What triggered you to write a solo record?
Ive been writing songs with Nick (Wire, MSP bassist) since 1986
and we just realised we had to have a break. As much as anything we
had to give the audience a break. But within the first month off I realised
that I was going crazy, potting plants and cleaning out the cleaning
products cupboard. Seriously, it was horrible. I realised I couldnt
not have (puts on self-mocking comic accent) music in my life man. So
it kinda came out of boredom, frustration then anger which eventually
turned into writing again.
Youre playing solo shows at the V Festival - is that intimidating?
Yeah, playing a festival will be odd. I mean as a band we never really
liked them. Weve always managed to engage the audience but I think
with other people its gonna be a challenge, its gonna be
hard. Ive had to teach a band the album from scratch.
Do you think the Manic Street Preachers are still relevant to a
Im not gonna pretend were connected to a youth market. But
when we toured last time wed definitely picked up some new fans.
Its a mixture of that and the people that have been buying our
records since 1990.
Can we expect more from the Manics?
If me doing the solo thing and Nick too (Wire is readying a solo album)
doesnt make us stronger as a band, Id be gutted. Weve
known each other since we were born. The next Manics album is coming
along well and I reckon its gonna be really rock n
The band have never shied away from rock n roll posturing
at the beginning of your career you said youd split up
after one million selling album? What happened?
We kind of went Plan B. We realised we couldnt be the Sex Pistols
and then we tried to be The Clash and we couldnt do that. But
you know, at least we always failed on our own terms. I mean we set
ourselves the most ridiculous targets and we failed. I mean we did say
wed self-immolate on Top Of The Pops which is quite a high benchmark
in rock n roll terms (laughs), but obviously that was never
gonna happen. If we hadnt broken those promises we made to ourselves
we wouldnt have got Holy Bible, If You Tolerate
Must Go etc
You know, Im glad we didnt split up.
Richey disappeared in 1995 does he remain in your thoughts
(Richey James disappeared in February 1995 and has never been seen again,
although unsubstantiated sightings have been common)
I mean obviously things do fade with time. Shortly after he disappeared
there was a lot of speculation in the press all of which was rubbish.
I know we all bought in to rock mythology. But whats really annoying
is when people try to possess the notion of Richey and they think that
they understand more than we do as a band. I think the rock press tried
to turn him into some sort of perfect hero and he was much more interesting
than that. Regardless of his search for something perfect, whether it
was the perfect girl or the perfect cup of tea, he was much more complicated
than that. He had a deep creativity and intellect and thats what
made him a pleasure to be around. But he was a difficult character.
But difficult and creative people are a privilege to know.
How did the Cuba trip come about? And what was it like meeting Castro?
In a strange way it was like our first trip to America. Wed played
the record company game up until 1995 and we just felt the only places
we could go that werent gonna be really commercial were China
and Cuba. And we couldnt do China cos Wham had already done
it (laughs). The only thing that really disappoints me is a picture
of me shaking hands with Fidel Castro, because I really didnt
want to do that. Thats when I realised were just a bunch
of rock musicians. Id never want to shake any politicians
hand really. It just says to people you endorse everything I stand
for, which I dont. I was inspired by the people we met out
there. A lot of people were at peace with themselves not in a
corny b******t way they just seemed civically proud. They were
friendly and hospitable, the flipside, of course, is that theres
not the freedom there should be and people are force fed things. And
yeah, the poverty in Havana was extreme. I mean the first thing a revolution
is supposed to do is get rid of the symbolism of the gun and the gun
is still everywhere as a symbol. It was a really strange experience.
I remember watching the Manics at the Reading Festival in 1992 and
Nicky throwing his bass into the crowd at the end and hitting a security
guard. Did you have to make a fast exit? What happened next?
I cant remember running that fast. I remember getting the train
home in time to see Match Of The Day. I remember Nick throwing the bass
and, of course, not meaning to hurt anybody. But yeah, I can remember
it hitting him and then him turning round and giving this look. And
it doesnt matter how much bravado youve got, no one is gonna
fancy their chances against a team of security guards. I remember me
and my manager talking to the head security guard and just pleading
with him that there was no way in the world that he meant to do that.
That was a great festival though, our first. I always wanted to play
Reading more than Glastonbury because it had that kind of rock history
and there was a real indie thing that year as well. There was Nirvana,
Public Enemy, Butthole Surfers, stuff like that. I remember seeing the
Surfers it was f***ing brilliant they had this woman onstage naked and
she stood over a bottle and just p****d in it. I was enjoying the gig
up until then. Things were more rock n roll in those days,
I guess, I remember J Mascis (frontman of seminal grunge rockers Dinosaur
Jr) talking about Richey self-mutilating (In 1991 Richey gained notoriety
when NME journalist Steve Lamacq questioned the Manics' seriousness.
In response, Richey took out a razor blade and carved "4 Real"
into his forearm). He said: Thats nothing man, I know people
whove tried to chop their own heads off. Yeah, it was an
extreme time. People spent years and years together making the music
they loved so they genuinely gestated in an environment where the music
they made and the people they hung out with shaped them. Whereas now,
everyone seems very ambitious from the word go.
What are you listening to these days?
Theres this new band called The Horrors that Im really into.
Theyre not quite signed to a proper label yet. But theyre
like The New York Dolls and early Birthday Party. Its kinda gothic,
a bit experimental but also kind of glammy. Their single was called
Sheena Is A Parasite. I just think theyre f*****g brilliant. I
heard at one of their gigs the lead singer goes insane. I like the idea
of someone being so out of control. Other than The Horrors I really
like Ed Harcourts new album. Hes like the British Tom Petty.
Are you a football fan?
Football is fairly low down on my list of priorities. I go and see Luton
now and again when theyre playing a Welsh team - whether its
Swansea or Cardiff. But football is based on hate and enmity. Ill
support England in any other sporting event if necessary. I even supported
England in the rugby World Cup Final
and thats big for me.
My sporting hero of all time is Martin Johnson. Michael Owen lives in
Wales, his parents are from Wales hes f***** Welsh. Owen Hargreaves
came through the Welsh FA system and you f****** stole him off us. Heh,
but you might say, you can have him back.
Whats your favourite Manics record and why?
I think its Everything Must Go. It was our first record post-Richey
and theres some of Richeys lyrics on there. I just think
its a great record.
James Dean Bradfield releases the single Thats
No Way To Lie on July 10 followed by the album The Great Western on