Edwards, Prince of Wales
Datblygu’s Dave Edwards has been upsetting people for some time. Within the 600,000-strong and inherently conservative Welsh-speaking community he’s both reviled for his bluntness and revered for having the courage to talk out of turn.
People describe the band’s last appearance in London, when Edwards attempted to throttle the in-house sound engineer before exiting the venue in a wine-fuelled fury, as just another day in the life of Datblygu.
Chief among his admirers is the venerable Peelie, who recently invited the band to record their fifth session for Radio 1. He once said that Edwards’ work was the biggest incentive anyone could have for learning the Welsh language.
“When I was at school,” Edwards reminisces, “I didn’t want to sit in geography lessons learning about pig-farming in Denmark. All I wanted to do was the snog the face off the girl sitting next to me. And the only person who seemed to talk any sense was Peel. He’s always been a freedom fighter, standing up for things that other people dismiss. What he’s done for music is a separate thing entirely…”
Inspired by the attitude of Joy Division and The Fall, when Datblygu emerged they were among the first bands to stray from the stagnant pool of radio-friendly, Welsh-language music. Punk had finally reared its ugly head, albeit a decade late, and Edwards was cast as spokeperson for the disenfranchised minority.
“The only way to escape the dullness of everyday life for most people,” he explains, “is through music or sport. I didn’t want to be a musician as such, but I got on with those kind of people. You’ll find that most guitarists have had a solitary childhood, otherwise they wouldn’t have spent so much time learning how to play. I started performing live because I was fucking lonely.”
Nowadays, there’s an infant industry of independent acts in Wales. The north-Walian Ankst label and S4C’s Fideo 9 programme (until its recent axing) have worked in tandem to highlight Ty Gwydr, Ffa Coffi Pawb and Back To The Planet-collaborators Llwybr Llaethog, as well as nurture a younger generation of left-field acts like Beganifs, Diffiniad and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. Datblygu, however, still lead the pack. Their third album, ‘Libertino’, is a dark and broody opus, driven by Edwards’ bruising worldview.
“I can’t sing jolly songs,” defends Edwards. “Eever since getting fed that bullshit about working hard for your crust — since seeing the poverty and the pain people go through just to survive — it’s been this way. But I don’t have a monopoly on misery because I’m Welsh. Like the Manic Street Preachers — they’re as much to do with Newcastle or Milton Keynes as anywhere else. We’re all Thatcher’s children, aren’t we…?
The unlikeliest protest singer is back. And that’s good news, in any language.”
‘Libertino’, by Datblygu, is available on Ankst, distributed by SRD.