Goldie Lookin' Chain: Chain reaction

A gang of mates from Wales are one of the UK's hottest rap groups. But are they for real? Fiona Sturges meets Goldie Lookin' Chain
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The Independent Culture

"This is where it all began," remarks Mr Love Eggs aka Eggsy, Gwent's very own answer to P Diddy, casting his eye mistily around the wood-panelled surroundings of Ye Olde Murenger, a 15th-century pub in the centre of Newport, South Wales. Having gathered in their local for an afternoon drink, the members of the Welsh rap collective Goldie Lookin' Chain are in disguise. For now, the flammable sportswear for which they are notorious has been replaced by everyday jeans and sweatshirts.

"Trust me, were we to walk down the high street in our gear, it would be crazy," says Mike Balls, a baby-faced 24-year-old who is nonetheless described in the band's biography as "the hardest man in soccer violence". "Everyone looks at you, and that's cool, but it's also hard to deal with it when you've been smoking weed all day."

Named after the cheap jewellery with which they habitually drape themselves, GLC boast members with names such as Dwain P Xain, 2 Hats, Mystikal (a druid, not to be confused with the American rapper of the same name) and The Maggot. Their rhymes extol the virtues of shell suits, bad TV, marijuana and their cherished local cab firm, Dragon Taxis.

If that sounds silly, you haven't heard the half of it. This is a band who cite among their heroes Kid Creole, Glen Campbell, Kenny Everett and "people from the Seventies". Their debut single, "Half Man Half Machine", released last April, featured a gravel-voiced character who believed himself to be a robot ("Now I've reached it/ I'm finally there/ Like Terminator filmed in Aberdare"); their latest offering, "Guns Don't Kill People, Rappers Do", artfully sends up gangsta-rap enthusiasts with lyrics such as: "I wanna rap, I wanna rhyme/ Heard it in a song, now I'm into gun crime."

While Newport's musical heritage isn't without distinction - this is the town that gave us Manic Street Preachers, 60 Foot Dolls and Donna Matthews from Elastica - GLC are, as far as they know, the first rap group to emerge from the area. "Someone called Newport 'the new Seattle' in the Nineties. I suppose it does rain a lot," muses Billy Webb, another rapper who, until a couple of months ago, was working at a local bowling-alley. Their aim, they say, is to put the fun back into hip hop. "You know that feeling when you're standing at a gig, clutching your plastic pint glass?" Mike explains, his brow furrowing earnestly. "Your legs start to hurt a bit, and your back starts to ache. You start wondering to yourself, 'Have I got flat feet?' That just shouldn't happen, and it doesn't at our gigs. We like to get a party on - we like to get the blood pumping. Wicked!"

Little is known about GLC's origins, a mystery on which even the members struggle to shed light. Eggsy believes that their music can be traced back to the days in the Eighties when he would hold his tape recorder next to the television and press "Record". "Later, I would add swear words over the top," he reveals. "It wasn't just music. It would work on other programmes, too. There was the episode of EastEnders where Michelle told her best friend Sharon that she'd slept with her dad. I took that and created my own script. After that, I got a Yamaha keyboard, and my life was changed for ever."

Confusion also reigns about how they ended up being featured in Heat magazine as Charlotte Church's backing-band. GLC were reported to be making a track with La Church called "Stick It in Cider". "Now that was just a series of misunderstandings," murmurs Billy, his face reddening guiltily. "Apparently one of us was going out with her and another of us writing songs with her. A celebrity girlfriend would be nice and all that, but I'm still holding out for Felicity Kendal."

What is known is that the band are all born and bred in Newport, a town Eggsy describes as "a slightly less attractive version of Watford". Billy moved to London for a bit but felt uncomfortable around all the people in suits, so he decided to move back. "I came home, got the community centre open, turned the keyboard on, and now here we are," he smiles.

GLC have been friends since the mid-Nineties and have already made six albums, most of which were distributed via friends in local pubs and clubs. Support began to build through their website, where they chronicled their daily activities - mostly smoking, drinking and comparing tracksuits. After a while, they made songs available to download, with names such as "Your Mother's Got a Penis". Such was their popularity that they eventually decided to turn songwriting into a full-time occupation.

The creative process, Dwain says, involves "all of us in a room together, smoking and hitting each other. There's nothing to it, really." There are now 23 official members of GLC. "There are only three requirements to join the group," Eggsy beams: "draw, fags and Rizla."

It was just over a year ago that the group played their first gig as Goldie Lookin' Chain. For Eggsy, it was his first time on stage since a part in the school play as a nine-year-old. Before now, Mike's only brush with stardom was when, aged eight, he beat Helen Adams, the Welsh Big Brother 2 contestant, in a county singing competition in Wales. "Lovely girl," he murmurs.

Support slots with The Darkness followed, along with vocal endorsements from the band's fellow Welshmen Super Furry Animals and The Streets. Earlier this year, they signed a deal with Eastwest records outside the Houses of Parliament. The ceremony was attended by the Labour MP for Newport, Paul Flynn, a self-confessed GLC fan. "That was a great day," Billy recalls. "We had cheese-and-pineapple and cocktail sausages and cherryade. We thought, if you're going to get signed, get a spread on.

