Richey Edwards is back! Of course this is not quite true. And yet the ninth studio album of the Manic Street Preachers is actually based exclusively on texts of the miracle child disappeared in 1995. James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire seem to be really serious about mine with the care of the memory of the band's officially declared dead since 2008. In terms of musical quality, however, the recently released "Journal For Plague Lovers" splits the critics' front.
Laut.de, Nicky Wire meets the noble Grand Hyatt at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. The bassist, lyricist, and occasional singer is in a good mood, still hiding his face behind big sunglasses of a well-known manufacturer.
Fascinating: When answering questions, Wire keeps his eyes mostly closed, as if he were meditating. And draws abstract patterns on a piece of paper. So why not chat about art first?
The great cover for the album comes again from the painter Jenny Saville...
Yes, we are really more than happy about it. She had given us the cover for "The Holy Bible" free of charge. And when we asked her this time, she did it again. I think the picture is worth about a quarter of a million pounds. It is really wonderful and of course it is also a great work of art.
And why did you choose this picture?
I've suggested it to the rest of the band. I think it has something innocent. The look of the person depicted is quite strange. It reminds me of Lucian Freud ( grandson of Sigmund Freud and one of the most important figurative painters of Great Britain, commentary on the ed. ). Some people find the image disturbing, I do not like that. It also has a little androgyn. I did not realize it was a girl until Jenny told me.
Is it a girl?
Yes. I also thought it was a boy. I can not really believe that everything worked out the way we wanted it: the lyrics of Richey, the picture of Jenny and Steve Albini as a producer. We really created the artwork that swept us.
Other art forms have always been important to you. Even in the booklet of your debut, you had countless quotes from Rimbaud to Camus, then the Jackson Pollock quote "Everything Must Go", the "Song for Willem de Kooning" and so on. Again and again the fine arts...
And Jeremy Deller, the Turner Prize bearer, has made some videos for us.
Where does it come from, the enthusiasm for art?
That all dressed us all. If you have 15 role models like Morrissey talking about Oscar Wilde, you follow these traces. Sometimes a quote or a work of art can simply express certain things better than the band could. It is not a matter of stating what you know.
Was there any discussion about whether certain quotes fit the band?
At first. It was quite clear, however, that James and Sean are the musical forces of the band. They were just as much talented as Richey and I, so we were more concerned about the artwork and the quotes. The visual side. The interest for other arts, however, was always somehow in us. My parents had a lot of books.
With the pictures of Jenny Saville you are synonymous, if you will, in a good tradition. Just think of Sonic Youth's "Daydream Nation" cover by Gerhard Richter or the cover of Andy Warhol
Also great were the pictures of Martin Kippenberger, which we used for the singles of "The Holy Bible". Jeremy Deller has curated an exhibition in Cardiff with all the references that we have. Kippenberger's paintings came to Cardiff, Francis Bacon, a Picasso. A great experience.
The new album starts with a film section. Where does it come from?
This is from the movie "The Machinist" with Christian Bale. If there is ever a movie about Manic Street Preaches, he would be the one to play Richey. He really understands how to slip into characters. Besides, he is Welsh. And the film would certainly have appealed to Richey. Bale plays someone who can not sleep after an accident. In the song "Doors Closing Slowly" we also have a sample from "The Virgin Suicides" by Sofia Coppola. Richey loved the book.
When and why did you decide to use Richey's lyrics for the album?
That was about a year and a half ago. Maybe a bit longer ago. Our last album "Send Away The Tigers" was a pretty old-fashioned rock album and a commercial success. It not only gave us the feeling of being young again, but also the possibility of making something deeper this time. We wanted to treat the album as a work of art again. There are no singles, no videos. It is not only a tribute to Richey, but also the idea of the album as an art form. Pre-digital art. Richey had no cell phone, no computer, and instead carried a typewriter with him. We recorded the album on tape, without computer, quite analog. It feels like a time capsule.
And your record company is angry, no singles ...?
They are just confused. We've always done what we want, and they know we have commercial albums on it. But they already understand that this time it was more important. Must be hard for the (laughs).
Was it a very emotional experience to work with the texts of Richey?
The feelings came when we were done. During the recording we were very focused. We wanted the music to match the intensity of the lyrics. The lyrics are from a 27-year-old. We then locked ourselves in Wales, Steve Albini came over and we were very, very disciplined. When we heard the result somehow, the feelings came. And we began to ask: Have we done the right thing? Would Richey please? I believe, however, that we have created a decent work.
Why do you think Richie would like it?
He gave us the lyrics, three weeks before he disappeared. And then one wonders why. He gave me this beautiful folder with pictures, collages and texts. However, we never wanted to make money with his fate and, after his disappearance, we also established ourselves as new Manic Street preachers, who reached their climax with "This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours". I just miss Richey as a copywriter. I'm not as brave as he is, not even an artist.
You could have used your texts much earlier
That would be cheap and probably too emotional. I think that would not have been right. The truth is simple: I could never have written such lyrics as Richey, but he would not have had songs such as "A Design For Live" or "If You Tolerate This", our biggest hits with lyrics of mine.
Did you talk with his family before the recordings?
