KERRANG!: This latest album Journal For Plagued Lovers uses lyrics
written before Richey [Edwards] went missing. Richey was obviously a
key relationship in your lives. When Richey disappeared, how did that
affect you personally and also as a band?
NICKY WIRE: Initially when he disappeared, it just destroyed the dynamics
of the band; there were none. We basically were paralysed. It didnt
matter we were a band, but as human beings; a friend, family, brother,
son. It had absolutely nothing to do with any kind of rock and roll
mythology. It was something that lots of people go through. It only
changed the dynamics really five months later when we wrote A Design
For Life. I sent James a load of lyrics, and that was the song which
defined us as a three-piece. Its also the song which made us carried
on. We felt we were doing ourselves a disservice if we didnt let
people hear this music. It was one of the best things wed ever
done. Richey wasnt a fantastic musician, which everyone knows,
he made a racket in the corner, but he was a rock god. He was always
plugged in but he knew that the audience we just transfixed by him and
his angelic beauty.
K!: Is there a song from that period which reminds you of Richey?
NW: Theres loads really. Everything Must Go is probably the one
which is most lyrically direct about his disappearance. We didnt
our past, but we had to make it clear that we couldnt be the band
which you fell in love with. It would have been a sham otherwise. We
werent the people who made The Holy Bible.
K!: Tell us about the how the album came about was it difficult
choosing the right time to do this in Richeys memory?
NW: About 18 months ago, we were in the back of a car and James just
turned me to and said, I think its time for us to do Richeys
lyrics next. I was quite shocked because Im usually the
one who comes up with mad ideas, like Lets go to Cuba to
launch an album, and usually I see the boys wince! To side-step
the treadmill, to do something which is much more of an art project,
it just felt right. Once the writing process started, it became apparent
that we were doing the right thing.
K!: How long have the lyrics been around?
JAMES DEAN BRADFIELD: Im not sure, but I assume that the lyrics
were written some time after The Holy Bible.
NW: Yeah, I think thats right.
JDB: Briefly before Richey went missing, he handed Nicky the original
booklet journal of lyrics. He gave myself and Sean photocopy versions
of it. You could say that the timing perhaps wasnt accidental.
So we had these lyrics and over the years weve taken them out
of the cupboards or floorboards where wed stored them, and weve
looked at them and perhaps the weight of responsibility has weighed
down upon us and we havent had the strength to tackle them. Its
taken all this while to realise there is that responsibility; he did
leave them with us at a very tactical point and we realised it was about
time we did it. I think it was the first time we looked at the lyrics
and we were all getting ideas and we thought, perhaps this wont
be as scary and its about time we do something about it.
K!: Did you try to replicate the band you were then?
NW: I think initially we were looking more towards The Holy Bible for
inspiration but it quickly became apparent that the intellect to the
lyrics was different to The Holy Bible. Theres less rage and hatred,
more philosophy and doubt; theres a sense of humour and surrealism
to the lyrics. This dictated that the music palette would be broader.
It was the logical progression of The Holy Bible; theres still
elements of it but its more of a rock record. Its less new
wave, or post-punk.
K!: Are there any particular tracks which youre really proud
of, which came from those lyrics?
JDB: The first track of the song is Peeled Apples and the fourth is
This Joke Sport Severed and the last track is Williams Last Words.
actually see what happened between those three tracks. We just let the
words guide us. If we were to try to live up to what some fans wanted
from this record, like a real follow up to The Holy Bible then we would
have had to tried make Williams Last Words more angular and angry;
a bit more post-punk. But we didnt. Instead, we let the words
lead us down the right path for that song. If you take those three songs,
you really see that the words were the guides to those songs. Im
proud we made the right decision.
K!: I know youre not doing singles from the album, but is
there a particular song which youd like to play?
NW: Yeah, Peeled Apples. Its the first track off the record.
