After releasing their Mondeo Man-pleasing greatest hits package last year, the Manic Street Preachers are bringing out a rarities CD aimed at their army of die-hard devotees. Lipstick Traces (A Secret History Of The Manic Street Preachers), out July 14, boasts B-sides, cover versions and previously unreleased nuggets. Nicky Wire talks to Simon Price about a new studio album, appearing in comic books, and the last time the ever played as a four-piece.
Where does the title come from?
Lipstick Traces' by Greil Marcus was one of our favourite books. It's about what we're force-fed these days and told to like, and compares 13th century monks to John Lydon. We always loved pop theory. It kind of fits the album. Its subtitle 'A Secret History' refers to Donna Tartt. Two great works of literature in one title!
Why release this compilation now?
Because I've been bugging everyone! I've been a pain in the arse. We're at the age now where we don't really want to disappear for three years. I'd rather be giving people something all of the time. And we wanted to redress the balance a bit, because the Greatest Hits was the corporate whore, make lots of money album, and this is more the 'Hatful Of Hollow', the home tape kind of thing.
How did you choose the tracklisting?
Well, I worked out that we have something like 98 B-sides! So we did a fan survey over one weekend, and 5,000 people voted for their favourites. It's remarkable because 15 out of the 20 tracks we chose matched the fan's choice. There were a few discrepancies: 'Patrick Bateman' [flipside to 'La Tristesse Durera'] was up for debate. But when we listened to it, it was so unbelievably Metallica. James' guitar solo is seven and a half minutes long!
Was there a lot of debate and deliberation amongst yourselves?
We have been going in everyday and listening to old stuff. I think 10 or 12 were pretty categoric anyway. And 'Judge Yourself' [previously unreleased, originally intended for the Judge Dredd soundtrack] was the last time we worked together as a foursome.
Why did it never come out?
Because Richey disappeared! We literally recorded it at the last session we ever did, along with a rough cut for 'No Surface All Feeling', 'Further Away' [both 'Everything Must Go' tracks] and a few other little things in early 95.
How did you get involved with 'Judge Dredd'? Richey's obsession with comics?
Yeah. I was looking back at Richey's lyric - I've got it in a huge folder of his 'Judge Dredd' stuff - and there's loads of references to the film in it. I think he actually won a competition once, in 2000AD. I was actually portrayed in it my self, which Richey was really jealous of! Not in a nasty way or anything. I've still got it on my wall. It's ironic that he was the one which cared about comics, and I got featured!
What's 'Judge Yourself' like musically?
Again, its Richey's template: automated, aggressive... which, musically, is where he wanted us to go. Not that he had a clue musically, of course! Sean did a techno version of it at the time. We've incorporated bits of that into the new mix. We never actually ended up submitting it to the soundtrack. But then Richey disappeared, and it was one of the many things left unfinished. We've got loads of them
Any memories of the earliest track on the collection, 'Strip It Down'?
It's brilliant, because Richey's guitar is so hilarious... Yes, he is actually playing! It's live at the Bath Mole. When we were mixing it for this CD, we isolated his guitar part, and there was tears and fits of laughter!
What is a 'ceremony rape machine', exactly [lyric from 'We Her Majesty's Prisoners']
Ha! The original title was 'Ceremony Rape Machine', but Heavenly kind of censored it. Funny, coming from an indie record label... It was Richey's title, and it was our first stab at getting to grips with subjects like the British establishment and monarchy.
Tell me about the other unreleased song, 'Forever Delayed'.
It's quite a modern sounding record for us. I wanted it to be the single for the Greatest Hits CD, but there were problems record company wise. It's inspired by Aguirre, Wrath of God, Werner Herzog's film about being trapped in the jungle. We're trapped in our history, a recurring theme for us, we can't escape it.
Were cover versions always part of the Manics plan, or just something you couldn't resist?
Something like 'It's So Easy', at the start was a statement, and an important part of our set. We really got sneered at, but if you look at MTV2 now, all you see is Guns N' Roses. Back then, you could get locked up in the Tower of London for covering Guns N' Roses, but in the valleys, it was compulsory!
Some of the covers - such as Happy Mondays' 'Wrote For Luck' - seemed surprising.
That was a really important one. We made it in to a rock song. It was a statement of the working class, white trash thing. It was meant to be complimentary; it wasn't taking the piss. I remember Shaun Ryder writing in his Daily Sport column that he enjoyed it.
The Nirvana cover here is 'Been A Son', but you always used to do 'Pennyroyal Tea'
James did it for some anniversary of Kurt's deaths. It's another unreleased track, a nice little curio. Much as I loved doing 'Pennyroyal Tea' live, we never caught it on tape. It's always really hard doing a Nirvana cover version, but at the time with Richey in hospital and the rest of it, it seemed... justified.
We hear you're in the studio at the moment.
Yeah, we're busying ourselves. We're mucking about in Cardiff now, and we're going to America later in the year. We're making a ten-track album. Elegaic pop. Every one a killer. Melody is the key on this one.