Listening in Stereophonics

stereophonicsReality doesn’t frequently imitate art but in June this year former Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable became the Local Boy in the Photograph, the band’s first single which was released in 1997, when he died aged 40 after choking on his own vomit while asleep.

Although Cable had left the band in 2003, he was, as vocalist and guitarist Kelly Jones told the Herald “my best friend” and the lyrics aren’t any less poignant to Local Boy: “He’ll always be 23 / yet the train runs on and on / Past the place they found his clothing /And all the friends lay down the flowers / Sit on the banks and drink for hours / Talk of the way they saw him last / Local boy in the photograph.”

To say the past few months have been emotionally easy would be an understatement.

But the circle of life continues and the Stereophonics, who have been putting out flawless rock tracks such as Dakota, Maybe Tomorrow, Handbags and Gladrags (which was the theme song to the UK version of The Office) perfectly matched by Kelly’s gravelly vocals for 13 years, have been on a world tour although it’s taken them those 13 years to play a Buenos Aires gig.

There was a special twist to Saturday’s show at the Hot Festival, and that twist was the Welsh band’s drummer, Javier Weyler. That’s right folks, the man’s an Argentine. A studio assistant working in London with the Stereophonics, he became a permanent band member in 2005, eventually replacing Stuart who had already left two years before.

Talking about Javier, Kelly says: “One minute he was making our tea, the next he was playing drums for us! It was quite a promotion. He’d started to play tambourine on a few tracks then things went a bit funny with our drummer and Javier kind of took over in the studio, and did some demos. We then put a schedule in front of him and said “Do you fancy coming round the world with us?” And he did. Stuff of dreams.

“Stuart had parted ways with us in 2003 but we were best mates all throughout that while. He was always part of the band, but it was a work thing and we always got on as friends,” says Kelly.

But why has it taken so long to make it here? Talking to the Herald on Saturday prior to their gig, Kelly says: “When we were with V2 record company, they never had a sister company in South America so it took us a while to get here unfortunately — but we’re here now.” The band is now on Universal Records.

Talking about latest integrant “Jav” and how the Hot Fest crowd might react towards him, Kelly says: “He’s excited, all his family here — even his 90-year-old grandmother is here and I’ll bet she’s never been to a festival before. I’ll bet she’ll never go again! But it will be good. We did Brazil yesterday (Friday) then we’ve got Peru and Chile coming up. And that will be the end of the world tour as we’ve been out for 15 months.”

The merry-go-round lifestyle of a different city every other day, a set list with a few switches to it, playing to adoring fans, being a rock star clearly sounds glamorous with the travel, the women, the parties… The Welsh band has a large, seven-album catalogue to pull out tracks from but perhaps the reality of the day job is a bit dull.

“We change the set list as much as we can, to be honest. Tonight we’ll be bringing out all the big singles as we’ve only got 50 minutes, so there is no point in trying to go off there either, as we’ve never played here before. We keep it in trim by changing up songs we play, changing things to the set list and to make it as fresh for us and the audience as we can. If you did the same 20 songs every night, then you would go fucking insane,” he adds.

“It’s also a good opportunity to be heard by people who wouldn’t normally know who we are to see us so we get to steal a few fans. Maybe we can steal a few Massive Attack fans!”

Keep Calm and Carry On was their last album which was released in November 2009 which has been followed by the world tour. Where are the Stereophonics at at the moment?

Kelly says: “We’re having a good time and the band is in a good place. We all get on really well as mates, and we were all friends before we were in a band. On the next album we’re going to try to mix up music and film and try to do something completely different. It’s the touring that’s time consuming: it takes a year to go round the world, but creatively we’re still very excited about what we’re doing and want to keep going forward and try new things.”

Talking about the loss of Stuart, Kelly talks about his friend coolly, although there is still an element of disbelief there.

“Me and Stuart were best friends from the age of seven, we lived eight doors apart all our lives. His mum still lives there, as do my mother and father. It’s more like losing a brother. A lot of people just saw us as a couple of guys in a band who had split up and wondered what went wrong.” But that was seven years ago, and we were talking up until the day he died. We were meant to meet the day he did die. It was a tragic accident.

“We’re all trying to get through it as best we can, family and friends, but the main thing is that you can’t actually believe it has happened because it doesn’t normally happen to someone you know. But it always happens to someone, doesn’t it?

“It comes and goes. Some days you feel really down about it and can’t believe it happened, others you just laugh because he was such a crazy bastard. I did my first gig with Stuart when I was 12 and he was 15. I was learning guitar and he was learning the drums at the same time and we could hear each other eight doors apart. I could hear him playing AC/DC records in his garden while I was playing AC/DC in my bedroom, so rather each doing it on his own, we thought ‘why don’t we do that in my garage and play it as a band?’ And we did our first show when I was 12 in 1987. We carried on playing until Richard (Jones, the bassist) joined in 1994 and we signed a record deal in 1996.

“It was a lot of time to spend together, in someone’s pocket. Stuart and I laughed a lot, made films together, all sorts of things, like going to see Pulp Fiction together. Proper best mates.”

Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on November 23, 2010

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