Tom Sheehan
On ‘You Love Us. Manic Street Preachers In Photographs 1991-2001’
May 2017
Interview: Steve Bateman

"The latest in the series of books from the archives of legendary music photographer Tom Sheehan, features his extensive work with one of the most important and successful UK bands of the last quarter century and welsh rock icons, Manic Street Preachers. Released 30th June 2017 through Flood Gallery Publishing, the book will feature a foreword by Nicky Wire and essays by acclaimed music journalist Sylvia Patterson and feature classic shots and many unseen images of the band.

Over a 10-year period between 1991-2001, the book covers the early days of the band when Sheehan met them when they did their first feature for the Melody Maker and shot the cover for their first album ‘Generation Terrorists’. He covered the worldwide successes of albums ‘Everything Must Go’ (1996) and ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’ (1998) and up to the infamous 2001 gig at The Karl Marx Theatre, Havana, Cuba, where the band become the first popular western rock band to play in the country shortly before the release of their 6th Album, ‘Know Your Enemy.’ Tom Sheehan, recalling his work with the band says “The Manics arrived fully-formed, with a mission, older than their years and more knowledgeable than most. Who does a double album as their first release! The Manics… brave stuff indeed and continuing to be brave to this day."

With over 40-years’ experience of photographing musicians all over the world, Tom Sheehan has done more to truly earn the title ‘legendary’ than most. He has shot everybody including Radiohead, Madonna, The Smiths, Mick Jagger, Siouxsie Sioux, Neil Young, Coldplay, Snoop Dogg and many, many more for countless publications over the decades. His latest project has been delving into his archives to produce quality and luxurious photography books on artists he has had a close and productive relationship with. In the last 12-months with Flood Gallery Publishing, he has also produced limited edition publications featuring Paul Weller and The Cure." OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE

In a recent interview with Hot Press, Nicky proffered, "When we grew up, photographers like Tom Sheehan and Pennie Smith were as important as bands. We were children of the music press, and they were mini-heroes, as were certain journalists. So we gave it our all for those sessions. I mean, in the middle of a shit tour, we went down the Catacombs in Paris for three hours to get just one or two shots. You‘re never going to get that interaction between bands and photographers anymore. Well, perhaps you might with Arctic Monkeys, but the photo-book is pretty much a dead concept these days." With Tom Sheehan even once telling The Quietus, "You do realise eventually that you’re creating some sort of rock history. You’re just there documenting – and making something that may have a life longer than that group’s record at that point in time, hopefully. Sure, I like the idea that I am part of the history, without shooting me mouth off about it all."

Continuing R*E*P*E*A*T's long-running coverage of influential figures who have also played an important role in the Manics' career, I was therefore delighted to be able to talk to Tom about his forthcoming photography book, ‘You Love Us. Manic Street Preachers In Photographs 1991-2001’. With the striking pictures chronicled inside, acting as emotional, intimate and nostalgic MSP bookmarks in time...

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, I think every Manics Fan would agree that 'You Love Us' is an extremely apt title for your photography book. Did you immediately think of using this, as I know that your previous tomes on Paul Weller and The Cure are also named after song titles?
"It kind of came to mind straight away, because it was one of their first singles and I was down there on the video shoot when they were filming the promo clip for it (1992 Columbia version). But in a very short space of time, I think I managed to photograph them about 4 times in one year, which is quite unusual for a new band you know? So in '91, my first encounter with them was in Click Studios in Clerkenwell and I also shot them for their first LP. Then, I shot them on the You Love Us session and I did the You Love Us shirt in my loft. Because on the first session I'd photographed their shirts (later used on the front cover of Simon Price's MSP Biography, 'Everything'), and they went, 'Oh, fuck me, what a great idea!' So next they said, 'We're going to re-release the single You Love Us and would you shoot this shirt that Richey's got?' So, they biked the shirt over to me. Then, I went up into the loft in my house - which wasn't a massive loft and I don't live there now - but you had to almost crouch down in there (laughing) and I painted one section of the wall white, to replicate the studio that we'd just been in a month before or whatever and just hung the shirt up and shot it in there. But also, in that same year, I shot them in Highgate Cemetery by the Karl Marx grave and in the December, I shot them for a Melody Maker end-of-year party feature in a pub at 11 o'clock in the morning. So there were 6 encounters in one year, which is quite a lot for a new young band... although 2 of those sessions were done for them personally. But returning to your question, with the title 'You Love Us', I like the arrogance of it myself and that's what I liked about the chaps! They'd come up from Wales and they knew exactly what they were doing and they arrived kind of fully-formed virtually. Interestingly, I was talking to Sylvia Patterson, who's a writer / journalist - she's done the verbals in the book - and she's covered the Manics a few times you know and she was interviewing me and I said, it's amazing because they did seem fully-formed. But by the same token, they were being managed by Philip Hall - now sadly deceased - and Terri his wife, who subsequently ended up doing all of the press for them, but they were living in their house. So they obviously came up from Wales with all of the bluff and bluster, but they were going into an environment where they were going to be looked after. So Terri and Philip were sort of like guardians I guess, even like an Aunt and Uncle if you will - I imagine. But the Manics could concentrate on fighting the world and they're away from home, but they're living with someone who's their Management and PR (laughing)! They didn't have to worry about anything is what I'm trying to say, do you know what I mean? That's my assumption, although I don't know if it is exactly correct."

