turner, and Joe Strummer, and you have Geraint Rhys from South Wales. I’ve already featured him for Fresh on the Net, while he was here last year in Emerging #34. He’s just released an excellent debut album, with his band The Lost Generation, called All That Is Left Is Us, so read on to find out more about the album, as well as to uncover what butternut squash, a lobotomy, and mind reading have to do with rock ‘n’ roll?!
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~ Where are you right now, and what can you see?
I’m at my desk doing ‘work’, and from the headlines in the tabloids what I can see is the supposed coming of the apocalypse fuelled by immigrants, refugees, benefit cheats and bacon sandwiches.
~ What’s the best advice you’ve received about making music?
At the moment there are many people like myself who are DIY musicians doing everything from writing their own music, to creating their own websites, doing their own marketing, promotion, getting gigs etc so I feel like I’m learning new stuff everyday and picking up advice from people all the of time.
One of my friends told me to be patient with everything you do and I think that is advice I often forget. There are many steps to self-releasing your own music and it’s very easy to want to try and get everything done as soon as you can so others can hear it. But by rushing things you inevitably make mistakes. Make sure you do things right and how you want them, even if it takes a bit more time.
~ What did you found most challenging about making the debut album?
As this is my first musical project, everything was a challenge but also a great opportunity to learn how to do and not to do things. When I moved back to Wales after living in Edinburgh for a while I had these songs which I had written which I wanted to turn into an album, but had never stepped foot in a studio or played my music with other musicians before.
So I really had to start from scratch. Writing the songs is the easiest part and the most pleasurable. Plus the world is such a fucked up but yet beautiful place to live in there’s inspiration on every street corner.
It’s the practicalities which I find are the most challenging. First I had to find a studio and musicians. I luckily found a place in Newport called Junkyard Studios and met up with a great musician and drummer called Steve Eyers who was really supportive and played a lot of the instruments on the album.
Musically the most challenging part as a solo artist is translating exactly what’s in your head to other people. What I have learnt however is that although you must take on other people’s opinions, at the end of the day you have to go with your gut and just do what feels right with you.
Logistically, the most challenging part is then finding the right people to help you make your vision a reality. One of my friends Luke Slade is a great graphic designer who designed all the album artwork and these things are also really important to get organized. When you surround yourself with other creative people good things will come of it.
The whole of this debut album has taken me two years which is a long time. But now I have a band in place and I know a bit more about how the process of being in a studio works as well as all the other intricacies that go into making your own CD, the next album will take nowhere near as long. I’ve already written 2/3’s of it and I’m already really excited about it.
~ Your videos are both simple yet highly polished and very watchable. Who came up with the concepts for them, and do you find performing for camera as easy as being on stage?
I have been working with a great South Wales director called Simon Bartlett and it’s always fun when we get together and make the videos. I will usually go to him with an idea and we will sit down and chat for a few months about what we want to do and how we want to do it and then we just get out there and do it.
It’s a really exciting process because we don’t have any budget and just rely on the visions we have in our heads and the good will of our friends and the great actors we have so far had the pleasure of working with.
For me, lyrics are really important in my music and in both the videos for ‘Think Again’ and ‘Take Your Time’, conveying this has really been a priority and a challenge. For our next video for the song ‘The Lost Generation’ we are moving away from showing the lyrics but still want the meaning of the song to be central to the whole experience. Music videos I think need to aesthetically compliment a song and as you can tell by the title, this next one is going to get more political.
Luckily I won’t be in it much as I find it very awkward to be in front of camera.
~ Which famous song by another artist would you love to have written yourself?
Currently I can’t get the song Johnny and Mary by Robert Palmer out of my head. I love the lyrics and simplicity of the song but it manages to conjure up a lot of atmosphere. I don’t understand how the same man wrote Addicted to Love.
~ What’s the best gig you’ve been to?
I just saw Manic Street Preachers play the whole of the Holy Bible in Cardiff Castle which was pretty special as that album has been so influential on my music and my life in general. Another quite special gig I was lucky to see was Daft Punk in 2007 under the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, both visually and sonically it was pretty amazing.
Sometimes however I find the best gigs are those where you are blown away by an amazing support act who you have never heard of. I went to see the guitarist Kaki King in Manchester a few years back and her support was Anna Calvi. I was mesmerized for the whole performance and couldn’t take my eyes off of her, it was so powerful. She later went on to be nominated for two mercury prizes so I was lucky I guess to see her at the beginning.
~ If you could curate a festival stage, what five bands/artists would you invite to perform?
1) David Byrne & St Vincent (I loved the Brass album they did together ‘Love This Giant’ and was gutted to not see them perform it live)
2) John Cale (Either performing the whole of Paris 1919 with a full orchestra or to see him play through the whole of ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ just himself and a Viola)
3) Jimmy Eat World (Their album clarity is one of my favourite albums. It would however take a lot for me to not get on stage and steal the mic and try wail my way through their whole set)
4) Chromeo (Because they would simply make everyone dance)
5) One Direction (Although I couldn’t name you any of their songs I would have them on stage because they will a) make me a lot of money and b) I would love to see the faces (and tears) of their fans having to sit through an angry John Cale performing ‘Venus in Furs’. They might even have a revelation moment and realise what good music is.
~ Are there any other new bands or musicians from the Swansea / South Wales area you that you recommend we check out?
There’s a good scene in South Wales at the moment. Someone I really like is a songwriter called Kizzy Crawford. I am lucky enough to have her as my support act for my album launch and recommend people check her out. She has a great voice and is creating some really innovative stuff.
~ What are your musical Guilty Pleasures? Don’t panic, no one will read this!
Kanye West. He is clearly bit of an anus but he has made some pretty good music and really innovative and lyrically interesting albums. Also Whitney Houston’s song ‘I wanna dance with somebody’ does exactly what the title says, it makes me want to dance.
~ Do you have any hidden talents you’d like to reveal to the world?
I can read the minds of animals.
~ What’s the least ‘rock thing’ you’ve done in the last week?
I cooked a butternut squash thai green curry. It tasted acceptable.
~ What would it take for you to do Eurovision?
Probably a lobotomy immediately after the experience so I can forget what just happened.