Dave Eringa
On Producing Manic Street Preachers
August 2010
Interview: Steve Bateman

Fans of MSP will no doubt recognise the name Dave Eringa – a record producer, engineer and mixer, who continues to have a fruitful creative relationship with the band, having now worked with them for 2 Decades! Part of his Biog states, “I started making the tea at Powerplant Studios in Willesden & Maison Rouge Studios after basically prostrating myself before Robin Millar, the amazing producer who owned the studios, & begging for the opportunity! 9 months later 4 skinny punks called the Manic Street Preachers on a little indie label walked in to make their debut single Motown Junk & my life was never quite the same again.” If you would like to read Dave’s complete Biog, view his CV (which also lists every Manics album and song that he has produced, engineered and mixed), as well as checking out his comprehensive Gear List and Best Of Lists, please visit his official website at www.daveeringa.com

Dave Eringa and James Dean Bradfield, Reading 1992
Pic Phil Rose Esq
Buy R*E*P*E*A*T's 4 postcard set here

Of his studio techniques, he told Miloco, “The production is always dictated by the song & what is needed to make it the best it can be, so often techniques differ significantly between songs on one album let alone between albums! I believe there are 2 schools of record production – there's the old school guys who have a sound all of their own and apply it to everything and tell the band how its going to be and then there's the 5th member school – the guy who tries to think like the band – knows all their reference points as well as they do and tries to make the sound that the band have in their heads come out onto record. I come from the second school – I don't want to dictate how it should be, I want to capture what's special about the band. I'm still old fashioned enough to believe there's a bit of magic when a great band play all together, and I want to get that feeling onto record by whatever means necessary!”

Dave also declared that Phil Spector, Rick Rubin, Steve Albini, Nigel Godrich, George Martin, Glyn Johns and Flood, are some of the producers he most admires and that he would have loved to have produced Sympathy For The Devil (along with a million other records). With the Manics’ new long player having again been produced by Dave, I contacted the man behind the mixing desk, to see if he would be interested in being interviewed exclusively for R*E*P*E*A*T, prior to the release of Postcards From A Young Man on September 20. An article in which he talks openly about his memories of producing some of the Manic Street Preachers’ finest music and most iconic albums and songs to date…

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.As Postcards From A Young Man is soon-to-be-released – which Nicky has called “A tribute to the album” – can you tell us a little bit about the making of it?
“Well, I mean they came to me very well prepared, I must say – they’ve bought their own studio in Cardiff now and they have an absolutely fantastic engineer called Loz Williams, who they work with all the time on the demoing process. So, they had a very clear idea after Journal For Plague Lovers, that that record was a clearing of the decks and that was the band that they could be with Richey’s lyrics. With Postcards From A Young Man, their phrase is, “One last shot at mass communication,” and they wanted to make a follow-up to Send Away The Tigers you know? James’ analogy which I love, is that “Send Away The Tigers was their Permanent Vacation and this is their Pump” (laughs heartily)! Which I think is a good point, just in the sense that Permanent Vacation was Aerosmith recovering from being completely on the ropes if you like, which I think is how they felt when we went in to do Send Away The Tigers. Then they had a ‘hit’ with that on their own terms kind of thing, and then there was the ‘NME Godlike Genius Award’ and stuff like that, so it feels like this time, they’re starting from a better place. Hopefully, this record is even more consistent than Send Away The Tigers.”

2.Has your method of working with the Manics changed from record to record, i.e. approaches to songcraft / analogue vs. digital recordings?

“Oh yeah, totally! It’s changed partly with (pausing), you know, I’ve worked on 9 of their 10 records, starting with keyboards on Generation Terrorists. Back in 1993, when we did Gold Against The Soul, technology was so different, it was all tape – everything was full tape – so if we did edits, it was on tape in the multi-track. I suppose you could argue that it was more old-school and more organic, but then as technology progressed, that enabled us to do things in different ways. I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily evolved positively or negatively, it’s just that we have followed technology to a certain extent you know? They love being able to do lots of takes, which with tape, you didn’t have so much of an ability to do. James likes to “chase things down” in his words, so we can work on something for quite a long time, because when you’re working in Pro Tools or something like that, everything’s much more immediate. So, they’re naturally attracted to that method of working now, rather than constantly rewinding and waiting for tapes to lock-up. I mean, it was a pleasure to go back to tape for Journal For Plague Lovers, obviously because Albini had said, “This is how I do it” and they were anxious to do that when they recorded with him. So, when we recorded the extra tracks and mixed it all, we were locked into the tape thing and it was such a pleasure to go back to it – and it does sound better (laughing)! I was sort of hoping that I’d press play on the tape and it would be like, “Oh, there’s no difference,” sort of thing. But, it wasn’t like that at all! I was like, “Oh God, that sounds great!” The facilities and the abilities that you have with digital, outweigh the perceived loss of magic if you like – there’s worth to it, so it’s alright kind of thing. But when you do go back to the old way, you think (excitedly), “Oh God, yeah!””

