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Glastonbury to gallery: 60ft Dolls drummer Carl Bevan turns to art

Glastonbury to gallery: 60ft Dolls drummer Carl Bevan turns to art thumbnail

By Peter ShuttleworthBBC NewsPublishedduration1 hour agomedia caption”How art helped me after I quit rock ‘n’ roll”From dancing with the guy who sang Chocolate Salty Balls, a two-finger salute from Jonny Rotten and stopping the Gallagher brothers squabbling for a minute, it was a rock ‘n’ roll life well spent.His Britpop band moshed in Glastonbury’s mud,…

By Peter Shuttleworth
BBC News

Published

media caption“How art helped me after I quit rock ‘n’ roll”

From dancing with the guy who sang Chocolate Salty Balls, a two-finger salute from Jonny Rotten and stopping the Gallagher brothers squabbling for a minute, it was a rock ‘n’ roll life well spent.

His Britpop band moshed in Glastonbury’s mud, rocked Reading, supported the Sex Pistols’ 1990s comeback and was an undercard for Oasis in their early days.

Legendary DJ John Peel once said “in the mid-90s every town had a teenager who only ever wore a 60ft Dolls T-shirt” as the Welsh punks became the face of ’90s rowdy rock.

Blowing £10,000 on a bender was perhaps at the extreme end, but you get the picture that Dolls drummer Carl Bevan enjoyed indulging in the excesses of being in a rock ‘n’ roll band.

“There was a lot of gigs, a lot of laughter and stuff got broken and brain cells sacrificed in the name of rock ‘n’ roll,” recalls the son of a preacher man.

image copyrightGetty Images

image caption60ft Dolls were part of “Cool Cymru” with Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, Catatonia and Stereophonics

“I was fresh out of church where I learned to play – dad Ray was a pastor, the rocking reverend who had a record deal in the ’60s. I got corrupted by two naughty older brothers. It was a blur but had a blast.”

Getting booted out of a Los Angeles club for splitting his slacks dancing with Isaac Hayes – the Oscar-winning musical legend behind Soul Man, Theme from Shaft and Chef from South Park – was a feather in the cap for a 20-something who worked hard but played harder.

“It was an LA party and I blagged my way into Isaac’s dressing room and said ‘me and you, dance floor, now’,” recalls Carl.

image captionCarl started playing drums aged 11 and learned in church where dad Ray was a pastor. “It was more than a gig than a service, there were seats for 1,000 and everyone was singing”

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionIssac Hayes was the voice of Chef in South Park and sang the 1998 UK number one Chocolate Salty Balls

“I pulled off a Cossack which I know impressed him. But my trousers were tight and split from crotch to ankle so the bouncers grabbed me and threw me out.”

After a misspent youth making an exhibition of himself, the mellowing musician’s latest work is actually in exhibitions – he’s a burgeoning artist getting glowing gallery reviews.

Sound engineers used to say he was one of the loudest around – just what founding members Richie Parfitt and Mike Cole were looking for in a drummer – but the musical menace in which he beat his drum has taken a toll.

image copyrightCarl Bevan

image captionCarl has made a makeshift studio at the back of his living room in his house in Cardiff

image copyrightCarl Bevan

image captionCarl’s first street scene painting of Cardiff’s City Arms pub after “meeting a mate before the first lockdown”

His wrists and arms pay the price for decades of drumming so after taking the “terrifying” choice to quit music, those creative hands are taking a more relaxing route.

So from being in a chaotic collective of “three lads from Newport” playing in front of thousands, his life is rather more solitary – just acrylics and artistic inclination, with occasional interaction from dog Billy.

“I’m a naive self-taught artist that just paints the greatest hits of stuff I like,” said the 47-year-old part-time IT technician.

image copyrightCarl Bevan

image captionCarl’s paintings are from pictures taken while on walks with cavapoo dog Billy. “He’s the only one that understands me”

image copyrightCarl Bevan

image captionCarl’s art is shown in galleries and he’ll have a pop-up gallery in Cardiff next year

“I don’t know if I’m doing anything right or wrong. I just try and be better with every painting and people seem to like them as virtually every one has sold – and that’s mind-blowing.”

