"We Count Our Blessings Every Day That We're Still Able To Do This" - Wales On Sunday, 20th February 2011
As rock acts go, the Manic Street Preachers have had an astonishing career by anyone's imagination. James Dean Bradfield tells Dave Owens what the future holds for the Welsh rock 'n' roll renegades. Link/Page Citation EVEN by their lofty standards the last six months has scaled the heights for the band who many view as Wales' greatest rock 'n' roll outfit.
When the Manic Street Preachers' 10th album Postcards From A Young Man was released into the public arena in September of last year, it carried with it the bold intention of being a last shot at mass communication.
Always one for an eye-catching soundbite, the band vowed that the album was a defiantly, unapologetically bold, forthright and communicative set of songs.
In typical fashion they talked the talk, wanting the biggest number of people to hear what they had to say. Luckily they had the songs to walk the walk.
Recorded in their own studio HQ in Cardiff with long time producer Dave Eringa it ticked all the boxes and gave them one of their most successful albums yet.
"On the last tour we sold 55,000 tickets and Postcards has sold over 100,000 copies," says frontman James Dean Bradfield.
"Since the Send Away The Tigers album in 2007, which was the start of our comeback if you like, we've been selling records around Europe.
"For any band to release 10 albums is an achievement," he muses.
"We count our blessings on a grand scale every day that we are still able to do this."
It appears that while the Manics have never been more creative - releasing three acclaimed albums in four years - James is content for the latest release to work its way through the band's system before they can contemplate a follow up.
"If we put out another record this year I think it would be pushing our luck," he confesses.
"We'll be taking a break. Sometimes you've got to let an album be at the back of your mind. You've got to know it's finished before you can start the next one.
"We're not at that point yet." He does, however, give me a tantalising glimpse of what is to come.
"The next album will be built around the idea of spontaneity," he teases.
"We'll indulge ourselves, but it's not indulgence in an ugly way. We'll be trying to fulfil an ambition; it's an idea (bassist) Nicky (Wire) has had for a long time."
Sadly, James will not be drawn on just what that means, despite my adopting the nagging persistence of Father Ted's nagging housekeeper Mrs Doyle - 'Aw go on, go on, go on!' Before they disappear into self-imposed exile, there's still time for fans to see the band in the live arena before any impending hiatus. They've this week confirmed two Welsh shows at Venue Cymru, Llandudno, on Wednesday, May 18 and the Cardiff International Arena on Saturday, May 21.
It's the band's first gig there since 2007 when they blazed a fiery trail across the CIA stage to promote Send Away the Tigers.
"I'm not sure about the exact figure but I think we've played the CIA 11 times now and sometimes you just have to have a break from a venue," says James.
"In the interim we've played all over Wales, Swansea's Brangwyn Hall, Venue Cymru in Llandudno and The Newport Centre, so it was the right time to spread the shows around. Now we can't wait to get back there."
For band who wears its Welshness on its sleeve, or more pertinently draped over its amps in the form of a Welsh flag, last month presented itself with one of the more emotional moments in their career - a return to their hometown Blackwood to play.
The gig at the Blackwood Miners' Institute was recorded as part of the BBC's In Concert series. James admits it felt odd playing a gig on home ground.
"It's not like we've never gone back, as all our families are still there," he says.
"I go back often to see my dad, I still have my opticians there, I still go to the same fish and chip shop, but playing the gig was definitely strange.
"I looked around and kept thinking to myself, 'I'm playing a gig in Blackwood'. Yeah, strange."
The gig saw a rare as hen's teeth outing for the band's debut single Suicide Alley. Their rip-roaring version coursed with the wiry urgency of prime time Clash, something James agrees wholeheartedly with, although he confesses he didn't at the time of its release.
"We used to take issue with people who said it sounded like a three chord punk song from 1977 and that we were just a retro punk band," he laughs, "But that's exactly what it is. Just goes to show that back then we had a chip on both shoulders."
Throughout the course of our conversation James is in fine form, happy to hold court on a range of subjects - how he was watching the Brit Awards and was "pleased to see Tinie Tempah wearing one of Nicky Wire's jackets!", how one of the highlights of last year was having their single (It's Not War) Just The End Of Love being played over the closing credits of The Ryder Cup saying "we were overjoyed".
He talks about how Welsh actor and friend of the band Michael Sheen - who appeared in the video for the aforementioned single - has asked them to get involved with his Passion play in Port Talbot over the Easter weekend, adding: "We're happy to help, the guy is genius."
However, the one revelation that will have Manics' fans putting out the bunting is that they have no plans to split.
Despite being together for almost 25 years, James says his passion and desire to make music with the Manics still burns brightly.
"I'm an institutionalised Manic Street Preacher," he jokes.
"It's an automatic reflex. It's all I know.
"I love writing, recording and touring with the Manic Street Preachers, I don't ever want that to end.
"When I was at school doing my O-levels and I was asked by the careers office what I wanted to do when I left, I said 'musician'.
"When you choose something you love doing, why would you ever want to stop doing that?" Manic Street Preachers supported by The Joy Formidable play Venue Cymru on Wednesday, May 18. Tickets priced pounds 27.50 on sale from the box office on 01492 872000 or via www.venuecymru.co.uk; Cardiff International Arena on Saturday, May 21. Tickets priced pounds 27.50 on sale from the box office on 029 2022 4488 or via www.ticketlineuk.com The Manics release their new single Postcards From A Young Man on February 28.