2. Can you reveal any information about the design concept of 'You Love Us' and Nicky's foreword?
"Carl, our designer, is retouching the book as we speak - but the way it has been designed, is that it will have the first 10-years broken down into sessions. Each session will have anything between 4 to 6 to 8 pages, and Carl fell in love with the Paris session - so that's a massive section! I don't know how many pages exactly (pausing), basically, I've got my favourites, but when someone else looks at them - and I trust the designer - but he's going to see something in it that I'm going to completely miss. And also, it's good to see that some of the shots that we've used, are the ones that never made it. Maybe sometimes for the right reasons, because they might've been a bit crap (laughing)! But I'm a great lover of the history of bands, and to see a session or to go back to a session and look at (pausing), I mean, it's a long time ago, 1991 is a bloody long time ago! In my long-life and in the Manics short-life, do you know what I mean? But I just find it really interesting. If you've ever seen my previous books on Paul Weller and The Cure, each session just goes from A-Z, with my first encounter with them to my last encounter with them. Obviously, with Paul and with Robert, it was like a 30-year friendship you know, but with the Manics it was just the first 10-years and then after that time, I never met them again - to photograph them that is. I've bumped into them from time-to-time and always a pleasure it is... I see Jim about a lot, I never see Sean and I see Nick now and again, like at the Q Awards or MOJO parties, all that sort of stuff. Although Jim would be the one that I see and we'll just have a gas and a chat you know? But the fact that Nicky wrote a foreword for my book is tremendous! It's very humbling when someone talks about me, because I don't want to be talked about (laughing), it's me work that I want people to talk about (laughing again). I was more than flattered!"

3. How did you choose which shots to include and how long was the selection process?

"Ah, well, there's just so many pictures! I mean, hundreds upon hundreds and each session is probably going to yield anything between 30 to 40 shots. It also depends what Carl pulls-out. But how I go about it, is that I scan each roll of film to turn it into a digital contact sheet and then I batch them all up into the sessions. Then, I go through these, looking at them as you would in the old days with a chinagraph (a grease pencil for marking glossy paper), but now I do it on the Mac to circle things. So with each roll, I could be pulling-up one frame or several frames, if there's a series. I'll select far more than what I need, then I'll send the contact sheets to my designer and by that time, I'd have given him all the negatives and slides and he would have started scanning. Then, when he starts scanning stuff, he sees things that I don't see and I'll say, 'Don't use all of these, just make your selection' you know? Also, you can be kind of too close to it, a bit snow-blind by it and you need someone else to go, 'That's the one!' Or, 'What about that?' And obviously, a lot of the time, with each of the encounters with artists, you're probably on limited time for all sorts of reasons and you're only going to be shooting for a Melody Make front cover. So, you don't have to be shooting for 2-weeks - you can nail it in as short a time as possible! Which means you're often welcomed back, because artists know that it ain't going to be like having a tooth extracted. The most important thing, is to get the work done and then jolly up afterwards or whatever. But there are photographers and journalists that will waste a band's time, asking more questions than required and photographing more than the page space will allow."

4. Was using photographs from The Holy Bible era, for both the book's slipcase and front cover, intentional?
"There was no reason for using those shots whatsoever. I said to Carl, 'Look, there's two problems in my mind before we start the conversation' (pausing), I also said this to Nick, who I saw briefly at the film premiere of Escape From History (Kieran Evans' Everything Must Go Documentary) a couple of months ago. In terms of which pictures to use, I said to Nick that I don't want to use anything from our first session, as you hadn't actually honed your visual persona - you were straight out-of-the-traps, a bit too young and not quite right. But as time goes on, looking great about 3-months later in the cemetery, but there's too much going on in these photographs. So I said to Carl, when you get up to Paris, there's some dressing room pictures that are really nice if you want to scan all the rest of the shit out of it. I just wanted something very simple, like a studio shot, with no kind of hoo-ha around it. So when you see it on the slipcase, it's just them and nothing else. With Nick being so tall and wearing his hood up and James leaning in at the bottom, it just makes a nice diamond shape you know? It's more graphic than photo if you will, that's how I saw it. Then I said to Carl, 'Sort yourself out, whatever you want to do for the cover, I'm not arsed.' But what I don't want - and I said this to Nick and Gillian (long-term MSP press officer) - I don't want it to be a Saint Richey book. I don't want the martyrdom of Rich in it. Yes, we could put a picture of him against the Catacombs skulls, but it's not what it's about. Or, we could put him on the front with the shot outside the Batalcan with the writing on the wall, 'I've seen the future it is murder.' We could of course, and those pictures are going to be in there, but they're going to be part and parcel. From my point-of-view, it's 10-years of a band, not 10-years of a band and here's the bloke that went missing, with this great big thing created around him. So as much as I dearly loved him and God bless him wherever he is, I didn't want to bring any fuel to the fire, to stoke that fire on the legend of St. Richey, bless him. But in answer to your question, no, there isn't a reason why those images were used on the book's slipcase and front cover, but they're both from Paris which is extraordinary! The other thing is, as I was talking to Sylvia, she said, 'You do realise Tommy, that the live picture on the front cover itself is a bit like Pennie Smith's shot of Paul Simonon on the sleeve of The Clash's London Calling?' I went, 'Fuck me, when did I take that picture? Years ago!' But, it's never, ever struck me - they're both bass payers, both smashing the guitar, different shots, but there's a connection if you want to look at it that way. The extraordinary thing is, the Manics are fans of The Clash and it's like, 'Did we write it this way?' No, we didn't (laughing)! We didn't sort of shoehorn that bass picture onto the front to make it like a homage to my dear friend Pennie, or Paul. We just did it. I mean, Carl did it and obviously I've got to approve it - but he goes, 'What do you think of this?' and I went (excitedly), 'Fucking brilliant!' Because it's so hard to get a couple of group shots of 4 people (pausing), I mean, there's a fantastic black and white shot from the cemetery where Richey's in focus and the rest are in soft focus. I think that's as far as you need to go, if you want to elevate his legendary status if you will. The rest of the chaps are there and it's almost a reverse of if someone isn't with us or is missing, as they would normally be the ghost, but it's the other way round. I know it's like arty bullshit (laughing), but you know what I'm saying (pausing), in fact, I've only just thought of that, so I'll be bringing that out a few times in the future (laughing)!"