After dabbling in what he calls his life’s “B-side” for about two years and with his art GCSE, he started seriously earlier this year, giving him a “focus” and already his work is either being placed in galleries or sold.

image copyrightCarl Bevan

image captionCarl is “amazed” by interest in his paintings in year one and has made a calendar of his favourites

image copyrightNick Hartley

image captionWinning a work art competition was Carl’s “light bulb moment”

“Painting has been amazing for my sanity, especially in lockdown,” said Carl.

“I always thought when I’m done with music, I’d try art. The place I work had an art competition for two years and after initially dismissing it, at the last-minute I drove to Hobbycraft and bought £20 of paints – and won. It was my light bulb moment.

image copyrightCarl Bevan

image captionCarl says his paintings are a like a “greatest hits of stuff I like” and “what I’d like to hang on my wall”

image copyrightCarl Bevan

image captionCarl says “painting becomes my entire universe and I can escape my brain”

image copyrightCarl Bevan

image captionCarl says his obsessive work ethic has been “rechanneled from music to art”

“Drumming had stopped being fun. Finishing music was painful as it was my life but art quickly filled any void so I didn’t miss it.

“I’m one of these people who find other people overrated. I’m happy in my own company.”

He had a funny way of showing it.

For the best part of a decade he revelled in relentless touring with his raucous rabble – crowd surfing, smashing up drum kits and all-night sessions on the 60ft Dolls party bus.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionThe 60ft Dolls toured the world supporting Ash after both recorded albums at Rockfield Studios near Monmouth

Figure captionWarning: Third party content may contain adverts

Bevan shared joint custody of an “imaginary spider monkey called Leeky” with Ash frontman Tim Wheeler, was drinking buddy with Pavement singer Stephen Malkmus during a tour in Japan and helped give BBC presenter Lauren Laverne’s Kenickie a break when they supported the Dolls in the mid-90s.

The noise from guitar bands reverberated from the legendary TJs venue – and that’s where they first met Liam and Noel Gallagher.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionThe Dolls supported Oasis on their first tour “by accident” as they were in “the right place at the right time”

“Oasis had been recording in south Wales and played TJs so asked us to support,” said Carl.

“I remember walking into TJs during their sound check and I was met with a wall of noise – you could tell these were something special.

“Liam’s swagger is very real. Both brothers were good as gold and absolutely lovely, among the least arrogant rock stars I’ve met.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionThe 60ft Dolls had UK top 40 hits with Talk To Me, Stay, Happy Shopper and Hair

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionCarl says “the best day of my life apart from the birth of daughter Connie” was supporting Sex Pistols at their Finsbury Park comeback gig in 1996

“We then toured with them and played in a Knebworth warm-up show. Every time we played, they watched us which was a compliment and really nice because not all bands do that.”

The Dolls shared bills with the Foo Fighters and Iggy Pop, playing festivals like Reading, T In The Park, Phoenix and Glastonbury after their critically-acclaimed adrenalin-fuelled record The Big Three.

“How else would you want to spend your ’20s?” he recalled.

image caption“I was told go to the jukebox of this Newport pub and there’d be two guys who wanted a drummer for a band. That’s how 60ft Dolls started”
image captionThe 60ft Dolls were regulars on BBC Radio 1 and were one of John Peel’s favourite sessions

“We were thinking about reforming a few years ago but I don’t think it was for us.

“We were destined to burn bright and quickly fizzle out. It was pure energy, chaotic tension and vanity-free rock ‘n’ roll.

“If I was to do that now, I’d last 10 days before they took me home for an early bath and cup of cocoa.”

image copyrightCarl Bevan

image captionCarl paints scenes of “beautiful” Pembrokeshire where he regularly goes on holiday

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