Steve Brown
On Producing Manic Street Preachers – Generation Terrorists
October 2010, updated January 2018
Interview: Steve Bateman

Post script: 3rd January 2021
following the very sad news of Steve's untimely death.
Steve Brown Remembered...

I have so many fond memories of interviewing Steve Brown for R*E*P*E*A*T; he was a really lovely guy and very generous with his time.

Due to his busy work schedule, it took a little while until we could actually arrange the interview and so I was extremely appreciative when this did finally happen. I telephoned at the exact time we had arranged and when he answered, he joked and laughed: "Well, you're punctual!"

Whenever people may read our interview, I hope that they can tell how friendly and warm he was, as well as just how passionate he was about working with the Manics and producing Generation Terrorists.

He was very proud of this album, and rightly so!

Steve also knew what a special band MSP were and believed that they would go onto achieve greatness.

Steve very kindly allowed me to call him back with some follow-up questions about GT and was very complimentary about the final published article, so that was a really great feeling! He even went through his archives to find a photograph taken of him during the record's sessions, so that along with the text, the editorial would hopefully give readers an accurate feel of this important era.

Unbelievably, at that time, Steve had never really spoken about making Generation Terrorists or working with MSP in any great detail. So, I will forever be very grateful for the fantastic interview that he gave to me! I was amazed at just how much he could remember and the detail in his answers.

I shall continue to remember Steve each and every time that I play Generation Terrorists and hear classics such as Motorcycle Emptiness.

My thoughts are with his family.

Steve Bateman, 3.1.2021


Recorded between August - December 1991, at Black Barn Studios in Surrey and released in February 1992, Generation Terrorists was the Manic Street Preachers’ highly-anticipated debut long player for Columbia, and as a declaration of intent, a 73-minute double album at that no less! Which after all the plotting, hyperbole, headline-grabbing antics, eye-catching androgynous image, vainglorious posturing, corrosive feral attitude and a love / hate relationship with the media – where outspoken interviews were as vital to the group as the messages in their songs – was James, Nicky, Richey and Sean’s chance to finally prove to the world, as well as to themselves, that they could walk it like they talked it! Marrying sex and politics with the white-hot, anti-establishment, ticking time-bomb irascibility of The Clash, Guns N’ Roses and Public Enemy. This exciting and youthful sounding 18 track record (with each song being carefully assigned a unique and relevant literary sleeve quote), charted at No. 13 on the UK Albums Chart and initially sold 250,000 copies worldwide, siring 6 UK Top 40 hit singles – Stay Beautiful, Love’s Sweet Exile/Repeat, You Love Us, Slash N’ Burn, Motorcycle Emptiness, Little Baby Nothing – and remains a firm fan favourite to this day, particularly in Japan. Which along with JDB’s ear for a tune, hummable melodies, unforgettable hooks, spotless / high production values, a radio-friendly sheen and seriously intelligent lyrics informed by culture and identity, is now considered as something of a touchstone punk, glam, metal and rock ‘n’ roll magnum opus amongst many respected music writers. Recently being named as one of Classic Rock Magazine’s ‘150 Greatest Debut Albums’ – and coincidentally, as I was completing my introduction today (November 3, 2010) – NME’s ‘Greatest Debut Album’ from 1992, with the music weekly proclaiming, “As angry as it was bright, the Manics blowtorched their manifesto in pulverising punk guitar squeals.”

On the periphery, out-of-step with prevailing trends, driven by their nominal leader / ‘Minister Of Propaganda’ Richey and wanting to be the perfect band, whilst drawing attention to their ‘Useless Generation’, the group made the LP under the watchful eye of seasoned producer Steve Brown, who sat in the control room hot-seat. With stories of the album’s recording, ranging from fastidious studio perfectionism causing sessions to overrun deadlines and go massively over budget (by £250,000 according to a 'Seven Days In The Life Of Richey James' diary entry, with both recording and mixing tallying up to a total of 22 weeks) – yet with the record label showing continued faith in their latest acquisition to come up with the goods. To mythological tales of Richey not even playing a single note, instead whiling away the hours by drinking vodka and decorating the studio walls with colourful pop culture collages, writing lyrics, reading books / newspapers, watching TV / films, playing SEGA video games, riding around London in a limousine, shopping, going to Soho strip-joints and using the band’s credit card, before then coming back covered in love bites to ask how everything was going. All of which, only adds to GT’s storied history! MSP Fans will most likely know every other fact there is to know, from the record’s working title of Culture, Alienation, Boredom And Despair, to abandoned artwork ideas, to how the sleeve should really have been mustard coloured (like the promo 5 track CD Sampler) - pink was an error by the printers! But if you would like to find out more about Steve and his career, please visit his official website at