5. MSP have always been very vocal about the importance of the music press in their lives as they were growing up, zooming-in on specific photographers and journalists who they especially admired. But, can you remember your first impressions of meeting the Manics at their very first feature for Melody Maker (February 2, 1991) and were they comfortable being in front of the lens?
"Well, the encounter was at Click Studios in Clerkenwell and as you mentioned, it was the Manics' first Melody Maker session and my friends Ben and Dominic - who used to write under the name of The Stud Brothers - were interviewing them and they were great! I mean, it was obvious that they were young, but they had that bravado and behind their music, or in front of their music, was also their visual persona with a kind of controlled anger and energy, that only a band like them would have and possess. But they were talking to people who did remember punk and I photographed The Clash when they were at CBS Records, because I was the in-house photographer, so with that part of their influences, I'm down on it and I knew Joe - God rest his soul - and Mick. With Ben and Dom, Nick and Rich - and presumably Jim and Sean - but Nick and Rich were the more vocal ones and they loved Ben and Dom as The Stud Brothers. It was Nick who sent a tape off to them saying, 'Look, I'll bring the heroin if you do a feature on us' or something like that. By which time, there was a bit of buzz going on about the Manics and Pricey, Price Cube (Simon Price) - who's also going to be interviewing me at Kendall Calling Festival about my book - was at the Maker and I was surprised that he didn't do the feature, but I guess he would have if the Manics had requested it. Also, the thing is, a lot of the time with a young band like that when you're going to do a feature - it wasn't going to be a cover or anything - but I took it upon myself to hire a studio and did a studio session. I don't know why, probably because I was fed-up sitting around a pub waiting for them to stop gassing and then putting them against a brick wall to photograph afterwards, wherever they were. So, I thought let's do it properly, do you know what I mean? We did the first session and from it came their 4 shirts - I've got black and white versions on the wall at home actually in my office (laughing), in 4 big frames. But yeah, the thing is, because the band were just full of that bluff and bluster, anger and all that, it was very hard to 'capture' it, because they were just straight out-of-the-trap. They needed a few more years in them, to not look so young, if you know what I mean? So iconically, unless you're really, really honed, it's very difficult to have an iconic image of someone, or 4 people together, in a short space of time. Whereas I thought by doing the shirts, that would be more of a stamp, like, 'Bang. This. Is. It!' There's no point in photographing 4 people that nobody knew for individual shots, so why don't we do 4 pictures of their wonderful shirts. Sylvia was talking to me and she asked, 'Where did you get the idea from?' and I said there's a chap called Guy Clark, who was a Texan country singer and who had a fantastic album called Old No. 1. And on the front, there's a picture of him standing next to a painting of his denim shirt that his Missus did. So there's that wonderful hippie old geezer image (laughing), that Nick would fucking go crazy at (laughing again)! So unbeknownst to me, I could have potentially been winding them up, which is always a good thing you know (laughing)? It's just funny!