3.Of all the arrangements and sounds that you’ve helped bring to life over the years, which are you most proud of?
“Well, you know, you’re always going to be attracted in a positive way to the big ‘hit’. So Tolerate is always going to have a special place in my heart, or our hearts, because it was the first # 1. It was sonically adventurous, but also made in a very old-school way – that was actually the last one we did purely on tape. So even though it sounded really modern, you could have made exactly the same record in 1975 (laughing)! It didn’t feel modern to us at the time, because we recorded it as a b-side – it was Be Natural which that session was about – we thought we’d warm-up with this weird, jerky, little b-side and it just grew. From when James said he wanted a sound like a comet going through the sky and when we sort of hit upon that sound, that was when it was like, “Ooh, wait a minute, this is quite good isn’t it (laughing)?” So that one, I look back on very fondly and I always loved the mix of Australia. I look back very fondly on Know Your Enemy, but I suppose that was a lot to do with the fact that we recorded it in Spain (laughs heartily), that was very nice! And Your Love Alone… is such a great pop moment – the moment where the guitar solo hits and the strings just go up, I just love that and it always gives me a shiver! On the new record, the duet with Ian McCulloch, Some Kind Of Nothingness, is really, really special! Again, there’s a real shiver-down-the-spine moment when you come to the end of the middle 8, there’s this huge soar up to a big Gospel Choir.”

4.I read that you “love the idea of an album being a snapshot in the life of the band – really capturing where they are at that moment in time.” So, what are some of your favourite MSP guitar, bass and drum parts + vocal takes that you’ve ‘captured’ on tape?

“That’s incredibly hard (thinking)… For a favourite guitar part, there’s just so many and with a guitar player like James (pausing), that’s a tough one actually, I must admit (long pause + thinking)… From Despair To Where has some great guitar parts, I adore the guitar solo on Autumnsong – it’s absolutely fantastic! Um (thinking), there’s a bunch of great leads on the new record as well (pausing), God, that’s a toughie! There’s a few others, like the guitar at the end of Tolerate… The one that we worked on for the longest, was probably the verse guitar on The Masses Against The Classes (singing guitar part). We must have recorded that part about 50 times – James just kept saying, “Let’s go back and try it again.” Solo-wise, if you go back to Gold Against The Soul, some of the solos on that are really brilliant (laughing)! Bass parts, I mean probably everyone’s favourite bass part that Nicky has done is on Archives Of Pain – it wasn’t one of mine, but I do really, really love that! God, bass lines from Nick (thinking)… There’s one on the new record actually, on a song called Auto-Intoxication, where I think his bass is really, really great! And there’s great drumming across the whole of the new record, it’s extraordinary actually – there’s a real sort of controlled Keith Moon type thing, with a bit of Neil Peart thrown in as well. Sean sounds fantastic! So musically, I feel like they’re at the peak of their powers! As to what some of my favourite vocal takes are that I’ve ‘captured’ on tape, it’s really hard to narrow it down and it depends, like mental b-sides such as Sculpture Of Man, stuff like that, are just so fucking out there (laughing)! What about the b-side on the Heavenly version of You Love Us, Starlover, the middle 8 (singing), “Cult disciples of a still born Christ, I worship stone so lance my eyes…” It’s just such a mental lyric, I’m loving it you know (laughing)? Obviously, the vocal of Tolerate is pretty special, Design obviously, and on the new record, we worked really hard on the vocals, James was really, really, very particular and the vocals on the title track Postcards From A Young Man and Some Kind Of Nothingness, are really, really brilliant! I’m very excited about the new record, but that’s always the case isn’t it, when you’ve just finished it. I suppose you need to look again in a year, but right now, as a snapshot of this moment in time, a bunch of my favourite stuff is on the new record. But you need to work out in time whether that’s still the case, but it feels that way, it feels like they’ve done a corker!”
*Returning to James’ voice momentarily, I say to Dave that I once read that JDB will often pick the best bits from a few vocal takes, but I wondered how he takes care of his voice / if he does any special warm-up exercises*
“He’s always been such a natural singer. I work with lots of singers that do a lot of that and are very, very careful with their voice (pausing), James doesn’t drink on tour at all now! As you get older, it does get harder and harder and harder, but on the whole, no. He’s aware of his voice as an instrument, without a doubt, and he’s very aware of his ability, like if he’s at 98% or anything like that, if he has a cold, he’s very aware of what he can reach and what he can’t. He doesn’t do any specific warm-ups, we’ll go out and we try to match microphones to songs – it’s not like he just uses one particular mic all the time. They’ll be a couple of takes at the beginning where he’s not really going for it full-on, where we’re just sort of getting the vocal sound kind of thing. So, you could say those were his warm-ups and then he’ll get into it and give it a 100%. I suppose there’s that aspect of it, but no, he’s never been to a vocal trainer and gone (singing scales), “La, la, la, la, la, la, la…” It comes from a very soulful place indeed and he’s an intensely natural musician, singer and guitar player. It’s sickening to be honest with you (jokingly + laughing)!”

