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‘It’s a great surprise to me I’ve made a living as a guitarist – it was never the plan!’, says Super Furry Animals maverick Gruff Rhys ahead of Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer headline gig

Gruff Rhys
Gruff Rhys

Super Furry Animals and Neon Neon maverick Gruff Rhys is no stranger to Fife having recorded at Sub Station in Rosyth and having played Glenrothes with the Super Furries a few years back.

However, as the proud Welshman looks forward to playing a solo acoustic set as part of the latest Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer multi-genre club night at Kirkcaldy’s Adam Smith Theatre on May 18, he is also excited to be appearing on the bill alongside acclaimed trad revivalist Brighde Chaimbeul with an extended set from Fife musician and event curator James Yorkston himself.

“I’ve got many good friends from Fife and I’m excited to be invited,” explained Gruff in an interview from Cardiff.

“I’m a fan of James’ music. I’m originally from a place in North Wales where I think he’s recorded quite a lot of his records there. He’s played in my home town. He’s got a lot of fans. The whole line up is pretty amazing really.”

Best known for 1990’s Super Furry Animals tracks like God! Show Me Magic and If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You, Gruff was nominated for the 2008 Nationwide Mercury Music Prize with his electro-pop collaboration Neon Neon, and won the 2011 Welsh Music Prize for his third solo album Hotel Shampoo.

His Fife solo debut will see him play a “really stripped down solo set” featuring material from the last 30 years – the intimate setting of the Adam Smith Theatre’s Beveridge Suite being in stark contrast to large scale venues like Glastonbury and T in the Park he’s experienced in the past.

However, in recent times he’s enjoyed being able to “improvise” a bit more and the “unpredictability of being in the moment” – and he’ll likely “let the night dictate” exactly what he’s going to play.

Culturally, being Welsh is very much part of his identity and Welsh is his first language.

But as a musician, he wants to be defined by his music, and he enjoys the experimental side of music.

For a man who had “no ambition” to be a guitarist, he also continues to play the guitar in an unusual style.

Although he is right-handed, he learned to play left-handed on his brother’s left-handed guitar.

Once his brother left home, Rhys only had access to a right-handed guitar.

As he had already learned to play left-handed, and rather than invert the nut and re-string it, he taught himself to play the right-handed guitar upside down so the bass strings are on the bottom.

Today, Rhys still plays left-handed on an upside down right-handed guitar.

“It’s a great surprise to me I’ve made a living as a guitarist – it was never the plan!” he laughed.

“I still play upside down. It’s the only way I know. I’m not a great musician by any means but that’s how I learned to write songs, so that’s how I sing my songs. It’s too late to change!”

* Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer featuring Gruff Rhys/Brighde Chaimbeul/James Yorkston – Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy, May 18.

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