Stereophonics

This first appeared in the Sunday Independent on October 28, 2007

See: http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/behemoths-of-pop-are-still-having-a-nice-day-1206633.html

Sprawled across their suite in a Dublin hotel the Stereophonics confess to me that they have a coke problem. But not (italics) that (close italics) kind of coke problem. ‘The thing is’ Kelly Jones begins, in that broad Welsh burr, ‘the coke in Dublin is completely rubbish. I mean it depends on how many bags you have but generally no, it’s fucking terrible. It’s like powdered bonjella or something. And there’s always this electrical tape wrapped around the bag. You rip the tape off and it goes everywhere. It’s just not sensible.’

I tell him I think the tourist board are looking into it. I’ve noticed the ‘phons keep getting up and going to the toilet, ostensibly for a piss, (‘we haven’t had a second all day’) but now I really have to wonder. But I’d like to think they would share and they do seem far too mellow to be secretly skiing in the jacks.

Other than not being able to source good drugs they have only good things to say about Ireland. Kelly celebrated his birthday in Dublin this summer – ‘a fucking mad weekend’ – and they still count their 2002 show in Slane as the highlight of the last ten years. Which, when you realise it’s a decade in which they have gone from playing working men’s clubs in South Wales to selling out stadia and playing pool with Ronnie Wood, is actually saying something.

‘It’s been an incredible few years alright’, Richard Jones (no relation to Kelly) tells me. ‘You sort of have a flashback to the life we used to have and then you’re meeting Keith Richards in his dressing room and he’s coming out of the toilet in the room and he’s doing his fly up and he’s got this look in his eyes like he’s going to either kill you or smile at you. It was quite an intense moment.’

Their transformation from small time covers band to pop behemoths wasn’t all plain sailing however. Some parts of their old lives were necessarily left behind. ‘The worst thing was employing all your mates and it doesn’t work out. Bono warned me about that. The benders get in the way of the gigs. You’re at Wembley and you’re testing your own equipment because it hasn’t been done. And when the show goes down you’re the one who ends up looking like an arsehole, so you have to take action. And we had to let go of people, which was hard. But still I wouldn’t change a minute of it. You have to go through the whole fucking rigmarole yourself to understand it.’

The band also had a falling out with their drummer, Stuart Cable, who was sacked from the band for missing several rehearsals and live shows. Last year he was reported to be suing the remaining ‘phons for royalties and performance fees, something they deny. ‘We just grew apart in many ways but we still go for a pint and the wound has healed in many ways’ Kelly tells me. ‘He has nothing to sue over. We were three partners in a business and it takes a while to sort things out just because there are so many lawyers involved, but that’s all it was.’

With the appointment of Argentinean born drummer Javier Weyler the band could move on, proving the old rock adage that the drummer never really makes a difference. ‘It was a relief not having a big cloud hanging over things. It had got a bit confusing. We could get back to playing great shows, doing great songs and getting f*cking drunk afterwards.’

With Weyler in the line up the band went on to score their first ever number one single in Britain and collect a slew of awards at the various industry shindigs. They also provided one of the few genuine rock moments in a rather tepid Live 8. ‘All that was missing was a hearse’, Richard remembers. ‘I always wanted a f*cking hearse. I think it would be very rock and roll if we pulled up to an award ceremony in one of those. If we ever win anything again, that is.’

The two Welsh phons, I’ve noticed, finish each other’s sentences and for a band that has written of their suspicion of journalists they seem refreshingly unguarded. They have a natural, easy banter with each other, although Kelly, who is even teenier in real life, tends to do most of the talking. He’s been in the wars lately. At an award show after party he and one of the bouncers at the after-show party got into an ‘altercation’ which resulted in Kelly being rushed to hospital and his arm ending up in a cast, which was only removed a few days ago. ‘I wasn’t pissed, which is what they’re saying, which is bollocks,’ he tells me. ‘We had just played live. We weren’t even onstage ‘til 10 so we wouldn’t have been drinking. They had actually kicked off about five times before that with different people and that’s why we were leaving.’

The band has their own theories on what happened. ‘He was a very tall man. And in my opinion – I think I’m allowed legally to say that – in my opinion he was on steroids. He had that kind of anger that you’d only see in a dog, the type of anger I hadn’t seen before.’

He has an equanimous view of the whole thing and probably won’t take up the offer of the copper who is a huge fan of the band and wants to help. ‘I take that scar as a reason and a reminder to me to shut my f**kin’ mouth. A man has to bear his scars. Maybe it’s best leaving it lie. Even if you lose your eye you only get 25 grand but I wouldn’t even do it for the money. I just think he’s a fuckin lunatic. He could’ve killed someone.’

The wrist has healed just in time for the release of their new album Pull the Pin. The title has caused some consternation in the English press, being taken as a reference to the July 7 bombings (which are alluded to on another song – It Means Nothing) but Kelly tells me the phrase has another meaning. ‘When I was younger we’d be sitting around drinking and talking about finishing up for the night and my cousin would say ‘ah fuck it let’s pull the pin’, like let’s have a few more.’

A few drinks are just what the ‘phons are in the mood more now. They’re off out on the town before another round of interviews in the morning. It’s a grind and they tell me they’re actually looking forward to the tour coming here, which is usually a lot more fun than ‘sitting around all day and talking about yourself’. Next time though they’re going to get their own supplies. ‘We would bring some with us’, Richard laughs, ‘but we’ll probably leave it up to the crew. We’ll just fuckin plant in the supports bands.’

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~ by Donal Lynch on January 8, 2008.