Timing has never been the Manic Street Preachers’ strong suit. Whilst the world draped itself in the utilitarian workwear of baggy, they chose to be mascara—eyed glamour-pusses. When FM America finally tuned into grunge, they constructed a stadium-lite rock LP and, just as the world got Britpop-happy, with ironic high-jinks being the order of the day, they made one of the bleakest and most densely-constructed albums ever made. And now, they are back with the masterful Everything Must Go, surrounded by the dressed-up, self-satisﬁed glitteratti of ’96, looking and sounding as reflective as they’ve ever been.
And all we can really do is trust them. Because with the release of their quite splendid new album the Manics have reached some kind of virgin territory for a pop group. What the record represents, before you even get to the music, is a safe arrival following one- of the most harrowing journeys any pop group has ever encountered.
One which has sent them through a maze of contradictions and dark confusion all stemming from the day, almost 15 months ago, when Richey Edwards walked out of Room 516 of the Embassy Hotel in Bayswater, and out of their lives forever. In those agonising months since, the group have suffered everything the media has been cold-hearted enough to throw at them. Grim, pessimistic tracts bout the likelihood of Richey being dead; sombre reports about how his body would never be found if, as the evidence suggested, he'd jumped from the Severn Bridge on the morning of St. Valentine’s Day, 1995; even, unforgivably, rumours that Richey’s disappearance had been staged. All had to be dealt with as diplomatically as possible.
Meanwhile the group, bewildered by the entire episode, have been forced to reconsider their future in private and deal with the whole sorry affair as best they can. Nicky and Sean retired to a surreal serenity as home-loving DIY enthusiasts, whilst James embarked on a demon-exorcising career as semi-permanent London gadabout. The band, up until now, stayed firmly on ice. Yet to dwell too heavily on the events of the last 12 months is somehow to miss the point of the Manic Street Preachers.
For, ever since their electric-yell of a debut single, they’ve managed to exude a wildly maverick survival instinct. "Motown Junk” spat in the face of cloying fan-worship, "You Love Us” swore vengeance on the doubters and "Stay Beautiful", with its glammed-up insouciant howl of a chorus, Why don ’t you just fuck off!, practically redefined outsider chic. And that’s way before you get to the epic spitefulness which characterised parts of last album The Holy Bible which, for all its obsessions with the Holocaust, serial killers and self-abuse, still managed to include the splenetic dazzle of: I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter amongst its lyrics. A sign that, as long as Richey's words were supercharged by James’s last-chance howl, the band would never veer off into the realms of introspective depression.
For the Manics have always been desperately keen to show their resistance to any sort of limitations. From their refusal to record in Wales, to their early contempt for most of their contemporaries; even through to the remarkable recent shows supporting The Stone Roses and Oasis. There may be an incredibly fraught history surrounding them already (the stuff of legend, unquestionably), but the Manics, as they stand, represent more than just a group freed from 12 months of self-induced torpor, They’ve peered over the abyss and come back, indeed, with "A Design For Life”. Perhaps this is best expressed by a lyric from “Australia”, a key song on the new album: l want to fly and run until it hurts. Three-quarters of the Manic Street Preachers, at least, have already proved themselves to be golden souls, untainted by the slings and arrows of pop stardom.
As for the fourth, it’s to be hoped he’s still out there somewhere, listening to it all and smiling in the wings.
Jon Savage Meets Nicky Wire
Jon Savage: What inspired you when you were growing up to want to do this?
NW: Certain things inspire you along the way, but I do think you are born to it. I still believe that everybody in the world is born with a talent. It’s just a lot of people never get the chance to use it. I started writing poetry a lot around the time of the Miners‘ Strike, because my village was heavily involved with all that, the pits and scabs and all the rest of it, and that mixed with a sort of leaning towards androgyny and a bit of Morrissey and then the Sex Pistols and then the Clash: I think they were kind of the motivating factors really, The Miners’ Strike was really important in terms of writing.
JS: So was it in the valley, or just in your village?
NW: There were 12 pits in our valley and, of course, there’s none now and it politicised you at a very young age. I wrote a song, it was a really terrible song, and I gave it to James when me and James were 15, and that's the first song me and James ever wrote together.
JS: What was it called?
