Little, humble fanzine editor meets big, modest guitar god!
It's November 1st and I have just received a phone call telling me that I will be having an Interview with James Dean Bradfield in Essen on Monday!! You should see, I'm about to collapse next to the phone or something because I can't believe it and I probably won't be able to get this huge grin off my face for the rest of my life...It sounds quite unbelievable, but this ain't a joke! I keep telling myself that it's "only" James, "only" a human being like the rest of us, but somehow this trick doesn't quite work He's "only" the man with the most expressive and impressive voice, "only" the most energetic guitar hero we know and "only" one of the most respectable persons all-round really... Cool! I'm more than thrilled...
November 4th. I'm standing in front of Essen's rather posh Sheraton Hotel where the interview is supposed to take place and of course I'm too early (but then, I indeed have been told by Sony to be punctual; how could I possibly be late for THIS, eh ??). When It's time to go inside I'm being told to take a seat in the lounge because the Manics have only just arrived and James has to take a shower first (nice!) I feel a bit out of place there, with so many important looking businessmen passing by...Then finally Chris, the tour manager, takes me upstairs, where James is already waiting in front of his room. After greeting each other we go into his hotel room (room no. 419, a non-smokers room) to do the interview. Of course I give him a copy of "carpe diem" and he indeed asks if he can keep it. What a question...After he kindly offered me Coke and coffee we start the Interview...
Quite a few people were surprised that 'Kevin Carter. was chosen as a single. Why did you choose it?
'James: I don't know. You know, we always pick songs on a general contentments basis and we just really liked that song. I think the only reason why we chose it, it had so many untraditional 'Manic' things and 'Manic' life, musical things in it and we didn't really care if it wouldn't receive radio play, it didn't bother us 'cos we got 2 Top Ten hits by then. We just chose it because we couldn't think of anything else anyway.
For a lot of people 'Australia' would be an obvious choice.
James: I think that might be the next one, yeah. Good one. Kevin Carter, you know, we had to play in the video and that kind of rubbish, but yeah, we're just gonna do that, it didn't seem like such a big deal for us to be honest.
And it's a great song. Everybody loves it. For a lot of people it's their favourite track on the album.
Yeah, I know and it did really well in Britain. Didn't seem like any big deal.
In the video the camera lenses cum into guns and they shoot you. Does this somehow portrait your relation with the press these days? Do you feel haunted by the press
Um, no, not really. Not anymore. I mean, obviously the first round of interviews we did when we came back and stuff, the first round of interviews we did was obviously very intrusive on like, you know, on a lot of private matters and stuff, so it did feel rather like under morphine and getting exposed. But the cameras are kind of juxtaposition with like, you know, I think, so to speak, in the video, is more connected wick Kevin Carter.
So you don't feel scrutinized by the press?
No, because it's only the NME and Melody Maker. Obviously the tabloids picked up on the Richey-thing, but it never went, it never got out of hand in the way, let's say, an Oasis story would. It takes a lot more conventional media attention to actually be haunted by the press, because at the end of the day, the NME you know, only 140.000 People buy it each week, whereas the tabloids have at least 10 million readers every day. So as long as you don't reach that mainstream level of media saturation then it's all quite easy to sink back into some sort of privacy. That's alright.
Do you think it's funny that a lot of people believe that 'A Design For Life' was your first single?
It was funny but if was cool, you know. Didn't bother me at all because it's a very liberating, kind of, because ac the end of the day, coming back, you know, there's a lot of people who had a lot of baggage, you know, including ourselves. They had a lot of preconceptions about us through the press, the Richey-thing and everything and it was quite a relief for people to actually think that was our first single because they wouldn't be judging us on any of those like traditional preconceptions a lot of people got about us and obviously if they thought it was our first single they wouldn't ask us a lot of awful questions either. So is was funny, but it was quite a relief. is was cool and it didn't annoy me at all.
Do you like your new fans?
Yeah, they are cool. To be honest, I don't really, you know, people always think this sounds really cold, but I don't really pay that much attention to fans because in terms that, I think it's really condescending for people in bands to think that they can analyse their audience and realize what their audience are or realize what their audience are chinking. I would never think, I would never flatter myself as to think that I have, you know, those thespian powers and also, you know, it got to the point sometimes when they wanted so much of us that we just couldn't give anything and that made it very bitter towards us. And the only conclusion I came to was, that we write songs, we release records and that's, kind of, and be as true to ourselves as possible and hopefully that will rub off on the people who buy the records.
The music must be enough.
Yeah. I really find it annoying when I see bands who, like, try to touch people from stage and stuff and they think they can actually handle the fans with a pope-like kind of touch or seal of approval, when they touch people. That really annoys me. I prefer to draw back. So you ask me if I like the new fans, I'm not quite sure really.
So you see thousands of people at the gigs and that's okay then?
Yeah, you know, they are cool.
Do you still get hassled on the streets by fans who blame you for continuing?
That's kind of warmed, that's kind of pretty much stopped nearly now, just because what people call "Richey-fans", they kind of calmed down now or they, it's really awkward, I can't think of a way to put it but I think they set up the same feelings towards us, but they've just, kind of resigned themselves from the situation and they don't come to the gigs anymore.
