Greg Haver
On Producing Manic Street Preachers
August 2010
Questionnaire: Steve Bateman

Along with Dave Eringa and Mike Hedges, Greg Haver is yet another extremely important piece of the Manics’ history, with part of his Biog stating, “Continuing his long standing relationship with the Manic Street Preachers, Greg produced their album Lifeblood including the number 2 singles The Love Of Richard Nixon and Empty Souls. He also worked on earlier top ten records for the band including There By The Grace Of God and You Stole The Sun From My Heart. He produced songs from the Know Your Enemy album and toured with them as a percussionist on their 2002/3 Greatest Hits Tour. He has recently produced tracks for the Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield solo albums… and produced music for several plays by poet Patrick Jones with James Dean Bradfield, along with Patrick's album Commemoration And Amnesia.”

If you would like to read Greg’s complete Biog and view his Discography (which also lists every Manics album and song that he has produced, engineered and mixed), please visit his management’s website at

As to the way in which he approaches recording and producing, in a 2005 interview with Resolution Magazine, Greg admitted, “I like to have a record sounding good from the start… I think it’s important for the artist to hear the record coming together, rather than the classic, ‘It’ll be fine when we mix it’. And I like to hear that, it gives me ideas when I start hearing things sitting together. I’ve lost the fear, if something’s not right, just do it again. I work really quickly, so I found that was my other way of compensating. If I work quick enough, and I just go with what I feel, then if it’s wrong we can go and change it.” Starting a special set of R*E*P*E*A*T Features that will interlink / focus on key producers who have collaborated with MSP over the years, and which aim to uncover the inner-workings of the group’s record-making process. For Part 1, Greg has very generously taken time out to complete a Q&A about his involvement and influence, on some of the Manic Street Preachers’ greatest musical moments in their rich and diverse songbook…

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.To begin with, when and how did you first come to work with the Manics?
“My first Manics working experience (although I had met them first in 1992, when they used to rehearse next to my demo studio in Cardiff) was to play percussion on a few b-sides Alex Silva was producing in about 1995, one of them being “Dead Trees And Traffic Islands”. As far as recording, I did some demos for “South Yorkshire Mass Murderer”, “You’re Tender And You’re Tired” and “Montana”, which led onto me engineering some parts of “You Stole The Sun…” and “I’m Not Working” from TIMTTMY.”

2.Of all the arrangements and sounds that you’ve helped bring to life over the years, which are you most proud of?
“Probably “Empty Souls”, still sounds dreamy to me.”

3.What are some of your favourite MSP guitar, bass and drum parts + vocal takes that you’ve ‘captured’ on tape?

Guitar – “Rendition”

Bass – “A Song For Departure”

Drums – “Heyday Of The Blood” (Classic Mooro one take!)

Vocals – “Indian Summer”

4.In relation to vocal takes, I recently interviewed Wayne Murray and we were talking about how when Radiohead were recording OK Computer, Thom Yorke wanted a different vocal approach and a different vocal sound for every track on the album. Is this the same for James when he records his vocals?
“I have recorded vocals in lots of ways with James, often with a fairly conventional mic and headphone set-up, but on “Lifeblood” we did all vocals and backing vocals with James in the control room with a Shure SM58, which is a standard live mic. He liked to sit on the couch at the back of the room.”

5.Which producers do you most admire, and are there any records that you just love the overall atmosphere / sound of?
“There is a pretty long list, but to name a few, Rich Costey, Eno, Visconti and Fripp – always loved Trevor Horn as he made me realise how far the producer could colour a record. I have recently become very attached to the sound of the Laura Marling albums and I always love a good Sigur Rós record for atmosphere. I really love the atmosphere on Emmylou Harris’ “Wrecking Ball Album”. I am also partial to anything by Interpol and Mogwai – Bowie will always be a massive influence too.”

6.Do you have a typical working day in the studio / is there a set order in which you record and lay down individual parts, and what does programming entail?
“There is never a typical day. Programming usually involves hours of staring at computer screens trying to get synths to work!”

7.Are there any songs that went beyond your collective expectations?
““The Love Of Richard Nixon” was meant to be a b-side and ended up being lead single.”

8.Which track caused the most discussion and debate amongst you all?

“Probably “1985”, they still never let me forget what a mess I made of it when we were tracking in Ireland.”

9.Has it always impressed you how James – along with additional help from Sean – has been able to take Nicky’s words and interpret them musically, while constantly striving to expand the group’s sonic palette and sound?
“They do work in a way I have not seen from other artists. I always loved Nick’s cards, with the lyrics and press-cuttings on, that he would give James, they were real works of art.”

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

“It is totally down to the song, the beauty and curse of making records is that there is no right or wrong way, it is down to personal taste if the listener likes it or not, it is one big grey area.”

