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
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 hes channeling some
greater force. Anyone needing further proof of this mans 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 guitarists
point of view, Bunf spoke with Robert Silverstein of 20th Century
Guitar and MWE3.com in late December 2007 about Hey Venus! and
SFAs upcoming Winter 08 tour of the U.S.
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: Youre 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 its because a lot of our albums
maybe dont sound the same. Maybe this album is a bit more kind
of, well its 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 theyre 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 dont follow a formula,
is what Im trying to say.
MWE3: Paul McCartney was on one of your early albums chewing a vegetable.
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
Bunf: Well its 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. Hes very gifted and
he can write it in his head. (laughter) I still need a guitar in my
hands. Its 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, thats one of our first ever songs to do with London
really, which is something, after living here for nine years I suppose
its kind of rubbed off on me. So I wrote that. Theres
a suburb in London called Battersea and its got a huge power
station. I dont know if you remember the Pink Floyd album cover
with a power station on it a pig floating? Thats Battersea power
station. Its kind of a love song to that. Its 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,
thats 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 didnt release one single from it so we thought, fuck
that, well show you. (laughter) So with Rough Trade they
asked or hinted for us to kind of write a pop album so, okay
well give it a go, and do another one of those. Rough
Trade is quite interesting. Theyre more hands on, which
is great really. Thats 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
wouldnt want to play that as a kind of upbeat...its different
really isnt it? And Cian wrote an amazing song on it, which
is Carbon Dating as well, probably the most laid back,
slower of the lot. Its 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 everyones going to start writing.
MWE3: Your guitars are well integrated into the mix of the album.
Theres 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 isnt need for a guitar
showing off, theres no need for it. Its the melody the
lyrics in some songs. Were trying to get a message across right
in front of the listener. Weve 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. Thats the lady really.
I play her most of the time really. Theres a Rickenbacker, the
three pickup one and a Fender Jaguar which Ive had for a few
years and just got really into it. Im using a bit of that as
well, but mainly its my Gibson gold top really. Ill take
it to my grave. (laughter) Touch wood!
MWE3: On the Hey Venus! track The Gift That Keeps On
Giving it sounds like theres an electric sitar.
Bunf: Oh right, yeah no! Theres 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. Youd 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 wasnt a piano, he couldnt
quite hear it sometimes, so hed 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. Theres a great b-side on Runaway.
Theyre good ones, I like them.
MWE3: So youre coming to the States...
Bunf: In February I think. Were 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 well be super tight. Were quite excited to
come to America anyway. Its been getting better and better every
year so hopefully next year will top it.
MWE3: I hear youre already planning another record.
Bunf: Theres always new records. Were never really short
of that. That will never be a problem really. Weve got the opposite
of writers block. but thats a good thing. (laughter) Its
always easy to have ideas. We never forget how lucky we are as well,
MWE3: Are you planning a solo record?
Bunf: Ive released some things on the web site, www.superfurry.com
Soundscapes really, theyre called. They are what Ive 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) Its on our
web site in the extras bit.
MWE3: How about big guitar heroes? You grew up in Wales?
Bunf: Yeah, theyre all the same of everybody elses 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 thats cool
kind of thing. Probably Mick Ronson and George Harrison and stuff
MWE3: How about influential albums?
Bunf: Probably for us as a band, I would say, it would be definitely
Beach Boys Surfs Up, which is never really everyones
kind of classic album by Beach Boys, but I would beg to differ on
that one. I think Surfs Up is up there with the best.
Carl Wilson then, was just amazing.
Thanks to Bunf @ www.SuperFurry.org