(Written in 2007 – unaltered, even though it makes me sound like a twat).
Established in London in April 1997, Welsh Bands Weekly was a bilingual magazine about Welsh music and culture. It was not published weekly.
I started WBW because the established music press – which was London-centric and seemed to believe that for a band to be credible it had to come from Camden Town – seemed unable to write about Welsh bands without using stereotypes about leeks, daffodils and the supposed lack of vowels in the Welsh alphabet. I found this patronising and frustrating, and felt I could do a better job of it while providing publicity for the bands I loved. So, along with my cousin Uncle Emma (the mad pixie) and our friend, Vickki, I started Welsh Bands Weekly.
The name “Welsh Bands Weekly” had existed for about six months before we ever considered publishing a magazine. Super Furry Animals, our favourite band, were supporting Manic Street Preachers on tour in December 1996 and we wanted aftershow party passes. So in November we wrote eight letters to SFA’s record company, full of silly reasons for giving us passes. One stated “We have started a new magazine, Welsh Bands Weekly, and need aftershow party passes in order to interview the bands…” We used the silliest name that could possibly be given to a magazine, and by the time the real thing was born on 1 April 1997 (some thought it was an April fool’s prank at the time) it seemed a good idea to hang onto the name that had already earned us infamy in the SFA camp.
After a few calls to contacts we’d made in the Welsh music industry, we had our first interviews lined up; within six weeks of those first calls, Issue 1 was on sale. It was litho printed on glossy paper and was 100% bilingual. So successful was this format that it remained largely unchanged over the years – every paragraph could be read in one half of the magazine in English, and the whole thing flipped over to reveal the entire magazine repeated in Welsh.
Issue 2 followed soon after; with the first issue we’d achieved just enough credibility to enable us to secure some interesting interview subjects for Issue 2, including Stereophonics and Feeder.
By Issue 3 the Welsh media had caught onto the buzz surrounding the magazine, and several TV, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews followed.
(Click the images to enlarge, though I can’t imagine why you’d want to… cringe…)
In November 1997 we were invited by the management of London venue The Borderline to organise a Welsh Bands Weekly gig. A date was set for 11th December and we turned it into a Christmas party, with daft costumes, mince pies and a raffle with prizes donated by record companies. A review of the night went into Issue 4 of Welsh Bands Weekly.
By Issue 5 the format was changing slightly. Welsh Bands Weekly now contained proper news pages and the glossy inner pages were replaced with matt paper which gave better print quality.
In autumn 1998 we published Issue 6. The news pages were looking more and more like a proper magazine, the quality of writing was improving with experience, and the magazine boasted a deep purple cover.
By Issue 7 (mid-1999) we’d cooked up a little scheme which has ever since been a source of huge entertainment to us. We’d been approached by a Swedish fanzine to do some band-swapping. The plan was to take three Welsh bands on a mini-tour of Sweden, and the Swedish fanzine would reciprocate by bringing three Swedish bands to Wales. However, we failed to get any sponsors and having no money ourselves we realised the tour wasn’t going to happen. So we decided that even if we couldn’t physically take the bands to Sweden, there was nothing to stop us from pretending we’d been… We arranged gigs in Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach and London’s Bull And Gate, both of which were a huge success, and then took all the funny stories from those two gigs, tweaked them about a bit, and made them look like they’d happened in Sweden.
Cashflow problems meant the magazine was being produced less regularly, although the quality was by no means compromised. Issue 8 was printed in February 2000 with Super Furry Animals starring on an orange glossy cover.
In the summer of 2000 I moved to North Wales and because I was settling into a new job, publication of Issue 9 was delayed. But it was eventually published, and was in fact the last ever issue of Welsh Bands Weekly to be printed.
During 2001 I started a simple Welsh Bands Weekly website on Geocities, which was regularly updated with news and reviews. Unfortunately, I had no time to translate it so it was English-only (finding translators has been the bane of WBW’s existence over the years, and remains so).
In 2001 we also organised a gig at Bangor University – “Woofstock” – with proceeds going to the Search and Rescue Dogs Association (SARDA). Anweledig, Nar, Pep Le Pew DJs and 48F all kindly donated their services for free, and we had a great night, even if attendance could’ve been better.
Interviews and features for Issue 10 were written at about this time, but with my work commitments and money problems it never saw the light of day. But because we had subscribers who were expecting to receive copies of Welsh Bands Weekly with a reasonable amount of frequency, we decided we would take the Issue 10 interviews and put them into a photocopied subscriber-only “Issue 9½”, with reviews remaining online for the time being. However, this didn’t happen and the interviews and articles we wrote at that time are only now seeing the light of day.
So that’s our history – but what about the future?
Although I’ve had a six year break from Welsh Bands Weekly, it’s never really gone away; for a couple of years after Issue 9 I sat on the judging panel of Radio Cymru’s Roc a Phop awards, and I still occasionally receive CDs through the post, from bands wanting to be reviewed by a magazine that effectively ceased to exist six years ago. The more I receive these CDs, the more I regret not having Welsh Bands Weekly any more; I really miss it, but the thought of printing out-of-date news, travelling to interviews and dealing with credit control and distribution problems is offputting, to say the least.
The Internet, on the other hand, is now faster and easier to use than ever; there are millions of free applications that can be used to create interesting content and functionality, and there are very few people left that don’t have Internet access.
Welsh Bands Weekly is therefore being relaunched as an e-zine.
Being online allows us to upload news stories quickly; and because we don’t have to pay for postage, billions of people around the world can read and interact with Welsh Bands Weekly, if they want to, without it costing them anything.
And as for me – well, I get to continue to work on something that’s been a labour of love for the past ten years, but now I can do it from the comfort of my armchair in front of the fire.
Here’s to another ten years.