Still shocked by the sudden disappearance of its guitarist and figurehead, Richey James, more than a year ago, UK band Manic Street Preachers battles on.
There were four members, now there's three. It was February 1 last year when the outrageous guitarist and lyricist of Manic Street Preachers vanished on the eve of a US promotional visit.
Despite mass publicity and a careful police search the mystery of his disappearance remains unsolved. The remaining members James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore and Nicky Wire decided to continue as a three-piece, playing their first gig as support to the Stone Roses at Wembley Arena in December, 1995. They then invaded Normandy, recording the new album, Everything Must Go, including the hit single, A Design For Life.
Formed in December 1990, the band had clocked up 14 Top 40 singles and released three acclaimed albums, Generation Terrorists, Gold Against The Soul and The Holy Bible. The new album contains some of Richey's lyrics (Removeables, Kevin Carter and Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky), but the rest were penned by Nicky Wire.
"The hardest thing about the album was deciding to make it," Nicky said from his Welsh home, having just finished a European tour. "The actual recording wasn't difficult, it was just making the
decision to carry on."
While there are no songs dealing explicitly with the disappearance, two songs Everything Must Go and You Know We're Alone express the emotion.
"They address the feelings we've had since he's gone, the sadness, and the loss," he explained.
He admits the band was in an impossible position of not knowing if their friend and colleague was alive or dead, and the personal pressure was intense. The pressure continues today.
"Sometimes you think you're strong and everything is going okay, but the smallest things can just ruin it."
"Deep down I sometimes feel really miserable. And deep down I do think he's still alive. It's just a hunch, not really based on anything.
"I know Richey was very intelligent and I know he had the capability to disappear, but he also had the capability to kill himself."
There has been natural changes in outlook and behaviour within the band, moving away from the earlier interest in depression, suicide and alcohol.
"That's what attracted us together at the start when we were 18 years-old the tragic cultural icons, the feeling of alienation drew us together," Nicky says.
"But as you get older you do change, and now I can see the good as well as the bad."
"We've also learnt to control ourselves more. When we started the band we were desperate to escape where we came from and be different to everything else."
"In Britain there's two things you do to escape from working class life you either pick up a guitar or kick a football."
While Nicky says playing live will never be the same as it once was, the band has moved to a new level.
"We take things day by day now," he says. "We'll always be able to write songs and always have the creative desire to make music, and that's our main priority."
Expect to see the Manic Street Preachers in Australia early next year.