Blackwood, South Wales? Ring any bells? ...Thought not. Blackwood, and for that matter Wales in general isn't famed for its Rock N' Roll heroes (with the possible exception of THE ALARM and Welsh Boyo and lad-about-town, TOM JONES), but all that is about to change. Coming out of this deadened backwater armed with an attitude owing more to THE STONES, THE SEX PISTOLS, and THE WHO than to, say, any of today's 'current faves,' the MANIC STREET PREACHERS are about to give Rock N' Roll a kick up the ass, and intend to have a good time along the way; even if that means a few casualties (bassist Nicky Wire was hospitalized after one riotous tour, whilst rhythm guitarist Richey James Edwards' arm had a self-inflicted run-in with a razor blade during an interview with a particularly annoying journalist!).
The story of these four 21-year-olds' rise to fame is a remarkable one; a Rock N' Roll fairy tale almost. Having nothing to do in their sleepy nowheresville hometown, Nicky, Richey, lead guitarist and vocalist James Dean Bradfield, and drummer Sean Moore used to spend their days writing and rehearsing in James' bedroom. Having also cultivated a striking punk-meets-glam-meets-rock-n’-roll image, the boys decided that the only way they were going to escape being trapped in the boredom of their surroundings was to become the biggest band in the world! To further this ambition, the lads devoted their otherwise empty, void evenings to writing strange letters to music papers in London, professing to be the most amazing band in the world, and begging journalists to come and see them. Subsequently their third ever gig was witnessed by a Melody Maker scribe, who praised them to the high heavens, and everything took off from there!
With their penchant for eye-liner, make-up, spray paint, and trashing all their equipment at the end of each show, their live acts became much-talked-about events, and the boys soon found themselves adorning the cover of Sounds, even though they didn't have a major record deal. A self-financed single led to a deal with hip Indie label Heavenly Records. Two single – Motown Junk and You Love Us – brought both more critical acclaim and a greater fan base, plus, of course, big-bucks offers from every major worth its salt. Then, in May of this year the band signed on the dotted line worldwide for Columbia Records. At the time of going to press, the second single to be released by Columbia, entitled Love's Sweet Exile had just crashed into the national Top 40 at the respectable position of 29. Now, having just arrived at his managers’ South West London offices by cab from a recording studio in deepest Surrey (and some fifty minutes late at that!), comes spokesman Richey (complete with de rigueur eye-liner and tousled hair) to give us an insight into the world of THE MANIC STREET PREACHERS…
So, Richey, what was it like being pursued by every major record company in the land?
"Basically, everybody came down to see us and we got taken out to dinner every night. For example, when we went on tour in January, the first night was in Birmingham, and Chrysalis came down, and they took us back to a huge suite, and then the next night it was…eh…can't remember. A&M I think. It was good having a choice 'cause that meant we got such a good deal at the end, 'cause we could say, like, 'We'll go to somebody else,' if we wanted," he replies in his heavy Welsh accent.
Right, so now they've made the move to a major label have the band left Wales for good and relocated to the bright lights of London?
"Well, since January none of us have been home. We've been touring all year and when we haven't been, we’ve been recording in residential studios so we can have somewhere to live. We've been staying in Shepherds Bush with Philip [one of their managers], and there's not enough rooms in the house, so we've been in the bathroom, in the kitchen, on the stairs; where there's room really. So we haven't got anywhere really, but we've been there since January. Where we come from is an industrial town with no industry left. All the pits have gone. The steelworks have gone. It's like living in a museum. I mean the cinema closed when we were about eight. Everything else has gone now. There's just nothing there. It’s just like a wasteland really."
Now the boys have signed their worldwide deal, they’ll be going a lot further than South Wales or, for that matter, the UK in pursuit of progress. Are they looking forward to that?
"We've just signed a deal with an agent in America who looks after GUNS N' ROSES and THE CULT, and their interests. One of the reasons we just signed to Columbia was because the American part of the company was really keen to sign us as well. They were coming over, so it's all good really. We've never been outside the UK or to Ireland before."
The PREACHERS have been compared to some of the punk bands of the Seventies, due mostly to their image and decadent stage antics and attitude. Who would you say are the band’s influences?
"Well, we sort of came from Melody Maker, NME; we were reading those sort of papers first of all. Like every week they would let us down really badly. They would say, 'This is the future of music. This is a great new band.' You'd go out and buy those records and they were just pieces of shit. We couldn't believe how bad they were. They made us feel that they were feeding us bullshit every week, and made us bitter and disillusioned. So we started looking back to old bands, and then we discovered THE STONES and THE WHO and THE SEX PISTOLS and THE CLASH. It was like we couldn't believe how good it was compared to all the music that was going around in '86 and '87. The '80s was the worst decade that I can ever remember. All the dance/ rave scene was so dull and grey it was like banging your head against a wall."
Are there any slightly more contemporary artists that have managed to make an impact on the band?
"The only contemporary records that have made any impression on us are Appetite For Destruction and It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back by PUBLIC ENEMY. They were like the only records that came along that seemed really, like, articulate, really angry, really politicized, and they meant everything to us."
Why were they so attracted to GUNS N' ROSES?
"AXL's a really brilliant lyricist. They were the first band that we saw that we thought were so cool and looked so brilliant. They just sounded like we wanted the band to sound like. With PUBLIC ENEMY we just felt they articulated a lot of the things we felt. No other band was saying them. Like Fight The Power was just such a brilliant record for us."
OK. The band are now in the middle of recording their debut album with producer Steve Brown (THE CULT, BALAAM AND THE ANGEL, and even WHAM's Fantastic album). So, why choose Brown as helmsman?
"We just gave a list of about ten producers we wanted to work with to Columbia, and Steve was the one they agreed to get for us. He just seemed perfect for us really. The album should be out at the end of January or the end of February, and it's called Generation Terrorists. It's taking about 24 weeks to make from start to finish, which is quite a long time really."
Finally, Richey, how does it feel to have a chart entry, an album nearly completed, and hopefully world domination not far on the horizon? He smiles at the thought, and replies quickly.
"I'm just glad that we matter to a lot of people, and that we’re having an influence." As an after-thought he adds, "We used to spend all our lives with nothing to do, and now it's just like we're busy all the time, and that's good."