In the following pages the Slut tells you, why you should love the Manic Street Preachers, prints pictures that prove how much Leeds’ Back To Basics love ‘em, and then goes to interview half of the Welsh band’s lyric writing duo about why he don’t love dance music. Paul Benney tries to hold it all together.
When an incompetent guitarist from Wales produced a razor-blade from his pocket and carved ’4 Real’ into his forearm, just to convince an NME hack that his band weren't just punk revivalists in brand new blouses, some people called him stupid. But while the blood formed a puddle at his feet others knelt before him and praised him for saving rock n’ roll. Not the music - the attitude. The thrill of outrageous, moronic, impulsive acts that convinced you that your favourite rock star’s stage persona and real personality were one and the same. No pension schemes for this band.
The Manic Street Preachers are the most important British rock band of the nineties. An opinion on everything whether you like it or not. They don’t know the meaning of Political Correctness. They change their minds constantly on fickle subjects like sex, politics and religion. They aren’t afraid to admit when they've said something stupid and they do say some stupid things (they recently said that the authorities aren’t hard enough on the travelling community and not that long ago said they hoped that Michael Stipe should go the same way as Freddie Mercury). They put quotes from Chuck D opposite Nietzche on the sleeve of their debut double album. They look ace and have also written some great songs. From the strained beauty of the ’anti Harley as youth icon' song Motorcycle Emptiness and the recent single 'From Despair to Where’ to the amphetamine hit of early singles ’Motown Junk’ and ’Slash and Burn' the Manics are more than just attitude. They write their songs democratically. Sean and James write the music and Richey and Nicky write the words. It’s the lyrics that set them apart. Although their music is now closer to U.S. Rock than it is to punk, lines on their latest album like "My idea of love comes from/a childhood glimpse of pornography/ though there is no true love/just a finely tuned jealousy are thankfully a far cry from the likes of "Take me down to the Paradise City where the grass is green and the girls are pretty” courtesy of Mr. Axl Rose. Although a genius with a pen, Richey is only just learning to play the guitar and made as much noise on the first album as you or I did. Great eh? They swore they’d break up after their first LP. and have just released their second. They don't mind contradicting themselves. Got it so far - the Manics are everything you want from a rock band.
And so says Dave Beer - ex-punk and now promoter of probably the best and definitely one of the most successful clubs in England he was introduced to the Welsh foursome by another ex-punk, Andrew Weatherall, who is himself a fan (Manics posters adorn his living room walls alongside The Smiths and Dinosaur Jr). When Ralph (B2B resident DJ), Mick (essential cog in the Basics machine but no job title) and Dave heard the Manics were in town an impromptu party was planned. With Nicky off alcohol because his liver’s on its last legs, Richey in bed with flu, and all of them opposed to drugs and clichéd rock n’ roll excess as a matter of principle, the party was never likely to take on the usual Basics proportions. Unsurprisingly this never put the Basics crew off trying!!! See photo evidence left.
The Manics have always been outspoken. But it’s a shame that, despite being the most educated band on the planet with 26 A Levels between them, they have chosen to aim their sharp tongues at the most important musical movement since punk. After successfully avoiding the Basics lot the night before, Richey manages to play ’a bit’ of guitar in front of another capacity crowd and then agrees to retreat to the backstage toilet to thrash it out.
You’ve made it quite clear in previous interviews that you’re not exactly a dance music fan, but is there any dance music that you just can’t help liking?
"I like it when I hear it in the right setting. A lot of the people who work for us are totally into dance music and don’t listen to any guitar bands so on the bus, I don’t know if you’d call it dance music, but we listen to M-People. But if i go back home to my parents and sit in my bedroom I can’t really listen to it. Just because it’s very isolated sat there, there’s not much excitement and I think dance music is based on vicarious thrills, a lot of pleasure.”
Have you been to many dance clubs?
