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Neon Neon - Bright Like Neon Lights

Author: Cyclone
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
3D’s Cyclone chats with Gruff Rhys, of Super Furry Animals fame, about his new project, Neon Neon.

Handsome Boy Modeling School, step aside. There are some new eccentrics on the scene. Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys has partnered with Boom Bip (Bryan Hollon) to devise the outrageous Neon Neon.

Their handle may appear to be an ironic reference to the ’80s’ double names (Duran Duran, Talk Talk, The The...), but that’s nowhere near the full story.  More significantly, Neon Neon have recorded a concept album centring on the rise and fall of John DeLorean, the notorious highflying automobile exec busted for cocaine trafficking in the early ’80s.

Stainless Style traverses disco, electro, synth-pop, techno and hip hop. It’s mad. DeLorean surely existed to inspire playa rappers like Hova, not Rhys. The most conspicuous bling-bling MC on Stainless Style is guest Spank Rock.

Gruff remembers seeing DeLorean’s arrest on TV. “When Boom Bip started playing me some music he’d been working on, it was evocative of that era somehow,” he relates in his distinctive Welsh accent. “For some reason, he sprang to my head as an interesting character to write about.

“Once I started looking at his life, I realised it was so eventful, the songs started flowing out.

“I mean, he was a totally dodgy guy, and we’re not glorifying anything he did, but he definitely lived an eventful life!”

The son of East European immigrants, DeLorean transcended his humble origins in blue-collar Detroit to become, first, an innovative auto engineer and then executive at General Motors.

He eventually quit GM to develop his DeLorean Motor Company, launching the iconic DMC-12 vehicle, aka ‘The DeLorean’. But, despite attracting hefty investment from the British government for a DMC plant in Northern Ireland, the Motor City chancer ended up subsidising his operations – and lavish playboy lifestyle – through drug trafficking. Following his FBI bust, DeLorean successfully claimed that he was entrapped. He emerged from the scandal a born-again Christian.

DeLorean died three years ago, but were Neon Neon ever worried about lawsuits- After all, they have penned a song about his alleged affair with movie star Raquel Welch. “I think the album’s been written in good spirit,” Gruff says. “It’s a party record. All the songs are pretty fantastical. There’s certain scenarios that actually happened, but we’ve made a lot of them up as well. It’s a very impressionistic vision of his life.”

Rhys himself has always been a maverick. While known as an indie band, Super Furry Animals have dipped into electronica. Still, Neon Neon is a departure from Gruff’s other solo ventures, the last of which, 2007’s Candylion, was acoustic pop.

Rhys stresses that Boom Bip is very much Neon Neon’s producer. The American, whom the late John Peel dubbed ‘a modern-day Captain Beefheart’, has cut experimental hip hop for the UK’s Lex Records.

Rhys met Boom Bip on tour with SFA in the US. They’d collaborated before Hollon proposed a full-length project. “He was basically saying that it would have to be completely different to anything either of us had ever done,” Gruff says.

Though Rhys is currently immersed in another SFA LP, he’s open to a second Neon Neon outing. “I don’t know – we’d have to make something completely different again,” he muses. “If we have a spark of an idea, maybe about a different person, I imagine it’d be fun to hook up again.”

WHO: Neon Neon
WHAT: Stainless Style through Lex/Inertia
WHEN: Out now