SCATHE had a chat with RICHEY from the MANIC STREET PREACHERS on February 2 1994.
To what do yo attribute your success, as opposed to bands like Chapterhouse and Slowdive, who appeared at the same time?
"I think we're believable, as people and musicians. We ve always been very fair, and said what we thought. At the start we had so much criticism for slagging off other bands, but we were just in conversation with the journalists, and we didn’t feel the need to shut our mouths. I think the British media is pretty unique, in that it constantly needs new bands to justify it's existence, and consequently every single of the week is greeted with universal adoration. 'This is the record that is gonna save your life', when in actual fact it’s not. When a band starts off they get massive adoration or disgust. And I think unless you can actually write a lyric, or music that people relate to, you fade out very quickly. Certainly bands like Chapterhouse, when it comes down to it they didn't say anything, and the music was just really trite."
Do you think your image had a lot to do with it?
"I think it was the reason we got a lot of press at the start. But if we didn't have lyrics or music that could back that up, we'd have just been that months 'favourite thing'."
You've been in the music press for over two years, but it was only recently (in The Times, of all places) that we heard about you and Nicky having 'A' levels. Do you think the press attempted to stereotype you as 'all mouth and no substance'?
"I think so. I mean, when we first went to London, and first started getting in N.M.E. and Melody Maker, most interviews went on for a long time, and they ask you lots of back-up questions, so every journalist knew that we went to University, and knew that we've got 'A' levels, but they just wanted to ignore that. Even journalists that liked us wanted us to be an angry working class band, not necessarily self-educated, but along those lines. The ones that didn't like us would never mention our education, but would just say it's pretentious putting quotes on record sleeves. But it's better than looking at pictures of yourself.
Is there anything that you regret?
“Absolutely nothing. There’s no point in regretting anything because there’s nothing you can do about it.”
You were criticised for 'dragging up the dying corpse of punk', so how do you feel about the ‘New Wave of New Wave’ currently being hailed as the saviour of pop?
"I haven't actually heard that many of them, but a lot of the bands I've read about, when they talk about punk, it's in reference to bands like The Buzzcocks, and to me that's one of the most vaccuous forms of music ever. The music was pretty crap, and the lyrics were just love songs re-done from a ‘dumped boyfriend' perspective. Which is dull, I mean, that's ‘what Whitney Houston does! As for punk influencing us, the only bands that we ever liked were The Clash, the Pistols and Wire. Everything else just seems really, really awful. Punk got mentioned so much with us at the start, because we were in London at the height of 'Manchester', we wore tight trousers ’and had things sprayed on our shirts, so it's an obvious preference point, punk. But again, we were travelling with journalists, and on the bus there was Aretha Franklin, The Stones, Ras Michael, Dillinger, Linton Johnson, and they never mentioned that. One or two Clash songs would come on, and it's like, 'Yeah, they like The Clash!”
Who inspired you to do what you do most?
"I think it's just a massive miasma of everything we've assimilated. Music became very important to us in the mid-eighties, and there was nothing contemporary that we really liked apart from McCarthy, so we spent most of our time at a Record Exchanges in Cardiff, just trying to buy all the so-called 'classic albums'. Elvis, James Brown, The Stooges, etc..,“ And we had quite a good English teacher at school, who, if you showed any interest in books at all, would just give you a big pile of books to go away and read - nothing to do wit the syllabus. Nick's older brother was in University studying English Literature, and he spent a year in an American university, and he kept sending back lots of stuff, which I found appealing to a certain extent, but I think it's a very teenage thing.”
Much has been made of your music and literary heroes, do you think that hero worship is positive or negative?
"I think for us it was very healthy, because we never held anybody in any esteem. By the time we were sixteen or seventeen, we didn't expect anything from bands, because we realised that things like 'Exile On Main Street by The Rolling Stones was one of the greatest albums of all time, but then you see the parody, and you see them now, and everything is rendered almost meaningless. But at that time they were a brilliant group. We don't really respect that many people, there a nobody that we really want to meet, I mean, I've only ever asked for two autographs in my entire life. One was Ian McCulloch, when I was very young, and then Morrissey."
Do you think that organisations like the B.N.P. should be banned?
