Last week we brought you details of an amazing lost interview with missing Manic Street Preachers star Richey Edwards, in which he revealed sensational details about the band’s early career. In Part Two of the same interview, Richey - who disappeared in 1994 and has never been found - opens up about his grand vision for the band he hoped would become the biggest in the world... and how he was one of Kylie Minogue’s biggest fans.
DAVE OWENS: A lot of people think that there’s been a masterplan, that you and the rest of the band sat down and thought: ‘Right how are we going to do this?’ Some people might think that cutting your arm (in the infamous 4 Real incident) was premeditated?
RICHEY EDWARDS: “Of course. When we started the band we looked around at where we came from and no bands had ever, ever done anything. There were some all right bands who ended up playing 20 gigs a year playing pubs and clubs. We never wanted to do that. We only ever played about six gigs in Wales. We just concentrated on moving away. But it isn’t just hype, you know. You can hype a band as much as you want, but that doesn’t get a record in the charts like any record company will tell you.”
Do you think it is easier to sell a band who have got different, distinct traits to other bands?
“I think you must be a bit stupid if you haven’t got something different to say. I mean to stand up and go: ‘We’ve got nothing to say, just judge us on our music’ is so uninteresting.”
What came first with you? The image and the things you say, rather than the music?
“Yes, because there are so many good records in the past that you can go and buy and listen to and we were quite happy to do that, but we just wanted to reflect what was going on now and what was happening in our lives - about having nothing to do. That was the big thing when we started the band. After we had got all our ideas about how we wanted to look and what we wanted to say then we thought about getting a guitar. You can teach anyone to play guitar: it’s easy.There’s hundreds of bands in Cardiff that play guitar, you know.”
You said: “I didn’t play anything on this record (Generation Terrorists).” People may ask: “Why he is being so open about saying he doesn’t play anything on the record?”
“I just think that we’ve always been like a really honest band, right from the start. Because we’re so frank - that’s why people have a problem understanding us. Saying things like we don’t want to end up playing 200 gigs a year in a pub in Cardiff offended a lot of people but that is reality. So I didn’t want to take credit for playing guitar on the LP because James did. I didn’t think it was any big deal about that.”
You obviously play live though don’t you?
“Yeah, I play basic rhythm. When I think back to some of my favourite ever records, like even with Tamla Motown stuff, early Supremes records were just fronted by three women, no involvement in the music at all. It doesn’t mean it makes for a bad record.”
Are people surprised when they talk to you, because you have an outward appearance of being like four f***ing revolutionaries, but when they talk to you you’re quite shy, retiring and softly spoken? They expect you to be ‘in your face’?
“I think that’s typical of most people’s prejudices, they either expect people to be like a drunken yob attacking everything, or just someone who’s got nothing to say. But we’ve got really outspoken ideas on everything - we just don’t think you’ve got to smash someone in the face to say it. People have always confused working class people, that they’re either pathetic little wallflowers or they’re just basic morons. You can be both - you can be sensitive. You can have sensitivity with a physical presence.”
Do you think you’ve changed at all? Have you made a conscious decision not to get big-headed about stuff?
“No, not really, I think we were always quite big-headed from the start. I think we’re a lot less arrogant than we were a couple of years ago.”
Journalists have always said you’re the most intelligent band and have the intelligence to back it up. Do you think that coming from Blackwood - a working class area - has shaped the music, the ideas and the things that you talk about?
“Yeah, definitely. None of us enjoyed school but we knew it was important (to get an education). I’ve got a degree in political history from Swansea University. I never saw the point of going to college and just hanging around and never going to lectures, which is what I saw so much when I was a student. So many people would come in and hang round college all day and never do any work and then at the end of the day they’d go on about: ‘Oh yeah I’m so outrageous, I didn’t go to one lecture today’. And it’s like, big f***ing deal! What’s so good about that? If you don’t want to go to college, don’t take up the space. Just piss off and go and sit in the street. And it’s that very tiresome, student, middle-class mentality which I’ve always found really offensive.”
What’s the main aim of the band? You’ve always said you want to be the best band in the world and you want to be number one. Does that still hold?
