BACK STAGE AT PEPPERMINT IGUANA HQ: Gigs, Festivals, Parties, CDs, Books, Protests, travels, photography and Cardiff City FC

Monday, April 26, 2010


Banksy is a sell out”. So reads the graffiti scrawled across the wall. Is this true? Well, he has certainly progressed from being an unknown street artist to an internationally renowned (all be it still anonymous) street artist that can put on sell out exhibitions, shift books by the shed load and – now – make his own films.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is, on the face of it, a documentary made by Banksy about a guy that tried to make a film about Banksy but messed it up so Banksy made a film about him. There is no point getting too bogged down in the plot because to be honest, it is difficult to tell if it is a genuine documentary or if it is another one of Banksy’s magnificent pranks.

Narrated by Rhys Ifans we are taken on a journey through underground street art with a host of graffiti artists, guerrilla stencil painters and pranksters. Whilst Banksy is the highlight of the film, it is clear he is not alone with numerous creative subversives making an appearance in this roller coaster ride that has you grinning, admiring, and on occasion down right laughing, for 87 minutes.

Whilst this is based in ‘underground’, DIY, street art; many of Banksy’s pranks are clearly not cheap. Some punk with a spray can he is not. We get telephone boxes bent in half, giant spray cans and exhibitions with live elephants painted like flock wall paper. Where the money for all this comes from is never explored. A trip to across the Atlantic to do a bit of graffiti is taken for granted, as if it is the most natural thing in the world.

Most of his antics are clearly beyond the pockets of 99% of street artists, but does that really matter? His blend of satire, art, humour and subversion has simultaneously given the art establishment and street art a kick up the rear end. Art is supposed to be about originality, so we don’t want loads of copy cats, but if it inspires kids to do a bit more than just inane tags on bus stops and brightens up our streets then surely that is no bad thing.

Fair play to him though, despite his global fame he appears to have stuck to his roots. His website declares:

"Banksy does not endorse or profit from the sale of greeting cards, mugs, tshirts, photo canvases etc. Banksy is not on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter or Gaydar. Banksy is not represented by any form of commercial art gallery. All images are made available to download for personal amusement only, thanks."
These are not the words of someone who has sold out

What impact this thought provoking film will have on movie making is difficult to tell, but at the moment that is not important, all that matters is that it does what all good films should do, entertain, inspire and agitate. If you don’t leave the cinema after seeing this film eying up a bit of blank wall you have no soul.


If you like Banksy, you will love Mutate Britain, the latest project from the Mutoid Waste Disposal Company. And they be coming to Newport in August!!

Labels: ,


Italy's mighty DJ Farrapo has some new tracks you really ought to check out. Here at Iguana HQ we love his funky mix of deep house, latin sounds, nu-swing, drum and bass, balkan beats and .... just check them out and make your own mind up

Here be a player where you can listen to some of his newest stuff for free, gratis, nout .... but i am sure he wont mind if you decided to buy.

(Oh, and the last track is an awesome twenty minute mix you can download for free, bung on your MP3 player then get strange looks as you dance down the road).

Latest tracks by DJ FARRAPO

for more info he can be found on Myspace at


Friday, April 23, 2010


Every now and again I hear something that grabs me by the scruff of the neck and I gets me gagging to hear more. It could be background music on the telly, something a DJ is playing in a club, something on the stereo in a shop, grooves belting out of a passing car, or something that pops up in the middle of a mix tape. Sometimes it drives me insane and it takes weeks, months, even years to find out what it is.

Sometimes it is easy. The radio is probably easiest because usually - though not always - someone tells you what it is when it has finished. I have lost count the number of times I have sat in the car long after I have reached my destination just to hear the DJ tell me what I have been listening to. In a club it could be easy, but going up to ask the DJ is just not cool; although there have been occasions when cool has gone out the window and I have been compelled to ask.

