With the upcoming deluxe reissue (out 5 November) of their debut album Generation Terrorists - a glam-punk extravaganza that cut through the grey slush of UK indie like a glitter-sprinkled blade back in '92 - we spoke to Manic Street Preachers frontman to discuss the record (which was named this year's Classic Album at Monday's (22 October) Q Awards), revisiting the past, memories of missing bandmate Richey Edwards, the importance of keeping your promises and more.
JDB: Hello, is Michael there please?
MH: This is he, is this James?
JDB: It is yes, how are you doing?
MH: Very good mate, how are you?
JDB: Ah not too bad. Where are you from in the pig’s head then?
MH: Merthyr Tydfil.
JDB: A-ha! Gotcha! Got that straight away - I wasn’t expecting that
MH: It’s nice to hear a familiar accent first thing in the morning...
JDB: I’ve adopted that way of asking brethren where they’re from ‘cos Italian Americans say ‘Where you from in the boot?’ so now I always say ‘where you from in the pig’s head?’
MH: Excellent. Is this the first of many today then?
JDB: It is yes. But it’s alright, it’s cool, it’s fine it’s nice to do stuff. It’s nice that ten albums in we’re still doing it so I ain’t gonna fucking moan about it Mike, you know? Not at all.
MH: I’m glad. That’s good news.
JDB: it’s really funny this because Michael Hall is the brother of our manager Martin and he works in the office and obviously you’ve got Mike Hall the ex Welsh rugby captain as well, it’s a proper name...
MH: It’s a quality name, I’m happy with it
JDB: It’s slightly stately isn’t it?
MH: I’ve got James as a middle name as well so that’s decent...
JDB: Ah, that’s beautiful. All good. You in London or?
MH: Yeah, I’ve got an hour out of my dayjob to speak to you and just at this moment someone decides to repair the doors in the hallway so drills and hammers going a full ten outside so if you hear something like the apocalypse then that’s what it is.
JDB: Right, I gotcha.
MH: Lemme get some of these questions done by here...20 years on from Generation Terrorists. Obviously from things Nicky said at the time you didn’t imagine you’d last this long but did you personally see the band as a careeer when you were making it?
JDB:I didn’t think of it as a career but I saw the band as something I never wanted to end. There was Nick and Richey’s mission statement of one perfect album, sell sixteen million records and then split up in a bout of self-immolation. I remember me and Shaun looking nervously at each other thinking ‘No, no we wanna carry on!’ I think in the back of our heads we looked at some of our favourite bands like Echo and The Bunnymen and it was like if they had split up after their first album you wouldn’t hear ‘Heaven Up Here’, you wouldn’t hear ‘Porcupine’, you wouldn’t hear ‘Ocean Rain’ and then we thought to ourselves, and I remember me and Sean saying to each other ‘If The Clash had split up after their first album you wouldn’t have heard ‘London Calling’, ‘Sandanista’, ‘Combat Rock’. Obviously this big monolithic statement of truth came crashing through the skies from Messrs Edwards and Wire and I remember thinking ‘Nah, nah, nah - I hope it doesn’t really come true’. We had to revert to plan b. We obviously weren’t going to sell sixteen million records when Generation Terrorists was released so we kind of failed by our own outrageous standards...
MH: It was a glorious failure though
JDB: I don’t know if it was glorious but it was a monumental failure...
...on a statistical front. But I’m kinda glad rally because I can say all those things about Richey and Nicky being fucking mental and releasing these mission statements but at the end of the day if I hadn’t had that fear hanging over my head I don’t think ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ would have turned out like it did. I don’t think ‘Little Baby Nothing’ would have turned out like it did. Ever since then I’ve realized we’re motivated by a fear of failure. I think we were indoctrinated into that way of thinking by Nicky and Richey at the start. In a strange way it’s the best thing that ever happened to us, I think.
MH: So you were on a cliff edge at the time? You were afraid that this might be your only shot?
JDB: We’d announced our own greatness without having much to back it up. Ever since then it’s been the same feeling. I think that’s just good management skills...
MH: Very motivating...
JDB: Yeah it’s almost like the coach of the team...they (Nick and Rich)believe that they have talented players but they have to motivate them, they have to put the fear of God into them. That early strategy, that early madness, it set the standard I think.