With the Manics having just put out their 10th studio album, Postcards From A Young Man, and with the confluence of anger, injustice, love, passion, emotion, ideals, equality, competitiveness, disenchantment, poetry, philosophy, knowledge and truth, still acting as the “fabric of their creativity.” I thought it would be interesting to flashback to where it all began, by taking an in-depth look at the genesis of Generation Terrorists, speaking to Steve about the mechanics of the Manic Street Preachers’ 1st long player, finding out what the group were like to be around in the studio at that time and retracing just what went into the creation of this cult classic. A labour of love that was delivered with intense feeling and was to signal the start of something very special indeed, from four Welsh friends who were determined to fire-up people’s minds and who had so much to give, prove and say…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1.Firstly, are you pleased that Generation Terrorists has just been listed as one of Classic Rock Magazine’s ‘150 Greatest Debut Albums’?
“Well, you’ve told me something that I didn’t know, because I didn’t know that it had been listed as one of Classic Rock Magazine’s ‘150 Greatest Debut Albums’. But in answer to your question, I’m very pleased with myself, but even more pleased for the band, because as we’re just about to find out, we had quite a bumpy start, but we stuck with each other during that first period and now we’ve got this great result in Classic Rock Magazine. It’s little things like that (pausing), it’s not so much sales, because it’s record companies who demand sales, this is more to do with what voters think and it means much more to me than actual Platinum Discs and all the rest of it. It’s nice to know that kids are out there listening to it and appreciating it!”

2.What are some of your fondest memories of recording GT – can you remember the first day and the last day of making the record?
“I remember our first meeting, which I think was in Hull. They were playing live and I’d flown in from America – I was in Miami – and Columbia rang me up and I flew into Heathrow, hired a car and drove up to Hull, watched half-an-hour of complete mayhem, then had a few quick words with them. They said, “We want to be the biggest rock band in the world and we’re only releasing 1 album. So, it’s up to you.” I got straight back in the car, drove down to Heathrow and flew back to Miami (laughing)! I thought, “NO WAY! ABSOLUTELY NO WAY (laughing again)!” Too much pressure you know? But, the boys were very nice as people, and so I decided to go through the motions with them and say, “Right, well if you want to be the greatest rock band in the world, then we’ve got to play the game and we have to get records on the radio. So first of all, we’ve got to stop some of this controversy and it would be nice if you sent me a single without fuck in the title.” So, we had that conversation and James said, “Yeah, ok, I’ll send you another song” and they sent me Stay Beautiful! Then the next time we met, we recorded it at the Manor and James’ vocals right in the middle of the chorus are, “Why don’t you just…” with the guitar riff in there. But originally, it was “fuck off.” They sung that when they played it live, but when we came to mix it, the record company were just about to turn up, so I took the “fuck off” out, and so we had the complete production without the “fuck off” right in the middle of the chorus (laughing). I’d already sort of engineered the guitar line to get more accent there, and so I think Rob Stringer came into the Manor control room, listened to it and went, “Great, yeah, that’s fantastic!” So that was the story behind our meeting – I think they were testing me and I was testing them. They very kindly came to me because of the work on The Cult album, Love, which they particularly liked and so it was a respectful relationship in the end, because I was listening to material that I’d never heard before, it wasn’t just a ‘hair band’ singing about some girl’s big tits next door. This was serious stuff! You don’t see much of these people everyday, but I think if we sat down and looked at each other, a respect grew between us and that went on to produce 6 hit singles off an 18 track album. So as I say, I think the respect really came on and my memories of recording Generation Terrorists are only fond ones. I can’t remember the exact last day, but one day towards the end, Sony pulled us into their big studio complex (Hit Factory) which had 3 floors of studios and I took my engineer Owen Davies – he was on the top floor mixing (pausing), I can’t remember which track it was, I think it was Slash N’ Burn. But, I was on the middle floor doing a vocal overdub with Traci Lords on Little Baby Nothing, and I was then running out and downstairs to Studio 1, where the band were recording Damn Dog live. So I was sort of supervising 3 floors of studios and that was because it was an 18 track album – we needed to get it finished and so you work hard towards the end of an album. But, it all turned out ok in the end. Normally for a record in those days, I would allow 1 whole week for 1 title, and that would include all the pre-production, all the recording, all the mixing and all the post-production. So, 12 titles would take me 12 weeks (pausing), Generation Terrorists basically went over budget is what it was, but obviously because of privacy issues, I can’t tell you how much it cost to make.”

3.As it was always intended to be a double LP from the outset, did the Manic Street Preachers’ ambition and commitment to this idea impress you?
“Ambition yes, commitment yes, but more the intelligence – I would never question why they were doing certain things (laughing). They always seemed to have everything thought out, as if they’d sit round in a little club in the dark of night and discuss what they were going to do and why they were going to do it… but keep the answers to themselves! They gave off this mystique, or mystery, that never made me question what they decided to do. As I say, I was really their initial commercial director and so they left me to sort of come up with the commercial stuff at the front end. I mean, knowing that I’d done everything from George Michael to The Cult, I guess that’s what I do and they left me to that. But, all of the other decisions about the album sleeve, the 18 tracks, the double album, announcing that “This is going to be the first and last album we’re going to do” and all of that sort of thing, was all just part of their fantastically sorted out marketing ploy.”

4.Was it thought of as being one whole, or as two separate sides of vinyl, old-school style?

