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'Despair, Inspiration, Happiness, Despair, Work, Inspiration, Sport. That's The Crux Of It' - NME, 1st August 1998

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Title: 'Despair, Inspiration, Happiness, Despair, Work, Inspiration, Sport. That's The Crux Of It'
Publication: NME
Date: Saturday 1st August 1998
Writer: Sylvia Patterson
Photos: Kevin Westenberg

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The secret world of Manic Street Preachers revealed.

January 1, 1990 and the first ‘Preposterous Statement For The Day’ reads: "We want to be the most important reference point of the 1990s, that’s all" – James Dean Bradfield, singer-songsmith with some glam-punk gonks called Manic Street Preachers. "We didn’t achieve much of our original manifesto," muses Nicky Wire in ’98, contemplating their dynamic ambitions, "but one thing we always said we wanted to be was the most important rock band of the decade – and I think that’s the one thing we probably have achieved."

You feel you’ve actually done it?

"Yeah. I do."

These days, Nicky Wire doesn’t speak with the everlasting toothsome smile he is famed for nearly as much as he used to. When he talks about something emotionally painful, especially Richey, he twists and rolls his shoulder blades as if trying to dissipate a knot is his legendarily irksome back. He’s sitting on a sofa upstairs in their management’s office, television in the corner switched on with the sound off (one eye trained on the blasted cricket, at which he’ll occasionally roar, "Go on stuff it up the fuckin’ arseholes!" and other sporting delicacies); pale, flop-haired and swathed in all-over casual, expensive sportswear. As is Sean Moore, sitting opposite him, cousin of James Dean Bradfield, who’s missing in action – which is to say paralysed on the loo of his recently acquired London home. Latest report: "It’s coming out both ends." "Must be Met Bar overindulgence…" hoots Nick, sagely.

Manic Street Preachers are giving their very first interview since the triple-platinum success of '96's 'Everything Must Go' resulted in NME Brat Awards for Best LP (the readers but not the writers award), Best Single ('A Design For Life') and Best Live Act in February '97, followed by Brit Awards for Best British Band and Best Album a few weeks later. Events had swept them ever further over the hazardous divide between tragedy and triumph, far beyond their position as fanzine folklore superstars (who'd spent their lifetime railing against the "pointless" cult band cul-de-sac in the first place) into million- selling international rock'n'roll heroes with their inherent, peerless dignity intact.

Today, Sean's in chipper mood, pitching in comments with a rueful charm. Nick, meanwhile, is almost eerily becalmed, a slightly detached man of philosophical candour, whose favourite phrases, sometimes in the same sentence, are "at the end of the day" and "no two ways about it". His voice is low, slow and creaky, like he's 2,000 years old on the inside.

Years ago, the Manics would collate "dossiers" on individual journalists, conduct pre-interview research and prepare the tenets of their unique and spectacular manifesto with a palpable relish.

"I've got to train myself to watch my mouth," is the sound now lifting from the once venomous tonsils of Nicky Wire, chewing on the straw of his King Size Ribena. "I used to look forward to interviews, use them as an opportunity to make a point, but now they're an opportunity to fuck up. I think it probably caused me a lot of pain in the past, and the band, because there's always a repercussion. It's a shame but that's why I don't open my gob so much, the armour has been dented, the invincibility is gone. And you've always got to think about Richey's family, you can't just think about being (faux-romantically) in a band any more. If fans feel that's a betrayal that's alright, but it's more important what you feel about yourself and you can't betray yourself just to be something you don't wanna be any more, like some sad old tosser living out their dreams 'til they're 60 years old. But to be honest, I think my lyrics are still more provocative than anybody else’s around. The things we talk about no-one else talks about in music, no other group writes the words we do. So I think that’s enough now."

