Manic Street Preachers drummer Sean Moore tells Paul Smith all about the band’s working holiday plans.
When the Welsh rock trio Manic Street Preachers were last in Australia in late 2010 it was their first visit in over ten years. It is something of a surprise therefore that they are about to come back again already, especially considering they have no new product to spruik. This time it’s the rugby that’s bringing them out here, though. As passionate fans of the game they have long planned a trip to follow the British and Irish Lions tour, and so devised to do their own bonus mini-tour at the same time by playing shows the night before the Lions battle it out with the Wallabies in Melbourne and Sydney. They are also popping across to New Zealand in some downtime to play their first ever show there. “We’ve been thinking about it for a very long time, ever since the last tour,” the band’s drummer Sean Moore explains. “We’ve then been planning it since last year when we started to get the logistics all up together. For us though it was really easy, it was just a matter of telling our agent we wanted to play some gigs around the Lions tour and that was it, it was sorted then.” And as Moore admits, it also makes paying for their trip a bit easier: “Well, that as well, it does help, you know,” he laughs.
For such a constantly hard-working band over their almost 30-year history, it will end what appears to have been an unusually quiet time for them over the last few months, with no new studio album since 2010 and no live shows for over nine months. Moore is quick to lay to rest any thoughts that they have been taking things easy, though. “We certainly haven’t been languishing and living the rock star lifestyle by the pool, drinking ourselves into oblivion,” he jokes. “We actually went back into our studio in Cardiff at the end of January 2012 and we’ve just been working on new songs since then, with a few little festivals here and there just to keep ourselves a bit fresh. For us just being in a studio and writing stuff is probably the most enjoyable thing and even in our downtime we’re still constantly thinking about the next thing and where we want to go.”
That choice of direction has always been central to their music, and has given the band a history of light and dark recordings. Their most recent album of new material was the spirited and commercially minded Postcards From A Young Man (2010), which was in stark contrast to the darker themes and tone of the previous one, Journal For Plague Lovers (2009). It was a very similar situation when their easy-pleasing mainstream breakthrough album, Everything Must Go (1996), followed what many of their original fans regard as the definitive but somewhat heavy going The Holy Bible (1994). By taking extended time to work on new material though Moore reveals they solved the problem of which way to go – by essentially recording two albums’ worth of material. “We got in the studio and couldn’t stop writing. And it was all sorts, all different types of styles and so we came to a crossroads where you could just group one set on one side and group the other on another side so it was like right, what do we do? Pick the best and put them all into one album and confuse everyone? But then we just thought we’d still group them but in two bodies of work, so we’d still have the album concept. So for us it was a no brainer and it was then just a matter of convincing the record company.”
And as for the styles of music on the two albums? “I have to be honest with you, it probably falls into that same pattern,” Moore acknowledges. “There’s the lighter, more popularist sort of an easier listen on the one album whereas the other is a bit edgier and even lyrically is probably a little bit harder to digest. The plan is to release the more radio-friendly album first around September and then, while we’ve distracted everyone with that, we’ll hopefully catch everyone on their blind side with the second album in March/April next year. Hopefully there will be something for everyone.”
With so much focus on recording new material it’s been an unusually long gap between gigs for a band with such a formidable reputation for their live performances. The Australian shows therefore promise to be very special as the band relish the feeling of being unleashed again. “We’re chomping at the bit and ready,” says Moore. “We haven’t done anything live since September last year, though we’ve got a festival lined up in Norway before we go to Australia so we’ll knock a bit of the rust off then.” They won’t provide a first chance to hear what the band have been working on though, as Moore adds. “But we won’t be playing any of the new songs unfortunately as we’re still taking a bit of time to get up to speed and we’re still trying to finish off the second album as well. None of the newer stuff will probably be aired until September this year.” The promised greatest hits set though sounds absolutely perfect for a Friday night before a big game.
There will inevitably be a large expat crowd at the show, all jumping at the chance to see them perform in a relatively intimate setting instead of the big arenas they sell out in the UK. However, Moore says the band will give their all regardless of whether Aussies or Brits turn out to see them: “I’d like to think there’d be a good mix of both but it’s not going to be any different either way. We just hope that there’s some Manic fans there and possibly some people who wouldn’t normally come along. But we’ll still be giving it all and it will be the total Manics experience.”
But will there be a temptation to wind up any of the Aussie rugby supporters that are there from the stage? Moore has a simple response to that one: “I don’t think we need to wind up the Aussies. They’re not playing as well as they should. The Australian team will do enough to wind up their own fans! We’ll soon see. We won’t gloat, don’t worry!”
For their own part, as three patriotic Welshmen, Moore insists they will have no problem if an Englishman should win the game: “It doesn’t matter at all, that’s the whole tradition of the Lions. As long as the Lions win, that’s it. We don’t care who captains it, who scores the last point, it really doesn’t make any difference to us.” He then lays down his prediction with some confidence: “I don’t think Australia are at their best so there’s an ideal opportunity seeing as we’ve got a very, very strong Lions squad. With Warren (Gatland) at the helm I’m sure that he knows a few tricks here and there and he’ll definitely give Australia a run for their money so I’m fairly confident that the Lions will do really well. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a whitewash.”
And this writer’s got a feeling this is a Manics gig not to be missed.