“Well, when one used to make vinyl, for me, it was very much the A-side and the B-side – so making a double album is much the same thing. There’s album 1 and there’s album 2, but don’t get me wrong, a lot of producers do it the other way and they have a way of listening to it. Quite frankly, and this is a trade secret (laughing), on vinyl, I always put the first side as my favourite tracks (laughing), oh yeah! So when you’ve sat down, you put the record on, you’ve had a few drinks and you just put it on repeat and you don’t have to get up to change it (laughing)! But that was my own personal taste, to put all of my favourite tracks on side 1 of the album. But, an album is a journey and now that it’s all made into one long track if you know what I mean, digitally, it’s even more of a journey… hopefully. I don’t know, because I don’t study the art-form anymore, but definitely when I’m doing something, I’m always very careful about how the running-order goes together. So in answer to your question, Generation Terrorists does have an A-side and B-side feel to it.”
*I ask Steve about his thoughts on the US version of GT, which the American label edited and altered the tracklisting for, even remixing Slash N’ Burn, Nat West-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds, Little Baby Nothing and You Love Us, as well as adding specially recorded acoustic drums (by an American session musician) to make them sound heavier - all without MSP's consent*
“The running-order wouldn’t interest me, the fact that they took songs off wouldn’t interest me, but I haven’t heard the American mixes and when you say to make them heavier, I’d be really interested to know what that did (laughing). But no, I didn’t know about it and different territories have to have their little input and if they remix tracks, then that’s all well and good. If they think that the remixing will actually improve the exposure and visibility of a band in that territory, then fantastic! It didn’t really hit my radar, so I can’t really comment on the quality of their remixes. Repeat (Stars and Stripes) was remixed by The Bomb Squad during my reign though, so I got to actually hear that and approve it, and I thought it was brilliant to be honest!”

5.Returning to the original UK version, did you bring any specific techniques from previous albums that you’d produced to these sessions?
“Of course! A popular commercial sensibility is the thing, and my job is to make the sound of it appeal to as many different demographics as possible – they’re very broad. It’s very hard with the Manics, because I don’t want to pigeonhole them, but you would imagine that they’d sort of be making bed-sit records. But they briefed me that they wanted to be the biggest band in the world, so there was kind of a conflict there, but you know, they didn’t question anything that I did in terms of (pausing), the only thing that they would ever question, is if a lyric didn’t scan and I wanted to change a lyric. I would always have to ask permission and come up with alternatives, but generally, the level of commerciality that I put in there, I’m very careful about not making things cheesy and I hope people out there don’t think there is anything cheesy on Generation Terrorists. I hope they think it’s still listenable and it’s listenable for a few more generations to come!”

6.Did you work on multiple song ideas, or did you prefer to finish one song at a time – including overdubs – and was there a moment where you felt like Generation Terrorists was starting to come together / its character was beginning to shine through?
“Well, yes, but I’m a bit down on my memory. But what we did was, we actually peeled the singles off as we went, so we were literally building the image of the album, while we were making the album! We’d agree, “Let’s have a shot at making Love’s Sweet Exile the next single.” I remember putting that driving, incessant beat into it and just making it drill home – the energy and all that sort of thing. Then we went on and did some more of the album and then we came back and did another single (pausing), when I say came back, we were always together, but we’d sort of stop what we were doing and come back and work on another single to get out. So the album was beginning to breathe almost immediately – we had a plan, which I’ve never said before, but we did! I didn’t know we did, but we did! In terms of working an album normally, what one tends to do – or in my control room what one tends to do – is that we start with a title and we record the backing track and we add a guide-vocal to that, and then we move on. We choose between us which track we’re going to move onto and all the rest of it. Then, we go back to the beginning and we start to embellish it with overdubs and solos etc. etc. and then we work our way through the backing tracks and put on solos and bits we know are needed. So, we don’t finish it track by track, we work the album and we have a list – we have a very strict list on the wall. When we’ve finished the backing track, we put our thoughts on paper and stick that up on the wall for all to see. It might say something like, ‘Try James’ guitar idea in chorus 2’ and stuff like that. As a producer, I come up with ideas and the buck stops here (laughing)! So, all my ideas get through (jokingly + laughing)! “I’m older and I’m the producer, so we’re going to go with this idea (laughing again)!” But, it’s all done in the best possible spirit.”

7. Obviously, Motorcycle Emptiness is a stone cold classic (which was derived from the early Manic Street Preachers songs, Go Buzz Baby Go and Behave Yourself Baby), so can you tell us how this track evolved along with its signature guitar riff?