5.Sonically and structurally, have there been any songs that drastically changed or grew out of others, which could almost be thought of as companions?

“Well, a lot of the b-sides link songs by giving you a hint of where they’re going next. One that comes to mind the most after Gold Against The Soul, is Comfort Comes, which was clearly an indication of where The Holy Bible was going to go, do you know what I mean? I love the way their b-sides work like that. Then, I suppose something like Removables on Everything Must Go, you can tell that that was still vaguely coming from The Holy Bible style of writing. But have there been any songs that drastically changed a lot from the original concept (thinking)? I know Roses In The Hospital started out as a funk metal track (laughs heartily)! It had this weird little riff and that changed quite a lot, because James wanted a more Bowie, Sound And Vision type of feel to it… There are probably demo cassettes of the funk metal version in my loft! But I will say – more than virtually any other band I’ve worked with – that when they write, they know what they’re going for from the off. I remember James played me Everything Must Go on an acoustic guitar in his living room before they’d recorded it and he was like, “The drums will do this, the strings will do this…” It was just all there in his head – it was amazing! In general, there are sonic references for everything they do, they’ve got a very specific idea of how they want it to sound and of course, in the recording process, things can send you off on slight tangents. But they normally have a very, very clear idea – they know exactly what they want and with them, it’s the producer’s job to make that happen, as opposed to saying, “Let’s do this like this.” They’re very in-control of their own sound and they know exactly what they’re trying to achieve, so there aren’t that many songs that started out as a ballad and ended up as heavy metal (laughing)!”

6.Which track caused the most discussion and debate amongst you all?
“Ooh God, there’s a lot of them! The Masses Against The Classes we agonised over a lot. Some songs on Know Your Enemy, we just spent forever on – some that didn’t even make it to the record. Pedestal was one that we worked forever on (laughing) and then it didn’t even make the final cut. Some Kind Of Nothingness on the new record, there was a lot of toing-and-froing on that, but there hasn’t been too much fractious discussion and debate, because like I said, they have the vision and it’s not like I say, “How about if we do this or how about if we do that?” It’s about realising their vision. I guess one that took a long, long time, which is one that I only worked on in a very ephemeral way actually, was There By The Grace Of God. There was a huge amount of toing-and-froing on that. Mike Hedges produced it and then I did a mix of it with a big string section and they didn’t use that, they went with the more electronic one, but that track caused a lot of discussion. I love that song, but they’ve gone off it.”
*I say that the Manics often rubbish songs, only to eventually come back round to them*
“Yeah, regularly – at any moment in time, the songs in their back catalogue that they despise, will probably be the ones they choose to love next! But, that one has fairly consistently been one that they don’t like though (laughing). I think quite rightly, they feel that the single from Forever Delayed, should have been Forever Delayed.”

7.Has it always impressed you how James – along with additional help from Sean – has been able to take Nicky’s and Richey’s words and interpret them musically, while constantly striving to expand the group’s sonic palette and sound?
“Of course (without any hesitation)! It’s an incredible way of working, and I can’t think of any other band that I’ve ever known who have worked like that. So yeah, absolutely, without a doubt! The words always inform the music, like when James read the words for A Design For Life, he just knew that he had to do something special – he always says that that song just “dropped out of the sky in 20 minutes.” But yeah, as musicians, they are extraordinary and also as students of rock and pop music they are extraordinary, I’ve never known anyone with such an encyclopaedic knowledge! Even in sonic terms, all the technical side – although they’re not technically minded people in a specific engineering way – their knowledge often weighs a record down. It’s unbelievable!”

8.When producing, how important is the balance between unprocessed rawness and studio polish to you?

“Um, well, I mean that’s changed over the years. With this record for instance, we were very deliberately going for a radio-friendly sound, no doubt about it. But then back on say Know Your Enemy, we were very deliberately going for the very opposite of that you know (laughing)? It was all supposed to be super caustic and super confrontational sonically. But how important is it for me personally? I think the energy is the most important thing – capturing the energy of the performance and that’s by whatever means necessary. With a lot of young bands, that will mean setting them all up live and making a few sonic compromises, just to capture the sense that they’re playing together. With the Manics, that’s not necessarily the case, they tend to have that energy anyway – it’s more about their mood if you like. But yeah, for me personally, it’s nice to have a balance of both. You don’t want anything to sound half-arsed obviously, but at the same time, the vibe is everything on a record. I’d rather have a great performance with some imperfections, rather than an anodyne, boring performance.”

9.Mixing is also an extremely important part of making a long player, but for people who may not know how this works, could you give us a brief insight + how do you feel about other people mixing tracks that you have produced – as happened with SATT and PFAYM – can fresh ears sometimes be beneficial in bringing a new vibe to a song?

