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A Strange Beast Of A Band - South Wales Echo, 15th August 2008

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Title: A Strange Beast Of A Band
Publication: South Wales Echo
Date: Friday 15th August 2008
Writer: Gavin Allen


Manic Street Preachers are a band who carry their history proudly. But where does their future lie? As they prepare to headline a stage at Reading Festival for the first time in 11 years, James Dean Bradfield confides in Gavin Allen...

In the 11 years since the Manic Street Preachers last played Newport Centre so much has changed for them, and yet so much remains the same.

The reinvigorated Blackwood band return to the leisure centre venue on Thursday to play a warm-up gig for their headline set at Reading and Leeds Festivals next weekend with the band back at the peak of their powers with their eighth album, Send Away The Tigers.

In a nice line of symmetry the last time the band played the centre was in 1997, as a warm up for a headline set at Reading, a time when they were riding high on the massive success of Everything Must Go.

The interim has been filled with personal and professional struggles for the trio.

But for singer James Dean Bradfield the most significant of them was the passing of his mother Sue in 1999, which is why they're donating pounds 5,000 of their ticket sales from the gig to Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff.

Bradfield spent many days and nights at his mother's bedside at Velindre and even wrote a song about the experiences; the single Ocean Spray was named after the fruit juice drink he would take to her when he visited.

"You would presume I would have bad memories of the place but the people you come into contact with there just make it," he said.

"As far as I can see, it's the best environment for people to have that treatment," says Velindre's newest patron Bradfield quietly.

In the period that followed his mother's death, the Manics seemed to slip off the radar.

Their albums Know Your Enemy (2001) and Lifeblood (2004) did not deliver the level of success they had become accustomed to and the band needed a boost.

That lift came when Send Away The Tigers returned them to the top of the charts and earlier this year the NME's Godlike Genius Award followed.

I asked Bradfield if he had ever felt the band's headline status at festivals such as Reading was a thing of the past.

"I understand where that question comes from because we did have a misadventurous period, where we experimented with the band to its near death, but no, I didn't," he says.

"We are a strange beast of a band and we have had a lot of crisis events in our career, like Richey (Edwards, their former guitarist) disappearing and our first manager dying.

"But there is an element to the Manics that thrives on the dramatic."

The Manics revel in that drama and history so it matters to Bradfield that they're playing Newport Centre as a precursor to Reading .

"There is quite a bit of musical history in Newport," he observes, "like the apocalyptic Smiths gig there that was front page news.

(On October 19,1986, Morrissey was pulled off stage by fans and had to abandon the gig for hospital treatment. A riot ensued).

"Newport has TJ's and Newport Centre and for a period in the '90s it was known as 'Seattle in Wales' because of its influence in Britain, so it's always good to go back."

You get the impression it's the kind of grizzled industrial place the Manics would like to use to run through the material for their next album, which Bradfield described on our last meeting as "more punk, less anthemic, something... twisted".

"I stand by that but I don't want to talk about it in any more detail because sometimes the more you talk about an idea the more energy it loses," he says.

"There have been times when we have talked it more than we have walked it and some periods where we have walked it more than talked it, and we have a history of talking something up and then going off in a totally different direction.

"It's definitely got an edge of (their seminal work) The Holy Bible to it though.

"We have demoed nine or 10 songs at the moment and have about four more to come and we are looking to record it later this year."

With revved engines and a long stretch of road in front of them, I wonder what future awaits them as they get ready to record their last album as part of their current deal with Sony.

"I didn't realise that," says Bradfield.

"We never had a problem being on Sony because when we signed they had The Clash and Public Enemy, who were great bands to be alongside.

"But you've got me thinking now.

"I think I'm going to give our manager a ring."

The Manics Circa 1997

The Manics begin the year on a real high after their 1996 album Everything Must Go is a massive success and leads to some unlikely collaborations.

The 808 State song Lopez features lyrics by Nicky and vocals by James.

Kylie Minogue's sixth album Impossible Princess features two songs co-written and produced by the Manics, Some Kind Of Bliss and I Don't Need Anyone.

The band win Best Album and Best British Group at The Brit Awards, beating Oasis. In his acceptance speech Nicky Wire dedicates the award to "every comprehensive school in Britain."

On Saturday, August 23 they headline the main stage at Reading Festival, above Super Furry Animals and Stereophonics, who were first on.

The band begin recording their next album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours at Chateau De La Rouge Motte in France and Mono Valley and Rockfield in Monmouth.