With Journal for Plague Lovers by Manic Street Preachers a very special publication is scheduled for May Finally, the album should contain only songs of 14 years ago disappeared without a trace Richey Edwards . Enough material for a detailed conversation, we find.
Hardly a band has experienced more ups and downs in their careers than Wales's Manic Street Preachers . They won almost every award the music industry has to award and were the first western band to perform in Cuba - and had to endure a heavy blow in 1995 when rhythm guitarist and lead songwriter Richey James Edwards left the hotel on the eve of a planned US tour and never returned.
Richey's fate is still unclear, but for many fans he is still an iden- tifier. So, last summer, the Manics decided to release a textbook from a notebook that Richey left to his friends and bandmates in the form of an album. Journal for Plague Lovers will be online on May 15.
LAX editor Tina went to the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich to talk with bassist Nicky Wire and singer James Dean Bradfield about the new album, Richey's legacy and the tiresome baggage problem.
Can you tell us something about the background of your new album coming out in May? There were several working titles, why did you choose Journal of Plague Lovers in the end?
Nicky: The album contains only lyrics that Richey Edwards left us. We sat in the car one day and James said we should finally release the material. And so we decided to record this album. It was indeed difficult to find a title because Richey wrote so many brilliant lines. For example, I would have liked to call the album "I Know I Believe In Nothing But It Is Nothing", but that was more of a personal thing. In the end, we chose Journal for Plague Lovers because the record is actually a kind of diary for us.
How did you feel when you were in the studio? Were the recordings to this album different than previous studio stays? I can imagine that it was quite emotional and difficult for you.
Nicky: Honestly, it was stressful first of all! We collaborated with a new producer, Steve Albini, and recorded the album live at Rockwood Studios. No digital frills, no double floor - that was really hard work!
James: Oh yes, that was really exhausting, and working with a new producer is always a risk. But you probably want to know what it was like for us to be constantly confronted with Richey during the shoot, right? It was kind of a strange feeling. The thought of Richey was always present. Well, I do not want to say that I felt his mind, or such a hoax, but somehow Richey was already with us.
Nicky: The recordings have strongly reminded us of our work on The Holy Bible , also because of the live atmosphere . It actually felt like we were all back together in the studio.
Richey's lyrics are almost 15 years old. Do you think that they are still valid today or even timeless, or did you even think about whether you should rewrite something?
James: I think the lyrics have lost none of their relevance. Richey wrote a lot about things that moved him. Be it politics, relationships or literature. People can still identify with it today. And Richey was far ahead of his time, almost predicting many things that are happening in the world right now. So I would say that the lyrics fit in any case into the present time, even if they are already 14 years old.
People will pay much more attention to the lyrics of this album than usual and probably do not really appreciate your music. What do you think about it?
Nicky: We know that, and we wanted it that way. Richey has influenced the band for years. When people think of The Holy Bible , they think of Richey Edwards. He defined the band at that time. Therefore, we also want the fans to deal with his life, his work. If we become extras, that's fine.
James: Richey was a wonderful person and a fantastic songwriter and lyricist. We know. that Richey has a lot of fans, and we think it's great that people are working hard on Richey. That's why we did this record, we did not want to deprive the fans of those wonderful lyrics Richey left us. We really only play a minor role there.
You will soon be playing a short tour in the UK and a few festival appearances. Do you have any plans to introduce Journal for Plague Lovers on stage?
Nicky: No. We do not intend to tour the album. In the summer performances we will basically play two sets: First the complete new album and then a few classics. We also do not see Journal for Plague Lovers as a new Manic Street Preachers record. It's more like a project, a thing we did for ourselves, for Richey and for his fans. Yes, I would even say that the album is a work of art that should stand alone. Therefore, we will probably not play any more concerts and in the autumn we will start working on the next regular Manics album.
You have been playing together for over 20 years now, performing in almost every country on earth, winning a lot of prizes - do you even feel like going on tour? You could just stay home with your wives and kids and save all the stress, right?
Nicky: If a musician does not feel like going on tour, he should seriously consider switching jobs. A musician who does not want to give concerts, in my opinion, did not really understand the meaning of the thing. We have so many wonderful fans, and it's a great feeling to be able to give something back to them. For example, playing in Japan, where people have their legs in front of the hall hours before, makes us very happy, of course, and of course we want to offer a very good show as well. In addition, life on tour is simply completely different. You will not get anything from home and become a different person. In my home town in Wales, people know Nick Jones, who sits at home with his family, after dinner, washing dishes, Going with his dog Gassi and mowing his lawn. And then there is Nicky Wire, who plays Rockstar on stage and feels fully committed to this cliché.