The interweb has made things easier; if it is a movie soundtrack you can Google it and if there are lyrics you can punch random bits of lyric you remember into a search engine. Obviously the latter does not work with dub, techno, foreign language stuff - or eighty percent of punk rock.

Sometimes it just leads to disappointment. For instance, Chaiyya Chaiyya Bollywood Joint was recently tracked down via the internet after watching the film Inside Man. I had hoped this awesome track was going to lead me to similar stuff but it is totally unrepresentative of Terence Blanchards work - the trail ended there.

Then again, sometimes it can be the start of an amazing journey. When I first heard John Peel playing Zion Train’s A Passage to Indica I had no idea that it would lead to me interviewing the band, getting to be mates with them, going to see them live all over the country and them introducing me to a host of other contacts that I now consider to be close mates.

Another journey started off innocently. In the summer of 1990 a haunting sound seemed to follow me around every festival I went to. It was a simple sound, just an acoustic guitar and a didgeridoo (this was before every man and his dog on a string got into didges). It seemed to be playing in cafes and on PAs everywhere. Then, walking though a field in Bala at a travellers free festival I heard it coming out of a ghetto blaster so walked over to the campfire and asked what it was. Thus I discovered Outback and fell in love.

Sadly the love affair was doomed to fail, Outback split in 1991 after releasing just two albums.

Graham Wiggins, the Oxford born solid-state-physics lecturer who had been responsible for Outback's antipodean vibe, went on to form Dr Didg and released seven albums under that guise before going back to teaching in Boston.

Meanwhile guitarist Martin Craddick and his partner Su Hart, inspired by a TV documentary, visited the Baka tribal people of the Cameroon forests. So inspired were they by the magical rhythms and melodies of the Baka people, that they recorded an album "Spirit of the Forest" under the name Baka Beyond. This was closely followed by “Heart of the Forest” an album featuring the music of the Baka Pygmies themselves, recorded by Martin on a Sony Discman pro.

Baka Beyond did not just take inspiration from the Baka, profits from the CDs were used to help the tribes people back in Cameroon. This in itself was a pretty unusual, but it did not stop there. The band became a permanent set up playing festivals and gigs all over the world and eleven albums on they are still feeding the profits back into Cameroon.

Originally made up of British musicians the band soon expanded to take in musicians from Brittany, Cameroon, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Ghana, creating what is truly an ‘Afro-Celt’ sound.

Since that first visit in 1993, Martin and Su have been back to the jungle many times and have become part of the community. They have helped with many projects, including building a music house, putting on a UK tour for the Baka themselves, and organising a festival, Under The Volcano, to coincide with the end of a rally by the Adventurists.

Now they are back in the UK and touring. With band members spread all over the world getting the full band together can be expensive, so they now have several line ups. Tonight, in Pontardawe, we have a five piece line up including Molara - ex Zion Train – small world ! (although I would not like to paint it).

Molara was actually good enough to set us up with Martin for an interview before the gig. Interviews can be awkward on times, often we find ourselves hanging around for ages whilst sound checks are done, beers are drunk, old acquaintances renewed, noses picked and eventually, hopefully, an interview will happen. Tonight there is no such messing about; we land, Molara hands us a beer out of the ice bucket and we wander out into what is left of the sun and chat with Martin for half an hour. We hang on every word, fascinated by tales of music, forests and travel. We might have had an interesting journey since first discovering Outback in a sunny field in Bala, but Martin has been on a journey that we could only dream about.

Oh, and then there was a gig ….. review to follow.

Expect the interview to appear on the Iguana website soon. For Peppermint Iguana's Molara Interview click here

Baka Beyond website
Baka Beyond on YouTube
Global Music Exchange - charity set up to support the Baka tribe

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

TJs closes door for final time

The world famous music venue, Newport’s TJs, has closed its doors for the final time. Following the death of owner John Sicolo recently, his daughter has decided that it is not financially viable to keep the venue open.

