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Manic Focus And Determination - dB Magazine, 16th December 1998

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Title: Manic Focus And Determination
Publication: dB Magazine
Date: Wednesday 16th December 1998
Writer: Liam Freeman

DBMagazine161298 (2).jpg

"Yeah, it's all my farther's fault," laments James Dean Bradfield in explanation of his name. "Basically, he was a motorbike freak when he was young. He actually wanted to call me Clint Eastwood Bradfield at first. and my mother said she'd rather divorce him than have a son called Clint Eastwood. So I had to settle for James Dean. I've taken a lot of stick for it. When I was young and used to go to clubs and had to show identification the bouncers would always say, "Who the fuck does this kid think he is?" And I used to say. "But I didn't choose this bloody name!"

The lead singer and guitarist of Welsh band Manic Street Preachers is not a physically well man at the moment. Periodically coughing and spluttering, he apologises on several occasions for the disruptive effect his malady is having on the conversation. However, riding high on the success of the Manic Street Preacher's latest album 'This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours', Bradfield's career and future prospects have never been in better shape.

Bradfield explains that he has always loved music and that, to the best of his knowledge, he is the first person in his family to actually pursue a career in the field.

"There's no musical history in my family whatsoever, unfortunately. It probably would have meant I'd have been better if there had been any musical history," laughs Bradfield. "They used to play records all the time, but that's about it."

Coming, as he did, from a very blue collar. working class mining community in South Wales. where most young men are automatically expected to pursue a career down the coal shafts, one would expect that Bradfield experienced great difficulty in telling his family he seriously wished to explore his musical prospects. Surprisingly. this was not so.

"My family were really supportive. They just gave me loads of space. My mother and father weren't particularly rich people. When i told them that I was going to try and make a go of the group and therefore would not have any money in my pocket for about four years, they could have reacted in the worst way, but they didn't. They just gave one space. It's one Of the best things they have ever done for me, really. They're very cool people."

Manic Street Preachers is the first and only band Bradfield has ever been in. He explains the genesis of the band and its intriguingly enigmatic name. "I came up with the name for this band when I was fifteen. I left school that year and started to busk that summer down in Cardiff. I used to busk where a lot of tramps have their begging bowls and I got to know them over the course of the summer. When they saw me coming they used to say, "Oh, here comes the manic street preacher." I've been a member of the band ever since I came up with the name, even if I was just a member in my head for a couple of years."

The members of Manic Street Preachers grew up together, attending the same schools. "We all come from the same area, in the same town. We were all friends. It's the best way to form a band. It's better than trying to make a connection through an ad or something."

The history of the 'Preachers has been fraught with controversy, hardships and major setbacks. It has never been easy for the band, who somehow have always found themselves slightly out of step with the rest of the music world.

"It was pretty much an uphill battle when we started playing gigs around 1989 and then going into 1990, that was when the Manchester thing was going on and we were just completely out of place. We were influenced by punk and early rock and roll records and we were quite political in our stance and nobody really wanted to know about us at all. So it was quite difficult to get gigs at the start. We didn't have any co-musical benefactors to support us. none at all."

The political aspect of the band has al-ways been evident. Their most recent single, If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next, is all obvious result of the passion for politics that the band possess.

"The song is grounded in the Spanish Civil War and it just takes something that happened in the past and asks whether it could happen today, in terms of the way people reacted against that war, the way people came from all over Europe and the world in fact, to fight it. I guess the band is political in the sense that we couldn't help but be: the community that we grew up in was very political. There was a lot of coal mining in our area and when we were teenagers, the miners' strike was going on, lasting a whole year, and a lot of trade unionism was being crushed. When we were growing up, we were caught the lesson that we should write about things in and around our lives that affect us. We're not political all the time. especially on this album."

Though the band members may differ in the musical artists they enjoy and respect nowadays, there is no denying that initially there was one definite point of inspirational reference.

"The one big group that inspired us, which we all felt was the best hand ever, was The Clash. They really inspired us. You know for us, The Clash were like just everything we wanted to be. These days I really like Super Furry Animals, I think they're an amazing band. I really like Massive Attack. I really think Wilco are a cool group."

Bradfield is a quite accomplished guitarist and, amazingly, completely self taught in both singing and playing the guitar. "I bought my first guitar when I was fifteen and I've always just sung. I had one singing lesson when I was twenty Years old, but that was to stop myself from losing my voice whilst touring. So I just had one breathing lesson. i just copied everything off records basically."

On 'This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours', Bradfield not only plays conventional guitar, he also turns his hands to a more rare instrument - a sitar guitar.

"It's is a bit harder to play, the way the pick-ups are arranged. It's not a particularly beautiful looking instrument either. It's like something out of 'The Land That Time Forgot'. It's quite prehistoric looking. I tracked it down in America about three years ago. when I saw a member of The Screaming Trees playing one on a support tour we did with Oasis."

The English music press have always been heavily criticised and most bands share a love/hate relationship with music newspapers. Journalists working on such publications are wont to turn on a band with little or no provocation, simply to ensure publicity and a higher circulation. Do the Manic Street Preachers feel any particular aversion or ill-will towards the so called "gutter press' of Britain?

"No. Not really. We grew up in quite a remote town and we didn't get to see many gigs, so the one thing that was our life line was the music press. We're one or the only countries in the world with a weekly music press. A lot of people criticise papers like the NME and Melody Maker for being quite sensationalist. When we came to doing our first interviews, we knew what we were doing and were very antagonistic, using the press. The music press in Britain has been quite vicious and caustic sometimes, but we take the good with the bad."

The band hit its lowest ebb with the much criticised 'The Holy Bible' album and then the mysterious, still unsolved disappearance of guitarist and lyricist Richey lames. Lesser bands would have folded soon after experiencing such adversity, but not so the Manic Street Preachers. Bradfield explains that the Manic Street Preacher's determination to succeed was in no way diminished. If anything. these personal tragedies fired up the band and assisted in concentrating their efforts.

"On 'The Holy Bible', our third album. we were a tiny bit war weary because we'd always been a band who'd expected to have massive success and it wasn't quite happening. So after the third album, there was a low point. A lot of events overtook us and it took us a while to get back on track, but we've just got a very stubborn streak in us. We want to beat people's expectations of us. We're very ambitious. We just decided that when we were very low we wanted to be bhack on top again."