So, Manic Street Preachers - the ultimate anti-festival, anti-traveller, and smelly kids, anti-everything band - are playing yet another UK festival.
James: (pause) "Uh, this is like an essay, 'Discuss', is it?"
Nicky: "It's just another Manic Street Preachers broken promise!"
James: "It's just the same old story for us, isn't it? We thought that we were bound for an explosion, but that explosion never happened. So now we're trying to force ourselves on an audience. It’s a sad fact of our existence. We do it for purely mercenary reasons."
Nicky: "Once you've played with Ringo's All Starrs in Belgium and the stage collapses, it's quite easy to master British festivals. It's part of the job."
What is it you don’t like about festivals?
James: “It stands for the worst punk ideal, that anyone can get up onstage and do it. And seeing a band in daylight, without all their masking effects, is the biggest myth blower. Perry Farrell seems to be doing a festival census ay the moment, doesn’t he? He’ll give an opinion on any festival you like. He’ll go and play, and take down all the facts and figures and tell you whether it’s a cultural, didactic experience and what you can learn from it. We’re the only band that lives by a strict code of never looking at all the stalls. We lock ourselves in the Portakabin. The first festival we all went to when we were kids was WOMAD with Siouxsie and The Housemartins and The Blue Aeroplanes. We were so clean! We stank of soap! Typical students thinking that wearing a black T-shirt made us really weird. When we got there, we couldn’t believe what was happening. There were naked people on each other’s shoulders, selling drugs, shouting ‘Recommended by Ian Botham!’ and we thought, ‘Dearie me, what’s all this?”
You described Reading ‘92 as “Cultural Chernobyl” What on earth could you have meant?
Nicky: "Just three years of bastardisation and hatred, and Reading was the symbol. It was down to Melody Maker more than anything else: the Arsequake movement just symbolised everything we thought was crap about music. In retrospect, obviously, it wasn't, but it was good that we felt that way."
The first thing you said was, 'You f***ing stink, you lot'.
Nicky: "Any mass of people who turn up to see 10 different bands must be pretty fuelled up. They obviously just go to enjoy the day. They're used to a bit of abuse. I think we've changed our minds, though. Now it'll be 'Chris Roberts! How ya doing out there? It's great to be here!"
Good gig, mind.
Nicky: "The initial reaction of the crowd was quite exciting for us. It felt like Guns ‘N' Roses or something going out there."
James: "It was a turning point for us. Because although we never sold as many copies of our album as we wanted to, we were to surprised to find out that so many people actually liked us. When 'You Love Us' was released, it was intended as a sarcastic Valentine to the industry. That night, it was the reverse of that meaning. We felt like a proper band. I don't think we've ever got over it."
Shame about way it ended...
Nicky: "The aftermath! It was unintentional. I tried to reach the crowd with my guitar: unfortunately it hit a security guard, broke his arm and smashed his head. I'm not sure what happened in the end. They might have withheld some of our fee."
So, looking at the Phoenix Bill, is there anyone you’re looking forward to?
Nicky: “Oh Simes! Here we go. Actually, we’re only going on the Sunday, so we won’t see much. I can’t say the idea of Pop Will Eat Itself or Living Colour excites me. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Disposables. Or Faith No More or House Of Pain, I suppose. And The Young Gods, just to see all the Melody Maker journalists down the front, shouting ‘Losers! Losers! Losers!’”.
You go onstage after Yothu Yindi and before Living Colour. What is this problem you have, that no one with any following at all is willing to go near you on a festival bill?!
Nicky: “It is a massive problem. When we were offered Glastonbury, first of all it was headline or co-headline with Suede. Within two weeks it was, ‘You can’t go before Suede, so you’re below Teenage Fanclub’. Then it was, ‘You’re below Belly as well’. After five weeks we were on at two o’ clock in the afternoon! And it certainly doesn’t reflect our record sales or following: it’s just other bands’ paranoia. They think we’re going to spoil their party or blow them away. Because we are a bit of an exciting live band. Musically we may not always be totally efficient, but we’re certainly entertaining.”
So anyway, Bon Jovi/Billy Idol/Little Angels/Manic Street Preachers. Don't think you're getting away without talking about that one. Going for the rawk audience, are we?
Nicky: "It is truly the most absurd thing we've ever done."
James: 'We're not going to win any of those fans. We're gonna sound worse that day than we ever have in our lives! We know that now."
Bit of a contrast with yer Blaggers and Credits.
Nicky: "We are the most multi-cultural band in Britain."
Do you own "Slippery When Wet"? Come on, now.
James: "I taped it off a friend."
Nicky: "I do. I don't think there's anything shameful in that."
James: "The reason we're doing it is because I've got two best friends outside the band - one's a drama student, the other works in the Pot Noodle factory -and for them it would be a dream to be within 10 yards of Jon Bon Jovi. If l turned it down, they'd think was a wanker."