Friday night on top of the mountain right up at the rough end of the Welsh valley where Nick Wire (aka Jones) lives and the rain is hammering down on celebrations to commemorate the anniversary of Aneurin Bevan, leader of the left wing of the Labour party and the man who introduced the National Health Service in I948. It's a bleak night, for diehards only, and Nick's there with his brother and his librarian wife Rachel (to whom he lost his virginity, romanticism fans), all hooting over the dodgy laser show trying to impress in the grey, leaky night. For a moment Nick can see outside himself and he's thinking, "There's no way any other member of a band in Britain would be doing anything remotely like this, no fucking way in a million years they'd even consider it." Booming up from the hillside comes recorded excerpts from the classic Bevan speeches and a phrase lodges itself, indelibly, in Nick's mind: "This is my truth, tell me yours." "it was one of those moments," beams Nick, "one of those epiphanies when things connect and it's mega, it's what makes it all worthwhile."

'This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours' is the fifth Manic Street Preachers LP and the first with no direct contribution from Richey James (aka Edwards), missing now for more than three-and-a-half years. It's also the first where they've worked in the formidable shadow of Expectation; to sustain the hitherto untapped musical sophistication they reached with ‘Everything Must Go’, their acknowledged masterpiece.

"The biggest pressure was knowing it was totally now just the three of us," says Nicky, "that any goodwill we might have had because of the situation we were in, which we didn’t expect but I’m sure there was, all that would be gone. And this album would be, rightly so, hyper-criticised. But maybe in a good way. I can’t deny the press still means something to me. You can say what you like about the Brits and the rest but I was absolutely gutted we didn't win NME (writers) album of the year. And they gave it to fucking 'Odelay', Seek, just to be different. I was really saddened." Er, sorry about that, like. "Heheheh. I'm sure they wanted to give it to us..." But in "their" contrary NME way... "Yeah, which is what I like about NME anyway."

Sean: "And we probably would've done exactly the same thing in the situation."

Thank goodness for that. Sort of. In the serious drudge-rawk rainfest calamity with nothing going on but the blown-away tent we know as 1998, rock music has known no such drought of glamour and incendiary thought process since, er, the last time the Manics materialised, shimmering from the ghetto in 1991, which may explain why we look to them still for some more of those kicks they've given us. But in nostalgic petulance. That Nicky Wire, go the goths, he thinks more about his morbid fear of peanuts than the moribund state of the "culture of despair", etc, etc. Piffle, as it happens; he remains obsessed with culture, popular and otherwise, still; "Only on a more serious, more intellectual level. The bigger picture. I've cut out the bullshit factor." Thus, much of 'This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours' could be described as The News, a particularly gruelling, specially extended, hardcore edition of Channel 4's hosted by Jeremy Paxman in a gas mask and balaclava in a pulpit with a stethoscope stitched to his chest. Its subjects are varied and huge: the Hillsborough disaster ('South Yorkshire Mass Murderer'); the drowning of a Welsh village in order to supply Liverpool with water in the I950s, plus mythology, identity and Welsh insecurity generally ('Ready For Drowning'); the normality of modern depression, title inspired by Winston Churchill ('Black Dog'); the emotional emptiness at the heart of the fear of flying ('I'rn Not Working'); the wish for a female aesthetic as a man ('Born A Girl'); being compelled to do something you loathe, in this case, touring ('You Stole The Sun From My Heart'). Then there's 'Nobody Loved You' - "About Richey, sort of another 'No Surface, All Feeling"'; 'Tsunami' (Japanese for 'tidal wave', concerning the spooky Silent Twins, the Welsh sisters who were imprisoned for dark crimes); 'My Little Empire' (how Nick's emotional crutch of systematic, daily order through housework is a psychological prison as negative as heroin); and two others as yet undiscussed - but possibly not one-dimensional gag-fests - called 'The Everlasting' and 'You're Tender And You're Tired'. The imminent single, 'if You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next', is a gorgeous, enormous, hymnal, paean to the International Brigade who volunteered to fight the fascists in the Spanish Civil War (incorporating our generation's ideological apathy). Phew, anything but rock'n'roll.

