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Cardiff character: Alex Williams

Alex sporting a bargain charity shop find, a perfect depiction of his quirky character

Margaux Smale chats tea, drums and the decline of the live music scene in Cardiff with musician Alex Williams.

A member of the eclectic four-piece band, Islet, Alex is a well-known and much-loved character in Cardiff. With trendy wide-rimmed glasses, a twirly mustache and a bubbly personality, it’s easy to see why.

But being an active musician in Wales’ capital city, Alex has noticed a concerning decline in Cardiff’s live music scene over the last few years.

“What music really depends on is people willingly losing money on it. Promoters hardly ever make money from putting on shows. Some big shows are a sell out, like something in The Great Hall. The money raised from that can be used to fund interesting and smaller bands to play in other venues where you won’t make as much money. But people are less willing to dig into their own pockets now.”

The musician is sympathetic and understands the current economic climate is forcing people to be a little more picky about the bands they support. “It’s a shame, because Cardiff has a number of good music venues. There just aren’t enough promoters putting shows on.”

A music nut, Alex is very humble about the fact he plays about eight different instruments. “I got quite a one dimensional brain and it’s mostly music,” he says. “You don’t have to be good at it, you just have to love what you do. That’s the essence of music for me.”

Alex joined Islet about three and a half years ago. A vibrant and lively group of individuals, the band likes to share instruments and run around on stage. Their energetic performances show that they truly love what they do.

He also plays in a couple of other bands including Them Squirrels, his “labour of love”. When he’s not playing in his bands, he works at Waterloo Tea, a magical place full of exotic teas, delightful cakes and aromatic coffees.

Alex is a passionate man and just because he works in a teahouse, does not mean he leaves his musical talents at the door. You can fully expect him to be making good use of the pots and pans in the kitchen. “I did go through a period of playing Bill Withers Lean on Me as loud as I possibly could. But then we got a radio to stop me from doing that,” Alex says.

Would he like to be a full time musician? “I have no idea what the future holds. I think the important thing is the moment. Sure it would be wicked if I could sit around and play drums all day long and get well good at it, but I don’t really mind.”

When asked where he saw himself in 10 years time, Alex said he might be living in a little wooden shack in Fiji with a few goats and a massive back patio. And in 40 years? After a little pondering, Alex replies, “Probably sitting on a rock somewhere, like the Grand Canyon.”

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