NW: Ohh, (laughing) it’s something absolutely dreadful, I can’t even remember. I probably don’t want to remember; something to do with mines.
JS: Everyone’s sort of forgotten about the Miners’ Strike, haven’t they? I just remember that was the moment when you really realised what the Conservatives were doing, wasn’t it?
NW: It was the start of the demystification that working class people had any power, it’s ’No. Now you haven’t’. The start of the Conservative destruction, really. It had a big effect on me and James. It didn’t sort of hang around long, but as a catalyst it certainly got me and then I became sort of much more artistic, and Philip Larkin was one of the first things that inspired me poetry-wise. My brother was really into the Beat generation, he’d just come back from America so that followed on Kerouac and Burroughs. All I played at the time was classic Clash and Never Mind The Bollocks; it was a pilgrimage to try and understand those records.
JS: I’ve started listening to The Clash again recently. I underrated them for ages, but I’m just remembering that I saw them do two of the best rock shows I’ve ever seen in my life. It was the White Riot tour and the tour they did in the Autumn that year, in The Rainbow and the Manchester Apollo, full of kids going mental, completely out of control, tearing the place apart. It was so exciting.
NW: Yeah. (laughing) The thing for us it was all second-hand, I mean, when it was the tenth anniversary of punk, which was ’86, Tony Wilson did this re-run of all the Granada shows, and The Clash doing ‘Garageland’ on there from, I dunno, one of those dodgy gigs. That was completely...we loved it; there the four of us said that’s what we wanted to be like on stage, because we’d never seen a band that moved, that moved around on stage y’know. The Pistols were more arrogant anyway, more stare you in the face and psyche you out, but seeing The Clash in that video had a massive effect on us.
JS: There’s one great scene in that Granada footage where The Clash finish one song and, just at the end, Strummer trips over a monitor and goes flat on his face.
NW: (laughs) That’s the one exactly, and he just bangs his head right on it. He tried to smash a bottle as well, and when he goes ’Here we are on TV what does it mean to me? Fuck all!!’ I just love it. When we saw that it was just fantastic.
JS: So the four of you were all watching this kind of stuff; what were the first groups you ever went to see?
NW: Well, James, Richey and Sean were real Echo and the Bunnymen fans. I think that was their first gig for all of those three, and I really had a phase on The Smiths, but it did wear off very quickly for some reason. I loved Hatful of Hollow. Played it to death, but I went off it really quickly. I never went to gigs anyway, Jon, to be honest. The first band I saw was The Primitives and Tallulah Gosh.
JS: Well, The Primitives were good. I liked that record 'Crash'.
NW: Yeah! Well there used to be this club in Port Talbot, which is about fucking 80 miles away, which put on indie bands like, you know, The Shop Assistants... all those 1986 bands. We used to go there because it was about the nearest place really. If you were slightly weird, you liked The Smiths, you liked Echo and the Bunnymen, they were the starting point, you know.
JS: Do you think the problem, now that a lot of particularly indie rock that used to be about the outsider, is so much to do with being ‘lads’ and being Top 40 groups?
NW: That's why I think we exist outside those perimeters totally. At the end of the day ’A Design For Life' is still a very serious, intelligent lyric. Well, it tries to be, anyway. It’s not exactly a joyous song, it is kind of heroic. But it is worrying, just celebrating the actual being in a band. I don’t find it particularly exhilarating being in a band, but people do, they’re just happy to have their record deal and get a record out and get on Top of The Pops.
JS: One of the things I liked about the video for the single was that you still had slogans and ideas, and it seems to me that everybody’s not interested in ideas. Can you talk about a couple of the slogans?
NW: A lot of the slogans like ’A House is A Machine for Living In’ and 'Tomorrow Is Too Late’. They were all designers’ and architects’ quotes. ‘Useful is Beautiful’ that kind of stuff. It's the sort of council estate mentality, if you know what I mean. 'Destroy your own houses’, you know, when working class people should, if they are going to destroy anything - at least, go to somewhere rich and do it. (laughs)
JS: Don’t you think then this whole kind of Loaded mentality business plays into that very trap? Surely one of the most exciting things about pop, again which came through very much in punk, was the fact that people who weren’t privileged, whether they were working class or middle class or whatever, could actually have access and make wonderful things and bebeautiful and be intelligent and be extraordinary?
