On Producing Manic Street Preachers Generation Terrorists
October 2010, updated January 2018
Interview: Steve Bateman
Post script: 3rd January 2021
following the very sad news of Steve's untimely death.
Steve Brown Remembered...
I have so many fond memories of interviewing Steve Brown for R*E*P*E*A*T;
he was a really lovely guy and very generous with his time.
Due to his busy work schedule, it took a little while until we could
actually arrange the interview and so I was extremely appreciative when
this did finally happen. I telephoned at the exact time we had arranged
and when he answered, he joked and laughed: "Well, you're punctual!"
Whenever people may read our interview, I hope that they can tell how
friendly and warm he was, as well as just how passionate he was about
working with the Manics and producing Generation Terrorists.
He was very proud of this album, and rightly so!
Steve also knew what a special band MSP were and believed that they
would go onto achieve greatness.
Steve very kindly allowed me to call him back with some follow-up questions
about GT and was very complimentary about the final published article,
so that was a really great feeling! He even went through his archives
to find a photograph taken of him during the record's sessions, so that
along with the text, the editorial would hopefully give readers an accurate
feel of this important era.
Unbelievably, at that time, Steve had never really spoken about making
Generation Terrorists or working with MSP in any great detail. So, I
will forever be very grateful for the fantastic interview that he gave
to me! I was amazed at just how much he could remember and the detail
in his answers.
I shall continue to remember Steve each and every time that I play Generation
Terrorists and hear classics such as Motorcycle Emptiness.
My thoughts are with his family.
Steve Bateman, 3.1.2021
Recorded between August - December 1991, at Black
Barn Studios in Surrey and released in February 1992, Generation Terrorists
was the Manic Street Preachers highly-anticipated debut long player
for Columbia, and as a declaration of intent, a 73-minute double album
at that no less! Which after all the plotting, hyperbole, headline-grabbing
antics, eye-catching androgynous image, vainglorious posturing, corrosive
feral attitude and a love / hate relationship with the media
where outspoken interviews were as vital to the group as the messages
in their songs was James, Nicky, Richey and Seans chance
to finally prove to the world, as well as to themselves, that they could
walk it like they talked it! Marrying sex and politics with the white-hot,
anti-establishment, ticking time-bomb irascibility of The Clash, Guns
N Roses and Public Enemy. This exciting and youthful sounding
18 track record (with each song being carefully assigned a unique and
relevant literary sleeve quote), charted at No. 13 on the UK Albums
Chart and initially sold 250,000 copies worldwide, siring 6 UK Top 40
hit singles Stay Beautiful, Loves Sweet Exile/Repeat, You
Love Us, Slash N Burn, Motorcycle Emptiness, Little Baby Nothing
and remains a firm fan favourite to this day, particularly in
Japan. Which along with JDBs ear for a tune, hummable melodies,
unforgettable hooks, spotless / high production values, a radio-friendly
sheen and seriously intelligent lyrics informed by culture and identity,
is now considered as something of a touchstone punk, glam, metal and
rock n roll magnum opus amongst many respected music writers.
Recently being named as one of Classic Rock Magazines 150
Greatest Debut Albums and coincidentally, as I was completing
my introduction today (November 3, 2010) NMEs Greatest
Debut Album from 1992, with the music weekly proclaiming, As
angry as it was bright, the Manics blowtorched their manifesto in pulverising
punk guitar squeals.
On the periphery, out-of-step with prevailing trends, driven by their
nominal leader / Minister Of Propaganda Richey and wanting
to be the perfect band, whilst drawing attention to their Useless
Generation, the group made the LP under the watchful eye of seasoned
producer Steve Brown, who sat in the control room hot-seat. With stories
of the albums recording, ranging from fastidious studio perfectionism
causing sessions to overrun deadlines and go massively over budget (by
£250,000 according to a 'Seven Days In The Life Of Richey James'
diary entry, with both recording and mixing tallying up to a total of
22 weeks) yet with the record label showing continued faith in
their latest acquisition to come up with the goods. To mythological
tales of Richey not even playing a single note, instead whiling away
the hours by drinking vodka and decorating the studio walls with colourful
pop culture collages, writing lyrics, reading books / newspapers, watching
TV / films, playing SEGA video games, riding around London in a limousine,
shopping, going to Soho strip-joints and using the bands credit
card, before then coming back covered in love bites to ask how everything
was going. All of which, only adds to GTs storied history! MSP
Fans will most likely know every other fact there is to know, from the
records working title of Culture, Alienation, Boredom And Despair,
to abandoned artwork ideas, to how the sleeve should really have been
mustard coloured (like the promo 5 track CD Sampler) - pink was an error
by the printers! But if you would like to find out more about Steve
and his career, please visit his official website at www.stevebrown.info
With the Manics having just put out their 10th studio
album, Postcards From A Young Man, and with the confluence of anger,
injustice, love, passion, emotion, ideals, equality, competitiveness,
disenchantment, poetry, philosophy, knowledge and truth, still acting
as the fabric of their creativity. I thought it would be
interesting to flashback to where it all began, by taking an in-depth
look at the genesis of Generation Terrorists, speaking to Steve about
the mechanics of the Manic Street Preachers 1st long player, finding
out what the group were like to be around in the studio at that time
and retracing just what went into the creation of this cult classic.
