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I'm Not Actually In The Band - Q Magazine, November 2019

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Title: I'm Not Actually In The Band
Publication: Q Magazine
Date: November 2019
Writer: Niall Doherty

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The man who witnessed the Manics’ mainstream rise from the inside.

Manic Street Preachers were struggling to overcome the trauma of Richey Edwards’s disappearance when Nick Nasmyth was employed on keyboards. It was 1996 and the band had a new record titled Everything Must Go completed and ready for release.

There wasn’t time for Nasmyth to quietly bed in. His debut was performing A Design For Life on Chris Evans’s primetime Friday night show TFI Friday, one of the biggest shows on TV at the time, and then he was asked to join them for two huge support shows with Oasis at Manchester’s Maine Road. He discovered afterwards that it was his audition, and he’d passed. “Before we did Maine Road, we did a night at the Haçienda and the band were pretty upset by playing without Richey,” he recalls. “I didn’t think they would carry on. We did the Maine Road thing and at the end of the two nights, someone said to me, ‘Oh, by the way, you’ve got the gig.’ But I will admit it was quite nerve-wracking.”

The Manics, of course, did carry on. Everything Must Go turned them into one of the UK’s biggest bands and, over the next few years, Nasmyth got to witness their heady successes from the inside. “The Millennium Stadium on New Year’s Eve in 1999 was fantastic, as was going to Cuba and meeting Fidel Castro, that was a big one. As an ex-band member of other bands, it was incredible to see what it was like to actually be fantastically successful. It was an amazing experience.”

Nasmyth never meant to become a session musician. Who does? He’d played for numerous bands and was in a power trio called Thirteen Days when he was asked to play keyboards for pop duo Shampoo.

“A friend of mine said, ‘Do you want to come to Japan? You get paid.’ They had the same management as the Manics. The rest is history, so to speak.”

He says that there are certain rules if you’re an extended member of a band’s live set-up. “You’ve got to be quite amiable, never think you’re in the band and be prepared for anything, musically. The temperament is about getting on with people. Respect the fact it’s a job. Be yourself and be true to yourself – if you don’t like the band, don’t play with them.” He still remembers a line about him in a review from a Manics show at the Royal Albert Hall in 1997, perhaps part of the reason why he says he never reads anything that is connected to him and isn’t on social media. “It said, ‘The keyboard player looked like he was serving drinks.’ It was a bad one.”

The potential spotlight didn’t dissuade him from making a move into pop in 2005, though. He departed the Manics to record an album with Melanie C, which led to playing on the Spice Girls’ reunion tour in 2007. The Manics were big, but this was another level up. “It was totally different,” he laughs. “Private jets are great!”

Nasmyth rejoined the Welsh trio in 2013 and the man nicknamed “The Lord” by the Manics crew says it felt like he’d never left. “There was obviously quite a lot of piss-taking on their part,” he says. “‘Oh, have a nice time?’, that sort of thing.”

Things could have taken an alternative path for Nasmyth if his mum had passed on messages from Dexys and Talk Talk enquiring about his services. “My whole career would’ve started 10 years earlier, but you can’t look back. It worked out really well.” Next, he’s working with Jimmy Somerville on a future project and also heading to Japan with the Manics for two shows. He respects the fact that it’s a job, but that doesn’t mean Nick Nasmyth hasn’t been having the time of his life on the quiet.