The thing is, because I'm so much older than them, there was enough respect because they knew my work and Nick said, 'We knew what you were doing and it was great for us to meet The Studs and be photographed by yourself' or whatever. But around that time in '91, as we were getting on so well with them - they were lovely cats, really lovely guys - we got the measure of each other immediately. You know, I think they had Dominic, Ben and myself because of the way we worked, that mode of operation if you will. And we admired them because we loved all that bollocks they were coming out with - all of that fight and all that, we just thought it was fantastic! Thank God there's a band like this around! So that was that, but being the kind of person that I am, I'm thinking, ok, they're into this kind of rock 'n' roll and punk thing, and they liked Guns N' Roses who Ben and Dom liked, but for me personally - apart from The Clash - I don't have those records, I don't give it house room. Then, at a later date, it was Richey's 24th Birthday and we were meeting up and I said, 'Ok sweetheart, if you want some guitar music, listen to this' and I gave him a copy of Neil Young's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. Which at the time, you could be strung-up for (laughing), hippie shit! But it's one of the greatest guitar albums that lives, because there's the duelling guitars of Neil Young and Danny Whitten. So anyway, there we were in Paris in '94 and the chaps were supporting Suede, and James came over and said, 'Oh, Tommy, Rich wants to know if you want to go on the tour bus, have a beer and listen to some tunes?' and I said, 'I'd love to mate'. It was late afternoon and they'd done their soundcheck, and Rich was putting on Gram Parsons, Neil Young and all this stuff (laughing) and old Nick goes (doing an uncanny impression of The Wire), 'Fucking hell Sheehan, this is all your fucking fault!' So I said (laughing), 'Shut up you cunt - open your ears, this is glorious!' Good old banter stuff you know, and in fact, Sylvia mentions this in the book. But it's just that wonderful banter, where they know that they've got to listen to this stuff - you're not going to live a long-life and fucking have your ears closed, you've got to listen to everything you possibly can! Just as an aside to that, and I think I told this to John Doran for The Quietus a while ago, after Rich had gone missing, me and James were at a wedding for Martin Carr from The Boo Radleys (pausing), he's one of the few people I've done the bloody wedding pictures for and I'll never do it again (laughing)! I've done Robert from The Cure, Tim from The Charlatans and Guy from Coldplay, but they're so nerve-wracking - I'll never do it again! Anyway, 18 Wheeler are loading-in the old records for the disco that night in the pub, just up the road from Creation Records, and I'm at the bar with James and at the top of the stack of vinyls was The Flying Burrito Brothers - The Gilded Palace Of Sin. So I said to James, "Ah, there you go, proper fucking records! Do you remember that time when Rich asked me on the bus and we were listening to Neil and Gram and all that?' And he was like, 'Yeah, I do - it's probably your fault that he fucked off!' (laughs uproariously) So that's the banter, do you know what I mean? But, I've always felt that it's my job - because I'm older than most people - and I am guilty of wanting to spread some good tunes. It's that whole idea of passing sounds round, so if nobody's got a Dad or Uncle who's really into music, I'm going to fucking supply it! I've been making mixtapes for people since the middle of the '80s and that's the beauty of music, you can't get into everything all the time until the penny drops."

6. You eventually went onto photograph the iconic sleeve for the Manic Street Preachers' 1992 debut album, Generation Terrorists. Is there anything that you may be willing to share with us about this assignment?
"Yeah, as I've already mentioned, the situation arose where we were kind of having lots of encounters and I think their design company had tried a few ideas to do a sleeve, but I think they were falling at the first hurdle for whatever reason. There was an existing picture of the band with Rich showing his tattoo and the crucifix, and I think they tried to blow it up, but it was such a low-res or whatever and they needed a much bigger and sharp version. So they said, why don't we try doing a picture with Richey's shoulder, his tattoo, chest and the crucifix to see if it works, and it worked! Then they changed the tattoo from 'Useless Generation' to 'Generation Terrorists'. Actually, the other potential title that I had in mind for my photography book, was 'Useless Generation', but I just thought that 'You Love Us' was a bit more snappy and more in-keeping with my idea of them being cocky little bastards at the time - which was great, I loved it! Anyway, with that session, we basically went down to the design studio which is over at Ladbroke Grove somewhere - it wasn't glamorous as such, because there's a kind of lean to garage. So it was like an empty space that we could use, but all there was, were just dirty brick walls. It was raining outside and there was a big gap underneath the gate, so rain was coming in and it was really cold. Poor old Richey had the flu and there he was with his shirt off (laughing) and we were rattling through these shots you know? It was great and that's how it happened, in such unglamorous surroundings, but that's the way the best things happen isn't it, you just bang on and you're going to get it! Subsequently after that, they were talking about doing some shots of a European flag burning, so I got a European flag made - there was a place over near Tower Bridge that made flags - and I also photographed some and had prints made. Then, on a Saturday afternoon over in Click Studios again, I was up a ladder with a tripod and we were burning these bloody prints. But because they had a plastic coating to them on the colour paper, the plastic was burning and I was inhaling the fumes. So that night, I was like a dying glue sniffer - I was in all sorts of trouble (laughing)! Rich and I did a lot of the flag stuff together, so that was another encounter that year. Then they made-up that montage for the inside of the sleeve, also using one of my pictures that Sony had originally bought for press-use only. But as it was made into artwork, I'll save that as my hedge against inflation I think (laughing)."

7. When shooting musicians, you've discussed how you never ask artists to play up to the camera and how throughout your career, you've also had to become accustomed to working quickly, musing, "You just have to make up your mind to shoot how you want to do it, in the space of time you’ve got and be happy with what you’ve got." But, did you ever have any ideas for shoots with MSP which had to be changed at the last minute, following the preparatory stage?
"I never had to change (pausing), the thing is, I don't really like to have ideas - I just like to let things happen. If you go in with a kind of hard and fast rule, you're just going to have people thinking about too much before you've even started. A good example of this, is only yesterday I was talking to Paul Draper - formerly of Mansun - on the old e-mail. I did loads of stuff with Mansun, they were great and I loved their first album and their first EPs were brilliant you know? He's doing a solo record now and I've been wheeled in to do some pictures just for press, and he said, 'Oh, I'm recording in the studio at the moment' and I said, 'Look, don't worry, it will be fine. I'll come over and do some studio shots, like work-in-progress and you're by the Thames, there's some woodlands, so we'll go there - we'll nail it, it'll be great!' And he goes, 'Do you think we should get a mood-board together?' I go, (adopting a firm tone) 'No!' Because the minute you start thinking about something that isn't there, you're just like a salmon swimming up stream - you're going for an endeavour, but the endeavour isn't really ours, it's sort of like an idea that you're trying to reach. I said, 'Look, you know me, I just approach things like a musician, in the sense of try something out and if it works, let's go with it! If not, we won't do it you know?' And he went, 'Yeah, you're right.' But back to the original question, I try not to (pausing), obviously you're under some sort of constraints from the editorial thing, because with the Manics, the majority of the stuff was shot for the Melody Maker. So Jones - the editor - would be saying, 'The album's coming out, it's called this or that and we want to do this.' I mean, when the Manics brought out The Holy Bible, we did 2 sessions in 1 day in Holborn Studios, just with James and Nick. We rattled some frames off and then we got a cab to Stoke Newington Cemetery, trying to get this Holy Bible vibe in, blah, blah, blah. But on the Saturday before the session, I went round the corner to a charity shop, bought a couple of books that were about the size of a bible and I sprayed them black, and in New York some years previous, I'd bought these little crosses. So I glued these little crosses onto the front cover, then I opened up the book and I put a little piece of folded-up tinfoil inside as I wanted to make a trough, to put some lighter-fuel in and set light to it and have them holding a flaming bible (laughing)! Nick was like (sounding mortified), 'I can't do that!' I said, 'Lighten-up, the editor won't give a fuck - it's a picture (laughing). All he's thinking about, is how good will it look on the cover of the Maker that week. He wouldn't put us down here if he didn't know we wouldn't do all this sort of shit.' So, I've got them with the Bible but not alight (laughing). My Mum and Dad brought me up as a Catholic, but it wasn't intended as a blasphemous crime against God up there, whoever he or she might be, we were just trying to make a good graphic you know?