We wanted some songs to sound slightly like Nirvanas In Utero
- thats why we used Steve Albini. It has ferocious power and fierce
intelligence; it took a while to nail, but as soon as we got it, we
knew. Opening tracks are really important and this is a great opening
K!: What do you think Richey would have thought?
JDB: Its really hard to guess and it can be a dangerous guessing
game. But instinctively when making the record I thought that Richey
like certain songs; I thought he would like Peeled Apples because of
the intent. I thought hed love Williams Last Words because
Richey did love
a really good a soppy ended song. Theres a bit of Echo And The
Bunnymen in there and they were his favourite band. They were crucial
NW: Its hard, and Im not sure it even matters. Its
not as if when we were making Gold Against The Soul, Richey would rush
in and say Thats
an amazing piece of music anyway. So I think what he would have
really enjoyed is the interpretation of the words. I think theres
a real fragile acoustic side to Richey as well as the dirty power side.
He would like the naked beauty of Facing Page: Top Left, because its
just James and a harp. I think All Is Vanity too, which is probably
the closest song which could have been on The Holy Bible. Its
just got that feel about it; a hint of menace. Were talking completely
here; sometimes he had really bad taste in music! He loved Tool and
Pantera not that thats bad! But were not going to
make an album which sounds like Tool!
K!: When you were growing up, what were the first cover songs you
JDB: God Save The Queen, Ever Fallen In Love by The Buzzcocks, Just
Like Honey by Jesus And Mary Chain or Teenage Kicks. I cant remember
one it was, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what influenced us
at the time.
NW: I quite like Just Like Honey by Jesus And Mary Chain because it
was the easiest three chords! But before that, we were busking
how we got our name. James would learn all of Billy Braggs Lifes
JDB: We used to play To Have And To Have Not by Billy Bragg, busking
around Cardiff. We were even cynical to play songs which we didnt
were great. We tried to play The Clashs Garageland which we loved,
but once we were playing in Newport, which had a lot more hardcore punks
like Sham 69 fans, we played Hersham Boys because we thought wed
get more money
NW: Oh god! We also used to do La Bamba when the rugby was on because
people were drunk! It was great when pound coins came because when
people were drunk theyd think they had given you 5p when instead
it was a pound chucked in! As a band, God Save The Queen we never pulled
but its one of the greatest records ever made.
K!: Whose idea was it to go busking?
JDB: Im not sure really, wed left school and it was that
summer in limbo, where we were going on to do A-levels but we also had
that we were going to be the biggest band ever! Still not achieved!
I suppose the quickest way to get a reaction for a young budding musician
was to go busking in the summer. We just thought it was cool.
NW: And theres this weird story which is 100% completely true.
We were busking one day and Steve Albini - who ended up producing our
he was touring at that time and he walked past us. We told him this
in the studio with somewhat a sense of disdain it has to be said!
JDB: We were playing a song and he walked past and shook his head and
made sure we saw him do it. We told him the story the first day in the
studio and he said, Do you know what? Id like to deny that
was me, but it probably was.
K!: Who or what was it which influenced you and made you first pick
up a guitar?
JDB: My first real love affair in terms of music was Electric Light
Orchestra. They were my first proper proper true love. Then, when I
was 14, for some reason I started buying the NME. Simple as that.
NW: I was lucky because I had a brother, so I had the secret lineage
of Rush. The intricacies of Rush and the power of Black Sabbath
obsessed with Whitesnake; they were probably my favourite band for a
long time. I think the secret society that was Rush which was passed
down the generations they were really important. They made a
real mystery and magic out of loving bands. I was healthily obsessed
with Rush, and still am today.
JDB: For me, the glory days of radio were when Peter Powell would go
into Kid Jensen would go into Janice Long would go into John Peel. Id
get obsessed with listening to the radio at about 14 or 15. I fancied
Janice Long so Id buy the records she played!
NW: On a Friday night youd have Tommy Vance. I was much more the
metal head; James and Sean are much more alternative.
K!: Whats your favourite Rush song?
NW: Theres so many! I think Moving Pictures is one of the best
albums ever made by any band.
