Angry After All These Years - Manchester Online, 6th December 2004
Dictators have fallen from power, Wales has its own political assembly and Richey Edwards has long-since disappeared without trace. But it's still difficult to forget that earliest, scarred and angry incarnation of the Manic Street Preachers. With the aforementioned missing musician serving as the sorest member of what was a particularly angst-ridden bunch - complete with the now famous phrase, 4 Real, carved into his arm with a razor blade - the Manics became self-proclaimed "generation terrorists". Fully 13 years on, and with heated debate still continuing about Edwards' whereabouts (or even the likelihood of his still being alive), it's more interesting than you might imagine to catch up with the Manics' frontman, James Dean Bradfield.
So, do gritty subjects like prostitution and politics still send fire racing through his veins?
"It's a misconception that we ever had causes," the singer, now 35, says. "All we ever did was write songs. The anger is still there but it's in different places and we have become more engaged. I think we gained a reputation simply because we were young and had that nihilistic things going on where we considered that everything that had ever gone before us was completely useless. As you get older, you realise that that's all nonsense. The climate has also changed. Whatever you think of Tony Blair, the standard of living is much higher now. When I was growing up, to be working class was to never go on holiday and to never have a car. Look at the other things which have been achieved: the peace process in Northern Ireland, devolution, those are both steps in the right direction"
As you probably guessed, politics still ranks fairly highly alongside music as one of Bradfield's pet subjects. He might not profess to pursue causes, but there's no stopping him when he gets a bee in his bonnet. And while it was Manics lyricist Nicky Wire who penned most of the songs on the band's latest studio album, Lifeblood, Bradfield clearly feels just as strongly about almost every word. For instance, Emily, a song which might be dedicated to a favourite child, is in fact dedicated to the memory of the Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.
"It's a song dealing with this obsession with celebrity" he says. "Society is so iconoclastic. We worship the idea of Diana (Princess of Wales) and yet we ignore the idealist Emmeline Pankhurst"
Poignantly, Cardiff Afterlife refers to those who believe they knew Richey Edwards almost as well as his former band mates.
Bradfield adds: "People ask sick questions about him. It's about those people who met him for half an hour but think that they knew him so well. What annoys us most is the fact that they sometimes ask the most inappropriate questions. For instance, people will say If Richey came back now, would the first thing you'd ask him be what he feels about the albums you have made in his absence. That's clearly ridiculous. The first thing we'd do is throw our arms around him and ask him how he is. I'd be overcome with emotion"
Given that Bradfield broached the Richey subject, does he have any strong feelings about what might have become of the angry young man?
"I might have if I was a B movie script writer" he adds.
Another song, Nixon, is based on the surprising notion that we should forgive the mistakes of world leaders and polticians - even when their reputations are as flawed as Richard Nixon's.
"JFK is remembered for being assassinated and for his work in civil rights, but not for the Bay of Pigs which brought about the Cuban missile crisis"
Just as iconic are some rock stars, Bradfield adds, which brings us to the most pressing issue to far as the Manic Street Preachers are concerned. Now no longer youthful, it is the politics of pop which draws the biggest reaction from the singer.
"Ah, you're talking about the new brand of heritage rock" he adds with a scowl. "I do feel that I'm a musician with a lot of history behind me and that feels good sometimes. But unlike art, making commercial music is a field where you are consistently reminded of your fallability, the fact that you're looking a bit rough. I'm not saying older musicians aren't celebrated, but being a musician is something which leaves you constantly being questioned" he adds.
It's a good point and one that might even leave the Manic a litle bit angry. But at least he still feels like he's got things to preach about.