Sometimes you start off with ideas and you chip away a bit, but nine times out of ten (pausing), you've got to have some sort of plan, but not something that's so carved in stone. Because I think music photography shouldn't be bolted down, like music shouldn't be bolted down you know? A lot of rock photography these days, is so much like fucking adverts for coffee and stuff like that - everything's perfect and that's not right. I mean, get rid of the spots and blemishes, but don't make them look like models. As for bands wearing their own clothes, if they've got the right idea, bang, let them get on with it. But I've done so many sessions in my time where you spend hour upon hour, with some eejit bringing in their fucking friend's clothes-shop clothes - these are the stylists and I hate them! Then the band end up wearing the same stuff that they came in with, or what they like. Music photography has just gone out the window, but then I'm an old geezer talking, what the fuck do I know? But there you go, there you go..."
*I ask Tom if the Manics ever pitched in with any of their own ideas on photo shoots*
"I mean, that's the whole relationship that photographers have with bands, if they trust you, you're just going to do it! I very rarely photograph a band that I don't know something about and so you go in there, and I want me bands to look like a band, and they want to look like a band. It's difficult when you get a band that want to look like a band, but also look like some sort of advertising campaign. There is an unspoken thing - I don't know if it happens in the first seconds of meeting someone - but all you really need from a band, is for them to allow you to say left a bit, or right a bit. You're not going to make them bloody leap through a hoop of fire, to make them look like eejits! I'd never do that with a band and anything that looks sort of shit, I'll photograph it and I'll say, 'Ok, that's my Christmas card sorted' (laughing). I don't want people looking at pictures, taking the piss out of the band because the band look stupid. I want people looking at the pictures and thinking, 'Fucking hell, look at them!' Just documenting the band where they were at that point in their career, or if they were abroad somewhere, documenting and logging down what the chaps were up to at that time."

8. Some of your notable travels with the group included France in November 1994, and then later Cuba in February 2001. Can you tell us more about these treks, as well as anything about the shows themselves?
"With France, Richey wasn't doing any press and Sean doesn't do a lot anyway, does he (laughing)? So as I said, earlier on in the year, I'd done the graveyard shot and the Holborn Studios shot (pausing), with Rich, I don't have a great knowledge on his problems as such, but he weren't himself obviously, which is why James said that Rich had asked me to come on the bus and have a beer kind of thing. He wasn't keeping himself to himself, because when we were out and about doing the sessions, we were having a great time! But whilst we were in Paris, Price Cube (Simon Price), had been a student in Paris for a year, so he knew his way around and he suggested the Catacombs (underground ossuaries, which hold the remains of more than six million people in a small part of the ancient Mines of Paris tunnel network, founded when city officials had two simultaneous problems: a series of cave-ins beginning 1774 and overflowing cemeteries) and off we went. Obviously, it's kind of a revelation, all of these bones stacked down in this long massive tunnel - you seem to be walking for miles! So as you go along this dark tunnel, up to almost waist height, there's just loads and loads and loads of bones on each side, but as you get towards the middle - and the path can only be a couple of yards wide - all of a sudden, it goes up to about 6ft. Then all the way up, it's dotted with skulls and that's the only bit in the Catacombs - to my knowledge - because you go in one way and come out another way about 60 blocks down the road or something (laughing). But it's the only place where you can do a portrait let's say, although it's so small width-wise - about 5ft - that I couldn't do a group shot there, I had to do a solo shot of each of the chaps. Then that night we went back to the venue and the band did their soundcheck, they had a drink on the bus and they did a show, then when James came out afterwards (pausing), I'd left my jacket in the dressing room and the bastard came out wearing me coat (laughing). I said, 'Why the fuck have you got my coat on!?!' Also that night, Nick smashed up his bass onstage which is on the front cover of the book - that came from Paris as I mentioned earlier.

