Gai Toms

Gai Toms close up copy

Cyfweliad gan Bleddyn Williams / Interview by Bleddyn Williams

Ffotos:  Alwyn Jones a Helen Macateer / 

** Please scroll for English translation **

Lle? : Dros y wê.

Pryd? : Medi 1af, 2015

Mae Gai Toms ar fîn rhyddhau ei 3ydd albwm ar Recordiau SBENSH – ‘The Wild, the Tame and the Feral’. Tydi 3 albwm ddim yn swnio’n llawer, ond sbiwch ar ei ddisgograffi cyn y blynyddoedd Sbensh, rhwng Anweledig a Mim Twm Llai mae digon o ganeuon  ar gyfer sawl record ‘goreuon’! Oni’n ffêsbwcio un noson, a dod ar draws cais i wneud cyfweliad efo’r dyn am ei albwm newydd. Fel hogyn o Pesda… dwi wedi ymddiddori yn y byd pop/roc Cymraeg ers blynyddoedd, felly’n pasio’r prawf i holi’r cyfansoddwr o Blaena’. Ges i link i’r albwm drwy soundcloud, agorais potel o wîn, a tanio’r cwestiynau ar ebost.  Dyma’r canlyniad:

O le gesti’r siwt?

Nes i brynu’r siwt ar gyfer priodas fy chwaer yn y 90’au hwyr! Oni’n sdiwdant yn Aberystwyth ar y pryd a’r unig ffordd oni’n gallu fforddio’r siwt oedd i agor cyfrif efo Burtons. Nath y siwt fy rhoi mewn dylad a gafodd effaith ar fy credit history am gyfnod, debt collectors a ballu!

Pam dewis ysgrifennu mewn Saesneg yn lle gynta?

Mae lot o fobl yn gofyn! Sgwennais fy nghân gynta yn Saesneg, ‘Angel’ efo Jo Buck (Anweledig) ar gyfer cystadleuaeth yn yr ysgol. Doedd o’m yn ‘ddewis’ rili, dwi wastad wedi ymbalfalu efo geiriau Saesneg ond jest heb deimlo’n gyfforddus efo nhw, tan rwan. Mae rhai pobl yn meddwl mod i’n canu’n Saeseg oherwydd y bollocks PRS ‘na, a mod i’n chwilio am fwy o royalties. Mae’r pobl yma wedi methu’r pwynt yn llwyr, dwi jest isio’r albwm allan yna, ar yr awyr neu ddim.  Ond, i ateb y cwestiwn (mewn trefn) 1. Mae’r caneuon yn bodoli, dwi isio nhw allan yna. 2. Hyn a hyn o bethau alli di wneud yn y Gymraeg yn unig, mae’r albwm yma jest yn ddrws yn y coridor. 3. Oes dal stigma efo Cymry Cymraeg yn canu’n Saesneg?!

Gai Toms JBond2 copy

Sut brofiad oedd o i ysgrifennu mewn Saesneg? Odd o’n dod yn hawdd i chdi?

Fel udus i, dwi wedi ymbalfalu efo fo ers tro, efallai mai rwan dwi’n cael y gafael arni. Dysgwr hwyr! Mae’n grefft wahanol i’r Gymraeg ond eto mae’r ddau yn bowsio oddiar eu gilydd ar adegau hefyd e.e. y gân Sea & Mountain… y dywediad ‘môr a mynydd’ yn y Gymraeg, dwi’n teimlo bod y dywediad wedi effeithio teimlad y gân. I ddechra, cân am Feirionnydd oedd o, wedyn mi drodd yn gân am berthynas ‘môr a mynydd’, yn hytrach na chân am y tirwedd. Mae prosesau fel hyn yn helpu rhoi hunaniaeth Cymraeg / Cymreig i’r caneuon Saesneg… ac yn broses ddifyr hefyd.

Ma na ddipyn o gyfeirio at natur mewn ambell gan ac yn lot o dy sdwff blaenorol, di hynny’n bwrpasol? Rhyw themau yn rhedeg trwy bopeth yn y cefndir?

Wrth gwrs, mae’n anodd anwybyddu natur tydi? Da ni’n rhan ohono… da ni gyd yn fflachlwch o’r gofod. Ond, os ti isio ateb chydig agosach i’r ddaear… mae’r cynhefin dwi ynddo wastad yn effeithio arnaf, foed o’n gefn gwlad neu’n ddinesig. Dwi’n gobeithio bydd elfennau o’r albwm yn rhoi profiad i’r gwrandawr o fywyd yma yng Ngwynedd… nid yn llythrennol, jest o safbwynt y delweddau a’r tirwedd, heb fod yn rhy ‘werinol’ ac ystrydebol.

