A lost tape giving a stunning insight into the mind of lost Manic Street Preacher Richey Edwards has been unearthed - on the eve of the release of a new album featuring his lyrics.
Today we print the first part of an incredibly frank and confessional interview with music journalist Dave Owens, which Edwards conducted in 1992 - not long after the band had signed to Sony Records and released their debut album Generation Terrorists. It offers a fascinating view of the songwriter’s complex character and hints at the torments that were soon to ravage the guitarist both emotionally and physically. In a far-ranging conversation Edwards opens up with intense honesty about:
- How he slept with HUNDREDS of groupies who meant nothing to him;
- How he dealt with the band’s most obsessive fans - including a notorious bunch of football hooligans.
- Why travelling the world left the band cold;
- Why he saw some Welsh language activists as “blind and self-obsessed”.
Richey’s disappearance has become one of music’s greatest mysteries. Debate still rages over whether he is dead or alive, although in November last year Edwards’ family obtained a court order officially changing his legal status to that of “presumed dead”.
Richey was 27 when his car was found abandoned near the Severn Bridge. Despite alleged sightings across the world, many believe Edwards, who battled, alcoholism, anorexia and self-harm, took his own life, although no body has ever been found.
DAVE OWENS: What have been the highlights of the last year? Can you pick out anything that sticks in your mind - gigs or moments?
RICHEY EDWARDS: "I’ve got favourite gigs, just as there have been gigs that have been crap. I haven’t been impressed by travelling anywhere because all I really care about is the band, making the records we want and playing to people. It doesn’t matter if I’m doing that in Cardiff, or I’m doing that in Osaka in Japan."
Doesn’t travelling excite you, the chance to go to other countries?
"No, because every single place we’ve been to, all I care about is the gig. It’s the same for all of us. When we went all across America and all across Japan, we never went out once. We stayed in our hotel rooms, watched TV and then we’d do the gig and then go back. So many other bands that we met or even our managers were always really pissed off with us, saying we should go out - if you’re in San Francisco you should go and see this, if you’re in New York you should go and see that, if you’re in Toronto you should go and see the CN Tower or whatever. But it doesn’t mean f***ing anything to us at all because music means more than any statue or sculpture, and I think you can learn as much about any country from their TV as you can from walking around their streets."
A lot of your fans might think, ‘Oh I’d love to be able to do that’. In a sense you’re in a privileged position, of your own making admittedly, so do you not think you’re lucky?
"No, I never think we’re lucky. I don’t think anybody should be excited about travelling. At the end of the day you’ve got to come back and live in Wales or London, or live in a house, do a crap job that you don’t enjoy and if all you live for is those two weeks when you can go on holidays, then I think you’re a really sad person. I think you should try and find something in your life that can matter to you for the majority of the year."
What do you think of people that are working class, who have a family and kids - maybe for them just a holiday, because they can’t afford to do anything else, is their highlight?
"I completely respect people like that. That’s the one thing when we started the band we decided to do - to consciously devolve responsibility. Because if I had a girlfriend and she got pregnant or I had to look after a kid or whatever, or had a mortgage I would just feel obliged to do that. I wouldn’t feel good about leaving a little kid and pissing off around the world or going to London and pretending to be in a band, that’s just a very shallow thing to do. You should just accept responsibility for your own actions. And so because we’ve got no commitments we can concentrate and be obsessed about being in a band."
What about your parents? Are they shocked at all about the band and the things you say or do?
"There are things we’ve done that they don’t enjoy, in terms of what we do on stage or what we do with our bodies or with groupies and stuff. But they just accept that’s what we are, you know. They’re quite tolerant. They judge people as they find them, which is the best way. They’ve always known what we’ve been like, that we’re quite obsessive people. When we decide to do something, we make sure we do it well. If that means sleeping with hundreds of girls every night just because we were bored, then they get used to it."
So have you slept with hundreds of girls?
(Laughs) "Yeah. It’s just a way of ending the day."
That’s a pretty blasé attitude to have though isn’t it? ‘It’s just a way of ending the day’. To a lot of people that would be like you lucky b*****d, do you know what I mean?
