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"I Can't Be Modest About It..." - MOJO, June 2016

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Title: "I Can't Be Modest About It..."
Publication: MOJO
Date: June 2016
Writer: Keith Cameron
Photos: Alex Lake


Given preceding events, the new DVD suggests that making the album was a happy experience.

NW: "It was. It had been a miserable two years, with Philip [Hall, MSP manager] dying and Richey going missing, and the baggage of The Holy Bible following you around. Just being ensconced in the Chateau with Mike Hedges in the middle of nowhere in France was the closest we've ever come to bliss in the band. Feeling cocooned from any kind of reality. We basked in the anonymity and the creativity of just being there."

JDB: "We'd realised that on the other side of our lives was an obviously intractable situation - we weren't going to get an answer about Richey. After three or four months we just knew we were going to be left in some kind of purgatory. So when it seemed like actually something was sounding good, it was a relief - we were happy something was going right for once."

What were the practical and emotional implications of Richey's absence?

NW: "The practical ones weren't gigantic. Musically there were no implications. And it's not like I hadn't written any lyrics before. It was the emotional gap, the idling and the watching TV and talking, reading...all those little things were amiss. The turning point was James singing A Design For Life down the phone to me. I'd written some really bad lyrics up to that point, just stuff that was never going to work. From then on, everything came really easily. We might not have been in a band without A Design For Life."

JDB: "I don't think it's ever been stated enough that work had already started on Everything Must Go before he went missing. We had the demos of No Surface All Feeling, Small Black Flowers...and Further Away. I'd played acoustic version of Elvis Impersonator...and Kevin Carter to him. This is conjecture, but perhaps in his mind he couldn't envisage some of his lyrics in the frame of what Everything Must Go was obviously taking shape to be. It's a shame he couldn't have seen that, actually, there was a brilliant balance to be had there."

How do you think it stands up 20 years on?

NW: "It astounds me that a record like that could sell a million copies in a year. The fact that a lyric like "Libraries gave us power" smashed into the charts. I love it. It feels really balanced. Sometimes in modern culture you overlook albums that are really massive - you tend to think they couldn't have been good. And actually a lot of them were."

JDB: "You should never call yourself a 'classic', it's a heinous sin - but I'm going to commit that sin: I just think it's a classic album. I can't be bothered to be modest about it!