"I really found Britpop tedious." In conversation: Super Furry Animals
Dreamy psychedelic Welsh rock ‘n’ rollers Super Furry Animals’ emergence is encapsulated in the 20th-anniversary release of their 1996 debut album Fuzzy Logic, a reissue with 35 extra tracks including: B-sides, demo versions and a festival performance. We had the chance to question Furries’ guitarist Huw Bunford, aka Bunf, on the topic of this, their greatest hits album, protest songs and Britpop.
Both Fuzzy Logic, and the Zoom! greatest hits album, are available to buy now. Details on the band’s website.
How important you feel your language is to Welsh cultural identity?
We celebrate the language and our heritage whilst also hopefully not being too sanctimonious about it. Personally, I feel there has recently been a positive upturn in the importance of the language, with massive positive vibes from Mwng’s reissue last year. As a band, we are all Welsh speakers and it goes without saying this is an integral part of our identity.
Do you think of Welsh music as a movement? There’s tangible bonds with the people you work with, with complex rock family trees involving Cate Le Bon and so forth. But do you have a creative kinship with less tangibly related bands because of your nationality?
Me personally, I don’t feel more of a closeness to other Welsh artists because of my nationality, no more than I would towards bands that, say, we bonded with while touring together. That’s not what you hear a lot about when you’re in a band, the opportunity to meet interesting people from all over the world – and help to drink their rider.
The Fuzzy Logic press release highlights how the reissue captures the “original analogue production and straight-to-tape recording.” Is this the usual promotion, or do you give importance to how your fans listen to your music?
Fans can listen in any way they see fit, we just hope they get some pleasure out of it – if you are into vinyl, buy it on vinyl – we are not purist. Buy it on iTunes, just have fun with it.
Touring full albums then, what level of importance do you put on the concept of an album as a detached piece of work?
As for audiences experience of us playing whole albums, we’ve never done it before so can go with the vibe in the audience and hopefully it will pan out. It’s almost like doing new songs!
Over 20 years is a long time to be together! Is a shared nostalgia between your fans and yourselves a major creative driving force for your tours?
It was something we all missed, and more importantly something unaddressed. We wanted to do it for the joy of it. If people are still into it we love that feedback and it’s amazing.
You’re also releasing the Zoom! The Best Of (1995-2016) compilation album. How on earth did you manage to restrict yourself to only two discs! Was the selection process fun?
Yes it was a hard process but we had help, lots of it. Doing a ‘Best of…’ is a bit like a process of elimination at the beginning, but then it gets tricky.
The Fuzzy Logic reissue is oppositional to your compilation album as it includes a whopping 35 extra tracks. Was retracing your steps a therapeutic process?
Recording Fuzzy Logic was our “thrown into the deep end” period. We spent the first half of our time in Rockfield recording studios trying to work the room out sonically, then starting all over again!
The master tapes nearly perished during a storage fire. Did this near miss provoke the reissue?
The near miss with the burning of the tapes was not a catalyst for the reissue. I believe it was the genuine enthusiasm of our fans when we returned last year to promote our Mwng reissue.
Practising old tracks must be lots of fun. Are you looking forward to performing these songs, some live for the first time?
Doing songs we’ve never played live is exciting and a breath of fresh air. Over the last year we played essentially the same set-list, it was great to do lots of our favourite tunes to play live but this tour in December will be very different. It’s a new concept for us too!
This year, Gruff released ‘I Love EU’ discussing the European Union membership referendum. Billy Bragg says music can’t change the world. Do you agree with this, other than clear targets such as reminding people to vote?
Clearly protest songs don’t change society, otherwise politicians would be using them as well. Maybe subconsciously, when everyone has had time to reflect, but I think it’s more a case of preaching to the converted, especially today where we get so much content from the internet. It’s a paradox, when you have limitless information just a few clicks away, but it means crap when we have our search profile so tailored.
Many have the sense the Britpop movement gave – only tangentially – related bands like yourselves greater exposure. Is there any reality to this feeling, and do you miss those times?
I really found Britpop tedious, it was a borough in North London, insignificant to what we were into culturally, and lazy journalism in an era of New Labour. Still, some bands managed to avoid getting named and shamed e.g. every band from America! They did get confused a bit when The Strokes burst on the scene; they couldn’t call them Britpop so had to make up some “nu gauche” NYC or some crap. Anyway, we were subversive and not “flying the flag” for UK music in any way or form. To be fair there were some cool NME writers who did see through the jingoism.
Was there a time when you thought you could have achieved wider mainstream success during this period, and was it something you bothered about considering how much your many fans loved you, and retrospectively still do?
We had a more subversive side to our sound and lyrics. I like to think we simply did it on our own terms when it came to creating music, but once you hand the LP over it’s out of your hands and that was something we embraced. So, in order to get our own stamp of “SFA-ness” in the promoting side we would insist on buying a tank instead of running a poster campaign, for example.
Like many Creation old boys, including Primal Scream, you each continue to look so young despite the advancing years. Is there something we should know about? Was Alan McGhee feeding you something he shouldn’t have?
No comment, I need glasses to read.
Fans will love your compilation release for Pete Fowler’s cover album art alone, we cheer at shows on the mention of his name! Is there any other non-official Super Furry members you’d especially like to mention for their contribution to your work over the years?
I could try to list a few names but I’d have to stop as it’d start to remind me of the TV show ‘This Is Your Life’ – too weird. We couldn’t have made the reissue of Fuzzy Logic or compilation of Zoom! without Kliph Scurlock, who has done an incredible job of getting it all together and sounding like it should.
You can catch the Super Furry Animals on their British and Irish tour, details as usual available on their website.