First Cuts: James Dean Bradfield - Uncut, July 2006
The Manics frontman explains how he was almost christened Clint, failed to out drink Dylan Thomas, and why he hates The Doors
Didn't you come perilously close to being comically named Clint Eastwood Bradfield?
I did. It was a narrow escape. My dad wanted to call me Clint, but my mum wasn't having it. I could never have carried it off and would never have been able to live up to it. It's hard enough to live up to James Dean, which has an Athena-poster aspect to it. I wasn't going to use it for the band but Richey let it slip out in an early interview that my name was James Dean. I wanted to throttle him.
One rumour goes that in the early days, Nicky Wire issued an edict that none of the band were permitted to masturbate for three years so as to "preserve your creative juices".
We did indulge in what we called "denialism" at that time, where we decided that it was OK to have no money, no girlfriends, no food. But it was never laid down that masturbation was a no-no. We were denied sex, but only as we had no options, outlets or remote hope at that time. I do know John Frusciante from the Chili Peppers avoids masturbation when he's making an album. Apparantly, he wants to save all his power for his guitar solos.
Brilliantly daft ideas from Nicky and Richey defined the early stages of the Manics. Did you have occasion to step in and tell them to come to their senses?
Most of the time, I just loved the idea that, however insane their ideas, they meant everything they said. But I did take umbrage at the idea that our first album would sell 16 million and then we'd call it quits and disappear back to obscurity in South Wales. I was thinking. 'But we've got all these great songs..' I suppose I could comfort myself with the idea that this grand plan was doomed to fail. Similarly, when Nickey and Richey would promise that the band would set themselves on fire if we were asked to do TOTP, I just knew it wasn;t going to play out that way.
You must have had some interesting objects thrown at you in the past 20 years?
Yes, especially in the early days: projectiles were quite common at our gigs. There was a great deal of spitting. I remember being spat at one night and watching this arc of thick phlegm moving towards me and just not being able to close my mouth in time and thinking 'Yum, cider and black.' We played Swansea's Singleton Park in the early 90's at one of those Heineken festivals. Cardiff City and Swansea City fans had a full-scale battle. After kicking seven shades out of each other, they then turned their blood-lust upon us. Flagon bottles were flying at us from all directions. I think that was the night that someone hit Nicky on the side of the head with a flagpole.
Legend has it that, through the '90s, you were out-drinking Dylan Thomas.
I wish it was that heroic. When the band started taking off, I never felt like a rock star or any of that rubbish. If anything, it took being in a band to make me start living like so so many people I knew back in the Valleys. Going out weekend getting pissed and laid. I was finally out of my bedroom and having a great time. In terms of booze, I was never in Dylan Thomas' league. I had 10 great years of drinking and was never in any danger of becoming an alcoholic. I just loved drinking.
What's the last record that changed your life?
For the past four years or so, John Cale's Paris 1919. I had it when I was young and maybe liked one song on it at the time. But it's one of those that I kept revisiting and discovered more and more in it. Recently, it started sounding to me liek the greatest album ever made. Or at least the greatest record ever made by a Welshman.
Talking of which, do you agree that it's socially acceptable to take the piss out of the Welsh?
Well it seems like it's OK for AA Gill to call us, "ugly, pugnacious little trolls" or Anne Robinson to ask, "What exactly is the point of the Welsh?" I prefer to look at it positively. As young Welshmen, we grew up in such a glorious era in which to be angry. Everything was so black and white. There was no grey areas. You knew what you hated and why you hated it. It was easy to pick your targets. We knew that people were dismissing us as useless troglodytes with no musical lineage or heritage. It's that what gave the Manics that extra little kick-start down the back-straight that we knew we could use. The chip on the shoulder we turned to our advantage.
Name the three worst bands of all time?
Nirvana would be one of them. They destroyed a generation of people - they gave them a gateway to an alternative world without getting a badge first and took them to that world which, at the end of the day, was just bad metal. I've always despised The Teardrop Explodes. There was always a band in college that people loved and you just knew they were wrong. These people didn't like The Clash or Wah! but they loved the Teardrops. Everything was shit about The Teardrop Explodes - their clothes, their music, their girlfriends. Johnny Cash I can't be arsed with, but I hate The Doors even more. They'll always get me out of the room. I could never, ever be friends with anyone who thought The Doors were any good. You can always spot a fan. They have crap haircuts and leather jackets and hate their mothers. The Doors were even worse that The Damned, who were the musical version of the worsr bits of Tiswas.
Does it hack you off that Richey Edwards is lumped in with the likes of Cobain and Morrison as a classic rock'n'roll casualty?
He disappeared in a cryptic hashion, so I can't get worked up about the fact that he's part of this rock mythology. I just wish he got more points for style. There was nothing wilfully cinematic in the Hollywould sense about his disappearnce. It was a Vauxhall car on the Severn Bridge with Embassy fag packets inside it on a grey, rainy day. You can't get more British or dour than that. It's more Reggie Perrin than rock'n'roll.
Lots of people are convinced that you know exactly what happened to Richey.
Taxi drivers, mainly. If I was to get too upset about that, I'd be extremely naïve and simply not strong enough to realise that we reaped what we sowed in terms of how we set the band up to be interpreted in the widest sense. Whenever I get angry about the way Richey is remembered, I have to remind myself that I'm not his father, mother or sister. I don't really know how much that hurts.