"We saw John Redwood, that bloke who tried to sing along to the Welsh national anthem, doing a piece to camera, so we thought we'd jump up and down behind him. The cameraman got really angry and said we'd ruined everything, but we had fun. It was our day, after all."

There are rumours, which GLC will neither confirm nor deny, that they are to record a version of the Run DMC/Aerosmith song "Walk This Way" with The Darkness. "It's true that that is a rumour," Mike says, refusing to be drawn.

"'Wichita Lineman' with David Essex, that's what I'd like to do," declares Eggsy. "Now that would be raz."

Getting to grips with the GLC vernacular is a task in itself. "Raz" means "good", as does "safe", while "you knows it" means that you're in with the GLC. Much of their slang is frankly unprintable, though a glossary of terms can be found on their website. But despite their championing of a new rap vocabulary, GLC have only recently become familiar with the word "chav", a term immortalised on the website, which describes itself as "a humourous guide to Britain's burgeoning peasant underclass". The site, which sends up the tracksuit-wearing, Nike-shod pseudo-gangsters who loiter around Britain's town centres, now contains a direct link to GLC's site.

"We didn't know about chavs," Eggsy says. "Here, they're called 'blads', though I've heard them called 'pikeys', too. There's 'crazies', too, but that's slightly different. That's someone with a strange look in their eye who always carries a plastic bag."

The band insist that, far from being seen as sending up Newport's "peasant underclass", they are embraced in their hometown. "You'll go out to the pub, and a man as wide as a house, with scars on his face and blood on his hands, will come up to you. You think he's going to snap your head off, but instead he'll say, 'Can I buy you a pint?' We're about embracing a culture. That's just the vibe. What we're doing is pantomime, but with drugs."

When the songs dry up, GLC hope to launch a clothing range. "We've got two concepts at the moment," Eggsy says, his eyes lighting up. "One's called Fick Bruvvers or F-Bro. There'll be a little gadget hidden in the lapel that you can press and it'll say, 'Fick as fuck.' The other one is like P Diddy's clothing range but we're going to call it K Doddy. We're going to make leisurewear for very small people. Children and midgets. That's a vibe."

If it's a success, they may consider putting together a jewellery line, and possibly launching a fragrance. In the meantime, they are concentrating on having as much fun as possible. When the GLC bubble bursts, they say, they'll be more than happy to get jobs in Sainsbury's, taking time off to appear on the "Where are they now?" line-up on Never Mind the Buzzcocks. "We came from nothing; we'll go back to nothing," Mike smiles. "I mean, you can't take it with you, can you?" You knows it.

The single 'Guns Don't Kill People, Rappers Do' is out on Monday. 'Goldie Lookin' Chain - Greatest Hits' is out on 16 September on Eastwest. GLC play the main stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals (28 & 29 August), then tour (


The Darkness

Lowestoft's The Darkness seemed to be little more than a novelty act when they emerged early last year, until their overblown pomp-rock took them to the top of the charts. Their Spandex catsuits may suggest they're pulling our legs, but the singer, Justin Hawkins, says: "[People] think there's some kind of ironic masterplan behind it, but there isn't. We're just doing what we really like doing."

Scissor Sisters

Like The Village People only more camp, New York's Scissor Sisters claim to be in the thrall of such bastions of naffness as Billy Joel and Supertramp. Nonetheless, they have been ecstatically received by critics and punters alike, and sales of their self-titled debut looks set to top a million by the end of the year.

The Rutles

The Beatles spoof band were created by the Monty Python stalwart Eric Idle, with songs by Neil Innes of The Bonzo Dog Doodah Band. The Rutles, who started in 1975 as a sketch on the BBC series Rutland Weekend Television, featured in the 1978 mockumentary All You Need Is Cash, in which George Harrison made a cameo as a television interviewer. Albums included Finchley Road and Ticket to Rut.

Spinal Tap

The band immortalised in Rob Reiner's 1984 satirical movie This Is Spinal Tap may not have officially existed, but that didn't stop them enjoying a hit album, Break Like the Wind, or reuniting in 1992 for an album of new material and a tour. They later made an appearance on The Simpsons, during which, in keeping with their history of misfortune, one member was blinded by a laser lightshow.

Dukes of Stratosphear

This affectionate parody of Sixties psychedelia was the work of XTC. All three members of the group adopted pseudonyms - Andy Partridge became Sir John Johns, Colin Moulding was the Red Curtain and David Gregory was Lord Cornelius Plum. Their EP 25 o'Clock was released without mention of XTC, and the group claimed they had nothing to do with the project.

Mötley Crüe

The archetypal example of the "everything turned up to 11" attitude applied to all areas of life, the Crüe are remembered for their light-fingered manners: they'd steal your woman, steal your drink and then steal your stash. The video for their ludicrous song "Girls, Girls, Girls", featuring a strip bar, Harleys and lots of hair, marked the point of no return for poodle rock.