Twelve years ago, her guitarist disappeared without a trace. Then began the great campaign of Manic Street Preachers. Singer James Dean Bradfield comments on the new album and 'icon' Richey in an interview.
Hi James. How are you?
Not too bad. It is not so early in the morning. My brain works.
Let's test this with a question about the new Manics album "Sending Away the Tigers". You sound harder and rockier again - like a step back to the roots.
When we wrote the songs and recorded the album, we realized that we had lost our way in the last few years. We thought too hard about the music. You could tell that on our last album "Lifeblood". We still like it and we like to work on it. But we somehow lost the instinct then. For the new album we wrote the songs, then we went to the studio and if they did not work within five minutes, we stopped and started another song. We stopped analyzing the music in our heads.
How important for "Sending Away the Tigers" were the solo albums by you and Nicky?
I first realized how important these two albums were when we recorded "Sending Away the Tigers". Nicky and I enjoyed our solo projects. But when we returned to the manics, we realized that we needed the Manic Street Preachers environment. We need some kind of conflict and tension to deliver our best work. In recent years, we have always tried to avoid conflicts in the studio. That turned out to be a mistake. When three men like Nicky, Sean and I, who know each other so well and have experienced so many stories together, may have conflicts because they can be solved again. So the solo project has freed our heads in a way.
Would the new Manics album have sounded different if you had not followed the solo projects?
I do not think so, but it would have taken longer for us to get to our destination.
Nicky wrote in the biography that you wanted to go back in time with the new album when you were 18 or 21 years old. Do you remember your time in 1987?
(laughs) I remember! I have to admit, this is a dangerous thing if you want to sound like a person you once were, because you could create a false illusion. But on the other hand, we also remember how each one of us was when he was five years old. We have known each other all our lives. So it was easy to go back there, because we had so many common references. The school we went to, the girls we came after, the school discos and football games ... We have experienced so much together. I even remember the first song that Nicky and I wrote together.
Can you tell this story?
(laughs) I'm a bit embarrassed. We were 15 years old and went to school. It was at the football field. I remember Nicky walking down the stairs and me up. The day before he told me that he would give me a text. I remember him running up the stairs, very shy, pushing the lyrics into my hand and running away. The song was called 'Aftermath'. It was mainly about Margaret Thatcher and that we hated what she did to our country.
How have your world views or your values, which are important in your life, changed since that time?
All people change - even those who play in a band. We still have the same political view as before. But when you're younger, you think that everything you say is right. You feel indestructible. You do not listen to the opinions of others, but only to yourself. You want to destroy the world and then rebuild it with your own values and beliefs. You are much more nihilistic when you are young. While you are older, you still pursue the same goals, but you become more constructive. Many people asked us if we still believe in socialism. Whether we as a successful band that earns a lot of money do not get into a conflict of interest. But the simple answer to that is that I still believe in high taxes. When I did not have any money, I believed in high taxes and now that I have money, I still believe in it. You should burden the rich with high taxes. People like me should pay high taxes.
The question may sound a bit hackneyed, but with a political band, it offers itself: Can music change the world?
People often make the mistake of thinking that music has failed to change the world. One should not set such a high goal in this context. You have to change the opinions or attitudes of individual people, that's enough. When I was young, I was a fan of "The Clash". They changed me. They changed the way I wanted to look and how I wanted to behave. They also changed what I wanted to do in my life and they changed me. If I had not heard "The Clash" I would probably be a different person. So if you can only change individuals and the way they lead their lives, that's enough. But I do not think that I have the same effect on someone "The Clash" had on me.
But is there no such thing as resignation in a band that deals with current and political topics? There are still wars, politicians are not keeping their promises...
There is a certain kind of pessimism already. But you only lose your optimism if you expect too much from the world. In particular, we in England are trapped in an endless circle of bad news. If something positive happens, it's only in the newspapers for a day, and the Iraqi war returns to the front of the newspaper the next day. That sometimes depresses a lot. But people expect too much from politics. We get the kind of politics we deserve. In England we are currently living in a very decadent age. If the population is lazy and decadent, then they also get this policy. It's up to us: If we want a new president who does not make the same mistakes as Tony Blair, then we have to vote. As simple as that.
What does the music mean to you? Is it a drug or a therapy for you?
It's both. When I was young, I was often frustrated. I needed an outlet to get rid of these frustrations. Being the music and being in a band, that was the valve for me. But I also felt that I wanted to be physically busy. I wanted to feel the pain of doing something. And the music made me feel this. It was like a drug. That's probably the best way to explain what it means to be with the manics. It's like a drug to me and a therapy.
You have not talked about the disappearance of your guitarist for a long time...
...it's okay, go ahead!
How do you remember Richey? What kind of person was he?
I remember him as a much more interesting person than he is now portrayed. It is sometimes frustrating to see how people portray it as an icon and how they view it as perfect. He was a very difficult person. But he could never lie. And he could never lie to the world. He was constantly in question. Therefore, he found no peace and no peace.
You also work together with Richey on your current single "Your Love Is Not Enough" together with Nina Persson from the Cardigans.
Nicky told me he had a discussion in his mind between him and Richey. He simply could not forget this dialogue. He tried to treat this discussion in the form of a text. It became a duet, of course, because there are two people talking. Nicky said it had a female and a male voice. And he could not shake off the idea of letting Nina Persson sing the female part. It sounded like a crazy idea. But we asked Nina and she shocked us by promising.
Finally, you're playing at the Greenfield Festival in Interlaken this summer. What kind of show can we expect? Do you play older songs?
We're building some older songs that we have not played in a long time. Some people, who are in the front row of our concerts, want songs that we have not played in a long time. So we want to do them a favor. There are also more familiar older and newer things from us. But let yourself be surprised!