“I can tell you a lot about it, and I really hope that they haven’t lost the memory too, but the initial comment was, “Look, Steve, we don’t really want to do this.” And I was like, “Why (surprised)?” It wasn’t because I liked anything about it, but if I remember rightly, I want to say it was the runt of the litter, because when I asked them why, I think it was mainly Nicky who was saying that some of the subject-matter (pausing), he wasn’t particularly inspired by it. I wanted to give it a shot, so I stayed up one night and this is honestly true – I don’t think I’m dreaming it or making it up – but I stayed up one night and I came up with the sequence of the song and the sort of drumbeat, which I was very keen on at the time. People had done it before I know, but I wanted to have a go at it and that sort of thing, so when we were still up the next morning, James came down and in with his cup of tea right, and he put the cup of tea down and said, “I want to try a guitar riff that I dreamt about last night. Well, not dreamt about, but I woke up thinking about.” There it goes a bit vague, but what happened was, is that the drum track and the rhythm track that I’d been working on and James’ dreamt about guitar line, came together. I think that’s when people started to think that there’s really something in this and it developed from there. Eventually, we ended up going to mix and I wanted to put the strings and piano things on, and I got Richard Cottell in and he kind of played a Jacques Brel type affair over it, and it developed into a nice little track actually. It’s # 2 in my most popular tracks – in terms of what the public say – from the rock side of things and it’s very close behind She Sells Sanctuary, so it’s really earned its place in the chart if you like.”
*I mention the 2002 Forever Delayed remix of Motorcycle Emptiness, which was reportedly going to be released as a single to promote the Manics’ Greatest Hits album, and to also give the song the chance of achieving a much higher chart placing this time around, but was later shelved with only rare promo CDs now in existence*
“I didn’t hear that, no. A lot of people have had a shot at She Sells Sanctuary as well (laughing), but it’s a point in time you know? It’s not so much me, it’s everybody! I do it and then I release it, and people are doing things like on a summer holiday, or falling in love or falling out of love, or falling off their motorbike, and they remember the piece of music to that you know? That’s the way it is.”


8.Are there any other songs that went beyond your collective expectations?

“Funnily enough, I had the urge to listen to Condemned To Rock ‘N’ Roll the other day, which I really enjoy right – it’s not the most commercial track – but had we all been a little bit older and had a bit more time and budget, I think we could have made a Queen epic out of it! And also, Little Baby Nothing, which quite honestly, I didn’t get at all when they first explained it to me (laughing). But then the Manics teach you things and although I’m nearly old enough to be their father, they taught me quite a lot about stuff and the biggest one they taught me, was of course that ‘Boredom Is Freedom’, which takes a little while to sort out, but once you have, it’s jolly good fun!”

9.Once tracks were fully composed, did you have to ‘massage’ many of them into place?

“Always! Songs are songs, and demos are demos, and production always needs ‘massaging’ into place – it goes back to that word, commerciality. Bands can often exhaust themselves by just writing the song, and so I get the good job of coming along and saying, “Well, what we should do is, is that we should put that there and then move that there and that good bit there, we should move round in front of the chorus.” It’s called arranging the song, because it’s what we do once the song has been written. Every song gets the same treatment – we just don’t go in and play it – we look at it and think, “What’s it going to sound like in the future?” Again, with young bands as well, they want to put stuff on an album that sometimes won’t last the test of time. There are one or two bits on Generation Terrorists that don’t pass the test of time (laughing), but I’m not going to tell you what they are, because that’s in my opinion. You can be gimmicky, but not too gimmicky, and so that’s part of doing the arrangements as well, is making sure that you’re being sensible, you’re representing the songs properly and you’re appealing to as many people as possible.”
*I ask Steve about Traci Lords and Patrick Jones’ contributions, and also, if Stay Beautiful was really inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run*
“Traci was quite a character to say the least, she insisted on doing the vocal with me alone and creating the right atmosphere (laughing)! She turned up in a fur coat and when she took the fur coat off, she was wearing a one-piece body stocking… which distracted me (laughing)! But the vocals went very well, she was very good, very professional and I think you can hear by the end result, that we got what we wanted to do. With Patrick’s poetry, I didn’t do that, it was all pre-recorded (pausing), or at least I wasn’t on that session. I know he’s Nicky’s brother and I know he’s very good and I think he added to the overall atmosphere of the album. As far as Stay Beautiful being inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, do you know where you got that from?”
*I say that I think it was once mentioned by Gary Crowley in a TV interview, but James just laughed and didn’t answer the question*
“Well, Gary Crowley is obviously an aficionado on these sort of things, but I can only tell you that Born To Run is one of my favourite tracks, so if it was him, he might of got that mixed up with me.”

10.Are there a lot of alternative versions / outtakes of the 18 songs?

