The Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield talks to Absolute Radio's Pete Mitchell about their new album Futurology, staying in the present and revisiting Berlin.
Following on from last year’s successful long player Rewind the Film by the Manic Street Preachers, comes hot on its heels yet another album, Futurology. This is record number 12 in their cannon of work, which goes back as far as the blistering Generation Terrorists in 1992.
I recognise that same band in this new offering. Listening to what can be described as a European sound and journey, the band still radiate that sense of alienation and dislocation, but this time with more than a hint of Cold War espionage and concrete. It is the sound of Bauhaus architecture, exuding a total sense of art and life being brought together sonically.
There is a sense of urgency and travel here, it moves you along and at times it feels like you are sitting in a window seat of the Trans Europe Express, breezing through the snow Cap Mountains of Austria. It sounds picturesque.
Futurology is very different sounding to their last record but they were made around the same time. I sat down with an enthusiastic James Dean Bradfield and once we had finished chatting about the World Cup and rugby, we got down to the nitty gritty of his new album.
He said: “We made two albums at the same time and I recommend it to any musician, it's not confusing, it's not too daunting, it was actually a great experience. It subconsciously unravelled and attacked us. We started making what was Rewind the Film, the more acoustically-based album that came out last year. As we stacked up the tracks and listened back to them, it was only then that we realised we were making two separate records. We were kind of in despair when we realised it happened by accident.”
I suppose it's not unusual to come up with this conclusion, The Beatles' double White Album, for instance, sounds like two different records. If the group and whoever was advising them at the time, separated the tracks into two different entities, it would have by now made sense. I am not comparing them by any stretch to the Fab Four, but the schizophrenic nature of the artistic individual can throw up this unusual paradigm.
James explains further: “Nicky had some mad notion of making a triple album but if I am being brutally honest, I don't think anyone these days has the attention span. You can make that grand statement when people think you have hit your stride, we could possibly have done it around about our fifth record but when you get to your 12th record people think you are just being self-indulgent and overblown.”
Recording in Cardiff and Berlin, the band found themselves siphoning through their latest work. “What marked the two records apart from each other, was not only the music but the lyrics. All the lyrics on Rewind the Film are much more introspective, much more melancholic and, dare I say it, much more gloomy.” James explains.
So what is the discerning difference between the two I ask. “This record is more outward looking, it has a strange kind of joy in it and a lot more observation in it. It is very much in the present and looking at the future. We recorded just over 30 tracks and it was just so plainly obvious that we had made two separate albums. So they all got separated at birth.
"We have always been like this. We went from records like The Holy Bible, which was a proto-punk nihilistic obelisk, into Everything Must Go, which had oxygen and humanity. We are always shape shifting. So we just came up with this plan to release two albums in the space of one year.”
Reconnecting with an old advisory they completed work on the 'second album' in Europe. “There was some sort of serendipity that we ended recording at the World renowned Hansa Studios in Berlin," he said. "Basically the guy that recorded the Holy Bible back in 1993, Alex Silver, a friend of mine who works out there, got me thinking that we should reconnect with him.
"We wanted a fresh view on things half way through the record and he came to mind. I didn't want to go to Hansa and Berlin, as I felt it was a little over done but we did and it was the right decision.”