For the last two decades or so it has been an essential stopping place for touring bands on their way from the gutter to the stars (and occasionally on the way back). The Buzzcocks, The Beat, Catatonia, Chumbawamba, Clutch, Conflict, Cornershop, The Cranberries, The Damned, Echo & The Bunnymen, Elastica, Fugazi, Goldblade, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Green Day, Inner Terestrials, The Lemonheads, Manic Street Preachers, Misfits, Mogwai, New Model Army, NOFX, No Means No, Oasis, Offspring, P.A.I.N., Primal Scream, Rancid, RDF, Selecter, Shed Seven, Skunk Anansie, Snuff, Joe Strummer, The Subhumans, Supergrass, Test Department, Therapy?, The Tofu Love Frogs, UK Subs, Voodoo Glow Skulls and The Wedding Present are just a few of the touring bands that have set foot on the TJs stage.

On top of that you can add literally thousands of local bands like The Cowboy Killers, Dub War, 60 Foot Dolls, Novocaine, Flyscreen, Rectify, Four Letter Word and The Terrorist Ballet Dancers from Hell.

Legend has it that Kurt Cobain went down on one knee and proposed to Courtney Love in the club when she played there with Hole in 1991.

The walls of the ‘John Peel Bar’ area of the club are covered in photos of many of the bands that have played there. Pride of place goes to pictures of owner John Sicolo picking up an award at the Brits.

Apparently the club had been in financial difficulty for some time, and solicitors dealing with the estate have advised his daughter Rachel to sell.

It would be a cliché to say that Newport will not be the same without TJS… but the fact is, South Wales will not be the same without TJs and Newport will be a poorer place for its loss.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


"If you walk down street Oxford Street, you do not see niche record stores among the chains. We warned Mr Todd [Spillers Records] that he is standing in the way of progress. The rent in their present location will at some point be unaffordable." The words of Michael Brown, Investment Director, Helical Bar, the owners of the land on which Spillers records stands. This was back in 2007 when he was trying to shut the place down. Fortunately it has had a reprieve following a high profile campaign which had support local politicians, pop stars - and you.

Shame on you Mr Brown. You are the epitome of money grabbing capitalist development with no concept of individuality; you are symptomatic of the mentality that has led to town centres from Lands End to John O Groats being filled with the same chain stores selling the same goods in high streets that look exactly the same. You suck the soul out of towns and leave them bereft of character.

It’s not even a concept that makes commercial sense; if all towns are the same, what unique selling points do they have to attract consumers? Why would I go to Cardiff rather than Newport, Sw*nsea or Bristol? Why even bother with a town, why not an out of town shopping centre?

In fairness, there are many that love the world that the likes of Mr Brown is trying to create; Cardiff is now ranked as the sixth most popular shopping destination in the UK. The humongous St David’s Two development is responsible for this. It is a huge glass and steel cathedral for those that want to worship consumerism, filled with chain stores, dominating the city centre and making the old Hayes Island now feel quite claustrophobic. It was completed some time last year, I have yet to set foot in it, I have no intention of setting foot in it, it puts me off going into the town centre, it leaves me cold.

In the shadow (literally) of this twenty first century shrine to mammon lies Spillers, the oldest record store in the world, marking the entrance to one of Cardiff’s Victorian arcades, full of non-chain niche stores. This is why I rather shop in Cardiff than Sw*nsea or an out of town retail village. It defiantly stands in opposition to the malignant expansion of malls (and the sort of people who use the word mall)

.I am not adverse to a bit of downloading or internet shopping, but at the end of the day there is no substitute for standing in a decent record shop rooting through the racks looking for something and happening across something new.

I look through the dividers marking out the bands with back catalogues, then sift through the CDs by lesser bands simply filed under letters of the alphabet. If I am after something in particular I might have to check under different categories in case I disagree with the shops definition of punk, reggae or whatever.

The Ruts, for instance, may have split thirty years ago but even though I bought everything when it first came out I still cannot help having a quick shufty through the Ruts rack in case something rare or unreleased or dubbed up has been released without me knowing.