K!: What was it about ELO?
JDB: I dont like it when people treat them as a guilty pleasure,
I get annoyed about that. Electric Light Orchestra are truly a great
gave Jeff Lynne a Q Award. But I came to Rush late, at about 17 years
NW: I sort of forced metal down their throats.
JDB: Yeah, about 16 or 17 I got into some metal, but before that, ELO
were just amazing. Bizarrely, the first album I got into was Secret
Messages, which is not their best album. When not such a good album
gets you into a band and you stay with them then thats a good
K!: Did the music which you listened to growing up shape who you
NW: I think there was a time when we were about 14 or 15 when everything
converged. Myself, James, Sean and Richey it was either The Smiths,
The Bunnymen; everything felt more like being an outsider, but in a
good way. There were some brilliant bands around at that time who were
becoming really big, like The Smiths. But they had indie principles.
I guess that was the time when all that previous music we liked would
still be there with us, but this was music which would inform us more
JDB: Yeah, The Clash really kicked in. And lots of other stuff that
Janice Long and John Peel were playing. I started sending away for these
really obscure records, to Small Wonder Records I think it was called.
Youd send away your postal order and sometimes youd get
the record and sometimes youd never get anything. I think it was
that secret club thing again; youd hear a record played by John
Peel and be intrigued by it and send away to get it, and you felt like
you were part of a secret club.
K!: Was there one band which changed your lives and who you are
NW: It would have to be seeing The Clash. It was either the 20th or
25th anniversary of punk. There was live footage of them on Granada.
Joes hardly singing and hes on the floor and he forgets
all the words. That and The [Sex] Pistols. We werent punk obsessives
but The Clash and The Pistols seemed like our [Rolling] Stones and The
Who. They were fantastic rock & roll bands with great lyrics and
looked brilliant. I just wanted to be Paul Simonon. It was the live
performance which did
JDB: We even copied the instruments.
K!: Before a gig, do you listen to music to get you in the mood?
JDB: For a long time, wed just listen to Appetite For Destruction.
There was something about that album which got you in a fighting mood.
NW: That record changed our lives in a way as well. Like The Clash,
they were a band of our time rather than something to look back to.
Last summer, there was a lot of Serve The Servants off In Utero. It
usually ends up with me choosing the music and Sean saying, Turn
that off! I tend to be in charge of the iPod. Im sure Rush
has figured rather a lot! I like playing music before going on stage
whereas Sean likes silence. He doesnt like any distractions.
K!: Is there one track from Appetite For Destruction that youd
like to play?
NW: Probably Rocket Queen. Its such a dirty climatic song
a rock ending. It felt really good at the time, because if you came
like we did, with tight white jeans listening to Guns N Roses,
no-one wore funny t-shirts then. There was musical snobbery which made
isolated and yet more powerful. Guns N Roses made us feel like
we had a purpose.
K!: What current music do you listen to?
NW: Im obsessed with The Horrors record I think
theyve found their soul. People have written them off. It reminds
me a bit of us around the time of The Holy Bible. Theyve made
a record only to satisfy themselves.
JDB: Im listening to a band called The Thermals. Theres
just something about them, just a tight indie rock band.
NW: New Doves record is really good also. And I like British Sea Power
at the moment.
K!: How do you find out about new music?
NW: In a very traditional way! Through magazines and journalists telling
you the way it should be! Theres so many music channels
too Im a TV addict anyway. I find it easier to be inspired
by them, its really easy. The last My Chemical Romance album was
genius. If I was a 16 year old, Id be thinking I want to
go see them. But mostly we rely on magazines, and people we trust.
JDB: Last year I was into a band called Deerhunter and I got it for
Nicky for Christmas - dont know whether he liked it.
NW: I did! When youre in love with music as much as we are, you
dont have to scour the internet to be inspired. This morning I
woke up to The Pains of Being Pure Of Heart. It was a lovely sunny day;
I was extremely hungover from champagne the previous night. I wanted
to feel like I was 16 again.
