Richey James has never taken Ecstacy. None of the Manic Street Preacher have actually done E. Strange for a band from Glamorgan with the accelerator full down on the rock 'n' roll highway to hell? You may ask. In reality Richey is something of a pussycat, and a great deal more dosed in reality than any guitarist who once carved '4 REAL' in his left arm has a right to he.
The Richey I encounter a week after their college tour in early February is on the whole a reflective character. The principle reason is the recent death of their publicist and manager Philip Hall, who died from cancer at a devastatingly early age. While the rest of the band rehearse for a special show in London for the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Richey explains why Philip's death has been such a blow to them. "He'd been diagnosed two years earlier, but when it happened it was still a terrible shock to us. We were on tour in Portugal at the time, but we just cancelled everything and flew back. Philip was the first person to really believe in our music. When we started we'd spend six months sending off tapes and letters and constantly hassling people. There'd been a lot of interest, but the classic reply has been 'We'll see you when you play in London', but when Philip called me up he said 'I'm really interested in your lyrics, when you're in London I'll definitely come down to see you play'. I said that we were finding it too tough to get a gig, so he said 'I'll drive down and come and see you tomorrow'. He started getting us gigs and although we'd still not got a record deal, Philip, who'd recently got married, told us, 'Look, you've got no money, you can live with us'. We lived with him for a year in Shepherd's Bush, sleeping in two spare bedrooms, the kitchen and the lounge. He was very dedicated.
On a less personal level, Richey is certain that the group's visit to Belsen, Dachau and Hiroshima last year, have influenced their entire perspective of the role of themselves as individuals and as a band. Widely-read and a self-confessed media junkie, Richey intends to write lyrics on the whole range of human suffering for the next album. "I don't care if we get crucified for including songs about snuff movies with explicit lyrics. It won't be a cheap shot at all. I hope it will raise the moral consciousness about such terrible events in the world."
Lightening things up just a little I enquire as to what TV Richey never misses. "All the soaps apart from Emmerdale because it was getting a bit too far-fetched, Prisoner Cell Block H, Newsnight, The Late Show and Top Of The Pops. Also we usually select hotels that have CNN when we're on the road." One programme Richey isn't too bothered about ever appearing on is The Brits.
"We're not bothered to be honest, and I don't think we're the kind of band that will ever get respect from the industry in which we work, We just tell the truth too much always have done. You can say anything you want in the business, but the moment you slag off another band you're seen as a pariah. The most boring people I've ever met have been in bands, all sitting around with each other thinking how fucking special they are. You don't often walk into a pub and find a table of builders all talking about demolishing walls. But indie bands particularly like to be seen together. Fucking pathetic they are."
Richey James, Manic Street Preacher. Still 'not bloody moving to London or anywhere abroad', still watching TV, still an occasional alcoholic. Still totally charming.