The Manic Street Preachers frontman on fame, hecklers and getting beaten to No.1 by the "fucking Greatest Showman".
There's nothing like cabin fever to get an interviewee talking. James Dean Bradfield has spent the past two days without human contact, chipping away at a documentary soundtrack in the Manic Street Preachers' studio. Since the Welsh band's formation in '86, bassist Nicky Wire has been their chief mouthpiece and agitator. But following Bradfield's solitary confinement the 49-year-old singer/guitarist is spilling over with opinions on subjects ranging from the Manics' thirteenth album, this year's Resistance Is Futile, to their appearance in the first issue of Classic Rock back in 1998. "Sorry man," he jabbers, "I haven't talked to many grown-ups in the last days. I'm feel like I'm going crazy..."
Resistance Is Futile didn't quite make Number One, did it?
No. We've had more records at Number Two than any other band, ever. Know Your Enemy sold, like, eighty thousand and Eva Cassidy beat it. Everything Must Go sold one-point-three million and never got to Number One. This time? The fucking Greatest Showman did us [Shouting] That fucking rancid pile of shit! There should be a separate fucking chart for shit like that! The absolute fucking bitter irony is that my daughter is demanding to see it now.
The Manics keep releasing politicised albums, and the world keeps getting worse.
Well, the one comforting thing is that as soon as you think that something is over, usually you're proved wrong. Whether it be Nirvana coming along or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being voted for [the Democratic primary] in New York, something saves your despair. I look at our albums a different way. We actually just enjoy talking about things. I don't attach any higher civic duty or pride to it. We've never actually said vote for anybody, ever.
Is it possible to write a great rock song about Brexit?
No. Because politics has turned into such a different beast. When you're young it's easier to have a Slash N' Burn, year-zero policy where you're just going: "We don't care about your reasoning, we're starting again, motherfucker." It's easy to have that emotion, and therefore write a song, a book or a play. But to actually be like that now is much harder, because you don t know who to pin your colours to.
Have the Manics considered running for office?
Never in a million fucking years. I love politics. I absolutely love it...[Changing his mind] I do absolutely hate politics. I can't stand it. Being in a band is pretty good training, actually, for being a politician, because you get insulted on a regular basis.
What do people say?
Oh, I've got snided twice in the last two weeks. Just in the street. But I can never moan about that. We were up for saying that we fucking hated somebody. So if somebody wants to say they hate me, I haven't got that much of a problem with it. I don't give a flying fuck. That's truly the thing I don't understand about modern-day musicians - that they all want to be friends with each other.
You've just reissued 1998's This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.
It's probably our most serious album. It ranks up there with The Holy Bible, in a strange way. It's quite weighted down by heavy-scale questioning. It feels like it was an album in the aftermath of New Blairism and us having massive success. Y'know, that dawning realisation that the kicking out of the Tory government doesn't solve everything, and success doesn't solve everything. It's heavy listening.
Did you struggle with fame?
I didn't so much. I think success really propositioned Nicky intellectually. He would be on stage in his skirt, socks and eyeliner and just suddenly having a more general populace in front of him and [them] sometimes shouting: "Who's the queer on the bass with the eye make-up?" He'd never had that before, because he'd had the faithful in front of him. On This Is My Truth a lot more casual record buyers were bedded into our audience, and they were like: "Why are you wearing that skirt, you big poofter?" And he's looking into the crowd going: "How dare you say that to me? That's not what one of our crowd says." Something like Be Natural addresses that. Black Dog On My Shoulder: ever since I've known Nick, his introspection could
go quite dark very quickly. So it's wherever you look on the album. Just the line from The Everlasting - "I don't believe in it any more, pathetic acts for a worthless cause'.
The Manics were in the very first issue of Classic Rock. How did you feel about being considered 'classic rock' back then?
I liked it. We did The Andrew Marr Show when David and Ed Miliband were going up against each other for the [Labour Party] leadership. I remember Nick answering a question and saying: "My position politically is that I can't get around that era of Clement Attlee - what I would call classic Labour." David Miliband went up to Nick after and said: "Classic Labour - I like that." It's that word. Classic Rock. Classic Labour. Classic whatever. When you attach the word 'classic'to anything it just makes it timeless.
What's Christmas like for you?
I absolutely fucking love Christmas. Always have. In my house we'd have four meats - lamb, pork, chicken, beef. All on big Alan Partridge-sized plates. Fucking amazing. Quality Street. Hot Wheels. Eight glistening bottles of Corona pop which you weren't allowed to touch until Christmas Eve. Love it.
What would it take to split up the Manics?
Oh, that could happen any time. You realise as you get older that you cannot take anything for granted. You gotta love being in a band. It gets harder to have this romantic notion that you'll go to the studio and the inspiration is gonna hit you like the fucking lightning bolt off Ziggy Statdust's face, and bang, you're gonna have the song that's gonna fucking make you live forever. I still have that feeling a lot. That's how deluded I am. And that's what keeps me going.