A labour of love that was delivered with intense feeling and was to
signal the start of something very special indeed, from four Welsh friends
who were determined to fire-up peoples minds and who had so much
to give, prove and say
Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking
forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans
1.Firstly, are you pleased that Generation Terrorists has just been
listed as one of Classic Rock Magazines 150 Greatest Debut
Well, youve told me something that I didnt know, because
I didnt know that it had been listed as one of Classic Rock Magazines
150 Greatest Debut Albums. But in answer to your question,
Im very pleased with myself, but even more pleased for the band,
because as were just about to find out, we had quite a bumpy start,
but we stuck with each other during that first period and now weve
got this great result in Classic Rock Magazine. Its little things
like that (pausing), its not so much sales, because its
record companies who demand sales, this is more to do with what voters
think and it means much more to me than actual Platinum Discs and all
the rest of it. Its nice to know that kids are out there listening
to it and appreciating it!
2.What are some of your fondest memories of recording GT can
you remember the first day and the last day of making the record?
I remember our first meeting, which I think was in Hull. They
were playing live and Id flown in from America I was in
Miami and Columbia rang me up and I flew into Heathrow, hired
a car and drove up to Hull, watched half-an-hour of complete mayhem,
then had a few quick words with them. They said, We want to be
the biggest rock band in the world and were only releasing 1 album.
So, its up to you. I got straight back in the car, drove
down to Heathrow and flew back to Miami (laughing)! I thought, NO
WAY! ABSOLUTELY NO WAY (laughing again)! Too much pressure you
know? But, the boys were very nice as people, and so I decided to go
through the motions with them and say, Right, well if you want
to be the greatest rock band in the world, then weve got to play
the game and we have to get records on the radio. So first of all, weve
got to stop some of this controversy and it would be nice if you sent
me a single without fuck in the title. So, we had that conversation
and James said, Yeah, ok, Ill send you another song
and they sent me Stay Beautiful! Then the next time we met, we recorded
it at the Manor and James vocals right in the middle of the chorus
are, Why dont you just with the guitar riff
in there. But originally, it was fuck off. They sung that
when they played it live, but when we came to mix it, the record company
were just about to turn up, so I took the fuck off out,
and so we had the complete production without the fuck off
right in the middle of the chorus (laughing). Id already sort
of engineered the guitar line to get more accent there, and so I think
Rob Stringer came into the Manor control room, listened to it and went,
Great, yeah, thats fantastic! So that was the story
behind our meeting I think they were testing me and I was testing
them. They very kindly came to me because of the work on The Cult album,
Love, which they particularly liked and so it was a respectful relationship
in the end, because I was listening to material that Id never
heard before, it wasnt just a hair band singing about
some girls big tits next door. This was serious stuff! You dont
see much of these people everyday, but I think if we sat down and looked
at each other, a respect grew between us and that went on to produce
6 hit singles off an 18 track album. So as I say, I think the respect
really came on and my memories of recording Generation Terrorists are
only fond ones. I cant remember the exact last day, but one day
towards the end, Sony pulled us into their big studio complex (Hit Factory)
which had 3 floors of studios and I took my engineer Owen Davies
he was on the top floor mixing (pausing), I cant remember which
track it was, I think it was Slash N Burn. But, I was on the middle
floor doing a vocal overdub with Traci Lords on Little Baby Nothing,
and I was then running out and downstairs to Studio 1, where the band
were recording Damn Dog live. So I was sort of supervising 3 floors
of studios and that was because it was an 18 track album we needed
to get it finished and so you work hard towards the end of an album.
But, it all turned out ok in the end. Normally for a record in those
days, I would allow 1 whole week for 1 title, and that would include
all the pre-production, all the recording, all the mixing and all the
post-production. So, 12 titles would take me 12 weeks (pausing), Generation
Terrorists basically went over budget is what it was, but obviously
because of privacy issues, I cant tell you how much it cost to
3.As it was always intended to be a double LP from the outset, did
the Manic Street Preachers ambition and commitment to this idea
Ambition yes, commitment yes, but more the intelligence
I would never question why they were doing certain things (laughing).
They always seemed to have everything thought out, as if theyd
sit round in a little club in the dark of night and discuss what they
were going to do and why they were going to do it but keep the
answers to themselves! They gave off this mystique, or mystery, that
never made me question what they decided to do. As I say, I was really
their initial commercial director and so they left me to sort of come
up with the commercial stuff at the front end. I mean, knowing that
Id done everything from George Michael to The Cult, I guess thats
what I do and they left me to that. But, all of the other decisions
about the album sleeve, the 18 tracks, the double album, announcing
that This is going to be the first and last album were going
to do and all of that sort of thing, was all just part of their
fantastically sorted out marketing ploy.
4.Was it thought of as being one whole, or as two separate sides of
vinyl, old-school style?