Gai Toms Haul1 copy

Ma na rhyw feiban Elvis Costello ar ambell i drac. Ydy o’n rhiwyn ti’n gwrando ar, oedd o’n bwrpasol?

Wedi ti ddeud hynna rwan, bydd raid i mi wrando mwy arno. Dwi’n deall yn iawn be ti feddwl, falla bo ni efo’r un dyheadau? Yn frodyr ysbrydol? Hefyd, mae o’n cymysgu arddulliau cerddorol, rywbeth dwi neud yn aml, ond dim gymaint ar yr albwm yma… dwi’n teimlo bod na gysondeb yn swn yr albwm yma, i’w gymharu a Bethel felly, oedd hwna’n hollol aml-arddull.

Hoff iawn o “Career Suicide”, ydio’n dy boeni di y bydd rhyddhau album uniaith Saesneg yn rhyw fath o career suicide o fewn rhai cylchoedd cerddorol cul yng Nghymru?

Diolch! Mae’r gân yn un tafod yn y boch am fynd ar raglenni teledu fel Can i Gymru ac X Factor ac ati, felly (gan mod i wedi cystadlu, ac ennill) mae’r career suicide wedi digwydd yn barod yn fy marn i! Cyfnod o desperation! Gall dadla hefyd mod i ddim yn sgwennu caneuon mor ‘catchy’ yn y Gymraeg ddim mwy chwaith… a bod hynny’n ‘career suicide’ o fewn ei hun, pwy a wyr?! Sneb yn crafu dan wyneb cerddoriaeth Gymraeg di mynd… mae sgyrsiau, adolygiadau a chyfweliadau mor arwynebol a boring tydi nhw ddim i weld yn siapio’n diwylliant cynhenid. Efallai bod canu’n Saesneg yn ffordd o chwilio am adborth gwell, ryw ffordd o fesur llwyddiant, neu’r methiant! Dwi jest yn gobeithio neith pobl dderbyn a dehongli’r albwm am ei gynnwys, yn hytrach na mynd ymlaen am ba iaith mae o ynddi. Dwi cael ymateb ffafriol hyd yn hyn, yn enwedig gan pobl llawr gwlad.

Gai Toms rhoi copy

Ma lot yn troi at acen Saesneg / Americanaidd pan yn canu yn Saesneg, ti amlwg heb. Dewis oedd huna, ta felna di’r unig ffordd fedri di ganu?

Dwi’n meddalu fy ‘R’s weithia yn yr albwm ond dim drwyddi… ond oni swnio ‘tha nob! Nes i chwarae’r album i Mam, y peth cynta udodd hi oedd, “Pam nei di’m canu efo acen American? Swnio well felna sti…”! Allai dychmygu’r glust Einglaidd yn cael trafferth efo’r acen, ond mae acen Saesneg Gwynedd (yn ogystal a’r iaith Gymraeg ei hun) yn rhan o’n tirwedd sonig, felly yn rhan o dirwedd sonig Prydain a’r byd. Os di ydi’r ‘Naziaid diwylliant’ isio acen ‘Eingl-Americanaidd’ hawdd i’r glust, tydi’r albwm yma ddim iddyn nhw yn anffodus.

Pwy di’r Tai Chi woman? Sgen ti lot o brofiad o ferchaid oriental?

Es i nôl Chinese o ‘Taste Garden’ yn Blaenau un tro, a gadael fy enw am yr archeb, “… my name is Gai”, nath y ddynes biso chwerthin yn fy ngwynab! ‘Gai’ yn Cantonese ydi cyw iar! Nes i ffeindio allan wedyn mai Toms yn Cantonese ydi ‘soup’… dwi wedi meddwl galw’r band yn ‘Croutons’, Gai Toms a’r Croutons! Os fyswn i’n canu caneuon comedy yn unig, fyswn i’n ei ddefnyddio. Dyna ydi mhrofiad i o genod oriental arnai ofn Bledd. Nol i’r gân, mynd a Django y ci am dro ar y traeth oni, a gwelais dynes yn gwneud Tai Chi yn ei gardd. Yr un pryd, oedd pobl ar y traeth yn ffraeo bod tywod wedi mynd dros eu picnic… roedd y gwrthgyferbyniad yn hyfryd! Hey presto.. cân! Mae’r albwm yn llawn gwrthgyferbyniadau, dwi licio hynny mewn caneuon.