"I’ve been to same. When we first went to London, when we got a record deal, we got asked out quite a lot and we always felt a bit bad about going to clubs that charged £15 to get in because it seemed a bit excessive, so we always wanted to go to shit places that were free in with a flyer where they played every record you’ve heard in your entire life. Recently I've been to a couple and I’ve been shocked by there being no potential for violence, really safe to walk around and everybody’s having a good time.”
Is that a problem?
"No, it’s not a problem. I’m just shocked because the places we used to go back home you knew where not to go, you knew where to stay away from, you knew when to keep your mouth shut. We went somewhere last Saturday in Leicester Square and everyone was so fucking happy. I was just really stunned, you could just wander round, bumping into people, spilling your drink - there wasn’t even many people drinking - spill a drink they didn’t give a fuck. Back home you’d be on the floor getting a really bad kicking for walking into someone.”
Did you feel comfortable in that environment?
"I felt uncomfortable just because I was so surprised. What I can't come to terms with is how that can perpetuate itself on a Monday morning. I think everyone feels similar frustration and boredom and they’ve got to express it in some way. And I think if you go 48 hours of being really happy and at ease with the world what does it make you like 9-5 Moan to Friday? I don’t know how they would express their problems in the week. Usually everyone puts up with crap 9-5 and then kicks the shit out of each other at the weekend and in club culture if everyone’s cool all weekend maybe Monday to Friday is a really bad time.”
Isn’t it just a different sort of release?
"Yeah it’s different. Maybe the problem with the few dance clubs I’ve been to is that I would never recognise the songs or the DJs anyway but also I never hear a lyric that sticks in my head.”
So are there any rock bands at the moment that write lyrics that stick in your head?
"No. I think the last great rock band i heard was Big Flame in about 1986.”
Don’t you agree that dance music expresses things with sounds rather than lyrics and aren’t rock lyrics largely worn out clichés anyway?
"I think it expresses feelings but I think feelings can be better expressed through words. People who make guitar led music are too obsessed with being authentic in that Bob Dylan sort of way where all the lyrics have got to be very poetic. They’ve got to be really relevant, they've got to mean lots of things, they've got to be very ’English O Level’. We try and write lyrics almost like Sun type headlines. Really quick soundbites, junk-culture snippets from TV, radio, nothing really worthwhile, there's nothing Wordsworth about us! We try to do something modern lyrically, musically we’re quite traditional and we would never deny that.”
So you agree that traditional rock lyrics are largely redundant?
"I think rock lyrics are completely banal and inane and that's why I think we are completely different to everyone else who plays guitar. I can’t write music but we write the words and what we concentrate on is avoiding all the clichés.”
So is it not exciting that dance music hasn't really been around long enough to be dominated by clichés?
"But it doesn’t operate in a language yet.”
A language of sounds?
"A language of sounds yeah, but personally I don’t see people walking around going ’beep beep beep’. If I said that to someone in the street they wouldn’t know what I meant. When you hear a dance record with lyrics they always seem to have been compromised, seems like it’s trying to be a pop song, probably the only effective dance music can never have lyrics.”
What’s your attitude towards drugs?
"We’ve got a very ambivalent nature towards drugs. I don't care if people want to take them or if they don’t. Where we come from, it’s just really tiresome. People come up to you in a pub and say ’I've drunk ten pints of lager, I’m so pissed, I'm well hard' and then we went to London and we started to meet lots of different people, record company types who would say ’Oh I was in a club last night and took a couple of Es blah blah blah' and it was exactly the same thing as the little cunt in the pub. It’s up to you to choose how you escape the mundane nature of your life but it shouldn’t be a question of heroics.”
Is alcohol somehow better than so called designer drugs?
"No. But I do think there is a lot more lory associated with drug culture. We read stuff like ’The Politics Of Ecstasy’ by Timothy Leary when we were quite young and then we read about Timothy Leary himself and almost everything he wrote in that book has been disproved just like Hemingway etc. Who drank and claimed it was some sort of salvation. It all ends up destroying your brain, you end up incredibly bankrupt, a sat in a chair unable to do anything. They both lead you to the same end."