“Well, mixing is a spectacularly important part and if you mess that up, then you’ve messed the whole thing up! Sometimes I mix stuff and sometimes I don’t. As you mentioned, with Send Away The Tigers and Postcards From A Young Man, we were very lucky to have Chris Lord-Alge, who’s definitely one of the Top 5 rock mixers in the world! It’s an art form unto itself, especially mixing for radio. The thing is, radio is very, very compressed and getting across a sense of dynamics and a sense of things exploding, but still on the radio, is a true art form unto itself and Chris is a real master! We’ve been very lucky to get him involved on these last couple of records. But mixing is the process of realising the sonic landscape of the song, just finishing it off and making everything fit together in the right way and getting across the emotion and power, in the most concise way possible. Making sure that it’s not cloudy, that the vocal is front and centre… It’s an artistic technical job.”

10.Are there any Manics tracks that had lots of different mixes before a finished version was finally settled on?

“Tolerate we mixed 3 times, The Masses Against The Classes we mixed 3 times, There By The Grace Of God was mixed a bunch – those are ones that spring to mind. Others, like A Design For Life, which Ian Grimble and Mike Hedges mixed, that was apparently like a magic moment you know? They went in, pressed play and went, “Oh My God! This is absolutely amazing!” Those magic moments are special, if they’re there (laughs heartily) – when it’s all just right! Autumnsong was like that, when Chris sent it back we were like, “Jesus! Thanks!” (laughs heartily). I think we went back 3 times to Your Love Alone, just tweaks. But yeah, those are the ones that I can think of.”

11.Have you had many ‘happy accidents’ in the studio in terms of musical ideas / directions?

“Oh yeah, definitely and serendipity is a big part of the process. Sometimes the way two guitars will sit together, you’ll hear a harmonic poking out between them and you’ll hear a completely new melody that might be a lead part. There was definitely one like that on Roses In The Hospital, me and James both heard the same thing that wasn’t really there, but that then became the lead part of the bridge. But there’s lots of broken channels that make guitars sound really fucked up and you go, “Oh My God, that sounds brilliant – quick, get that (laughing)!” That’s a big part of the process, just happening across stuff, that’s why having a bit of extra time in the studio is such a good thing you know? You allow serendipity to occur if you like, just by sitting around sometimes (laughs heartily), sort of doing stuff that might seem like time-wasting, but then something comes from it. I can’t think of any specific examples, but generally, it will be a mixture of serendipity and intention. Like when James said about the comet sound on Tolerate, it was plugging up lots of stuff and just going, “Wow, what can we do that will make that happen?” and getting a bit lucky I guess.”

12.Which LP was the quickest to record and which one took the longest + what’s the simplest recording and the most complex multi-tracked recording the band has ever committed to tape?

“The quickest record to make, was probably Send Away The Tigers. I mean, they’ve never been a lightning-fast band (laughs heartily), you know, I’ve done albums with people in 11 days, so it can be very hard! They’ve always (pausing), I think they took nearly 6 months on Generation Terrorists, 10 weeks recording Gold Against The Soul (pausing), I think they did The Holy Bible in 6 weeks, so that might be the quickest? Everything Must Go was spread over a while with Mike in France, they took a while on This Is My Truth and Know Your Enemy was sprawling. Lifeblood they took a while on and with Send Away The Tigers, they did 2 weeks in a studio in Wales, a week-and-a-half I think with Greg Haver in Wales, and then we did 3 weeks in Ireland, so that’s sort of 6-and-a-half weeks isn’t it? Then with Postcards, we did it in 6 weeks, so the quickest are actually Postcards, Send Away The Tigers and The Holy Bible. The simplest song recording is probably Sculpture Of Man (laughing), that’s pretty bloody simple! But there are a few b-sides like that – you could say the acoustic version of Umbrella or something like that. There’s a song called Don’t Be Evil on the new record, that was literally a rehearsal – the take that you hear on the record, is the first time they ever played it, it was completely live and there was a vibe to it. Then James put a vocal on and there was a guitar solo and that’s it, that’s the song. So that’s up there, that’s pretty simple that one! The most complex multi-tracked recording, there’s a bunch of them (laughs heartily)! Some Kind Of Nothingness is a very big one – that’s a very big one! There By The Grace Of God, there’s an awful lot going on in that, Indian Summer had a lot of tracks I think. I mean, more so as time has gone on, just because technology I suppose has allowed us to be more sprawling in the way we’ve recorded. But certainly, I think Some Kind Of Nothingness is 100+ tracks! It’s got strings, a Gospel Choir, drums and electronic stuff going on on there, then there’s McCulloch’s vocals and James’ vocals, multi-track backing vocals and then all of the guitars and keyboards going on, it’s a big song!”

13.James’ guitar playing has often been described as, “The Heart of the Manics Sound.” But what’s the most amount of guitars that he has ever used on an album, and does he like to experiment with different amps, playing styles, chords, tones and tunings a lot?