Well, when one used to make vinyl, for me, it was very much the
A-side and the B-side so making a double album is much the same
thing. Theres album 1 and theres album 2, but dont
get me wrong, a lot of producers do it the other way and they have a
way of listening to it. Quite frankly, and this is a trade secret (laughing),
on vinyl, I always put the first side as my favourite tracks (laughing),
oh yeah! So when youve sat down, you put the record on, youve
had a few drinks and you just put it on repeat and you dont have
to get up to change it (laughing)! But that was my own personal taste,
to put all of my favourite tracks on side 1 of the album. But, an album
is a journey and now that its all made into one long track if
you know what I mean, digitally, its even more of a journey
hopefully. I dont know, because I dont study the art-form
anymore, but definitely when Im doing something, Im always
very careful about how the running-order goes together. So in answer
to your question, Generation Terrorists does have an A-side and B-side
feel to it.
*I ask Steve about his thoughts on the US version of GT, which the American
label edited and altered the tracklisting for, even remixing Slash N
Burn, Nat West-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds, Little Baby Nothing and You
Love Us, as well as adding specially recorded acoustic drums (by an
American session musician) to make them sound heavier - all without
The running-order wouldnt interest me, the fact that they
took songs off wouldnt interest me, but I havent heard the
American mixes and when you say to make them heavier, Id be really
interested to know what that did (laughing). But no, I didnt know
about it and different territories have to have their little input and
if they remix tracks, then thats all well and good. If they think
that the remixing will actually improve the exposure and visibility
of a band in that territory, then fantastic! It didnt really hit
my radar, so I cant really comment on the quality of their remixes.
Repeat (Stars and Stripes) was remixed by The Bomb Squad during my reign
though, so I got to actually hear that and approve it, and I thought
it was brilliant to be honest!
5.Returning to the original UK version, did you bring any specific
techniques from previous albums that youd produced to these sessions?
Of course! A popular commercial sensibility is the thing, and
my job is to make the sound of it appeal to as many different demographics
as possible theyre very broad. Its very hard with
the Manics, because I dont want to pigeonhole them, but you would
imagine that theyd sort of be making bed-sit records. But they
briefed me that they wanted to be the biggest band in the world, so
there was kind of a conflict there, but you know, they didnt question
anything that I did in terms of (pausing), the only thing that they
would ever question, is if a lyric didnt scan and I wanted to
change a lyric. I would always have to ask permission and come up with
alternatives, but generally, the level of commerciality that I put in
there, Im very careful about not making things cheesy and I hope
people out there dont think there is anything cheesy on Generation
Terrorists. I hope they think its still listenable and its
listenable for a few more generations to come!
6.Did you work on multiple song ideas, or did you prefer to finish
one song at a time including overdubs and was there a
moment where you felt like Generation Terrorists was starting to come
together / its character was beginning to shine through?
Well, yes, but Im a bit down on my memory. But what we did
was, we actually peeled the singles off as we went, so we were literally
building the image of the album, while we were making the album! Wed
agree, Lets have a shot at making Loves Sweet Exile
the next single. I remember putting that driving, incessant beat
into it and just making it drill home the energy and all that
sort of thing. Then we went on and did some more of the album and then
we came back and did another single (pausing), when I say came back,
we were always together, but wed sort of stop what we were doing
and come back and work on another single to get out. So the album was
beginning to breathe almost immediately we had a plan, which
Ive never said before, but we did! I didnt know we did,
but we did! In terms of working an album normally, what one tends to
do or in my control room what one tends to do is that
we start with a title and we record the backing track and we add a guide-vocal
to that, and then we move on. We choose between us which track were
going to move onto and all the rest of it. Then, we go back to the beginning
and we start to embellish it with overdubs and solos etc. etc. and then
we work our way through the backing tracks and put on solos and bits
we know are needed. So, we dont finish it track by track, we work
the album and we have a list we have a very strict list on the
wall. When weve finished the backing track, we put our thoughts
on paper and stick that up on the wall for all to see. It might say
something like, Try James guitar idea in chorus 2
and stuff like that. As a producer, I come up with ideas and the buck
stops here (laughing)! So, all my ideas get through (jokingly + laughing)!
Im older and Im the producer, so were going
to go with this idea (laughing again)! But, its all done
in the best possible spirit.
7. Obviously, Motorcycle Emptiness is a stone cold classic (which was
derived from the early Manic Street Preachers songs, Go Buzz Baby Go
and Behave Yourself Baby), so can you tell us how this track evolved
along with its signature guitar riff?
I can tell you a lot about it, and I really hope that they havent
lost the memory too, but the initial comment was, Look, Steve,
we dont really want to do this. And I was like, Why
(surprised)? It wasnt because I liked anything about it,
but if I remember rightly, I want to say it was the runt of the litter,
because when I asked them why, I think it was mainly Nicky who was saying
that some of the subject-matter (pausing), he wasnt particularly
inspired by it. I wanted to give it a shot, so I stayed up one night
and this is honestly true I dont think Im dreaming
it or making it up but I stayed up one night and I came up with
the sequence of the song and the sort of drumbeat, which I was very
keen on at the time. People had done it before I know, but I wanted
to have a go at it and that sort of thing, so when we were still up
the next morning, James came down and in with his cup of tea right,
and he put the cup of tea down and said, I want to try a guitar
riff that I dreamt about last night. Well, not dreamt about, but I woke
up thinking about. There it goes a bit vague, but what happened
was, is that the drum track and the rhythm track that Id been
working on and James dreamt about guitar line, came together.
