They’ve described as ‘the most articulate, the most politicised, the most furious and the sexiest white rock band in the entire world’. They are welsh, they are Blackwood’s Manic Street Preachers and they’re on a one way spiral to rock ‘n’ roll notoriety. The Basin Kid braved the onslaught, donned protective gear and held on for dear life!
Interviewing the Manic Street Preachers is not too dissimilar to being savaged by four crazed rottweilers. Their barrage of verbal outbursts are delivered at a speed a West Indian fast bowler would be proud of and their controversial words, sharp as razor blades, rip you to shreds.
This, James Dean Bradfield –vocals and guitar, Richey Edwards – guitar, Nicky Wire – bass and Sean Moore –drums, four angry, young men, average age 22, from the industrial backwater of Blackwood, are infamous for. And let’s face it, so far they haven’t exactly done badly out of being loud, ferocious and outspoken.
In a little under two years these welsh storm-troopers, with vitriolic chainsaw tunes in tow, have bagged a cool, six-figure, 3 year deal with major record label, Columbia Records.
All this for undoubtedly this year’s most hated band. As a certain, moustachioed, paunchy TV pundit would say, “Saint, it’s a funny old game!”
The logic seems lost somewhere doesn’t it? Delve a little closer though and you’ll realise why these Welsh pop punksters are prime candidates for mega-stardom.
The band’s niggling mix of frank honesty and arrogant excess has either had critics proclaiming them as potentially the greatest band in living memory or the biggest overblown hype since the Sex Pistols pulled off the first Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle in punk’s halcyon days circa 1977.
And believe me the Manic Street preachers wouldn’t have it any other way, “We always set out to be hated,” spits Richey in unshakably defiant mood. “Our master plan has always been to shock and provoke reaction, as long as people are talking about us that’s all we care about.”
“We’re rock ‘n’ roll prostitutes“, adds quote-friendly, beanpole bassist Nick in his quietly spoken Welsh brogue. “We want everyone to hear our music and we’ll do anything or use anyone to ensure this happens.”
Whatever you may think of the men with the mouth you can’t deny them credit for working the music business to their advantage. Hype is certainly their middle name.
Call them publicity stunts or spontaneous occurrences but when guitarist Richey has a run in with a razor blade and his forearm in front of a doubting interviewer, leaving him with a scar proclaiming ‘4 Real’ carved neatly on it; an when a near riot ensues at a Cambridge University Ball where the Manics duly smash up the stage in an orgy of destruction it’s odds on they’ll carve up more column inches than Fergie and Di can throw a stick at. And they did!
Add this notorious publicity to their look – a hotch potch of rock ‘n’ roll icons – The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Sex Pistols – blended into one identikit rock star style, their defiant poses, those arrogance filled out bursts, “We’re the greatest band in the world,” and “We’re the only band in Britain who have something to say,” and you soon realise the band have carefully perpetuated everything they’ve ever done for maximum effect.
Whether you believe what they say or not, those who heard the Manic’s “You Love Us” single and listened to the record’s sardonic words would have spotted the bulging tongue-in-cheek, those who didn’t would have needed their eyes testing!
“The song was basically aimed at the music press, who we know hate us and think that everything we say is complete rubbish,” sneers Nick breathing fire, “We believe in all we say, we’re not ashamed to say the things we do, because we know we’re right.”
Destroying the monarchy, ending religion, torching the House of Commons (if given half the chance) is all part of their nihilistic manifesto but where’s the humour though? All those fanatical soap-box rantings and hard-nosed stares are wholly publicity friendly but where’s the frivolity, the blood rush of being young and all that?
“I mean come on, to look like we do you have to have a sense of humour,” jokes Nick incredulously, showing at least one of the Preacher’s possess a humorous side, “it’s the music press, they just can’t grasp what we’re about.”
Judging by the vitriolic anti-Preachers communiques littering the music press letters pages it would seem the backlash has well and truly taken hold.
It’s this continual baiting of The Manic Street Preachers and their well cultivated androgynous look that has led to the band being unfairly dubbed homosexuals. A tag they refute whole heartedly, “It’s all gossip column rubbish, it’s just the papers trying to get back at us,” they say.
Do The Manics think they’re a sexy band then?
“Yeah, I would hope so,” Nick says excitedly, “We want to appeal to teenage girls. We want them to put pictures of us on their walls because we think we’re better than all these supposed hunks holding cans of lager looking stupid, girls seem to worship so much.”
Well somebody seems to find these odd looking Welsh men a turn on anyhow – they’ve even acquired those legendary rock ‘n’ roll accessories – groupies.
“Yeah, we couldn’t believe it at first,” says Nick now enthusing, “there were these girls who had sprayed their t-shirts with the immortal words – “I’m a manic groupie!”
Any planned naughty back stage antics would have to take place before the show, after it the punksome ones are far too busy drinking their immense rider dry to worry about any sordid sexual advances.
A normal rider would normally consist of 50 cans of lager plus some bottles of spirits and whisky and definitely no food. An account with a reputable dry-cleaners and an aversion to Alka-Seltzer would also seem essential me thinks!
A recent performance with American sleaze rock combo The Throbs at The Marquee prompted one young buck to quip that the MSPs were the worst band he had seen since the American glam rock giants Hanoi Rocks. “A compliment”, reckons Nick!
There were even plans – that fell through at the last minute – for The Manic Street Preachers to support militant black rock band Living Colour, a prospect the band would have relished.
“It would have been great to tour with a band that share our same ideals plus I think they’ve made some really excellent music,” explains Richey.
Talking to a band who could also be named ‘Rent-A-Mouth’ is a quote hungry hack’s dream, and as the Preachers helpfully point out, “Interviews with us always read ten times more interestingly than all the others, which seem boring in comparison,” true, true.
The Manic Street Preachers bandwagon rolls on relentlessly then. The Preachers are unashamedly doing for themselves, taking the music business for as much as they can get and if they can turn people on to their adamant way of thinking then the band’s blueprint for success is working like a dream.
On the subject of their Welsh homeland they as usual unequivocally blunt, “Wales is like a museum,” rants Richey, “everything is closed down, it’s like walking through a graveyard. People have this clichéd image of Wales as Max Boyce, stove hats, harps, sheep and leeks and (as we all know) it’s just not true.
Before all us Welsh people descend into a depressive stupor at their gloomy vision, just hold on a minute, a chink in their armour and a glimpse of humanity is unexpectedly exposed when quizzed on where would they be without their Welsh homeland and their loving mums.
“Our parents have been amazingly supportive but you can only have so much understanding when you receive £800 phone bills”, points out Nick, “that’s why we decided to move to London, not that we dislike Wales, it’s just living in Wales is impractical.
“We owe a lot to where we come from. It’s been our source of inspiration for the last few years. Wales have made us what we are.”
So it’s all our fault is it? Charming!