MH: When did you realize that Manic Street Preachers would be a huge part of your life? Like a lifelong thing?
JDB: It was quite early on. We played a gig - it was our first London gig, actually - in the Horse and Groom on Great Portland Street and it was connected to a fanzine that Richey had been in touch with and it was just a small dusty room above the pub. I remember seeing the crowd and it was a really good trainspottery indie crowd ya know...people we had an affinity with in a strange way because we’d been through the mill of being into our Whitesnake, being into our June Brides, then Public Enemy and Guns N Roses, our obsession with music up until that point - we were all about 20 - had been absolutely rabid. It showed no signs of slowing down. We were absolutely obsessed with all types of music. Suddenly we’re in front of this crowd that are really knowledgeable, a strange cabal of people upstairs in this pub watching this bunch of taff oiks for the first time. We played that gig and we got an amazing reaction and I remember thinking ‘we must be one of the most fucked up bands of all time’, you’ve got these two amazing wingers who are absolutely amazing lyricists with Nick and Richey on either side of me, which gave me amazing confidence, and then you had Sean behind me that had played in Gwent Jazz Orchestra playing his trumpet and he’d played for the Colliery Band and then you’ve got me, the Utilitarian ditch-digger in the front. I remember thinking ‘we’re such a fucked up, original band’ At that point we didn’t have any contemporaries from Wales. We felt like we were completely on our own. Because Wales had been seen as a bit of a scourge in a cultural and economic sense at that point and we just felt as if we were on our own in Wales and we were on our own in Britain in the music scene in a sense. That sounds really pompous and it’s not really true but that’s the way we felt at the time. I remember thinking ‘We’re unstoppable because we’re different from everybody else’. I didn’t think it was because we were better, it was because I thought we were different - slightly more maladjusted, more idiosyncratic and out of step with everything. I thought that was important. At the end of that gig - we’d played in front of Bob Stanley, obviously a member of St Ettienne but he was also a great journalist for Melody Maker at that point - and I remember thinking ‘we’ve found our place without even trying that hard’. I remember having some sandwiches on the way home, going back to the valleys thinking ‘We’re gonna do this...we’re gonna be fine, man!’
MH: You’ve still got a place in Cardiff haven’t you? Living in London but still got a place in Cardiff...?
JDB: No, no, no. I live in Cardiff full time.
MH: You’re back completely? Ahhh...
JDB: I’m back there, I’ve got my Cardiff Blues season ticket, got my dog walking routes, take my boxer out with me...
MH: Happy days
JDB: I’ve got the kid, got the garden, got my butcher’s, got my bookies, got my newsagents - I’m back in the fatherland.
MH: What else could you need James?
MH: Did the valleys inform a lot of your early work?
JDB: There’s an inevitable circuital route you take when you’re young. You grow up in the place that you’re in and I don’t know whether it’s your metabolism or your hormones rolling ‘round your body but I think, especially young people who are mad about their music end up wanting to escape the place they grew up. As soon as they leave it they spend the rest of their lives trying to get back to it. That’s what happened with us. At the start we were slightly embittered by the fact that all our fathers had told us about the great things, the valleys culture where we grew up in terms of the Miner’s Institutes that had been bought and paid for by the miners themselves, about great writers like Gwyn Thomas and poets like John Almond who all came from our area and the idea of the Chartist march...all those things had been forced into us, we’d been taught about it. Suddenly we looked ‘round and thought ‘well, there’s not much of that left any more’. We were kind of embittered and disappointed by missing out on this great age of the valleys being a political, intellectual, physical and industrial powerhouse. We suddenly weren’t in that age. We spent a long time just resenting the fact that we were teenagers in the eighties. Immediately we wanted to leave Wales. When we left we realized we were not of the rest of the world - we were particularly Welsh, we realized it was our inspiration and we went back to it like scolded cats.
MH: You should have known better?
JDB: Yeah, well we just realized we were of it and it was what had inspired us for better or for worse. It was our birthright.