I think thats when people started to think that theres really
something in this and it developed from there. Eventually, we ended
up going to mix and I wanted to put the strings and piano things on,
and I got Richard Cottell in and he kind of played a Jacques Brel type
affair over it, and it developed into a nice little track actually.
Its # 2 in my most popular tracks in terms of what the
public say from the rock side of things and its very close
behind She Sells Sanctuary, so its really earned its place in
the chart if you like.
*I mention the 2002 Forever Delayed remix of Motorcycle Emptiness, which
was reportedly going to be released as a single to promote the Manics
Greatest Hits album, and to also give the song the chance of achieving
a much higher chart placing this time around, but was later shelved
with only rare promo CDs now in existence*
I didnt hear that, no. A lot of people have had a shot at
She Sells Sanctuary as well (laughing), but its a point in time
you know? Its not so much me, its everybody! I do it and
then I release it, and people are doing things like on a summer holiday,
or falling in love or falling out of love, or falling off their motorbike,
and they remember the piece of music to that you know? Thats the
way it is.
8.Are there any other songs that went beyond your collective expectations?
Funnily enough, I had the urge to listen to Condemned To Rock
N Roll the other day, which I really enjoy right
its not the most commercial track but had we all been a
little bit older and had a bit more time and budget, I think we could
have made a Queen epic out of it! And also, Little Baby Nothing, which
quite honestly, I didnt get at all when they first explained it
to me (laughing). But then the Manics teach you things and although
Im nearly old enough to be their father, they taught me quite
a lot about stuff and the biggest one they taught me, was of course
that Boredom Is Freedom, which takes a little while to sort
out, but once you have, its jolly good fun!
9.Once tracks were fully composed, did you have to massage
many of them into place?
Always! Songs are songs, and demos are demos, and production always
needs massaging into place it goes back to that word,
commerciality. Bands can often exhaust themselves by just writing the
song, and so I get the good job of coming along and saying, Well,
what we should do is, is that we should put that there and then move
that there and that good bit there, we should move round in front of
the chorus. Its called arranging the song, because its
what we do once the song has been written. Every song gets the same
treatment we just dont go in and play it we look
at it and think, Whats it going to sound like in the future?
Again, with young bands as well, they want to put stuff on an album
that sometimes wont last the test of time. There are one or two
bits on Generation Terrorists that dont pass the test of time
(laughing), but Im not going to tell you what they are, because
thats in my opinion. You can be gimmicky, but not too gimmicky,
and so thats part of doing the arrangements as well, is making
sure that youre being sensible, youre representing the songs
properly and youre appealing to as many people as possible.
*I ask Steve about Traci Lords and Patrick Jones contributions,
and also, if Stay Beautiful was really inspired by Bruce Springsteens
Born To Run*
Traci was quite a character to say the least, she insisted on
doing the vocal with me alone and creating the right atmosphere (laughing)!
She turned up in a fur coat and when she took the fur coat off, she
was wearing a one-piece body stocking which distracted me (laughing)!
But the vocals went very well, she was very good, very professional
and I think you can hear by the end result, that we got what we wanted
to do. With Patricks poetry, I didnt do that, it was all
pre-recorded (pausing), or at least I wasnt on that session. I
know hes Nickys brother and I know hes very good and
I think he added to the overall atmosphere of the album. As far as Stay
Beautiful being inspired by Bruce Springsteens Born To Run, do
you know where you got that from?
*I say that I think it was once mentioned by Gary Crowley in a TV interview,
but James just laughed and didnt answer the question*
Well, Gary Crowley is obviously an aficionado on these sort of
things, but I can only tell you that Born To Run is one of my favourite
tracks, so if it was him, he might of got that mixed up with me.
10.Are there a lot of alternative versions / outtakes of the 18 songs?
Yeah, we went back to the drawing board a couple of times and
of course you do. I mean, theres also alternative backing tracks
that are exactly the same, but played in a different time you know?
So, I would imagine that if you go and have a rummage through the Sony
vaults, theres tons of (pausing), I mean we were together for
12 weeks and we didnt sit around we were working the whole
time! And this happens on every album, you make the most of the technology
that you have at the time and I remember with James and Sean in particular,
they were the ones who really came sniffing around the technology and
would want to know stuff. Sean was very keen on the technical side,
getting into music, experimenting and all the rest of it. So without
a doubt, although my memory doesnt serve me well, there are almost
certainly going to be gems in there.
*One for fact fans, on early pressings of GT, Little Baby Nothing is
preceded by a snippet of film dialogue from A Streetcar Named Desire,
which was later removed due to copyright infringement*
11.Were the band receptive to suggestions you made, and excluding
additional musicians, is it really true that it was only James and Sean
who actually played on the record?
