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Preaching Out - Wales On Sunday, 9th February 2003

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Title: Preaching Out
Publication: Wales On Sunday
Date: Sunday 9th February 2003

We were promised an experimental direction from the Manics this year, and frontman James Dean Bradfield is the first member off the block with a Motown soundclash called Johnny Boy.

No, he hasn't formed a new band but it's a rare sight of James as he guests as producer and A&R;, handing the single over to Cardiff's Boobytrap label.

"We've been writing for years in a studio in Denmark Street, in London," explains Lorraine Hayward (Lolly Hays), one half of Johnny Boy's enigmatic partnership.

"James works there sometimes and just heard the track as he was walking past the studio. A month later he'd taken charge of the situation and hooked us into the 'Rak' studio. We really wanted it to be his vision, so we gave him all the freedom and all the computer files!"

Lolly and her other half in the band Davo met in a London drinking den two years ago, and armed with a guitar (a present from Mick Jones) they set about building a rehearsal room in the heart of Tin Pan Alley in London, next door to the Sex Pistols' old rehearsal room.

Soon after completion they were unceremoniously booted out, but not before James happened to hear the demo of 'Johnny Boy theme'.

If this twist of fate seems so good to be true, then it could have something to do with the fact that Davo has been a keyboard tech for the Manics for years.

In a thick Liverpudlian accent, Davo refutes my comment about it being weird to have the tables turned and to have James focus on his music. He said: "James has been really great, we couldn't believe it when he just sorted everything out.

"We handed over 64 tracks for him and Dave Eringa to mess about with and really he's made sense of it!"

And fate may yet still have a hand to play as an unnamed friend of the band is arranging to get a copy sent to Martin Scorsese! With friends like these who knows what could happen?

As with most bands the Manics camp is obviously a tight family, and Manics' producer and percussionist, and one of the founders of the Boobytrap label, Greg Haver, explains how this gem landed on their lap.

"James Bradfield has been a Boobytrap subscriber for a while and was looking for a release for the single. I think he liked our low-key indie approach."

As a producer he has a very big input to Manics' records, but being the modest man he is, he likes to give us producers all the credit!

I think it is an amazing sounding record, just beautiful and uplifting.

"As for the experimental direction for James, I think they (the Manics) are far more experimental than anyone gives them credit for anyway".

Whether or not it's thanks to the hype, Johnny Boy are booked for a three-track session for XFM, as Zoe Ball is apparently a big fan!

The double A-side is the Boobytrap Singles Club's 20th release, and hits the shops this week, or you can get it via subscription to the label (www.boobynet.co.uk).

It follows Keys debut release Gurl Next Door, and proceeds the debut single from Transposer (out end of Feb/early March).

As well as the Singles Club, Boobytrap will be releasing a compilation album of electronic music entitled Steps in the Left Direction, the debut Small Victories album, and the new MC Mabon album.

Greg Haver himself has an exciting time ahead as he heads off to New Zealand to produce and give seminars with Brent Hansen president of MTV to the New Zealand music industry for the Resonate project.

As for the Manics, I can't reveal all the details, but they have been talking about their next album taking an aspirational step from Springsteen's Nebraska - a stripped down, back-to-basics song-writing milestone, recorded on a four track on his tour bus!

Seems there's a few surprises left after all.