O le yn Nghymru mae Dai Serpula yn dod, cyfenw od i Gymro.

Boom! Bledd, ti’n hileriys. ‘Die’ dio y lembo! Serpula Lycramans ydi’r enw Lladin ar ‘dry rot’… ges i o yn y stiwido / capel (Bethel), diawl o beth! Mae’r gân o safbwynt y pitch pine a ddaeth o America i Gymru i’r capeli. Mae Adam Quaeck (aka Titus Monk) yn ymddangos ar hon fel ryw ysbryd shamanaidd yn gwaredu’r ‘diafol’ o’r capel. Yr un pryd, yn swnio fel ysbryd America frodorol yn galw’r goeden yn ôl.

Ar ôl Brython Shag pam ti di dewis mynd yn ol at gyfansoddi ar ben dy hyn? Di cal llond bol o Ceri C? ; )

Ha!! Dwi nabod Ceri C ers 1976… da ni fel y cwpl na ar Father Ted, ffrindia gora un munud a ffraeo munud wedyn. Be sy gwylltio fi ydi pobl yn dod ata i yn cwyno am y petha ma’n ddeud/neud ar noson allan… fatha mod i efo ryw awdurdod drosto. Rhyngdda fo a’i betha! Ond, un peth dwi yn gwbod, mae o’n dderyn prin efo calon anferth… a dwi’n i garu o! Mae o jest angen mwy o ddisgyblaeth pan mae o yng ngwydd front men eraill o’r SRG (…dwi di cychwyn ffrae arall wan! Ha!).

O safbwynt y cyfansoddi, oni wedi cychwyn yr albwm yma cyn i Brython Shag ffurfio. Byddaf yn sgwennu caneuon tra fyddai’n fyw, foed o’n waith solo, band, theatr, ffilm, teledu, jingls… wbath! Mae cyfnodau yn mynd a dod, mae’r cyfansoddwr yn aros.

WTF GT cover

Bydd ‘The Wild, the Tame and the Feral’ allan ar Recordiau SBENSH, Medi 14eg, 2015.

CD ar gael o http://www.sbensh.com am £7.99 (+£1.50 pp) neu lawrlwythwch o iTunes.

Bydd copiau mewn ambell i siop recordiau / llyfrau hefyd!

(English translation)

Where? : On the net

When?: September 1st, 2015.

Gai Toms is about to release his 3rd album on SBENSH Records, titled ‘The Wild, the Tame and the Feral’. 3 albums doesn’t sound like much, but check out the pre-Sbensh years discography, from Anweledig’s ska – rock to the folk persona of Mim Twm Llai there’s plenty of material for a few ‘best of’ compilations! On Facebook I came across a request to interview the songwriter from Blaenau Ffestiniog, as a Bethesda lad… I’ve been a follower of Welsh music for years, so I got the stripes! I got a soundcloud link to his album, opened a bottle of wine, the fired some questions to him. Here’s the result: 

Where did you get the suit?

I got the suit for my sisters wedding in the late 90’s. I was a student in Aberystwyth at the time and the only way I could afford the suit was to sign up for a Burtons credit card. The suit got me into debt and gave me a bad credit record… debt collectors and all.

You’ve always written in Welsh, why have you chosen English now?

Everybody asks that! I wrote my very first song in English, ‘Angel’ with Jo Buck (Anweledig) for a school competition. It wasn’t a ‘choice’ really, I’ve always dabbled with English words but haven’t felt comfortable with them, until now. Some people think I write in English now because of the PRS bollocks (PRS/BBC/EOS debate about Welsh royalties, 2009 – 2012) and that I’m looking for more royalties. They’re missing the point, I just want the music out there… airplay or not! To answer the question (in order) 1. The music exists, I want it out there. 2. There’s only so much you can achieve singing in Welsh only, this album is just a door in the corridor. 3. Is there still stigma about Welsh speakers singing in English?!

Does writing in English come easy?

As I said, I’ve dabbled with it for years, I think I’ve got the hang of it now. Late learner! In comparison to Welsh, It’s a totally different craft / framework of thinking, sometimes they bounce off each other e.g. the song ‘Sea & Mountain… in Welsh it’s a saying – ‘môr a mynydd’, which is the equivalent of the saying ‘making a mountain out of a mole hill’, so the literal Welsh meaning has somehow affected the song style. To begin with it was a song about Meirionethshire and it’s landscape, then… due to the Welsh meaning it’s turned into a song about a turbulent relationship. Processes like this help give my songs a Welsh identity… as well as being an interesting process.

