Manic Street Preacher Richie Edwards tell Jonathan Trew the white powder that’s been giving his band problems is a different sort to what you might expect.
By rights, Manic Street Preachers should never have made it to where they are today. The media would have toyed with them, given them five minutes of fame and then got bored; the Manics would have fallen victim to their own success/excess or simply failed to deliver and not lived up to the hype they built for themselves. But they didn't.
were the antithesis of all the bands that were making it big. When peace and love vibes were all the rage, they were spitting out a Molotov cocktail of frustrated teenage ranting mixed with heavy political sloganeering and a healthy dose of in-your—face attitude. While apathy was the dominant ethos, and it seemed no one wanted to do anything other than get stoned and bliss out to Happy Mondays or The Stone Roses. the Manics were setting themselves a frantic agenda for world domination. They wanted to form the perfect rock 'n‘ roll band - angry, emotional, anti-establishment, highly politicised, controversial and appealing to a disaffected youth. They wanted to cut one perfect album and then split up. Live fast, die young and leave a beautiful vinyl corpse.
It hasn't all worked out exactly according to plan. but it‘s not that far off either. Sigue Sigue Sputnik attempted much the same idea and have now been mercifully consigned to the novelty bin of great rock 'n' roll flops. The Manics, on the other hand. have toured extensively, had eleven Top 40 hits, released two albums and have a third. The Holy Bible, due for release in September. Pretty good going for four kids from Dullsville, Gwent with accents to match.
Coming as they do from a depressed, post-industrial wasteland, the Manics' politicisation doesn't come as a surprise. Every record release comes with a quote berating the status quo. This is a band who wear their political hearts on their record sleeves, but they are somewhat dubious about what they can achieve.
"When we started off," says guitarist Richey Edwards, "people said. ,Here's another left-wing band who think music can change something,' but we've never really believed that. I think that music can only change things on an individual level. In terms of society or culture, it means fuck all. We're not the sort of band that is ready to put our name to any political party in Britain. There's no fundamental difference in choice between them."
While their politics seem pessimistic, Manic Street Preachers are a band with a future, in spite of their early promise to break up. Ask them why they didn't split after Generation Terrorists an you won’t get a straight answer, but ask them what drives them on and you get closer to the soul of the band. "We're in it primarily for ourselves, and think that we're doing something worthwhile," he declares. Okay. so this deviates a bit from their original manifesto. but then what better way to confound your critics and stay controversial?
Recent appearances might suggest the Manics have undergone something of a revamp in the image stakes. Out go the tight white jeans. the two-inch-thick mascara and the slogan-sprayed T- shirts. In come the more austere and a damned sight less flamboyant Army and Navy togs. Have the Manics swapped the rock ‘n‘ roll rebel gear of bored youth for an ironic, two-ﬁngered sartorial salute to the establishment? Or is this a return to the paramilitary garb of art terrorists. musical guerillas out to subvert the conventions of society? "We were doing more and more touring and it was getting harder to keep things clean. White is impractical and the last thing we want to happen to us is to look like the Levellers." groans a squeaky-clean Richey. Rock 'n' roll for the Persil generation.