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Gruff Rhys has recently engaged in a collaboration with Phil Collins. Yes, it’s true. Horrified Super Furry Animals fans, please read the small print below before rushing to judgement...
Ed Power, 08 Sep 2011
Super Furry Animals fans were doubtless gagging on their bran flakes when it was announced that, in his temporary incarnation as a solo artist, frontman Gruff Rhys was hooking up with Phil Collins. But it turns out the Collins in question is an avant-garde artist from America. Speaking to Rhys about the collaboration, you sense a vague air of regret on his part that he isn’t, in fact, dueting with the short, bald bloke who sang ‘In The Air Tonight’.
“There are a lot of namesakes in rock,” he says, in his treacle-slow Welsh burr. “There are two Phil Collins-es, a couple of Jim O’Rourkes. In Cardiff, there’s a guy called John Mouse who is a great songwriter. Now there’s a new guy named John Mouse in America who is doing avant garde stuff. It seems that, for every musician, there is an avant garde version with the same name somewhere in the world.”
Whatever his artsy alter-ego is up to, Rhys has spent 2011 plugging his fantastic new solo record Hotel Shampoo. By dint of promoting the release, Rhys made his inaugural foray into visual arts, unveiling a miniature hotel made entirely from tiny shampoo bottles at a Cardiff gallery. Which raises the question: exactly where does one acquire enough miniature shampoo to construct an entire structure out of?
“The first time I went on tour, I couldn’t believe all the free things they would give you in hotels,” he says. “It was quite a shock. You can put all this stuff into your suitcase and nobody minded. It also appealed to me because I have kleptomaniac tendencies. So I started to hoard the shampoo bottles. I’ve been doing it ever since. It became an addiction for me.”
As a musical document rather than a statement of his interest in complimentary cleaning products, the LP sees him taking a sideways step away from Super Furry’s Celtic-tinged psychedelia. The first Rhys record to feature piano and saxophone, the idea was to make something mature and down-tempo by way of marking his 40th birthday.
Saxophone solos, it turns out, are forbidden when Super Furry Animals go into the recording studio. As, oddly, are steel pedal guitars.