"People have a nervous breakdown about booking their fucking holiday, don't they, in this day and age?" snorts Nicky, grandfatherly and with maximum derision. "Generations today are incredibly blase about how lucky they are, they seem to have no understanding about how literally millions, seven million people or whatever, laid their lives down for us, just so we can be here now. There's no way today people would go and fight for a cause like the International Brigade did to fight fascism, just something that you know is wrong, regardless of economics. The purity of that ideal I find incredibly powerful. People say, 'Oh, George Orwell went there and didn't really get into the action', but he still got shot. I doubt whether Douglas Coupland would go..." Do you ever worry about the absolutely gigantic line between writing songs about serious issues and The Cranberries? "Oh God!" he balks. "That song, what was that song called... 'Tanks... bombs! And your bombs! 'Zombie'! Heheheh. Well, I'm always fighting against that pompousness, lyrically and musically. But I think this is about reaching a beauty and purity we've never been able to get before, maybe with the exception of 'Motorcycle'. The single's definitely a grower, the most subtle thing we've ever done."

Of the five other songs NME's heard, '...Truth' is 'Everything Must Go' with the emotive tendrils reined in. They've "deliberately restrained" themselves, cut back on The Ubiquitous Strings (which were "getting out of hand") and the obvious routes to euphoric, emotional impact because "we wanted something pure and sonically beautiful". The biggest change, however, is in the simplification of the words, a concept as alien as the day Elizabeth Cocteau crawled free from the protective chrysalis of her "spook-speak" forever. The result is the most powerful and expressive singing of James' life.

"The language is simpler," says Nick, "but the content is probably more complex, each song has two or three themes." With so many specific, historical themes, were you deliberately distancing yourself from 'A Design For Life'-styled universal anthems for the bleak generation? "it wasn't deliberate," he muses, smiling, "but I don't want to become The Bard Of The Working Classes. You can't be that for the rest of your life. I just wanted the lyrics to be as good as they have been in the past and there was a lot to live up to. Because there's just me now. To write 20 lyrics now, on my own, it's like writing a novel."

When you're writing do you speak to Richey in your head? Seek his approval?

"I do a little bit. I do think to myself, 'Richey would like this one. He wouldn't have liked this one...'That's a personal thing but ... yeah. I do seek his approval. No two ways about it."

"I never wanted to be a singer until ‘The Holy Bible’," muses a stubbly, fully recovered James Dean Bradfield two days later in exactly the same room (with the television off) wearing a red '$1’ T-shirt. "I hated being the singer. I always wanted to be a really good guitarist and always wished that Richey had a voice. I'm not fishing or anything like that but it's always best to have the coolest fucker in your band as the singer. (Guffawing) It is, it's the rule!" James is laughing but he's "nervous". He looks it, sitting on the carpet, sipping tea, smoking cigarettes, continually shunting a hand through the "permanent Ray Reardon" of his thick hair and flicking at his lighter, over and over and over again. For him, this time around, things feel "indefinable, nebulous", he's not sure whether people will "love us, hate us, forget us... it's quite strange to think you could alienate nearly one million record buyers in one country alone."

You're just not used to being this big, isn't that it?

"Completely like that," he nods, "even though it's what we always wanted and expected. It was very easy to be the antithesis of everything, to be comfortable with people actually enjoying not liking you, but success... I felt that we wore it well, to be honest. It's not that that I find the problem with, it's our own expectation and other people's, we've never had that before, people being... (nervy grin) excited about one of our releases. But you only take that on board when you're finished, otherwise, to quote one of our own lyrics, it's 'paralysis through analysis'. So now it's the old fucking cliche, it's only indifference that's hard to take." The new album is, feels James, as is normally the case with musicians in the throes of "birth", the best thing the Manics have ever done. (The duet with Sophie Ellis Bextor from Theaudience that NME predicted in June would be on the album didn't, incidentally, make the final list: "That's what happens with unofficial news stories..." he notes, pointedly, but good - naturedly.) "Absolutely everything on this album is completely realised for me," he serenades. "Nick has reached the level of purity and wisdom of the real poets, and I will use that word, where he can discard words, where everything is absolute and ultimate, somewhere I don't think Richey could've reached. It's made me want to sing more, instead of shouting."

