Manic Street Preachers are a unique band. Together with Radiohead, they have achieved more awards than anyone else this decade. But even though they are each household names in the U.K. and achieve platinum success with every release, the American record company just didn't get it. So much so that Manic's sacked their label, Epic in the USA and have moved across to Virgin for the American release of their number 1 album "This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours" in April. Manic Street Preachers were one of the headlining acts on the recent Australian Big Day Out gigs and Sean Moore caught up with Undercover Executive Producer, Paul Cashmere
Manic Street Preachers have had an amazing year award wise. You had so many.
Yeah, for "Everything Must Go" it was a really golden period for us. Hopefully with this album "This Is My Truth" we'll be collecting another truck load of awards as well. We've already been nominated for three Brit Awards in February, so hopefully we'll get one.
How important is The Brit Awards?
Well, it's a fairly new thing. It's only been going for something like 15 years. It's nice to be appreciated by your peers and the record company and the radio and TV, because there are 700 delegates that vote for you from within the industry. But most importantly we won a Novello Award for songwriting, which was the real icing on the cake. To be appreciated by songwriters that you've written the best song of '96 was a great accolade for us.
What about readers polls?
Well they are really important. Back home, Melody Maker and NME have had us come in for a bit of stick from the writers, because we are seen as establishment and something to knock. Even with Melody Maker trying their hardest to undermine the band, we still come in top in the reader's poll for album, single and band.
That must be strange for English bands, the way you are treated by the English Press.
Oh yeah. It's vicious. It's done with the singles chart. There is such a quick turn-over with the singles chart. You can come in Number 1, then you are top 10 and then after three weeks you are out. It's such a quick turn-over and it's the same in the press. You are in, you are flavor, you are out, where's the next one. It's a conveyor belt and the press want to dissect bands, they want to pull them to pieces. We've managed to weather our little storm for eight years.
You must be considered Classic Rock in England?
We've never really fitted into any category. Some say we are rock, some say we are alternative. We write punk songs, ballads. Whatever direction we take, as long as we are happy.
Let's get on to the songs from the album. "If You Tolerate This" has this instant grabbing effect. Did it have a similar effect on your guys when you recorded it?
At the time that we were recording it we thought it was a good track, but we were in two minds as to whether we were going to include it on the album. It wasn't until our manager said "I think you've got something here". Right up until the deadline of picking the first single we were still unsure about it. We just happened to do a fantastic video to go with it. It's so alien. Not quite as bad as Marilyn Manson.
Run through the conception of that song.
It as inspired by a Pablo Picasso painting. It is basically about the Spanish civil war. We looked into that because in Wales a lot of men went out to fight against fascism. That was the connection for us. We just feel that in Europe at the moment that the youth of today just seem to be so complacent. It's basically just saying don't let what we've got slip away.
It's rare for a band to have a message these days.
That's because most bands are so self indulgent and obsessed. They just write about themselves at the end of the day. It's all about their won experiences. They can't write anything outside of that.
You guys all have equal songwriting credit on this album. Explain how the songwriting process works?
Nick writes the lyrics, James then does a simple guitar. Then we get it together and embellish it. That's the way we've done it from the start.
There's a lot of diversity on this album. We go from "You Stole The Sun from My Heart", one of the more uptempo songs from the album goes right into "Ready For Drowning". It's like the tracks have been programmed like in a radio show.
That's what we've always done. It's not a matter of writing a lot of songs and just throwing them on there. You can't just jumble them up and then pick a number. We always try and program the album for the listener.
Tell me about the song "The Everlasting". That's an interesting way to begin an album.
I spose we wanted a gentler approach to the album. It's a very sort of mid tempo song and very melancholic. It's very reflective. Basically the song was there to make ourselves com to terms with the fact that this was our fifth album and we had all reached the age of 30. We don't see it as being old, but it is a turning point in life.
It's also the first album without any contribution from Richey. Did that change the attitude of the band in the studio?
To be honest with you, Richey never played on the records. He just wrote lyrics and did artwork. The recording process was never altered.
You must feel good you don't fall under the Britpop banner. Is there such a thing as Welsh Pop?
Tough Pop. The good thing about that was that we were around for many years before the Britpop thing started. Cause of the disappearance (of Richey) we had a good six months off when Britpop was at its peak. We just locked ourselves away and wrote "Everything Must Go". By the time we brought that album out, Britpop had finished. We were glad we were either side of it.
There's a great sense of era when I listen to a Manic Street Preachers album. I hear bits of Yes when I listen to your albums. Were bands like that influential?
Nick used to be into a lot of rock stuff when we were younger. He listened to Rush and Led Zeppelin. I don't know if he actually listened to Yes, but there were a lot of those sorts of bands that he listened to. I remember James when he was young. He was a big Electric Light Orchestra fan. Maybe that's where we get the strings from.
Is the string thing in "My Little Empire" that ELO influence or is there a bit of Beatles in there too?
Every alternative British music band is going to be influenced by The Beatles. We have been inspired from every great English bands from the Rolling Stones to The Who and The Beatles. All those bands from the 60's, they were important bands. Then in the 70's there was Led Zeppelin, The Sex Pistols and The Clash. It's like a chronology of music. In the 80's it dips a bit but it's mostly Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths. It becomes more intellectual and much more emphasis on the lyrics. Then we go through to Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and those sort of bands to where we are now really.
When you were growing up in Wales did you get to see many of these bands?
When we were growing up, we only ever went out twice to see gigs. It was a 12 mile walk home, up hills and mountains in pouring rain. It puts you off. We only ever went out to about three gigs. And it just happened to be to see a band called Echo and the Bunnymen. There's another influence of strings. We really loved their Ocean rain album.
And they are back together again.
Yes unfortunately. It's not what it used to be. That's why I think when we finish we won't come back again. Some people said we should have given up after The Holy Bible but I think we've written some really good songs.