The struggle for survival in the Welsh rock scene in the 1990s (1995)

Note: The Welsh Rock Scene constitutes welsh-language pop, rock and folk music both in their- recorded forms and in Live performance, all of which aim for” a chart position in the independent Welsh Top 20


Foreword – Introduction to research techniques and presentation of data

This ethnography is concerned with the struggle for survival of independent Welsh-language bands within the Welsh Rock Scene (Y Sîn Roc Gymraeg) in the first half of this last decade. This time limit has been chosen because of recent events that are popularly believed to have led to a decline in the number of new bands becoming successful in Wales as opposed to the more well-established bands who seem to be monopolising the industry. Using examples of the recent critical acclaim received by Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Catatonia in the British music press as a starting point, the project plans to contrast their success with the plight of new bands trying to break through, especially those featured on the compilation album “Gog Rock” put together as part of this project. The bands featured on “Gog Rock”are all under 25 years of age, and all (with the exception of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) without the backing of the major Welsh record labels – Sain, Ankst or Fflach.

The album project allowed more research possibilities, allowing me to learn about promotion and marketing of bands as well as opportunities to interview then in the local music press, quotes from many of which are included in this ethnography. Co-ordinating the “Gog Rock” project also allowed me to become more involved in the industry, from TV appearances to being interviewed for magazines about the need for this type of project, and its effect on the scene and the bands who are part of it.

Interviews were conducted with several bands and individual band members, asking about their attitudes towards certain aspects of the industry (and to each other), a common question being “What problems have you encountered in trying to break through into the Welsh rock scene?” This was intended to give me some insight into how Welsh groups relate to each other and to the industry in which they are trying to earn a living. To add to this, I am a member of the Welsh-language rock band Diems, so it was both interesting and educational for me to compare my own experiences with that of other musicians, while also allowing me some experience to judge exactly how much of what was being said was actually the truth and how much was myth. It was often hard to distinguish between fact and myth since image is such an important Part of the scene.

Not all bands faced the same problems, but there were some common concerns, and this is what 7 have attempted to highlight in this ethnography. Many problems seem to have been created by the decision-makers in the industry, such as record companies and broadcasters, but this will be explored later.

Some of the academic research into the ethnography included works by Wallis and Malm on the Sain recording company, and on minority cultures and the arts; various essays and books on culture, identity and music, and others on broadcasting policy. Some research was also done on the Welsh language, and on the English in Wales.

I found that there was little academic research that was directly relevant to this project, and it was an advantage in that it encouraged me to read Welsh magazines and newspapers searching for data. It also meant that I had to go out and speak to more musicians and industry people than perhaps would have if there were more academic research available.

The ethnography is structured as a series of subheadings of different aspects of the Welsh Music Scene that complicate the development of new Welsh-language rock bands, while explaining the way the system works in Wales. Most of the evidence is based on personal experience, but supported by the use of quotations from other musicians who have encountered similar references problems. There are references to specific compositions, many of which are included on a tape that accompanies this essay, but the essay itself is more concerned with social relationships than with musicological analysis, though the content of the songs will be directly relevant to any points being made.

Next: Introduction