THE guys of Threatmantics...
have been speaking with me about the Welsh music scene and how they came to be; what inspired their new album, Shadow on Your Heart, and whether they have any gigs coming along – they reveal some rising acts to watch.
I ask about the boys’ record collections and tastes; which albums they count as favourites and the artists they’d support on the road given the chance – they each select an excellent track to round the interview off with.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Andrew: Very good, thanks. The last week has been hectic: new album being released and all. Truthfully, it’s mostly been nice to hear how people have been enjoying it. I was told that one absolutely jam-packed bar in Cardiff put our album on in full as soon as the Six Nations game between Wales and England ended. I found the idea of that quite odd. I imagine it’s a bit of a departure from the typical Welsh bar’s post-game mix of Tom Jones and Stereophonics.
Heddwyn: We did stack all the Pop hits at the top of the album, so I guess that could work. This week has been totally full-on. Shadow on Your Heart is the first album we’ve put out ourselves, so all the stuff like mailing pre-orders; getting records in shops, coordinating the online stuff - it’s been an almost overwhelming shock to the system at times. Plus, my arm still hurts a bit from printing all those album sleeves. We had an artist, John Abell, design the cover art as a woodcut and we hand printed each one. When I say ‘we’, John did most of it: I helped. It’s a really physical process that’s kind of hard on the knees as well. Worth it though. Those covers are beautiful, individual works of art!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
Heddwyn: We are a maverick Art-Rock four-piece from Cardiff. Myself on vocals and viola; Andrew on guitar; Graf on bass and Huw on drums.
How did Threatmantics start life? When did you all get together?
Heddwyn: We formed in Cardiff Art School way back in 2005. Back then we had a different guitarist and Huw would play the basslines on a keyboard while drumming. Andrew became our guitarist just before our second album and Graf invented the role of Threatmantics bass player soon after.
Tell me about your new album, Shadow on Your Heart. Was it quite a quick album to put together or was it quite a gradual process?
Heddwyn: The songwriting and recording of it was actually pretty fluid. The sound of it was well-formed and translated really well in the studio. It’s everything that followed that took time. We had a couple of hard maybes from some labels, but it became apparent we were going to have to put it out ourselves; navigating the music industry in its unfiltered state. At times it’s been like staring into the Ark of the Covenant: faces turning to melty plasticine as you try and navigate the PRS website. On top of all that, we decided to hand-print three-hunred record sleeves! The end, however, has more than justified the means.
What sort of themes and inspirations go into the songs on the record?
Heddwyn: Musically, this is our first record with a full-time bass guitar player. As a result, so many of the songs started with bass and drums. We’d never really written that way before. It’s definitely given the record a different sound. As for themes, there are a few. The use of respectable veneers to hide lies and malicious intent is a recurring one. I used quite a few films as jumping-off-points for some of the songs on there - Heaven’s Gate, Funny Games; Office Space, The Third Man plus a few more. To set the mood, or as a spark for other ideas.
In terms of music, do you share tastes? Would one find similar albums in your collections?
Graf: Not really. I think this is reflected in the difficulty to pin down what it is that we do. We all bring differing tastes and influences to the table, chuck it all in a pot and then poke it with breadsticks until you’ve got a meal/band (I might try and get the Fondue-Rock scene off the ground. Probably not though.) Obviously, we all cross over at various points but there’s very little we *all* totally agree on except maybe Mclusky/FOTL and Gorky’s/Euros Childs.
Heddwyn: You’d find completely different tastes between my C.D. collection, my vinyl collection and what’s on my phone. It’s a complete mess before we even think about comparing it to the rest the band.
Andrew: My taste is broad - which means I do touch on a lot of different aspects of the other guy’s tastes. If I had to say a point where our tastes coalesce, it’s Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci with a hint of AC/DC (one member might disagree with that last one).
You are a Welsh band. Do you find there is still an underappreciation of Welsh music and the quality there?
Andrew: There seems to have been a slight shift regarding attitudes towards Welsh music, in particular music sung through the Welsh language. The Internet has given an outlet for Welsh language bands to reach out further than ever and people are listening. That’s pretty heartening for me.
Graf: We are a European band. Now is not the time for pigeonholes and borders.