"Yeah, but we’re all quite romantic people. And sex without love is just completely uninteresting. I never was interested in sleeping with anybody when the band was starting off because I was completely obsessed with the band, that was all I thought about. And now we do a concert, people come back afterwards. I don’t care about them, they don’t care about me. It’s just a way of spending a night with somebody, then saying bye bye in the morning. I can’t remember their names and I don’t want their address and telephone number."
So they’re obviously not fans then, because if they were you wouldn’t sleep with them would you?
"In terms of girls who come back after a concert, there’s ones who all they want to do is talk about lyrics or the songs or what they mean to them. And then there’s the ones that come back and quietly sit in the corner, have a can, not interested in what’s going on, and then straight away, you know the ones who, you go: ‘You coming back to the hotel, yeah.’ If there’s some little girl who has travelled all the way round (following the band), some 18-year-old student who’s always been obsessed with us, you can usually tell because those ones have usually written about 20 letters anyway. So you talk to them for however long they want to talk, explain whatever lyrics they like, and then they’re really happy to go away. And then there’s somebody else sat in the corner, (laughs) drinking a can of Stella."
Do you think it’s quite good to be put up there (on a pedestal) and people looking at you and thinking ‘I find him really sexy, I want to sleep with him’? You must get a thrill out of that, mustn’t you?
"No, because I think the way we’ve enjoyed music, the bands that mattered to us, I’ve always had their pictures on my wall. I didn’t have pictures of The Rolling Stones because I liked The Rolling Stones, I had them on my bedroom wall because I loved to look at The Rolling Stones. I loved seeing Keith. I loved seeing Brian. Loved seeing Mick. And that’s a good thing. It’s just really cool and the music was something that mattered as well. Image has always been really important to us. If people were just coming up to us and going, ‘Oh, I like your music but I think you look bad; oh, I couldn’t put a poster up on my wall because I don’t like looking at you’, I would think we were a crap band. I would think we were a really crap band. I would never buy a record ever if I couldn’t like the group. Probably the only group I’ve ever bought a record by that I can’t stand looking at is Metallica, because they’re just really f***ing horribly flawed."
But they’ve probably got groupies as well?
"Well, they’ve probably got more. Metal bands get more groupies than anybody."
So are you going to be going more metal then or not?
Ah, no, that was a silly question. What are your weirdest fans?
"It’s not weird, I guess every band has it, but we’ve got fans that come to every gig, that follow us around Britain, all around Europe. They’ve all got their names of the band members, they all dress exactly the same as us, they all call each other, you know one’s Richey, one’s James, one’s Sean, one’s Nicky. They just pretend they’re us, that’s what they do."
What do you think of that?
"I think music is worth getting obsessed about. We were all obsessed with music. Never to that extent, though."
How do they afford to follow you around?
"They’re from Sheffield. They just work for a year in record shops and save up. Our strangest fans, I suppose, are the fans that we’ve had from really early on, when our relationship with the music press was really antagonistic. It was brilliant one week, bad the next. And they feel really close to us. The bigger we got, the more obsessed they got with us and it gets to the point where they just give up their job and follow us around."
So you don’t mind that?
"No, I’d rather they do it with us rather than they do it with some dodgy group."
I went to the Cardiff University gig earlier this year (February ’92) on the last UK tour and there was a bit of friction with the bouncers. What was happening?
"Well, we were just unhappy we were playing where we were. There were enough people outside and enough ticket demand to play the main hall. I don’t know if it was our agent’s fault or the university’s fault but they wouldn’t move the gig downstairs. We had people on the guest list who weren’t allowed in. We were just pissed off. It was just too squashed. It was so uncomfortable, it was so hot on stage."
At other places, there’s been aggro. Was that for the same reasons? There’s been incidents of hitting people (security staff) with guitars.
"There’s been friction at a lot of gigs, especially early on. It’s just because if we see a kid getting beat up or somebody getting squashed, then we’ll do something about it. And then we get attacked or whatever. We do accept certain responsibility being in a band if there’s a thousand people who’ve paid to see you, then one of them who’s paid his money is getting dragged up by bouncers for doing nothing wrong then, you know, we’ll stop it."
I heard an interview where you had Fabulous (controversy-courting, sub-Manics rip-off band formed by a group of music journalists) at one of your gigs in London. And they said they were quickly sorted out by a group of guys from the Chelsea Firm. So you’re getting well-known football hooligans coming to your gigs?