The band were very receptive, and as I said, it was a respect
thing. They used to push the boundaries a bit with me, which was good,
but generally, Sean and James were really the inquisitive ones and wed
have the biggest discussions. Nicky was there and hed always play
standing up and moan about his knees aching, but he was always good
for morale, he never moaned otherwise. You know, thats the thing,
is to take negatives out of the equation and the band were very receptive
and Im enthusiastic about things, so I think if youre positive
and enthusiastic, then the band will be receptive to your ideas. And
also, there are certain rules in a control room, like dont blank
an idea and say you dont like it unless youve got an alternative,
because otherwise, youre left with absolutely nothing. In answer
to the other part of your question, Is it really true that it
was only James and Sean who actually played on the record? No,
it was them and Nicky, but Im not going to say that Richey didnt
play on anything I dont know where that actually came from?
I suppose that could have leaked out from something, but he was always
in the studio. Wed often have him looking great and plugged into
a guitar, but apart from anything and I can say this honestly, with
hand on heart, that it was his spirit in the control room and the knowledge
that you knew he had about what was happening (pausing), what they said
about him, was that he was a Brian Jones. He was a real icon
he was the icon of the Manic Street Preachers and one not to
be questioned! Thats the honest truth. What happened to him, to
me in my mind, is all part of what he was. I miss him terribly and Im
sure everybody does, but hell never be forgotten, especially by
me, because as I say, he was the iconic Manic Street Preacher. I had
the absolute honour of finishing a 14-hour-day sometimes we were
working that hard but Richey would still be up playing records
in his room, because we did the whole thing residentially. Id
go in and sit with him, and wed have a couple of vodkas and smoke
a lot of cigarettes, and Id spend another 2 hours with him just
chatting things over. You know, he was a major architect in the way
that band was. The architect and chief!
*I ask Steve about his recollections of how the group coped with being
in a studio making an LP for the very first time, especially given the
snowballing music press frenzy that was surrounding its release*
Id say they coped excellently (without any hesitation)!
Because they were a team, they werent four individuals, they were
the Manic Street Preachers! So no matter how big my production team
would have been, it wouldnt have been anything like as powerful
as them all huddled together. So did they cope with the studio environment?
Yes, they took to it like a duck to water and as I say, Sean really
adapted to stuff really, really quickly, in terms of the technology
and James was always interested in this and that. He got used to things
like Talkback (pausing), I dont know if this is going
to be relevant to the interview, but what he used to tell me off about
all the time was (laughing), when he fucked up a line, what we normally
do is we stop the tape, rewind and then I put my finger on the Talkback
and tell the singer whats going on. But he said, Look, for
fucks sake, dont keep on talking to me, just rewind the
tape, start it again and Ill start singing! He didnt
like any chat between takes or anything like that, he wanted to fully-concentrate
on what he was doing and he used to tell me off about that, Dont
talk Brown, dont talk! So that was funny! With Sean and
his drums, he played them and programmed them he did it in bits
and pieces, because that was the way to do things in those days, it
was cutting-edge. So as I say, when he knew the technology was available
(pausing), I mean you can hear quite clearly that hes drummed
on the album, but there are parts for his own reasons, where he used
the machine and computers sometimes hed always embellish
it with something else. Listen, I was experimenting, he was experimenting
and they were experimenting (laughing)! The fact is, it was a very positive
time and it turned out very well in the end. So in terms of that, there
were a lot of tricks that James used and the only one we didnt
use gimmicks on, was Nicky, he just played bass and thats what
he did. I mean, everybody has their place in the recording studio and
probably one of the strongest voices in the project, was Nicky Wire,
but hes a puppy, hes really lovely and hes a really
good golf player as well (laughing)!
12. After GT / mixing selected b-sides, you also worked on Suicide Is
Painless (Theme From M*A*S*H) + Yes and She Is Suffering from The Holy
Bible, so can you tell us about what you brought to these songs?
Do you know, I cant remember working on M*A*S*H. I suppose
I must have done, but I think I was so exhausted after Generation Terrorists,
although I definitely enjoyed working on Yes and She Is Suffering from
The Holy Bible. I cant remember what I did on them now, but I
can remember the situation was, that James called me up and said would
you like to work on them and I said, Of course I would!
So he came to stay at my house and if you like that sort of story, Ive
got an even better story than that. Post Generation Terrorists, James
came to stay at my house for a couple of days and my studio is just
11 minutes walk it was only the two of us, we were finishing
off and mixing but the funny story that you should know is, is
that during the end of Generation Terrorists, for whatever reason, the
boys didnt (pausing). You know, theyre country boys and
family boys and they werent really comfortable living in these
cheap hotels in London, so I went and chatted to my wife, Jackie, and
said, Do you mind if the band come and stay? And she said,
Well, ok. Wed just had two kids, one was 4 and one
was 2, but nonetheless, I had quite a big house I was an award-winning
record producer, so I could afford one and I moved them into
the top floor of my house and they all lived up there (laughing)! So
my kids were babysat by the Manic Street Preachers we used to
go out and leave them with the band and they were good at it as well,
James used to play with them all the time! Then they grew up and formed
a band called ADHD, and all of the instruments were donated by the Manic
Street Preachers. But, I think Generation Terrorists, M*A*S*H, Yes and
She Is Suffering are the only tracks we worked on together as far as
I know (pausing), there is something thats kind of niggling me
and I cant remember what it is. Ill have a look through
my diary and see what I can see, but I dont think I worked on
anything top secret, and apart from album outtakes, which I would be
more than willing to go and have a look through in the archives, I think
thats about it.
