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5 Minutes Alone With James Dean Bradfield - Total Guitar, September 2014

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ARTICLES:2014



Title: 5 Minutes Alone With James Dean Bradfield
Publication: Total Guitar
Date: September 2014



TotalGuitar0914.jpg



Manic Street Preachers' star on Celtic heroes, Cuban 'folly', Messiah guitars and (older) generation toilet terrorists

Got my first real six-string... “It was a black Gibson-copy Kay-40, £25, paper-round money. I bought it off Matthew Horton, a schoolfriend, when I was 15. Late starter? Yeah, but I certainly wasn’t getting any girls, so I needed something. I wanted to start a band, so I had to learn to play something.”

In a big country... “My earliest inspiration was Stuart Adamson. I loved The Skids, I still do. I love Big Country. Stuart was one of the cleanest, most visceral guitarists ever. It’s really sad he’s not around, as he’d be lauded now. There was almost cod-racism in the media about his guitars ‘sounding like bagpipes, Scottish windy bluster.’ Fuck off! Stuart was amazing. No other guitarist ever sounded like him.”

Parisienne walkways... “For a dream guitar, I’d love Roy Buchanan’s Telecaster. I love his playing. Listen to The Messiah Will Come Again. That’s where Gary Moore’s Parisienne Walkways comes from, if you ask me. Not a rip-off, but ‘inspired by.’ Apparently, Roy Buchanan’s Tele was pretty awful – no-one could get a decent song out of it but him. I love that idea: one man and his special guitar... even if the guitar is a bit of a dog. It’s all a bit Arthurian. Pass me Excalibur!”

Learning to fly... “Technically, my big breakthrough was being able to play This Charming Man by The Smiths. Before that, the intro to the Sex Pistols’ Bodies. That’s quite simple, but a breakthrough. And learning the solo to Lost In The Supermarket by The Clash. And ‘the’ Chuck Berry lick – bending the G-string to meet the E and B for that classic Chuck riff. That was pure magic for me.”

Cuba! Quiero bailar la salsa!... “Our strangest gig must be the Karl Marx Theatre in Havana, 2001. We had no idea we were going to meet [then-Cuban President] Fidel Castro, no-one had even suggested it. Then he turned up at the gig. We weren’t ready for the inevitable press attention. Here we are, not just shaking a politician’s hand, but it’s Castro. It was out of control and felt like a scene in Forrest Gump – I had no right being there whatsoever. But I’m kind of glad we did it. You see so many musicians shaking hands with politicians these days...at least we did it out of folly. We had the best of intentions.”

Empty rooms... “One terrible gig I remember we had was in Medway, mid-1990. We drove up in a Transit van. Just before we went in I was outside having a cigarette, and there was a poor old homeless lady squatting, pissing in the street. Went in, played to 20 people maximum. Then it took nine hours to drive home. Not a good night.”

I wish you were here... “I bought a vintage Martin dreadnought off John Niven, the novelist, in the 1990s. He used to be in indie band The Wishing Stones, then worked in the record industry as Mogwai’s boss. We’ve been mates for years, part of that ‘Celtic mafia’ drinking club. The guitar’s in the Cuba video. But it’s now gone, no idea where, lost, stolen? Whoever’s got it...you fucker.”

A design for life... “On an island, I’d have my white Gibson Les Paul Custom. With a lot of guitars, you have to look where you play. Not with my Gibbo. I just know where my fingers are. I’ve been playing it for 25 years, it’s been on every Manics album. It’s a dream guitar. And it’s signed by [Sex Pistol] Steve Jones.”

Let’s get physical... “The main misconception of the band? We are diehards, we are political, but we all love sport. I meet some bands and ask what sports team they support and there’s nothing. Come on! Life! We’re all mad on rugby, football, cricket, Formula 1, athletics, golf... There’s a misconception we’re just messed-up, angsty individuals. We’re not.”