There are certain songs that have...not a myopically domestic reach but more a national reach. Songs like ‘Natwest Barclays Midlands Lloyds’ which people laughed at at the time but I think was quite prescient lyric considering now what’s happened...The only way Wales was represented was through TV footage of the miner’s strike going past streets that you lived on or you recognized and in a strange way that connected Wales to the rest of Britain. So on songs like ‘Repeat’ and Natwest...’ it suddenly felt as if we were connecting the dots between our economic situation and the Thatcher government. Which all sounds really didactic and quite punk but that’s the way things were. Then there were songs like ‘Little Baby Nothing’ which were just about gender politics in a sense so it went beyond our Welsh borders. If you look at the songs lyrically I think anybody from Britain can connect with any of those songs but we soon realized we were part of that Welsh tradition where heavy rock was just such a massive South Wales tradition like it was in the Midlands etc. and we had to take our inspiration from it - not fight against it.
MH: I still notice when I go home the sheer volume of Guns N Roses and Iron Maiden t-shirts...
JDB: (Laughs)I know. I think the weird thing about us as people is from the age of 13 I was into ELO, from the age of 15 to 17 I was just a massive indie freak into bands like The Bodines, June Brides, Big Flame and the Shop Assistants and then Public Enemy and Guns N Roses came along and ...by the time I got to 20 and I was going through the old Aerosmith back catalogue I’d been through every phase possible and the one thing that drew us all together apart from the social situation and being born in Wales was that we just digested music to an absolutely mental degree. Richey was a massive Einsterzande Neubaten fan, an Echo and the Bunnymen fan, a Killing Joke fan, Nick was a massive Smiths fan, a massive Rush fan, a massive Whitesnake fan, a massive Orange Juice fan. Sean was a massive Kraftwerk fan, a massive Residents fan and I was into my Motown, my ELO, my Big Flame, my Jasmine Minks, early Aerosmith. We didn’t have any snobbery about music. We were just obsessed about it all. That smash-up between musicians who were fiercely into jangly-jangly music like Jasmine Minks morphing into something like ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ didn’t occur to us. It was just natural.
MH: So that’s how you end up with a debut double album with 18 tracks - through digesting all sorts of music?
JDB: Yeah it is. But it’s really funny because we’ve been going through all our old demos for the album and it was almost like archaeological work. I realized a song like ‘Love’s Sweet Exile’ did start out life when we were about 17 years old as an early My Bloody Valentine kind of song - before they became a noise band, when they were a proper indie band with a different singer - it’s just weird. ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ started out as a kind of Motorcycle Boy ripoff - Motorcycle Boy was a band that came out of The Shop Assistants - and I looked at other stuff...’Repeat’ is a complete Pistols homage. Then something like ‘Another Invented Disease’ that comes from me being obsessed with the Joey Kramer shuffle in terms of Aerosmith? He’s one of the only rock drummers that can do that shuffle and I thought I’d try to write a song around it. If we’d ha a manager or somebody at the record company that would have pointed any of this stuff out to us we might have questioned ourselves or thought we were too mixed up to ever get anywhere but that’s the other thing that happened to us. Rob Stringer who had signed us at Sony never questioned our magpie sensibilities or our obsessions. He never questioned it he just thought it was our strength. Martin Hall and Phillip Hall never questioned our scatterbrained philosophies they just kind of accepted that it was part of our strength. We were incredibly lucky with the people we met in the record industry. A lot of people piss and moan about the record industry and how badly it’s treated them but we had nothing but good luck.
MH: I have always wondered - insisting on a double debut, all the shit you were stirring in the press - how you got away with it?
JDB: I just think that between Nick and Richie they’d got to a point in their lives where they just felt that a lot of things that were going on were an affront to them intellectually. They had that...Raymond Williams you know, that Welsh writer, they had that sense of being from Wales and having no inferiority complex. They thought that they had better ideas than everybody else and that everybody else was wrong. I think we’re a bit more humble than that now (laughs) but when you’re young you feel indestructible and they just felt that things affronted them in an intellectual sense and they were just confident. Phillip Hall and Martin saw that strength. I think they were fed up of bands just tipping up and saying that it was all about the music...
MH: If anyone else likes it it’s a bonus...
JDB: yeah. I think they liked that these four gobshites actually enjoyed their own dose of tourette’s and didn’t try to tame it. All of those people just saw our misguided stupidity as our strength and like I said we’ll never moan about the record industry because we met lots of courageous people that just had faith in us.
MH: Were you working with Caffy St Luce then?
