6 career defining records of SFA's Dafydd Ieuan

2nd Feb 2010 | 11:04

6 career defining records of SFA's Dafydd Ieuan
Dafydd 'Daf' Ieuan
SFA sticksman chooses his six best

You know him best as the sticksman from Cardiff oddballs Super Furry Animals, but Dafydd ‘Daf’ Ieuan has warmed the stool for some of Welsh rock’s favourite sons and daughters.

Here Daf reveals six of his best recorded moments, telling Rhythm Magazine why they mattered so much along the way…

First up: Catatonia’s underrated debut

6 career defining records of SFA's Dafydd Ieuan
Way Beyone Blue (1996)

Before they became the drunken face of Britrock with 1998’s International Velvet, Catatonia laid down this underrated debut album with Daf on drums. With impeccable timing, he left as they hit paydirt.

Dafydd Ieuan says:

“Cerys Matthews was the face, but Mark Roberts [guitarist] was the boss. I’d known him for years ’cos we came from the same part of Wales and we’d been in Welsh language bands in the late-’80s.”

“We did most of Way Beyond Blue in Cornwall, in a studio you could only get to by boat. I had to restrain myself, not hit the drums as hard as I could, because I’d been playing in blues bands in working men’s clubs in North Wales. But they were still rocky, dangerous songs. I liked For Tinkerbell.”

“I always thought Mark was a natural songwriter and that Cerys could pull it off. Unfortunately, it came to the point where I had to choose whether I wanted to get the Super Furry Animals going or carry on with Catatonia. That’s why I left. Then they became mega-famous.”

6 career defining records of SFA's Dafydd Ieuan
Fuzzy Logic (1996)
Super Furry Animals

Our hero and his psychedelic chums discover the joys of country air, expensive mixing desks and whirlpool baths…

Dafydd Ieuan says:

“We’ve been to Spain, France, Rio… it gives you a different vibe, different food, different cheeses. But I’ll never forget the excitement of going into Rockfield. It was the first time we’d been to a proper studio with all the gear, let alone a residential one with jacuzzis. I was in it every day!”

“There were no distractions, no people turning up, no ‘extra-curriculars’. It was good to get away. We were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We did it all in six weeks. We did everything almost live then; we didn’t use clicks or Pro Tools ’cos it was early days for that technology.”

“I’ve always been a Ringo fanatic, and everything I did was copying him, especially the rolls. I was doing the nicest, laziest rolls ever. So I might not have been the most technical drummer, but I was good enough for the job.”

6 career defining records of SFA's Dafydd Ieuan
Radiator (1997)
Super Furry Animals

The Furries retreat to Wales to plot their next move. With hindsight, they probably shouldn’t have done it next to a runway…

Dafydd Ieuan says:

“We did Radiator in a little studio in Anglesey at the end of an RAF runway, so we’d be recording and a Harrier Jump Jet would fly low overhead and we’d have to do it again. There was a lot of personal shit going on - we had to go through all the rock clichés one by one - but that was the album I enjoyed most, because we weren’t hiring big-shot engineers.”

“This was before we got to grips with technology. We didn’t start using samplers, sequencers and clicks until our third album. It was still live, ‘1-2-3-4’, and if you started too fast you’d die about half a minute in! ‘Mountain People’ isn’t my best drumming, but it’s one of the first songs that evolved into a real groove.”

“I can’t be objective about whether it’s our best record. I was so involved in it, to the point where there’s nothing I don’t know about the process.”

6 career defining records of SFA's Dafydd Ieuan
The Great Western (2006)
James Dean Bradfield

As a member of the Welsh rock’n’roll mafia Daf was the obvious choice for the Manics singer’s solo outing. It was no holiday…

Dafydd Ieuan says:

“The official drummer of Welsh rock? I didn’t think about that till you mentioned it! I’ve known James for years, and obviously we’ve toured with the Manics, so he asked me to play on Run Romeo Run.”

“That’s a good experience, seeing other people work, watching how James works things out. He’s methodical and he doesn’t take any shit. He’s strict, but that’s probably a good thing. It was an eye-opener for me. “I’m a very different drummer to Sean Moore. Maybe that’s why he wanted me, out of curiosity. It was two or three takes and then fire it out.”

“James had his own engineer, and when you’re a jobbing musician, drum sound is out of your hands. I had my own snare, though. Apparently, the drummer who had to play the song live found it difficult to play!”

6 career defining records of SFA's Dafydd Ieuan
The Golden Mile (2008)
The Peth

As Daf gleefully admits, his side-project with wayward Britpack actor Rhys Ifans is a 17-pint pub conversation made flesh. Their biggest hit was called ‘Let’s Go Fucking Mental’. Which says it all, frankly.

Dafydd Ieuan says:

“I’ve been mates with Rhys for 25 years. We’re mates from the pub, really, and we just transferred that to the studio; that’s probably why it took ages. I’ve never laughed so much making an album.”

“The drums sound dangerous and chaotic? That’s just the way I am! They were recorded in a little room the size of a garage, and the mics weren’t like the ones you get in Rockfield, so you end up making things sound more extreme ’cos you can’t compete with high-end production. I like the drums on the last track, The Golden Mile. It’s seven minutes, so I felt like collapsing at the end!”

“I’m working on the next Peth record, it’s just a matter of waiting for Rhys to get time off. I’m just gonna be the producer on the next one. It’s nice to sit back and tell somebody else what to do.”

6 career defining records of SFA's Dafydd Ieuan
Dark Days/Light Years (2009)
Super Furry Animals

Back to the day job for the Furries’ latest…

Dafydd Ieuan says:

“On this album, I was trying to lock into the groove, not show how fancy I could play. There’s a song called Helium Hearts, which was one take, where I’m doing a Stevie Wonder kinda thing.”

“The beauty of recording drums now is that we can do what guitarists and singers have done for years. Some songs, like The Very Best Of Neil Diamond, I played the whole take then dropped in a middle-eighth. Sometimes I’d play for 15 minutes then chop out the best bits and pick out the gristle.”

“The whole album was played to clicks. I don’t mind a bit of technology. When you listen to the record, you’re not thinking about how it was made but how it makes you feel.”

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