No, not really. You don't see many of them. It was always a kind of very visible minority. It wasn't, those kind of Richey followers, it was always a visible minority but it wasn't a mass horde, an army of people.
But that's what people think. When I say I'm a Manics fan a lot of people automatically presume that I dress like Richey and also the self-mutilation...It doesn't really apply on any fan.
Yeah, I know. I think, you know, that really used to piss him off. Its the most unflattering thing for people to turn up and just try to be a pale imitation of yourself, you know. At the end of the day he wanted to be a lyricist more than anything. He preferred people to talk about his lyrics rather than come up to him and
show him mutilations and that kind of thing. He didn't find that very flattering. So I think those kind of people have kind of receded into the background and feel very bitter. They just linger there and don't, because they feel, also they see a lot of people coming to our gigs now, because it's, we're bigger in Britain now, they feel a very acute sense of antagonism towards our new fans. They feel as if they've brought into something which is a pale imitation of its former self but I don't get much hassle by those people. I don't really know.
I saw you in Birmingham a couple of weeks back and it was really a big difference to the German audience. Before the gig everybody sang along to the soundcheck and as I said, they dressed up etc.
Well, German audiences are they kind of more subdued or what?
Did you never notice that?
Yeah, but I just kind of thought that when a foreign band comes to a foreign soil, I would always presume that there is always a certain distance between the audience and the band anyway unless you're really, really big So I remember that night in Birmingham. My voice was really bad I had a really bad cold.
The voice was not that bad!
Er, it was bad. But, it's gonna be a thing, I know you mean, kind of the audience, even that audience for us were very different because that's what the British tour was like and it seemed slightly celebratory for some reason at some points, the British. It's not something that we encourage, but, you know, it were the people at the gigs.
It happens naturally!
It was great to hear "Stay Beautiful"! I've never heard it live before. And 'Little Baby Nothing"!
Yeah, I know. We only just started playing those again, because, I don't know, its got a lot to do with us reclaiming a lot of our own history.
(At this point the room service is knocking at the door and James makes a dash for the door. Here's the coffee then and the bloke even talks in English to me, funny! While James rips open the sugar packet, out interview continues...)
I really liked the lightshow and backdrop films you used on the UK tour.
Yeah. That is the same, that has to do with reclaiming a lot of our own history. We felt like so much of our history has been taken away from us just by fans, you know, Richey-fans that kind of, they claimed, like, some of our past. They were almost saying, they were almost saying that we don't represent people anymore and we had no right, we couldn't even look at our own history and we were like 'Fuck you !' and we're going to play those old songs 'cos we like them.
I think they've got no right to tell you what to do and what not.
Yeah, I know. They, kind, they get to that point in a certain way. That's why we incorporate the old You Love Us video to show them. It just felt really cool to do it actually.
Will you be using the backdrop films on this tour as well?
On this tour ? The German tour ? No, no, no! its too big and also it's too expensive if you're playing smaller gigs, because we've lost money on the British tour even though everything was sold out. We only just about broke even, perhaps lost a bit of money. So if we did that over here, not getting guaranteed sell-out audiences and even if you do, it might mean nothing to people, so...
And obviously the venues are very small.
That's a shame really. I really loved the fire during "No Surface All Feeling'.
Yeah. We've got the luxury of doing that in Britain because we've got an audience that perhaps has seen us many times and dare I say it, perhaps they need to be entertained a bit more now, whereas in Germany we still are trying to convey the pure essence of what we're about rather than entertain so to speak.
Do you ever get demoralized by an unresponsive audience?
Yeah, definitely. Obviously, I mean, kind of, everybody is egotistical enough to not love any kind of defense against not being a rejection, because that's what it is at the end of the day. It is rejection. And they are rejecting your language. So yeah, I get demoralized by that. Especially in a country like France where you just know that it's never ever gonna happen.
Why not? I think the French do like British music!
Yes, some but not all and especially not us.
Don't know, it's kind of, it's almost something like, not even a transcendental language barrier. It's almost more like a syntax, it's almost general kind of, it's just such general sense of antagonism that just doesn't go away.
So you don't like playing France...
But you have to!
Only one gig!
Well, did you like the Strange Noise Festival in Trossingen in July where you couldn't play?
I was completely pissed off...
I was as well People think that, kind of, we like doing things like that '(no, we don't think so! ed.), but we've travelled all that way, just to go, "Alright, we go back home then?.
The organizer told us that you decided not to play.
Well, it wasn't us who decided that. What happened was, at that point all the water came through the stage and stuff...
...and you were running out of time
Yeah, we were running out of time because, the water came through the roof at the point when we were just about to go on and went down over all our electrical equipment, went into all my amps, so my amps were completely fucked. So I had to use somebody else's amps but also went into all the keyboards and there were no other keyboards left. We couldn't borrow somebody else's equipment keyboardwise and then kind of, on the other side there were their own national failures on the other side, so allegedly it wasn't safe either and at the time that perhaps we could have gone on stage there were only like 10 minutes left and still it wasn't quite that safe. So we asked and they wouldn't let us on stage, he (points into direction where Chris, the tour manger, probably can be found) wouldn't let us on stage. We were, like, "Are you sure!!" and he was like, "Yes! It is my decision." And by the time everything had gone mended, blah blah, we looked at the mud...It was, like, a daytrip to Germany for no reason whatsoever.
