MWE3 Feature Story
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The Gift That Keeps On Giving
an interview with Super Furry Animals’ guitarist
Huw “Bunf” Bunford


by Robert Silverstein

The 2007 CD from Welsh pop superstars Super Furry Animals, Hey Venus! is a pop masterpiece that will amaze long time SFA fans and stun newcomers alike. The first four tracks on Hey Venus! revel in the spirits of Phil Spector, Bowie and The Beatles while the rest of the CD goes deep with a self-described mix of contemporary rock music and orchestral, psychedelic pop and R&B. Backed up by a great band spotlighting the Super Furry Animals guitarist Huw “Bunf” Bunford, SFA front man, singer Gruff Rhys sounds like he’s channeling some greater force. Anyone needing further proof of this man’s genius should also check out the 2007 Gruff Rhys solo album Candylion. Somewhat different than Hey Venus, Gruff keeps the SFA spirit in tact on this modern pop classic. Speaking from the guitarist’s point of view, Bunf spoke with Robert Silverstein of 20th Century Guitar and MWE3.com in late December 2007 about Hey Venus! and SFA’s upcoming Winter ‘08 tour of the U.S.

(The following interview with Bunf first appeared in the February 2008 issue of 20th Century Guitar magazine. Here is the full length version, short as it is, in it's entirety)



MWE3: You’re going to make a lot of new fans with Hey Venus! What do you attribute your wide ranging fan base to?

Bunf: Well, I suppose I think it’s because a lot of our albums maybe don’t sound the same. Maybe this album is a bit more kind of, well it’s definitely more upbeat than the last one we did. And the one before that you can trace back all the way back to all our eight albums. Probably they’re all quite different from each other. You hopefully get a cross-section of the public really, thinking kids will probably get into something like Love Kraft as well as Hey Venus! The fact that we don’t follow a formula, is what I’m trying to say.

MWE3: Paul McCartney was on one of your early albums chewing a vegetable. (laughter)

Bunf: Yes that was on "Receptacle for the Respectable,” which is on Rings Around The World. And we did a remix for him and kind of used it and got an award for it as well. (laughter) So as a kind of thank you he did some chomping of carrots.

MWE3: How do you break down the song writing chores in Super Furry Animals?

Bunf: Well it’s really kind of a free for all when it comes to...nobody really is excluded or is given priority. You present your new songs to everyone on a kind of demo form and off you go then. We end up having some ridiculous amount of songs which we have to break down to something more sensible like 15 or 16. Gruff is kind of a very prolific writer. He never stops really. He’s very gifted and he can write it in his head. (laughter) I still need a guitar in my hands. It’s amazing. So we kind of just throw it all in a pot. You can almost hear two or three albums then and then we choose which one we want really go for.

MWE3: On Hey Venus! you wrote the songs “Battersea Odyssey” which is one of the most atmospheric songs on the CD.

Bunf: Yeah, that’s one of our first ever songs to do with London really, which is something, after living here for nine years I suppose it’s kind of rubbed off on me. So I wrote that. There’s a suburb in London called Battersea and it’s got a huge power station. I don’t know if you remember the Pink Floyd album cover with a power station on it a pig floating? That’s Battersea power station. It’s kind of a love song to that. It’s a very kind of psychedelic, industrial song. (laughter)

MWE3: How do you compare that song with the more pop based songs on Hey Venus! like “Show Your Hand” and several others?

Bunf: Yeah, we wanted to actually kind of go for the, the saying is pop jugular, which is sort of really going for it. In our own world, that’s kind of an album of singles, if we were in charge of the charts! (laughter) Every single song there can stand up on its own I think without needing the rest of the album to fix it. They all pretty much have got their own personalities. After Love Kraft, Sony didn’t release one single from it so we thought, ‘fuck that, we’ll show you.’ (laughter) So with Rough Trade they asked or hinted for us to kind of write a pop album so, ‘okay we’ll give it a go, and do another one of those.’ Rough Trade is quite interesting. They’re more hand’s on, which is great really. That’s kind of it in a nutshell.

MWE3: The first four songs kind of really grab your attention while the others sort of sneak up on you after a while...

