Rockers the Manic Street Preachers are playing an exclusive gig in an intimate venue in the North tomorrow. Liz Lamb poses a few questions to bassist Nicky Wire and singer James Dean Bradfield.
They command an audience of thousands and usually play at major UK arenas but, for one night only, legendary rock group The Manic Street Preachers will perform in a tiny venue for just a few fans.
Tomorrow night, the band will be taking over O2 Academy in Newcastle, where they will be playing in the venue's smaller second hall.
The trio - James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore - have been together for almost 25 years and, in that time, have produced nine highly-acclaimed albums and chalked up a lengthy list of Top 20 singles. They have collected countless awards and gathered a growing army of fans, plus a reputation as one of the most interesting and intense bands of their generation. The free gig, organised by Metro Radio, will give fans the unique chance to catch the band up close and personal immediately before they head out on a 23-date UK tour and then go on to Australia and Japan.
This month sees the Manics back with a new album, Postcards from a Young Man, on September 20.
You are back with the new album. How good is it to be back among the action?
James: "It has been something of a culture shock. You can tell things are going well because people want us and it is not always like that. Everything is really busy and hectic and, for 41-year-old men, we are trying to adjust to that. There is a really good feeling about the record, so it is a very exciting time."
You have also brought in other people. Ian McCulloch (of Echo & The Bunnymen) is appearing on your new album. What was he like?
Nicky: "It was a magical day. It was truly one of the oddest but most beautiful days. James, Sean and Richey's first ever gig was Echo & The Bunnymen in about 1986. So to come full circle and have him in our studio singing one of our songs was just incredible."
James: "He did break open a bottle of Courvoisier. I thought that was kind of impressive to see someone who could still sing like a proper singer and yet still have a nip of brandy every now and again while he was doing it. It was kind of like an old-school-throwback experience you know."
You are a record-breaking band within your own label, aren't you? You are one of the longest serving?
Nicky: "Yes we are, actually, apart from Springsteen and Dylan, who have lasted longer. We have been on the same label and we are with the same band, obviously with the same people and the same manager. We grew up as very working class, loyal, old-fashioned kind of people and it has undoubtedly stayed with us, for better or for worse."
Looking ahead to the gig in Newcastle, it's going to be a stripped-down kind of gig in a smaller venue. What challenges does that bring to a band like yourselves?
Nicky: "Personally, I find them very enjoyable but very scary. I think when we have played stadiums and arenas there is a kind of blindness to the whole mass thing that is less nerve-wracking, but when you are actually facing people close-up and you can see the smiles on their faces it is a different story. If it works it is the most rewarding thing because you can actually physically see the enjoyment. It has worked out really well for us as Newcastle was not on the tour we are doing and now we get to see our fans in the North East."
It is going to be a crowd made up of fans who have gone to that extra effort to win their tickets. What is it like to know you will have your hardcore fans all in the same place?
Nicky: "Intimidating, but great. What has sustained us for so long is always that need to prove to ourselves and to our fans that we have always felt that desire to go the extra mile. Closeup scrutiny is healthy!" THE fans probably know your next move before you do. We are in a day where and age where you can't escape your past with You Tube and similar sites.
How scary is that for you in that sense?
Nicky: "It is not that we are particularly controversial people any more, but thinking what you could get away with back in the day, it is impossible to do that now. I don't mean that in any deviant way, just natural life. You do feel like you are being watched a lot more than you used to be - not in some silly celebrity kind of sense. However, it is harder to be private and guarded I think, but we try our best."
What kind of town is Newcastle for you from your past experiences and memories?
Nicky: "Loads of good times and loads of good shops."
James: "There used to be a pub there called The Strawberry. Both our sound men went to Newcastle Uni and our sound manager, who is from Newcastle, is still with us and he used to take us to that pub called The Strawberry, which was near a studio we were working in. He used to tell us it was the pub in Get Carter but I am not sure if he was just making that up. Everywhere we went, I thought that I was recognising scenes from Get Carter."
Nicky: "I always remember on the This Is My Truth tour we played the Arena there and they gave us a certificate for having the biggest crowd ever - I've still got that at home. Someone will have probably broken that record now, but it was cool at the time."