Cian Ciaran... Omni-talented (Img: Emyr Young)
Interview: Cian Ciaran – part two
Published on June 8th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Here is part two of Rocksucker’s interview with Cian Ciaran. Click here to read part one!
It was Love Kraft that really opened up Super Furry Animals as a multiple lead-singer/songwriter operation. Was it something you discussed?
Not really, no. Everyone had written songs from the beginning, just not as prolifically as Gruff [Rhys]. A lot of the ideas I have coming out now are due to having more time to finish the songs, explore ones I’d already started. When Love Kraft came out, I just had more songs to put to the band and it all made sense. It was an organic thing, it wasn’t like we all sat down and allocated each other three songs each or something – everything goes in on merit, or the way everyone feels at the time when you’re putting a body of work together, thinking what songs work together. We didn’t want it to sound like a compilation tape, really.
Were you aware that “Carbon Dating” was recently used in the soundtrack to Channel 4 documentary/freak show My Big Fat Fetish?
Yeah, and “Run! Christian, Run!” as well!
“Carbon Dating” was particularly notable for soundtracking the photo shoot of a scantily-clad 280-pound woman, and then the filming of a ‘fantasy’ video where the girl gets kidnapped and fed mint ice-cream through a tube. Is that how you always envisaged your work being used?
Not really, no. Maybe it was a Furries fan editing the programme or something. I dunno.
It had never occurred to me until I saw it in that absurd setting, but the intro is kind of like a psychedelic Curb Your Enthusiasm theme.
Yeah (laughs), like a fairground or an organ grinder.
It’s quite the transition you’ve undertaken, from electronics guru to doo-wop crooner…
Yeah, you can hear hints of it on the songs I’ve written for the Furries over the years. I still write [electronic music] – I started a label called sOMbOM in 2009 on which I released a series of 12″s over the course of the year. There’s like an album’s body of work there. I don’t want to be held down to one style of music because I like listening to all sorts, and I like writing in all styles as well.
I don’t think you should be pigeon-holed into one style because you can learn from other styles and incorporate what you learn in other stuff, weave it in however you want. It’s like an artist – why should an artist stick to his paintbrush when he can do pottery or film or photography? I just look at it like that.
Can you see yourself releasing music as Acid Casuals or Paps again, or is it just Cian Ciaran now?
I’ve also gone under the name Kirkland for remixes, electronica-based, and I was going to do an album under that name with a load of guest vocalists. I was going to do that before the one I’m working on now but it just didn’t fit in the time frame, and then I wrote this one without thinking, and when I wrote it it made sense for it to come out first in contrast to the other one, more traditional song-based. So I’ve still got that one to go as well. Hopefully I’ll have it ready to go straight after the next one. There’s also an orchestral album that we worked on in 2010…
Well, no – that was a handful of songs we started working on in 2006, and then I did this TV soundtrack in 2010, so I developed the ideas, wrote more and over that summer it developed into an album that I want to try and get recorded with an orchestra. It’ll certainly be in sharp contrast but it’s a style that I like and like listening to, and it’s a good discipline writing for an orchestra as opposed to a band. You get different feelings and emotions from an orchestra. Hopefully if it came about I could tour that with an orchestra instead of going out on my own, and it could take on a life of its own – then I could get on with doing other stuff.
I was going to ask about Strange Village…
Yeah, that’s sort of the composing/soundtrack arm of Strangetown Records. There are three of us composers or musicians, whatever you want to call us – again, it’s a good discipline working to picture, and you’re working for the director so it’s a collaborative process. It’s similar to a band, but obviously it’s not a democracy because the director has the final say. Again, you learn from that experience and you can take that into your other work later.
Was the Super Furry sabbatical always intended as an opportunity to get all of your various projects finished?
I don’t think it was a conscious thing in that respect, but it’s come as a result of that because we have got more time now we’re not on the road for six months a year and in the studio for another two months a year, mixing or whatever, putting projects together for the band, but it’s not like you stop writing just because the band has stopped working.
Because of the fact that the band’s been going for fifteen years, it was nice to get out of that Groundhog Day feeling of ‘record an album, tour it, record an album, tour it…’ – hopefully getting out of that routine for a bit will mean we’re refreshed when we get back together, and again because everyone’s doing their own thing we can develop our own styles and ideas.
Are there any Super Furry Animals songs that you’d like to have played live more often over the years?
I think the Furries probably did play every song live at some point, but it would have been a seasonal thing where it got played when it was out and then we’d move onto the next album with only some of them carrying on. I sort of resurrected “Cosmic Trigger” after about seven years of not playing it, and I tried to resurrect…what’s it called? Off the first 7″…
“Blerwytirhwng?”? (NB: I didn’t pronounce that anywhere near as accurately as I just copy/pasted it.)
Yeah. We played it for a year after about ten years of not playing it, and then it didn’t get played again (laughs). I like that one.
Every year I mark the beginning of summer by playing Guerrilla. How much was that album’s strong electronic aesthetic down to you?
We went up to this farm to rehearse the songs prior to going into the studio and inevitably we ended up writing more songs during that period. A lot of it came from sampling and pushing ideas on the computer during rehearsal, and that got translated into the recording session when lyric-writing and everything else got put on after. “The Door to This House” and “Wherever I Lay My Phone” were songs that started as a band I guess in the rehearsal sessions that grew out of me sampling and programming on the Atari.
Most Furry things are pretty much band efforts – it doesn’t matter who comes up with the initial line, a verse or chorus or on-loop idea, a lot of it ends up being collaborative. If you gave a Furries song to each member then they’d probably come up with a different version, so what you’re hearing is the result of being in a band as opposed to being a solo artist.
“Slow Life” is a prime example of this kind of process. That started with you, didn’t it?
Yeah, I had it all structured out from start to finish as an electronica song, a nine-minute epic, then one night Daf and Bunf played some guitars on it. When I came in the next day they’d taken it somewhere else, and then Gruff ended up putting some lyrics down, then a vocal line appeared, etc etc.
That’s the stuff of legend, as far as I’m concerned.
Ha ha, brilliant! It’s a good thing it happened, actually.
Finally, if you had to spend the rest of your life with the back catalogues of just five different musical artists, whose would you choose?
The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Richie Hawtin/Plastikman, Led Zeppelin and Puccini. Bit of electronica, bit of rock, bit of psychedelia and a bit of classical there.
Cian Ciaran, thank you.