Elizabeth Marcus & Kurt Engfehr
In 1991, a band from South Wales with the unlikely name of Manic Street Preachers came on to the British music scene proclaiming their ambition to make one album, sell 16 million copies of it, and then split up. 18 years, nine albums, one missing member, and many controversies later, they are still here. In No Manifesto, this colourful and contentious band faces off with their equally colourful and contentious fans in a verité multimedia mash-up experiment that will turn the traditional rock n roll documentary upside-down and shake it until all the change falls out of its pockets.
For the making of No Manifesto, the Manics provided unprecedented access. For the first time ever, they allowed cameras into the studio while they were at work, creating their 2007 album Send Away The Tigers. The film will take a fascinating look at the bands creative process, showing their working dynamic and illustrating how a song evolves from lyric to demo to final mix. Also included are interviews given exclusively for this project and candid scenes of the day-to-day lives of the band members both at and away from work. Featuring footage shot at rehearsals, recording sessions, performances, band members homes and a variety of other locations combined with archival materials, plus interviews in which fans provide commentary, lore, criticism and praise, No Manifesto smashes the rock-cliché candy shell to get to the creamy human centre of one of Britains most confounding bands. OFFICIAL NO MANIFESTO SYNOPSIS
Fully conscious of this well-versed and devouring fan culture, the New York-based Elizabeth and Kurt went straight to the source as early as 2002, by posting messages on related Internet Forums and actively seeking disciples who would be interested in getting involved with the No Manifesto project in its development stages. As the initial phase of the project, interviews began on the Forever Delayed Tour that same year and continued right through until 2007, when filming finally wrapped. In total, Elizabeth and Kurt spoke to over 75 fans, conducting on-camera interviews with every fan who they could either travel to, or who could travel to them shooting in Holland, Germany and America as well as in the UK. In February 2007, they also posted the following message on Internet Forums, We are looking for questions to ask the band during a series of special fan-question-based interviews and encourage you to e-mail WibblyWobblyProductions@yahoo.com any questions that you would like to ask band members individually, as well as ones that you would like to ask the band as a whole. Feel free to be as concise or as wordy as you like, and ask as many questions as you want. We are looking for the widest possible variety of kinds of questions, from the serious to the frivolous. Fans were also asked to submit original photographs and cover versions from all eras of the groups career, for possible inclusion in the final cut of the film.
Elizabeth and Kurt have continually stressed, The creativity of the Manics audience will be a crucial part of No Manifesto. This is not going to be the typical Manics documentary with the same set of journalists, music industry people and Manics insiders saying the same things as they have in just about every Manics programme that has ever been made. The fans are to be an integral part of this project. The purpose of this film will be to illustrate the history and future of the Manics, and the colour and vitality of their fan community from a different perspective than has been offered by just about all of the band's past media coverage.
Continuing, With a contentious fanbase and a music press that have historically displayed towards them a bizarre combination of reverence, contempt, admiration and hostility, their fundamental message of encouraging independent thought and ideas has often been ignored in favour of a more literal interpretation of their name. In their early days, the band gained notoriety more for their aggressive self-promotion tactics than for their music. They were vocal in expressing their ambitions, and outspoken about their political beliefs. A perception was created that has remained to this day; that this was a band that intended not so much to entertain as to educate their followers. Upon examination of their history, however, it becomes quite evident that, despite that perception, Manic Street Preachers have never espoused a hard-and-fast set of beliefs. They have pursued whatever interested them at the time, and have shared those interests with their fans through their music and their interviews. Although many would insist that they have taken stances and then betrayed them, the Manics through their history have never told anyone what to think or how to think, only to think, full stop. When the Manics took a quote by Aneurin Bevan to title one of their albums, it wasn't simply a snappy line, but rather a statement of their attitude towards living and learning: This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.