NW: Yeah, well exactly. The one thing I despise more than anything else about working class people is when they destroy themselves. And they do it every single day. I don't think the access is there so much anymore, you know, you’ve got to be extraordinarily talented to be given the chance in this day and age. People just play up to that Loaded image more and more. They just can't see beyond the sort of partying and destructive element. The thing I liked about reading back in history, the fact that every Welsh town had an Institute with a library and a swimming pool, which every miner had paid 50 pence a week specifically for. Those kind of things, they do help, but every single one of those Institutes has been closed down except Blackwood, and sold off for blocks of flats. One of them was taken down, and every brick was taken to a museum and rebuilt 60 miles away! (laughs)
JS: So, it’s like all the stuff is heritage?
NW: Yeah. Of course there’s no place for it now. It’s not worth it. But I think the working class helped themselves then, and I don’t think we take enough responsibility any more.
JS: Do you feel completely alone? When you were starting out there were no other Welsh rock bands, were there?
NW: We were worse than alone because the only other one had been The Alarm, so we were like minus ten at the start. We got Gorkys on tour and I quite like them, and I think Super Furry Animals are very good actually, I'm getting quite surprised by them. I heard their new single and it was like 12 bar mixed with sort of Brian Eno; it sounded really good.
JS: Do you think the English hate the Welsh?
NW: I think there’s not much difference between Northern English people and Welsh people, but I think Southern English people are pretty antagonistic towards the Welsh.
JS: You see, I think Southern English people hate everybody!
NW: Well, they do! They hate Northern English people, don’t they? But still, Welsh people have taken over the Irish for the butt end of a lot of jokes. Irish people have got over that, the Paddy mentality. But I must admit, it’s the first time I've ever, ’patriotic’ is not the right word, but it’s the first time in my life in the last couple of years when I’ve felt at ease about being Welsh, within myself. I have felt like a second class citizen for so long, I’ve actually kind of come to peace with myself about it.
JS: I hate petty nationalism. The only hope for Great Britain is for London to lose its power and for the power to go to what is rather patronisingly called the ‘margins’. And so Northern Ireland, Wales - North and South Wales - the North West of England, North East England and Scotland have equal power to London. The kind of nationalism that is being celebrated at the moment is so South Eastern, it’s all fucking Paul Weller!
NW: (Laughing) Now, Jon...
JS: He's the ’house god' of the whole thing.
NW: I know what you mean. There is an insidious kind of plot, isn’t there?
JS: It seems that way, but I’m sure I’m just being paranoid, and it’s like if you put most of these hands up against Nirvana it's like, 'No!'.
NW: I know. Put virtually every other band against Nirvana - and they still, to me, and l know I’m not meant to say it ’cause I’m supposed to say British music is brilliant, but you know, Nirvana is still the greatest band of my generation by a long way.
JS: I put on In Utero the other day for the first time in about a year, because you know it just got very painful to listen to, and it’s fucking amazing. Nobody in this country would have the balls to write a song like ’Rape Me’. It’s an incredible song.
NW: I don’t even know if they’d have the intelligence to. If it was Damon from Blur he’d just invent a character - Mr Wobbly from fucking Piccadilly instead, who was doing it and playing golf. The third person disease in this country is just... everyone’s afraid to write about themselves any more. Everyone's obsessed with this fucking characterisation of South East English culture.
JS: Yes, because South East English culture, particularly as you see it in Fleet street, as soon as you reveal yourself, people use it as a weapon to be turned against you. And also what happens is people start censoring themselves.
NW: Yeah, well even us as a band, we’ve come across that; even me as myself I just think, 'I can’t slag things off any more’. I’m just gonna go back to my old ways and try to keep so much in and it doesn’t matter so much at the end of the fucking day; if people like your records, they like your records.
JS: I’ve got to ask you this: is it still difficult going on stage without Richey?
NW: Yeah. Well I mean we did a warm up before these gigs; we did the Hacienda on Friday and, well, without being a drama queen, it was just the most terrible feeling I’ve ever had when I came off stage and, you know, just uncontrollably crying it’s, well, only the second time after Richey’s been missing that I’ve cried.