There remains, however, a personal and unique affection for 'The Holy Bible' which he can only liken to a romantic's view of the "the black sheep". An analogy for Richey? "Em.... no. No," he asserts. "Obviously, Richey was the principal lyricist for that album but it's more about the psyche, it was so natural and so completely fucked up."

The Manics talk a lot, unprompted, about 'The Holy Bible', their desolation opus which crystallised Richey's decline, his anorexia, self- mutilation and insomnia-related alcoholism spiralling into the breakdown which saw him treated in The Priory rehab clinic where, Nick's convinced, without booze, his spirit was broken. Richey emerged with a 65-cigarettes-a-day habit and a horror of performance culminating in the purchase of a butcher's cleaver with the (unrealised) intention of cutting his fingers off.

"When you look at 'The Holy Bible'," says Sean, "you know that's as far as Richey's character could go." "And that's not being in a band," adds Nick. "That's just him existing in life, it's not like, 'Could the band have existed?', but 'Could he have existed?' I dunno. When you were there you just thought he couldn't." If his experiences in The Priory broke him, he was crumbling badly in Bangkok, previously, on the 'Holy Bible' tour where they risked execution in a ferociously monarchic land by playing 'Repeat' with its refrain: "Fuck Queen and country', where a fan sent Richey a set of knives with which to cut himself and pleaded, "Look at me while you do it." They saw scenes of extreme human exploitation, a whole new dimension of "cultural alienation, boredom and despair".

"Talking and singing about the issues we were," says Sean, "in a way I felt ten times worse in that we couldn't really justify ourselves. We felt like fakes, in a way. Talking about all this deprivation and misery and alienation and, yeah, Blackwood was a bad place to live in but wait til you see something like that."

"As soon as we came back from Thailand it was obvious there was no way we could carry on like that," adds Nicky. "I knew could never do anything like that again. At the end of the day, I’m 6ft 3"s and by the time I came back I was just under nine stone, should've been 13-and-a- half stone. It's alright for a fan to want to freeze us there, still going about in combats playing Die In The Summertime', but if we were frozen there we'd probably all be dead."

Standing on his Brits plinth in February 1997 making his kill-the- comprehensive-school-and-you- kill-great-British-art speech, Nicky Wire's overriding emotion was one of "empowerment: if you're driven by the forces we are you've a specific duty to try and do something with that platform." Was there anything left, one wonders, of the young man who once said, "if we ever get a Brit award, I'm gonna get my dick out, piss on it and tell them to shove it up their arse"? "And set fire to ourselves afterwards, heheheh," guffaws Nick. "Well, saying something about comprehensive schools is probably more radical. At the end of the day we won a Brit award with me wearing a T-shirt saying 'I Love Hoovering' and that's subverting rock'n'roll more than anything else could."

Sean (witheringly): "More than Knob-a-con's pail of water over Prescott..."

Nick: "At the end of the day I wore a tiara and a camouflage dress, y'know, at the height of our popularity. So, it’s still there. But i probably would've done something like that if we'd won one in 1991."