“Yeah, we went back to the drawing board a couple of times and of course you do. I mean, there’s also alternative backing tracks that are exactly the same, but played in a different time you know? So, I would imagine that if you go and have a rummage through the Sony vaults, there’s tons of (pausing), I mean we were together for 12 weeks and we didn’t sit around – we were working the whole time! And this happens on every album, you make the most of the technology that you have at the time and I remember with James and Sean in particular, they were the ones who really came sniffing around the technology and would want to know stuff. Sean was very keen on the technical side, getting into music, experimenting and all the rest of it. So without a doubt, although my memory doesn’t serve me well, there are almost certainly going to be gems in there.”
*One for fact fans, on early pressings of GT, Little Baby Nothing is preceded by a snippet of film dialogue from A Streetcar Named Desire, which was later removed due to copyright infringement*

11.Were the band receptive to suggestions you made, and excluding additional musicians, is it really true that it was only James and Sean who actually played on the record?
“The band were very receptive, and as I said, it was a respect thing. They used to push the boundaries a bit with me, which was good, but generally, Sean and James were really the inquisitive ones and we’d have the biggest discussions. Nicky was there and he’d always play standing up and moan about his knees aching, but he was always good for morale, he never moaned otherwise. You know, that’s the thing, is to take negatives out of the equation and the band were very receptive and I’m enthusiastic about things, so I think if you’re positive and enthusiastic, then the band will be receptive to your ideas. And also, there are certain rules in a control room, like don’t blank an idea and say you don’t like it unless you’ve got an alternative, because otherwise, you’re left with absolutely nothing. In answer to the other part of your question, ‘Is it really true that it was only James and Sean who actually played on the record?’ No, it was them and Nicky, but I’m not going to say that Richey didn’t play on anything – I don’t know where that actually came from? I suppose that could have leaked out from something, but he was always in the studio. We’d often have him looking great and plugged into a guitar, but apart from anything and I can say this honestly, with hand on heart, that it was his spirit in the control room and the knowledge that you knew he had about what was happening (pausing), what they said about him, was that he was a Brian Jones. He was a real icon – he was the icon of the Manic Street Preachers – and one not to be questioned! That’s the honest truth. What happened to him, to me in my mind, is all part of what he was. I miss him terribly and I’m sure everybody does, but he’ll never be forgotten, especially by me, because as I say, he was the iconic Manic Street Preacher. I had the absolute honour of finishing a 14-hour-day – sometimes we were working that hard – but Richey would still be up playing records in his room, because we did the whole thing residentially. I’d go in and sit with him, and we’d have a couple of vodkas and smoke a lot of cigarettes, and I’d spend another 2 hours with him just chatting things over. You know, he was a major architect in the way that band was. The architect and chief!”
*I ask Steve about his recollections of how the group coped with being in a studio making an LP for the very first time, especially given the snowballing music press frenzy that was surrounding its release*
“I’d say they coped excellently (without any hesitation)! Because they were a team, they weren’t four individuals, they were the Manic Street Preachers! So no matter how big my production team would have been, it wouldn’t have been anything like as powerful as them all huddled together. So did they cope with the studio environment? Yes, they took to it like a duck to water and as I say, Sean really adapted to stuff really, really quickly, in terms of the technology and James was always interested in this and that. He got used to things like ‘Talkback’ (pausing), I don’t know if this is going to be relevant to the interview, but what he used to tell me off about all the time was (laughing), when he fucked up a line, what we normally do is we stop the tape, rewind and then I put my finger on the ‘Talkback’ and tell the singer what’s going on. But he said, “Look, for fuck’s sake, don’t keep on talking to me, just rewind the tape, start it again and I’ll start singing!” He didn’t like any chat between takes or anything like that, he wanted to fully-concentrate on what he was doing and he used to tell me off about that, “Don’t talk Brown, don’t talk!” So that was funny! With Sean and his drums, he played them and programmed them – he did it in bits and pieces, because that was the way to do things in those days, it was cutting-edge. So as I say, when he knew the technology was available (pausing), I mean you can hear quite clearly that he’s drummed on the album, but there are parts for his own reasons, where he used the machine and computers sometimes – he’d always embellish it with something else. Listen, I was experimenting, he was experimenting and they were experimenting (laughing)! The fact is, it was a very positive time and it turned out very well in the end. So in terms of that, there were a lot of tricks that James used and the only one we didn’t use gimmicks on, was Nicky, he just played bass and that’s what he did. I mean, everybody has their place in the recording studio and probably one of the strongest voices in the project, was Nicky Wire, but he’s a puppy, he’s really lovely and he’s a really good golf player as well (laughing)!”

12. After GT / mixing selected b-sides, you also worked on Suicide Is Painless (Theme From M*A*S*H) + Yes and She Is Suffering from The Holy Bible, so can you tell us about what you brought to these songs?

“Do you know, I can’t remember working on M*A*S*H. I suppose I must have done, but I think I was so exhausted after Generation Terrorists, although I definitely enjoyed working on Yes and She Is Suffering from The Holy Bible. I can’t remember what I did on them now, but I can remember the situation was, that James called me up and said would you like to work on them and I said, “Of course I would!” So he came to stay at my house and if you like that sort of story, I’ve got an even better story than that. Post Generation Terrorists, James came to stay at my house for a couple of days and my studio is just 11 minutes walk – it was only the two of us, we were finishing off and mixing – but the funny story that you should know is, is that during the end of Generation Terrorists, for whatever reason, the boys didn’t (pausing). You know, they’re country boys and family boys and they weren’t really comfortable living in these cheap hotels in London, so I went and chatted to my wife, Jackie, and said, “Do you mind if the band come and stay?” And she said, “Well, ok.” We’d just had two kids, one was 4 and one was 2, but nonetheless, I had quite a big house – I was an award-winning record producer, so I could afford one – and I moved them into the top floor of my house and they all lived up there (laughing)! So my kids were babysat by the Manic Street Preachers – we used to go out and leave them with the band and they were good at it as well, James used to play with them all the time! Then they grew up and formed a band called ADHD, and all of the instruments were donated by the Manic Street Preachers. But, I think Generation Terrorists, M*A*S*H, Yes and She Is Suffering are the only tracks we worked on together as far as I know (pausing), there is something that’s kind of niggling me and I can’t remember what it is. I’ll have a look through my diary and see what I can see, but I don’t think I worked on anything top secret, and apart from album outtakes, which I would be more than willing to go and have a look through in the archives, I think that’s about it.”