No, I don't believe you should ban anything at all. It's all question of censorship. If you allow an establishment like the British government to ban a party - because they're the ones who've got to do it - there d be nothing to stop them binning something else they found distasteful . All censorship is wrong. I mean, even if you think about music, okay, ban Shabba Ranks, why not ban Public Enemy for being anti-Semitic? It's just as offensive, but Public Enemy are a cool band, so nobody really mentions it. The public have got a mind of their own. Ban Red Hot Dutch, ban porn, why? As long as it's in an adult orientated environment. People have got to be treated as human beings."
You're one of the few bands that have spoken out about computer games. Do you think they are any competition for rock ‘n’ roll?
"No not at all. When you’re younger, any kind of excitement generates some kind of appeal to you, and computer games are just the next thing. When we were young, James ended up getting a couple of paper rounds in the evening, and a milk round before school, just so he could finance his Donkey Kong habit when the chip-shop at it. It doesn't affect his love for a guitar. Maybe you'll get the next generation of musicians being more techno-orientated, and that's fine. But I hate techno at the moment. It's made by really sad fuckers who are into electronic machinery more than anything else, but I do think that within two decades you're going to get people who know their way around an electronic set-up that can actually read a book, and bother to write a lyric, instead of just going ‘Techno, techno, techno, techno!’ I think that will come, it will develop, but at the moment it's just really sad music. It's got no soul."
Now is the chance to answer your critics. What would you say?
"One thing we’re criticised for is that I can't play guitar very well. One of the first things I ever said n the N.M.E. was that I don't want to play my guitar. I don't really like it, I’m in the band to write words. I don't see the need to spend eighteen hours a day learning to play guitar when James can do it so efficiently. We go into the studio and I spend time getting all the artwork done, getting the lyrics done, and the label copy, and James can do my rhythm parts. It's all about economy, and it works very well. I don't see why bands have got to be so old fashioned. We're very organised, everybody works really hard all day long, and we get a result that we can live with. Some reviewers have said we play through a DAT machine on stage, but anybody that's ever seen us knows that things go wrong. Why program a DAT machine to make mistakes? People just never look at things very logically."
What’s your favourite drink and why?
"Well, I don't actually enjoy drinking alcohol, I just like the effect, so whatever's around me. But if I can get what I want, it's either an American whiskey, or Smirnoff Vodka. I drink it to get somewhere and for no other reason. I'm not one of those people that joins real-ale societies, who've got to inspect the pipes before they have their first pint. Alcohol for me is just functional there's no pleasure in it at all."
Do you believe that drugs should be legalised and why?
"I haven't got an attitude about drugs at all. Alcohol is an escape, and all escape is based on fear and self-loathing, and whatever it takes to get it, I don't have any objection to. I just find it really annoying, because we grew up around petty sort of drugs - kids in school doing glue, or sneaking down the off-licence to get some cans of lager. And they get the desired result, they can forget about whatever they want to for at about - but when you at to London, people in the music business especially make such a big deal about their cocaine habit, or their ‘E’ habit. People would come up to you and say 'I've just done an 'E', oh I'm so outrageous!’ and it's just like being at the school disco when you re thirteen, and somebody just hangs around you all night going 'Oh, I'm pissed, I drank lots of cider, I'm really pissed!"
Did you vote in the last election?
No, I didn't. And why? Because Neil Kinnock is our M.P. and he's got one of the largest majorities in the country, so it's a wasted vote. Whatever political party is around, I’m missing the point because I don't get any worth from them at all. I think the Labour party are the biggest bunch of cunts on the planet. They're selling everybody out, including themselves. They looked at Thatcherism in the eighties, and came to the conclusion that they weren't getting into power because they were too extreme! They became more and more bland, more and more watered down, until you can't tell the fucking difference. John Smith is a coward and a fraud, and deserves execution. The man's a disaster. Neil Kinnock wasn't any better. I genuinely believe if they'd had a more extreme and opinionated leader, they would have got back into power. People always respect some kind of strength in a political leader, and the Labour party haven't had it for years. It's no use blaming the media, because that's the way the media is and you've got to ' accept it, and use it for your own good."
What are your future plans?
"We finish this tour, and the next day we go into rehearsals for about four days, then we start recording the next record.“ And again, this is nothing to do with Sony, they didn't even know anything about it. We organise everything ourselves, we always have done since the start. They just assume that when we finish this tour we're gonna need six months in Aca-fuckin-pulco to get our heads together before we can write any songs!"