“What’s the most amount of guitars that James has ever used on an album (laughs heartily for ages)? That would be telling! I don’t know? On a song, maybe 8 or 9? You might build one part out of 3 or 4 guitars and that might be an engineering or production decision, in terms of spreading it across the stereo. So just because there’s 8 or 9 guitars on a song, doesn’t necessarily mean that there are 8 or 9 guitar parts, and as time has gone on, I think he’s tried to be ‘less is more’. Definitely going into this record, we tried to use 2 when we might have used 3 before – make the sound bigger by taking up more space, to allow us to do that. James is a complete guitar player though, he uses all sorts of different styles; he does finger-picking and he’s had various odd tunings over the years. He will pick up a style and sit and practise it, because he’s still in love with the instrument! From the moment that he strapped it on (pausing), he was 15 before he picked up a guitar, but from the moment he strapped it on, Nick said it just fell onto him and he fell in love with it – and he still feels like that about it! He’s constantly evolving as a player and having new ideas, he listens to music all the time – everything – and you can tell what he’s been listening to by the ideas he comes up with. So yeah, absolutely, he’s experimenting all the time. I think he’s sort of semi-embarrassed by the amount of guitars that he owns, but he always says that he’s not an alcoholic, he’s never done any drugs, he’s happily married and you know, he’s a good boy in all respects, but that’s his one sort of addiction (laughing). But, he does use all of his guitars – I’m not sure whether that is borne of his guilt (laughs heartily) – but he’ll bond with a particular number of guitars for a certain time and like anybody, he gets excited by different things at different times.”

14.During the group’s career, have Sony had a lot of say in an LP’s tracklisting, sequencing, length and feel, or have yourself and the band usually been given free reign?
“Um, they know when to allow decisions to be (pausing), basically, they’re always in control – they are always in control! Sony have never dictated anything. At various points, they might have made a single choice that the band has acquiesced to if you know what I mean? Like, “Do you really think that’s the one? OK, fair enough” kind of thing, because they accept that they may be too close. But in general (pausing), I mean, as you would expect with any band that is successful, as time’s gone on, they’ve had more and more and more control, to the point where they now have complete control! They’re not the kind of band that will say, “Oh, that’s ‘The Man’, we won’t listen to him and what he says.” They’ve always had a very good, healthy relationship with Sony to be honest. Of course, people have had opinions and at the time, those opinions have been taken onboard, but I think certainly with album sequencing, I would say that’s always been done by the 3 or 4 of them – certainly not me.”

15.Is it difficult letting songs go, and how do you feel when you listen back to a record once it has been cut then mastered?
“It is hard letting songs go and like I’ve just said, we’ve been very lucky to have Chris Lord-Alge mix these last couple of records, but it’s still hard the first couple of listens, because obviously, somebody has done something slightly differently to how we would have done it. It can take a couple of listens before you realise it’s brilliant (laughs heartily)! When you first listen to it, it can be a bit shocking, you go, “Oh bloody hell, oh bloody hell, I thought that guitar was going to be on the left!” Silly little things you know? Sometimes, it can take a while (pausing), I think because we mixed certain songs quite a lot, you lose a sense of whether it’s right or not. I didn’t believe the mix of Tolerate was right until I heard it on the radio and I thought, “Yeah, that sounds good doesn’t it?” The cut is generally the point where a bunch of mixes becomes the record, then you take it away and listen very carefully. But certainly with these last few records, when the cut’s come in, we’ve gone, “Yeah, that sounds great!””
*I ask Dave about his thoughts on the ‘Loudness War’, which is to do with the loss of dynamic sounding records*
“That is an issue, I mean there’s no doubt about it – it’s not a positive thing. Mastering engineers that are forced to do that, will tell you the same thing. Have you looked at turnmeup.org? That’s the best website for that, there’s a swathe of articles on there that are absolutely terrifying and why it’s such a bad thing. Because once you’ve flat-lined to the point where records are now, where it’s just completely flat, your brain interprets that as white noise. It’s not a good thing. I mean, nobody listened to Nevermind and thought that was a quiet record – if you drag the waveform of that into and editor and compare that to a record mastered yesterday, it’s shocking how much quieter it is. It’s not really quiet, because you can just turn up the volume (laughing). But, the actual dynamics of it are just so much more exciting. There are mastering engineers who are really brilliant at getting the best out of what we have to do now, and Howie Weinberg who’s mastered the last 3 or 4 Manics records, I think is one of them. We get it as dynamic and as perfect as you possibly can, whilst having it at a commercial level. But, the ‘Loudness War’ is a shame, no doubt about it.”

16.Nicky has spoken of his desire to eventually release Know Your Enemy as was originally intended – 2 separate records, Solidarity and Door To The River – which he labelled as “a really vicious, political album, then a softer West Coast LP.” Do you think this would be a good idea?