Journal for Plague Lovers is your ninth studio album, you've probably written hundreds of songs in your life. How can you decide which titles you play at a concert?
Nicky: Well, on the one hand, each of us has favorite songs that he loves to play, as well as songs he's more afraid of. There are already some songs that I do not like to play live because I play each time. James also has his "favorites" there.
James: (laughs) I'm not going to get any younger either, and some of the tracks make trouble for me!
Nicky: Of course we also try to adapt the setlist to the audience. On the whole, I'm actually responsible for it. For example, at a festival gig in Europe, people tend to want to hear a best-of program, while interestingly enough, Japanese fans are all too excited about Generation Terrorist songs . Of course, we take this into account in the song selection.
One of your performances has remained in my memory, namely 2008 at the Frequency Festival in Austria. It was pouring rain, you had to cut your set because of technical issues, and by the second song you, Nicky, were hit by a full beer mug. How do you do it, halfway motivated to end the show? There are enough bands that would simply break the concert in such situations.
Nicky: Oh man, I remember that too. That was absolutely terrible. We drove from Munich to Salzburg, and it just rained. We have never seen such a rain before. And that means something, we are finally from Wales!
James: When was that?
Nicky: Frequency Festival last year, in Austria.
James: Heaven, yes, that was cruel! The stage was soaking wet and we did not even know if we even occur, because there was probably a security risk because of the technology. On the stage, it was so slippery that we hardly dared to move. That was a really bad concert!
Nicky: But every time before we go on stage, we inwardly make a contract with ourselves and the fans to provide the best possible show. The conditions on this show were really terrible, but we knew that down there in that steaming crowd were people who paid a lot of money, maybe drove a long way, and have been standing in the rain for hours to see us. We are simply guilty of doing our best. And it takes much more than a beer mug to drive me off the stage!
I always wonder what you are seeing from the stage...
James: In this special case: a lot of steam and lots of yellow garbage bags!
Is there something you always take with you when you go on tour? Any lucky charms or things you just can not live without?
James: No. (Grinning at Nicky)
Nicky: Oh my god, where should I start ?! There are thousands! Make up. Sunglasses. Without sunglasses I die. Various chains. And this cream by Elizabeth Arden. You can smear it everywhere, face, neck, lips. Also helps with scratches and cuts. The stuff is really fantastic. I think that was even tested on horse hooves! Then my Polaroid camera. I love Polaroids! The others always come with such small bags, but I always have a huge suitcase with me. Only a computer or something I never take with me.
James: Our drummer Sean is responsible for the technical stuff.
A very successful young author describes in one of his books the unrequited love of the protagonist to a girl who stands on the Manic Street Preachers, and also cites your song "A Design For Life" (solo album by Benjamin Stuckrad-Barre, Anm. D Red.). How do you feel when you hear that your music inspires people to write a book, start a band, or somehow change their lives?
Nicky: Hey, that sounds great! I want to read the book! Of course, this is the absolute greatest thing for us as a musician. That's why we still make music. Of course, it makes us very proud when we are such an inspiration to our fans. We also often hear that people write their theses at university about us and our music. That's just wonderful and a fantastic tribute to our work.
Can you spontaneously name three songs that have inspired you and changed your life in one way or another?
James: Of course, but this is going to be pretty boring for you now, because these songs are often called by musicians. But I think I can speak for the whole band when I mention Lost in the supermarket from The Clash . When we started the band, we were just four kids from the working class, and music was as important to us as football. However, this song summed up the whole situation in England so brilliantly at the time that it was really clear to us what you could achieve with music and lyrics. The second song that influenced us all was, of course, God save the Queen from the Sex Pistols, At that time, there was such a spirit of optimism in the country, and we wanted to rebel with loud music and intelligent lyrics. I think Nicky was later joined by Live Forever from Oasis as the third song . (Nicky nods in agreement.)
What has been the most impressive moment with the Manic Street Preachers so far?
Nicky: Wow, that's a tough question! There were so many, sometimes you remember more of the one, sometimes something else seems more important. And of course you judge that differently in the different career phases. For example, when we were "Single of the Week" for the first time. Or our first title page on the NME. These were terrific, unforgettable moments!
James: The question is almost embarrassing for me. We just experienced so many wonderful things. But an absolutely memorable moment was when we won the Brit Award for Everything must go . That's pretty much the highest award you can get in the UK. So we thought, "Now we've really done it!". That was pretty overwhelming.