Manic Street Preachers have a few reasons to be excited about bringing their Holy Bible 20 tour to North America later this month.
For starters, the five-show trek - starting April 20 in Washington, D.C., with stops in New York City, Cambridge, Mass., Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco - marks the Welsh trio's first dates across the pond in six years. "We actually don't have that much experience at all plying the U.S. of A.," singer-guitarist James Dean Bradfield tells Billboard. "This is only our fifth tour there, I think. For a band that's released 12 albums, it's not that many. The good thing is it always kind of feels like we have a new audience when we do come to America, which is nice for a band on its 12th album. We know there's going to be an audience hearing us play our songs live on American soul for the first time, so to have that new experience is essential to us, really. Anything that feels new is welcome, a good thing."
Furthermore, Bradfield points out, since the Manics planned 1995 U.S. tour was canceled after guitarist and primary lyricist Richey Edwards mysteriously disappeared that Feb. 1st (he was never found and declared "presumed dead" in 2008), it means much of 1994's The Holy Bible album that the group is playing in its entirety will also be new to concert audiences.
"We've barely played The Holy Bible songs in America, so it's good to know there's an audience there, some kind of audience there that will want to hear those songs for the first time, and it will be kind of a new experience for us," Bradfield says. "We're going through some other anomalies in the back catalog to see how they feel, how they fit, see if I can remember the words. It's a nice experience to play a song from the early '90s to feel what it feels like now - where it feels timeless, where it feels dated, where it feels misplaced. Sometimes it feels timeless and sometimes it feels a bit like Woody Allen's Sleeper, you know?"
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The Manics began celebrating its critically acclaimed third album last year with its expanded The Holy Bible 20 edition in March and U.K. concerts, performing the entire album for the first time ever. "It was kind of a big deal in Britain," Bradfield says, "and I think people were kind of worried on our behalf, because they thought it would take us back to a bad emotional place and that demons and ghosts would kind of come out of the ashes and lead us to some kind of breakdown. But it wasn't like that at all."
Rather, Bradfield says, playing the album has been "a bit of a muso experience" that made him appreciate what the Manics achieved on The Holy Bible even more.
"I really got into the technical aspect of it," he says. "It's a much more technical record to play than people imagine, much more so than a lot of our other songs. So that challenge really grabbed ahold of me more as a musician rather than getting caught up in thinking about Richey and what happened after the album came out." Bradfield says that he was also reminded about "how fearless Richey was as a lyricist. He wrote 75 percent of the lyrics on that record and that fearlessness was the one thing that hit home to me while I was sitting in the mastering suite working on [the 20th anniversary edition]. It was nice to be confronted with that. It shouldn't be a revelation, but you forget things, don't you?"
After their North American run the Manics will play more shows in the U.K. and is also looking at dates in Japan and possibly even returning for another run through North America. But Bradfield also hopes to return to the present day and start working soon on a follow-up to 2014's Futurology, though no timetable has been established yet for that.
"Usually we start thinking about writing a record when we have an idea of what we want it to sound like - before we even write a song, really," he explains. "It's quite a strange way of doing thing. We're all a bit scared because we had this period of two albums coming out in the space of one year in Britain and Europe, so we were very busy with that and our imaginations are a bit spent in terms of writing new material. But it will come to us very soon, I'm sure. I think we're institutionalized in a way; as soon as we haven't written a song for a couple of months we started to get scared, which is kind of good at this point. We don't want to get too comfortable and rest on any laurels."