Every so often there's a band you can believe in. The Manic Street Preachers happen to be one of them, which is why RipItUp is happy to be able to offer, in association Sony Music, the CD that goes with this issue. Speaking with drummer Sean Moore about the new album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours finds him ready to receive the success that is due them after the disappearance of their lyricist Richey James and the breakthrough album, Everything Must What success? Well, they'll be doing two nights at Wembley Arena in December.
"We never looked below that - we always looked above that. Hopefully one day we may be playing Wembley Stadium... or Cardiff Arms park."
The huge expectation the engendered - did that put any on you while you were making it?
"Not making it, but once it's made then we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves. As you probably know we're a very meticulous band that tends to sift through and self-criticise every little thing that we do. But while we were making it we just enjoying ourselves, and explored different little avenues. We amused ourselves for six months."
Now that Nicky's writing all the words himself, was there a different dynamic surrounding the construction?
"To be honest with you, apart from The Holy Bible it was always a thing anyway. As a band we've grown, and weve become more mature, we've become better as musicians and songwriters. Lyrically, Nick tends to be a bit more sympathetic to the musical form, and whereas we would tend to scrutinise and ruthlessly edit lyrics, now they into place a little bit easier."
The strings are not quite as ubiquitous on this album. Was that a conscious decision?
"We did in a way because there was such an emphasis on strings in the fourth album that people seemed to think of it as a strings album. The thing is, even pith songs like 'Motorcycle Emptiness' on the first album we used strings, and for some reason people picked up on it on
the fourth album. We try to keep emphasising that we've always used strings and keyboards and weird and wonderful noises throughout our history. People are trying to make a point of the fact that we're doing something unusual and were not really. It's just a progression."
Hows that live? We haven't had the chance to see you yet?
"Hopefully the beginning of next year. We would love to come and play some gigs. It's one of the places I've always dreamt about going to - people have described it as almost like Wales in a way, with the hills, and the obvious references to sheep etc. And in terms of the people, and the sport, the fire and the passion."
We're not singers like the Welsh are, though.
'You're not singers? What do you mean, there's no choirs? It's not that blokes aren't allowed to sing is it?"
There is an element of that.
"I suppose all those potential choir singers are more into jet boats and bungee jumping and what have you."
Wales seems to have more of a marriage of the 'hard man' culture - grown up among the miners and the farmers - and the willingness to express emotion.
"At the end of the day, all we've got is our country, our countryside, and that's about it really."
Do you still live in Wales?
"Actually I live in Bristol, which is about thirty miles east of the border between England and Wales. Mainly because my girlfriend went to university at Bristol. But its a good place, it's in between London and Wales, and it's far enough away that my mother doesn't visit me every day."
Do you think the public will take this record to heart in the same way that it took Everything Must Go?
"I think that it will, and possibly more, but it will take people a lot longer, basically because the lyrics are more complex, the music is more diverse and more intelligent than probably what they're used to."
The subject matter too covers a broad range of historical and broadly social subjects, as opposed to the more specific and personal...
"I think it's still personal, but it's personal in a more direct and sincere way. It's more personal to what we are as people, as a band. The last time that we actually indulged ourselves was on The Holy Bible, and it was more to do with Richey who indulged himself lyrically. This
Is My Truth is basically about us as people, and to try to de-myth the rock'n'roll lifestyle that most bands try to live up to - and fail, in a way. The perfect example of that lately has been INXS, and the problems that he [Michael Hutchence] had as a person."
Ultimately, rock'n'roll as a lifestyle is unsustainable.
"I think Keith Richards said there are always casualties along the way."
Caitlin, the office manager here at RipItUp is the granddaughter of a famous Welsh politician. Unfortunately, in mentioning this, RipItUp mispronounces both his name and the name of his political party, and is corrected most firmly. Just goes to show, don't try and show off.
Do you take pride in the Welsh Language?
"We do, but not to the extent where it becomes very very nationalistic. We're very proud of our culture, very proud of our country, and we do get annoyed with the fact that we're sometimes joined to England. People look at Scotland as a separate country, people look towards Northern Ireland as being part of Ireland, but Wales seems to be this little thing stuck On the side of England that seems to be ignored. But through our music, and over the last four years, Wales has risen as a sort of mouthpiece for the youth, with bands like Super Furry Animals, Catatonia and Stereophonics - there've been a few. It's something that we've always subconsciously tried to bring to the forefront. It's been difficult because the only commentators are the English press, but we're starting to come through."
Is there more of a press gathering in Wales?
"I just think there's more optimism, you know. We say to young people that if we can do it, there's no reason why any of you cant do it, and there's been a few that have taken that on board, they've come through and they've become very successful in their own right. That's all we're really asking for at the end of the day is for to recognise the fact that there's a certain amount of individuality within Wales."
Do you think that you've conquered the world?
"We've conquered our world, that's all I've got to say. Whether it's your world or not, we don't know but wed like to think so."
When offered the idea that This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours is the best thing the Manics have ever done, the response is immediate and self-assured.
"Thank you very much. Without being conceited, I think it is the best thing we've ever done, and hopefully the next album will be the best thing because we always look forward and onward."
You're a band that, now more than ever, has the weight of history behind them. That means you automatically must be Looking to the future.
