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Interview: James Dean Bradfield - Gitarre & Bass, 20th September 2018

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Title: Interview: James Dean Bradfield
Publication: Gitarre & Bass
Date: Thursday 20th September 2018
Writer: Marcel Anders

After a four-year album break, the Welsh trio back with an extremely ambitious work back, 'Resistance Is Futile' is a reckoning with the zeitgeist, a challenge to the powerful and rich and a statement in terms of harmony, compositional aspiration and musical maturity. In short: a real bang.

James Dean Bradfield is anything but the typical British rock star: a little man in his late 40s who makes no secret of his gray hair, his subtle belly and his advanced age. The two-time family man talks enthusiastically and often or has to explain himself anew in every interview at the press marathon in the Hyatt Hotel in Berlin: What is his point with the new album under the telling title "Resistance is futile"?

James, to what extent does Resistance Is Futile comment on the zeitgeist? What do you want to say, where are you?
I think it's just about finding meaning in the mess we're experiencing right now. Just to explain it all yourself and not completely on the wheel to turn. The result is these songs that we wrote primarily for ourselves to give us security and support. To understand our time a little better. At the moment everything is so bad that you can hardly ignore it. Only: It is not easy to put it into reasonable words and not to end up in bitter irony. It's hard to be reasonably objective and calm and to approach with a clear mind.

To interpret the cover artwork: Do you feel like a politically committed band like the last samurai? Like the last bastion against evil?
If we are really frustrated and depressed, then yes. (laughs) But we are rare. We just liked the image that is based on this famous image "The Last Samurai" - and that seems extremely realistic. One recognizes the gaze of the warrior, who is full of defiance, but also makes it clear that he knows that his time is over. That he is not part of the future and he either arranges or goes down with it.

What about the Manics?
Well, the things we had to do to get a record deal were very different from what you have to do now. And our ambitions were: we wanted to see our names on an album, we wanted to write songs and be a band. But it was not so important what we sing and write about - that was completely secondary. It was just about depicting what is happening around us in the world. By contrast, rock bands have a hard time making ends meet today. They do not earn enough, get barely publicity and have fewer opportunities to perform. Why do most working-class kids turn to other types of music? Such as "Urban Music", which is experiencing a huge explosion in London right now. What is OK. But for all, those who want to hear some great guitar bands, these are currently tough times. There are Shame or Hookworms that I like very much, but what's missing is this one group that has what it takes to save the music.

Why do many people indulge in nostalgia - indulging in boxing sets, reissues and remasters in the past?
That's a clear indication that they're missing something. That they lack something they can not find in the modern world. The acceleration of progress - in quotes - has happened at the expense of many good things. For example, that you have to form your opinion within 10 seconds, because that is the time that is even allowed to react. Which ensures that people hardly think anymore, but spread anger and hatred. That is bad. It's all black or white, but there's nothing in between. In the digital world, there is no time to form an informed opinion, but one is forced to make emotional snap shots. I know that because I already made myself guilty. For example, I once said that I find the albums of Nirvana awful - which I later maddened, because 'In Utero' is actually quite awesome. In that sense, sometimes it's better not to say anything and think for a while before you make any nonsense.

And this insight cheers you up to the world with hymnic rock music - like a subversive, subliminal message?
I think we have done more in the past than today. Especially at times of 'The Holy Bible' when that was our main concern. We literally forced people to come to terms with our opinion and our point of view. But I guess sometimes we exaggerated because we were too idealistic and too heroic. Which was definitely my mistake. Because I'm obsessed with strong melodies - and that's why quite a few people want us to stay the way we used to be. And always write the same anthemnic songs as at the time of 'The Holy Bible'. Sure, I like those moments when music gives you the feeling of greatness and power. That's important - but it's not all.

Your new studio near Newport is completely analogous, right?
Unfortunately not. But we have an old tape machine that we record with - before we load everything into Pro Tools. But we often make decisions like these: "Do you know what? Let's not change the drum track on and the song, just leave it as it is. "Simply because it's not necessary - because a small mistake would not be bad. If it's something bad, we'll change it, of course. Otherwise, it is better to leave it as it was originally and how it felt right at first. For example, 'If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next' was created entirely on tape.

Sean needed four drum takes that we edited. Which made sure that tape was flying around everywhere. In the room we worked in, it was literally hanging from the ceiling with notes and stuff. It was a very organized mess (laughs) - before we put everything together. When we pressed the start button, it did not sound perfect, but it did. And it had a special charm, just with a bit of tension. On the other hand, if you load everything into Pro Tools, you're tempted to make changes just for the sake of the changes and add tens of things that are actually unnecessary. But doing that on the tape machine was a lot of fun, which I really enjoyed.

Which guitars did you use for the album?
First and foremost a new Guild T-Bird. Also my Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman and my 62er Stratocaster. Not to forget my Telecaster from 1960, but also the good old Gibson Custom from 1990. So many different things. I have a lot of guitars and I like to play them all. The most valuable, like my ES-330 from 1963, but only at home and not so often in the studio, let alone on tour.

Are you a collector?
Well, I never had a drug problem. And I was never addicted to cars, houses or other luxuries. Instead, I bought guitars. Many even. Because that's important to me. I only passed my driving license two years ago. And I know that Lemmy never had one. That's why you have to set priorities, and consistently maintain them.

Does that mean: a whole warehouse full of instruments?
Oh, there are quite a few - but I'm not a crazy collector. I'm not the type of Aerosmith or anything. I play them all, and have only what I use. With such an album production, I always bring out everything that I find - and enjoy it very much. Playing such an old guitar is a bit like sipping on a good whiskey. It's a treat - if you can afford both: really good whiskey and really good guitars. (Laughs)

Is it true that when you were a kid, you always lowered the shutters in your parents 'living room and played them full on the albums of Guns N' Roses?
That's the whole truth! (laughs) It was the summer of 1987 when I decided to become as good a guitarist as Slash. That's why I've done everything and practiced it like a world champion. It was a really hot summer. Roaring hot. All my buddies have invested their money in beer and tried to rip up girls. I, on the other hand, spent every spare minute becoming the best guitarist in the world. That was my mission.

Supposedly, music has always been more than music to you - in the sense that you see the perfect escape from reality in it?
And I love that. That's why I make music. Otherwise, I never analyzed that. It just satisfies me.

So you had to become a rock star?
I really had to - but it was never my first thought. I just wanted to be part of a band. That was all I was concerned about. And when I was finally able to afford really expensive whiskey and even more expensive guitars, I realized: "Damn, now I've become what I never wanted to be." (Laughs)