THE Welsh rock band released their tenth album, Scream Above The Sounds, last week. Since forming in the village of Cwmaman in 1992, the four-piece have become one of the biggest British bands of modern times, scoring six number one albums. Bassist and founding member Richard Jones tells EDWIN GILSON about staying relevant, earning Bob Dylan’s approval and touring with the Thin White Duke

You must be excited about the release of Scream Above the Sounds.

Definitely. We should have learnt over the past 20 years that you have to be patient when waiting for the album release, but we haven’t. We always want to get it out as quick as possible.

Kelly [Jones, singer] said the album focused on political themes “from a street view”. How so?

The way Kelly writes, he always wants to focus on what’s happening around him. I don’t think anyone can ignore what’s been going on in the last couple of years – it all seems to be bad news at the moment whenever you turn the TV or radio on. Either it’s something to do with the weather, or terrorist threats, or people killing each other in the streets.

But you’ve said the record is optimistic despite all that.

Yes. We were trying to say there are still a lot of things to feel good about. You can still enjoy yourself. You can’t stop the world from turning – you can still find positivity.

How do you keep updating your sound to younger audiences without overthinking the whole process?

You’ve just got to find new things that you can do. We never want to be a band that celebrates and regurgitates all our stuff from the past. We always want to push ourselves forward.

We’re all trying to impress each other in the band – it’s our guilty pleasure. We want to get out of our comfort zones, and I think we’ve done that with pretty much all of our albums. There is sax and trumpet on this record, for example. The challenge then is recreating that live.

Is there a sense of healthy competition within the band, then?

We’ve been our worst critics since day one. You never want to be mediocre. We’re all mates and have the same appreciation of music.

Do you keep up with chart music?

We do keep an eye on what’s going on in the charts. If we didn’t we’d be naïve to think we could compete with pop music in this day and age. You have to keep an eye on all the modern methods and sounds. I love technology and I always keep my equipment future-proof.

Guitar music isn’t doing well in the charts at the moment, at least compared to grime and electronica. Do younger people think guitar music has limits as opposed to music made on laptops?

When it comes to different genres, they always come in and out of fashion. We’ve seen that. Just before we released our first album, Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers were all over the charts. People said it was the end of rock and roll at that point. The youth don’t want to listen to the same stuff as their parents.

What was it like to be an emerging guitar band amid all the dance music?

At that point, or certainly in the early days, we were playing in the pubs and clubs of South Wales. In that intimate space you can’t help but have a certain energy that lends itself to guitar music. Our lyrics were very story-based and we had that pop-punk sound.

Do you ever miss those intimate occasions? You can’t get much further away from a small venue than the Brighton Centre.

Funnily enough we do small venues every now and then. We did a couple of small pub gigs last year in conjunction with a small brewery. In the middle of America, for instance, we can find ourselves doing small gigs. There’s nothing like doing those concerts because it reminds you of the earlier times.

Bob Dylan recently said he was a fan of yours. Was he important to you growing up?

Even before we formed Stereophonics we used to do cover songs of Bob Dylan, alongside Neil Young, AC/DC and others. We would always put Bob Dylan on the pub jukebox. His songs were the longest ones on it so you could get good value for money.

Did you ever bump into Dylan on your travels?

We’ve never crossed paths with him. We’ve been really fortunate to find ourselves on the same stage as other great artists, though. Dylan would definitely be up there on our bucket list to play a festival with.

What other heroes of yours have you played with over the years?

We did gigs with The Rolling Stones and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, festivals with Nick Cave, Neil Young and Bjork and an American tour with David Bowie. We all have a broad taste of music and all of those are on our favourite lists.

Did you spend much time with Bowie? What was he like behind the facade?

He was such a gentleman. The first gig we did with him, just before our soundcheck, he walked into our dressing room and said thanks for joining him on tour. He would heckle us from the auditorium seats during our soundcheck. We played a couple of five-a-side matches against his crew and staff. He watched at the side of the pitch. We worked for him for about six weeks and he was brilliant. I named my daughter after his assistant, Coco.

Can it be difficult to be away from your family on tour?

We have 14 kids between the four of us so we’re all in the same boat. We are used to it, but you can’t help but have a yearning for home and family when you’re out and about.

Stereophonics, Brighton Centre,
February 27, 2018, doors 6.30pm. 
For more information, call 01273 290131 or visit