JDB: of course! Well, you know Caffy, she’s gloriously idiosyncratic in every sense of the word. I suppose you join the dots. Phillip had massive faith in us without us actually having any proper evidence or proof that what we were saying was true or would work he just had massive faith in it. So much faith that he was 30 grand in the hole from us smashing equipment for like a year. It’s the same with Caffy. Caffy - you’ll never meet anybody else like her, especially back in the day, especially back in the early 90s. I remember Caffy just turned up in the office and it was like ‘this is Caffy. She’s a bit mental but she’s brilliant’ and that was it. Obviously Phillip had this habit of gathering people around him who had an acute perception of the world, and having faith that it would translate to other people sooner or later. That just goes to prove that Phillip had faith in things that might initially be lost in translation but would eventually settle into the cultural landscape.
MH: You’ve had this devoted fanbase for such a long time. Have you ever come to terms with this idea of thousands of people obsessing over you - especially in the early days, there was a very intense relationship with with the fans wasn’t there?
JDB: Yeah I was slightly uncomfortable with it for a long time. But I think as the band is...we’ve got to our tenth album with ‘Postcards from a Young Man’ and I think that side of it has slightly dissolved away and what is left is people that perhaps are not so bothered about the ephemera that’s attached to the music they actually realize that we load the music so much with all our intentions and all our effort, that our records are so loaded with what we are that they don’t need to be bothered with the ephemera around the band. But yeah, around the time of The Holy Bible it was slightly disquieting the kind of stuff that would be attached to us in terms of some fans. I was never comfortable with that. It was easy to shrink away from that kind of in-depth analysis of what you did. I’ve always loved music journalism. in a sense that..i grew up in an age when I would read about a record before I’d hear it for another two weeks sometimes because it was so hard to get the record and the way the journalist had written about it, whether it be Simon Reynolds or Steven Wells, the way they’d actually written about the record could sometimes make it disappointing because they’d described it in such over-triumphalised ways but it did inform the record and you’d grow to love it because of what had been written about the record. So I’ve always loved in-depth analysis of music BUT even for me the way some fans over-emotionalised and over-intellectualised some of the stuff on the Holy Bible became something that I wanted to be distanced from.
MH: I understand. Do you remember the Cardiff Astoria gig from that tour?
JDB: That was one of the hottest gigs of all time.
MH: It was mental.
JDB: So hot...
MH: A good gig though...
MH: I feared for several people’s lives during it...
JDB: Yeah, I think people were scared that they were becoming dehydrated and they’d get out of the venue looking like the life force had been sucked out of them! I remember that as like being in one of the seven rings of hell, an inferno. I think the air conditioning had broken and everything just felt like it was...a molten lake of some kind of fury. It’s really weird that you bring that up. It’s not one of my happiest memories that gig.
MH: No balaclava that night then?
JDB: I’d have fucking been finished let’s face it! I’d have been gone.
MH: Right what’s next..am I keeping you timewise?
JDB: Whatever mate - if my mobile rings I’ll call time kinda thing but I’m fine, cool.
MH: Thanks. Seeing as you mention it then - if that was a bad memory of The Holy Bible period then can you tell me a good one?
MH: The actual recording of The Holy Bible is a great memory because the first two records - we’d done standard record company things of going to a big palatial studio and going to a residential studio and doing the record. I think Nick had a bit of a meltdown after Gold Against the Soul where he felt as if we’d lost a sense of ourselves in terms of living in these palatial studios and being away from Wales. This is where the road back to Wales began, at this very point I think.
JDB: It was kind of Nick’s idea to go and use this little studio in Cardiff we’d used for b-sides and stuff and suddenly it was amazing to be back in this studio in the red light area of Cardiff which it was then - more the gluebag area of Cardiff to be honest - but it was amazing to be back there. We were all confined in this tiny studio, we’d all meet there ten o’clock every morning. Everybody would clock off at 8 o’clock and leave me there ‘til 2 oclock in the morning working on through the night and I was going back home every night to my mam and dad’s. So here I was on my third album on a major label and I was recording that album and sleeping at my mum and dad’s house every night after working. It felt brilliant. It felt right you know? We should come back. This is the right move. We actually did lose ourselves a bit and it was great to be able to be waking up in the Valleys every morning, going back down to Cardiff and just recording. Just seeing Richey coming in every morning wearing a donkey jacket, no like a sheepskin jacket, a complete John Motson replica from the ‘70s thing, he’s open a little tinny “pfffft” and that would be the start of the day. He’d have these reams and reams of notes and his typewriter was set up in the corner and nick was chipping in with lots of titles, not as many lyrics as usual, as everyone knows Richey ran with the ball on that record but yeah Nick would be standing over him like some kind of headmaster then he’d pop in with a verse and then, I remember one day Nick went over to him and just gave him the title ‘Faster’ and then Richey just wrote the words to the title which is brilliant it’s...