"This bloke out of The High came up and started talking to me about an interview he'd done just about his guitar and equipment. When I told him I wasn't interested and that James plays my guitars on the record, he went mad. He was going, 'There ought to be a union to stop people like you!" - Richey James, 1991

Manic Street Prechers had, in 1991, already made a habit of strutting onstage to a reading of Alien Ginsberg's poem, Howl. They were spectacularly educated situationist art terrorists with a mission to articulate the rage, isolation, corruption and self-destruction (and, maybe once or twice, fleeting joy) at the heart of the human experience and do so while bedazzling the globe as the most beautiful 21-year-old boys the world has ever known. They were highly principled, deeply moralistic, radical left- wing missionaries in mascara who loathed the values of western, capitalistic adulthood enough to say, "Kill yourself before you're 13" to the readers of pop gazette Smash Hits (never actually printed, for obvious reasons) - a tome they considered "more effective in polluting minds than Goebbels ever was". They were pop professors numbering two musical prodigies (James and Sean) and two ham-fisted amateurs who couldn't play their instruments to save their empty, useless generational lives (Nicky and Richey, The Glamour Twins and "political wingers"). They stood for dignity, education, salvation through knowledge and the progression of the human spirit, while professing belief in absolutely nothing at all: "Only nihilism." They were exposers of evil as a foil for the forces of good who flew the ideological skyways in search of Truth, Justice and the Actively Politicised Way. They liked Kylie Minogue and couldn't be doing with The Wedding Present. They were repelled by mediocrity and stood Against The Ciiche: "it's the sheer bloody boredom of always knowing what's coming next" (© Spike Milligan). Borne from the conflict of the Welsh Miners' Strike of 1984 (and "delusions of grandeur") they wore stencilled shirts proclaiming themselves 'Spectators Of Suicide', brought us T-shirts that screamed 'All Rock'n'Roll Is Homosexual', sang, 'I laughed when Lennon got shot" and became the best idea for a rock'n'roll group since the Sex Pistols.

"We do have some kind of historical importance," declares Nicky Wire, evenly, now on the cheese'n'onion crisps, "not in a people-copying-us-way, but the entity that we are, marrying politics with sexiness and style and anti-style and glamour. No band ever attempted that for 15 years before us. And the idea that you could remain outside the mainstream without being Sonic Youth or some obscure art band, that's the most important thing. I think we've probably changed people's lives. For better or worse, heh heh. I don't know if we've actually changed anything, but I think we've changed the perception of what a band can do. I think we've probably achieved as much as we could. We haven't brought down the House Of Lords or the monarchy but that would've been stretching it a bit. But unfortunately 20... 50 per cent of that historical importance is probably because of Richey going missing."

He knows they've always skewed that rare, magic, cultural synchronicity that came with, say, Nirvana ("yeah, 'Nevermind' had that synchronicity, captured every single second of it") and feels, back in their cavalier 'Motorcycle...' days, "We just weren't good enough, musically. And we've played some terrible gigs, Richey failing asleep on James' shoe at a festival..." He still cares about being Number One, "But it would've been better if 'Faster' had been Number One, at our mental peak, Top Of The Pops, fire and balaciavas... pretty implausible, really." Inevitably, he muses over the "self-fulfilling prophecy" in their wilful use of self-destructive iconography. "But I never thought it would happen to us really," he decides. "The '4 Real' thing's a perfect example, I thought it was a fantastic thing to do, I didn't think it was self-abuse, none of us thought, 'You silly twat!' or (goofy) 'Oh no you can't play guitar!' I just thought (beams) 'Cutting your arm up to prove you're real, you can't get any better than that'."

James is flick-flick-flicking his lighter and trying to work out whether 'Everything Must Go', the phenomenon, could've happened if Richey had still been around. "l don't know if that's a question I want to answer, really," he's saying, brow furrowing deep in his forehead. "I dunno... the way he was going... I just think he would've wanted utter artistic expression and probably would've gone down the road of 'The Holy Bible' again and we couldn't survive that again. I know he liked 'Small Black Flowers' 'cos, y'know, that was the last record we listened to together before he disappeared, me and him were sat in the car when we pulled up at the hotel that night (James being the last person who saw him at the Embassy Hotel, Bayswater, London, January 3 1, 1995). it's a really hard question to answer because it makes it sound as if we would've split up after 'Everything Must Go', which is an alarming thought. His approach would've been so deeply imbued by a new lyrical form that it would've been a fucking test, I know that. And I don't know if you've got the right to do that when. you get to our age. I think you've got to leave that to the young bucks."

