Can a band with haircuts like this be in Kerrang!? Should we even ask the question? And if the MANIC STREET PREACHERS knew the answers, would they tell us anyway? Well, maybe, they would... cos guitarist RICHEY JAMES has just told PAUL ELLIOTT he didn’t play on the album and bassist NICKY WIRE admits to having once owned a Krokus album!
The Manic Street Preachers are to rock 'n' roll what ‘boring’, ‘lucky’ Arsenal are to football; they’re the band people love to hate.
“That’s fair enough,” smiles rhythm guitarist Richey James, his thin frame crumpled on a sofa in a west London PR ofﬁce, eyes heavily lined. “People do expect a lot from us and they can get a bit antagonistic. James (Dean Bradﬁeld) puts up with most because he’s the singer. He ended up going bare-topped nearly every night on our last tour cos there was so much spitting from the crowd.”
“It's not that people detest us.” insists bass player Nicky Wire, “they’re just releasing their frustrations.”
Wire was floored by a snooker ball at a recent gig, and is being threatened with legal action by a Japanese film crew after he battered a £24,000 camera with his bass
at the Manics’ London Astoria show last month.
“The cameraman was being really wanky," says Wire. “We'll leave it with the lawyers.”
The Manic Street Preachers are cocky and confrontational. They have a song called ‘You Love Us’ and another, ‘Repeat’. which spits out slogans like 'F"k queen and country' and 'Dumb flag scum'. Richey is the prettiest rock 'n' roll star since Hanoi Rocks' Michael Monroe. During an interview with NME writer Steve Lamacq, Richey carved '4 Real' into his forearm with a razor blade. "If you'd spent a couple of hours talking to him, you'd have done the same!" he chuckles. The scars have now healed to a shiny pink.
'We're a mess of eyeliner and spray paint/DIY destruction on Chanel chic' , reads `Stay Beautiful. It's surprising, then, to find. them so approachable and easy-going off stage. They're refreshingly honest too; Nicky even admits to having once owned a Krokus album, 'One Vice At A Time'!
Equally surprising is the Manics' debut album 'Generation Terrorists'. Produced by Steve Brown (whose previous credits include the Cult's 'Love'), it's melodic and not, as anticipated, a sub-Hanoi three-chord thrash. Bradfield and drummer Sean Moore are fine songwriters.
"I always felt sorry for James cos everyone used to say 'Oh, they're just a punk band' - and he's written all these songs that we couldn't play live cos we wanted
string and keyboard on 'em" explains Richey.
"James was brought up on Led Zeppelin, whereas the things that impressed me when I was young were early Clash, Pistols and Hanoi Rocks. There was hardly any musicianship involved, it always seemed better just to jump up and down and try to look good. That's what I always concentrated on, rather than actually learning to play." It's been suggested that you still do that.
"Yeah, that's right," he laughs.
"James is the best guitarist, so he does everything," shrugs Nick. "Because we've known each other since we were five, we trust each other - there's no ego in the band. Richey takes the best picture and James does the best solos. We do all the artwork ourselves, and Richey needs just as much time to do that as James does to record the guitars."
"James loves playing guitar,' adds Richey, "so when I said, 'Can you do my guitar parts?', he said, 'Course I will!'
"The less time I'm in the studio the better. I don't like much responsibility. I don't like owning many things. I like buying records and and books, but the more things you end up owning, the more unhappy you get.
"Bands like Poison and Warrant, we could never understand. They'd be singing about Los Angeles, cruising on a Harley Davidson down Sunset Strip; cocaine parties, loads of women. We were just rotting away in a bedroom and it made no sense to us at all. Tigertailz come from near where we're from in Wales, and they really wanted that LA lifestyle. We could never feel any kind of affinity with those aspiration, it seemed really childish.
A band the Manics do like is Guns 'N' Roses. During the recording of 'Generation Terrorists' at Black Barn Studios, Surrey, they bribed engineer Matt Olliver to drive them up to Tower Records in Piccadilly to buy 'Use Your Illusion I and 'II' on the eve of release.
'We stayed up all night playing 'em," recalls Nicky. "It was really bad cos the first side of 'Use Your Illusion I' is the worst and we were like, fucking hell, what's gone wrong?! 'Estranged' is the best track on the two albums; the guitar solos are so beautiful."
