The Super Furry Animals on fighting the ‘smug’ Tories, Welsh independence and Jeremy Corbyn
The Super Furry Animals on fighting the 'smug' Tories, Welsh independence and Jeremy Corbyn
It's telling that the main stories from this year's Conservative party conference have been about what has taken place outside the conference 'safe zone' rather than inside.
Whether it's 80,000 anti-austerity protesters marching on the streets, a small number of anarchists spitting at delegates or Jeremy Corbyn packing out Manchester cathedral, it's been the Tories' opponents who have grabbed the headlines, rather than the Tories themselve.
So last night I took a trip away from the conference bars to Manchester University where the People's Assembly Against Austerity were holding a benefit gig with Charlotte Church and the Super Furry Animals.
Before they went on stage. I sat down with Cian Ciaran and Guto Pryce rom the Super Furries to ask why they had chosen to become part of the growing anti-austerity movement.
Cian: I found out about the People's Assembly about three years ago trawling the internet and I came across this guy called Stephen Morrison-Burke who was the [Birmingham] poet laureate and he presented the poem in the first People's Assembly event that Tony Benn was a part of. We had a meeting in Cardiff in the old Unite building and there was about five of us in the room and fast forward three years later they're getting 80,000 people on the march so we've always had an interest in politics but we've never really vocalised it before.
I think as individuals we've always been political but not really as a band. Man Don't Give a Fuck was one of the first songs we ever did and that's 20 years old now so it wouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who followed the band that we have political views.
Guto: We've always been careful as a band not to align with a political party. We may vote a certain way but we've never spoken about it.
Did you take part in the general election campaign?
Cian: That is not something we're interested in. We would never have gone to Number 10 to meet Tony Blair for example. I didn't vote in May. It was the first election in twenty years where I haven't voted. I just didn't agree with any party wholeheartedly so I could't lend them my vote
So has that changed now with the election of Jeremy Corbyn?
Cian: No, not really. Being Welsh there's a whole different politics we're dealing with.
Guto: Plaid Cymru have got a lot of socialist policies.
Cian. They're certainly more socialist than Labour have been over recent years.
So why haven't Plaid taken off in the same way the SNP have?
Cian: Fuck knows. It's a weird one. If you go back to the early sixties when Plaid and SNP had three Members of Parliament at the same time and a relatively similar population and electorate. For whatever reason the SNP have skyrocketed and left Plaid Cymru behind. They used to support each other and fight together. But Plaid have shied away from the independence questions and were afraid to use the 'i' word for about 15 years, so perhaps that set them back, maybe not. But it's two different countries with two very different cultures.
Guto: Also whereas in Scotland people left Labour and went to the SNP, in Wales they went to Ukip. It's a really mixed demographic there. They decimated the valleys which used to be Labour strongholds. The Scottish political identity is stronger than in Wales.
Cian: They have the confidence and self-belief that they can go alone. There's issues of migration between the two countries too. England and Wales have always been seen as one country without the same distinction that Scotland has. We used to call parts of North West Wales the 'Cheshire navy'.
Do you think Wales will ever become independent?
Cian: I don't see why not. There's a lot of reasons for going independent. There's a lot of call for the country to no longer be tied down to Westminster. And you could argue the same for the North of England. So it's not strictly a national question. And the referendum in Scotland wasn't just a question of being independent but it was about having a say about what happens in your back yard and not being tied down to London. Because what's good for London is not necessarily good for Scotland or Wales or Northern England.
Is there a growing anti-Westminster feeling in Wales?
Guto: It's the same everywhere
Ciaran: It's not necessarily anti-London. It's an anti-establishment or anti-corporate and anti-austerity movement against policies which only benefit the minority.
Do you think that is behind the rise of Jeremy Corbyn?
Ciaran: It's a result of the social circumstances. It hasn't come from nowhere
Guto: Politicians have become so bland. I think the public were desperate for someone who actually stood for something.
Ciaran: I think the expenses scandal hit a nerve and then the financial crash…
Guto: It's Tony Blair disappointing a whole load of people. The Lib Dems disappointing a whole load of people and the Tories just being these horrible, smug, nasty fuckers who don't give a shit.
Ciaran: And they [Labour] have benefited from all this.
Guto: At least there is a clear alternative
Ciaran: Even if you don't agree with him, you have to appreciate and relish that there is at least a chance if there wasn't before of a genuine debate and choice, that it doesn't have to be like this. There is a genuine opposition. Before there was an apathy that there was nothing we could do, we just have to go along [with what the Tories are doing]. Now there isn't. And even if the Tories and the right wing media whack it down, at least it's being said in the media whereas it was non-existent before. People might laugh it off but it is being said and reported.
Is the People's Assembly a part of this?
Ciaran: The People's Assembly being a collective voice can only be a good thing. I hark back to that phrase 'power to the people' from [Citizen Smith]. You see it in Bolivia. There's a prime example. They tried to privatise rain water for fuck's sake. And the people revolted and they won and got rid of them.
So it can work and it can happen but because the Tories and the right wing media say you can't it's more of a reason to support something like the People's Assembly, voice your concerns and come together.
Are there any particular political issues you are concerned about, beyond austerity?
Guto: All of it. Take a look at the high streets. They're just betting shops and charity shops and one Tesco. It's starting to affect the way people are living. People say there are loads of jobs but they're all minimum wage Tesco jobs.
Ciaran: The majority of my friends are on zero hour contracts and how can that be good? It's like Victorian times turning up at the factory gate and asking if there is any work today. We're going backwards.
Guto: We live in a country that is visibly wealthy. You see a lot of Range Rovers on the road but I don't know anyone who drives a Range Rover. And that seems to be that some people have got a lot but how are ordinary people supposed to buy a house these days?
Are you going to continue working with the People's Assembly?
Ciaran. Yes. People are starting to wake up for whatever reason and the People's Assembly is part of that jigsaw. It's not the answer by itself. There has to be more. But it's better to be part of it rather than be apathetic
We could very easily just sit here and get depressed but you have to stand up and fight. Because that's what they want you to do: to give up. It's that old quote: "If you don't take part in politics, you end up being governed by your inferiors."