13.How did you feel when you first listened to a test-pressing / acetate of Generation Terrorists, and then, eventually the final mastered version?

“Well, the finished thing is always jolly good, it’s nice to hold it in your hand and quite honestly, this is a good question, but as a producer it’s really hard (laughing), because what we do is, is we compare it against the master. So the first time I hear the vinyl, is when I take it into the studio and compare it to the tapes that the vinyl’s made from – it should be an improvement on the sound quality on that. But in terms of what you feel sometimes, when the records have been ‘hits’ and they’ve died down and you go into clubs, you sit and you’re listening and you go, “Oh, this is a good record”, and then you go, “Oh (surprised), that’s one of my records (laughing), that’s Little Baby Nothing,” or something like that. Only then do you really go (pausing), that’s when a producer hears the real thing for the first time – months after you’ve finished it you know? But when you’re listening to an album when you’re making it, you’re listening to every half-beat and everything within that half-beat, and it doesn’t actually come together until you put it on in a club, or somebody puts it on and plays it by surprise – that’s a great feeling! Again, with my career and records that have happened, it’s been great to walk into a club and suddenly go, “What’s that? I remember this,” and then suddenly you realise that you produced it. It’s a fantastic feeling!”
*I ask Steve if MSP had sold 16 million copies of GT and achieved global success, if he thinks the band would have split up, or if this was perhaps just more of a headline-grabbing sound-bite*
“I wouldn’t even call it a headline-grabbing sound-bite, because I don’t see them like that, I see it more as what we used to call a pipe-dream. So in other words, “Wouldn’t it be great if we did this” if you know what I mean? I can see them sitting around and saying, “That would be a great idea, we come along, we do a debut double album and then we split up.” But, I think they got on the roller-coaster and with what happened to Richey, I think that probably made them keep going in a way, on his behalf, to keep his memory alive. To actually split up after all that sacrifice, I think would have been a bad thing anyway. But my answer to the question is, yeah, I think initially it was probably a young, “Wouldn’t it be great if we did this” type of thing and it didn’t go to that, which is great for everybody!”

14.Are there any major changes that you would now make to the long player, and would you like to see an expanded / remastered 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition released?

“As I said before, even if there’s little mistakes here and there and style problems, the fact is, is that it was born at that time and people have memories of it. So the only way that I would change it, would be sonically – I wouldn’t change any parts within it, what they did. But I would really like to do a remix, to change some of the actual overall sound and possibly give it an edge, because I’ve learnt and technology has moved on and I could give the listener another whole experience! But you know, with money the way it is, it’s very difficult to get record companies to sort of cough-up the dough to do it. But it is what it is and there’s nothing that really, really, really grates on there with me (pausing), in fact, I must say, I haven’t listened to it for a while and as soon as I put the phone down I’m going to dig it out (laughing)! It would be nice to have something happening for the 20th Anniversary and it would be a pleasure – an absolute pleasure – to be involved. I know what Nicky and Sean are up to, but I speak to James the most, in terms of text messages, telephone calls and getting together for a couple of pints. He was going to come and stay at the house this summer, but we didn’t get round to it, but I’m in touch the whole time and he did this great thing and you’ll appreciate it, what with the new album title, wherever he went in the world, he always sent my boys a postcard. So, we’ve got postcards from all over the world sent to my sons. James and I are due a beer together, so I think I’ll mention the 20th Anniversary of Generation Terrorists to him, because I mean, I would quite honestly be thrilled to do something! I’ll tell you what a good conversation would be between me and the band, it would be, ‘Is there anything that I did that you don’t like, and shall we have a go at putting it right (laughing)?’ It’s really funny, because I can’t remember us ever having a major conflict about anything, but there might have been niggling little issues, because I would always say to them, “Look, leave the commercial side to me. You just write away and be brilliant, and what I’ll do, is turn it into something commercially that will work for people beyond who you’re writing for.” They might have said that mix was too slick, or that mix was too this or too that, but there you are. If we could guarantee the sales, I mean, I would waive a fee to do it, just for the fans! But you’d need to talk to the band and their management, because if we could get the pre-sales together, then that would be fantastic! Manics Fans are good and loyal and sensible, and I have to mention again, that I would waive a fee to go back and recreate anything that the band wanted to recreate. But guys, you’ve got to listen to this file-sharing thing you know, because I have people to pay, I have studios to pay, I have 17-year-old kids who are working for virtually nothing and they work 12 hours a day, and to give them nothing, is terrible! The more the file-sharing goes up, then the less we get budgets to actually pay 17, 18, 19-year-olds to come in and start in The Industry, and to remake Generation Terrorists, would be a great thing for them to do! So file-sharing is a whole subject that we could go into and I can’t wait to actually talk to James about it, because my new theory is, is that the Internet Service Providers should pay The Music Industry a royalty, and then people could go and make records again. Also, you can add this to the end of the article, if any budding Manic Street Preachers want to make a debut album, then they can get in touch with me through my website or through Facebook.”

