Manic Street Preachers got the official U.K. seal of approval earlier this year when they picked up Brit Awards for best British group and best British album for their latest release, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. But after five records, and one missing band member along the way, it's been an uphill battle for the Welsh pop-rockers, who play the Warehouse on Saturday night. "There was kind of a stigma attached to Wales, culturally, that we didn't produce anything except for rugby, male-voiced choirs, coal and Tom Jones," says the Manics' guitarist-singer James Dean Bradfield during a recent promotional trip. "All this subconscious racism from an English press, 'No way, no good bands come out of Wales. You come from Wales, you must be s---.' And like, for five years we were the only band to come out of Wales that was successful at all. And then a lot of bands started coming out too - like Catatonia, Stereophonics, Super Furry Animals. And so when I see these pieces about, you know, 'New Welsh Cool' or whatever, it doesn't bother me at all." Especially since the Manics, rounded out by bassist Nicky Wire and drummer Sean Moore (Bradfield's cousin), were recently called "the best act in the world today" by Britain's Q magazine readers. Meanwhile, This Is My Truth has sold two million copies worldwide, half in the U.K.
Still, the Manics have yet to make similar inroads in North America, where they cancelled an earlier summer tour after Bradfield's mother passed away. Despite decent radio play for their latest single, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next, Canadian and U.S. sales of their latest album are at only 18,000 and 40,000 copies, respectively, since June. So after finally selling out arenas in the U.K. and Europe, they're back to playing "tiny, sweathouses" in North America. "I think it's got to be humbling, because it gives you perspective on everything again," says Bradfield. "You know, a lot of British bands do come over here and they expect the world. They expect it to be just like Europe and Britain, and it's not like that 'cause you haven't sold any records over here." Could this really be the same cocky band that predicted they would sell 20 million copies of their 1992 debut, Generation Terrorists, around the world and then split up? "I'm much older now," says Bradfield. "We never go anywhere thinking, 'Hey, we're going to crack this territory or that territory.' We're just much more experienced and wiser. Dare I say it - a bit more boring?" Hardly. The Manics' history includes the mysterious 1995 disappearance of their troubled guitarist-lyricist Richey Edwards, an anorexic, alcoholic drug abuser and self-mutilator. He vanished from a London hotel, his car was discovered four days later and he's never been seen since, although there were some Edwards' "sightings" earlier this year.
"He was spotted in the Canary Islands, Rio De Janerio, and Goa, all in the space of two weeks," says Bradfield. "So he's supposedly travelled about 10,000 miles in the space of two weeks. I don't think so. I think we're pretty much immune to those rumours. We've developed an instinct. One knows what's a serious sighting and what's not. And I don't really think there's been a serious sighting." The Manics also found themselves involved in another controversy this year when they refused to play the new Welsh Assembly because of the presence of the Queen. "We've always been an anti-Monarchy band," insists Bradfield. "And if you think about it, most musicians are. Most musicians of our ilk - you ask any band, ask Blur, Verve, Oasis, Radiohead, Pulp, ask any of those bands - they would not give a f--- about the monarchy, don't understand it, don't value it, and they don't pay any kind of credence to it." Sure to get Bradfield more positive press is his upcoming contribution to Tom Jones' duets album, Reload. The two singers collaborated on the old Elvis song, I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone. "It was brilliant," remembers Bradfield. "I met him before and I knew he had this album coming out with lots of people doing stuff on it, like Catatonia did something on it, Robbie Williams. I was just up for it - he is the Welsh Elvis."