Did you cover G 'N' R's 'It's So Easy' because it's their killer punk song?
"It's just the easiest to play!" Richey grins. "James took me into consideration. It's an angry song too. When we were teenagers we'd had almost a decade of boredom before Guns N' Roses and Public Enemy started. There's really big drawbacks about both those bands - homophobia, anti=semitism, misogyny, whatever - but we focussed on their good points. Proffesser Griff, who left Public Enemy a couple of years ago, actually believes that Jews carry out experiments on babies in South Africa! He believes that!"
"It's also really strange that Axl does dumbfuck things like 'Back Off Bitch'." reckons Nicky, "cow there's songs on the new albums like 'Locomotive' and 'November Rain' that are really sensitive. 'Coma' has mega lyrics. The mistakes that these bands made didn't matter to us, cos we always thought to ourselves that we were gonna be the perfect band." He isn't laughing.
Former porn film star Traci Lords, an ex-girlfriend of GN'R guitarist Slash, guests on the Manics' Little Baby Nothing', singing tragic, disturbing lines like, 'My mind is dead, everybody loves me, wants a slice of me'. It couldn't be further removed from Danger Danger's dopey 'Ginger Snaps'.
"We thought Traci would be a good idea for the song," says Richey. "We haven't seen any of her films, we don't want to, we've just read about her, how she nearly brought down the American porn industry because 30 out of her 42 films were done when was 15. We got in touch with her through our American A&R man and she flew in to see us play in London in December. We met and talked after the concert and did the song the next day."
"Traci's just really sweet," Nicky smiles. "The song is about that typical male attitude; a man can fuck a million girls and he's a stud, but a woman is outcast as a slag."
"She doesn't speak to Slash now. And the last time she saw Axl he was buying this really expensive fine china in LA."
Guns 'N' Roses were once rock's most notorious junkies. The Manic Street Preachers "have always been happy with alcohol".
"I don’t really care about anybody taking drugs," say Richey, “but what annoys me is those people doing E and thinking it’s so radical, such a threat to the government."
“I've read ‘The Politics Of Ecstasy’ by Timothy Leary, which was written maybe 25 years ago, and everything in that book has been proven wrong.
“LSD is a product of the CIA; they paid the Swiss to develop the drug cos they thought it was a really good way of controlling people's minds for interrogation. They‘d give whores $100 a night to take somebody back to their place an and spike their drink with
LSD, and the CIA would film the effects. So LSD is hardly radical.
"It's sad when people board about drugs," sighs Nicky. "The real addicts are too out of it to even talk about it. We've had Primal Scream, and all those bands coming up to us going 'I'm so fucking out of it! - and you can tell that all they've had is a sniff of Pritt Stick!"
Loved by Tracii Guns and Mick Cripps of LA Guns and Wolfsbane's Jeff Hateley, the Manic Street Preachers are at last beginning to pull Metal fans to their gigs.
"With Nirvana break through, barriers have gone down. It's not so much down to your haircut as your songs," affirms Richey. "Two years ago, nobody would've thought that Nirvana could be on the cover of Kerrang!. When we were teenagers, we'd be playing the same records as all the hardcore Metal fans, but because we looked different, they always thought we'd be into Joy Division or something."
"We're glad about that, though reasons Nicky, "cos we want to compete on our own terms."
"We're not just a Metal band, we are different. When Richey got a tattoo, he made a point of putting 'Useless Generation' on it instead of 'Harley Davidson.'
On the album cover, Richey's tattoo has been changed to read 'Generation Terrorists'. The picture is a shot of his torso, about which hangs a heavy crucifix.
The cover that the record company suggested was obscene," he snorts. 'They said, 'We've got this great concept: the Royal Shakespearean stage with red velvet curtains opening up revealing a cruise missile with 'Generation Terrorists' written on the tip!"
"I just went, 'Fuck it, I'm gonna have to do everything myself'.
"We wanted to use a work of art on the cover, but the ones we wanted, we couldn't use. 'Piss Christ by Andre Serrano was one."
The controversial 'Piss Christ' is a photograph of a cheap crucifix immersed in human urine, lit a deep orange-yellow.
"Maybe," Nicky grins, "we'll get permission to use it when we're huge..."