You also asked me about Cuba. Well, that was just a huge press junket wasn't it? You know, there was loads of radio, TV, newspapers, music papers... Melody Maker had just closed a year or so before, so I was doing it for the NME. We went out there and spent 4-days there, but you have to get approval for this and you have to buy all of these different kind of visas and get your journalistic accreditation, 'That will be another $75 Dollars Sir, US if you would be so kind' (chuckling). They played the gig in The Karl Marx Theatre and then afterwards, they met up with the great man himself (Fidel Castro). It was all 'will it happen or won't it happen?' Then, all of a sudden, there was a bit of a hubbub and we were led to this room backstage - there wasn't loads of people, but by the time you got the band, their management and a few of the crew in there, the room was getting a bit choked-up and a guy said, 'No, that's enough.' So me and Ted Kessler - who's now at Q Magazine but was at the NME then - my journey chum at the time, we went, 'Ah shit, we've missed it!' Then this other security guy said, 'Oh, come with me' and he led us back across the stage and round the back into another door, and there we were (excitedly), in there! Sitting there was Fidel Castro with an interpreter and the chaps were sat round (pausing), they were all a little bit awkward, nervous and anxious as you would be. I mean, what are you going to say to this guy? There was a little bit of polite banter and he was talking through his interpreter, then all of a sudden they get up and they're all shaking hands and I go, 'Oh, fuck that, I can't miss this!' It's not like me to be so extroverted, but it was my only chance to get a picture of them all together, so I just blasted a load of shots off (mimicking the sound of a machine-gun) you know? They won't hang them on a gallery wall, but as historical documentation, they're fine. So that was great and there was a bit of a bash at the hotel afterwards, then we came back. I think the band stayed out there for a bit longer to do some filming and to also visit the schools. Because they wanted to make sure that the money from the show would definitely be going to help the educational facilities - just checking with the government officials where the buck would be going kind of thing. It was almost cultural exchange I suppose, really."

9. Speaking about the way in which the Manics presented themselves in their early years, you stated, "It was rehashed, obviously, from all the Clash stuff – but at that point in time, they were channelling their influences. You know, it’s like any musician or artist; you gotta get all that out of your system before you find yourself." They then went onto have very different and distinctive images for Gold Against The Soul and The Holy Bible, before deliberately adopting more unassuming, smart / casual dressed appearances for the Everything Must Go, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours and Know Your Enemy eras. But do you have any cherished Manic Street Preachers sessions / looks?
"I like the session from the Karl Marx grave in Highgate Cemetery from 1991, purely because they all look good! They'd established their look and then they were going a bit glam as well, but still maintaining the sloganeering stuff and all that malarkey. It was just a nice kind of outing. We met over at Philip and Terri Hall's house, when they were still living with them in Askew Road in Hammersmith. We got a cab over there and we made our way to the grave and took some shots, and then a park keeper or warden, kind of grabbed us and said, 'What are you doing? You can't do this sort of stuff' blah, blah, blah. So I just made-up some bollocks like, 'Sorry Sir, I'm an art school lecturer and these are some of my students who are also in a band, I'm just helping them out and developing my own photographic skills. I'm very sorry and we'll get of the premises immediately' all that kind of stuff (laughing). But we got the shots anyway, so that was great! There is that lovely shot where James is out of focus, Richey and Sean are in focus and Nick is out of focus. So, I think that's it! But the thing is, when you're rolling with a band, each time you meet them, they've got to do an interview or you're in a studio or they've got to stop for dinner - there's always something else to do (laughing). Once, I was meant to do a session but Nick had hurt his back and he was bloody laid up in the hotel, so we did the session with him in bed (laughs heartily)! You just have to get on with what's there, that's the key. Some of my other favourite photographs are from Paris and there's so much from these sessions in the book. There's backstage shots (pausing), Carl said to me, 'Tommy, when we run the backstage portrait on the slipcase, inside the book, do you want to airbrush everything else out like we've done for the cover?' and I said, 'No, keep all of the shit in there - keep it the way it is.' I mean, obviously you've got to tart it up for the cover, but keep the door frame and the fucking plug wire track thing - it is what it is. They were all backstage and there was no backdrop set-up (pausing), I had done other sessions backstage with them in larger dressing rooms where you could put up a backdrop. But with that shoot in Paris, we were just there for a day-and-a-half with them or whatever. I also like the shots outside the Batalcan, not knowing that those poor people were going to be killed in that venue all those years later, and seeing that slogan now - which is from a Leonard Cohen song - is very sad and eerie. There's loads of the Catacombs shots which are great and there's a lovely, lovely picture of Rich - Carl said to me, 'You know that picture where he's looking over his shoulder at you from the mirror, that's the last picture you took of him.' I went (sounding shocked), 'Fucking hell!' It's amazing, because it was a long time ago and the lad's no longer with us sadly. He was looking in the mirror and I went, 'Over your shoulder Rich' and he spun round and I went bang. But fuck me, you know? There's little bits like that, but then I don't want to sentimentalise it or add fuel to the fire, for people who want to go and tattoo something on themselves or whatever. It's not what it was done for and it's not what he should be remembered for."