MH: I’d no idea of that...
JDB: Yeah, it’s like the fact that Nick came up with the title and Richey wrote the words to it, took it home and finished it off and stuff. It’s amazing. The way they work with each other. Richey was stuck one day, Nicky just gives him a title and it sparked him off...that’s just really good...that’s team work buddy! We were all crushed in together and we were using this engineer from Cardiff called Alex Silva who is a Welsh Italian who has been a friend ever since and he lives in Berlin now and works with Herbert Gronemeyer. He’s been really successful but we were just all there on top of each other and suddenly my old influences that I’d had from when I was 16 and 17 of being a massive Magazine fan, a massive Wire fan, suddenly that was all coming to the fore because I was back home at my parents’ house where I still had my records and I was every morning playing my records before catching a bus down to Cardiff and suddenly I could hear that come to the fore in the music and it was a great experience. People think that The Hoy Bible was traumatic from top to bottom but the actual recording and writing of it, the rehearsing of it and of us all being back in Cardiff was just an amazing experience - it was just such a gloriously happy time.
MH: Speaking as someone who was growing up in Merthyr when that came out, for the group of people I knocked about with it was a very empowering record rather than anything dark or upsetting necessarily. Hearing ‘Faster’ for the first time is an almost incomparably empowering experience...
JDB: I think you’re right. I think ‘Faster’ particularly is self-empowering, it’s a complete direct statement of intent and it actually frees you when you play it sometimes. It still feels like that. I remember the lyric...I had to write the music for that song twenty times exactly. I knew I had to get it right. In the end the easiest idea was the right idea, musically. I remember the lyric just made me feel better - it just did. It gave me that old sense of righteous arrogance back which I’d lost at that point I think. There are other songs on there where people might assume that everything is wrapped up in some dark maelstrom of emotions but a song like ‘If White...’ I actually just loved that song. It is self-empowering. A lot of bands at the moment are not actually engaged with any kind of political culture whether it be in a domestic sense or an international sense and it felt liberating just to try to sing those lyrics. Just to know that you were in a band that was engaged with the world and it’s own world. ‘This Is Yesterday’, it still gives me a sense of melancholic victory. A lot of people assume that album is a massive comedown but for me sometimes it just feels like a great pre-match speech. That’s enough of the sporting analogies I think.
MH: You’ve got a good half a dozen in so far! Going through the old material - does it have a weight of sadness to it? Harking back to a time when you still had Richie there - is it sad or is there a balance to it?
JDB: First of all I think you can answer that on two levels. First in terms of how the album actually turned out musically I think going through the demos did make me...most bands have big regrets about their first album, about the way they did it because naturally you go on and you realize you could have done things better. When I listen back to some of the demos I mean there’s a demo of ‘Stay Beautiful’ which is called ‘Generation Terrorists’ itself...there’s a demo of ‘Repeat’ and there’s a demo of ‘Natwest’...’ just for those three songs perhaps the album versions are just a bit too glossy. We lost a bit of that kind of ...punk edge definitely. One of our favourite things that unified us at the time was we all loved the Spunk Sessions the Pistols did? All the demos they did before Never Mind The Bollocks essentially and if you listen to ‘Generation Terrorists’ which became ‘Stay Beautiful’ the ‘Repeat’ demo, ‘Natwest’ and perhaps ‘Crucifix Kiss’ there’s a demo of that too... we smoothed things off a bit too much. So there was an element of regret where I thought the album could have been a mixture of what ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ ended up being and what ‘Motown Junk’ was. That ‘Motown Junk’ edge perhaps...but ultimately if we hadn’t gone so deep into that studio craft or whatever you want to call it we wouldn’t have ended up with ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ it just wouldn’t have happened. Steve Brown was a massive part in developing ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ because there was a demo and he said we had to write other parts and we cannibalized parts from old songs for ‘M.E’ and if I Steve hadn’t left it on the desk for so long and become obsessed with it I wouldn’t have come up with the guitar riff for it and inevitably ‘M.E’ was a kind of saving grace because it was the first hint that we could walk it like we talked it and it was the first hint that there was a certain, not originality to us but a uniqueness to us. I think that is the song that wasn’t a hit around the world but is our best known song around the world except for ‘If You tolerate This...’ and ‘Your Love Alone’ surprisingly. Those three songs are the songs that everybody around the world knows so if we hadn’t gone so far down the road of trying to be polished ion the studio we wouldn’t have come up with ‘M.E’ and perhaps we wouldn’t have got this far - I think. It’s a bittersweet irony of we lost some of our ‘Motown Junk’ edge but if we hadn’t have gone down that road we probably wouldn’t have survived I don’t think.