JS: Why now?
NW: just ’cause it was so intimate. I was worried about it anyway, because the anonymity of our support gigs has been really helpful because you can’t see anyone but, you know, James found it really terrible as well. l was just like a blubbering idiot for no reason when I came off stage, well it was obviously for a reason, but it was just terrible. It was a relief getting on in front of 30,000 Oasis fans who didn’t know who we were!
JS: Yes, and of course grief does take you in all sorts of unexpected ways, that’s the problem with it. And you think, ’Oh my God I’m not acting like I usually am, what’s going on? I’m losing my mind’.
NW: It was terrible. The next day I woke up and I was fine, I thought, ’Well, it was going to happen some time’. And funnily enough his mother had called me that night as well and she’d been really upset. Must have been a bit of karma in the air. Sean was speaking to Peter Hook on Friday night. Peter came up to Sean and was quite nice and said, ’Sorry to hear about Richey’ and stuff – and Peter goes, ’At least we had a body'! Which, to me, that’s brilliant, that’s what I want someone to say. To a lot of people that would just seem cold, taking the piss, but I thought it was such a lovely thing to say,
JS: Well New Order always made jokes about it. Also it’s not exactly the Manchester style, just to wear your heart on your sleeve, but I mean if anybody ever doubts that they were absolutely put through hell... I just think a lot of people who write about music and think about music, or a lot of people generally don’t realise that the people who do it are human beings.
NW: Well you know that's the old Kurt Cobain thing, with the coma, everyone was kind of laughing and thinking he couldn’t do it, and then a few weeks later he’s dead. I think perhaps that jolted people a bit because they seem to be feasting on it, when he failed. There is that thing, like failed suicide can fuck you up more than anything. Every failed suicide tries to do it again, virtually.
JS: So what are your plans now? You’ve got the LP coming out, haven’t you?
NW: Yeah, it’s May 20th, I think. just take it from there, really; we got a British tour. We haven't got a plan, to be honest. It’s complete day by day now, it’s no world plan for Manic Street Preachers domination. If we can just survive day by day and keep the hits rolling in...!
JS: Were you surprised at how well the single did?
NW: Well, I was surprised. I mean, I had complete faith in the song, I think it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done, but I was really surprised when it went in at number two, just the fact that it sold 93,000 copies in a week, which for us is like hard to comprehend, you know, it’s a lot for us.
JS: It's by far the biggest hit you’ve had.
NW: Yeah, it’s obviously connected a bit, and it is gratifying. I can’t pretend that success doesn’t mean anything, because it makes you feel a bit better.
JS: Well, the other thing, Nick, is that it’s actually a properly constructed song.
NW: Yeah, it is very ’classicist’, as James would call it, like I said when he called me up and it was like ’oh I got this Ennio Morricone and a bit of REM and I got some Motown, it’s the best song I’ve ever written’, you know. I think we knew when the song was written it had to do it or we were fucked commercially. We are pleased; I can’t deny that it didn’t give me a thrill.
JS: Well, you need it. You really, really need it.
NW: So how’s the book coming along then, which you showed me proofs of last time?
JS: I’m just terrified of saying stuff that’s going to piss everybody off. It’s so easy, you know, and often it just looks awful, and I’ve just got to try not to.
NW: Got to control your temper.
JS: It's so hard. I did a lecture this week at the Photographers’ Gallery and it was about this Dutch photographer called Ed Van de Elsken, and he took photos of beatniks and Lettristes in the '50s in Paris. It was full of these kinds of wasted youth. The Lettristes were people who eventually became the Situationists. This guy in the end puts his fucking shades on and says ’I think it’s disgusting how I sat the whole way through the lecture without hearing anything about the fact that the Situationists were a revolutionary movement’. You know, whenever I give a lecture I always think there’s one asshole and you hope you’re gonna get through without encountering one. So I said, ’Well, what do you want?’. And he said, ’Oh, I don’t know!’ (laughs) People just do this, and I completely lost my temper, and I said ‘The reason I haven’t talked about the Situationists is because I’m fucking sick of them, ’cause I had to read their texts for years, all that nihilistic bullshit, and it used to drive me crazy!’. Did you ever read that stuff?