Now you could argue that you could do this in HMV, but then you have to cope with rack upon rack of tripe and you won’t find anything that is not selling by the skip load. If you want anything a little bit different, it has got to be an Independent.

As you go through the door of Spillers, for instance, turn right and you have several racks of ‘local and self released’ CDs. The chains are not interested in selling Kilnaboy, PAIN, Sick Note or the Clay Statues, but Spillers lap it up.

Independent record shops deserve support if only for that reason; they support local bands and therefore help keep music interesting. Today I supported my local record shop by buying CDs by local bands; Cardiff based welsh language dub/hip hop vetrans Llwyber Llaethog (Mily Way) and Pontypridd based ska heroes Tattsyrup (which is not actually welsh, it is apparently something that was on sale in the local shop for local people in The League of Gentlemen - yes, they are all ex-students)

And another thing …… strike up a conversation with the staff in Spillers and you might discover a new band, learn about new releases, hear about an upcoming gig or just spend five minutes talking to someone who shares your passion. Talk to the staff in HMV and you will be lucky to find out the time of day – as for the staff on the record counter in ASDA……….

Independents are a dying breed though. Downloading, high rents and supermarkets utilising their buying power to sell the mainstream names at outrageous discounts have all led to a drop in the footfall through these emporiums of sonic delights.

Three years ago Chris Brown, employee of the independent record store chain, Bull Moose, located in Maine and New Hampshire, conceived the idea of International Independent record Store Day. Now, once a year, all over the world record shops put on events with in-store performances, DJ sets, sell special Record Store Day releases and t-shirts and generally make it (even more) fun to call into an independent for the day.

Spillers joins in the fun. This year we have DJ sets from Bullet for My Valentine, Bethan Elfyn, DJ Rascal, Gary ‘Twisted by Design’, plus Spillers regulars Ben and Sam. There are also in-store performances from The Automatic, Christopher Rees and Cosmo. Before the shop had even opened people were queuing to get into the niche shop that Mr Brown thinks has no place in the Town Centre.

I don’t do queues at the best of times. I certainly do not do queues outside shops. I was, however, determined to support my local record shop today so timed my visit to coincide with an appearance by my favourite tame hippy. Some people say he changes his underpants every week, whether he needs to or not; and rumour has it he once appeared the National Lottery live. I don’t know if this is true, but I do know his name is Cosmo.

Whisking into the store at the last minute to avoid being mobbed by his fan club, he quickly plugged in, tuned up and got down. Browsers tapped their feet in the right place, nodded in agreement with the Anti-BNP song and giggled at the Oi Mush Song. With a few brief songs he agitated, educated and offended in equal measure. The gig was like a flash mob (but without the mob). One minute he was not there, then he was, then he wasn’t again. Surprise surprise, he then went to the pub and bummed drinks of his fan club – and waxed lyrical about how people who hang out in record shops are a bit nerdy - so get we get our own back by telling you where you can download his latest album for free

But remember folks, you cant skin up on an MP3

Labels: , , ,

Friday, April 16, 2010


I remember it like it was yesterday. I sat in my bedroom listening to The Damned and my brother walked into the room. We got into a debate about music and he walked over to the stereo, lifted ‘Dammed Damned Damned’ off the turntable and put on some hippy looking album with a bird on the cover. We were only a few bars into ‘Breadfan’ by Budgie and I was sold. This welsh outfit were to join the very short list of heavy metal bands that were going to be allowed to infect my record collection. That was over thirty years ago.

There was always something unique about Budgie. It was a mix of Tony Bourge’s unique guitar sound – I can’t put my finger on what was unique about it, it just was – Burke Shelley’s almost lead guitar like bass and his voice. I don’t normally like blokes that sing like girls, but with budgie it some how worked a dream, very similar to Geddy Lee from Rush.

