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Communist Rock, La Luna, 16th March 2001

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Silvia Grijalba Manic Street Preachers presented their sixth album, "Know your enemy", in Cuba, and Fidel applauded enthusiastically. We interview the reddest British group of the 90s, which returns to the abrupt rock of its origins combined with the scoundrel techno of DJ David Holmes.


Working class hero. James Dean Bradfield doesn't want to (and probably couldn't) hide his origins from him. If there was a breakdown in, say, the refrigeration system of the luxury hotel where we are, the Manic Street Preachers singer would be the first person anyone would turn to, thinking that finally! The maintenance technician had arrived. This short, robust, dark-skinned thirty-something, dressed in a brown T-shirt and military-cut pants, looks out of place in this bar of sober elegance, dark mahogany, red velvet, gray executives and solicitous waiters. And it is not jarring, as it would have been years ago, because he does not wear a tie and belongs to a rock group, but because Bradfield has the attitude and appearance of the working class in his genes.

A perfect look to be a union leader, architect of a revolution, presenter of a bricklaying program or, as is the case, a member of the most politically committed British group since The Clash, but an image that is not advisable to go unnoticed in a five-star hotel. stars. He, of course, is not in the least affected by the waiter's sidelong glances and rather dry treatment. He is a simple guy with bigger issues on his mind. When this interview was held, his most pressing concern was the concert to present his new album Know Your Enemy at the Carlos Marx Theater in Havana, which was held on February 17. Immediately after explaining the excitement he gave them and his position on issues like Eliansito's, Bradfield gets down to business: «And how is the food there? I'm told there is almost nothing except rice. I don't know if we should take cans or something from England...

The live show was a success and, according to the island's correspondents, there was more than one anecdote. Among the most curious, a conversation between the Welsh trio and Fidel Castro, whom they insisted on meeting, the morning of the concert. The Manics warned him that that night they were going to make a lot of noise, to which the Commander replied: "Don't worry, we are used to it, a war makes more noise."

But a few days before meeting Fidel and playing before the around 5,000 people who gathered to see the concert, Bradfield was not having it all. «Cuba is a country for which we feel great sympathy and, although we are aware of the risks involved, it seemed like a good idea to present our CD there, among other things because it contains references such as the song Baby Elian, and because, in Basically, when you have six albums, it is almost essential to invent new adventures to avoid getting bored: this is like marriages. "It's not about any advertising strategy or anything like that, it's just that we felt like it."

Indeed, in Know Your Enemy Cuba is present in Baby Elian, a topical issue that follows the line of other Manic Street Preachers albums, which could serve as political and social chronicles of the years in which they were made. «Baby Elian is a criticism of the attitude of certain North American sectors towards the rest of the world. They think that everyone on the planet wants to live in the US and that is not true. The simple fact that the possibility of Elian staying in America was considered is pure nonsense. To say that he would be happier there seems inconceivable to me. His father lives in Cuba, his life is in Cuba, why would he be happier in North America, because he has more toys? »

—Well, if you had any hope of conquering the American market, it seems that from now on you can forget about it...

—Yes, of course, it's even possible that they won't let us go in there. According to what I have been told, if there is a Cuban visa in your passport, sometimes you have problems entering. Anyway, after our North American tour, we don't have much interest in returning.

—Precisely on a tour in that country, in 1995, your guitarist Richey Edwards disappeared... I don't know if you want to talk about it.

—I have no problem... but, honestly, there is nothing to say. He disappeared, we have never heard from him and there is nothing more to tell.

—For some time there were rumors about his whereabouts. In Spain it was said that he had been seen in Fuerteventura and there were also rumors that he lived in Goa.

—Yes, a lot of nonsense has been said about it, but it's like Elvis, if he lives on I don't know what island... Nonsense.

Militant Marxism. In any case, the animosity towards the US of this group that already warned of his intentions with his first album, Generation Terrorist (1992), is not due to the fact that Edwards disappeared there, but rather to his declared sympathy for Marxist ideas. The lack of chemistry seems to also extend to the musical level. «There are North American bands, like Limp Bizkit, that do do something interesting and question the decisions of their country, but the truth is that most of what is exported is quite weak. Those groups of dancing boys who try to sell us at all costs... for me they have no interest.

