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Gruff Rhys

Gruff Rhys

Gruffydd Maredudd Bowen Rhys (Welsh pronunciation: ['gr??f??ð ma'r?d??ð 'bow?n 'r???s\]; born 18 July 1970 in Haverfordwest) is a Welsh musician, performing solo and with several bands, including Super Furry Animals who obtained mainstream success in the 1990s. He also most recently formed the electro-pop outfit Neon Neon with Boom Bip. Their album Stainless Style was nominated for the 2008 Nationwide Mercury Prize. He won the 2011 Welsh Music Prize for his album Hotel Shampoo.He was educated at Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen, Bethesda, Gwynedd, North Wales and was awarded a degree in art at Manchester Metropolitan University.Ffa Coffi PawbAfter playing drums for the band Emily, Gruff Rhys found fame in Wales as the front man of Ffa Coffi Pawb. Translated, the name means 'everyone's coffee beans', though if said quickly in Welsh, it can sound like 'fuck off everyone' in English and Welsh combined.On signing to Ankstmusik, Ffa Coffi Pawb became one of the leading bands on the Welsh music scene, and released three albums - Clymhalio, Dalec Peilon and Hei Vidal!'.Rhys plays the guitar in an unusual style. Although he is right-handed, he learnt to play left-handed on his brother's left-handed guitar. Once his brother left home, however, Rhys only had access to a right-handed guitar. As he had already learnt to play left-handed, and rather than invert the nut and re-string it, he taught himself to play the right-handed guitar upside down so the bass strings are on the bottom. Today, Rhys still plays left-handed on an upside down right-handed guitar.

Super Furry Animals

When Ffa Coffi Pawb disbanded in 1993, Rhys and drummer Dafydd Ieuan, of Rhoscefnhir, Anglesey, who had played for Catatonia, Anhrefn, Hanner Pei and many other Welsh language bands, formed the basis of Super Furry Animals. They soon settled on a line-up consisting of Rhys on vocals and guitar, Ieuan on drums, his brother Cian Ciaran (formerly of WWZZ) on keyboards, Huw Bunford (formerly of U-Thant) on guitar and Guto Pryce on bass. This line-up has remained constant to the present day, although the role of each member has become more flexible, particularly in the studio.In 1995, following a couple of largely Welsh-language EPs on the Ankst label, they signed to Creation Records. Apparently, when offering them the deal after a gig, Alan McGee, head of Creation, asked that they sing more songs in English. Rhys pointed out that all the songs that night had been in English. Super Furry Animals went on to release their critically acclaimed first album, Fuzzy Logic, in 1996 - the first time Rhys had recorded in English. He later observed that his singing sounded like a random collection of accents - but it was nevertheless very successful.Follow-up albums included Radiator in 1997, Guerrilla in 1999 and Mwng in 2000. They also became particularly famous for their 40-foot inflatable bears and the SFA blue tank, which toured summer festivals playing techno music at high volume. Super Furry Animals made a further mark on history in July 2001, when they released their first album for the Sony label, Rings Around the World, on CD and DVD simultaneously: they repeated this for 2003's Phantom Power. Unfortunately 2005's Love Kraft performed poorly commercially and SFA agreed to leave Sony. They are presently signed to Rough Trade and released Hey Venus! in 2007 in the UK. In 2009 they released their latest record to date, entitled "Dark Days/Light Years".


On 24 January 2005, Gruff Rhys released his first solo album, Yr Atal Genhedlaeth on the Placid Casual label. This was a loose, sketchy, all-Welsh-language album, with most of the instruments played by Rhys. A tour of Wales and several festival appearances followed. After SFA signed to Rough Trade, the new label agreed to take on his solo work as well and on 8 January 2007 they released Candylion, a batch of acoustic pop songs in English, Spanish and Welsh, which Rhys wrote whilst touring Love Kraft but which didn't fit with the direction of the new SFA album. A third solo album by Rhys, Hotel Shampoo was released on 14 February 2011. On the 4 March 2011, it was announced that Gruff will be playing at Glastonbury 2011.

Neon Neon

In 2007 Rhys launched a new electro-pop collaborative project with Boom Bip under the collective moniker Neon Neon. Their album, titled Stainless Style, is a loose concept album based on the tumultuous life of De Lorean Motor Company founder John De Lorean, and was released on 18 March 2008 via Lex Records. The album includes a number of high-profile guest appearances from Fab Moretti of The Strokes, Har Mar Superstar, Yo Majesty, Spank Rock, Cate Le Bon and The Magic Numbers. The first single, "Raquel", was released on 26 November 2007. The follow-up single "I Lust U", featured fellow Welsh artist Cate Le Bon on vocals. The album was nominated for the 2008 Mercury Prize.On April 29, 2013, Neon Neon released their second studio album Praxis Makes Perfect.

Collaborations with other artists

Rhys has occasionally collaborated with other artists, providing vocals for the track "Dial: Revenge" on the Mogwai album Rock Action as well as guesting on the songs "Fear of Guitars" (from the album Machine Says Yes by FC Kahuna) and "Do's and Don'ts" (by Boom Bip) as well as "Just War" from Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse's album Dark Night of the Soul. He has also featured on the myspace remix track "I'm Not Lying" by Goldie Lookin' Chain. He features on the track "Cream Dream" from the 2009 Simian Mobile Disco album Temporary Pleasure. He also eats carrots on the Misty's Big Adventure album Television's People, continuing the vegetable relay started by Brian Wilson on Smile. Miles Kane has also called for him to produce the next album by his band the Rascals. Rhys has also recently collaborated with influential hip-hop group De La Soul on a new Gorillaz track titled "Superfast Jellyfish". The track is on the third Gorillaz studio album, Plastic Beach.In 2010 he released an album with Brazilian artist Tony da Gatorra on Turnstile Music. The album featured both compositions by Tony da Gatorra, who is relatively unknown in his native Brazil, and Gruff Rhys.On 17 December 2011, Rhys joined Manic Street Preachers on stage during the band's 38 song 'A Night of National Treasures' one-off live event at the The O2 Arena (London) to provide the lead vocals for the song Let Robeson Sing. Introducing Rhys to the stage, lead singer James Dean Bradfield explained that Rhys had been set to perform the song at the band's 2001 performance in Havana, Cuba but that circimstances had prevented this from happening.

Documentary Separado

In 2010, Dylan Goch's film 'Separado!' premiered. It is a documentary about Gruff's trip to Patagonia to meet members of his family whose ancestors had emigrated in Victorian times.

Computer Game Music

In 2011 Rhys composed the music for the successful iOS game Whale Trail which has been an iTunes game of the week.

Personal life

Rhys was born 18 July 1970 in Haverfordwest, Wales. His father was Ioan Bowen Rees (13 January 1929 – 4 May 1999), a "poet, essayist, polemicist, mountaineer, internationalist ... and a White Robe Druid of the Gorsedd of Bards." Ioan Bowen Rees "campaigned all his life for Welsh rights, language and culture" although he did not believe in the narrow view of nationalism, glorifying one country over another, rather that the "battle for Wales is the battle for all small nations, all small communities, all individuals in the age of genocide." Rhys's mother shared his father's love of writing and was a poet. Gruff supports Bangor City F.C. of the League of Wales.

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