K!: Have you ever met your musical heroes? Did they live up to your
NW: Ive never believed that you should go seek your musical heroes.
I think you should admire people rather than as musicians. For example,
admire Liam Gallagher as a persona and Peter Murphy from Bauhaus met
us at a festival in Turkey. [We met] Kylie that was pretty special.
Being backstage in a see-through dress like I was meeting Kylie
slightly awkward! Had to leave the room!
JDB: Jimmy Page. He was very sympathetic towards my plight when he met
me he could tell I was really nervous. He was a calming influence.
NW: I think one of the best was Charlie Watts, in the studio. He just
came up to us and said Youre that good Welsh band Ive
heard of, it was really sweet.
JDB: I was standing on a corner of a Manhattan street once, outside
a particularly scuzzy bar and I had a drink in my hand. Then Mike Monroe
from Hanoi Rocks stumbles out of a bar and looks absolutely wasted.
He looked like he was still being the rock star he should be
let me down!
NW: There was one brilliant week when we met Arthur Scargill backstage
in Liverpool and then we went to London and Kylie joined us onstage.
That sums up Manic Street Preachers more than anything I think
that mix of pop culture and pop politics. That was a proud moment. James
and Tom [Jones] had a singing competition once to find out who had the
loudest voice! Everyone turned into a macho Welshman!
JDB: I was obsessed with a band called Big Flame when I was younger.
It was insane music, sometimes it sounded like someone falling down
the stairs. It was kind of Captain Beefheart-inspired; they would play
this mess accurately every time. It was very formulated in that sense.
I received a few letters from him when I was 15 or 16. I sent away on
mail order for some of his stuff and hed replied back to me and
encouraged me with the band. Ive always had a lot of admiration
for the letters he sent back. They never sold many records but they
NW: Id like to play Oasis Live Forever. It was quite a dark time
for us as a band; this record came out of nowhere and seemed to transfix
the country and everyone who heard it. I remember touring with Oasis
the year after and Liam just lived up to expectations, he just did feel
like an all conquering, all powerful force with an amazing sense of
humour and brilliant voice. Something genuinely uplifting to your soul
listening to that record, for me anyway.
K!: You mentioned Tom Jones before - how important is being Welsh
to the Manic Street Preachers? Has your heritage made an impact on the
you are today?
NW: I think weve learnt that it is very important. Some bands
define themselves by where they come from, but for us, its reality
grounding. It gives you an identity when youre away. I wouldnt
say were nationalistic, but I think its important. Theres
such a sense of never ever being able to develop an ego if youre
Welsh, because no-one gives you respect in a good way; its healthy.
JDB: Ive spent less time in Wales than Nicky has; Ive lived
outside for a number of years. I spent my time living in Chiswick, probably
more than in Cardiff. I do all my work in Cardiff in terms of the studio
and the boys and I do have a deep longing for it when Im not there
and stuff. I think I have become a little bit more dare I say
it nationalistic as Ive got older.
K!: If there was a Welsh artist we could play now, who would it
be and why?
JDB: Theres two which spring to mind. For me, its between
Super Furry Animals and Badfinger. Badfinger were three-quarters Welsh
and Id probably plump for them as they dont get much radio
space. Id go for Baby Blue which is a great pop rock song which
conquered America which is a great achievement.
K!: And finally, whats your favourite air-guitar song?
JDB: I always thought the best air-guitar song was going to be something
like Spirit Of Radio by Rush or something cornier like Sweet Child O
Mine. But theres a track which I discovered recently called The
Messiah Will Come Again by Roy Buchanan. Its a bit of 70s rock
and youve just got to listen to the track to understand why its
an air-guitar song. Its absolutely amazing. Ive never played
air-guitar, only real guitar.
NW: I guess at the old school disco Id play air-guitar. If they
played Rock & Roll by Led Zeppelin Id be there
JDB: Im sure I remember seeing Nick doing Freebird at the school
NW: Yep, that wouldnt surprise me!