Nov 10, 2008

Oceans Apart - Oceans Together  .....An Interview With John Good

"Oceans Apart" is basically John Good and Steve Colby. Where did you meet and what led to the formation of the band?

Oedd Steve a fi ar yr un sesiwn recordio am gyfaill y ddau ohonon, ond yn chwarae mewn bandiau gwahanol. Fel sy’n digwydd yn aml yn y busnes cerddorol, mae’r ddau fand wedi mynd i’r wal yn ein gadael ni rydd i lyfu ein clwyfau ac ail-ddechrau o’r lludw, llwch … yn Phoenix. Crwt o Gymru ac Ohio yn canu caneuon ac alawon Celtaidd yn yr anialwch: Oceans Apart.

Steve and I were on the same recording session for a mutual friend, but were playing in different bands. As happens often in the music business, the two bands fell apart leaving us free to lick our wounds and start again from the ashes, dust…in Phoenix. A boy from Wales and Ohio singing and playing Celtic songs and tunes in the desert: Oceans Apart.

What proportion of your output is your own material and what proportion comes from traditional sources?

Mae’r mwyafrif o’n defnydd yn dod o’r alawon a chaneuon traddodiadol Cymreig, Albanaidd a Gwyddelig, ond mae rhaid i bawb gwneud rhywbeth personol ohonyn, trwy drefniadau meddylgar a diddorol, a thrwy ddehongliadau unigryw ar y llwyfan. Felly, dw i’n meddwl ohonof i fy hun fel rhan o’r cyfansoddiad terfynol.

The majority of our material comes from the traditional tunes and songs of Wales, Scotland and Ireland, but everyone must make something personal of them, through thoughtful and interesting arrangements and through unique interpretations on the stage. So, I think of myself as a part of the final composition.

What are your major sources for traditional music? How important is traditional music in your repertoire?

Robin Huw Bowen, Huw Bach Roberts, Plethyn, mam a mam-gu, casgliadau John Parry Ddall ac eraill, hen recordiau maes, Nansi Richards, Ceri Rhys Mathews, Stephen Rees, Sally Harper Prif Ysgol Bangor, Y We……Mae rhaid i bawb sy’n canu dechrau gan adeiladu ar y gorffennol. Yr unig beth yw faint ac mewn pa gyfeiriad yr ydych chi’n moyn mynd o’r ffynhonnell. Dw i’n moyngweithio yn ofalus i barchu’r traddodiad heb gwympo i mewn i’r faglu orhy lawer o ailadroddiad.

Robin Huw Bowen, Huw “Bach” Roberts, Plethyn, mam a mamgu, collections of John Parry Ddall and others, old field recordings, Nansi Richards, Ceri Rhys Mathews, Stephen Rees, Sally Harper, Bangor University, Y We……Everyone who sings (plays)must begin by building on the past. The only thing is how far and in what direction you want to go from the source. I want to work carefully to respect the tradition without falling into the pitfall of too much repetition.

How important is music generally in establishing and asserting Wales' identity in America?

Cerddoriaeth sy’n gallu pontio iaith, ffydd, lliw, cefnforoedd, dosbarth, gwrthwynebiad, oed ….unrhyw gwestiynau eraill?

Music is able to bridge language, faith, colour, oceans, class, opposition, age…. Any other questions?

Do you find that audiences are generally aware that Wales has its own musical traditions or are they somewhat overshadowed by the Scottish and Irish traditions?

Unwaith, arhosais ym Mississippi am betrol. Gofynnodd i fi'r ferch yn yr orsaf ble y ces i fy magu. “Cymru” dwedais. “Gyrraist ti?” Meddai. Mae’n gryn dipyn yn well ymhlith pobl gyda chysylltiad â’r Alban neu Iwerddon, ond Cymru ydy’r llysblentyn pen coch o hyd cofiwch.

Once I stopped for gas in Mississippi. The girl in the station asked me were I was from. “Wales” I said. “Did you drive?” she asked. It’s quite a lot better amongst people with a connection with Scotland and Ireland, but Wales is still the redheaded stepchild remember.

You are also a keen student and exponent of Welsh poetry. Does this play a role in your music?

Yn Y Gymraeg dyna un hen air am gan a phennill: Cerdd. Wel i ddweud y gwir, cerdd dant ydy cerddoriaeth a cherdd dafod yw farddoniaeth. Os welodd fy hendadau ddim angen i wahanu’r ddau, does dim angen arnaf i. Fel bara a menyn, seidr a haf, teulu, cyfeillion, gwlad a chariad, dyna bethau sydd yn anwahanadwy yn wastad.

In Welsh, there is one old word for a song and poem: Cerdd. Well to tell the truth Cerdd Dant (art with or of a string?) is Music and Cerdd Dafod (tongue music/art) is poetry. If my forefathers didn’t see a need to separate the two, neither do I. Like bread and butter, cider and summer, family, friends, country and love there are things forever inseparable.

A great many new bands and performers are coming to the forefront in Wales today. Do you think that there is something of a musical revival going on in Wales at the moment?

Na, nid diwygiad yw ond ffrwydrad! O’r diwedd oddi wrth ddwy ochr dafod y ddraig, stim ots pa fath neu arddull, oed y perfformwyr, milltir sgwâr, capel neu eglwys, dyna deimlad hyderus dros ben yn y bryniau, cymoedd, dros y bont, yn y fro, ar y traethau a thramor bod cerddorion Cymreig yn gallu sefyll ochr gan ochr gyda gorau’r byd. Nid ond yng ngherddoriaeth ond yn farddoniaeth, drama, busnes ac ar y meysydd chwarae ein hysbryd unigryw sy’n codi! Hwre!!

