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A Little Bittersweet - VISIONS, July 1996

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ARTICLES:1996



Title: A Little Bittersweet
Publication: VISIONS
Date: July 1996
Writer: Thomas Mersch


Many had feared that they would not recover from the loss of their guitarist Richey James. But the three remaining preachers do not give up and present an album that is far more commercial than its predecessors. "We allowed ourselves that," bassist Nicky Wire justifies. "It's a new beginning."

"Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant to be ... most of my heroes appeared on no stamp." The speech of Public Enemy's Chuck D was written by the Manics on their debut under the patriotic hate anthem "Repeat". They were the self-proclaimed preachers, the rebels who wanted to lead the uprising. "Repeat After Me" is the text, then "Death Camp Palace" or "Dumb Flag Scum", and in between again and again: "Repeat After Me".

Like Chuck D's heroes, the idols of the Manics are never found on a stamp. They preached for the man in the street, for the working class. "Democracy Is An Empty Lie", "Politics Here's Death And God Is Safer Sex", "Worms In The Garden More Real Than McDonalds", almost every bit of the `92s Debut Generation Generation Terrorists" an angry attack against those who to hold the power. "I think many of our songs were very naive, we were just 20, you know, you're a bit naive and a bit silly." Nicky Wire sits in a conference room at the Holiday Inn hotel - one of Manchester's premier addresses. "But I'm still proud of them because there are not any bands that say that today, it's all pop music, you know. That's why why we are different. We deal with these topics. " Nicky speaks in a calm voice, laughs embarrassed between sentences and packs a lot of "you know" into it. With his left hand he nervously scratched his neck. "In the beginning, we wanted to change people's lives, you know," he says.

At age five, the four who would later become the Manics were already friends. They grew up in the Welsh town of Blackwood, went to school together: to `Pontypridd Junior` and` Oakdale Comprehensive`. They read Burroughs, saw "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," heard The Clash and Echo & The Bunnymen. Nicky started writing at fifteen. Blackwood was a prosperous mining town, and it experienced its rapid descent as the mines closed. "I wrote a lot about the miners strike, that was before there was a band." James Dean Bradfield, today frontman of the Manics, wrote the music to it.

The angry young men have become melancholy. "Today I just hope that the fans get something from us, that would be enough." Did Nicky resign? "I've always been low down, but I've always been a socialist and we should try to make the world a better place." But it's hard to find strength: "All I want to do at the moment is sitting at home watching TV. It's so consumed by one." By which he means that guitarist Richey James is no longer there. Will Nicky talk about it? "It's ok," he says. He just disappeared on the promo tour in the US? "Yeah." And never a sign from him again? "Never," he says. Did he leave something behind, a few lines at least? "Nothing." Nicky speaks slowly. They initially canceled their two-month US tour. "After a few months, we thought: Let's write some new songs and see how it goes, we're all depressive from time to time, but Richey was too extreme." For example, when a journalist accused him of not being "for real" and Richey scratched his forearm with a razor blade "4 real" in front of his eyes.

But hiring a new guitarist was out of the question. In the studio, it made no difference because James Bradfield has always played all the guitars. "Richey could not play and knew that best himself, he was fine live." But the almost sensational success of the new single "A Design For Live" has a bad connotation: "It's a bit bittersweet, it makes you happy, and then you think: where's Richey?" Currently Nicky is the only copywriter. The three tracks "Removeables", "Kevin Carter" and "Small Black Flowers ..." are still texts that Richey left behind.

The album has the ambiguous title "Everything Must Go" - everything has an end, but everything has to go on. "We will never forget our past," says Nicky. "But we have to start over, you know. We keep going, but it will never be the same. It's a new start."

What has changed? "We put a lot more ambition in the new record." If "The Holy Bible" was still produced in a cheap mini-studio ("We wanted it that way"), the new album was written in `Abbey Road`, the legendary Beatles studio. On pieces like "A Design For Live" it sounds like producer Mike Hedges (Siouxsie & The Banshees) is a big Beatles fanatic, like splitting James Bradfield's two guitars into the two boxes.

Textually, the manics have become simpler, according to Nicky. "It's not these pages of lyrics we used to have, like Motorcycle Emptiness." But that does not mean that the band has lost their sharpness. "All we wanna do is get drunk", for example, from "A Design" is meant cynically. "Many expect working class people to just drink and fight," says Nicky. "But that's not all, there's more intelligence and sensitivity, you just have to look at Oasis, they're working class and they're the biggest band in the world so they have to be clever." In the evening, the Manics will be on the stage as a warden for the "biggest band in the world" in front of 50,000 people. With their recent chart success in the back that would give the right kick. But not for a melancholic like Nicky: "We are curious if their fans like us.