Aileen O'Reilly meets the Manic Street Preachers, who are putting the mysterious disappearance of band member Richie James behind them.
Many fans thought the Manic Street Preachers had died with the dis-appearance of troubled band member Richie Edwards. But, an April 15, the Preachers put the heartbreak behind them and prepared to step back into the spotlight.
The trio of James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore and Micky Wire emerged with the single Design For Life - a foretaste of the album that was to follow.
It gatecrashed the charts and rocketed to No. 2, making it the biggest hit they've ever had. It also reaffirmed their status as a live force to be reckoned with.
One month later, Everything Must Go, their first album in over a year, was unleashed and hailed as the most positive-sounding work the Welsh nihilists had ever produced. But this success comes despite swearing they wouldn't continue if Richie wasn't coming back.
Nicky Wire defends the change of heart: "You can't feel grief because you don't know if he's dead. You feel anger, sympathy and sadness.
"The tragedy lies on a personal level. On a professional level, as a professional band, it doesn't really come into it. You don't think, 'our band's f...ed'. We've known each other too long for that."
But Were is hopeful about Richie. "Personally I think he's still alive, although I've got no physical evidence or reason to think that he is. But I do.
"I've spoken to people about this who say 'you're just trying to block it out', that I've just got to accept that he's dead but bow can you accept that he's dead when there's no body, no evidence whatsoever. It's irrational."
James Dean Bradfield feels the break affected the band. "When we finally did come back it was really hard to know where we fitted in. Last year, of course, we were pretty inactive and the whole Britpop scene developed in our absence. So we really didn't know where we were.
"We can only go by what we are now and that's the definitive redefinition of what we were and where we were at. A new beginning of sorts," he says. Eh???
He explains: "The whole change couldn't even be attributed to a conscious notion that we'd taken it as far as we could have. I think we all just knew instinctively that we'd reached that certain impasse with the third album."
The group's infamous nihilist approach to life and their music is something Bradfield attributes to their childhoods.
According to Nicky Wire, even years ago, they were obsessed with this massive self-fulling prophecy that they would implode. One of the first things they said in an early interview was that they were going to set lire to themselves on Top Of The Pops.
"You don't say things like that for the sake of it," Wire explains. You do actually believe those things when you're young."
He feels that the band had the same negative influences. "If you'd gone into any of our houses, any of the our of us, you'd see all the books and all the videos, all the same, all negative. Depression, suicide, alcohol, that's what we all found interesting."
Bradfield chips in: "Our basic altitude was formed as a result of our environment. We all grew up in the middle of the miners' strike and it's an inescapable fact that something like that is going to have a major effect on your attitudes and your life.
"When we formed the group we were all disillusioned with mass politics, we needed to find something to believe in.".
This time round things aren't so raw. The legendary angst is still in evidence but it's strangely tempered by the absence of Richie who's been unceremoniously replaced on stage by a Korg synthesiser.
"Coming back and touring again is much easier than I thought it would be. Our first tour sold out before we'd even started and it wasn't on the strength of what we'd 'been' and everything that had happened either,' says Bradfield.
"Obviously we've still got that hard core of fans that have been there since the outset but they only make up a percentage of the crowd now."
"There's kids out there in sweaty Ash T-shirts and trainers who think that Design For Life is our first single - and then there's the devout Richie fans who are still very obvious."
"Having first generation fans getting involved now makes it that little bit easier to off-load the baggage of the past year and that's something that we most definitely want to do now."