Are Manic Street Preachers THE rock band of the nineties, as so many are suggesting? Colin Irwin meets manic man Richey Edwards, looking for some rock ’n’ roll mayhem.
It's just another manic Monday. Here we are, then, at the appointed hour, the appointed rendezvous...confronting a harassed hotel receptionist.
"The Manic Street Preachers group? Well they were here, but they...er...had to leave. About an hour ago. In that direction. Try the hotel round the corner.”
Ha! Rock 'n' roll madness lives. The headline is written...ROCK BAND THROWN OUT AFTER NIGHT OF SHAME. Wonder what they did. Chucked some TV sets out of the window? Held an orgy with the chambermaids? Partied in the bar all night?
"Actually it wasn't anything like that,” says the cherubic- looking Richey James, duly located safely ensconced in the comfy confines of the hotel round the corner. "They'd just overbooked the hotel so we had to find somewhere else, that's all.”
No wild nights of sex, drugs and rock 'n’ roll? No TV sets through the windows?
"No, definitely not!”
Shame! For many the Manics were to be the Stones of the Nineties, taking no prisoners and flaying all before them as they rejected the caring, sharing credentials that appear to be the order of the day in exchange for a vintage blast of good ol' rock 'n' roll rebellion. The Manic Street Preachers were despatched from Wales to save us all.
Which is why it‘s a little weird to note the smooth production and highly tuneful songs that abound on their brand new album. Is this really music to outrage and alienate? And why, here's little Richey Edwards, all moptop and smiles like a cross between a young Paul McCartney and Ian Brown of the Stone Roses, playing The Beatles' ‘Yesterday’ on his cassette, the epitome of the genial host. He knows his music too - he talks intelligently and voraciously about the music that made and shaped the Preachers, from Beatles to Sex Pistols, Led Zeppelin to Bob Dylan. Respect for rock history, that's what the Preachers have...whatever you may have heard to the contrary.
"Yeah, everyone goes through a time when you don't accept that anything which happened before the last two weeks was any good, that's natural. We spent all this time chasing new bands with great images but who'd ultimately forgotten one basic thing - like how to write a song and it's so disappointing. Then you reach a point when you have to admit that yes, in fact The Beatles were pretty incredible. So now we just admit it.”
The amenable Mr Edwards is about the only one who'll talk to the press at the moment. Not because of any great ego games or moral stance, it's more that "the others can't be bothered to get out of bed!"
The “others” are guitarist James Dean Bradfield, bassist Nicky Wire and drummer Sean Moore, attributing their sudden, unexpected blast of success with the first album to their basic honesty, rejecting the Manchester ’baggie’ scene in favour of their interest in glam and basic rock traditions. "When we came to London we were really insular. We didn't really know anything, we just believed we'd come to London, play a few gigs and there‘d be an audience. Now we look back and think we must have been insane. We just did what we felt naturally. A lot of people think we must have been hyped, but if we'd have thought we were going against the Manchester thing and everything that was happening at the time, we'd have been too scared to do it. As it was we saved up and then spent six months in London playing for journalists or any other fucker that came along.”
Hit-or-miss it may have been, but it worked. Fresh, vibrant and yes, different to anything else going down at the time, the Preachers ended up with a deluge of offers from record companies. Their debut album was a huge success for its attitude as much as its content and while their Royal Highnesses Suede -about whom they are quietly scathing – have perhaps stolen their thunder in media circles, there's little doubt the Preachers are a band in the classic mould destined for all manner of heroics and shenanigans. "I‘ve got an awful lot of time for Happy Mondays,” says Richey somewhat surprisingly. "I do think they did make an awful lot of classic records. I can understand everything they said because I think they are one of the truest reflections of working class Britain in the last decade, in the way they dress and look and the things they say. But I feel sorry about the patronising way the press treated them. The press were very misguided the way they perceived Happy Mondays.” A university graduate who declares he had no future outside of music, Richey appears to have a dramatically romantic view of the whole working class ethos of rock. He infers that the Manics will not be around forever and ever the way the Stones have been and describes the demise of the Mondays as "the classic end to most working class bands – they destroy themselves."
"I find it sad that nobody seems to care that they've been destroying themselves. The press have made sure that they've had access to a certain lifestyle, but they don't seem to have any guilt about the fact that Shaun'll probably be dead in two or three years.
The Manics know something about press overkill, of course. Suede appear to have taken on their mantle as rock's great white hopes for the Nineties, but these boys have had their fill of headlines. "Well, we had 50-50 good and bad press, Suede have had almost universal adoration. We had similar levels of coverage, but some of it was quite nasty. They didn't seem to like the idea of a working class person going to university and being pissed off. Working classes were either portrayed as lager drinking yobs rampaging the streets or Smiths fans staying in bed all day looking miserable. They can't reconcile the two."