What did you mean by “The CIA say you’re all they’ll ever need”?
“Almost every inner city has a massive drug problem and I think if you look at the history of drug culture it does suit a lot of governments to allow access to drugs to people in inner city areas. At one point the CIA tried to genetically engineer LSD in laboratories in Switzerland just to see what effects it would have on spies and stuff and there was a bulk left over so the poured it into inner city areas to keep the ghetto culture down and bombed out of their skulls. Before drugs it was just drink - keep the working class bombed out of their skulls on alcohol - now it’s just pills isn’t it? It’s just a way of suppressing natural emotion. People stop worrying about what their actual living conditions are like and start just making the best of them and trying to have a good time."
So would you say our generation is an apathetic one?
"I'd say every generation from about 1945 has been very apathetic. In the last election there was the highest proportion of under 25s voting Tory and they’ve lived under 15-20 years of Tory rule so what does that say about them? I don’t think they’re necessarily right wing I just think they don’t give a fuck.”
What’s 'Gold Against the Soul' about?
“It’s just about the way the media portray certain things. The diseases that most commonly affect working class people are cancer and heart disease and it's never really written about or it’s not a big deal anymore. There’s always a disease which is fashionable every couple of years. At the moment it’s AIDS that is taking the front covers.”
What have you got against new age travellers?
"I just can't believe they won't admit that the 20th Century exists. You can't pretend the 20th Century hasn’t come. You can’t ignore technology, I mean we do - we just use guitars but in every other aspect of our lives - games and stuff we are quite aware. They seem to think uou can just go back to the fields, go back to the hills - it’s just morally wrong. What relevance has Stonehenge got?”
Why don't you use technology in your music?
“We grew up with Tamla Motown and the Supremes and Guns and Roses and that’s all we learned to play. In terms of music we’re not interested in machines.”
Is that what you’ve got against dance music – the machine aspect?
"No. It just depends what you grew up listening to.”
So if someone said that you won't use technology and therefore you won’t accept that you’re reaching the end at the 20th Century, what would you say?
"I’d say we’d like to use someone like him (pointing to Andy Weatherall on copy of the Slut ), a producer that could use us. But we’re not going to get some computers in and see if we can write a song. I think Manchester’s best band was probably Joy Division but if Ian Curtis hadn’t died I don’t ink he would have allowed the band to turn into New Order.”
'Slavery to the beat, slavery to the chord, slavery to the pleasure.' - Nostalgia Pushead
What’s that line about?
"It’s just about rock n’ roll in general. It doesn’t really offer anything apart from managed escape from Bill Hailey onwards. Whatever band you're into you have a good time in your bedroom and then in the morning you’ve got to go back to work. Some people look better, some people sound better but at the end of the day that’s it. You’ve just got to please yourself and go to bed at night hoping that you’re doing a good thing.”
Aren't your fans simply 'slaves to the beat/ slaves to the chord/ slaves to the pleasure'?
"I wouldn’t put it like that. I think we can make a difference, that’s why we always try to put quotes on our records so people can ma go away and read one of those books and then they would never need to listen to a song again, which I think would be quite good."
Why don’t you write a novel then?
"Because I like music too much.”
Even if you’re not into dance music yourself can you see its importance as for as being a music that the industry can't easily handle?
"That’s the best thing about dance music. It doesn’t need Sony. It does it on its own. It does it cheaply in bedrooms and loads of people buy it. It doesn’t even need the NME or Melody Maker. The thing with music journalists is they can only relate to stuff they liked when they were 14 and by the time they get a good job on a music paper they' re 25 and they can never relate to anything that's new. When journalists first saw us it was like "Oh, I’ve seen a band smash a guitar before” but I hadn’t. It was new to me.”
Me too. Show us then. Oh, go on. Booooring.