10. Are studio portraits, live photographs and candid shots, equally important to you?
"Yeah, but with the live stuff, I get claustrophobic! So I try not to do a lot of live work you know? I like a more casual approach, but with it bolted down, so maybe you might have nice lighting or something. Or, you set-up like you're in a studio, because I've got some lovely pictures of Rich in the Hall or Nothing kitchen. But, it isn't a kitchen - you know when you get those big cupboards that you open and in there there's like a kettle and a sink and all that, but you can't actually get into it, that was their kitchen! So I opened the door and put up a roll of paper and put a light on it, then I put Rich there and put a light on him. There's some really nice shots where he's got a dark black or blue jacket on, with a red pin-stripe, no shirt and he's wearing round glasses and a hat, which was almost like a padre hat. It was just a series of colour and black and white shots, all the same virtually, although he's got a fag on in some of them. But, he looks cool! They're nice candid pictures, and that's what you can do when people know you and trust you and vice versa. Like, 'What are you going to do? Well, I'm going to do nice portraits and it isn't going to take too long.' I like those shots actually, but the thing is, I can't have my thoughts and my love of the pictures go towards Rich, because it will create that silly myth thing. But obviously, he was a fucking lovely, lovely chap!"

11. At the time, what cameras, lenses and films were you using?
"With 35mm, I was shooting on a Nikon F3 I think, which was nice and it had a motor drive. I had a whole array of lenses, but there was an 85mm I used to use, a 105mm and a 24mm - they would have been my favourite lenses. I also used to use a Hasselblad in the studio, but also, about 30-years ago, Mamiya brought out this thing called a Mamiya 6, which is like a medium format camera but it can also hold 35mm film. It was like a lens and it popped-out on a bellows, but you couldn't see the bellows. I had a couple of those with some lenses, because you could go away with a Mamiya 6 and a couple of lenses and your 35mm kit. So you could do all of your really swift stuff, but then you could do some more controlled stuff, with a nice two-and-a-quarter square transparency or black and white neg. I mean, I do like to work fast for all of our sakes. In fact, if something goes wrong or isn't quite right, I quite like that, because it's what happened. It's trying to keep away from making things really starchy and obvious, if that makes any sense."

12. Were the group keen to view / discuss prints with you, and did they ever request copies for their own archives?
"Not really. I think when we were shooting in studios, I'd do a Hasselblad polaroid and give it to the band in case they wanted a souvenir of their visit, but not really, no. I think there's a trust and they know what you're doing and it's almost an insult to be asked (pausing), with the Manics, there's always been that trust. They knew what I could do before they met me and I wasn't some idiot who had just started the day they met me, they knew that I had a bit of a history. And being so much older than them, there is a kind of, 'Alright, he's a bit of an old twat, but he might know what he's doing' (chuckling). The whole thing is a trust thing, it's like when you talk to these cats, I've worked with journalists all the time and the ones that are kind of nervous and fucking in awe of people and all that, it just sort of makes for a bad interview. It's like, just go in there. You're both on a level playing-field and it's the only time you ever are going to be, because with a lot of these fuckers, you meet them when they haven't got a penny and if they were to die of kidney failure, I'd be done for manslaughter because of all the ale I bought them. Then, a few years later, they're millionaires (laughs uproariously)!"

13. For you personally, what qualities should a classic photograph have?
"I think it should hold kind of the key, or a window, into the artists as they were at that point in time. That's why to be honest, I don't like the idea of setting things up. Ok, it's set-up and it's that band at that point in time, but the more you set things up, I think you often take away from things. Because even when bands have ideas and they want to do it this way, or they want to do it that way, you do it and a few years down the line they go (adopting a grumpy tone), 'Why did you fucking make me do that?' And I'm like, 'It was your idea you fucking idiot' do you know what I mean (laughing)? So, I just think it should hold interest for the viewer, even if the person isn't into the band, because perhaps a photograph will make them want to get into the band. And people who do know the band or the artist, should get something from it. Not anything that's so shocking it stops you in its tracks, but something that intrigues you."
*I ask Tom if black and white and colour photography is equally as important to him, or if he favours one over the other*
"Over the years, I've probably favoured black and white, purely and simply because in my garage outside, I have my archive and a darkroom - although I never use it - I'm digital now and I'm sitting in front of my Mac and it's beautiful. I railed against it for so many years, but I haven't shot film since 2006. It's like, why would you? Nobody would know what to do with a print and although I've had exhibitions, I don't want to have them - I don't work that way, I work towards taking pictures. I mean, I've got to print some up because I do sell signed limited edition prints to keep the wolf from the door (pausing), in fact, there's a fellow photographer who's a friend of mine and he's setting-up a darkroom, and he's asked me if I have any gear that I want to sell and I said, 'Well, I've probably got a drying cabinet.' Because although I'll print again, I'm never going to develop a roll of film again do you know what I mean? And if I did happen to shoot a roll of film, I could get it processed somewhere. Basically, I'm looking for a space in my garage, which is my archive and darkroom and all that. I've got to clear-out stuff that isn't being used, because we're going to be moving house soon and I don't want to pay someone some money to move stuff, or for it to be stored, knowing that I'm never going to use it. So, I've got loads of cameras that I want to get rid of, but there's no money in it, because who wants a film camera? But, I can't just throw them away. Anyway, probably black and white, but then again, as colour technology came along about 20-years ago and we all started cross-processing films, you'd shoot a transparency but process it for a colour negative, and then I'd print off the colour neg into black and white and probably have a nice lith paper. I love all of that, but I haven't got the wherewithal to go and do a lith print now. When I started as a kid, I was a black and white printer and I've never printed colour in me life."

