“It’s more about the now and what we do that affects our future. It’s not about gloom, but action and reaction. Shouting, getting pissed off and not taking any more shit.”
More than a decade into the third millennium, the human race is still fighting over territory, resources and arbitrary beliefs, all the while failing to recognise the erosion of the very fabric of our planet. Meanwhile in a studio in the Welsh capital, Cian Ciarán, known for twenty, ground-breaking years as the keyboard player and production wizard in the Super Furry Animals, begins to sense that now is a breakthrough moment for people to rise to their feet and say: enough is enough.
Born in the university town of Bangor in the north west of Wales, hugging the Menai Straits close to where Ynys Môn gets nudged into the Irish Sea, Ciarán fell in love with football first and music second. A simple formula for happiness amongst young men in provincial towns, kicking a ball and hitting drums invariably lifts the monotony of life in communities battered by oppressive, industry-dismantling politicians. Ciarán’s aptitude for the beautiful game attracted the attention of English league clubs, but a greater passion was being nurtured.
“There was a realisation that I might be able to do this for a living, as opposed to a hobby, when I started getting paid for playing the drums when I was between 14 and 15 years old. It was also a great way to grow up – making music, loads of parties and gigs. Playing football went out the window, but I could have been a contender.”
A career on the pitch faded as acid house got under Ciarán’s skin. The early nineties saw polite society rocked by the celebratory dance culture that went unrestricted by the four walls of dark nightclubs and spilled into the consciousness of polite society as a danger to conservative values. With every beat, Ciarán’s future became clearer as music revealed itself to be a cavernous outlet for his energy and creativity. It was in 1993 that his big brother came knocking and drafted Ciarán into Super Furry Animals.
Dafydd Ieuan’s first band with Gruff Rhys, Ffa Coffi Pawb had imploded a year earlier and, alongside guitarist Huw Bunford and bass player Guto Pryce, were setting off on a life-changing journey and genre-dismantling, era-defining musical project. Ciarán became one fifth of the democratic musical state of the Super Furry Animals, and took the first step on a path that would navigate nine albums worth of fuzzed up, occasionally blissed out, uncompromising, alternative pop.
“What have been the highlights of being in Super Furry Animals? Travelling the world has been beyond anything I thought possible when I was a teenager. There was also owning a tank and DJ-ing from inside it. Headlining the Glastonbury second stage. Playing Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on New Year’s Eve in 1999, meeting everyone that I have and making and sharing music over the years. It’s probably the things I don’t remember that I enjoyed the most.”
As a songwriter, keyboard player and vocalist, Ciarán’s contribution to a band credited with re-establishing not just Welsh, but British music’s credibility, as the excesses of mid-nineties music started to fade, set the tone for his later solo projects.
Drawing on his love for all things electronic, Ciarán’s recording and producing history as Acid Casuals and Paps earned him a reputation as the member of the Super Furries more often found experimenting with the beats and bleeps over traditional guitars, drums and bass. The assumption that his head and heart was irreversibly won only by techno failed to take into account production and playing credits with artists as diverse as Paul McCartney, Mogwai, Manic Street Preachers and Kaiser Chiefs. Ciarán has always remained a moving target.
Fans and critics alike claimed both surprise and delight as he emerged into the spotlight under his own name in summer 2012 with the album, Outside In, a collection of songs that destroyed those assumptions that his individual output would forever be dance orientated. A collection of mellow songs that channelled John Lennon and the Beach Boys, the album paid respectful dues to his most profound musical influences while remaining an unmistakeable Cian Ciarán original.
“A self-produced series of brilliant sketches from a guy in a band that promises astonishing things for the future.” – MOJO
“These are tastefully plush songs with just a hint of subversion.” – UNCUT
The scarcity of social consciousness and political awareness, not only in music, but in the actions and ambitions of the public of the British Isles if not the World and the morally and financially beleaguered West brings Ciarán to release his second album, They Are Nothing Without Us, released on Strangetown Records in Autumn 2013.
Rage at a political system that allows commercial interests to govern social, economic and environmental policy is wrapped up in a record that weaves incandescent, scathing lyrics amongst mean guitar riffs and the same, lavishly layered vocals that marked out his first solo effort. Partly written and recorded in California, Scotland and Wales, every track was played and produced by Ciarán himself, teaching himself guitar into the bargain.
From within the confines of his Cardiff studio, a burning anger at the imbalances in society and the grave dangers future generations are being forced to confront, through corporate, political negligence and environmental disaster have been laid out in 13 new, powerful songs that are purposefully aggressive without compromising melody. His solo work might share DNA with the Super Furry Animals blueprint, but now Cian Ciarán has had enough and is putting the establishment-baiting battle cry higher in the mix.
“Why “They are nothing without us”? Because it’s true. ‘They’ being the elite, the bankers, politicians and big corporations. I guess this is my protest album” – Cian Ciarán, Cardiff, 2013.