No, not a revival but an explosion! At last from both sides of the dragon’s tongue, no matter what kind or style, age of performer, birthplace, chapel or church, there’s an exceptional feeling of confidence in the hills, valleys, over the bridge, in the bro, on the beaches and overseas that Welsh musicians can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world. Not only in music but also in poetry, drama, business and on the sports’ field our unique spirit is rising! Hooray!!

The song "The Grangetown Whale" brings back many happy memories of similar exploits for me. Is this song based on personal experience?

Ysgrifennwyd "The Grangetown Whale" gan Frank Hennessy i eiriau’n fardd lleol yn disgrifio’r llifogydd Caerdydd 1979, ond dyna fwy i’r chwedl : Grangetown Whale

"The Grangetown Whale" was written by Frank Hennessy to words written by a local poet about the 1979 Cardiff flood, but there is more to the tale: Grangetown Whale


You studied music under Alun Hoddinott at Cardiff University (or UCC as it then was). Do you have any particular recollections of him that you would like to share?

Y Mae’r athro Alun Hoddinott, fel Grace Williams yn ddirfawr ym myd cerddorol clasurol y Cymry, a oedd braint tu hwnt i gael y dyn galluog hwn yn pori ar draws f’ymgais ond, i ddweud y gwir, yn ystod y saithdegau, oedd Caerdydd ar dan gyda lleoedd fel Chapter yn dangos ffilmiau Ewropeaidd am hanner nos, cyngherddau avant-garde, roc, jazz, barddoniaeth gyfoes, celfyddyd, dramâu a phobl gydag yr un eisiau i greu, trafod a byw'r gwrthryfel cymdeithasol/hunan-addysgol. Felly dw i wedi dysgu mwy, mewn ffordd, tu fas yr ystafell ysgol. Hefyd wrth gwrs yr oedd y Brains, caru-rydd, gwyliau roc, clwbiau gwerin, darllediadau barddoniaeth, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, e.e cumings, John Cage, John Coltrane, John Lennon, Eric Dolphy, Wildman Fischer, Stockhausen, Henry Cooper (y ddau), Ferlinghetti, Escher, Monty Python, Albi, Dylan, i enwi ond yn ychydig!!

Alun Hoddinott, like Grace Williams, are huge in the classical musical world of the Welsh, and it was an honour to have this brilliant man pore over my efforts but, to tell the truth, in the 70’s Caerdydd was on fire with places like Chapter showing late-night European films, avant-garde, rock, jazz, modern poetry, art, drama and people who only wanted to create, discuss and live the social/self-educational revolution. So, I learnt more outside the schoolroom. Also of course there was Brains, free love, rock festivals, folk clubs, poetry readings, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, e.e cumings, John Cage, John Coltrane, John Lennon, Eric Dolphy, Wildman Fischer, Stockhausen, Henry Cooper (both), Ferlinghetti, Escher, Monty Python, Albi, Dylan, to name but a few!


Where can people see the band in the near future? Are there any tours or live performances coming up?

Byddwch ân aros yn glos i Phoenix yn ystod y gaeaf (dyn ni ddim yn dwp!), gyda theithiau yn dechrau gyda gwanwyn ac yn yr haf cynnar (manylion ar y gweill o hyd). Caiff ein hamserlen ei gyhoeddi mis i fis ar ein safle We: OceansApart

We will be staying close to Phoenix during the winter (we’re not stupid!), with trips beginning in the spring and early summer (details still in progress). Our schedule is published month to month on our web site: OceansApart



When can we expect the next album from "Oceans Apart"?

Wel, yr ydym ni newydd ryddhau albwm Nadolig (The Carol Singing Sea [gwrandwch ar y MP3]) a hefyd, ar yr un bryd yn DVD (weler y tri fideo) wedi’i enwi “Trans Celtic Gala”: Sioe fyw gyda’r band pibau, dawnswyr cam a chyfeillion., y ddau ar gael oddi wrth ein safle We.

Well, we just released a Christmas album (The Carol Singing Sea [listen to the MP3’s below) and also at the same time a DVD called “Trans Celtic Gala” (see the three videos): A live show with a pipe band, step dancers and friends, both available at our web site.














The band is sponsoring "The Left Coast Eisteddfod". What do you feel such an event can achieve for Wales?

Ers talwm, mae wedi bod canfyddiad yn y byd bron i benbaladr bod “Gwlad y Gan” yn golygu corau meibion yn canu emynau, felly dyma’r cyfle i ddangos bod erbyn hyn “Gwlad y Gan” yn golygu Cerddoriaeth draddodiadol, werin, pop, roc, jazz, rap, yn gyffrous, gyfoes, feddylgar, ddoniol, ddwyieithiog, a hefyd cerddoriaeth gorawl. Dw i’n edrych ymlaen dros ben i ddod.

For ages there has been aperception close to universal that “Land of Song” meant male voicechoirs singing hymns, so here’s a chance to show that today “Land of Song” means traditional, folk, pop,rock, jazz, rap music; exciting, contemporary, thoughtful, funny, bi-lingual, and also choral music. I’m really looking forward to coming.


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