Playing in front of the victorious 'You Love Us' footage (which reached Number 62 in the singies charts, May 1991) was about reclaiming your past, wasn't it?

"Yeah, and it was brilliant," attests James. "it was also reclaiming the affection for someone you've lost and getting rid of all those negative emotions. And it was almost a matter of pride: 'This is how cool we used to be!' (Guffaws) Not saying we're complete and utter cretins now, but bands sometimes get to somewhere and they'll never attain that ever again. So it was, 'Hey, look at that, that's what we did'. I felt completely and utterly empowered and felt like I could take off. "And also it was taking it back from other people, just a tiny bit, y'know, as a band, bringing him back to us. Not in a nasty way, in a way we needed to."

Mithering old people (Or, Three ‘Observations’ Taken From Market Research Of Persons Who Cannot Let The Olden Days Die).

1) You're strolling relentlessly down the huge power ballad overkill highway named 'Bryan Adams'.

Sean (miffed):"it's hardly 'Everything I Do, I Do It For You', is it? We're never gonna go onstage and go, 'Hello to the left and hello to the right...’"

Nick (even more miffed):"'You Stole The Sun From My Heart' (huge rawk boomer) - that's as lively as anything we've ever done! The drums and guitars are the nearest we've ever got to Nirvana. 'Nobody Loved You' is total 'Nevermind' Nirvana. And 'Tsunami', that's pretty fucking up-tempo, hardly a fucking rock ballad, is it?" Thought it sounded a bit like The Mission, to be honest (Central musical identity: the sitar-guitar).

Nick: "Oh God. Please don't say that to James! You'll bring his diarrhoea back on!"

2) The live experience 'vibe' is being monopolised by the 'New Fan' Scary-Bloke-in-A-Cagoule element.

Sean: "

There's always been that going on. Gurrock Bay, the crowd ploughed into the stage on the 'Motown Junk' tour..."

Nick: "They had syringes full of cider spraying in our eyes, these fucking nutters, I thought it was fantastic!"

James: "At the Nynex when crowds of lads were singing, 'We only wanna get drunk!', I think there was a big mistake made there, this idea of (mimsy condescension) 'Oh God, what are Nicky and James thinking about at this moment, they must be cringing at that lot there...'. And part of that lyric has no irony in it at all. "For a start, as a person, I've been in many a situation where I know not what to say but I know what to do, where I'm not articulate enough to make myself understood and, yeah, sometimes I do just wanna fucking get drunk, definitely and utterly, sometimes the most base reaction is the only one I've got. And those were the working-class considerations in the song."

3) Your natural habitat is now what you used to describe as "stadium bollocks"?

Nick: "I'd much rather do gigs in arenas than anywhere else. I don't like all that stuff about seeing the white of the eyes, I'd seen that for fucking six years non-stop. I can lose myself much more in a big gig, I feel much freer. It might be better for a punter but we're the ones doing it. I don't find it easy, especially post-Richey, having the crowd right in front of me, you can just look across, it's much easier to notice Richey there, it's all very enclosed and tight and (melodramatically) humane and everyone's feelin' it... it takes much more out of you."

D'you remember saying you were going to ban all Charlatans fans from your gigs 'cos they all had moustaches?

Nick: "Oh God, I actually felt that at the time, that's the scary thing!"

Sean (knowingly): "Mind you, you see a lot less moustaches these days."

Nick: "True!"

After three-and-a-half years, the official police file on the disappearance of Richey Edwards remains 'open and inactive' and will remain so for another three-and-a-half years, after which time he'll be officially pronounced dead. In the meantime, without a body, the Manics talk about Richey as if he is dead because there's no other way to do so, but exist under the premise he's simply "gone".