There are many nature references in your songs, as well as your previous music, do you do this on purpose? Is there a theme?

Of course, we can’t escape nature, we’re part of it… we’re made of stardust. But, for an answer closer to home… I’m always affected by the environment, be it country side or an urban setting. I hope people will have a Gwynedd (North West Wales) experience when listening to this… not literally, but abstractly and from a landscape perspective without being too ‘folky’ and stereotype.

There’s an Elvis Costello vibe on some tracks. Do you listen to him?

Now you’ve said that, I’ll have to listen some more! Elvis and I must share the same musical intentions, like some kind of spiritual / music brothers. Who knows?! I know he plays many music styles, he’s also very lyrical… I’m similar. But this album has a consistency compared to my previous album ‘Bethel’, that album was totally multi genre.

I like “Career Suicide”, does it worry you that singing in English might be ‘career suicide’ in some narrow minded Welsh language music circles?

Thanks! ‘Career Suicide’ is a tongue in cheek jibe at people going on TV programmes like Can i Gymru (Song for Wales, S4C) and X Factor etc, I’m one… therefore I’ve already committed the career suicide, ha!! (GT competed in Can i Gymru 3 times, won in 2012). It was desperation. I don’t write catchy Welsh tunes much these days either, you could argue that as career suicide too. The thing with the Welsh language scene is, no one scratches the surface… talks, reviews and interviews are so vague and boring, it’s impossible to measure success, or failure. Maybe I’m looking for better feedback through English. I just hope people will accept and perceive the album for it’s content, not for the language it’s in.

A lot of artists put on an English / American accent when they sing in English, you obviously haven’t. Was that a decision, or is that the only way you can sing in your second language?

I soften the ‘R’s in some instances but not throughout, I sounded like a knob doing that! I played the album to Mam, the first thing she said was, “…why don’t you sing with an American accent, sound better like that you know!” (in Welsh). I can imagine some Anglo ears having difficulty with the accent, but the Gwynedd English accent (along side the Welsh language itself) is part of our sonic landscape, therefore part of the British sonic landscape… the world’s sonic landscape! If ‘Culture Nazi’s’ want a typical Anglo-American accent, this album is not for them unfortunately.

Who’s the Tai Chi Woman? Do you have much experience with oriental women?

I once got a Chinese take away in the ‘Taste Garden’ in Blaenau, I left my name for the order, “…my name is Gai”, the girl behind the counter started pissing herself laughing! ‘Gai’ in Cantonese is chicken! I found out later that Toms in Cantonese is soup…. I have thought of naming the band ‘The Croutons’, Gai Toms & The Croutons! If I sang comedy songs I’d go for it, but it doesn’t quite suit the music. So, yes… that’s my experience of oriental women so far. Back to the song, I was walking Django the dog on the beach and saw a woman doing Tai Chi in her beach house garden, all calm and peaceful. At the same time, there were people on the beach quarrelling about the sand getting into their picnic, the contradiction was beautiful. Hey presto, a song! The album is full of contradictions, I like that in songs.

Dai Serpula, strange Welsh surname, where’s he from?

Boom! Bledd, you’re hilarious! It’s ‘Die’ you plonk! Serpula Lycramans is the latin name for ‘dry rot’, I had a case of it in the studio (old chapel), what a nightmare! The song is from the wood’s perspective, the American pitch pine that were used in our chapels during the Methodist revival. Adam Quaeck (aka Titus Monk) gives a haunting special appearance, like a shaman exorcizing the ‘demon’ from the chapel, like a native American spirit calling the pitch pine back to where it belongs.

After Brython Shag (Gai’s other band) why have you chosen to go back to writing solo? Had enough of Ceri C (Brython Shag / Anweledig singer)?!

Ha!! I know Ceri C since 1976… we’re like that couple on Father Ted, friends one minute, arguing the other minute. What get’s me is people coming up to me complaining about the thing he says/does on nights out… as if I had some kind of authority over him. But, one thing I do know… he’s got a heart of gold and I love him, he just needs more discipline in front of other frontmen… (I’ve stared another argument now! Ha!).

Back to the writing, I started this album before Brython Shag formed, but anyway, I’m going to write and compose until I’m able to solo, band, theatre, film, tv, jingles… anything! Times come and go, the songwriter stays.

The ‘The Wild, the Tame and the Feral’ is out on Recordiau SBENSH, Sept 14th, 2015.

CD from http://www.sbensh.com for £7.99 (+£1.50 pp) or download from iTunes.

Also available from various record / book shops.

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