13.How did you feel when you first listened to a test-pressing / acetate
of Generation Terrorists, and then, eventually the final mastered version?
Well, the finished thing is always jolly good, its nice
to hold it in your hand and quite honestly, this is a good question,
but as a producer its really hard (laughing), because what we
do is, is we compare it against the master. So the first time I hear
the vinyl, is when I take it into the studio and compare it to the tapes
that the vinyls made from it should be an improvement on
the sound quality on that. But in terms of what you feel sometimes,
when the records have been hits and theyve died down
and you go into clubs, you sit and youre listening and you go,
Oh, this is a good record, and then you go, Oh (surprised),
thats one of my records (laughing), thats Little Baby Nothing,
or something like that. Only then do you really go (pausing), thats
when a producer hears the real thing for the first time months
after youve finished it you know? But when youre listening
to an album when youre making it, youre listening to every
half-beat and everything within that half-beat, and it doesnt
actually come together until you put it on in a club, or somebody puts
it on and plays it by surprise thats a great feeling! Again,
with my career and records that have happened, its been great
to walk into a club and suddenly go, Whats that? I remember
this, and then suddenly you realise that you produced it. Its
a fantastic feeling!
*I ask Steve if MSP had sold 16 million copies of GT and achieved global
success, if he thinks the band would have split up, or if this was perhaps
just more of a headline-grabbing sound-bite*
I wouldnt even call it a headline-grabbing sound-bite, because
I dont see them like that, I see it more as what we used to call
a pipe-dream. So in other words, Wouldnt it be great if
we did this if you know what I mean? I can see them sitting around
and saying, That would be a great idea, we come along, we do a
debut double album and then we split up. But, I think they got
on the roller-coaster and with what happened to Richey, I think that
probably made them keep going in a way, on his behalf, to keep his memory
alive. To actually split up after all that sacrifice, I think would
have been a bad thing anyway. But my answer to the question is, yeah,
I think initially it was probably a young, Wouldnt it be
great if we did this type of thing and it didnt go to that,
which is great for everybody!
14.Are there any major changes that you would now make to the long player,
and would you like to see an expanded / remastered 20th Anniversary
Deluxe Edition released?
As I said before, even if theres little mistakes here and
there and style problems, the fact is, is that it was born at that time
and people have memories of it. So the only way that I would change
it, would be sonically I wouldnt change any parts within
it, what they did. But I would really like to do a remix, to change
some of the actual overall sound and possibly give it an edge, because
Ive learnt and technology has moved on and I could give the listener
another whole experience! But you know, with money the way it is, its
very difficult to get record companies to sort of cough-up the dough
to do it. But it is what it is and theres nothing that really,
really, really grates on there with me (pausing), in fact, I must say,
I havent listened to it for a while and as soon as I put the phone
down Im going to dig it out (laughing)! It would be nice to have
something happening for the 20th Anniversary and it would be a pleasure
an absolute pleasure to be involved. I know what Nicky
and Sean are up to, but I speak to James the most, in terms of text
messages, telephone calls and getting together for a couple of pints.
He was going to come and stay at the house this summer, but we didnt
get round to it, but Im in touch the whole time and he did this
great thing and youll appreciate it, what with the new album title,
wherever he went in the world, he always sent my boys a postcard. So,
weve got postcards from all over the world sent to my sons. James
and I are due a beer together, so I think Ill mention the 20th
Anniversary of Generation Terrorists to him, because I mean, I would
quite honestly be thrilled to do something! Ill tell you what
a good conversation would be between me and the band, it would be, Is
there anything that I did that you dont like, and shall we have
a go at putting it right (laughing)? Its really funny, because
I cant remember us ever having a major conflict about anything,
but there might have been niggling little issues, because I would always
say to them, Look, leave the commercial side to me. You just write
away and be brilliant, and what Ill do, is turn it into something
commercially that will work for people beyond who youre writing
for. They might have said that mix was too slick, or that mix
was too this or too that, but there you are. If we could guarantee the
sales, I mean, I would waive a fee to do it, just for the fans! But
youd need to talk to the band and their management, because if
we could get the pre-sales together, then that would be fantastic! Manics
Fans are good and loyal and sensible, and I have to mention again, that
I would waive a fee to go back and recreate anything that the band wanted
to recreate. But guys, youve got to listen to this file-sharing
thing you know, because I have people to pay, I have studios to pay,
I have 17-year-old kids who are working for virtually nothing and they
work 12 hours a day, and to give them nothing, is terrible! The more
the file-sharing goes up, then the less we get budgets to actually pay
17, 18, 19-year-olds to come in and start in The Industry, and to remake
Generation Terrorists, would be a great thing for them to do! So file-sharing
is a whole subject that we could go into and I cant wait to actually
talk to James about it, because my new theory is, is that the Internet
Service Providers should pay The Music Industry a royalty, and then
people could go and make records again. Also, you can add this to the
end of the article, if any budding Manic Street Preachers want to make
a debut album, then they can get in touch with me through my website
or through Facebook.
