Cheers! - Sky, March 1997
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here you are, despon- dently hoovering the lounge somewhere in south Wales. Your music career looks like it's on the ropes and you're left gazing inro an empty vacuum. When sudden- ly... BAM! Your band grows wings and soars off into rock supernova-land, where only the likes of Blur and Oasis can touch you and you're up for every award in the bit. You perform at the biggest gigs the country's ever seen. You sell 100,000 albums in two weeks. Kylie Minogue sings on stage with you. You're on kissing terms with Liam Gallagher. Yet none of the tabloids are on your case. Not once. Manic Street Plvachers: what g went right? This time last year, their career seemingly wrecked, thcsc rock refugees were bob- bing aimlessly on a tide of pub- lic emotion, with their unfin- ished album as their only life- line. Despite the best wishes of ? followers and new-found sym- pathisers, few believed — or could even have imagined their recovery would be quire so emphatic... London, February 1997. The Manics — tall, mouthy Nicky Wire; small, quiet Sean Moore; and small, mouthy James Dean Bradfield — are sat sprawled on the couch, arm- chair and floor in the front room of James' shared house in Bush. As che rush- hour traffic outside beeps its way home, the trio recall their angst. And this Manic Street Preachers interview begins in the way every Manics inter- view must... Was there ever any thought Of giving up completely when Richey disappeared? Nicky: never actually thought, 'This is the end of the band.' I just thought it was going to drift and drift, and I couldn't be bothered to do
things. I conned myself into thinking that making the album was just unfin- ished work, because wed already written seven songs for the album and they'd been set to music before Richey went missing. For me, he was still there." The comeback was on. Sonically slapped back to life by producer Martin Hedges, rhe Manics sup- ported the Stone Roses at Wembley Arena, flew off to France to record the album, returned to play a hyper-charged gig in Leeds (broadcast by Radio One) and released A Design For Life in April. The single went straight into the charts at No 2. You're used to being one of music's best-kept secrets: respectable chart positions, hardcore fan- base. Were you worried at that point that it was all getting too big? Nicky: "Well, there could never be a conception of a sell-out, because we always wanted to be huge, to reach as many people as possible." But A Design For Life — a song dealing with class struggle — clearly wasn't the usual lightweight Britpop posing. Nicky: "No. I wanted to portray the working-class culture that I grew up with. With the likes of Blur and pulp, we thought it was Ill very caricatured. So we were trying to put the record straight, tell it like it really is. The subsequent LP, Everything Must Go, rocketed into the charts in May. Its position? Erm, No 2... Nicky: "We're like The James: "I was stunned for six months. I waited for something to happen, but nothing did and I definitely thought about giving up. I got pissed out of my head for a while, Nick did his normal domestic stuff [now married, Nick),' is well-known as a couch potato] and Sean became a DIY specialist. There was a spectre hanging over us and there were a lot of scary options to
consider. Eventually we began writing some songs, just to see if we could carry it off." As well as your own songs, you took some Of Richey's into the studio. How did that work? James: "Making that first foray into the rehearsal rooms with those songs was the most difficult thing. But after that initial upset, the studio became our refuge — getting into the pattern of recording took our mind Offa lot of fuckingWho, we are. We'll never have a No l. " So did the album ride in on a wave of Richey-fuelled emotion? Nicky: "We had both our haldcore weirdo fans and normal people buying the record. It got great reviews, so it was just the record, really, standing on its own. When it first came out, it didn't go ballistic, it just hung around, so I suppose it had along shelf-life."
In the spring/summer Of last year, while the album continued to pick up sales, you went gigging with Oasis — in addition to playing your own sell-out tours... What was that Maine Road experience like? Jatnes: "The crowd wcrc just completely and utterly taken over by the event. It made us realise that we couldn't compete With Blur and Oasis on those terms, or try to bc a phenomenon. It gave us a sense of perspective: 'This is what we do and let's not chase them,' basically." And you've succeeded without having to jump through those rock-star hoops? James: "Erm, I skimmed them for a short period, bur not so much nowadays." Nicky: "The strange thing is that when wc starred we were obsessed with glamour and being huge. If we'd had what we've got now, I think we would have fallen for it and would have been big casualties within a year." Are you worried about the tabloids chasing you and being pushed into being packaged? James: "Pulp, Blurvand Oasis have all got people Who COLIld be packaged pretty early on, but I wouldn't know where ro start packaging myself. I'm too short. And if the tabloids went for us, theyQl get bored pretty quickly. We don't do anything. " so how did KnebW0rth compare with Maine Road? Janie.s: "That just seetned like a bunch of southern tossers in contparison, It madc uS think the south of England was just a fitcking shithole. There was no magic to And Loch Lomond? Nicky: "That was shit too, although the Loch was nice. I just felt the life was being sucked out of me during all the stuntner gigs — there was just no spontaneity about them. They were 'tlStj entertainment.' James: "Nick's idea of an ideal gig is him being linked by a live satellite from his front room. He could play bass and watch Sky Sports at the same time. Then, when rhe show was over, hea be his living room At the end of the summer, the Manics were off again with Oasis, this time to America far the media-circus tour which saw Liam and co back home house-hunting before it had really got going. The nation's media was camped out at che airport, looking for clues in Liam and Noel's sullen appearances as they arrived back. They didn't even notice the on-the-up Welsh renegades skulking in the shadows. So exactly how fucked off were you that Oasis had ruined your chances Of breaking the States by calling Off the tour? Nicky: "Not at all. It was great they did that, because I fucking hate the place any,vay and I couldn't wait to get home. We wcrc stood around most Of the tittle they were cancelling gigs. I loved all of that." James: ' 'It wasn't working o ut anyway. (I-n Nicky. Sean and James chill out in Shepherd's Bush.