He had left the lyrics to us anyway. But we showed them everything, the album was playing. And it is still the case that everything Richey's name stands on, 25 percent goes to him. We really tried to make everything correct and correct. Of course, you never know whether somewhere in Serbia or elsewhere, songs of him run without him receiving his royalties.
Do the lyrics of the album have a basic theme?
This is really difficult. I can only guess. But it seems to be a bit quieter than with "The Holy Bible". The album was full of rage and hatred. This time, everything sounds resigned. For songs like "Doors Closing Slowly," Richey seems to say, "I know what I'm doing." Even though it is rather miserable and sad, I know what I am doing.
I would have expected a darker, more melancholic album
Instead there are also moments of almost surreal humor, such as "Me and Stephen Hawking". The album has different moods. There is also an acoustic, melancholic side. For example, "William's Last Words". Richey was simply a great consumer of culture. He has only read, written, worked, painted and observed. Richey was what you call an artist. We tried to bring that over. I have to admit, however, that with many songs, I do not know what it's all about. I have no idea what the text is about "Jackie Collins Existential Question Time".
But he must have had a different side. Or was he just an artist. What kind of man do you remember Richey?
As a person, he was quite different. I remember so much: as we've played as five-year-old football, as we've gone to college, he's got history, I'm studying politics. How he cooked rice with tuna for me, as we drunk as students. I have a lot of positive memories. Only the last few months after "The Holy Bible" were really hard. If you do not get any more to someone you know for so long. He just can not be reached. This is actually the sad one.
You said, "Richey was in a successful band, could have had a nice girlfriend, and we loved him all, but that was not enough."
Yes. When you reach this conclusion, you simply do not know what you can do. Everyone tried: his family, his friends. I really do not know how to reach someone who is so far away. It's a shame. But there is probably no magic formula. If all the things that bring joy to Richey were the art, television, drinking, when all these things mean nothing to you, and no inspiration, then that is really menacing. Thank God that never happened to me. It must be a dark moment. The disappearance of Richey is not a rock'n'roll myth, he had friends, he had a family. Thousands of people disappear every year. That does not make you an icon.
There are always people who claim to have seen Richey somewhere. Are you angry?
At first it made us angry. We were paralyzed, we did not know what to do. Luckily, six months later, we wrote "A Design For Life". This gave us a new meaning. Gave us pleasure again. All the alleged sightings you just have to ignore. But it does not hurt us.
Once again, one has the impression that Nirvana was an important influence
A very important one.
Is this also on producer Steve Albini?
Yes, in any case. At the time , we had a great deal of "In Utero" ( produced by Steve Albini, editor's note ). The honesty and roughness of this album served as a model for us. Even if Nirvana belong to the sacred cows, like Joy Division or the Sex Pistols, which should be kept away from them because they are so brilliant. Above all "Peeled Apples" already has a "In Utero" atmosphere. Very grungy. You will hardly hear this in an iPod commercial.
Probably not. Have you ever met Kurt Cobain?
We saw him at a festival, but never met him. The time when Kurt died and Richey disappeared was terrible for rock music. I was just glad when I could be home. It was just too much.
Was Kurt Cobain really one of Richey's icons?
He loved his music and his lyrics. I remember a line, "I miss the comfort in being sad," which Richey particularly liked. And do not we all like this from time to time: rain, be alone, feel bad? "In Utero" and "The Holy Bible" the soundtrack was a rather sad year.
Sorry, but the song "Pretension / Repulsion" from the new album reminds me a bit of the early Offspring...
That's ok. The early Offspring have already rocked. Is also one of the fastest songs we have made in a long time. We are a bit afraid to play the live. Not only do the lyrics come from a 27-year-old, they also sound like some 27-year-olds.
On "William's Last Words" you sound more like Lou Reed
Yes, I think so (laughs). I also wrote the music. And it was a bit exciting to play with Steve Albini. I do not like singing in front of other people. But Steve was very kind. He is not the type who jumps around in the studio and says what he likes. At the song he said: I really like that! We were shocked. A real compliment. Probably the fragility of my voice simply fits into the song.
What do you think when fans write on your homepage: So, how do I get the Manic Street Preachers?
I think they are really moved. The same is true for some journalists. I've always respected journalists, I know how hard it is to write, even a break. Also, many journalists knew Richey because we have depended on those. Some of them were worried about making an album like this. I think the album is a creative success, but it could be a commercial failure. But that must also be sometimes.
The British NME honored you in 2008 as "Godlike Geniuses". How does that feel?
That was already a big thing. When we grew up, the NME was immensely important. There was no internet, nothing. We also had the feeling that the award is for us four, including Richey. But we do not want to rest on our laurels. This is always the risk of prices.
Do you think the Manic Street Preachers can be proud of something?
It is not just the music, but the other stuff that we talked about earlier. I remember how important it was when I'd heard about Francis Bacon and Morrissey. I believe that we, too, have brought some people closer to education. This is much more important than all the golden records. I'm proud of that.
Will there be new solo albums?
Since we did "Send Away The Tigers", we can not stop writing songs. We want to make a new album next year. I think we need no more solo albums. Just write a song for Shirley Bassey. We can not stop. I do not know what it is: to have become 40? Panic? It is probably the Midlife Crisis (laughs).