15.Lastly, chips or cream buns?
It would be chips from Diana Fish Bar in Wandsworth High Street,
with plenty of salt and vinegar on them soft in the middle and
crunchy on the outside (laughing)!
A very special thanks to Steve for all of his time
and help + for kindly allowing R*E*P*E*A*T to use the studio portrait
taken of him during the Generation Terrorists recording sessions in
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench,
A long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free,
And good men die like dogs. Theres also a negative side.
- Hunter S. Thompson
Title: The Preachers' Man
Publication: Music Week
Date: Friday, 25th April 2014
Rob Stringer's bond with the Manic Street Preachers goes way beyond
the normal parameters of label executive/artist. He is part of the group's
extended family, and it is a relationship that he prizes as highly as
anything else he has achieved or experienced in his long career.
Because of when he met them (1990), because of what they went on to
achieve and because of the things they went through together, the band
most closely associated with (and closest to) Rob Stringer are the Manic
"They were the first band I signed at CBS. My talent scout, Peter
Myers, said he thought I'd like them, and that first EP (New Art Riot)
was full of reference points that I recognised, so I thought, Okay,
this could be interesting, and I went to see them at Moles in Bath -
and I loved them.
"Then I followed them to Paris, where they were playing with Flowered
Up and St Etienne, because they were on Heavenly at the time, when Motown
Junk came out, and when I met them as people I loved them even more.
It was something I believed in passionately from the start."
The Manics themselves have stated that they signed for CBS for two
reasons: because The Clash had, and because of Rob Stringer.
Famously, they then immediately and provocatively declared their intention
to make one double album that would sell 20 million copies, change the
face of rock n roll and split up.
Stringer, A&Ring the album remember, didn't even try and talk them
down to a single record: "Because that was the manifesto. And if
you were a Clash fan, and if you loved London Calling and Sandinista!,
then you understood. The truth is, as they'll tell you now, we barely
had enough material for a double - we stretched it a bit.
"I love them, I love them as colleagues and partners and friends,
but that first album... we look back and laugh about it still. I remember
the producer meetings, because they would give them all the manifesto.
At one stage we talked to Andy Taylor of Duran Duran. He had the dark
glasses and the 80s rock star look, and Richey just launched into the
manifesto and Andy Taylor was very clearly like, What the fuck?!
"We ended up using Steve Brown, who, funnily enough, had worked
on Wham's first album, but we went with him because we liked the sound
of The Cult's She Sells Sanctuary.
"Making that record was exhausting, because they didn't really
have enough songs, but we got The Bomb Squad to do a remix of Repeat
and we got Traci Lords to sing on Little Baby Nothing, which is a great
record, we did a cover of Damn Dog, and we got it together eventually
and delivered it on Christmas eve.
"It was very, very stressful, but it was a great record and a
beautiful looking record, the artwork, the gatefold sleeve. We knew
that at the very least it was interesting, and it also had Motorcycle
Emptiness, which was a clue as to where they were going and told me
that they could be an important band. They couldn't play that song live
for a while, certainly not when the record first came out, but it was
a pointer to everything that was to come."
And then they split up. Except, of course, mercifully, they didn't.
"You know it never really came up! Maybe because it didn't sell
20 million, maybe that was the excuse they needed to carry on."
"I Don't Think We Would Be Here Without Him"
The Manics' Nicky Wire on the role that Rob Stringer played in the
incredible career of an iconic band...
When we first met Rob, Motown Junk was just out. We were inherently
interested in Columbia because that's where The Clash had gone, and
that band was in our DNA - and, as it turned out, in Rob's as well.
In fact, when we first met, at a Heavenly showcase in Paris, all we
talked about was The Clash. I think the only time we talked about us
was when he told us how much Motown Junk reminded him of the spirit
of The Clash - which we loved, whether he meant it or not!
He was so enthusiastic and so knowledgeable, to a level that you couldn't
fake. We knew he meant it and we knew he'd grown up loving the same
things we loved.
At that Paris gig there was chaos and debauchery everywhere, but as
ever, we were sealed in our own little corner, detached, and Rob joined
James said, quite earnestly, that we had a vision, we had a plan, and
all we wanted was someone who believed in it and would fight for us.
And that was Rob, we just knew. There were lots of hugs and the decision
From then on he was fully immersed into the machine and very involved
in that first record. He never tried to talk us down to a single album,
instead he helped us make it a double album. And when he first heard
Motorcycle Emptiness, he knew it was special and knew it was where we
were going. It was proper old-school A&Ring: loads and loads of
intense conversations about music and different artists and ideas.