"It’s a bloke called Barnett and some of his mates, who were really famous football hooligans from a couple of years ago. He’s only a little kid, he’s probably no bigger than me. The scariest people are the ones that have got no fear and he’s been beaten up lots of times, by 20, 30 people, but he’s prepared to stand his ground. They follow us around all the time and they’re great, you know, they love our gigs and if they see anyone messing around they go in and sort them out."
But they don’t cause trouble themselves?
"When there’s some old fella at the back shouting abuse and chucking a couple of cans or bottles, they just go in and say: ‘If you don’t stop that you’re going to get your head kicked in’. And if it carries on, you know, they do."
You’ve had people complaining about the fact that the band doesn’t play an encore at your live shows. How do you answer those critics?
"I know, we’ve never done an encore and we probably never will. It’s just what people have got to expect. Nobody should ever judge us like they judge other bands, because we’re different and we have been right from the very start. If people can’t come to grips with what we are, then I don’t pay that much attention, because I think we’re a better live band than most bands they’ll ever see. I think we’ve got better songs and I think what we say is better than what most other band say, so I think we’re pretty good value."
Wherever you go in the world, do people recognise you’re Welsh? Do they even know where Wales is?
"No. Audiences generally in America don’t know the difference between Wales, England, Scotland or Ireland. They go: ‘Wales, is that part of Scotland?’ I was talking to people from Teenage Fanclub (Scottish indie band) and they said the same thing."
What about Japan and places like that? Is that the same for everywhere you go?
"A lot of people I know get really offended, as if everyone should know where Wales is. But if you pick any ordinary person on the street and ask them: ‘Show me where Kentucky is on a map’, they wouldn’t know."
You don’t hide your Welshness then?
"We usually just say we’re a British rock band. If we go: ‘We’re a Welsh rock band’, they go (adopts dopey American accent): ‘Where’s that?’ We just leave it at that."
Do you support the Welsh language?
"I always think people should just be prepared to accept reality. At the end of the day, the Welsh language is basically dead. It doesn’t matter to the majority of people, so let it die a natural death. I don’t think you can ever reinvent something that is failing, especially with the language or culture. If people always try to cling onto something, nothing would ever change. We never would have had pop music, because it would have been: ‘This is the way music must be made and it must never change’. And I think that’s what makes a country or a music scene interesting or vibrant. I think if you say: ‘Everything must be like this’, it’s so stagnant and boring. It’s so conservative. I think that’s one of the reasons why we have a Tory government because people are scared of change. We’ve been away since January and when we came back, one of the first things I saw on the TV was a big case of some Welsh kid who, instead of putting a learner plate on his car, he put a D (Welsh language learner plate) on. It was a big thing. If they seriously think that’s an important issue - I mean, that occupied the news, it was a big deal to all those involved - it’s just pathetic. All the things you could worry about and he wants to put a D on his car. Now if they think that’s a big deal, then they’re the most blind, self-obsessed people I’ve ever come across. They must be insane. I just think it gets to a scary level when they’re so obsessed with nationality. It’s dangerous - one of the most divisive things since the fall of the Russian empire. Every single country is starting petty little nationalistic wars against each other. You’ve got the rise of fascism again, you’ve got the rise of anti-Semitism. It’s dangerous. Misogyny, racism, it’s all coming back. It’s just petty little jealousies."
Do you have a sense of humour, because a lot of people think you’re really, really serious? What do you laugh at? What makes you laugh?
"One thing I’ve found really offensive is comedy in music: joke records with puns, or making fun of another song, I always think is so childlike. In terms of people like Vic Reeves’ humour, it’s so annoying. Nothing annoys me more than when, like, you’ve got on a bus - well, I haven’t got on a bus for a long time - but you’re going somewhere and you sit there and a group of teenagers start reciting a Vic Reeves sketch or Young Ones sketch, and they’re laughing out really loud. You know: ‘How outrageous, ha ha’. I find it really nauseating. The only comedy I’ve ever laughed at is Tony Hancock. I find everything else just really second rate. I find it so juvenile that somebody can fart and everyone laughs. Why is that funny? Please explain. They’re like little children. Their parents when they were young must have said: ‘You shouldn’t do that in public’. So they’re sat on a bus and they go (makes fart sound) and it’s like: ‘Woah, that’s really threatening’."