Tracks with titles like ‘Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman’, ‘Napoleon Bonaparte one and Bonaparte two’ and ‘In the Grip of a Tyrefitter's Hand’ were soon starting to fill up my shelves – much to the disapproval of my punk mates.

With the exception of a drunken blurry night at the Reading Festival in 1982, I never really got to see them live properly before they split in 1988. Then in 1998 while booking a gig with Man, Man’s manager asked me if I would be interested in Six Ton Budgie as a support. Next thing I knew I was sat in the home studio of original Budgie drummer Ray Phillips in his home in Trefil. I was transported to my youth and sat there for hours listening to tales of life on the road with Budgie. Of course I wanted them as a support, I was never going to get the proper Budgie (as far as i knew they were disbanded with no intention of reforming), but Six Ton Budgie were, as Ray put it, Budgie - only heavier.

The Shelly incarnation of Budgie played sporadic one off gigs during 1995 and 96, then officially reformed in 1999 but left it till 2006 to release an album, the typically Budgie titled ‘You're All Living in Cuckooland’. They must have played near by at some time recently but tonight’s gig In Pontypridd’s Muni was the first I had heard about in advance and duly set about sorting myself with a ticket.

Appropriately tonight, as dinosaurs and prehistoric birds walked the earth once more, Europe was grounded due to a cloud of volcanic ash floating above us. As we arrived I felt unusually young, with many of those that had turned out probably going to see Budgie while I was still in junior school and still yet to go through my bedroom Budgie epiphany. We arrived shortly before the doors opened and there was already a queue. Not being one for queue’s, or watching covers bands (support was in the shape of Merthyr Tydfil’s metal cover band, Celtic Pride) we headed for the pub.

Once the text arrived notifying us that Celtic Pride had left the stage we walked the short distance from the Patriot Bar to the packed Muni and started to feel even younger. The room was full of people who think £16 to see a live band is cheap, Judas Priest t-shirts are cool, queueing to get a venue before it has opened is normal and it is acceptable to have a covers band on a bill for proper bands.

I put my snobbery in my back pocket and we set up camp to the right of the stage and waited for the arrival of the second best heavy metal band in the history of the world (Ozzy era Sabbath obviously being the first).

When they finally arrived I nearly had by eye poked out. Current guitarist, Craig Goldy of the Ronnie James Dio’s band, was wearing unfeasibly tight leggings not really appropriate for a man of 49; it looked like he had a cricket box down his pants.

Then they began.

Shelly had turned sixty this week. Well done Mr Shelley. Now I hate to be ageist, but sixty is most definitely too old to rock and roll, and sadly Burke Shelly is an example of this. Whilst he actually looked fitter than me, his voice is not what it used to be and given that voice was a vital ingredient that made the band so special, this was not good. His nifty bass work was also pivotal; I am not sure if it was the sound engineer not understanding the band or if again age was a factor, but the bass was barely audible.

As for the unique guitar sound? Well it was clearly unique to the original guitarist, which was not Mr Goldy. It is not that he is not a good guitarist, he is clearly a very good guitarist and threw in some pretty amazing finger wizardry. However, that was not what Budgie were about and trying to make Budgie sound clever makes Budgie sound like – not Budgie. They sounded like a heavy metal band; a very talented metal band, I’ll give you that, but as odd as this sounds, I don’t actually like metal. The Budgie I loved as a kid sounded special and different, the Budgie that I saw tonight did not. ‘In for the Kill’ hinted at the old Budgie, but the encore of that classic ‘Breadfan’ left me feeling very sad.

A bit of me wished I had not gone, that memory of Budgie all those years ago had been slightly defiled – and lets face it, thirty years later with only one original member, it was obvious there was a good chance that would be the case – but hey, I would have never forgiven myself if I had not gone. I am glad I went, but I won’t bother again.

