Ex-60 Ft. Dolls drummer happy people are shopping for his paintings after change of art

Carl Bevan’s band 60 Ft. Dolls invigorated the ’90s music scene. These days he’s swapped his drumsticks for paintbrushes but is finding a whole new international fanbase.

ANYONE who grew up during the ‘Cool Cymru’ cultural movement of the 1990s is likely to be familiar with trailblazing Newport indie band ‘60 Ft. Dolls.’

Drummer Carl Bevan, 50, along with bandmates Mike Cole and Richard Parfitt, were central to Newport’s ‘Golden Age of Music’ in the mid-90s as the city became known as the ‘New Seattle’.

But if you are of more tender years the chances are you are more likely to recognise Carl for his artwork.

I sat down with Carl at his studio near Canton to discuss the shift in career and lifestyle.

With 60 Ft. Dolls he certainly lived the rock and roll lifestyle: “Just after signing our first record deal, I blew £10,000 in one night. We smashed up our hotel room and destroyed the oldest bowling green in Britain.”

The band were kicked-out of London’s legendary Columbia Hotel, famous for its relaxed attitude and ‘turn-a-blind-eye’ policy to the after-party shenanigans of artists who stayed there – including Oasis and Iggy Pop. It takes something special to get banned from that place, but the Dolls managed it after hosting a 600-person after-party.

60 Ft. Doors (L-R): Mike Cole, Richard Parfitt and Carl Bevan. Credit: Carl Bevan

The band were infamous for their off-stage antics, but they achieved great success on it.

They performed at Glastonbury in 1997, at Reading Festival six times and at T in the Park.

They also played at the 1996 Sex Pistols reunion gig in Finsbury Park, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Johnny Depp and Kate Moss backstage. Carl described it as ‘the best day of his life.’

Carl’s love for music emerged long before his days with 60 Ft. Dolls though. He was born in Glynneath in 1973. His dad, Ray, was a well-known preacher.

“When I was eight my dad joined a travelling gospel band and we to Spain for a year with a 3,000-seater big-top circus tent,” he said.

That experience inspired his initial love for music and “that’s what made me want to be in a band. I started playing the drums in church.

“When I was a youngster growing up in the 1970s and ’80s, I wanted to be two things; a drummer, or a cartoonist. I ended up being a drummer. A drummer first of all anyway.”

Carl during 60 Ft. Doors Performance (Credit: Carl Bevan)

Carl and the family moved to Newport in 1984, when Carl was 11. He went to school in Newport, getting a ‘D’ in Art at A-Level.

Aged 21, Carl and 60 Ft. Dolls signed their first record deal and he spent nearly a decade behind the band’s kit.

Their 1996 album Big 3 came in at number 12 in Welsh Arts Review’s ‘Greatest Welsh albums of all time.’  

The band ‘imploded’ in late 1999, but Carl remained in the music industry. In 2005 he got a call from BBC Wales’s DJ Adam Walton, who asked Carl to produce all the live in-session bands for his show. Carl accepted and produced for bands such as Future of the Left, The Keys, and Exit International, who then asked him to produce their debut album Black Junk.

Black Junk went on to be a critically-acclaimed record and was nominated for the Welsh Music Prize in 2012.

He also produced, and played the drums, bass, and guitar on a cover of gospel classic Power in the Blood with his dad, Ray Bevan, in 2015.

Up until 2018, Carl made music with ‘The Lash,’ the band he founded in 2008. But hand problems caused by banging a drum for 30 years, coupled with a loss of love for music, meant he had “got to the end of the line with music.”

He said: “There was a huge void to fill as music had been a lifelong obsession.”

This void, however, would soon be filled by his other passion.

When Carl was a kid, he’d only wanted to be a drummer or a cartoonist – it just so happened that drumming came first.

Carl, who moved to Cardiff 15 years ago, started painting five years ago. “I started with dog portraits, which I made on my iPad. They would take around 200-hours to complete and would sell for about £200 each.”

Then came his lucky break. Whilst working as an IT technician at the Royal College of Nursing in Cardiff, the company hosted an art competition. Despite initially not being interested in entering, he was persuaded by his boss. After a blind vote by 1,200 people, his painting (below) won and Carl pocketed £2,000.

“This was a real lightbulb moment,” he said.

Carl’s competition-winning painting (Credit: Carl Bevan)

“I then started taking it seriously. My first six paintings went straight in the bin, but the seventh clicked and it sold for $600 dollars at auction in the US.”

Carl is now on his 110th painting. His work has sold to people all over the world. Beth and Preben from Pennsylvania have never been to Cardiff or Wales, but they have bought 22 limited edition prints over the years. “We love it, and it ain’t over yet,” they said by email.

Carl said: “People just get it. It resonates with people.

His work encapsulates the spirit of Cardiff and his native South Wales and he often paints locla locations. It reminds some people of home. As a result, Carl’s work has sold to Welsh ex-pats as far away as Canada and Australia.

The Bridge Studios (Credit: Carl Bevan)

People closer to home also feel a deep connection to Carl’s art. One man bought his sister a print of one of Carl’s paintings because the location happened to be the site where they scattered their mother’s ashes.

Another customer bought a painting of a phone box because it is where he used to call his girlfriend – they are now married.

  • Carl’s next exhibition is on May 18 at The Bridge Studios near Canton. The event will feature live music, food stalls and entertainment. You can check out his work on his website.