"In a way weve always looked to the past for our inspiration, to bands like the Clash, who with their first album recorded a track like White Riot, and then on their third album recorded a track like 'Lost in the Supermarket. We've always used that, in a way, as a yardstick."
Are there any specific goals right now?
"The only thing that weVe been trying to achieve over the last five albums is just the word recognition - for people to come to terms with the fact that there are certain things in life that are almost undiscussed, that are not talked about, that people have this silent recognition of things, and we'd just like to think that people... as long as they wink or nod in our direction, we accept that there are things like that...it's just about recognition at the end of the day."
Do you think that rock'n'roll can change the world?
"Maybe not. I think that at the end of the day people change the world, and regardless of politics or popular culture or whatever, at the end of the day it's down to people, up to them."
I think that if you can get them to admit things to themselves: in that way can be that first small step towards changing things...
"I'd love to think so, because as a band weve always been about honesty and truthfulness and humanity which tends to get lost in this very capitalistic world that we live in."
Did you think that 'Motorcycle Emptiness' should have been a bigger hit?
"People needed to be educated then. At the time that 'Motorcycle' came out, we were living in a very hedonistic world, a very carefree world, particularly in the UK - the charts reflected that. think a lot of people missed the point, missed the reasoning behind it. At the time didn't think we were the most concise of bands - it's taken us five albums to craft them. We tend to go straight for the jugular now. Its the laser bomb rather than the scatter bomb effect."
Elvis, for example, who came in in a blaze of glory with the best thing that he would ever do, the Sun Sessions, and it was all downhill from there; whereas bands like yourselves, it takes quite a while.
"Personally think got about another albums in us before there comes a point where we've said everything that's got to be said, we've done everything that's got to be done, I think there's a point where we have to draw a line and say. that's it."
Is that an optimistic thought?
"Oh it is an optimistic thought, yeah, it's just another chapter, you know. That's what life's all about really."
What would you aspire to do, once rock'n'roll had finished as a career path.
"I dont know really. to be honest with you. Maybe become a farmer or something."
You could spend the rest of your days wandering the hills among the sheep.
"I'd love that. It's like Mount Snowdon and part of the Snowdonia National Park was up for sale for 4 million pounds, and if I'd had the money I probably would have bought it. Thousands of acres of mountainside I would have loved to wander around in for the rest of my life. That would have been quite perfect for me."
They're not selling off vast tracts of the countryside are they?
"No, its just that the person that actually owned the land wanted to sell up and I think he wanted to move to somewhere like - probably to South Africa where the rugby's much better."
It was just a fluke that they beat us.
"I think that just bitterness on your part (laughs)."
It seems the Manics are big sports fans, with rugby being high on their list (they're Welsh, go figure!) During the interview he tells a Story about the reconstruction of the stadium at Cardiff Arms park, where one side of the stand is owned by the Cardiff club who are refusing the Welsh Rugby Union access to their land. Result: the new stadium will only have three sides. Cool.
Do you think the world is becoming more or less sane, as a place?
"In my short lifetime I've seen it go from near-sanity to total madness."
What causes it do you think?
"I dont know, to be honest with you. Probably money, that's probably the biggest evil of all. It's probably this mad obsession about sponsorship and advertising, all those other things."
Have you been approached by potential sponsors?
"We were approached by Rover Cars, for the use of 'Design for Life', which we thought was inappropriate; so when the Welsh Office who were promoting Welsh tourism asked for the rights to use 'Design for Life', we said yes, because we thought that was a more appropriate use
of the song. You get approached all the time by various people."
Do you get approached by political causes?
"No we don't, possibly because we would refuse point blank. We've never been party political we've always been people political, as we say."
So now the most sloganeering the ganics do is on the song titles and record titles - will you ever go back to the past, to the way you used the soundbite and the slogan to capture people's attention.
"We always use soundbites and slogans, we've just become a little bit more decisive - we've got a slogan, we've got a quote for every song on this album: we never get away from the fact that we'd like to tie in slogans and quotes with every lyric."
Do you think they help people to go further, or they act as a convenient stopping point, beyond which people don't need...
"Hopefully it influences people to look beyond just our songs; to look a little bit more into humanity. Just the title This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours is a quote from a very famous Welsh Socialist MP called Aneurin Bevan, who had the idea and the concept of the National Health Service for everyone regardless of race, social background, economic background etc."
Is Britain changing to your liking?
"The world's always changing. I dont know if it's to our liking or not - possibly it isn't. The world is becoming this cacophony of soundbites and the clever sloganeering of advertisers where they're trying to sell a product. We've never been about selling a product, and for us, just recording an album which is true and sincere to ourselves is enough for us. Whether Sony want to sell it under the guise of marketeering is entirely up to them. We've got our Own agenda."
Is art about truth or joy?
"It's about truth, and its about joy as well. The joy of being able to express ourselves. For a lot of people their audience is probably their immediate family, whereas we're in the privileged position that we can express ourselves to millions of people."
And if got a crowd of twenty thousand expressing themselves by singing back to you the lyrics that the band's and the songs that the band is playing...?
"I'm just happy that out of that twenty thousand there may be twenty of them who actually get some meaningful truth from it. As long as they think we're sincere then thats enough for me."