We played nothing.
to loads of people and sold shit, remember going downstairs on the last day and seeing Liam going out the door. He went: 'See ya_ Have a good flight — I know I will.' It was that kind of tour." Sean: "I just staycd in my room watching films and playing Nintendo." October saw the Manics' second headlining tour of the year, followed by a sell-out, all- Welsh show — With Super Furry Animals and Catatonia — at Cardiff Arena. It vms the first rime, they say, that they felt comfortable all year. Meanwhile, their singles were still settling in the Top 10 and they were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. Then came the two high-profile gigs in London. At the first, one Kylie Minogue came on stage and sang Linle Baby Nothing, the song always intended for her, sporting what Nicky calls a "post-Björk" mohican haircut. And at the second, Liam Gallagher ioincd in, snogging Nicky and dancing on stage. Most music-press reports on the event describe their apparent annoyance at Gallagher% display. Far from it, says Nicky, "It was incredibly chaotic and I loved every second of it. He enjoyed it, too — the last I saw of him that night was lying face-down on a kebab shop floor." The year ended with the Manics staring mega-stardom in the face. Well, nearly... 'At the end of the year we started feeling morc confident, more glamorous and bigger," says Nicky. "Things were just happening naturally. Five years ago, we would have begged for that kind of attention. " And now the Manics are being tipped for those most prestigious of industry-sponsored trinkets, the Brit Awards. For a band with principles, the irony is plain to see. "l always said that if we won a Brit Award, I'd get my dick out, piss on it and say: 'This is what it means to me... you can shove it up your arse,'" grins Nicky. "But whether I'd do that now, I don't know." "When docs this come out?" laughs James. "Before? Ha ha ha." Nicky continues: "If we'd have got one when I was young, I probably would have done it. I felt so superhuman back then that nothing could hurt me. We were so strong and young and politicised that nothing mar- tered. Unfortunately, I don't feel like that now. If I did do that, Id probably bc thrown in prison and get done under the obscenity act, my mother would have a nervous breale down and my wife would leave me." Whatever happens, ir will be a fitting end to an incrediblc year. Set your videos, the good guys have just gonc and won. r.
"IT'S IN THE Or is it? Here's Who the Manic= think Will Win the Brits. Clue; iE'5 not them... BEST BRITISH GROUP Nominees: Kula Shaker, Lightning Seeds, Manic Street Preachers, Ocean Colour Scene, Spice Girls James: " With I'd say Ocean Colour Scene Why? geceuse people going to say: Weeell, sold a tat of the industry and we should Chem something in return... Nicky: "Spice Girls. " Sean: "Y•ah, I agree. the Spice Girls" Sky's prediction: too C'o.se to can tktv.een the Manics and the Spice Girls. BEST VIDEO BY R BRITISH RRTIST Nomi nees: Chemical Brothers —SETTING SUN, Dodgy — GOOD ENOUGH, Jamiroquai — VIRTUAL INSANITY, Ma nic Street Preachers — A DESIGN FOR LIFE. Orbital— THE Box, The Prodigy— FIPESTARTEÄ, The Prodigy— BREATHE, George Michael — FAST LOVE, Spice Girls — SAY You'LL BE THERE, Spice Girls — WANNABE James: "That's got, to be The Prodigy, WATHE, probably. Nicky: "The Prodigywillwin chat one—either dunnowhich_ Sean: "Spice Girls " Skys prediction. Spa•e Girls Say •II Be There. BEST RLBUM BY R BRITISH RRTIST Nominees: Kula Shaker—K. Lighthouse Family — OCEAN DRIVE, Manic Street Preachers — EVERYTHING MUST GO, George Michael —OLDER, Ocean Colour Scene — MOSELEY SHOALS James: " Lighthouse Family as a dark horse. - Nicky: "l think that - Sean: "That be us. Sky's prediction: the Manics BEST SINGLE BY R BRITISH RRTIST Nominees: Babybird—You'REGOROEOus. Kula Shaker— TATrvA, Lighthouse Family - LIFTED, Manic Street preachers — A DESIGN FOR LIFE, George Michael — FAST LOVE. Mark Morrison — RETURN OF THE MACK. Oasis —DON'T LOOK BACK IN ANGER, The Prodigy— FIRESTAÄTEÄ. Spice Girls— WANNABE, Underworld — Suppy James: "That's goingto betheSpiceGirIs. deffo. " Nicky: "l think they might tc Oasis because it 's the only one they're nominated for. The album was the year before. which means they're nor. eligi ble for the major ewer-ds. so I think they might sneak it, Sean: -Spice Girls NO. I •m not a Spice Girls fan — just think they'll win menthing. - James: "Why haven't I saidus think vve'll get anything. We never do. " S ky S predicticn: Spice Girts Oasis Michael.