"We've found our Anton Corbijn," says Nicky Wire on new film directed by Kieran Evans, part of a new 'Sky Arts Rocks' season beginning in April.
April 15 sees the premiere of a new film about the Manic Street Preachers as part of a new 'Sky Arts Rocks' season, Escape From History, detailing the band's journey from a period of uncertainty following the disappearance of lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards to the stratospheric su.ccess of their 1996 LP Everything Must Go.
The film was directed by Kieran Evans, who along with the Manics' Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield was in conversation with Stuart Maconie after a screening of the new film on Tuesday. The band were full of praise for the director, who draws an intensely intimate portrait of a period rife with mixed emotions, from the grief that followed Edwards' disappearance to the triumph and pride as they overcame it.
"The thing Kieran illuminates that I could never really admit before is that I wanted to bask in the success [of Everything Must Go], we wanted the escape," revealed Bradfield to Maconie. "I wouldn't have wanted to say that before. In the past that might have felt like an insensitive thing to say, but now I’ve finally admitted to it because [Evans] drew that out of us."
Evans has previously worked with the band on the live visuals for last year's anniversary tour of Everything Must Go, as well as on the short films that accompanied 2013's Rewind The Film and a low-budget documentary that came with the reissue of their debut Generation Terrorists in 2011.
Said Nicky Wire of the filmmaker: "We've found our Anton Corbijn. [Our relationship] isn't lovey dovey at all. He doesn't turn up with his BAFTA and we think 'he’s a genius', he just knows how much we respect him. We wouldn’t let him into our lives like we have done. He’s just amazing cinematically, his ideas."
The film's opening half hour follows the mood in the band in the hours, days and weeks Edwards' disappearance in captivating, tragic detail, which itself followed the death of close friend and colleague Philip Hall two years earlier. Interviews with the band themselves interspersed with appearances from the likes of press officer and Philip's wife, Terri Hall, Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer, writer Simon Price, producer Mike Hedges and more.
There’s a distinct absence of much actual music from the first half, with only intermittent demo versions of the band’s material of the era and sombre landscape shots to break up the contributors.
"I was inspired by [Everything Must Go sleeve designer] Mark Farrow," said Evans of his stylistic approach. "I thought about coming from a bland pallet, I wanted it to be really compressed at the start, you don’t get to see them very much until the music starts coming in. There's a definite aesthetic I was trying to get to, not to get into rockstars on sofas, the 'classic album' documentary.
"I suppose so many rock n roll stories are so sensationalised that the human story is lost," he continued. "When we were chatting about making a film about Everything Must Go we were more interested in getting just their personal thoughts, to find a common thread. There’s the public version of it and I was after the private version."
One of the abiding features of the documentary is its focus beyond the band themselves, on the effect that Edwards' disappearance and the subsequent turmoil had on a whole group of people, and their efforts to support each other in the aftermath.
"It's nice for them to be recognised for how supportive they were," said Bradfield. "Terri Hall was letting me live in her house and I was smashed all the time. There were so many other people, like Mike Hedges, who were a massive part of it."
Wire added: "I was really haranguing [Evans] to let it breathe with other voices, and in that period there was quite a support network. It was a good time to be in a band, and we were pretty fucked up as people."