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Music Interview: Super Furry Animals

photo by Frederick Helwig

It’s been 20 years since psychedelic Welsh wizards Super Furry Animals released their masterpiece – the lavish and wildly eclectic Rings Around The World, their fifth studio album, which was nominated for the 2001 Mercury Prize.

In September of last year, it was re-released to celebrate its 20th anniversary – the original album has been remastered, with extensive bonus tracks, and is available as a deluxe double 180g gatefold vinyl LP, a single CD, a 3-CD set and a digital version.

The band’s first record for a major label, Sony/Epic, Rings Around The World was also the world’s first simultaneous CD /5.1 surround sound DVD release.

Recorded in Monnow Valley, in Rockfield, Wales, and Bearsville Studio, New York State, in Woodstock, it’s a hugely ambitious collection of songs, taking in diverse influences like techno, West Coast psych, plastic soul, A Guy Called Gerald, John Barry, Aphex Twin and Gene Clark. Guest musicians include Paul McCartney and John Cale. ‘(Drawing) Rings Around The World’ sounds like The Beach Boys doing Status Quo, ‘It’s Not The End of the World?’ and ‘Juxtapozed with U’ are gloriously wonky summer pop songs, ‘Presidential Suite’ has lush Easy Listening strings and Burt Bacharach horns, ‘Receptacle For The Respectable’ is a complex, four-part epic – Pet Sounds-meets-electronica, Beatles rock ‘n’ roll and pantomime death metal – and ‘Run!Christian,Run!’ manages to mix trippy dub with Byrds-style, cosmic country-rock.

To find out some of the stories behind the making of Rings Around The World, I got keyboard player, Cian Ciaran, and bassist, Guto Pryce, on the phone.

SH: Does it feel like 20 years since Rings Around The World?

CC: It feels like another life. Our last studio album came out in 2009 – after that, we didn’t do anything for six or seven years, and then we did two years of touring and then nothing for five years. Once you have a break from that Groundhog Day routine of going into the studio, doing an album, going on the road and then having a break, it feels like a different life.

GP: It’s a weird one – it does feel like a lifetime ago. A lot’s changed.

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