15.Lastly, chips or cream buns?

“It would be chips from Diana Fish Bar in Wandsworth High Street, with plenty of salt and vinegar on them – soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside (laughing)!”

A very special thanks to Steve for all of his time and help + for kindly allowing R*E*P*E*A*T to use the studio portrait taken of him during the Generation Terrorists recording sessions in 1991.

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench,
A long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free,
And good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

- Hunter S. Thompson


Extracts from...
Title: The Preachers' Man
Publication: Music Week
Date: Friday, 25th April 2014

Rob Stringer's bond with the Manic Street Preachers goes way beyond the normal parameters of label executive/artist. He is part of the group's extended family, and it is a relationship that he prizes as highly as anything else he has achieved or experienced in his long career.

Because of when he met them (1990), because of what they went on to achieve and because of the things they went through together, the band most closely associated with (and closest to) Rob Stringer are the Manic Street Preachers.

"They were the first band I signed at CBS. My talent scout, Peter Myers, said he thought I'd like them, and that first EP (New Art Riot) was full of reference points that I recognised, so I thought, Okay, this could be interesting, and I went to see them at Moles in Bath - and I loved them.

"Then I followed them to Paris, where they were playing with Flowered Up and St Etienne, because they were on Heavenly at the time, when Motown Junk came out, and when I met them as people I loved them even more. It was something I believed in passionately from the start."

The Manics themselves have stated that they signed for CBS for two reasons: because The Clash had, and because of Rob Stringer.

Famously, they then immediately and provocatively declared their intention to make one double album that would sell 20 million copies, change the face of rock n roll and split up.

Stringer, A&Ring the album remember, didn't even try and talk them down to a single record: "Because that was the manifesto. And if you were a Clash fan, and if you loved London Calling and Sandinista!, then you understood. The truth is, as they'll tell you now, we barely had enough material for a double - we stretched it a bit.

"I love them, I love them as colleagues and partners and friends, but that first album... we look back and laugh about it still. I remember the producer meetings, because they would give them all the manifesto. At one stage we talked to Andy Taylor of Duran Duran. He had the dark glasses and the 80s rock star look, and Richey just launched into the manifesto and Andy Taylor was very clearly like, What the fuck?!

"We ended up using Steve Brown, who, funnily enough, had worked on Wham's first album, but we went with him because we liked the sound of The Cult's She Sells Sanctuary.

"Making that record was exhausting, because they didn't really have enough songs, but we got The Bomb Squad to do a remix of Repeat and we got Traci Lords to sing on Little Baby Nothing, which is a great record, we did a cover of Damn Dog, and we got it together eventually and delivered it on Christmas eve.

"It was very, very stressful, but it was a great record and a beautiful looking record, the artwork, the gatefold sleeve. We knew that at the very least it was interesting, and it also had Motorcycle Emptiness, which was a clue as to where they were going and told me that they could be an important band. They couldn't play that song live for a while, certainly not when the record first came out, but it was a pointer to everything that was to come."

And then they split up. Except, of course, mercifully, they didn't. "You know it never really came up! Maybe because it didn't sell 20 million, maybe that was the excuse they needed to carry on."

"I Don't Think We Would Be Here Without Him"

The Manics' Nicky Wire on the role that Rob Stringer played in the incredible career of an iconic band...

When we first met Rob, Motown Junk was just out. We were inherently interested in Columbia because that's where The Clash had gone, and that band was in our DNA - and, as it turned out, in Rob's as well.

In fact, when we first met, at a Heavenly showcase in Paris, all we talked about was The Clash. I think the only time we talked about us was when he told us how much Motown Junk reminded him of the spirit of The Clash - which we loved, whether he meant it or not!

He was so enthusiastic and so knowledgeable, to a level that you couldn't fake. We knew he meant it and we knew he'd grown up loving the same things we loved.

At that Paris gig there was chaos and debauchery everywhere, but as ever, we were sealed in our own little corner, detached, and Rob joined us.

James said, quite earnestly, that we had a vision, we had a plan, and all we wanted was someone who believed in it and would fight for us. And that was Rob, we just knew. There were lots of hugs and the decision was made.

From then on he was fully immersed into the machine and very involved in that first record. He never tried to talk us down to a single album, instead he helped us make it a double album. And when he first heard Motorcycle Emptiness, he knew it was special and knew it was where we were going. It was proper old-school A&Ring: loads and loads of intense conversations about music and different artists and ideas.

