The name above may not mean a lot to many of you, but the chances are that if you have any Welsh music in your extensive record collections those artists are likely grateful to Emyr who sadly passed away yesterday. As one of the founding members of the Ankst organisation and the man who continued to promote Welsh artists through his Ankst record label, his loss to the Welsh music scene, and indeed Welsh culture generally, will be sorely felt.
Emyr’s passion for music saw his early and continued championing of Welsh language titans Datblygu, punk banshees Fflaps, rap pioneers Tystion, Dub purveyors Llwybr Llaethog and punk/reggae legend Geraint Jarman, as well as giving early wings to the more familiar names of the psychedelic Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and pop wizards Super Furry Animals. Punk in attitude but full of fun, humour and charm in nature, Emyr’s natural exuberance helped bring the aforementioned artists and so many more into the mainstream from the fringes of Wales. In doing so he was one of a handful of people in the country fighting back against the lazy stereotypes and prejudice that had, before him, blighted any artists emerging to the west of England, a situation that many within the Taffia seemed more than comfortable with. Other bands that benefitted from his wisdom, vision and patronage were Zabrinski, Rheinallt H Rowlands as well as producer David Wrench‘s forays into sound, and too many more to mention.
Aside from his musical ventures, Emyr was passionate about film and was responsible for a much vaunted documentary on German rockers Faust, the Welsh bi-lingual language movie Y Leill for which he won a Welsh Bafta (and indeed, Emyr was very much of the view that Wales was a country of two languages despite his massive success in promoting the first language of Wales). He also produced the superb snapshot of the high watermark in Welsh music, via his Crymi documentary. He ran his various ventures with no desire for acclaim or pats on the back from the Welsh establishment and stayed true to his own punk roots throughout his life. Emyr’s energy was boundless and even whilst ill last year, an illness he typically didn’t want known publicly, he was waxing lyrical about his latest label releases Ffrancon and Tradoddiad Ofnus, two albums which alone illustrated his own wide and varied tastes in music. Meanwhile in his role as cinema co-ordinator for Pontio in Bangor, he was responsible for bringing international and cultural depth to the city and was a leading light in the The Wales One World Film Festival (WOW).
Aside from all of this though, Emyr was a great friend. Over the years I spent many blissful hours at the Old Police Station in Pentraeth where we swapped and shared new musical and cinematic passions, had thought provoking debates on politics, Wales and the minutia of life, and most of all we laughed…and laughed some more. Emyr always had a smile on his face. One of the last times I saw him we were discussing my dissatisfaction with my job and the possibility of my indulging in my love for the outdoors by becoming a postman. He suggested I had the happy go lucky demeanour required, unlike his own postman who he nicknamed “Suicide Kev”! In the early days of knowing him our meetings were conducted whilst trying to avoid the aggressive and snappy attention of his and Ann’s beloved dog Swci, then latterly in the company of Fiona, Evan and Arthur (or Arthur Glyn as he so often proudly addressed him) who must all be feeling such a sense of loss at this moment in time. We would go for long walks on Ynys Mon, visit the Eisteddfod together (a particularly fond memory was the mammoth drive to St Davids, mainly because, for a man who had so many friends and acquaintances, it meant I had such a long and uninterrupted time in his company). I was honoured that he and Fiona even made the long journey to be a guest at my wedding. Our last meeting was on a beautiful summer’s day in Bethesda at Gruff Rhys‘ Ara Deg Festival. Having been to a talk on Welsh album cover art, watched Ffrancon and seen Gruff Rhys deliver a beautiful Welsh language set, we sat on a bench outside the chapel as he regaled me with the story of the riotous creation of the Skellington Horse album by Klaus Kinski, on which he played trumpet! He was then accosted by a local friend who shared a trippy idea he had based on Rupert the Bear visiting Bethesda and leaving a shadow of his former self, shared some wisdom with Kliph Scurlock and swapped greetings with a number of passers-by, both local and visiting musicians, all with his trademark effortless laid back cool and bonhomie.
Emyr was a beautiful and generous man and he gave so much of himself to his passions both Welsh and international, and if you were lucky enough to know him personally, you would nod in recognition when I say he was a man with a calon fawr.
The cultural world of Wales is going to miss him greatly. I am going to miss him more.
Prince Far Out