“Yeah, I don’t think any band can ever feel happy with anything they’ve ever achieved until they’re very successful and matter to other people. A lot of people say to us: ‘You must be very happy, your record is at number 16 in the charts, it must be really good feeling.’ And it’s all right, 16 or 17, but it obviously means there are 15 records above us which people think are better. I don’t judge artistic integrity on sales, but I think it goes someway towards it. In terms of people we would want to reach, Nirvana are a much bigger band than us. It’s because they’re saying something which a lot more people identify with and that’s what we’d want to do.”
Do you think you have to do Smash Hits and Steve Wright to make that leap? If you want to get to number one you have to cover all areas.
“It’s a very student attitude that they need like serious music. But we’re fans of pop music. I love almost every single Kylie Minogue has made. I love The Supremes, love a lot of Tamla stuff, I love Otis Redding. And even in terms of pop groups, even Duran Duran made good records when they first started off. I’ve read Smash Hits, I’m not embarrassed about being in Smash Hits at all. I think it’s a really good paper. I think it’s more contemporary than other music magazines. It’s so paranoid to say that an under-10 readership is moronically dull and stupid, because they are the people that you’ve got to influence. I’d rather they read what we’ve got to say in Smash Hits than read what a lot of vacuous pop groups say.”
Do you think that things you’re saying would have meaning to an eight or 10-year-old? Do you think they could relate to it? And do you think it’s healthier they listen to you than, say, Kylie?
“Yeah it just works on a different level. That’s why in a song like Repeat, we don’t try and back up our politicised theories and my university degree and try and say what I think. There’s just a lyric - like f*** Queen and country - it’s really obvious, simple to understand. And eight-year-olds might necessarily not know what the Queen is, what it stands for or even ideas of nationality or the sovereign state, but you know at least f*** Queen and country - you’re not exactly singing their praises!”
Are you friends with other bands?
“No, not really. When we started off we thought most other bands were pretty bad. If we became friends with those bands and they asked us what we thought of their music, we’d have to say it was s**t!”
The last interview I did with Nick, (Nicky Wire) he said if you’re not playing 10 nights at Wembley Arena then that’s it. Do you particularly care if people bring out these quotes now and say look you said that?
“Of course not, I think we’ve always been as critical as the Press right from the start. We were never naïve people. When we started the band, because we didn’t attempt to make friends with local bands or be part of a scene, we wanted to do everything on our own. Then we had to really believe in ourselves, and set ourselves really big targets, otherwise we just wouldn’t have bothered. Because we really committed ourselves that we were going to be massive, we said things like that.”
What about the trappings that go with being in a band. Have you made any money yet?
"We signed (to Sony) for a lot of f***ing money. We also had really big debts to pay, because the first tour we did, especially, we were about £30,000 in debt from smashed guitars which we had to pay back.”
Do you regret that?
“No, because it was very necessary. At the time it was all like Manchester, Manchester, Manchester, every band was making an album with a backbeat to it and we just weren’t interested in that at all. It was just another physical way of making ourselves seem different, but our money went pretty quickly.”
Have you seen any money from record sales?
“Yeah, but... I’m the only one in the band that can drive and I always hoped that when I had a lot of money I could buy a car. But now I can’t be bothered, it just doesn’t seem worth it. I don’t really want to buy anywhere to live because over the next two years we’re going to be travelling so much anyway, what’s the point of having a house? The only thing I love buying is CDs, records, films, video games. Yesterday I just went and bought a couple of Elvis CDs and an old Metallica LP. It’s nice to be able to buy CDs when you want and it’s nice to be able to spend a lot of money on Sega games, which is what I like.”
How important is money to you?
We’ve got a bank account which is shared between all four of us and we just take money out of there when we need it. None of us have bought anything big. And in terms of making money, doing something to make money, we’re all intelligent - we all know the easiest way to make money is to write a nice slow sad song, add a couple of lyrics, my baby’s left me, I’m so f***ing sad. Easy to do. Or just buy a couple of Simply Red albums, nick a few good ideas and you’re a millionaire. We’re not interested in doing that.”