It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the passing of legendary Bangor guitarist and link2wales contributor, Duncan Black. Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends.
Originally from Ynys Mon, Duncan has played for many bands in Bangor/Anglesey since 1990. He used truck loads of FX pedals for his countless guitars, and can be heard on recordings by Mucus, Skinflick, FBF, Mongolian Dethkit, Pod, Fusion, Carbonvein, Jack Sharp, Papa Lazaroo, Hatework, The Major, This Thing, 3D, Rhian Mostyn, Ethania, The Silverback Blues Band, Rabo De Toro, The Mudshark Incident, Jpump & The Bulldozers, Baked Wicked and Logic of Impossibility. He also briefly played bass for Menai Bridge death metallers Grot.
Duncan started performing as a soloist in 2003. Early demos were featured on Adam Walton’s Musical Mystery Tour on BBC Radio Wales, for whom he also recorded a live session. Around this time he also played two headline slots at the Ethania concerts, which led to promotion from Johnny R (R-bennig Records).
A solo album was officially released in 2005 on JUDmusic – I described Duncan a ubiquitous guitar mercenary in a review due to the number of acts he’d been with, and he subsequently called the album that. In reviews, his music has been compared to Mr Bungle and Ed Alleyne-Johnson. By August of that year he moved to Canterbury and gigged in the Kent area where he worked as a music lecturer, before relocating back to Anglesey in 2009.
Since then Duncan has recorded music for film soundtracks including Ryan Kift’s infamous ‘Zombies From Ireland’, in which Duncan also played one of the zombies. Duncan taught guitar when he was not performing as an experimental soloist, playing at social functions or making angry noises as a member of reformed thrash metal veterans Mucus and, up until 2020, the legendary Rabo De Toro.
Link2wales would only be half the site it is without Duncan’s contributions. He provided priceless information on an endless number of bands and acts that are featured among these pages. And in the good old pre-Facebook days, he became a moderator for our link2wales message board – bashing the heads of many trolls. When my band, Spam Javelin were playing with Rabo De Toro, we were sound-checking and I was pretty nervous to be performing in front of a guitar genius. Duncan (perhaps knowing, or sensing this), came up and complimented my guitar playing, easing my nerves. Whereas I had to fight every chord, to watch Duncan make his guitar do absolutely anything he wanted was an honour to witness.
In the weeks and days before he left us, Duncan ran a series of ‘Odd guitar tales’ on his facebook page. Here they are…
Odd guitar stories (1 of 3,578). Don’t know why this suddenly popped into my head but years ago I taught one-to-one guitar at Sittingbourne Community College – A position for which I had my hair cut, bought a suit and shaved my beard off. At one point they invited me in to do a workshop with some other local guitar misfits – Two of which ran a local nearby open mic night which I’d played at a few months ago. The workshops were all great. As we were packing up to go home, the two open mic night promoters who were very impressed by my skills at the college came to speak to me, stating this scruffy kid had come into their venue with a pedal board just like mine and he was absolute crap – Couldn’t play for shit. I was intrigued as to who would have gone to so much effort if they couldn’t play – Suddenly one of them looked panicked and rushed off. Then it occurred they were talking about me behind my back to my face. Amazing how changing the way you look affects the way people hear you play an instrument. I didn’t go back to the open mic. What a couple of plonkers.
Odd guitar stories continued: As a member of Bangor’s long suffering industrial legends Skinflick, I toured the UK for a couple of weeks in a motorhome. The rest of the band quickly swiped all the comfy sleeping quarters, leaving me to kip in a small cramped compartment above the driver’s seat. We drank a lot back then and I used to pass out there, but every morning I was confused to wake up with cuts on my forehead. This went on for a few days until I learned they’d been driving around looking for kebabs and burgers with me asleep there. Whenever they went over a speedbump my head would bash into a bolt on the wall.