“We were going to do that at the time, and I did think it was a really exciting idea at that time. I mean, Know Your Enemy was a time of transition for the band, I think they were reacting to this big success that they had – they felt that they may have lost touch with their indie credentials and roots. So they were sort of forcing themselves into production decisions, that maybe with retrospect, we would have now done differently, do you know what I mean? Maybe we should have waited for ‘the single’ to come along. I often ruefully think, “What if they’d released Send Away The Tigers after This Is My Truth? What would have happened?” Coming out with a single like that, coming off the # 1 with The Masses Against The Classes and everything. So, it’s difficult to say, because also around that time, The Strokes had just hit and all of a sudden, if you were a band pre-Strokes, you were basically old and boring. You could also argue that maybe it was just going to happen anyway, but I certainly think the decisions that were made at that time, maybe weren’t the right ones. Like 2 singles in a week did confuse people and some thought that was an arrogant thing to do, plus I’m not sure So Why So Sad was the right one either. It’s difficult to say – if there were like a swathe of extraordinary b-sides that should have been on the album, so we could have done it differently, then maybe I’d think that more. But I don’t know? We recorded 27 songs for that album (laughing), it was a very long period of time and it wasn’t their best period of songwriting I’d say.”

17.On a similar note, The Wire also recently said that lyrically, “There was a difficult period before A Design For Life of stuff that no one will ever see.” But recordings-wise, do you know if there are a lot of unreleased songs in the band's archives?
“No, there isn’t (without any hesitation)! I mean, when we did Judge Y’rself for the b-sides record (Lipstick Traces), that was the one big one that we did that was also the last thing Richey did, just before the week he went missing. So no, there really isn’t actually, not at all. Because over the years, they’ve been a big band and they’ve been through a series of times when you need so many songs! Back when they were doing Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth, you needed 3 b-sides per single and they were releasing 4 singles! Then you needed 3 further tracks for the other disc, because you were doing 2 CDs, both with 3 b-sides. They were typically doing 3 proper b-sides and then 3 remixes, but then you needed another track for the cassette as well. So, you’d need to write an entire album and then 16 b-sides for a campaign, so it’s not like there’s tons and tons of material where they’ve said, “We’ll leave that for later,” because they’ve needed all the songs! These days, there’s iTunes, Japanese extra tracks, live tracks, acoustic tracks… There’s just a requirement for a lot of songwriting. So I’m sad to report, there’s not a huge amount in the archives.”
*I remark that James has mentioned that if a track “isn’t working within 30 minutes, the group will usually discard it,” but I enquire as to whether or not there are any abandoned songs or unfinished leftovers that Dave feels would be worthy of being revisited / reworked*
“No, not really, we pretty much always push on through and get it to (pausing), they might downgrade it, like, “We thought this was an album track but it’s going to be a b-side.” But, we’ll pretty much always finish a song once we’ve started it.”
*I ask Dave of MSP’s b-sides, if there are any that he thinks should have been album tracks*
“Oh yeah (without any hesitation), loads! Prologue To History is the best one, that could have been a single, let alone an album track! I love Prologue To History, I think it’s absolutely brilliant! Socialist Serenade I think should have been on This Is My Truth, I really love that one as well! Had you put those 2 on This Is My Truth and taken off Born A Girl and I’m Not Working, it would have been perceived in quite a different way as a record I think. It would have been more upbeat and more up-and-down. But those 2 always spring to mind, although there are lots. Like a lot of Manics Fans love Donkeys and I do as well, but I don’t know where it would have sat on Gold Against The Soul. Mostly, I think they get it right, what should go on and what shouldn’t. For a while, I thought Fearless Punk Ballad should have been on Send Away The Tigers, but I listened to it just before we started Postcards and I realised that it was great at just 10 songs, do you know what I mean?”

18.Do you have a favourite opening and closing album track + a favourite song intro, middle-section and outro?
“Yeah, bookend songs are always really important! Let me think (saying some of the Manics’ opening tracks to himself)… I suppose Yes, that’s an extraordinary opening to an album (laughing)! I mean, Yes and PCP are pretty perfect bookends! I love Elvis Impersonator, but sometimes I prefer it live, I don’t know about you? I think The Everlasting is quite a hard way to start a record, that’s a challenging start, I think maybe they should have started with Tolerate – that would have been a good start with that sound. What did we start Know Your Enemy with? Ooh, Found That Soul, I love Found That Soul! What did we start Send Away The Tigers with? Oh, Send Away The Tigers, that’s a great opener! The first track on the new record is It’s Not War (pausing), what was the first track on Journal For Plague Lovers? Oh, Peeled Apples, I love Peeled Apples – I think that’s my favourite opening track! And what’s my favourite closing track (thinking)… On Generation Terrorists it was Condemned To Rock ‘N’ Roll wasn’t it, which is a mad statement (laughing)! Gold Against The Soul from Gold Against The Soul, is probably the weakest song on the record, so I wouldn’t choose that. PCP is obviously fantastic and I always loved South Yorkshire Mass Murderer, but I realise that I’m in the minority with that (laughing)! Oh, No Surface All Feeling of course, that’s the best closing track – it’s just a magic moment! My favourite song intros, middle-sections and outros are (pausing), sorry to be so boring with the answers, I’d like to be more obscurist for the sake of it, but honesty is the best policy! Intros: Faster and Tolerate. Middle-sections: Design, Autumnsong, Starlover and Some Kind Of Nothingness. Outros: Tolerate, Postcards From A Young Man and Some Kind Of Nothingness.”