14. Are you happy to crop images or do you prefer to always print them full-frame?
"That's a good question. Years ago, because I was an assistant and had come from an advertising and commercial background, we used to shoot larger and then crop. Then, when I started working in the field that I always wanted to work in, with a 35mm frame, there's not a lot to crop really is there? Because we used to shoot on 10x8 transparency and 10x8 negative, but I'm not precious about printing the key-line and only sticking to that. I mean, if you're shooting for the page, it's got to fit the page and I always shoot for the page. That's why if you look at transparencies that I've shot in the past, they'll be a tremendous amount of background behind it and that's so designers can wobble it around. Shooting for the Melody Maker for 25-years, you knew you weren't shooting for a gallery wall, you were shooting for a weekly music paper where the image has got to be jockeying with a fucking 'Win Wham! Tickets' splash (laughing). Because there's so much other stuff to go on the front of the magazine, as opposed to this wonderful image that you might've created. So with cropping, you do and you don't - you cut the cloth accordingly. But, I'm not going into create a piece of art, I'm going into create some pictures that can be used. If I had to choose a favourite MSP front cover featuring one of my photographs, it would be the Melody Maker from January 1998 marking the third anniversary of Richey's disappearance."

15. Of all your MSP pictures, is there an image that you’ve found to be particularly popular amongst people?

"I think it would probably be the shirts, or the Catacombs or the Batalcan one. But that's only people reading into it more than they need to."

16. Are there any previously-unseen photographs in your book, which you really wish had been published by music publications at the time, so that they would have become more widely circulated / known rather than solely remaining on your contact sheets until now?
"No (without any hesitation) and it's funny, because although I've got a tremendously large archive as I left CBS Records in 1978, I never really syndicated a lot of stuff, always shunned exhibitions - never bothered about it - and a lot of photographers want to get their stuff out there, but I'm not arsed because it seems like hard work. Now I have the opportunity to bring them out in volumes, it seems ideal, but the pleasure for me is actually working you know? To meet the herberts - they're a bit anxious because they're hungover, you're a bit anxious because you've shot them three times before, whoever they might be and you've got to top what you've done previously. All the things that go into a day's work, I enjoy, but having them shot and loads of people seeing them, it's not really my endeavour. The endeavour is to try and nail something that day, that is representative of the artist."

17. When mentioning your book in an interview with Hot Press, Nicky declared, "When we grew up, photographers like Tom Sheehan and Pennie Smith were as important as bands... You‘re never going to get that interaction between bands and photographers anymore... The photo-book is pretty much a dead concept these days." Would you agree with this?
"Yeah, possibly, because it's all been taken-out of the hands of the artist and the photographer. It's that whole cleansing of music, the cleansing of photography and the cleansing of music photography. You know, I'm going to sound like an old geezer now, but even if a young band are out there giving it the big, old rock 'n' roll vibe - and I don't mean in a crass way, like drinking beer and swearing and spitting and all that. They're still going to be wearing designer clobber, they're not going to make it themselves and they're not going to have that 'do it from your bedroom' mentality. It doesn't exist anymore and that's probably because everyone's so fucking wealthy aren't they? I know that we've all got our mortgages to pay or whatever, but you know what I'm saying, I don't mean to say that we've all got lots of money. What I'm saying is, is that there isn't that kind of desperation anymore to 'make it.' And if they're going to 'make it,' they've got to go through this fucking huge great machine and it's extraordinary, that a band like the Manics did in fact sign to Sony."
*I remark that I think one of the main reasons for this, was because The Clash signed to this label*
"Yeah, that was the draw!"

18. Do you have a favourite Manics era / any favourite songs, albums, artwork and videos?
"Well, it would probably be You Love Us actually. I know that's perhaps an obvious thing to say, but it's simply because being there at the video shoot, photographing the single's sleeve and the fact that it's the actual title of the book, to me, that title makes me think that I kind of understood them - that I kind of understood their endeavour. And whilst doing that, you're only bringing your skills to the party, you're not bringing an opinion. You're just trying to amplify their thoughts and make them greater, with whatever I'm putting in photographically."
*I say to Tom that I remember once seeing the song, You Love Us, described by MSP as "A sarcastic valentine" to which he laughs heartily*

19. How would you sum up your time documenting the band – did you get to know them well / have lots of fond memories?
"Yeah, and the thing is, the great thing about meeting and photographing bands over-and-over again, is that you just pick-up where you left off. After one or two encounters, they know the cut of your jib and that you're not there to fucking be their mate or hang out with them or whatever. You're there to create some good work, or to try and create some good work. With most bands and certainly with the Manics, because of their background, they've got a good work ethic and I'm exactly the same. So, I think we kind of bonded a bit on that front as well and I also greatly admired how they vigorously fought to evolve. But ultimately, I would say that it's all down to trust."

20. Lastly, chips or cream buns?

"I'd probably go for chips actually, because they're so versatile aren't they (laughing)? I don't like cakes - I lost me sweet tooth a few years ago - so yeah, a chip butty would be amazing!"
*After our interview has finished, I then thank Tom for his time and wish him Good Luck with his photography and the release of ‘You Love Us. Manic Street Preachers In Photographs 1991-2001’*
"Thank you very much, that's very kind of you!"

A very special thanks to Tom and to Gillian @ Hall or Nothing, for all of their time and help. All photographs courtesy of and © Tom Sheehan, with permission kindly granted to R*E*P*E*A*T for use in this feature only - please do not copy or share. Tom Sheehan doorway portrait © Jamie Sheehan.

Pre order the book here (deluxe version) or here

"I always wanted to work in music, but I never wanted to be in a band...
I wanted to be the guy that took their picture."

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?