Another country to which they make continuous references throughout their career is Spain, where they have also carried out this new work (in the El Cortijo studio, in Ronda). Bradfield admits that they did not get to know the area as they would have liked because they spent 24 hours recording and also, in the particular case of James, it seems that vertigo made it very difficult for him to travel the winding road that leads to the town of Malaga. They already did it in their previous album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, a real example that word of mouth and good songs can work without marketing strategies (they didn't do a single single interview, no video). On it was a song, If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next, dedicated to the Civil War. In this, My Gernika also alludes to an issue with which they are especially sensitive. «In Glasgow there were many people who participated in the International Brigades, so we have a fairly clear reference of what the Civil War was like, it is a story that you grow up with. There are also precedents, such as Spanish Bombs by The Clash, an example that we have kept in mind. We have not lived it, but many times it is not necessary to experience something to understand it and want to talk about it.

«Regarding My Gernika – he continues –, what we wanted to explain is that sometimes art expresses feelings that cannot be transmitted with words and Gernika is a very clear example. We would like to achieve something similar with music, to express the anger we feel towards certain social or political issues, as Picasso did. We believe that this is one of the functions of art and in all our albums we have tried it, I hope that we get closer and closer to our goal.

Unadorned rock. The forcefulness of the content does not have to be at odds, the Manics believe, with a certain musical freshness. According to them, in this new album they wanted to break with the let's say virtuoso or excessively elaborate air of their previous work, full of beautiful arrangements, strings and well-chosen influences (their most... commercial album). Now they have realized their possible mistake and on this CD, which combines such explicit titles as Freedom of Speech Won't Feed My Children with other exercises in "yes!" frivolity like Miss Europe Disco Dancer, they wanted to recover the punk rage of their beginnings.

«This album was almost called No Strings (No Strings) and, in fact, there is not a single string arrangement on it. We wanted to do something raw, very guitar-driven, to break with the previous one, in which everything was much more thought out. Now most of the songs are recorded on the second or third take. With this I don't mean that This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours was a bad album or that we regret it. Thanks to this work we have managed to enter other markets outside of English, which was something we had wanted to achieve for a long time and of which we are proud. But both we and the producer David Holmes – the paradigm DJ of techno rock – wanted to be a bit of a hooligan again and disarm those who have said that, with age, we were getting softer."

The album "Know your enemy" on sale March 19


GUITARS, ABDUCTIONS AND SALMS CARLOS MORAL That Manic Street Preachers is one of the most important groups to emerge in the United Kingdom in the 90s is a fact, despite the fact that its best-known facet is the disappearance of its leader, Richey James, which occurred in 1995 in circumstances typical of Paco Lobatón's program. Countless rumors arose about his whereabouts, the myth was born, and the number of testimonies from enlightened people to whom the unbalanced musician has appeared almost reaches those who have seen Elvis in Memphis. The official history of Manic Street Preachers began in 1990 in the Welsh town of Blackwood, when Richey (former van driver of the seminal group Betty Blue), James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore and Nicky Wire recorded the single Suicide Alley, a song with devastating lyrics and punk and hardcore references. They quickly attracted the attention of critics, who elevated them as the great hope of rock'n'roll in a scene dominated by the acid house approaches of the time. Some EPs and singles later appeared (such as the memorable You Love Us) on independent labels, which paved the way for the release of their debut, Generation Terrorists. The band also began to stand out for its attitude: incendiary slogans and politically incorrect provocation were on the rise until Richey James reached the zenith, practicing the unpleasant exercise of self-mutilation on numerous occasions. With these ingredients, the music press had found a real vein, although the problems in the group were experienced in a much more dramatic way than a simple pose of rebellious stars. Of course, the commotion attracted a multinational (Sony) that signed them immediately. Two albums later (Gold Against the Soul and The Holy Bible) came the mysterious disappearance of Richey, which plunged the other members into a deep crisis from which they emerged triumphant with the release of Everything Must Go On, considered the group's best work. till the date. The success was almost global, with the exception of the United States, its great pending subject. They changed companies in that country, but their next album, This is My Truth Tell Me Yours, did not work as planned either. Perhaps that is the reason why, tired of testing Uncle Sam, they have chosen Cuba to present their new album.