Catching up with Catatonia

Mark Roberts and Paul Jones - guitarist and bassist

Before they found success in Catatonia, Mark Roberts and Paul Jones were old hands on the gig circuit with their cult Welsh band Y Cyrff.

Over the past few months they've been rooting through boxes of tapes under the bed and listening to repolished versions of their Welsh language rock to re-release in a box set through Rasal, which is closely linked to Sain.

'It was not our idea but we had thought about it in the past,' says guitarist Roberts,

Bassist Jones adds, 'It was kind of presented into us in a fait accompli.'

It's 20 years since the band first got together, a figure which stops the pair in their tracks mid-pint as they sit discussing the collection, Atalnod LLawn, in The Clive pub, in Cardiff.

It's a bit of a coup for them as they don't have to tour the record. Instead a trio of bands - fans of Y Cyrff - are going on the road for a set of tribute gigs starting in Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff tomorrow.

One of the three is 'next big thing' Alun Tan Lan.

'He would come round when he was still in school and just observe,' says Roberts.

With the rest of the members - Barry Cawley, Dylan Hughes and later Mark Kendall on drums - Y Cyrff were an important part of the Welsh music scene, playing up and down the A470 and experiencing some strange moments of success overseas.

'Apparently we were in the top 10 of the Polish radio rock charts for four months,' says Jones.

While still working as labourers, butchers and in a whole host of other jobs, they'd come back from gigs in the early morning and then set off for a working day. 'If you got back before 3am it wasn't too bad to then go and do a mundane job,' says Jones.

Setting up their own gigs they played everything from mushroom festivals to sets in front of restless Hells Angels.

What started off as a school covers band encouraged by the teacher who organised the Welsh Language Society developed into Catatonia, as Jones and Roberts decided to keep working together when Y Cyrff ended.

But after massive success and then Catatonia's split it is strange looking back on the days when they ruled the UK charts. 'It's good that we did it, it was a good experience but it's hard looking back on what we have done. I haven't looked back really on Catatonia stuff and now we're looking back even further,' says Roberts.

Jones agrees, 'It was quite a big change from the start to the end. It takes a while in your life to digest what has happened and the way I look back on ,it now four years later is different to the couple of weeks after we split. It will be different again.'

As we sit there and chat about the scene at the time, gigs supporting flashin-the-pan bands like Salad and the resilience of the Super Furry Animals it seems the pair are happy they were Catatonia but not desperate to go back to that kind of lifestyle.

While the two of them have stayed working together, they're still on good terms with the rest of band.

'If Cerys (Matthews) pays for my ticket to America I'll head over there,' jokes Roberts, as Jones recalls bumping into the singer in a restaurant with all of her family not so long ago.

Now the pair, settled in Cardiff with partners (Jones also has a daughter born during the later years of Catatonia) are still making music. Roberts has been producing and they both were involved in occasional Welsh group Sherbet Antlers.

At the moment their 'work in progress' is as Y FFyrc. 'When we've finished it we'll see what we do with it,' they say mysteriously.

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