Last month, Goldie Lookin Chain released Fear of a Welsh Planet. It’s an album that continues their trend of hilarious, but relatable, hip-hop. To find out more on its creation, and the evolution of GLC across a lengthy career, I spoke to Rhys (also known as P. Xain). As the member responsible for almost all of the group’s music and production, he’s been deeply ingrained from their earliest beginnings.
Aside from Goldie Lookin Chain, Rhys has put out a number of intriguing solo releases. From introspective piano albums to analogue tape experiments, he’s displayed his talents time and time again. Yet, he’s a humble and down-to-Earth individual; a trait he’s often displayed in his output. Therefore, when caught off-guard by my call on a trip to IKEA (to sample their famous meatballs), Rhys was more than happy to take me through some of the thoughts and philosophies behind GLC, his older music and the future. As a bonus, I also captured his live reactions to IKEA’s culinary offerings.
Click below to hear my interview with Goldie Lookin Chain’s Rhys. Scroll-down for selected transcripts and further commentary. Meatball reactions are exclusive to the audio version!
Though Goldie Lookin Chain state Fear of a Welsh Planet to be their twentieth album, Rhys admits to having lost count a long time ago. The truth is, in any case, that their catalogue is gargantuan. Their releases have included early demos and mixtapes, along with Christmas, instrumental and live albums. They’ve even made a record dedicated to isolated vocals, and that’s all separate from their full-length studio LPs and solo projects. Despite such an imposing pile of material, Fear of a Welsh Planet strikes Rhys as one of their strongest efforts.
All block quotes in this piece are transcripts of Rhys’ words from our SCP3 episode.
I’m super proud of the album. We started off in January, thinking, “Oh, we’re gonna do an album now, see how it figures”. We had some left over stuff, left over tunes and all that, that we were gonna make some sort of album out of. We’d done these sort of mixtapes in the past, and I thought we’d do another mixtape. All of a sudden, [we] just came up with, like, twenty tracks or so. I was like, “Well this is pretty good, y’know? This is pretty good stuff”. Then, it just turned into Fear of a Welsh Planet. I really like it. I think it’s one of [our] best.
It’s fun, y’know? It’s what it’s all about; enjoying yourself, having a good time, being friendly with people, laughing and joking and all that sort of stuff. That’s what we try and promote.
As times have changed, and the way we consume music has evolved, so has Goldie Lookin Chain. In fact, with a new approach in mind, the traditional method of putting out albums is far from their mind. Unfortunately, that may mean that Fear of a Welsh Planet will be the last time we hear such a record from them. That doesn’t mean that Newport’s legendary spokesmen are shutting up shop for good. Rather, it signals growth. Thanks to the internet, and our waning attention spans, GLC seek to adapt.
What generally happens now is, something will happen or there’ll be something in the news that we’ll go, “Right, we’re we’re gonna write a song about that”. We write the song, get it finished, do a video and we’ll do it within, usually, a couple of days or a week and then put it up online. So, the model of putting music out has changed with us, to the extent where I thought we would just be doing songs and then putting them up; putting them straight up onto YouTube or, now, Facebook. You have to direct people to YouTube, whereas Facebook just seems to be in front of people’s faces all the time. We’ll put a video up on YouTube now and it would get, like, 15,000 hits on it. But, we’ll put it up on Facebook and it will get 150,000 hits on it.
It’s odd the way it’s changed. You can put a link from Facebook to the video on YouTube and, apparently, the algorithms suppress it so it doesn’t go to so many people. There’s a lot of technical weirdness going on with Facebook and the internet now that you’ve got to try and get your head around to maximise the ability of people to watch your videos. I thought that was what we were gonna do. Then, all of a sudden, we did an album. So, in the future, who knows whether or not we’ll actually get it together to write a load of songs, or whether we’ll just bang them straight up on the internet. There’s every chance it could be the last album.
It’s a sad fact that our tastes have started to favour the bite-sized. But, it’s refreshing that artists like Goldie Lookin Chain are willing to use the constraint creatively. It might be true that albums are just too expansive to grab an audience outside of fanatics. Intelligent use of social media platforms and short-form video content can be liberating if used without cynicism. GLC are simply riding the wave presented to them by the online age. For them, it’s important that they retain the playful detail and charm of their preceding music.
I made a video for one of the songs off the album, called I Got a Van. We do a lot of green-screen [and] superimposed stuff on videos, but I wanted to make a video that people would watch more than once, or that they would share. I try to make videos that people will share, rather than it just being a humdrum, run-of-the-mill video of us jumping around, doing the words. So, on that, I’ve superimposed our heads on top of stop-motion of the [bodies], and then tried to do different things and have little, what they call, Easter eggs.
You know them people who watch Walking Dead? They say, “Oh, there was an Easter egg and it was really good“. I try to put things like that in there; give it a bit more depth, a bit more dimension. So, hopefully, people [will] be committed to watching it or sharing it a bit more. And that’s how we’ve changed, again. Rather than just doing a video of a load of men, jumping up and down in time to music, we’ve had to push the envelope and work a little bit harder to try and get people’s attention.
Statements of a “last album” sound more drastic than intended. Goldie Lookin Chain are already at work on new individual songs and projects. It’s merely that they’ve adjusted how they bring out their music. In the long run, this may actually end up providing fans with more tracks and videos than before. It makes sense too, as there’s a much higher probability of an idle timeline scroller breaking their routine for a compelling video. An entire record is, tragically, easier to overlook. Regardless, a finale for GLC doesn’t seem to be coming any time soon.