Yeah, it was really stupid. I really like your collaboration with 808 State...
What is Lopez' about?
Well, Nick wrote the lyrics. Um, it's about golf...
Honestly ? His favourite subject!
No, he just likes playing golf in the morning when he's home. Nick still lives in Wales and he goes to play some golf courses. And it's about playing golf and the sun rising.
And what or who is "Lopez"?
That was just the working title for it. They asked Nick to write the lyrics and me to sing it. It's about golf. It's about bonding with nature through golf.
The music makes you feel really relaxed and calm!
Yeah, I know. Silly but true, sorry...
Will you be doing more things like that?
No. That was kind of, when I was asked to do it, I wasn't doing that much I suppose. So it was something that was, kind of, nice to be asked to do and I didn't had anything to do at that time and obviously I was in a pretty odd position at that time.
When did you record it?
Can't remember, must be round about April/May last year, last year, not this year or perhaps late... I can't remember, to be honest! No, no, I know, it was round about September of 95 1 It was nice to do but I wasn't doing, I got enough doing this.
Have you already started work on songs for a new album?
No. We've got no songs whatsoever. We don't write when we're on the road because it's like a distorted sense of reality there. It's, we'd just end up writing just completely facile, just like, just reflections of just nothing
that's real. When you're on the road it's no fun writing. We've been on tour for a year, we haven't got any songs whatsoever.
How was America?
It was alright, it was okay. I never really liked it much. I'm not, I haven't got any big deal with America, but you know...
Is it worse than France?
No, it's not worse than France but it's much more confusing. This felt like cultural imperialism there on such a, like, grand scale. It makes you feel really anonymous and it makes you feel like a nobody. It really gives me the creeps.
In front of how many people did you play?
Well, some of the Oasis gigs it was a lot of people, you know, when we were supporting them, 16,000? Between 16, 10. But some of our own gigs you know, it was anything between 100 and 300, just small clubs.
And you weren't disappointed when Oasis...
Slightly Yeah, but it's their business, you know. They make decisions to themselves. And like Nick said, it was quite nice for somebody else to be fucking up for once and not us
(Again somebody is knocking at the door. James makes another dash to the door and this time it's Chris. He tells me that I can ask one more question, because sadly time is running out...)
Okay then, my last question: Is there a connection between "Motorcycle Emptiness' and "Rumble Fish"?
Er, yes there is, yes.
The motorcycle boy thing or driving away to L.A. beaches or...?
No, not so much the motorcycle thing. The motorcycle thing didn't sum up any kind of L.A. dream or anything. That was just one of the symbols of just like, wasted, obviously, youth in the film. That kind of cliched, hackneyed symbol for escape as well. It just sums up the 20th century youth rebellion. A lot of the 20th century youth rebellion lies on the back of a shining symbol, like, you know, machine, that kind of, all your dreams, it can't be encapsulated just like any kind of motorbike. That's just completely senseless. But then again it does offer
you kind of a very facade all exit in the end, some kind of escape, that's like, you know, that caught me, really kind of wistful but also it's quite damaging. But yeah, there was a lot of influence, but there wasn't like an L.A. thing, you know. It's just something that was universal.
And the dock in the 'Everything Must Go' video looks exactly like the clock in "Rumble Fish"!
Yeah, that's because it is ! No, you know, I was the first person to see 'Rumble Fish' when I was young and I gave it to the rest of us and it was just like The Clash, you know. 'Rumble Fish' was like one of those universal things that once we'd all seen it, we all felt as if we'd understood it and we actually computed it the same way. It strucks you because it's universal, something universal and everlasting 'cos a lot of the imagery and symbolism is quite oblique.
Is it still your favourite film?
Yeah, it's still my favourite film. Definitely. I really like the way it was calked about, you know, 'camera for kids" and it was, you know, it wasn't condescending. I think it was, that's a filmmaker who actually tried to take, you know, reams of like, quite heavy.handed philosophy and try to turn it into something accessible which is one of my, you know, pet kind of thing, loves, you know. Anybody that can cry and take something with a kind of, you know, very, like, intellectual edge and try to make it more accessible, that's kind of what we demand of our favourite things. I really hate people who ghettoise intellectualism, you know, like BBC 2 in Britain. Things like the "Late Show" and stuff. They all willfully kind of put those discussion programmes on lace at night, you know, with people with their legs crossed. And they will not make any kind of discourse or discussion accessible to people who don't quite understand what they're on about anyway. And that's what I love about "Rumble Fish'. Everybody made an effort to get across a lot of acute perceptions and ideas.
Well, that's it then...!
Yeah, I'm afraid! I've got some (puts on his be Nat West-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds-voice) business calls to do!