"I want to fly and run till it hurts, sleep for a while and speak no words, in Australia." When Welsh native Nicky Wire wrote these words to the Manic Street Preachers tune, Australia, he probably never believed that he would actually make it to this country; one that was far enough away from his troubles, but which still retained a culture and language he could understand. With Wire's well-documented fear of flying, and the even more well-documented disappearance of his one time co-lyricist in the Manics, Richey James, fans probably wondered the very same thing. But someone convinced them - the Manics are on their way here to capitalise on the superb reception given their latest album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, and its lead single, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next.
Not long before Christmas, Manics vocalist and guitarist James Dean Bradfield is preparing to rehearse with the band for an upcoming British tour. They have different songs to practice, and need to synchronise images which will accompany certain songs on the "first arena lour the Manics have done for years," James reveals that travelling to an unexplored territory does wonders for the travel-weary rocker. not nearly cynical enough to actually not be excited about the fact that I'm going to a place like Australia for the first time. Yeah it does excite me. I'm still naive enough to actually get excited every time I walk through an airport I just wanna see what's outside it. Thank god I haven't got to the age where I don't give a fuck."
The Manics have never been a band to not give a fuck: they give so much of a fuck, in fact, that their status in the British music scene is unrivalled - they are, so it goes, one of the most important bands of our time.' The importance attached to the band suits the members themselves, James, Nicky, and drummer Sean Moore, just fine. "Anybody that releases records and writes songs don't wanna be told they're a piece of shit...' says James with a straightforwardness that is almost startling. you know, they don't wanna be told that they're completely irrelevant, and they don't wanna be told that they should just fuck off and die, so if you're treated with a modicum of respect, its fine."
When Public Enemy toured Australia in 1998, many noted the reverence Chuck D generated, through simply having the guts to actually think deeply and speak out about political matters. Sometimes, the Manics come close to this level themselves. but James is quick to put things in perspective. "Well Chuck D is different, I mean, we would never put ourselves on the same level as Chuck D. For me. Chuck D is a hero. And at that time within rap music he was a visionary too. so Chuck D deserves all the respect he gets - and way and above. I think. You know, I don't think the tact that he instils reverence in people, rt doesn't upset me, because he is one person that truly deserves it."
As for the constantly deep and meaningful treatment given the Manics. James explains. the one thing you've gotta realise about us. is that when we first started in a group, we were amidst the drug culture of the Manchester scene and stuff, and there were no bands coming out of Wales, there were no bands actually coming out of the economic background we were coming from, or the social back-ground we were coming from; there was nobody talking about that background. or the aftermath of the miner's strike. or the complete and utter, the political landscape in Wales. there was no one talkin' about those things. The only thing that was being talked about in music was drug-enhanced lifestyles. And so when we actually did come out in Britain, we were very different, and we were talkin' about things that nobody else was talking about. and we were coming from a background that no other musicians were coming from. So in Britain it was a big deal. I think perhaps people outside of Britain might find that hard to understand."
This has been a problem for the Manics - how to transplant themselves into cultures which, as James suggested, do not understand. "Up until now, there's always been quite a big gap to bridge, and yeah sometimes it's been a struggle,' declares James. "But on this album, in Northern Europe especially. we had a lot of success up there. and for the first time it just seemed that we'd bridged that gap. almost bridged the language barrier. For some reason, a song like If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next connected in Europe, whereas we hadn't before. So. up until now, yes. I would admit its been a struggle, but we've actually broken the back of it, which is cool."
Helping to break the back in this country was the Manics' association with Kylie Minogue. James and Sean both contributed their songwriting skills to her album Impossible Princess. This was the first time James had written music for anyone apart from the Manics, and he says, It probably taught me two things. It taught me that it's good to have a break. because within the Manics, there are a lot of rules with which you work within, and you know you're always gonna be writing about certain things. so it was good to be free from that for a short period. But also the other thing it taught me was, it's good to go back to what you're really good at, I s'pose." Would he say that it's what he's really comfortable with as well? Or is 'comfortable' a dangerous word for a rock n roll band? James laughs. -Yeah 1 s'pose so! But, no. it just feels more natural. Just because all the inspiration for my music comes from Nick's lyrics, or it used to be Nick and Richey. you know. and for me, perhaps that's why. I think, we've done some brilliant things, because the music isn't just there for the sake of it. its inspired by the lyrics wholly. So yeah, it just feels natural."