We’re still in the lab (that means “in the studio”). We recorded some stuff last week. Adam Hussain is trying to write a load of stuff. I think he wants to do some solo-ish stuff, ’cause he did a solo album years ago. We’re halfway through this one track, [and] we’ve got another track which we’re gonna do. But, I don’t think we’re gonna do it as an album. We’re just going to put them up as videos online. [We’ll], basically, do the Weird Al route and follow his lead.
With nearly two decades under their belt, Goldie Lookin Chain’s ongoing longevity is all the more impressive. Its core membership has stayed the same from their earliest beginnings, with only the departure of Maggot shaking things up along the way. Driven mostly by Rhys and Eggsy (the alter-ego of John Rutledge), they’ve carved out a distinctive and consistent voice. Through a shared background and lifestyle, the collective has fostered a tight dynamic that suits them all. So where, and how, did it start?
We knew each other through living in Newport, and going to the same pubs. Newport’s a pretty small place. [There were] two or three pubs that we’d all go to. And, then, we’d all basically come back to my place. I was trying to make serious music at the time. Eggsy came ’round and completely ruined it by singing his brand of humour over the top of it. Since then, I just gave in one day. I was like, “Just do the rap, sing a song,” and then there we were. I met Eggsy when he was about thirteen, I think, [and] riding down the road on a silver BMX, smoking cigarettes.
Their familiarity with British street life is one of their most powerful tools. It’s not a topic that many UK rappers truly tackle, either. Goldie Lookin Chain paint a picture of such colourful and colloquial reality that it approaches the absurd. It’s this that makes them humorous while, simultaneously, giving them an edge rarely seen elsewhere. After all, to what other group could a disenfranchised British teen turn for a joyous celebration of their day-to-day tedium?
Newport’s a pretty average place, y’know? Same as everywhere else. Everywhere’s got the same vibe. Everywhere’s got a Wetherspoons these days. Everyone’s got a Starbucks and a drive-by McDonalds. Everyone’s experiencing, pretty much, the same shit.
Though Goldie Lookin Chain are often overtly funny, it’s clear that they’ve considered their appeal beyond humour. It’s among the reasons why they write about the subjects they do. Similarly, Rhys is a fantastic producer who seems quick to disregard his abilities. He’s proved his skill with GLC alone, but that’s only one of his branches. His instrumental hip-hop mixtapes make for great listening. The same goes for his fascinating series of analogue mixtapes, which are far harder to find than they should be.
I’m really musical. I can make two different noises with my ears. Like, one of my ears, I can make a squeaky noise, and the other one makes a cracking noise. It’s amazing. But, apart from that, I did have up on the internet, like, guitar albums, piano albums, the analogue thing, ambient music and all sorts of stuff… The analogue stuff I did years and years ago. I used to have a DJ shop in Cardiff, where I sold DJ stuff, and we got this box called the MC-303. It was a Roland keyboard [and] my first chance at making music.
I basically spent a year just using that thing to make music. I just didn’t speak to anyone else. Those tapes, the analogue experiments, are basically me sitting in a room [and] using this machine. They don’t sound particularly good, I recorded them all onto cassette and they’re all a bit shonky and wonky. But, I didn’t really know what I was doing. It’s worth a listen, but there’s probably about four hours worth of music up there.
Through his instrumental piano album, RHYS from GLC – PIANO SOLOS, Rhys shows his depth of thought. It’s a gorgeous collection, which may take some Goldie Lookin Chain fans by surprise. Devoid of any humour, it’s delicate and restrained; a far cry from the anthemic assertions of Your Mother’s Got a Penis. It plays with brevity on each piece, harking back to his ideas on distributing music. His hope is that, by writing shorter tracks with a clearer focus, listeners will connect more naturally to his expressions. Elsewhere, I’ve heard him describe it as “punk piano”. However they’re labelled, his piano releases are astoundingly beautiful.
I made some plinky-plonky piano stuff, like, twenty-odd years ago. I was living in Brixton at the time, and I was just sitting in a room making music. Then, I didn’t do it for years. I was just concentrating on making hip-hop and that sort of thing. I wanted things to be short on that [album], so they wouldn’t be more than, like, two minutes long; just little snapshots [and] emotions. That was the vibe. I could have done done eight minute pieces, but you’ve just gotta grab people’s attention. That’s the thing nowadays. People’s attention spans tend to be between eight and ten seconds, I think. Pretty much. And, if you don’t get it straight away you lose people.
Thankfully, RHYS from GLC – PIANO SOLOS will soon be more than a one-off gem. Bearing in mind its sincerity, it’s hard to believe that Rhys really sees it as “plinky-plonky”. With a follow-up waiting in the wings, his musicality is something I suspect that he’s learned to suppress. As much I love Goldie Lookin Chain, their overarching novelty might occasionally eclipse the producer at its heart. Through my interview with Rhys, I’ve come to respect him with a deeper verve for his creative flair. But, across his multitude of expressions, he remains the same unassuming Newport native.
I’ve got another piano album that I’m working on. The last piano album was really elaborate; loads of notes. This one’s a bit simpler. I felt like, maybe, I’d gone a bit over-the-top last time. That’ll come out. I was thinking about forming a band with Graham the Bear, but he’s so flaky and useless that, to be honest with you, I can’t be bothered to deal with him anymore. “Oh son, I can’t come over. I gotta take my dog up my mum’s house,” fucking, I hate that dog!
You can follow Rhys on Twitter here! Alternatively, check out Goldie Lookin Chain on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Stream Fear of a Welsh Planet on Spotify here. If you enjoyed this interview, visit our previous interview with Rhys’ bandmate, Eggsy. The audio of this conversation is available on our YouTube.