Odd guitar tales part 3: For a few years around 2000, I played guitar for little known funk metal weirdos Papa Lazaroo. We used to improvise based on the audience. One night the crowd in Felinheli all had dreads so Dan the bassist decides it would be great to play some reggae. Trouble is Twigg the singer wasn’t keen and had a wireless mic. We were going through a loud PA system. Twigg marched off stage singing “Have you seen me mate Bob Marley? He’s rockin’ in a box now – He’s worm food!” and marched off out of the room for a piss. Suddenly our subtle Bob Marley inspired song features the sound of Twigg urinating loudly into a toilet, declaring “Oooh fookin’ ‘ell that’s better!” in a Bolton accent.
Odd guitar tales part 4: I once played a gig at an all day event at Bangor SU. Bassist Joe from Vaffan Coulu took an item of clothing off between every song. Trouble is their songs weren’t very long. He ended up jumping around in nothing but a pair of red Y-Fronts.
Odd guitar tales part 5: in 1997 I was a member of Caernarfon rock band This Thing. My arguments with the drummer were fairly legendary and it looked like legal action was being taken against me for leaving. To console myself I went to the Harp to drown my sorrows. Midway into the evening my housemate kicks the door open into the Harp and wheels himself in to ‘cheer me up’. He’d been dealing in 2nd hand cars and got the wheelchair free with a disabled vehicle. He’d stolen a life size cardboard cut out of Kurt Russell from the cinema and put it in the driver’s seat instead. Immediately people are gathering around him so he tells them he’s been in a car accident and may never walk again. They bought him drinks all night. Problem is, he’s so wankered he can’t push the chair out the door and he doesn’t want them finding out he’s fine. So he asks me to wheel him home but I’m also too drunk. All the way back I’m bumping into things with him shouting “LOOK HOW HE TREATS HIS MATE! PARALYZED IN AN ACCIDENT!” At this point my week has all been too much. I tip him into the road just as 3 or 4 students came round the corner so I start shouting HE CAN WALK! GET UP YOU ARSEHOLE! He just lies in the middle of the road muttering “Heeeelp meee!” – I flicked the vees at him and buggered off home. They wheeled him home and told him to stay away from nutters like me. To this day they probably still talk about the time they watched a maniac kick a disabled man into the street.
Odd guitar tales part 6: In 2003 I played guitar at a venue in Stoke. There was a poster on the wall for the next night and the 3 band line-up was Turbowanker supported by Bastards Trained By Bastards and 99 Pence. Classy.
Odd guitar tales Part 7: Playing a wedding round about 2016. This one drunken buffoon kept jumping around in front of me and narrowly missed stamping on my pedals (at that time a decent £1000 worth of electronics.) Stealthily I edged forward and prodded him in the back with my guitar to softly nudge him out of the way. He went flying and landed straight on his arse. As concerned friends and family ran to his assistance I retreated before anyone realised what an idiot I’d just been. Turns out it was the father of the bride. Oops.
Odd Guitar Tales Part 8: In true Spinal Tap fashion, I once supported a Star Wars themed puppet show just outside Caernarfon, based on Punch & Judy with Darth Maul as Mr Punch.
Odd guitar tales part 9: A few people will already know about this one. In 2015 I played guitar with Baker Wicked at a rugby club social event – There was fancy dress (any costume permitted) & binge drinking. Several scrums took place on the dance floor involving Spiderman, Charlie Chaplin and Sloth from the Goonies. Fred and Wilma Flintstone were having a drunken domestic outside by the taxis. Saw a particularly brutal wedgie performed on poor old Julius Caeser who had his toga pulled right up his arse crack causing him to start a fight with a man in a Where’s Wally costume (Shrek broke them up). There was also a paralytic bloke dressed as a massive crayon who couldn’t stand up properly and when I played the guitar solo in Livin’ On A Prayer they all dropped their trousers and played their genitals like air guitars.
Duncan, was mild-mannered, quite reserved (until he got on stage) and well respected by all who knew him. One of the good guys.
He sadly died of bowel cancer 27.08.23.