MH: Gotcha. When you’re looking back, for instance doing the Holy Bible package and now this one for Generation Terrorists, even now in this interview there’s instances where Richey comes up a lot and memories of that time. Are you at peace with looking back or does it get to you?
JDB: In terms of us being bandmates we’re completely at ease with it. We’ve been through lots of anniversaries now and we’ve done ‘National Treasures’, ‘Greatest Hits, the re-issue of The Holy Bible and we’re used to coming across beautiful curled up photos and old lyrics with his doodlings on. We’re used to coming across old interviews and hearing his voice and yeah, it used to be like a punch in the stomach. We used to roll on the waves every time we’d come across these things but inevitably we’ve done so much in terms of retrospectives and reissues that we’re used to it. It actually makes us smile to see him. It actually makes us smile to see some silly Nietszchean cat cartoon on the side of an old lyric or to see a picture him in the studio from when we were doing the Holy Bible. I came across one and he’s wearing the most awful Henry Rollins t-shirt in the studio which someone wouldn’t equate with him. They think he was always a glamourpuss, he was always dressed to the tees but there he is...Oh no sorry, it’s not a Rollins t-shirt it’s a Dub War t-shirt...
MH: Dub War? Excellent...
JDB: Which is fine in itself but it’s four sizes two big for him and it looks like a fucking tent on him! We’re used to those moments now and they make us...the only really overriding bittersweet emotion we have these days is...and of course you’re still gonna have...there’s still gonna be stuff in your subconscious which you just keep back there. But the overriding emotion we have in terms of anything apart from us being happy when we hear his voice or see his picture or some old artifact connected with him... the only negative emotion we have these days is when we see a new interview from a band or hear a record from a band or we see an interview in one of the broadsheets with somebody who’s supposed to be the benchmark of something glorious, and we just think fucking hell if he was around now he would just destroy. He would just fucking...intellectually he would just kill everything! He’d have the biggest Twitter following in the western world. He would. For better of for worse he would clean up at the moment because it’s an easy competition out there at the moment. Just investigating things and coming up with some convoluted, fucked up answer? He was the king.
MH: I appreciate you answering that. How come no gig for Generation Terrorists?
JDB: We can’t in Britain because when we did the O2 show at Christmas we actually said that it was our last concert in Britain for two years. We’re desperately trying to hold ourselves to that (laughs) we’ve done our best. We might put something up online in a couple of weeks time, we might go through a couple of songs that we never play live, we might go through some in the studio and put them online. We would have lied to but we’d put this UK live embargo on ourselves for the O2 show so we can’t...
MH: Fair play. If you’ve made a promise...
JDB: (Laughs) yeah, and we always keep our promises don’t we?
MH: Yeah absolutely, that’s self-evident that is James... I didn’t get to see the O2 but I saw a few on Journal For Plague Lovers and the full run through that album went really well it seemed. Were you happy with that?