19.What has been the most valuable lesson that you have learnt from producing, engineering and mixing?

“Fuck me, that’s a big question (laughs heartily)! From my entire career, ‘What’s the most valuable lesson that I’ve learnt?’ (laughs heartily again). Listen to the musician – it’s their record! Sometimes, I think producers can lose track of that, but just by realising what the musician wants, you won’t go far wrong.”

20.Have there been any particular studios you’ve enjoyed working in, or any equipment / people you have enjoyed working with?
“Rockfield’s very close to our heart. We did both # 1 singles there and I recorded virtually everything from the first 7 years of my career there. So that’s # 1 front and centre, and Grouse Lodge where we did Send Away The Tigers is just fantastic, it’s a wonderful place – wonderful swimming pool, wonderful Jacuzzi (laughs heartily)! We loved it there and the studio that they have in Cardiff, Faster, is fantastic! It’s one of those rooms that’s just flukey, it just sounds good – it wasn’t designed by anyone, but put a drum kit in there and it sounds right. We love Faster! Those are 3 that spring to mind, but there’s been many, like we had a wonderful time in El Cortijo in Spain doing Know Your Enemy, but that was Location, Location, Location (laughing).”

21.Of all the other artists / bands you have collaborated with, which records are you most pleased with and what’s next for you – is there anyone who you would still love to work with?

“Idlewild are obviously my other regular client if you like (laughing), and 100 Broken Windows and The Remote Part are very close to my heart. There’s a band called South who I did a record with called With The Tides, which I’ve always absolutely loved. There’s been a lot of great young bands in the last few years; The Xcerts record I was really pleased with. I did a Swedish band earlier this year called The Guilty Ones and I’m really pleased with that record, but there’s lots obviously. There are of course people who I’d love to work with, all of the obvious candidates really. But coming up, I’m doing a band called We Rock Like Girls Don’t, who are a girl two-piece and they do indeed rock like girls don’t! I’m also hoping to work with Future Of The Left possibly, but we’ll have to wait and see. So yeah, there are a few things coming up, a couple of albums in the pipeline.”
*I ask Dave if it’s now possible for young up-and-coming artists / bands who have a smaller budget, to get good sounding records due to the advancements in technology and home-recording equipment*
“Um, of course technology has put a lot of power into our hands in order to record things at home, but, if you look at the great artists over the years, like say Springsteen, he didn’t sell any records until his third album, because Columbia were happy to pay for him to work with great people over and over again. The Clash got to work with Bill Price, one of the greatest engineers of all time, but it wasn’t until London Calling that they started selling records. A lot of people love to demonise major labels, just the idea of spending proper money making records – but proper money, proper producers and proper studios, made all of the records that we love! It’s great that you can bash something out and that it can be vibey and cool, and it’s totally true, you can do that. But, I still love the idea of a team making a record in a great room together, do you know what I mean? I miss that and to a great extent, there’s a lot of making-do now, because technology allows us to make-do. Yes, of course technology’s a positive thing creatively in the long-run, but we are also leaving something behind.”

22.Can you remember your first impressions of meeting the Manics and why do you think you’ve maintained a long-lasting relationship – did you ever imagine that they would go on to achieve everything that they have?

“My first impressions were (laughing), “Who are these mental buggers!” I was kind of a metal head tea boy, probably wearing a mad KISS T-shirt and they walked in with their spray-painted T-shirts to do Motown Junk. So I don’t know, we just bonded over Guns N’ Roses to be honest (laughing)! I think they recognised another outsider, I was probably an outsider for a different reason – I was at a studio where there was lots of cool people and I clearly was not a cool person, and I think they quite liked that. I don’t know why, it’s really hard to say. We are friends obviously, and over the years, they’ve worked with lots of other people, but when they felt that they had something that my strengths were good for, they came back and recorded with me, and I’m very happy that they have done! I suppose it’s not for me to say if you know what I mean? I think it’s just that they know that I’ll respect and love their vision – I’m not going to try and say, “We should put a jungle beat on that.” I’m not going to force it into my shape – I’m going to try and make what they want! In their early days, I did sort of think that they would go on to achieve everything that they have, because I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime band, which they are, clearly! Roddy from Idlewild, always talks about bands that could be your favourite band, and that’s a key distinction! A band like the Manics can be your favourite band – they offer you a way to think, a way to look, books to read, everything! And they have incredible songs, right through to the music and the lyrics. Other bands, like bigger bands, they can’t necessarily be your favourite band. However, a band like REM can be your favourite band and in a very different way, a band like Oasis can be your favourite band, because they offer the whole package – obviously in a very different way to the Manics – but they do fulfil that criteria. You know, it’s hard to imagine Snow Patrol being your favourite band (laughing).”

23.MSP Fans, are unquestionably the most faithful in the world, and will forever be very precious about everything that the band releases. But how does it make you feel, knowing that you’ve had such a big hand in providing a soundtrack to people’s lives?

