What’s the full story as to how Clinigol was first formed?
Aled: About ten years ago, I was DJing in London and Brighton. It was all disco house back then, before the 80s influence crept in with electro-clash, but I loved it all. It seemed like a natural progression to go on to study music production, but more perhaps out of interest and curiosity than having some grand plan to get into music…
Geraint: I’ve always had ideas, lyrics and melodies floating around my head but being a bit hopeless with technology, I had never thought I’d put them down, that is, until Aled got into music production…
Aled: Also, around that time, we’d been talking about the lack of any dance music being produced in Welsh….
Geraint: A really good Welsh dance band called Diffiniad had split some 18 months previously, and during that time, no one was producing any kind of synth/dance/pop in the Welsh language. Historically, the Welsh language folk and indie music scenes have always been strong but we couldn’t believe that nothing was being produced in the genre that we loved. So instead of sitting around moaning, I suggested we do something about it, expecting a firm “no” from Aled…
Aled: But instead I said yes! And the rest is history!
What was each member’s level of Welsh like to begin with?
Aled: Welsh is our first language! It’s the language of our homes and our families. We were all educated in Welsh and we all live fully bilingual lives.
Nia: I couldn’t actually speak English until I was 7 years old and even now I sometimes have to translate a Welsh word to English in my head before speaking it! Speaking Welsh isn’t a political thing or something we force ourselves to do, it’s just a huge part of our lives and always has been, and we all speak to each other in Welsh.
Do you write your songs in English and then translate, or just start from scratch?
Geraint: Writing is an organic process. If the theme or sentiment is best expressed in Welsh, then it’s written in Welsh. If it’s more natural to say something in English, then English is used. We live fully bilingual lives and bounce from one language to the other and that seeps through to the writing process. Having said that, one of the main reasons we formed Clinigol was to get some Welsh language pop/dance out there, so the majority of the lyrics are in Welsh.
Aled: We have gone on to translate some to English, but more often than not, when we’re writing, the music and the melodies come first…and they’re something that transcend all languages!
Nia: There’s actually a great Welsh language music scene, there are rock, indie, hip hop and folk bands – a lot of talented people are making a lot of wonderful music.
How would you say that your new album Discopolis compares to your debut, Melys?
Aled: It’s bigger and bolder! It’s similar in that it’s a collection of synth-pop songs with guest female vocalists, but we are now much more confident in the writing and production, and I think this is clear in the overall sound. Discopolis also has a bonus disc, High Rise, which contains acoustic versions and remixes of our tracks. Apparently it’s the first double album of original material by a single artist in Welsh, ever!
Nia: I agree, Discopolis is so much more confident. When I listen to it I think ‘Wow, language aside, the amazing tunes and standard of production could sit side by side with UK chart Music’.
Geraint: To an extent we were finding our feet with Melys but I think Discopolis is the sound of a band that knows what it’s doing. Everything about Discopolis is a step forward in our opinion, the lyrics, the songs, the themes, ideas, imagery, the production, the journey… We spent two and a half years making the album – we wanted to make sure it was something we could be proud of!
Why do you think there’s a Clinigol cult following by non-Welsh speakers?
Aled: I always wanted a cult following!! It’s probably because you don’t need to understand the language to enjoy the music. I know for many people, lyrics are most important, but maybe they’re less so for pop and dance music. I’ve downloaded a lot of Spanish and French songs – I’ve no idea what they’re on about but I’m still moved by the music, be it happy or sad. To paraphrase Girls Aloud, you can’t speak Welsh, so you’ll let the funky music do the talking!!
Nia: A large amount of the support we get is actually from non-Welsh speakers who just love this kind of music. A good tune is a good tune and a catchy hook is a catchy hook, so I guess it’s a credit to the song writing. Clinigol are also a lot of fun, people come to our gigs, dance all night and leave feeling good! Visuals and projections are incorporated into the set, which also helps people who don’t speak Welsh to understand what we’re trying to do or say. I’ve had so many people coming to see me after a set saying ‘I didn’t understand a word of that but it was awesome!’
Asides from being in the band, what else do you all get up to?
Geraint: I work in radio.
Aled: I work for an international development charity which seems to take over my life. I love it though. I may even end up adopting a couple of Malawian kids one day.
Nia: I’m a researcher for various Welsh language radio programmes. I also present from time to time – last year I presented a series tackling issues that affect young people in Wales with topics ranging from image, disability, sexuality, language and bullying. I love working in radio, it’s such a fantastic medium and hope to continue doing so in the future.
Finally, where do you all stand on the issue of Welsh independence?
Geraint: I’m a proud Welshman and a proud Brit, so for me, strength lies in unity. I have no particular desire for an independent Wales, at least, not at this present moment in time, I don’t think we’re quite ready for it. My aspirations lie more with the status and future of the language and dream more of a fully bilingual Wales than an independent Wales.
Aled: I too, was against the idea because I like the idea of being a part of the UK but I’m starting to change my mind. Smaller nations tend to rate better with education and healthcare and even happiness – Norway and New Zealand, for example. There’s a lot of poverty in Wales, the most deprived region of the UK. Maybe we would be better at tackling that if we were free from Westminster, but then we also rely so heavily on the money the City of London brings to the UK. I don’t know. We’re a long way off anyway – politically and culturally. But it would be nice if one day, when you go on holiday and tell people you’re from Wales, they’ll know where it is rather than say “Oh, England. No? Scotland…?”
Nia: I agree with Aled, we have a very long way to go before this is even a possibility in Wales. We have such a strong identity within the country, and a huge national pride – but we need to be better at selling this to the rest of the world. The true culture of Wales is often ignored – there’s so much more happening here than people realise! It’s packed full of brilliant music, food, film and theatre festivals, events that are rarely advertised on the kind of scale that would benefit the country. Along with what Aled was saying, this also plays a huge part in the matter of independence, these are things that make us unique and give the rest of the world a clear and strong understanding of who we are. But we have a long way to go before that happens.
Discopolis, Clinigol’s brilliant new album is out now. You can keep up to date with what they’re up to by following them on The Twitter.