Published 25/06/2010 | 05:00
One of the most successful Welsh musical exports of the past 15 years, Stereophonics has done it all in Ireland, plying their wares everywhere from the cosy intimacy of Whelan's to topping the bill at Slane in 2002, an honour bestowed on precious few.
"I can't remember headlining Slane particularly well because it was such a crazy year for us," confesses bassist and backing vocalist Richard Jones. "We headlined Glastonbury, Reading and all these other shows in quick succession that summer. It was a complete whirlwind."
Thankfully, Jones does have at least one or two fond Slane memories. "The crazy thing I do remember is turning around and seeing the Edge and Robbie Williams at the side of stage," he says. "I began thinking, 'How did this happen?' We ended up touring a bit with U2 in the States, which was great for us. They can talk the talk and walk the walk, but at the end of the day, they have the songs to back it up. And that's what it's all about. A lot of bands don't have the substance, but they're one of those few bands that do."
Seven studio albums later and Stereophonics seemingly still have the ability to put lots of bums on lots of seats. Earlier this month, they played the first gig at the Cardiff City Stadium, the second largest in Wales after the colossal Millennium. "It was an immense occasion," Jones enthuses.
"We hadn't done a homecoming in at least three or four years. It was great to do a one-off show and let people know that we've still got pride and passion for where we come from."
Sadly, two days after the Cardiff City Stadium show the tragic news broke that original Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable had been found dead at home. It has been reported that Cable choked on his vomit after enjoying drinks with friends, but results of the post-mortem toxicology tests have yet to be published. He was buried on Monday and thousands of fans and well wishers brought Aberdare in South Wales to a complete standstill.
Cable began playing with his friends Kelly and Richard Jones (no relation) in a teenage covers band called Tragic Love Company, a homage to their favourite bands The Tragically Hip, Mother Love Bone and Bad Company. Legend has it they changed their name to the snappier Stereophonics after the brand name of a record player in Cable's house.
Jones finds it difficult to put the loss of his friend into words. "I'm still numb from thinking about what happened," he says. "I can't believe it really. I really honestly don't know what to say. He was a really good friend. As a band member, he taught me such a lot. It's a big, big shock. He was such a big part of Stereophonics."
While Jones is looking forward to going on the road this summer, he's keen to try to digest and mourn recent events. "We haven't done anything since, so we're going to meet up next week and see where we are," he reveals. "We've got a busy schedule and we need to sort ourselves out."
Jones is keenly anticipating their Oxegen appearance. "We always seem to get a brilliant atmosphere in Ireland even back before we were big, so that's why we kept on coming back," he says.
"From the very start, we concentrated on doing as many shows in as many places as possible and not hang around London waiting for a big break. Things have changed a bit in the last few years with our record labels, so we're going to try our hardest to get on top of that. It's just annoying paperwork really. The important thing is to focus on playing good shows and getting on with things."
Surely the record industry has changed unrecognisably from when Stereophonics started? "From a band's point of view, the fundamentals haven't changed at all," he says. "You've got to write great songs, play them and get out there and tour them. Admittedly, now you've got to think of different ways to get each and every song heard. Radio is very fickle and there are no TV shows anymore. There's just Jools Holland and that's about it."
The band already have ideas about following up the release of last November's Keep Calm and Carry On. "For us, the next album will be about challenging ourselves and how we put it out," he reveals.
"You've got to change how you do it if the way people watch and listen to music has changed so much. You can't just leave it up to the thinking man in the record company because they'll just work to the formula they've got."
Recently, Thom Yorke of Radiohead remarked that the record industry was "a sinking ship" and that it would be, "months rather than years before the music business establishment completely folds".
"For a band like Radiohead, it's quite easy to do things by themselves," Jones believes. "They don't need to build a fanbase because they've got it already. If you don't have a fanbase, you still have to get a helping hand of some sort. Marketing and hiring pluggers out of a small band's pocket is going to be a lot of money, so you have to rely on the purse strings of a record company every now and again."
What is Jones's advice to aspiring bands and musicians? "You've got to make sure that your songs are good enough to get into people's minds," he answers. "It's not just all about the great pop sensations. The average person aged 25 to 40 who listens to music all day at work still wants great songs. You have to focus on supplying that to people."
When this adventure began all those years ago with Kelly and Cable, did Jones ever believe he'd still be at it in 2010 with seven albums and several world tours under his belt? "I think we always had the passion for wanting to do all those things," he says.
"I don't know if we ever envisaged that it would happen, but we definitely wanted it all and set out to do it all, so it wasn't like we dreamt it all up!
"We still want to have a great catalogue and perform well live and get it out there. Our goals might have changed slightly, but that passion is still with us to get out there and show people that a small band from a tiny little village in Wales can do these things.
"It doesn't matter where in the world you come from. If you want to be in a band, give it a go and see if you can last it out."
Stereophonics play the Oxegen main stage on Friday, July 9