NW: Yeah, well I’ve read all that; I like a lot of it. It’s great when you’re young, isn’t it? But I don’t think it’s a philosophy for living, I have to say.
JS: No, it’s too dead-end. It’s a fantastic critique, but it doesn’t actually enable you to build a life. (laughs)
NW: I like Camus, because he came out a bit and after the... I think something like The Plague was one of my favourite books ever, the symbol of the Nazi occupation, and I think he kind of rose from it, but a lot of it, like you said, was too bleak.
JS: Well, you’ve got to find something to get you through it and that, in fact, is the problematic thing. In a way that’s the thing that has to happen, particularly for men, who I think grow up slower than women. I think that has to happen in your late 20s really.
NW: Yeah. What was that thing you said to me about 27 year-olds? ’That’s the prime time’, is that what you said?
JS: I have the sensation that a lot of males don’t actually grow up, begin to leave their adolescence, until they’re about 27. And what happens is this astrological thing called the Saturn Return. Saturn is all about responsibility and basically what that means is you’ve got to face up to your responsibilities, take control of your life, In fact I was 27 In the year 1980, when I stopped taking cocaine, which I used to take in the late ’70s. I remember I just blacked out one day and I thought, ’Uuh, my body’s trying to tell me something’. And it’s also the age when a lot of rock stars: Hendrix, Joplin, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain, Richey, Ian Curtis was a little bit younger, but I think that was partly forced by having a baby early, it's a similar deal, and it’s one of the reasons why people go crazy, in fact people like Valentino and Dean, it’s the same deal. A lot of the tragic people who die young always die at that age, and it’s a symbol of people who failed to make that transition from adolescence to adulthood, and that, to me, is so much what pop music is about. Everybody always focuses on the adolescence bit, as they should, but then, you know, what are you supposed to do when you actually pass through that stage? Are you supposed to die? And this, in many ways, is one of the fascinating things in the music industry. It’s the sort of youth medium, yet people do survive and continue to make good music, but they’re often completely denigrated because of that.
NW: Well, I’ve done quite a few interviews now, and a lot of them, especially the newspaper ones, have been fishing around trying to make out, you know, ’Richey had a tormented childhood’; 'Was he abused?’; ’Did he have this terrible life?’. And it’s exactly the opposite. He had such a blissful childhood; that’s the thing that fucked him up, because when he came to adolescence, the responsibility and everything else, he could never kind of shake that off. He had a great childhood. It’s the opposite to all the insinuations.
JS: Well I think that goes back to what we were saying about a complete lack of understanding, and it must be very hard for you because you’ve got to deal with stuff that’s really personal in a fantastically public way.
NW: It was horrible, everybody snooping around. I used to play football with Richey; he lived up the street, I lived down the street. Every Sunday we’d have a competition. I was the kind of 'posher' street, he was the kind of ’scummier’ street. I used to call him ’Teddy Edwards’ - he was like a teddy bear. Just ’cause he did what he did doesn’t mean he had a distraught and horrible childhood.
JS: When was it that we first met? Was it at the Heavenly party?
JS: Was that Christmas ’90 or Christmas '91?
NW: I think it was ’90.
JS: I just remember you and Richey were really funny.
NW: Yeah, Richey did have a fantastic sense of humour, you know.
JS: I remember you had your girl’s blouses on, your sisters’ blouses, and I said, ’Don’t you get attacked for looking like that?’, and you said ’Yeah!’. And I said ’Well?’, and I think you and Richey said, ’Well, we don’t care because we’re pretty'. And I thought ’YES! That’s what I want to hear’.
NW: I think the last six months of his life were obviously different. I think he probably lost that sense of humour. Fair enough, you know, if you’re that fucked up, but he did enjoy a lot of things. He really enjoyed drinking, he loved having a drink, he really looked forward to it. He’d say ’Oh’ I’m lying in bed, I’ve got my whisky and the ice cubes are clanking around’ and I’d just think ’Oh, this is brilliant, you know? It’s beautiful’. I know it’s romantic, but he drank earlier on, ’cause he enjoyed it; he loved the sensation of passing out! But there you go anyway.
JS: It’s kind of fascinating, passing out. I’m terrified of it. I hate losing control.