MH: The first half was respectful. I think and then the second half...there was the more kind of cerebral set and then there was the dancing set is the way we saw it by the end of the tour I think and it did work. I think its something that is going to colour the way we go on and play live in the future actually. In terms of dividing sets up like that? It’s an easier way to actually do things and make things more interesting for people and for ourselves. As you get older, mixing the past, the present and perhaps the future in one concert perhaps becomes more and more troublesome in terms of how you pitch things - whether you can put ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ next to ‘Archives of Pain’ or if you put ‘If You tolerate This...’ or ‘The Everlasting’ next to ‘Revol’...it’s something that becomes harder and harder to program in terms of a setlist. I think we’re gonna go farther down that route of doing two sets as time goes on I think.
MH: Have you looked at the possibility of another solo record?
JDB: Nowhere near my horizon. I just love being in the band, I just love it. I’m living in Cardiff, I catch the bus into work, I’m there in 25 minutes then we’ve got our studio in Cardiff, I go there and Nick’s watching Sky Sports News and pissing and moaning about the seedings in the Heineken Cup as usual and Shaun’s unwrapping some fucking new piece of technological gear that he’s bought for the studio and it’s a nice world to be in at the moment you know? We’ve got our HQ in Cardiff and every time we go there it’s almost like an episode of ‘Only When I Laugh’...are you old enough to remember that?
MH: I am..James Bolam...
JDB: (much laughter) it’s like everyone’s lined up in their same old positions in the studio and everyone’s pissing and moaning. It’s a lovely little nest we’ve got there. To be fair we’ve been furiously demoing all year and I think we’re twenty songs in now. It’s so great to be in a band. It’s sickeningly lucky to be in a band with your best friends that you went to school with and you grew up with, but it’s just absolutely fucking amazing. I’ve got absolutely no inclination to be a solo artist again if I don’t have to!
MH: (Laughs) So is 70 Songs of Hatred and Failure still a viable album title?
JDB: I’ve downgraded Wire’s monolithic slab of intent to 35 songs at the moment. I’m working on 35. I’m chipping away, I’m chipping away with my chisel.
MH: Excellent. I’ve got a stupid question to ask you last.
MH: Have you seen WWE wrestler Wade Barrett’s tattoo?
JDB: I’ve heard about Wade Barrett, yes. One of my friend’s sons is a massive WWF...uh, WWE fan and yes he’s got a ‘Culture, Alienation, Boredom and Despair’ tattoo I think?
MH: He certainly fucking has...Yeah. It’s a beautiful tattoo but it’s so incongruous. It’s excellent.
JDB: Right well let’s just put this out there - if you’re listening Wade Barrett we will do your fucking theme tune - just get in touch.
MH: That’s what I like to hear...
JDB: That would be the ultimate Situationist bizarrist spectacle wouldn’t it?
MH: It would be perfect.
JDB: Us being played over the airwaves in some Enormodome in front of 20,000 mad Yanks in Colorado somewhere...
MH: That’s the definition of breaking America
JDB: That would be THE Situationist spectacle. Guy De Bord would be proud.
MH: Thanks so much for this then.
JDB: Ah, it’s a pleasure man. You back there much at all in Merthyr? You get back and see people?
MH: Yeah I was back over the summer to see my mam, I’ve still got mates there, go to Cardiff for gigs. I love going back - it’s like you were saying earlier, as soon as you’re out of there you’re looking for ways to go back.
JDB: Yeah. It’s amazing...the best café in Cardiff at the moment next time you’re here is the Trade Street Café which is opposite Brains brewery the street opposite...er...it’s round the back of Central Station. Really good café.
MH: I’ll have a look
JDB: You been to the Mochyn Du as well? Good pub serving good beer.
MH: I’ll have a look. I’ve been going to the City Arms
JDB: Well off Cathedral Road is the Mochyn Du which is lovely - really nice. Then further up in terms of real ales - a really good selection - at the top of Cathedral Road the Conway pub on Conway road. That has Vale of Glamorgan stuff, lots of Otleys stuff it’s really nice. City Arms - it’s a new guy that’s taken over there and they do have a lot more guest ales now but in terms of a kind of more sensible sit-down pint, a wee bit gastrified but you know, whatever, the Mochyn Du - the Black Pig, just behind the cricket ground - it’s a good pub!
MH: I’ll pop my head in.
JDB: Alright then butt - take care Mikey, man.
MH: And you mate. Pleasure to talk to you
JDB: Absolute pleasure. And if you’re ever in Trade Street Café stick your hand up and I’ll come and say hello.