(by Adam Walton – taken from Daily Post)
Let’s talk stereotypes. Ask any non-resident of Wales to describe its geography and they will invariably use the phrase ‘hills and valleys’. Ask them to describe Wales’ music, and for each one that mentions the harp and male voice choirs, you will find two in a froth of excitement about guitar-toting wizards like ‘Gorky’s’ and ‘Catatonia’. But just as Wales’ has some of the most beautiful beaches and islands in Britain, listen more closely to the music and you will find many variations and interesting delights.
R-BENNIG records are based on Anglesey. For nigh on ten years they have been releasing eclectic and inspirational cult records that have built them an international reputation. Any label that can garner acclaim in the stuffy environs of Radio 3 and still have its records played by someone as ‘en vogue’ as Fatboy Slim has to be worthy of further investigation.
Interviewing R-BENNIG’s shadowy proprietor Johnny-R- is quite unlike interviewing anyone else. Firstly, he doesn’t want to do it on the phoneÖ. or in the flesh. The only way Johnny will field my questions is if I send them to him, questionnaire style, as an e-mail he can digest at his convenience. What follows is a transcription of our cyber conversation.
It’s apt that you’re based on an island because you’re one of the few labels remaining that eschews commercial concerns for something more esoteric.
The fact that Sony’s A&R department aren’t going to land in Mona Aerodrome means that we can get away with things a bit more ‘out there’. Commercially our records sell out really quickly, so we’re not affected by the ‘Next Big Thing’ syndrome. Maybe it’s all a terrible ruse for us to get cred for our new, Welsh Britney Spears.
How do you feel you enrich the Welsh musical tapestry?
We’re the only label with the bottle to release a yellow, 7″ theremin solo and sell it out in a month.
Why don’t you get the attention you deserve in Wales?
We would probably stop releasing interesting records if we were as over-hyped as 99% of the ‘local bands’. We come from a Northern Soul and Dance background so most things are word of mouth and on the decks before the ‘Rock Posture’ lot have got out of bed! Northern Soul was ( still is ) big in North Wales. It’s the ultimate underground scene and a lot of our attitude comes from those daysÖ. the heart of soul.
Tell me about Mona Flying Club?
Mona Flying Club are Gethin Slac and the Fastest Guys Alive. They have a great name, and their music is a mad collage of Hip Hop, Rhumba and loads of old Welsh samples from Qualition and Teldisc recordsÖ. They fly in Sessna formation down to St Moritz, light a John Player Special, catch some debutante’s eye as she gets back into her sugar daddy’s Bentley, then fly back to Mona aerodrome in the dead of night! Why? Because they can. That’s why.
What is the vibe that unifies R-Bennig bands that sound as different as Crac and Mona Flying Club?
They’ve got bottle and wicked packaging. Clancy Pegg from ‘Crac’ mightn’t be at one with Warner’s corporate division, but she is a pop star. Gethin from ‘Mona Flying Club’ is too, although in a parallel universe where Farah slacks never crease.
The music industry in general is scared witless by the ‘world wide web’, what benefits will you reap from making your music available on the internet?
We started in January this year by releasing ‘Gwalchmai Surround Sound’ on our own site. Over the next twelve months distributing music like this is going to blow up big time. ‘Gwalchmai’ will ONLY be releasing their material this way. It’s a great advert and not a hard sell. Stop bombarding people with ‘BUY BUY BUY’ and hit them with ‘TRY TRY TRY’ instead. If people go to the trouble to download your music, good luck to them. Give them something more than just a promo track off a CD that exists in the real world anyway.
What plans have you for the future?
There will be another ‘Lectrosis’ release, this time on ten inch vinyl. A more ambient concern called ‘Interstellar Colomenod; we’ll have commercial clubby stuff from ‘Merfyn Strangelove’. There is also our first international artist, Bonnie Lee, who already has a fan club in Aberystwyth University. She is supposed to be Country and Western, but got booted out of the Billboard Country charts in the States for being too alternative! We are also on the look out for a violent ‘warrior’ girl who can be our underground Billie and kick seven bells out of the dated boy bands. If there is anyone out there stupid enough we’d probably throw her a record deal with an advance of a reel to reel tape recorder signed by Jubilee Young.
Visit the R-Bennig website at:- http://fly.to/rbennig
‘MONA FLYING CLUB’s’ DEBUT E.P. ‘COLUMBIAN CONNECTION’ IS OUT NOW ON R-BENNIG RECORDS. R-BEN046