"And it will stay like that forever," nods Sean, "unless some event causes it to change."

"Put it this way," adds Nick, "when you get the supposed ‘sighting' of Richey in Goa I'm not fucking jumping up and down thinking, 'That's him' because I know it's not him, I've got enough sensibility in me still to realise when something could be true. Some Swansea journalist dickhead who just happened to be on holiday in Goa and saw someone looking like Richey playing a guitar - well, that obviously means it's not Richey straightaway! Unless he's doing Fall covers (feigns abrasive guitar 'style'): 'Nng! Nnng! Nng! Nnnnng!' So, if there was ever a chance of a definite sighting that's the time when things are going to change."

Sean: "But then again it's what he wanted."

"And that's why I can deal with Richey better than I can with Philip," nods Nick, of their mentor, manager and friend Philip Hall, robbed of life by cancer in 1993, "because I know Richey made a decision about what he wanted to do, it's not like his life was taken away from him. I like to think he knew what he was doing and wanted to do what he did, whatever he did, for the best. The last five years have taught me that life is the most precious thing. That's what's probably sucked the life out of us a lot, the realisation that when it's gone, it's gone, dead. Death can be so fucking stupid and pathetic, whether it's an accident or murder or whatever, it's such an utter waste. That's the worst thing. That plays on my mind more than anything."

"The only time I think it would be really good for him to come back is for his parents and his sister," says James, still flicking his lighter, "but for us I don't feel there is any answer there in him coming back, to be honest. If he hasn't needed us for this long, whatever he's done or whatever he's doing, it must be the best for him. That's the way I feel about it."

When Richey went, did he take a lot of the Manics’ bile and hatred with him?

"I don’t think Richey took it," surmises Nick. "I think what happened was Richey being taken away from us took it. He didn’t take it with him. It’s just that when that happens to you, and Philip happens to you, your bile subsides. When you know that today or any day something dreadful could happen, everything becomes on a different level, you can't get yourself so worked up about things."

So how does that affect your soul? Doesn't it make you want to live more?

"it's made me live less," states Nick, emphatically. "it made me realise the things I'm happiest with, the things I cherish most, the simplest things in my life, I'd rather do them all the time. Which basically means staying at home. That's what it made me feel like. That i could be happy in these four walls for the rest of my life, I'd be happy if I never fucking left Wales again, it wouldn't bother me. Travelling and all the paraphernalia that goes with it, as much as I like it, they're just things on top, the added things in life, not really the backbone of it and if you lose your backbone you're fucked. it might seem like a prison to some people, but the prison that I've put myself in makes me feel happy. The last thing that I want to do is to go and do a fucking bungee jump, or to go and drive a fast car just to prove (mock theatrically) 'I'm alive!' Nothing like that at all."

Is simplifying your life a way of lowering your expectations?

"Probably is, yeah. And a way of realising the things that are important to you. That's why I fucking hate flying so much because I'm going somewhere that I don't really want to go. I could live without going to the Far East, I wouldn't miss it, whereas I'd miss waking up every morning and seeing the missus and playing with the dog and going to my mam and dad's, I'd fucking miss that. That's the crux of it for me. And then that's the inspiration for misery as well. Despair, inspiration, happiness, despair, work, inspiration. Sport." And he grins, a weak echo of the once most blinding dental spectacle in rock'n'roll history. Sometime in the next hour he'll say, "There's two things I couldn't live without and that's sport and chips," and he's barely joking, adding, "if there was a choice between music and never seeing the Olympics again or Wales play rugby again, I'd (comedy thumb out to the left) ditch music." Maybe it's obvious why; sport is rules, structure and logic, it's clear winners and losers, it's empirical certainty, Maybe it's as far away from 'reality' as you can get.