In many ways I blame Taulupe Faletau? For many years Tangaki Taulupe Faletau had allowed himself to be called ‘Toby’. I expect it was easier for him and the people he met as a kid. Taulupe??? How do you spell that, how do you pronounce that? In the end I can see why he gave in to being Toby. It was an easy nickname that stuck until…until he decided to reclaim his name and his heritage.
Seeing how well it worked for Taulupe I thought I would do the same in 2019. For the first 13 years of my life I had had no problems being called Maldwyn. That all changed 50 years ago. Around that time, as a 12 year old, I had decided to record some of my self-written songs on my dad’s old Philips Tape recorder and send them to John Peel on Radio 1.
Maldwyn Pope (left) with John Peel 1973
Almost from the first trip to London the trouble started. The family had always pronounced my name as ‘Maldwyn’ as in ‘Malcolm’ rather than ‘Mawldwyn’ as in Baldwyn. Before long I had signed to Rocket Records where Elton John started referring to me as Blodwyn Pig before he finally remembered my real name…although he went with the ‘Baldwyn’ pronunciation.
Mal Pope – Cambridge University 1981
It all changed when I got to university. There, everyone had a name change. Michael became Mick (he was Irish) Mark from Coventry became Taff (his parents were Welsh) and I became Mal. After University I tried lots of variations including Frank Pope and Max Pope but eventually, just like Taulupe I bowed to the inevitable and kept with Mal.
Working on a new album in 2019 I decided it was time, a name album, a new sound and my old name.
The thing is the internet is not so forgiving. Having released lots of albums as Mal Pope I registered the new album as a new performer, Maldwyn Pope, and set the album live on all of the streaming sites. I’m still unsure of how the algorithms work. I had a reasonable following for Mal Pope and I hoped the Maldwyn Pope profile would also pick up plays, subscribers and followers.
The 2020 Tour that never was…COVID!
Now I’m sure the Pandemic didn’t help. Plans for promotional tours soon came to nothing and as the weeks passed the numbers interested in Maldwyn Pope stayed pretty constant…just above zero!!!
One of the reasons I had wanted to change my name was the difference in meaning. Maldwyn Pope means the Pope who is a bold friend (bold not bald!). Mal Pope, working back to the French, means ‘The Bad Pope’. I had wanted a new start, but it soon became obvious I had become ‘The Bad Pope’ and ‘The Bad Pope’ I would stay.
At the end of last year I finally withdrew the album from all streaming services to fight another day.
As well as picking up a new name over the past 50 years I have collected an amazing array of ‘talent’ who work, support and hold me up as a musician. The idea behind Butterfly was to take things to their ultimate conclusion. Investing in a record is not like a business investing in a property or a new lorry and knowing there will be an income for your business. In music there are absolutely no guarantees.
I had worked with orchestras in the past, there’s nothing quite like it, but it is an expensive exercise. Spending large amounts of the kids inheritance on a record was a risky business. I knew they would approve although I decided not to check just in case.
Andrew Griffiths -Strings and Brass Ystradgynlais
The recording started at home, before moving on to sessions in Ystradgynlais, Garnant and Llangennech.
Andrew ‘Wal’ Coughlan – Garnant
In the old days we used to record all together, for this album I went to the musicians home studios, it was easier.
Ryan Aston – The Drummer
Then came the visit to the Czech Republic to record the City of Prague Philharmonic. Those days in Prague were some of the most exciting and thrilling of my life. Everything came together. As I returned home it really felt as if finally all of the pieces were falling into place.
Then came COVID…
Sometimes you have to look at the whole big picture and realise its not quite working. There is nothing wrong in admitting your mistakes. It hurts and you want to argue your case but there comes a time when you either face reality or ignore it.
Since COVID I had almost forgotten about ‘Butterfly’. I had moved on with new songs and new ways of recording. The latest releases have gone really well picking up playlists and radio interviews and streaming followers and downloads but there on the shelf, like a long lost prodigal son, sat ‘Butterfly’.
If I was going to do anything with it I thought a fresh set of ears would be a good thing.
Tim Hamill at Sonic One Studios Llangennech.
I sent all of the tracks to Tim Hamill from Sonic One Studios in Llangennech and asked him to see if he could remix them. We slightly changed the album cover from Maldwyn Pope to Mal Pope and yesterday we finally set the ‘Butterfly’ free …again.
I’m not expecting the album to go to number one or achieve Gold or Platinum status, but I have learnt some lessons. Sometimes even when you think you are right; you could be wrong. There is no shame in trying and failing but also there are no prizes for giving up.
The album went live at midnight on Friday morning. I woke at 2am and lay there with my head phones listening through to the album, twice. It brought back lots of memories. The songs themselves tell stories about my parents who were alive when I wrote the songs but sadly aren’t here any more. There are songs about the family and struggling with my faith, all of which come with emotion.
But the biggest sense I had was pride in my friends, the musicians who gave their talents and support to make the record come to life. We’ve done lots of amazing things together over the past 30 years but to use an oft used phrase, some might say ‘this was the finest hour!!’