Bunf: Yeah! Songs like “Suckers” might be actually a kind of a song you could listen to driving home from work, but maybe you wouldn’t want to play that as a kind of upbeat...it’s different really isn’t it? And Cian wrote an amazing song on it, which is “Carbon Dating” as well, probably the most laid back, slower of the lot. It’s got kind of like balalaikas and dulcimers, it sounds quite Russian. We all get influenced and listen to different types of music during the year and it kind of ends up you can almost tell what kind of songs that everyone’s going to start writing. (laughter)

MWE3: Your guitars are well integrated into the mix of the album. There’s not a lot of wasted notes on Hey Venus!

Bunf: No, we were so kind of into getting songs which were the classic three and a half minutes and if there isn’t need for a guitar showing off, there’s no need for it. It’s the melody the lyrics in some songs. We’re trying to get a message across right in front of the listener. We’ve done a lot of albums where we can experiment. Love Kraft, the album before, had enormous, panoramic songs a with long middle eight. (laughter) But this one, we had the criteria that we wanted to be able to play the songs live quite easily as well.

MWE3: Which guitars are you using on Hey Venus!

Bunf: I always use a Gibson gold top. That’s the lady really. I play her most of the time really. There’s a Rickenbacker, the three pickup one and a Fender Jaguar which I’ve had for a few years and just got really into it. I’m using a bit of that as well, but mainly it’s my Gibson gold top really. I’ll take it to my grave. (laughter) Touch wood!

MWE3: On the Hey Venus! track “The Gift That Keeps On Giving” it sounds like there’s an electric sitar.

Bunf: Oh right, yeah no! There’s a new addition to the guitar lineup. Cian, the keyboard player, has stepped in as well. He uses a Fender B-bender and a Sherman filter bank and he manages to get a sound of a sitar on it. A lot of the songs, we were trying to play them as live as possible. You’d have every one in the studio playing on the take. So even if it was just the drums and bass we still wanted to make sure of that. And once in a blue moon, you never know, we might have the perfect take but it very rarely happened. (laughter) Sometimes if there wasn’t a piano, he couldn’t quite hear it sometimes, so he’d pick up the guitar then and that sounds like the sitar.

MWE3: I hear Hey Venus! is finally coming out in the U.S. as a double CD?

Bunf: I think so. There could be extras on it, probably the b-sides which are great actually. There’s a great b-side on “Runaway.” They’re good ones, I like them.

MWE3: So you’re coming to the States...

Bunf: In February I think. We’re starting off in New York and then Hoboken at a smaller venue and then traveling the rest of the States. Doing a few gigs in the West Coast, three of four in L.A. and then coming back in the end to do two nights on the Bowery. Crippling, but at least we’ll be super tight. We’re quite excited to come to America anyway. It’s been getting better and better every year so hopefully next year will top it.

MWE3: I hear you’re already planning another record.

Bunf: There’s always new records. We’re never really short of that. That will never be a problem really. We’ve got the opposite of writer’s block. but that’s a good thing. (laughter) It’s always easy to have ideas. We never forget how lucky we are as well, y’know?

MWE3: Are you planning a solo record?

Bunf: I’ve released some things on the web site, www.superfurry.com Soundscapes really, they’re called. They are what I’ve been doing for for the past probably four years, which is taking field recordings of sounds from my travels with SFA and building up weird, out there sort of trippy stuff really! (laughter) It’s on our web site in the extras bit.

MWE3: How about big guitar heroes? You grew up in Wales?

Bunf: Yeah, they’re all the same of everybody else’s probably. I love Chuck Berry, one the first persons I saw when I can remember thinking I wanted to play guitar. And I was very young then and he obviously influenced me in a sort of, ‘I think that’s cool’ kind of thing. Probably Mick Ronson and George Harrison and stuff like that.

MWE3: How about influential albums?

Bunf: Probably for us as a band, I would say, it would be definitely Beach Boys Surf’s Up, which is never really everyone’s kind of classic album by Beach Boys, but I would beg to differ on that one. I think Surf’s Up is up there with the best. Carl Wilson then, was just amazing.

Thanks to Bunf @ www.SuperFurry.org




 

 



 
 
 
 
 

 

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