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Q&A: Manic Street Preachers- Rock Sound, August 1999

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Title: Q&A: Manic Street Preachers
Publication: Rock Sound
Date: August 1999
Writer: Nick Smith


Manic Street Preachers are currently enjoying more success worldwide than they've ever known, Since the disappearance of Richey they've scaled commercial heights that seemed impossible before. America slowly seems to be cracking itself wide open to their charms and to consolidate their UK appeal they're ditching their aversion to Glastonbury. headlining T in the Park and rounding it off with V99. They also recently turned down the chance to play for the Queen alongside Tom Jones at the launch of the National Welsh Assembly. Time for a chat we thought. James Dean Bradfield obliged.

Are you going to continue in the big orchestral vein or do you feel the urge to write more confrontational stuff?
Well, Nicky's developed such a good taste in the lyrics that I want the music to fit them perfectly. I want to make really beautiful records. In the past I wanted to create conflict, now I prefer something more relaxed.

Did you ever want to become elder statesmen of 'mature' rock?
No, because in the past we cared about radio, image...All we wanted to be was a really good punk rock band. But I suppose we knew that someday we'd have to change, if only to survive. We've basically known each other since we were seven so it's not a problem. The communication between us is easy.

But did you expect the sort of success you've now got? You were ridiculed When you started, and then critics' darlings before finally breaking through to the mainstream and hitting paydirt.

Oh, we expected it. We were arrogant enough to expect success. We haven't been surprised by success at all what was unexpected is the fact that we keep winning awards. We are arrogant but we're also quite innocent and that's been a bit of a shock.

Do you see yourself ever writing simple pop songs?'
I'm not sure. I think Nicky's lyrics will always prevent us from being a simple pop band. There's a lot of words that nobody uses in pop music. I don't think I'd like to sing a simple pop song, to be honest.

You're starting to achieve some success in the States. Are you worried that you might be too 'clever' to really become huge out there?
I don't know. I don't have any faith in us selling a single copy in the States, I'm not arrogant enough to say that we are too intelligent for Americans. At the end of the day Radiohead did very well in the States, and they're very intelligent.

Yeah, but they needed a song like 'Creep' for the audience to connect with. That wasn't clever particularly. That was angst and it came off the back of the whole grunge explosion.
Yeah, you're right, but we don't need to write to a formula.

Do you think Richey's disappearance has helped you?
Yeah, it's helped a little. Sometimes the only way to improve is by freeing yourself. So much as I hate to admit it, you're right.

There were times the past when you played as a four piece and you were the only one who seemed to give a fuck. Is that still the case sometimes? Do you feel you care more than Nicky and Sean?
No, not at all. There were a lot of problems with Richey that were affecting the band back then. Live I'm very passionate, but then I'm singing and playing and I have to be very focused. With Nicky it's more a visual element, he's a very good looking person. But that's what I like about the band. Each one of us has our own personality. I agree in the past that it may have been the case but definitely not now.

Would you say that 'You Stole The Sun From My Heart' was Nicky finest song?
Actually it's not a love song. It's about doing things that you know are going to hurt your soul. Nicky hates flying - he sometimes faints on aeroplanes. Being in a band forces you to do a lot of things that don't you want to and sometimes writing lyrics can really hurt. I think at the time Nicky had written so much that he had nothing else to give.

Who are your favourite singers?
Joe Strummer, Jeff Buckley...I love Tom Jones.

Talking of Tom Jones, what does it mean to you to be Welsh?
I'm very happy to have been born in Wales. I grew up with very strong family values. And with a very strong ambition to leave all that behind. When you're young you want to run away from your past, but when you become an 'adult you realise that What you're running away from is what you really are. Now I love to go back to Wales. Our language and culture was destroyed by England, and it's been hard for people to find their own identity. But Wales is stronger again; it's an exciting place to come from. We've overcome our rage towards England and now we can go on. it's not a political thing anymore.