NW: And me. Yeah.
James Dean Bradfield
Interview - Paul Moody
Was carrying on with the band the only possible way of exorcising the fears about Richey? Was there ever a point where you were tempted not to bother?
James Dean Bradfield: Yeah, I think the moment‘ l thought I couldn’t carry on any longer was when they found the car. At that point I just thought I couldn’t cope any more with all the psychobabble about what had happened to Richey. You just have to build a shield around you and think to yourself ‘I’ve got to protect myself’, otherwise you go mad. Loads of things went through my head at that time; that maybe he was dead, and things like that. And for me the dichotomy was always clear about how difficult it would be carrying on without him. But in time that’ll pass, you know?
Was there ever a point when you were looking for the house (Richey left a photograph of a house in a box of belongings left in his hotel room) that you thought to yourself you were slowly going mad?
JDB: Yeah, of course. But it’s the mystical quality of it all that’s created so much public interest, I think. It’s the way it's been reported; all the stuff about the picture of the house and this mythical taxi journey he took through the Valleys have just increased the amount of attention, and once it’s all been explained in interviews like this, then it’ll hopefully die down a bit. I mean, I know that's the way it works, I’ve read all those books by Danny Sugarman and Greil Marcus, mythologising pop stars. And the press haven’t had anything like this to get into for years. I don’t blame anyone, it’s natural. But it’s different when you find yourself actually inside the story. But to be very honest, the times I’ve most felt myself going mad were when other people started accusing me of not caring about Richey, just because I’ve been out having a drink. It’s pathetic, but that’s really upset me. I loved him and so did Nicky and so did Sean. But what am I supposed to do? I can’t sit in my room forever with the curtains closed being a cold fish. It’s then that it’s been really difficult to stop myself getting really violent.
When you went to Normandy to record Everything Must Go, was there ever a point where you thought, 'We can’t do this'?
JDB: Not really, because once we got into the studio we were just keen to work with what we had of Richey’s lyrics and get on with making an album on our own terms. The most exciting part of the whole process for me is when I get Richey’s or Nicky’s lyrics, so it was fine. Plus I knew that ’A Design For Life’ was a really great song straight-away, which helped. Richey never used to want to get involved in playing the guitars in the studio anyway, so the actual recording process wasn’t that different. The time you’d notice it was when we’d be in Nicky’s room socialising, and suddenly there’d be a lull in the conversation and we’d all realise that that was the point when Richey would have come up with one of his Richey-isms. That’s when the difference was most tangible...
Have the gigs helped? They’ve been huge shows; supporting The Stone Roses, Oasis, and headlining Leeds Sound City...
JDB: The bigger the shows the better to be honest with you. We’ve always been better the larger the occasion. We did a warm-up at the Hacienda for the Oasis gigs though and that was horrible. The stage was tiny, and it just reminded me of when we played on the ’Motown junk’ tour and me and Nicky and Richey would sort of bump into each other all the time and have a laugh, not a Status Quo thing, just a laugh. And that night Nicky fell against me, and as he did I automatically turned to the right to look for Richey, and I just couldn’t believe I’d done it, I was so angry with myself. And you could see the faces of all these people in the crowd, looking at us like they’re trying to see the pain inside my head. I spend enough time getting over this whole thing in private. I don’t need these people who hardly even knew Richey trying to bond with me about him...
As you continue, does it all become clearer? What with ’A Design For Life’ having been a big hit, do you think the days of another Holy Bible have gone?
JDB: It’s hard to say, really. In terms of the lyrics, obviously, but there’s no real strategy for how all the albums are going to sound. I mean, this might sound ridiculous, but I loved early Simple Minds stuff. It was more than art; it was real, pure pretentiousness, and I absolutely loved them for it. Then after that, for New Gold Dream they were a completely different band, unrecognisable. I wouldn’t want to compare our progress with them, mind...
You’ve said that you feel guilty living in London. Do you think that it actually helps you now? Was the guilt attached then, via Richey, maybe?