It was like an echo of the classic record label days of the 70s, which we loved. And then when he took us to the Portakabins of Luton Town, it was actually like being in the 70s. It was an amazing time, and to have Rob as part of it was wonderful. When you kinetically click with someone like that it's always going to be special.

It was a different era, we know that now. It was all about band development. Rob was so supportive of us and so confident in us. It's hard to make choices in a band sometimes, when you're in the middle of everything, and to have someone who you completely trust to make those tough decisions was invaluable for us.

PPS - Generation Terrorists Album & Single titbits from 'MTV Collexion' Interview (1998)

Stay Beautiful

Nicky: "The lyrics were (a reply to Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run) and there were a lot in there, which were kind of 'sweet baby lips' type of stuff. The original title was Generation Terrorists, but because we wanted to call the album Generation Terrorists, we then had to change the title. So me and Richey were fannying around for a long time trying to come up with another title. Richey came up with Stay Beautiful and it seemed as good as we were going to get, really. Very traditional early Manic Street Preacher type song you know, looking for something you'll never find."

Love's Sweet Exile

James: "I kind of reached a peak of masturbatory delight, with the guitar solo!"
Nicky: "Richey ran in through the control room - I was playing SEGA - and goes: 'James has just done a solo as fast as Stevie Vai!'."
James: "A lot of revision goes on about my guitar solos, but it was avidly encouraged by Nick and Richey. They used to come into the studio and say: 'Play the fastest thing that's ever been played on the guitar ever!'."
Nicky: "Behind your neck!"
James: "Yeah, behind my neck!"
Nicky: "Originally, that song was called Faceless Sense Of Void, and Martin - our manager - it was like his favourite song of ours and we completely ripped it apart and totally changed it. He really despised it and rightly so. We should've listened to him on that one!"

You Love Us

Nicky: "It was a song me and Richey had been trying to write for a long time, and it was inspired by The Stones' We Love You. You know, we wanted to up the ante and be even more controversial... We just wanted to be more provocative and had been trying to come up with a title for ages. I remember when Richey called me up, he said: 'Oh, I think I've got the title' and he said You Love Us. It was plain sailing from then on. It was the one song which galvanised us as a band and we really thought: 'God, now we've got this!'. Our confidence was so high and we just felt unbeatable!"

Motorcycle Emptiness
Nicky: "We sat down in a flat at Swansea University and we wanted to write a motorbike song, like The Jesus And Mary Chain thing. We were all obsessed with Rumblefish at the time, so we were trying to sort of portray that in lyrics. It took ages to come up with a title and Richey had this Go Buzz Baby thing."
James: "Go Buzz Baby Go... When we came to doing the demos for the first album, I remember the producer asked us if we could write a middle section for it, and it's one of the only times we've nicked a part of an old song and put it in a present song. So, the middle section from Motorcycle, is nicked from an old little indie song we used to have called Behave Yourself Baby. It's a good solo and I remember the producer going: 'I think we should just get a Manchester beat going behind the solo' kind of thing."
Nicky: "It took ages and it's hardly a complete inspirational song, it took an awful lot of work really, to get it right, but it was worth it!"
James: "There was some talk of not putting it on the album, because it was a bit "too advanced" or something like that. But, if that song hadn't been on that album, I don't know if we would have survived, to a certain degree. That song gave us a lot of strength, because it was our first real true sign of greatness, since Motown Junk and You Love Us, really."

Little Baby Nothing

Nicky: "Richey wrote most of the lyrics to it and it was a song that was quite precious to him, I just came up with the title... I don't know, it's a weird one. The Kylie thing, it was just at the time, I used to wear a Kylie T-shirt because I thought that's what pop should be - that's what was reaching the most people. A lot of bands at the time were saying, basically they didn't want to be big and they didn't want to talk to anyone. They'd talk about pop music, but it would be in a very elitist way, which meant like 50 students or something would think it was a great band and we were always about the grand gesture! So, anything that was hugely popular and glamorous, is what we liked. We wanted Kylie to sing, but I don't think she ever heard the song when we sent it to her. It was Martin's idea to get Traci Lords in, in the end, but I don't know why that was - he seemed to have a particular fascination with her! She came to see us at a gig and it was the worst gig we'd ever done, it was absolutely tuneless, but she still wanted to do the track! I mean, it fitted her and she did a really nice job on it."

The Legacy Of Generation Terrorists
Nicky: "Recording the album was fantastic, it was bliss. We were there for about 14-15 weeks and it was only when we started touring and stuff, that we kind of lost the plot a bit, when we realised we couldn't play any of the songs live. I think the best thing about the album, is that it still sounds really naive and really young, and a band trying to reach greatness that can't quite get there."
James: "Everything sounds like it's born out of some kind of idealism, basically, which is good! A lot of bands can't look back at something like that, but at least we can. But I think it's got one song on there, which is one of the most important reference points of the last 10-years in Motorcycle. So, like you know, we won a battle, but we definitely didn't win a war with that album!"

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?