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Interview: James Dean Bradfield - Eska Rock, 21st January 2009

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Title: Interview: James Dean Bradfield
Publication: Eska Rock
Date: Wednesday 21st January 2009

Manic Street Preachers are preparing to release a new album. Before we listen to their fresh album, James Dean Bradfield tells us about the 'Send Away The Tigers' and the band's return to their roots.

You say "Send Away The Tigers" is a record that helped you prove something...
We've had the impression that in recent years we've created our own abilities. Some of our faithful fans have said that we have lost this rock'n'roll claw. So we knew that when recording this CD, we need to trust our musical instincts. We should be more literal; go back to a specific guitar playing. It was clear to us what we want: a return to real rock'n'roll.

And where is the title from?
There was a British comedian, Tony Hancock. This is a very popular, but also a complicated figure: he was an alcoholic, he suffered from depression and eventually committed suicide. He was isolated from everyone he knew: from the authors of texts, friends, managers, and he went to Australia. Sometimes, when something was not going well, he said "please, take away the tigers" and started to drink. We liked it very much. It was a man who always fled from it, thanks to which he became famous; he always had the feeling that something could have been done better; he was not satisfied with the results of his work. We thought that his saying suits what we sometimes felt as a group: it was difficult for us to enjoy what we had achieved, we listened to critical voices and tried to be different people.

Where did the idea for a duet with Nina Persson in the first single come from?
It was Nick's idea. At the beginning this song was supposed to be completely different. Nick had long conversations with Ritch about what gives people happiness: religion, democracy, hatred, love and stuff. When we started writing songs, it immediately sounded like a duo; conversation between a woman and a man. Nick said: "Nina would be perfect!" I liked the idea very much, but I was afraid that she would refuse. We were surprised that when she agreed.

Did you record this song together in one studio?
No. We finished recording music and backing vocals for this song in Ireland. Nick and Sean went to Wales, and I went to New York for a recording. I had a slight stage fright. Nina and her husband have a small recording studio in New York. Nina began to record vocals to the song and knew exactly how to sound; everything had already been practiced. It's amazing to watch someone singing our music and a little intimidating, because she did it well, at ease. Nina sang as if outside of music. Something that Frank Sinatra was famous for. I felt like I was watching his feminine version.

Some fans in recent years have lost faith in your team, do you think they were right?
We felt that we need to reach out to our most faithful fans again. We realized that when they criticized us for what we had done in the last five years, they were right. We could again find people who once listened to us, recording an unpretentious, direct, rock album. We did not want to think about music as much as in recent years, especially at the previous album, "Lifeblood". We were constantly thinking about the sound and we stopped relying on our instincts. Our true nature has disappeared. We have decided that it is time to return to the roots and if we succeed, the listeners will be satisfied.

How do you recall the work on 'Send Away The Tigers'?
It was great fun. Although we have sometimes argued in the studio, creating it still made us happy, because we really argue with the people we love - then you respect the opinion of who you are discussing with. I knew that if I argue with Nick or with Sean about the music, it's all for the record's sake. While recording this album, we had a deal: if a song does not sound good during the rehearsal, we will not like it during the first minutes of playing, we give up this song. It was a good decision. It is thanks to this that we worked better; we did not have to worry unnecessarily about what did not suit us. It was very natural; you put so much effort into writing a song that you should not think about it anymore when you play it.

Your team is one of those teams in which conflicts happen rarely, so this session and shared 24 hours a day is not a nuisance?
We were in the countryside in Ireland, only fields, cows and sheep surrounded us. We're from Wales, so we're used to such a view. We were there 24 hours a day - we talked about music, sports or politics all the time. It was wonderful! We felt like at a summer camp. We are closer to each other than you can imagine. The drummer, Sean, is my cousin and we've been together since we were ten. Nick has been my best friend since I was 7 years old, that's why we like to stay together, even if we argue. It was great to spend some time together in the countryside, where no one is distracting you and you can concentrate on the music. Unbelievable that we understand each other well and like each other!

Do you have any favorite songs on this album?
I have two favorite tracks on this album: "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough" and "Indian Summer". Actually, there is a third - "Rendition". - When we finished the recording and it turned out that there will be 10 tracks and 1 hidden song, I thought that maybe one more song could be useful? Any calm, maybe acoustic? I tried to write something, but nothing right occurred to me. I realized that we already had the whole, there was no song that would fit, so we should let it go. Since we've decided that the CD is ready, we should trust our sense and just leave it. You can not suddenly start changing something that already has a form. I am glad that this album is so direct and we relied on our musical intuition. We've recorded 10 songs and that's it.

Did the fact that you had previously recorded a solo album affect your group work?
My independent work influenced my thinking about the team. I started to appreciate the group more. Recording a solo album was great fun for me; such detachment from normal work. I felt almost like on vacation, but by the way I realized that in order to do my best, sometimes you need quarrels, tensions and discussions. I love Manic Street Preachers. This does not change the fact that sometimes we argue, but thanks to this we can create even better things. While working on a solo album, I did not have such a creative tension and I missed it very much. In the band, we are like brothers - sometimes we argue, but only for the sake of music.

The fans liked the graphic layout of the new Manic Street Preachers. Whose idea?
At the beginning of our career, we cooperated with Valerie Phillips - she is such a photographer who created the cover for the single "Motorcycle emptiness". Nick collected her albums. Valerie began publishing albums about Monika's life every three years (she is a girl from New York). Valerie has photographed her since she was 15 years old. Nick said that Monica's photos show well growing up. We liked the transition from innocence to adulthood. It suited our record well; besides, we worked with Valerie many years ago, so it turned out that we are going back to the roots not only in music.

What do you feel when you read articles about your colleagues from the industry in tabloids, he scandals?
The world needs diversity and diversity. Everyone loves Elvis, but you have to realize that if he were alive today, he would probably be better known for eating hamburgers and peanut butter sandwiches than for his music. That's how it is. We need extremes. When I was young, I was very happy with my approach to politics - I did not agree with Margaret Thatcher, I had different views than most of the country; I just had something against which I could protest. If the world consisted only of people like us or Thom Yorke from Radiohead, it would be very boring - why defy it here? But to be honest, I do not understand why people are more interested in the lives of musicians than what they create. It's best to avoid all these programs and articles about the stars - then you'll have peace of mind.

And what do you think about political and social actions in which artists are involved, also in music?
There are many musicians in the UK with good, rich homes who want to tell everyone how to live. They convince us that the biggest political problem in the world is the greenhouse effect. Please, this is important, but you must first deal with what is happening in the country before we take up such issues. For me, the most important thing is how the health service, schools and people are giving up right-wing views, for example on immigrants. More and more people claim that this wave of immigration can not be controlled and supports the right wing. I would like to keep this support for right-wing politicians, and people should be interested in what is happening in their yard before they start thinking about the rest of the world.