JDB: No, I don’t feel that living in London has helped the formulation of the album or whatever, definitely not. I still feel bad about it to tell you the truth, like I’ve betrayed the band. | just haven’t had the courage to go back and live in Wales, to be blunt about it. But the older I get, the more I realise I love the place. In London you just find yourself adopting all these ridiculous personas. I went down to the Groucho Club once and, as soon as I did, I knew that it represented everything that I was against. All these false, fake attitudes, they just bring out the worst in you. Before I know it I’m leaning up against a bar with a cigarette drooping from my bottom lip, looking more and more stupid. What a cliché!
Do you think the longer you continue, the less the events of the last 12 months will become a burden to you? If Richey reappeared now, would it be too late for him to rejoin the band?
JDB: Oh yeah, I think it’s definitely too late to even think about Richey rejoining the group. Without a shadow of a doubt. When you consider all that's happened, and what we and his family have been through, I don’t think there’s any question of him coming back and just carrying on like nothing’s happened. After all, even if he did, the chances are that he’d just do the same thing all over again.
Is there ever a day when you don’t think about him?
JDB: No, how could there be? We were all in the same band together from day one. All that matters is that we carry on with the group and people accept us on our own terms as a three-piece. Simple as that. But the last thing we want from anybody is sympathy or pity. That’s got nothing to do with what we’re doing now. We’re carrying on as strongly as we ever were. All I want to do is let time take its natural course, and we can get on with making records. It doesn’t mean for a second we’ve forgotten about Richey, but life goes on, y’know?
Interview - Paul Moody
Was carrying on with the band the only way to exorcise the memory of Richey? Was there ever a point where you felt like you might have to pack it in?
Sean Moore: There was one point quite early on after Richey had disappeared that I thought we might not carry on at all. We had a meeting to discuss an American tour, and we came to the conclusion that we could either do it or maybe not do anything at all. At that point, with everything so fresh in our minds, I felt that maybe we could have gone either way. But we spoke to Richey’s parents and they told us that the best thing we could possibly do was to put a record out straightaway, as that might flush him out. Naturally, as parents, they were very, very optimistic that he was perfectly alright. I think that helped us realise we needed to carry on with the band.
Was there any point when you thought that, perhaps, the whole thing was driving you slightly mad?
SM: Well not mad in the sense of going insane, but mad with frustration. The thing that actually maddened me the most was the speculation. All these strange and wild stories were being concocted by these so-called ’close friends’ of Richey’s, who probably only met him for 30 seconds in a nightclub or a hotel foyer somewhere. But until there’s a conclusion, it’s still very hard to come to terms with. Until there’s an ending, or a beginning, or whatever you want to call it, we simplydon’t know.
Has the recording of Everything Must Go made you feel a little saner? Are the days of an album as fraught as Holy Bible long gone, do you think?
SM: Well, I personally can’t see us going in again and recording another album like Holy Bible, no. There’s been a continuity all the way through, from Generation Terrorists to Gold Against The Soul, to The Holy Bible to Everything Must Go, and I think in some ways they all follow on. The point about Holy Bible was that it was always going to be claustrophobic. It always had a private, insular feel about it; everyone wasn’t going to get it. It was very insular-sounding. But then we never really envisaged it as our world domination album. Or one to put on at a party, come to think of it.
Do you think if Richey reappeared now there’d be any possibility of him joining up with the band again?
SM: No, to be honest. There was an incident just before Reading (’94), when we all went down to see Richey at this hospital in Cardiff, and we talked about the idea of him being a member of the group but just sticking to writing lyrics and providing artwork so he could stay at home whilst we toured. And he seemed quite into that idea. But then he phoned up saying he couldn’t do that and he wanted to be part of the band full time. In retrospect, I think that was the wrong decision, because touring, especially on that last European tour with Suede, proved to be very detrimental to his health and personality. So obviously he wouldn’t be cut out for it now.
You never normally give interviews. Do you feel the need to express your opinions has always been latent?
SM: No, not really. I’ve always been quite happy letting Richey and Nicky explain what we’re doing to the press. It’s just that things are a lot different now. There’s only three of us left, so I think we all need to put our views across to make it as clear as possible what the band stands for. It’s not like a Joy Division thing, where the band changed their name and became something different entirely. We’re still the same group, and maybe by my doing interviews, as well as Nicky and James, that will become clearer to people. Nothing’s changed. The name is still the same. The group is still the same. We’re still the Manic Street Preachers.