Anglophenia music contributor Lindsay Davis conducted this exclusive interview with Manic Street Preachers drummer Sean Moore.
It was 1992 when the Welsh band Manic Street Preachers released their first album Generation Terrorists with punk, alt rock, and some might say prophetic gusto. Comprised of guitarist/frontman James Dean Bradfield, bassist Nicky Wire, and drummer Sean Moore, Manic Street Preachers are veterans on the British scene. With nine albums (This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours went to #1 on the UK charts), fifteen top 10 singles (including two #1s, also on the UK charts), and an array of collaborations and covers (including Rihanna‘s “Umbrella”), the Manics are one of the most prolific and inspired groups yet to make a big dent on this side of the pond. With Postcards From A Young Man, their 10th album which drops September 20th on Columbia in the UK, the Manics are ready to take it to the mainstream and crack the US market. (Hey, if Green Day can mount a successful Broadway musical…) I spoke to drummer/vocalist Sean Moore in a 3-part interview exclusively for Anglophenia:
Where did you get the title for the new album?
Nick. It’s one of his titles that he just plucked out of the air. It was all about looking back when we were young. We used to send postcards to each other. It just had a nice feeling – postcards – you wake up in the morning and somebody’s given you a tiny little portal into their world. You can touch it. You almost felt you were with them even when you weren’t.
What did you guys do on this record that you haven’t done before?
We’re comfortable with ourselves now. The album’s not a reaction to Journal for Plague Lovers, but it’s just to show people that we can go from one extreme to the other – it’s the schizophrenic nature of our musical taste. Postcards is a bit more commercially acceptable. It’s our last chance to take it to the masses. We’re using radio, TV, and the Internet to promote and get across the idea of the album as a work of art in itself.
It’s commercially acceptable but still musically progressive?
It is, yeah. The album as an art form is slowly diminishing. This is our way to collect all our ideas in a body of work and still reach many people as possible. When you sort of fracture the album down to its tiniest components, with all the track downloads, you lose certain elements of a band’s identity.
Tell me about the first track off the album “(It’s Not War) Just the End of Love.”
James didn’t know the verse would turn out like that but with mine and Nick’s influence it turns into a Manics song. We never have real moments of just ourselves. We’re not only collaborating with fellows but we’re collaborating with history and former artists. That’s the whole thing about evolving and moving on – to have a completely clear thought untouched by human history is impossible.
In July 2009, Nicky said Postcards From A Young Man would be “heavy metal Tam Motown Van Halen playing The Supremes.” Has it lived up to his promise?
(Laughter) I think so. There are elements of Welsh gospel, too, if you could call it that! Our tastes have gone all over from AC/DC to Queen, and from L.A. rock bands to dance music like Chemical Brothers. We have such a breadth of musical influences, even classical, like Claude Debussy. We’ve always drawn on the best of human culture throughout history and try it make it our own like the way Picasso or any artist would.
Speaking of L.A. rock bands, you brought in Ex-Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan on the track “A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun.” What was that like?
He dug out an Appetite for Destruction bassline and we were all sorta smiley and so pleased by it. He was such a gracious guy. He offered to come to us [in Cardiff], but we didn’t want to put him out so we went to L.A. to record. It’s good to see there are still people like that in music.
Writer and BBC Radio 2 host Stuart Maconi writes that “A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun” depicts the Internet as a place “where self-obsession and narcissism, crudity and hatred have taken the place of real human contact and feeling.” Do you agree?
Well, that’s the whole thing – it’s like we’re all celebrities now and the virtual world has taken over from the real world. It’s almost like you’re sending out a robot version of yourself, sort of an unreal image of yourself, while your real broken up, aging crippling self is locked in a room for nobody else to see. We think we’re quite happy connecting with our little webcams.
Is the concert experience an answer to all this virtual connecting?
Yes, it’s the most tangible bit of realism and contact that any band has left. You can smell and feel the heat…the noise of the gig – and you can feel what a band is all about. It’s very difficult to convey that through the Internet. Live, you have the power to change a moment, almost instinctively, in a split second. I know it’s posted on the internet for eternity but for that split moment in person, that’s probably the truest moment that can be had for a band.
Which inspirations did you bring up in your brainstorming sessions for the new album?
I went in with the ideas of Roger Taylor of Queen, Nicky Topper of The Clash, and Clem Burke of Blondie for that pop sensibility. These are people I’ve admired for years and years, with just a little sprinkling of me on top of it all.
What new British bands are you listening to these days?
I’ve been listening to a Scottish band called Biffy Clyro. They sort of remind me a lot of us.
They did a sweet acoustic version of “The Captain” on BBC Radio 1 back in April.
Yeah. Also a band called Foals. Biffy Clyro sort of remind me of [Manic albums] Generation Terrorists and Gold Against the Soul. Foals sort of remind me of The Holy Bible and Journal for Plagued Lovers. Another band I really like is Klaxons they are just completely mad and have some crazy ideas.
Do they also bring to mind the Manics’ earlier days?
Reminds me how we were sort of out of steps with everybody else and just felt really unique.
Any plans for an American tour?
Yeah, definitely. We’re looking at March/April next year. We’re not gonna wait 10 more years to come see you guys and drive coast to coast! We loved it and got a lot of inspiration from our last trip to the States.