“Oh wonderful, of course! When people say that, it’s lovely! It’s hard to put it into words, because it’s right across the spectrum of (pausing), that’s why you want to do something like this. It makes all the 5 in the morning finishes worth it (laughing)!”

24.Some final quickfire MSP questions, do you have a treasured recording session, memory, gig, melody, hook and rhyming couplet?
“A favourite session is a toughie, because sometimes the most difficult sessions, were the ones that the best things came out of. I guess recording Send Away The Tigers in Ireland – the session in Grouse Lodge – was very comfortable (laughing) and great stuff came out of it, so that’s one! The one in Spain for Know Your Enemy was just a great time – it was a great time! When we did The Masses Against The Classes, that was a very difficult time in James’ life, but some great things came out of it, but it wasn’t like a jumpy-up-and-downy happy session. Like The Holy Bible, that wasn’t the happiest time in their lives, but of course, some great art came from it. So how much of a good time you had at the time, doesn’t necessarily correlate with how much greatness came out. A favourite memory would be them phoning me on Sunday morning in 1998, saying that Tolerate was # 1 – it was just complete elation and vindication you know? It was the culmination of a 10-year journey for them and just seeing them as my mates going from a transit van to that, it was a great feeling – a great feeling (laughing)! I also felt that way as well at their first arena gig, which was at the Nynex, and again when I turned up for the soundcheck at the Millennium Stadium, walking out and just thinking, “It’s so huge! Fuck me!” You know, all these things and they happen to be my mates. A favourite gig, would be the Astoria gigs with Richey – they were just extraordinary!”
*I say that there’s a bootleg video available with a couple of the shows on it*
“I haven’t seen the bootleg video, but at the time, it was just so intense, it was unbelievable! But also, I have to say the Saturday Roundhouse show last year, when they played the whole of Journal and then the Greatest Hits set, I walked away from that Roundhouse show just thinking, “How much better can a rock show be?” That really was up there, it was a great show for me! A favourite melody, fuck me, probably Design. A favourite hook, ooh (thinking), I suppose it’s Motorcycle isn’t it? And a favourite rhyming couplet, oh God (laughing)… Lyrically, “Wills and Harry dressed in drag, standing over the sodomised body of their mother, would make a beautiful poster in Athena,” only for its madness (laughs heartily)! I mean, that is just so mental it’s brilliant! Again, Starlover "Leper cult disciples of a still born Christ” (laughs heartily)! I mean, there are so many on The Holy Bible, like on the end mellow section of 4st 7lb, “I’ve finally come to understand life, through staring blankly at my navel.” That was always in my head for a very long time. But a rhyming couplet, that’s a particular thing isn’t it? I mean, “Libraries gave us power, then work came and made us free” is pretty remarkable, but it’s not a rhyming couplet. I’m trying to think, but there aren’t many big rhymers that I can think of.”
*Dave asks me if I have any favourite lyrics / rhyming couplets, but I say there are so many that I wouldn’t know where to begin*
“Yeah, I suppose you like lyrics for lots of different reasons as well, like, “He's a boy, you want a girl so tear off his cock, tie his hair in bunches, fuck him, call him Rita if you want” (laughing). What other band could write that? But like you say, too numerous to mention – it’s hard to pick a favourite lyric.”

25.Lastly, chips or cream buns?
*I mention that all of the Manics went for chips as well*
“Oh yeah, we love our chips (laughs heartily)!”
*After our interview has finished, I thank Dave for his time and wish both him and MSP Good Luck with the release of Postcards From A Young Man*
“Thank You very much and let’s just hope it does well – I do think it’s a great record!”

A very special thanks to Dave for all of his time and help.

Postscript – March 2016

With Everything Must Go celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year, I recently remembered the longstanding rumour as to whether or not Richey played some of the guitar parts on the album's closing track, No Surface All Feeling. As this has never been officially clarified to my knowledge and is still debated amongst MSP's dedicated fanbase, I e-mailed Dave Eringa
(https://twitter.com/DaveEringa) to ask if he would mind confirming and he very kindly sent me this reply...

Hey Steve!

Happy to sort this out for you – no, Richey didn't play on No Surface, La Tristesse was his only recorded performance!

Having said that, No Surface was the last thing we recorded before he went (literally the day before actually!) & we did use that version for EMG, only adding the coda at the end!

Hope that helps,
speak soon,


Second Postcript, December 2018

Dave Eringa on the coda for No Surface All Feeling...

What is the swirling, white noise type of sound in the background?
"The swirling sound at the end of No Surface is simply a very deep flanger on the whole drum kit. We recorded that coda a year later on the sessions for the b-sides of Design For Life (I think) & we were in a different studio with a different drum kit, so of course sonically it didn't match at all & my solution to that was just to put all the drums in one speaker & flange them to hell to make it sound fucked up & (hopefully) cool & to mask the edit!"




“I never wanted to be anything but a record producer,
It’s the best job in the world!”

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?