At long last, Wales Comic Con made a triumphant return to it’s home at Glyndwr University in Wrexham, North Wales. Recent events had moved to Telford, which isn’t even in Wales. The thing about staging the convention in Wrexham is, on a personal level, it’s much closer to home and thus makes a great family day out. Telford, not so much.
On a slightly smaller scale, but with a great sense of good natured fun, Wales Comic Con returned to the sports halls of Glyndwr Uni. And of course there was all the usual special guests (always impressive), stalls selling merch, and cosplay enthusiasts.
This year, Stranger Things was the buzz at the Con. Not surprising at all, and neither was the number of folks dressed as Eddie Munson. Eddie is easily the best character in the show, so it was nice to see so many people pay tribute to the lovable metal head by dressing up as him.
In previous years (and at various cons), Harley Quinn has been the most popular choice of outfit for convention goers. This year, Eddie and other Stranger Things characters were number one, by far.
Grace Van Dien, who played Chrissy on the show, was a very popular guest. My daughter queued for ages to meet her, along with dozens of other fans. I’m happy to report that Grace was charming, cheerful and very nice indeed.
I was able to meet and chat with the very lovely Tabitha Lyons, super talented cosplayer and model – and her dad Nic Samiotis, prop builder extraordinaire. Two very skilled and very cool people who were a delight to meet. Photos of Tabitha have appeared in previous blogs of mine, there’s another below, where the lucky lady is pictured with yours truly. I nearly didn’t post it – I need to go on a diet, quick fast!
My merch buying plans didn’t quite do so well on the day. I did pick up a Star Wars figure (naturally), but despite there being a number of stalls, there was a distinct lack of comic books for sale. I’d been hoping to add to my Bronze Age Marvel collection, but never mind.
Welcome back, Wales Comic Con. We had a memorable day out, looking forward to more!
In February last year, I interviewed Chester based punk/grunge band Ryuko at Pentre Fest. Due to numerous unavoidable issues – not least this blasted pandemic – the piece was unfinished till recently. Not long ago, this post finally appeared on Ever Metal, and I thought I’d republish it here too. Enjoy!
“Grandpa, what’s a gig?”
“Well son, a gig was what we used to call a band playing live music, in front of an audience.”
“What, people watching musicians play their instruments? Crazy!”
“I know it seems like a strange idea to you youngsters, but it used to be a fantastic experience. Actually being able to gather with friends and strangers to enjoy hearing music. It was another world.”
That’s what the situation seems like right now: no gigs, no gatherings for entertainment – the old days sometimes feel like a lifetime ago. At least it seemed a whole different world back in February 2020, before the pandemic, when I caught up with Chester based band Ryuko at Pentre Fest.
The three piece – comprising The Bobfather (guitars/vocals), Captain Andy (bass) and MattMan (drums) were something of an anomaly at the metal-centric Pentre Fest. Not that Ryuko don’t rock out, but their brand of punky, alternative rock was a little different from the other bands on show. I found their style of honest, yet far from pretentious rock’n’roll refreshing and it added a vital tone to the proceedings.
Post gig, I caught up with the band to pose some questions and contemplate the meaning of life.
First off, the cliched yet crucial discussion on influences:
Bob: It’s weird, ‘cos we’ve got influences from all over. If you listen to one of our sets, it has stages: it starts off punky, then it goes alternative rock. Then it goes a little metal/grungy, then back to punk at the end.
Matt: Drop D then back to punk! I’m a huge fan of Motorhead and Metallica, the list goes on, so me being the drummer, I was always doing these thrash beats. To go from that to stepping into this, this was more fun to me. I really enjoy myself when I’m behind the kit with these guys.
Bob: When I write the songs, I listen to quite a broad variety of music, so I think that becomes apparent in my songs. I don’t like to write the same song twice. As far as when I started out, I would say when I was a teenager, I first started listening to Nirvana, Carter USM. I also drew influences from a lot of electro – The Prodigy and stuff like that – so sometimes I’d try and work out how to play dance songs on a guitar. And then that would give me the influence to write more interesting songs. I like to try and fuse a bunch of different genres together, make it more interesting.
Andy: I listen to a lot of Neil Young, I think he’s a very diverse artist. He’s done folk, he’s also done electric stuff.
How do you promote yourselves?
Matt: I’m more into social media than these guys are. We’re promoting ourselves on Facebook, we’re gonna make a new YouTube account. That’s kind of going up and down at the moment…
Bob: We don’t know how to work it!
Where does the name Ryuko come from?
Bob: I’m really into anime and all things Japanese, Japanese music… At the time I was watching an anime called Kill la Kill. The main character is called Ryuko Matoi and I just thought it was a really cool name. Some really fun facts: Ryuko is one of the least popular names in Japan. It basically means “rebirth”, start over. So I thought, we’re starting again, it’s a really cool name.
Andy: Well it’s not a cool name in Japan, is it?
Bob: It’s cool to me! I think it’s cool!
Andy: I do wish we’d chosen a name that’s easier to spell and pronounce.
Bob: People can never say it.
Your cover of the Madness classic “Baggy Trousers” tonight was a surprising choice, but great!
Matt: We decided to spruce that up to make it ours. The original is completely different to how I play it, I add extra little bits just to make it more funky.
Do you feel you’ve got the right band dynamic between the three of you?
Bob: We’re pretty good as we are. More people add more complications cos you’ve got to think – are they free; do they drive, are they going to be available…
Matt: I’ve got a son, he’s 9, we discuss upcoming gigs before we agree to it. If I’ve got my son and he comes along with us, if he’s allowed in the venue we play – he’s got his little ear defenders, he just sits in the corner and watches us or plays his game.
Bob: I’ve got three jobs…
Sounds like a positive environment to work in.
It’s got to be positive, if it’s not it just doesn’t work. If no-one’s happy, nothing gets done.
So, what’s next? What are your plans?
Bob: World domination! One step at a time…
Andy: We’ve been working on re-doing our EP, we’ve been recording on and off. Recording, playing as many gigs as we can.
And there you have it: an enjoyable chat with the gentlemen of Ryuko. Make sure you check them out live, as and when we can return to the experience of live music. If grungy, punky alt rock with some metallic crunch is your thing, then Ryuko will be just the antidote you need in these dreary times.
With apologies to Ryuko, who have waited months for this interview to see the light of day.
Check out Ryuko on Bandcamp and Facebook. Plus you can follow this link to listen to the interview on YouTube – yes, you can admire my fantastic interviewing skills for real!
Here’s a random image from the toy collection here at the Virtual Hot Tub. I’ve had this guy since the early 1980’s, I think I picked him up from a jumble sale. No idea who he is. At the moment, he’s been rescued from my parent’s loft to end up in my daughter’s toy box.
Standing approximately five inches tall, he is only articulated at the arms and waist. He looks kind of Japanese, but he’s too old to be Power Ranger.
Is he from some cool proto-anime cartoon or television show? Or is he just some odd cheapo rip off designed to appeal to kids who love space toys?
If you know who this guy is, please get in touch and let me know.