I am not going to be late!!! Not for the Manics, please. I am late for everything, work, films, gigs, the lot. I'm writing my Games Heaven column for September 1996, in a vain attempt to complete it in time. But today, of all days, I can't be late!!!... I was late.
Not just trendily late - one and a half hours late.
I had prepared so well for this. I had crapped myself all week, I'd phoned Mike the editor to ask if my questions were all right. His reply was "Don't worry, just take them to the pub." I asked him what I should wear. His reply was "Don't worry, just take them to the pub." So, thanks Mike, I guess I'll just... er... take them to the pub. So I speak to Maggie Picture Editor. Maggie, do I wear a Manics top? Don't be a dick, she says. Not even the "all rock's' roll is homosexual top? Don't be a dick, she says. So, thanks Maggie, I won't be a dick. That's the beauty of Smash Hits. It's not only at the cutting edge of youth journalism, it's a veritable bastion of sound advice. The questions are even more difficult. All I've got written down is "so, guys, the nights are fair drawing in, yeah?" Not to worry, I've met Richey, Sean and Nicky before so I'll just chat naturally and before you know it we'll be mates, drinking beer and lighting each other's farts... as long as I'm not late.
So I'm in a cab and I'm late because I had a meeting about a new late-night show and I felt it was improper for me to jump up and say "stuff you guys, I'm off to see the Manics". Now I've got a chatty cabbie who's telling me how the lyrics of Queen are very meaningful. I contemplate saying rude things about hi mother. But I am an hour late and I figure that would not help. So I ask what he thinks of the Manics. He's never heard of them. "But they're the greatest rock band in the world!” I exhort. "What's so good about them, then'?" I take a deep breath. "1. They write epics about the boredom you feel when you’re young, about how crap the world really is. 2. They are the most glamourous human beings on the planet. 3. They make great comments like 'Slowdive are worse than Hitler'. 4. James supports Nottingham Forest 5. Richey likes the same comics as me.” “Anyway,” says the cabbie, “you take a song like Bohemian Rhapsody…” So I kill him and run the rest of the way to the studio, bomb down the stairs, a mass of blurted apologies, only to find out I'm not late, because the photo-session won’t finish for two hours. So I wait. Chat to them. And then I take them to the pub.
James drinks whiskey, Sean Moore drinks mineral water, he’s the friendliest. Nicky Wire drinks Diet Coke and smiles a lot. Richey James talks the most and drinks a variety of substances throughout the evening. These guys are the last hope for the world. So, why have you done a second album after saying you would only release one?
Nick: "We thought with the first wham we'd get rid of the hate, get it out of our system. Unfortunately we didn't get rid of that feeling, musically or lyrically."
Richey: "If you have a record which encapsulates the mood of a generation, you should split. So we talk about things that they hate, about the boredom they felt growing up and whether things have changed for teenagers today. Unfortunately not. Richey says: "I read in The Guardian that kids were getting free syringes on the NHS and injecting cider straight into their veins, 'cause it's the cheapest way to get bombed out of their brains.” Don't try this one at home, readers. When I was 14 I always had The Jam and The Clash to keep me going. Who did the Manics have?
Sean: "The Bunnymen, U2... "
James: "Simple Minds. I liked Jim Kerr 'cause he was pretentious."
Sean: "...Big Country, The Skids...
Richey: "All the John Peel bands that everyone pretended to like."
Richey: "We all liked The Clash."
But this is now. I pull my trenchcoat lighter to keep out the chill air of 1993's crap Top 40. Is it all bad?
Richey: "It's good when someone like Charles And Eddie get to Number 1 on the strength of a good record. Otherwise it's all people clogging up the chart with crap."
Talking about crap. I think Take That are a really nice bunch, but their music sucks. So, Take That or East 17, who does it for the Manics?
Richey: "I think Deep pisses over anything Take That have ever done. I’m not a fan of East 17 but I respect that record. Reeeespect!! I've still got a problem with Brian though."
Sean: "Keep the dog - kick out Brian!
Richey: "Brian's the first member of a teenage band that no one likes. I've never seen Brian's name on a toilet wall yet."
Richey: "If Brian left and Jason Orange joined, they'd be supercool!"
It’s not just the music which makes the Manics different, but the things they say. Most notoriously, at last Christmas's Kilburn gig when Nicky said: "Let's hope that Michael Stipe goes the same way as Freddie Mercury pretty soon." There were rumours - since denied - that REM's singer did have AIDS. People said Nicky's outburst was homophobic when it was, in fact, a protest at all the time and money spent telling us how tragic it was that Freddie Mercury died of AIDS when a million complete nobodies are dying of it too, and of cancer, and in Bosnia. Does Nicky regret saying it?
"It's just something that came out of my system I suppose."
James: "But we didn't have any conflict over it."
Sean: “It wasn't even homophobic."
We find ourselves in a discussion of men v woman: Richey thinks that "women cope better than men. The most men ever do is buy some smokes, get pissed up and kick the shit out of each other to get rid of their aggression." I agree. But I'm on my seventh beer, my 19th cigarette... and I don't want to get into a fight. It's getting late now and the guys have to shoot a video tomorrow. So, finally, if you did split up after this album, what would you do?
Sean: "Make my days as long and boring as possible."
Richey: “Go round with Neil Gaiman or Pete Milligan." (Two of the greatest comic writers ever - Dom)
Nicky: "As long as I have Sky satellite for the sports, I'd be happy. I don't need much in my life."
Nor me, as long as they make that third album, and the fourth, and the four hundredth...and...and...
SIX QUOTES TO CUT OUT & KEEP that I couldn't fit in the interview but the world deserves to know.
1. “We’re part of the first generation which has got no sense of ambition." (Richey)
2. "The Top 40 used to be a proper hit parade, now it's more like a community scheme." (James)
3. "The working class are an underdeveloped black market economy, the only real entrepreneurial work they do is illegal - it's all based on drug-dealing." (Richey)
4. "Music has been automised. You can't jump around playing your tennis racket to dance records." (James)
5. "Most of the horrible aspects of society are perpetrated by men." (Nicky)
6. "I think a lot of our fans are motivated by the fact that other People hate them because they like us.(Nicky)