Heddwyn: We did record half the album in Paris after all. When we first started out, we’d get people come up to us really annoyed that we sang some songs in Welsh. Like we’d offended them somehow. That doesn’t seem to happen anymore, which is progress of sorts I guess. Though you still get people who are bitterly, stridently nationalistic about being Welsh but who really hate the language and anyone who speaks it. It’s really weird.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
Andrew: Playing before The Zombies, ten minutes up the road from where I was born, was a big deal for me.
Heddwyn: That Rheola Fest was a lot of fun! There are so many moments from playing gigs or being on tour…or even just practice session. But maybe the thing that pokes through past all that was when we got the first box of our first album through from Domino. The feeling of pride in that plastic-wrapped bundle of legitimacy was pretty singular. It’s like when we finally finished hand-printing and then assembling our new record; seeing them all stacked up and ready to go. It’s a different kind of emotional reward to playing live. Not better, just different.
Which one album means the most to each of you would you say (and why)?
Graf: Super Furry Animals – Radiator
Consistently my number-one album for the last twenty years. Had it on both sides of a C90 tape and listened to it on the bus to and from college every day which, with hindsight, may well have played a very large part in me making the decision to move from the Midlands to Cardiff. Every different machine, headphones or speakers I play it on brings out a new line or melody or hook I’ve not noticed before (even now). It really is the gift that keeps giving.
Andrew: Stevie Wonder – Innervisions
I first heard it at the start of summer, right after the long slog of GCSEs. Every time I hear it now, I’m taken back to that feeling of total freedom and warm breezes. The songs are amazing too, obviously.
Heddwyn: When I was very young, I got given my uncle’s collection of Bob Dylan records. At the time, I was obsessed with The Times They Are a-Changin’ but it’s probably The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan that’s stayed with me the most, even if that’s mostly due to songs that aren’t his.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Andrew: I’d support either Ariana Grande or Guided by Voices and would have all of the halloumi fries on my rider, please.
Heddwyn: I want halloumi fries! I’d love to support Micachu/Mica Levi. Thought the stuff she did with The Shapes was great and the soundtrack for Under the Skin was just ridiculously good. I’d be intrigued to see how she’d perform live now, how those two worlds would interweave.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Andrew: Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. In 2019, it’s easier than ever to put yourself out there and control your own destiny.
Graf: You can do it. It’s in your own hands. Don’t wait for someone else’s approval. If you want to do it just get on and do it. Also, if that person seems a bit creepy or sketchy or useless it’s probably because they are a bit creepy and/or sketchy and/or useless.
Heddwyn: Don’t have only halloumi fries on your rider: get some fruit and veg on there too.
Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?
Graf: Firming up details of a London show in the very near-future and summer festival dates to be announced soon. We’re always open to offers.
If we came to one of your live shows, what might we expect?
Andrew: Graf climbing on something, usually.
Heddwyn: The unexpected! Guitar solos on viola, viola solos on guitar! Punk, Rock; Folk, Pop and Metal all coming at you from every conceivable angle. Oh, and Pokémon tattoos.
IN THIS PHOTO: Silent Forum/PHOTO CREDIT: The Shoot
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Andrew: Silent Forum, Big Thing; Perfect Body, Omaloma; Los Blancos, Serol Serol; Joe Armon-Jones and PREP are all relatively recent artists I’ve enjoyed. Silent Forum recently supported us at our album launch show.
Graf: Silent Forum, Perfect Body and Oh Peas!
Heddwyn: Zefur Wolves have a new album out soon. Their last one was great. Troubled Soul is such a good song! Not sure if they count as new but I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse.
IN THIS PHOTO: Big Thing
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Andrew: I mostly unwind from music by learning about music. It’s a problem. I’m the kind of guy who entertains himself by researching an artist’s chart history. Read in to that what you will.
Graf: Ah. Those sweet, sweet day jobs.
Heddwyn: Yeah, I work as a sound engineer/designer. Threatmantics ties in pretty well with that - there’s a lot of crossover. Away from sound and music it’s probably films, T.V.; PlayStation - the usual. I do enjoy a pub quiz. Huw probably has the most interesting hobby: he plays flag American football for Cardiff on the weekends.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Andrew: Carw - Lanterns
Graf: Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – The Wizard & the Lizard. It came up on shuffle while I was in the park in the sunshine this lunchtime which reminded me what absolute bonkers-genius it is
Heddwyn: The Victorian English Gentlemens Club - Fire in the Wife. Criminally underrated
Huw (in absentia): Mclusky - Lightsaber Cocksucking Blues. It’s what he would have wanted