Perhaps one of the more interesting stories in British rock has to do with a band most people probably have never heard of.
The Manic Street Preachers are a band that started off in 1991 with all the attitude of a glam punk band trying to get attention.
Led by singer/guitarist James Dean Bradfield, the band also featured guitarist Richey James, who is noted for his infamous interview with an NME (New Music Express) reporter. The reporter claimed that the band wasn't for real. James proved him and the rest of the British media wrong by taking out a razor blade and carving the words '4 Real' in his arm, leaving a trail of blood as he left in stitches.
The Manic Street Preachers have undergone some rather dramatic ordeals since, most notably the disappearance in 1994 of James. His car was discovered by a bridge notorious for suicides, but no trace of James has ever turned up. To this day, neither the band, James' family nor Scotland Yard officials know of James' whereabouts.
The band narrowed down to a three-piece after James' disappearance to record Everything Must Go (Epic) and is now doing a promotional tour with Oasis and Screaming Trees. The new single off the album is 'A Design For Life'.
Bass player Nicky Wire, another notorious figure in the band, once knocked a cameraman over in concert with his instrument. As a result, I was nervous before my scheduled interview with Wire when he was in town Tuesday for the tour stop at the Nissan Pavilion. But over the phone Wire was a warm, gracious and polite person.
The band's current tour was the topic of conversation. "Well, this is only our second tour," Wire said in a thick Welsh accent. "Our first one was in 1992 and we were in L.A. during the riots. It really was legendary for its crappiness. You know, we were young and confrontational, and I just don't think that it translated to the audience. But now a few years have passed and we have become quite a different band."
Wire paused before talking about the sensitive subject of James. "For three or four months we didn't talk about anything. We took a total of one year off, hoping that something in the investigation would materialize. We were genuinely worried about our mate, and contributed about 75 percent of the words to our last album, The Holy Bible. But Richey has written the words to a few songs that appear on Everything Must Go, and we just decided to carry on. We talked with his family, and we decided to narrow down to a three-piece."
Wire said it was hard to enjoy performing for the first few months after James' disappearance. "It won't ever be the same as it was before," he said. "But that's not to say that we wanted to quit. We knew that things would be different , and it was going to take some getting used to. Musically, we are better now than before. We've focused that much more on our abilities."
Wire talked a bit about the Manic Street Preachers infamous early days when the band was mentioned in the British press daily. "I think that the press in those days didn't really take us seriously at first. We had no musical heritage being from Wales, and they thought we were a joke. We looked different and talked different, and we pretty much just said what we thought at the moment without thinking of he consequences."
He said things are different now. "I really think that we are more mature and considerate than we were before. We are energetic and of course, very working-class , having come from Wales."
Then Wire laughed. "But when it comes down to it, we're just arrogant old fuckers!"
Only a member of the Manic Street Preachers can say that and still seem like the most down-to-earth person you'll ever meet.