Gruff Rhys on Howard Marks: ‘He represented a new context for Welsh culture’

The Super Furry Animals man also praised the late Mr Nice's cannabis tolerance

Super Furry Animals‘ Gruff Rhys – whose band featured an image of ‘Mr Nice’ on the cover of their debut record – has spoken affectionately about the passing of Howard Marks.

Marks passed away at the age of 70 yesterday, following a battle with cancer, having progressed from notorious drug smuggler to acclaimed cult author and public speaker. Marks collaborated with Super Furry Animals on their album ‘Fuzzy Logic’ and on their singles ‘The Man Don’t Give a Fuck’ and ‘Ice Hockey Hair’

Speaking about his love of the writer of drug smuggling epic ‘Mr Nice’ (later made into a film starring Rhys Ifans, Rhys told The Guardian:


“There was quite a lot of folklore surrounding Howard. He represented a new context for Welsh culture. It broke with all the stereotypes. An antihero using the Welsh language not as a romantic language of mythology but as code with his Taffia gang to fool various government agencies.”

“He was a very charismatic man,” Rhys added. “He was like an elder to us. He was always generous with his time and his advice, giving us tapes of records to listen to. He had time for everybody, whoever they were.”

On Marks’ famous penchant for cannabis, Rhys said “It would turn most humans to speechless rock… I think he genuinely lived how he was portrayed. He wasn’t putting on a show. He was very real.”


Marks’ drug smuggling days began as a student at Oxford University, where he studied physics in the 1970s. He was arrested in Spain in 1988 as part of a US Drug Enforcement Agency-led operation.

In 2015 Marks was diagnosed with inoperable bowel cancer. Confirming news of his illness in January 2015, Marks was adamant that he had “no regrets” about his life.

A sequel to Mr Nice, Senor Nice, was published in 2006. Marks also published a crime novel, Sympathy for the Devil.


Marks is survived by his four children and an ex-wife, Judy. He continued his campaign to legalise cannabis while receiving treatment for cancer.