Stepping out on his own again, Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys releases his new solo album 'Hotel Shampoo' this week.
Gigwise caught up with the charming Welsh singer to talk about all those shampoo bottles and what really is happening with Super Furry Animals.
How have things been?
It’s been good. It’s also been a little strange as I haven’t been on tour in nearly two years. I haven’t put many records out so it’s been pretty slow paced which is what I like.
How has it been spending time away from The Super Furry Animals?
It was pretty weird. It is probably the most time I have taken away from the band. I finished the album last March so there’s been a while just to myself. It only took me three weeks to record so was a nice relaxed time. I did three gigs with the Gorillaz which was a real eye opener; it was really fun to be around Damon and co on that tour.
What was the idea behind this new album?
I wanted to do another solo record as it was something I could do at my own pace. I had these quite melancholy songs that I wanted to do on the piano. So the idea was to try and make a piano lead record and at the same time I was trying to sort out all my shampoo bottles that I had been collecting for over 15 years. The time came that I had stuff everywhere, in my car, house and carrier bags.
I was getting them all organised in boxes ready to build the hotel which I had been planning for a decade. I was going to call that Hotel Shampoo so that’s where the idea for the album title came from. I had stopped touring and the songs I had written were quite melancholy and reflective.
When did you start collecting all the shampoo bottles?
It’s just from all the tours we’d been on. It was partly because I couldn’t believe how much free shit they were giving away in hotels. It was weird; I saw it as all these small plastic bottles were destroying the planet and on the other side I’m a collectable manic, I can’t stand throwing anything out. When we started out I was really excited to get all this free stuff and it was way back then that I started to build the hotel.
Did you approach this album the same way you did with your other solo efforts?
Yeah pretty much, I still tend to write a lot in my head. I did a record with the producer who worked on the last Super Furry Animals record about three years ago and that was a completely different way of writing for me. He was very organised and planned which is the total opposite to me.
Did you work with anybody on this record?
I did it mostly with Gorwel Owen in his house. He’s got a home studio in North Wales and I've recorded a lot of Super Furry Animals stuff with him and the past solo stuff. I did some songs with Andy Votel in Manchester, in Whalley Range. That was brilliant because he had an amazing record collection and I’ve always liked working with DJs. When most people listen to my music they’re not as bothered about technical aspects.
Do you prefer doing your solo stuff to Super Furry Animals?
I think I just see it as a nice break. As when we record the Super Furry Animals records they’re incredibly intense. It’s much easier recording by myself but that’s not to say it’s a lot better. Super Furry Animals records have been made over a constant period of four to six months with just Sundays off. It’s incredibly intense and amazing as you all go into a different world when you’re in the studio.
You’re about to start your UK tour soon, are you looking forward to that?
It’s weird and unsocial when you tour by yourself, well for me anyway. But what I’m looking forward to with this tour is that all the venues are seated and I can play at a slower, relaxed pace – which is totally different to Super Furry Animals. Which at there best are like one big made rave.
One of the venues you’re playing on this tour is a hotel in Blackpool – where did that idea come from?
It was a owned by a French couple in the sixties called Tony ac Aloma and they were like Sonny and Cher. They opened up the hotel in Blackpool in the eighties and they played there. The venue only holds 50 people, I’m going to try and create a beach surfer feel for the show. The back drop is like a postcard from wish you were here, we’ve invited everyone to bring along surfboards or fake palm trees. Bring a bit of summer to bleak Winter Britain.
What are the plans for Super Furry Animals - are you planning to record another album in the near future?
Dafydd and Cian have done two TV soundtracks and Guto has been touring with Sonic Boom. When we make a record we will have to do it properly. We need to build our stamina, as were getting old now. We are planning on recording another album when we all have some time to get together. We've been recording bit and bobs which are sounding amazing. We've all been busy and it's about time we all got back together. We've had such an intense 15 years, were all getting old so need longer breaks in between records.