Richie Edwards of Manic Street Preachers stands in the dock accused Of peddling cliches
Rock'n'roll rebellion just ain't what it used to be. Fifteen years ago a few judicious expletives were enough to gain Sex Pistols the sort of widespread notoriety which punk revivalists Manic Street Preachers would dearly love a taste of. It seems that these days even slicing your arm up with a razorblade in public won't gain you many column inches outside of specialist music mags.
The problem is, explains Richie Edwards, that 'Nobody gives a fuck anymore. As long as people have enough money to buy a few beers they don't care about anything.' The Preachers aren't particularly concerned at this general couldn't-give-a-toss-ness. 'We've had to fight against apathy since we started,' he comments. 'We watched all the other local bands (local, in this case. means South Wales) play three hundred gigs a year to tiny audiences. No-one gave a fuck about them and they were going nowhere. But we've always had total confidence in ourselves and early on we decided to do no local gigs. We travelled by van to London time and time again, paying to play venues like The Rock Garden to crowds of eight people. But we always had a great
self-belief - otherwise we would have split up long ago.'
Time, determination and a big deal With Columbia Records saw the Manic Street Preachers find a mass audience earlier this year with the chart success of the 'You Love Us' 45 and the 'Generation Terrorists' LP. Depending on your viewpoint, 'Generation
Terrorists' is either admirably angry, energetic and earnest or risibly cliched and contrived. In conversation, Richie refers to Neil Kinnock, his local Member of Parliament, as both 'filth' and 'a scumbag'. Similarly, MSPs' songs are choc-a-block with vague threats and insults aimed at The Establishment - except they sadly lack the mischievous fun of The Sex Pistols or the sharp invective of The Clash.
Accused both of lacking wit, and being vague. Richie answers 'We're not specific in our songs because our politics are the politics of boredom. All the politics we've had are the politics of rotting in the bedroom, playing records, watching TV. Our culture all happened in there, from Donald Duck to Nietzsche. Collectively we have a three-second attention span.'
Manic Street Preachers have adopted as their declared lineage four of the greatest bands ever, The Stones, The Who, The Pistols and The Clash. The trouble is, while they want to be seen as an evolution in the chain, the evidence so far is that
they're mere revivalists of something which happened fifteen years ago. Richie isn't despondent. 'We were brought up on classic rock bands and we appreciate their greatness - but they are other people's heroes. There's not enough satisfaction in playing "My Generation" when you know that your dad went out and bought it twenty-five years ago. And that's why our fans like us, because we're contemporary.'
Contemporary yes, but cliched as hell.
'We don't mind accusations that we're cliched.' he responds. 'From the influences we draw on we get out something original and fresh. Look at Keith Richards when he started, he wanted to be a blues man. Or Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols, he just played speeded-up Chuck Berry riffs. By putting a lot of riffs together we're just saying "We're so confused".'
Part of The Manic Street Preachers' original self-generated hype revolved around the fact that their mission in life was to make one great double album and then break up forever. 'As soon as we got our first guitars wanted to do that,' he agrees. 'We
wanted to concentrate all our efforts into making just one really good thing.'
So are Manic Street Preachers now going to split, their purpose completed?
'Er, I dunno...'
But if they continue, aren't their fans going to feel let down and accuse them of cynically cashing in?
'We're used to people saying things like that.'
But Richie, to break up now in the first flush of success would be a fine artistic statement, proving your integrity, even placing you in a similar light to The Sex Pistols!
'Yes. It would be a very good statement - but we've a lot of touring to do.'