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James Dean Bradfield Is....The Lonesome Street Preacher - The Stool Pigeon, June 2006

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Title: James Dean Bradfield Is....The Lonesome Street Preacher
Publication: The Stool Pigeon
Date: June 2006
Writer: Mark Fernyhough
Photos: Heike Schneider-Matzigkeit

The Stool Pigeon0606.jpg

If his Wikipedia page is to be believed, James Dean Bradfield has transformed himself from a hard-drinking, fag-sucking barroom poet to the earliest rising star in pop. Today's interrogation commences at an ungodly 9:30am. That's roughly the equivalent of 5am to those with proper, non-music related jobs. Despite fronting Manic Street Preachers, one of the UK's most intriguing rock groups, Bradfield seems hesitant to fully immerse himself into solo stardom. Indeed, this unnecessary self-deprecating streak may stem from the undeniable magnitude of his band's iconography, which remains fixated on the spectre of long-term AWOL lyricist Richey Edwards.

In person Bradfield stands out as refreshingly honest, disarmingly intelligent and the antithesis of smoke-and-mirror faux celebrity. In late July his first solo effort The Great Western will be unleashed. Recorded in Hoxton Square, it's easily as strong as the Manics' post-Richey trilogy and an impressive appendage to Bradfield's already illustrious career, which has seen him don a balaclava on Top Of The Pops and produce underselling records for Kylie.

How high would you personally rate The Great Western?
I'd give it 8 out of 10.

Which track are you most happy with?
I'm particularly proud of the song 'An English Gentleman' which is about our manager Phillip Hall, who passed away. I like the fact that it's not maudlin. There's something quite joyful about the remembrance in the song.

Did working with session musicians increase your appreciation of your fellow Manics?
It feels fucking weird actually, looking to my left at a gig and not having Nick there doing a star jump. I miss that. It's always exciting to see whether he's going to explode or not, in a good or bad way. I also missed the telepathic moments I get with Sean.

What do your band-mates think of your record?
Nick likes it and Sean has made a few soft noises in my direction. There's no issues in the band.

What stands as the album's worst lyric?
It's 'Say Hello To The Pope'. On that song I tried to do something that I didn't actually achieve.

Tell me something that will amend people's preconceptions of you...
I have an ongoing obsession with one day finding a religion. That is more omnipresent in my thoughts than you'd think.

Are you a believer in the paranormal?
To believe in the paranormal you've got to believe in the spirit world and to believe in the spirit world you've got to believe that your soul transcends into another place and therefore you've got to believe in God. I'm an atheist, diagnostic, whatever you want to call me. I don't believe in God, so the paranormal a massive contradiction in my head, know? I've come to the conclusion that I do believe in a darker place, but the only place God can manifest himself is within man.

Surely there must be numerous ghosts drifting about the Welsh valleys...
Actually, I got haunted when we were recording the second Manics album Gold Against The Soul. It was in a studio called Hook End Manor. I had a couple of weird experiences which blasted my cynicism out of the window.

How has Wales evolved since you grew up here?
Wales has completely changed. When you used to ask for vodka and orange in a bar they'd give you vodka and cordial instead of vodka and orange juice. Also, with programmes like Dr Who, the Welsh media actually does something now, which makes a big fucking difference,

Looking out onto Cardiff Bay from his balcony, it's clear Wales will forever remain ingrained in Bradfield's psyche and oeuvre. "I always get pulled back here," he confirms. Whilst at this point a typical recording artist would be deep into the promotional trail, desperately trying to flog their new record, Bradfield has instead ditched London to quietly commence work on the next Manic Street Preachers LP. To underline the band's undying kinship. The Great Western contains additional input from the towering makeup/Dyson/rugby fixated Nick Wire, who penned lyrics to the poptacular 'Bad Boys And Painkillers'.

Despite their advancing years, the three-piece remain a deliciously provocative prospect. For every individual who would lay down their kohl stained feather boa at The Preachers' alter, ten would happily shove a broken bottle into their pretty faces. Fortunately the band's confrontational nature would have it no other way.

Where next for the Manics?
With our last album Lifeblood you actually feel like you're invading its privacy when you listen to it, I think the next record will have a bit more life and blood in it.

So we won't see the Manics going electro or attempting to sound like Prince as Suede dud in the twilight of their career?
Ha ha! No comment.

When was the last time you wore a balaclava?
I think someone threw one on stage at the greatest hits tour and I put it on. It quickly came off again.

Do you secretly enjoy really bad TV?
Yes all the time. I've got a predilection towards cooking programmes, 'cause my mother was obsessed with teaching me how to cook for myself before I left home. The Manics have always been massive TV freaks. When we first went on tour Nick used to buy the Radio Times. We used to religiously get days off so we could watch Ever Decreasing Circles with Richard Bryers. Now that's fucking bizarre. Richey was obsessed with that programme. We've always found comfort tn really bad TV.

Have you ever ridden a horse?
When I was young my auntie had a pony. During weekends we used to go up the mountain and collect all the manure from it to sell. It is very viable to the Welsh gardener. But then one Sunday we went up there and the horse had been stolen by gypsies.

Will you be watching the World Cup?
No. Yes, I'm 37-years-old and yet again it's another fucking miserable summer. Wales haven't made another international sporting competition. I'm not one of those bitter Welsh men who won't support England when they're doing well in a sport, I'll always support a British athlete, I'll always support a British racing driver, support the English cricket team, but I just can't support the English football team. There's just too much that goes with it for me, too much arrogance, too many coded insults. If I switch on Radio 5 and hear some taxi driver saying, 'If it hadn't been for Wales stealing Ryan Giggs off us, we'd have done better,' I go fucking insane. Football is a bitter sport.

Do you ever look yourself up on Google?
No. Never. One of my friends was telling me that my Wikipedia page says I've been a borderline alcoholic and I have issues with relationships! I like buying records and books so why would I go on the internet? God - I sound fucking old. Jesus Christ...