11.Engineering is also an extremely important part of making a long player, but for people who may not know how this works, as well as sound balancing, could you give us a brief insight?
“Well, I try to stay away from engineering as much as possible these days as producing excites me more. Although I do try to keep my hand in on the mixing desk as it is a useful skill to have.”

12.Have you had many ‘happy accidents’ in the studio in terms of musical ideas / directions?
“Lots of the keyboard sounds that were in fact guitars on “Lifeblood”. I started doing multiple guitar pedal chains, which I now use a lot in the studio on other records.”

13.What’s the simplest recording and the most complex multi-tracked recording the band has ever committed to tape + have you ever added lots of embellishments to a song, only to eventually strip it back-to-basics so that it resembles the original demo much more closely?

Simplest song recording – There have been a lot of very simple b-sides with just James on acoustic, maybe “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel”?

Most complex song recording – “1985”

Back-to-basics (demo-like) recording – “Firefight”

14.What are some of the most unusual instruments on a Manics record that you’ve worked on?
“There is nothing too out there on most of my recordings, but we have used a Suzuki Omnichord on a lot of songs.”

15.And what’s the most unusual way that you’ve approached making a song?
“For me, the most unusual approaches were on the solo albums, when Nick and James were outside of the band unit and were forced to look at different ways of working.”

16.Compared to previous LPs, Lifeblood was less about instinct and much more about pursuing different approaches to songwriting and songcraft. But looking back on this era now, what are your memories of how the band coped at the time + do you think some music critics and fans overlook just how accomplished and brave that album actually is?

“Well, it was a departure and it really divides people, not least the band. I am very proud of it, but it was not a commercial success and that does colour how the record is seen by everyone involved. I get emails on a regular basis from people who love the record and it has secured me a lot of work over the years. It was a difficult time for the band, but seeing them find their feet again with SATT and to be involved with that record was pleasing. I really feel the solo albums had a lot to do with the success of SATT, as it certainly gave Nick and James an added desire to make a great MSP album.”

17.What was it like working with James and Nicky as individual solo artists – was there less pressure involved as these records were almost intended as low-key releases?
“They were great fun. Nick’s album just started as a 3 day, 2 song session and I think we ended up doing 25 songs over a year. It was just mainly myself, Nick and Loz Willams and we would be home at 6pm, so they were lovely days. Apart from “To See A Friend In Tears” which I produced, my role on James’ album was to play drums – I think “That’s No Way To Tell A Lie” is my best drumming on record to date.”

18.Of MSP’s b-sides, are there any that you think should have been album tracks, or perhaps any album tracks that you think of as great lost singles?

“It has to be “Prologue To History”. I always loved “Dead Trees…” as well.”

19.Are there any Manics’ records / songs that you would have liked to have had the opportunity to work on – and also, given the chance, are there any tracks of yours that you would now like to modify?

“I love the new Postcards album, but probably EMG. I would always leave old songs alone, for the reason that you would always change something, but not always for the better. I would always love to do more, but I am proud to have been part of the story and made some good friends along the way.”

20.What has been the most valuable lesson that you have learnt from producing, engineering and mixing?
“Have a finished sonic vision for the song before you start, which I learnt from James.”

21.I know that you never approach sessions in the same way – changing personnel, location and techniques – but have there been any particular studios you’ve enjoyed working in, or any equipment / people you have enjoyed working with?

“I love York St and Neil Finns Roundhead studios in Auckland, Modern World in Tetbury is my second home these days, and I have had some great times at Faster/Stir/Famous (all the same place) in Cardiff. Big Noise, my old studio was a special place too.”

22.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?

“I am very proud of a lot of the work I have done in New Zealand, Opshop, The Earlybirds, so many good bands. The Irish band Codes is a great record, I am on album number five with The Afternoons which is always a pleasure, but I am very happy with lots of things! My next session is collaboration with the band Over The Atlantic and Ladyhawke. My love would be to make a Sigur Rós or Mogwai record.”

23.Which albums and songs do you think will define the Manic Street Preachers’ legacy + what are some of your personal favourites?
“I personally love EMG. “Design…” will always be their anthem, but it is their body of work that will be the legacy and set them apart as a truly great band.”

24.Some final quickfire MSP questions, do you have a treasured recording session, memory, gig, melody, chorus and lyric?

Session – SATT sessions summer 2006

Memory – The whole of the Greatest Hits Tour

Gig – Glasgow 2002

Melody – “Little Baby Nothing”

Chorus – “Autumnsong”

Lyric – Too many good ones! At a push, “Tolerate…”

25.Lastly, chips or cream buns?

“Chips with lots of S&V.”

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

“My thinking is, let’s not put so much on things
and make everything count a bit more.”

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?