Often almost forgotten amongst all these other issues is the music itself. In many ways, the Manics have never really been taken seriously as musicians, but they are indeed very dedicated to the music itself. They started out with a reputation for being the band that couldn't play, but with unwavering effort they have developed their musical talents and expanded their scope. Their catalogue presents a band that is musically fearless, unafraid to try different styles, unwilling to tailor their sound to what the fans, the press, the record company, or indeed anyone but themselves wants or expects from them. In the words of Sean Moore, We get bored easily and we're always trying to take things to the limit of our abilities. We don't get it right all the time, but at least we're there, pushing our frontiers. We intend with this film to present a well-rounded picture of a controversial band that through all its ups and downs, its negative and positive views and experiences, its successes and its failures, has continued to grow and change, to inspire discussion, debate, admiration and derision, to fulfil that stated ambition to make people think and become aware, and above everything, to make memorable and meaningful music.
As the years have passed, a privileged few have been lucky enough to view the film in embryonic form, firstly during work-in-progress test-screenings at the Cardiff Screen Festival in November 2006, and then at the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival in November 2008. But outside of this and away from Internet Forums / Blogs, very little is still known about No Manifesto. So, anxious to find out more, I contacted Elizabeth and Kurt, who then graciously agreed to answer an Exclusive Q&A about the film (also coinciding with MSPs first North American Tour in 10 years) and their continued commitment to capturing the Manic Street Preachers on celluloid. A documentary that is certain to encapsulate the groups dignified and humane songs, their intellectualism, their melancholia, their iconoclasm, their manifestos, their iconography and their mythology, not to mention their many re-inventions, self-contradictions, sound-bites and sincerity, highlighting just how much they have always believed in what they do. And for newcomers, it will unquestionably open up a portal to a whole new world of art, bands, books, films, political figures (how many other groups can lay claim to having dedicated an award to Arthur Scargill?), history the list is endless! Something that James astutely likened to the Manics own experiences growing up as consumers of culture and being affected by musicians as, A philanthropic chain letter. In fact, the four friends were a driven and focused band before theyd even picked up guitars, albeit a bedroom one to begin with.
In conclusion, Nicky once said, Every generation has a defining moment we are yours. A bold and confident statement for sure, but one which when enforced with the groups records, a compendium such as Everything by Simon Price and No Manifesto, could well turn out to resonate with future generations alike. Particularly given the fact that the Manics have that vampiric desire, where new blood remains so vital to their very existence! And hopefully, this documentary will also help the band inspire a wealth of new groups, which is something that they still feel they are yet to achieve. As one journalist put it, Manic Street Preachers stand for something that stands alone, with Nickys own take being, All you can do is leave clues throughout history towards something better towards progress.
Rendered in microscopic detail, it goes without saying, that No Manifesto is set to paint an intimate and unique portrait of a very unique band
1. When did you first discover the Manic Street Preachers and what
was it that drew you to the band and their music?
Kurts Favourite Manics things
First impression of Sean He understands and respects what were trying to do.
First impression of James Hes anxious but willing.
Sean as an interviewee Surprisingly gregarious.
James as an interviewee Hes anxious but willing.
15. Were you pleased with the reaction to the recent Sheffield
Documentary Film Festival No Manifesto work-in-progress test-screening,
and was the Director Q&A session that followed afterwards, beneficial
Nicky remarks with a bit of a wistful smile that he doesnt know why Richey described him as the nicest mind destroyer on an old birthday card.
James discusses the songwriting process.
Sean explains why he believes that music can change lives.
Nicky describes a hamburger from Wimpys as fuckin delicious.
Three girls on the street in Cardiff, and only one of them likes the Manics.
Dave Eringa likes powerchords! Oh YEAH!!!!
Sean tells the history of the Manics in seven seconds.
Nickys only ambition was to be brilliant at something.
A fan explains that A Design For Life came about because Nicky wrote some lyrics that James thought were a bit good.
James prepares himself to record a vocal for Imperial Bodybags by singing a bit of scat and drumming on his leg.
A very special thanks to Elizabeth and Kurt, for all of their time and help MSP Fans and R*E*P*E*A*T wish you great success with No Manifesto and cant wait to see it! Stay Beautiful.
- Mao Tse-Tung