It was like an echo of the classic record label days of the 70s, which
we loved. And then when he took us to the Portakabins of Luton Town,
it was actually like being in the 70s. It was an amazing time, and to
have Rob as part of it was wonderful. When you kinetically click with
someone like that it's always going to be special.
It was a different era, we know that now. It was all about band development.
Rob was so supportive of us and so confident in us. It's hard to make
choices in a band sometimes, when you're in the middle of everything,
and to have someone who you completely trust to make those tough decisions
was invaluable for us.
PPS - Generation Terrorists Album & Single titbits
from 'MTV Collexion' Interview (1998)
Nicky: "The lyrics were (a reply to Bruce Springsteen's Born To
Run) and there were a lot in there, which were kind of 'sweet baby lips'
type of stuff. The original title was Generation Terrorists, but because
we wanted to call the album Generation Terrorists, we then had to change
the title. So me and Richey were fannying around for a long time trying
to come up with another title. Richey came up with Stay Beautiful and
it seemed as good as we were going to get, really. Very traditional
early Manic Street Preacher type song you know, looking for something
you'll never find."
Love's Sweet Exile
James: "I kind of reached a peak of masturbatory delight, with
the guitar solo!"
Nicky: "Richey ran in through the control room - I was playing
SEGA - and goes: 'James has just done a solo as fast as Stevie Vai!'."
James: "A lot of revision goes on about my guitar solos, but it
was avidly encouraged by Nick and Richey. They used to come into the
studio and say: 'Play the fastest thing that's ever been played on the
Nicky: "Behind your neck!"
James: "Yeah, behind my neck!"
Nicky: "Originally, that song was called Faceless Sense Of Void,
and Martin - our manager - it was like his favourite song of ours and
we completely ripped it apart and totally changed it. He really despised
it and rightly so. We should've listened to him on that one!"
You Love Us
Nicky: "It was a song me and Richey had been trying to write for
a long time, and it was inspired by The Stones' We Love You. You know,
we wanted to up the ante and be even more controversial... We just wanted
to be more provocative and had been trying to come up with a title for
ages. I remember when Richey called me up, he said: 'Oh, I think I've
got the title' and he said You Love Us. It was plain sailing from then
on. It was the one song which galvanised us as a band and we really
thought: 'God, now we've got this!'. Our confidence was so high and
we just felt unbeatable!"
Nicky: "We sat down in a flat at Swansea University and we wanted
to write a motorbike song, like The Jesus And Mary Chain thing. We were
all obsessed with Rumblefish at the time, so we were trying to sort
of portray that in lyrics. It took ages to come up with a title and
Richey had this Go Buzz Baby thing."
James: "Go Buzz Baby Go... When we came to doing the demos for
the first album, I remember the producer asked us if we could write
a middle section for it, and it's one of the only times we've nicked
a part of an old song and put it in a present song. So, the middle section
from Motorcycle, is nicked from an old little indie song we used to
have called Behave Yourself Baby. It's a good solo and I remember the
producer going: 'I think we should just get a Manchester beat going
behind the solo' kind of thing."
Nicky: "It took ages and it's hardly a complete inspirational song,
it took an awful lot of work really, to get it right, but it was worth
James: "There was some talk of not putting it on the album, because
it was a bit "too advanced" or something like that. But, if
that song hadn't been on that album, I don't know if we would have survived,
to a certain degree. That song gave us a lot of strength, because it
was our first real true sign of greatness, since Motown Junk and You
Love Us, really."
Little Baby Nothing
Nicky: "Richey wrote most of the lyrics to it and it was a song
that was quite precious to him, I just came up with the title... I don't
know, it's a weird one. The Kylie thing, it was just at the time, I
used to wear a Kylie T-shirt because I thought that's what pop should
be - that's what was reaching the most people. A lot of bands at the
time were saying, basically they didn't want to be big and they didn't
want to talk to anyone. They'd talk about pop music, but it would be
in a very elitist way, which meant like 50 students or something would
think it was a great band and we were always about the grand gesture!
So, anything that was hugely popular and glamorous, is what we liked.
We wanted Kylie to sing, but I don't think she ever heard the song when
we sent it to her. It was Martin's idea to get Traci Lords in, in the
end, but I don't know why that was - he seemed to have a particular
fascination with her! She came to see us at a gig and it was the worst
gig we'd ever done, it was absolutely tuneless, but she still wanted
to do the track! I mean, it fitted her and she did a really nice job
The Legacy Of Generation Terrorists
Nicky: "Recording the album was fantastic, it was bliss. We were
there for about 14-15 weeks and it was only when we started touring
and stuff, that we kind of lost the plot a bit, when we realised we
couldn't play any of the songs live. I think the best thing about the
album, is that it still sounds really naive and really young, and a
band trying to reach greatness that can't quite get there."
James: "Everything sounds like it's born out of some kind of idealism,
basically, which is good! A lot of bands can't look back at something
like that, but at least we can. But I think it's got one song on there,
which is one of the most important reference points of the last 10-years
in Motorcycle. So, like you know, we won a battle, but we definitely
didn't win a war with that album!"
wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I
should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm
the 3rd album?