Labels: ,

Saturday, April 03, 2010


Chopra celebrates most important derby goal (ever?)
Football derbies all over the world can generate passions unrivalled by any other sporting event. Where ever you go in the world, whether it be Boca Juniors v River Plate in Argentina, AC Milan v Inter Milan, Spartak Moscow v CSKA Moscow, Milwall v West Ham or Celtic V Rangers, grown men lose the plot and want their team to beat their local rivals more than any other team in the world. The local derby can take on more importance than the FA Cup, promotion or a game against a footballing giant like Chelsea or Arsenal.

The passion often goes beyond the pitch and spills into violence between fans. Some teams have fans that cause agro wherever they go, but throw the derby element into the mix and even the most mild-mannered supporter will be overcome by an irrational hatred of 'them from down the road'. Add into the mix two sets of fans with a reputation for violence and you have an explosive combination.

There are several rivalries within British football that are a nightmare for the local constabulary, but Cardiff v Swansea is an event that over the years has built a reputation for being one of the most violent clashes in the UK. Last year's games, the first for over ten years, saw police operations on a scale second only to the G8, with plod from five police forces involved in escorting a convoy of coaches along the M4 from one ground to another and no independent travel allowed.

Today we have a few extra ingredients to make the encounter even spicier than usual. This was to be our first meeting at the shiny new Cardiff city stadium - and both teams are in ‘play off’ positions, with the prize of premiership football potentially only six games away. The Welsh media have been building it up as the most important derby the two clubs have every played – EVER.

So how do the hardcore prepare for a game of such importance? No idea. Our little posse prepared by hitting the pub. Following on from last year's 11am Sunday morning kick off, this year -much to the displeasure of the police - we had a 5:20pm kick off on a Saturday afternoon (just goes to show, SKY have more clout then the old bill!). So instead of queuing outside the pub at 7am on a Sunday, we strolled into town for noon then slowly worked our way to the ground stopping off at most of the pubs on the way. When we finally got into the ground the atmosphere was bumping with the 25,000 crowd all on their feet and singing their hearts out.

A packed Ninian Park was a daunting place for away teams (and fans) to visit and no-one has been surprised that the atmosphere in the new stadium does not come close to replicating the old amphitheatre, but today we came close and as the two teams walked out of the tunnel the whole place had the vibe of gladiators about to do battle to the death - with potential new investor, Dato' Chan Tien Ghee, watching over like an Emperor with the power of life or death.

Then there was some football.

Swansea have the best defensive record in the division and Cardiff have one of the best scoring records in the division; so it was a case of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. In fairness, the Jacks had most of the possession, passing the ball about amongst themselves thus denying us goal scoring opportunities (if you aint got the ball you can’t put it in the net!). Then on the half hour they moved forward and put it in our net.

The jacks went wild but after a moment of stunned silence the Cardiff faithful were back on full song and got 110% behind the Bluebirds. Just before half time Chopra rewarded the crowd’s loyalty and banged in an equaliser, silencing the travelling Jacks.

The second half was more of the same, Swanesa passing the ball about but not really threatening to do anything with it. A draw was starting to feel like a reasonable result in this top of the table clash then after 92 minutes Chops banged in a cracking goal and the stadium exploded. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat - with no time for a response - was sweeter than a sweet thing on Saint Sweets Day.

Fortunatley a Youtube roving reporter managed to capture the winning goal where we were stood (look carefully and you will catch our gang celebrating!)

After having hope dangled in front of them for much of the match, the last gasp winner must have been heartbreaking for the jacks (bless em). As the final whistle blew it was obvious the ground was not going to empty for a good while to come. People just stood their ground, cheering, singing and savouring the moment. Despite the intense rivalry and emotions, the massive police presence and the design of the new stadium meant there were only 8 arrests, mostly connected with the Jacks smashing up and setting fire to the bogs.

Eventually we had to move on and finish the day the way it started, in the pub. But this time, instead of being filled with hope, trepidation, excitement and a little bit of apprehension, it was just pure joy.

We had beaten the Jacks in the most important derby EVER ----- but will there be a more important game before the season is over?

Urban75 view of things

BBC Report