Manic Street Preachers – The Early Years

Manic Street Preachers – The Early Years

With the upcoming release of Manic Street Preacher comprehensive singles collection, With Guitars thought it a good idea to focus on The Generation Terrorist of 1992 and Gold Against Soul from 1993. With interviews with Richey Edwards in 1992 and later again in 1993. With a roll call of WG writers, Dave Thomas, Steve Janes and Pete Daley we hope you are in save hands.
MANIC STREET PREACHERS will release the release of their complete singles collection album, entitled ‘National Treasures’; it is set for a November 7 release. The Welsh band have announced details of a very special one-off Christmas show performing all the songs on the album at the O2 in London on Saturday 17thDecember 2011.

But With Guitars hopes to help chart some of the Manic Street Preachers earlier years, with the views, political and musical, and general opinions of charismatic guitarist Richey Edwards, the first chance we get to talk with him is in the late summer of 1992, post that infamous NME interview where Richey cut is arm, in frustration, more of that later.

“James and Sean are like real musicians. When we were little kids, we loved that first Clash LP. Now I can still play it, but they (James and Sean) find listening to it appalling because they are really music-minded; they just find it dissatisfying that they can’t make out certain guitar solos.”

‘Generation Terrorists’ the Manics debut album is almost upon us, packed with singles, ‘Motown Junk’, ‘Love’s Sweet Exile’, ‘Stay Beautiful’ and ‘You Love Us’ singles are all present and correct. While songs like the cover of M*A*S*H theme song, ‘Suicide Is Painless’ is almost among us. So there is no shortage of subject matter…

Manic street Preachers 1992 Interview. Dave Thomas and Steve Janes talk to guitarist Richey Edwards.

How come you actually changed records labels, because you released a couple of singles…

“We’re on an independent label; that’s why every band ends up signing with a major because you just get your records released on time; you get your record in the shops. It’s really annoying when the demand for your record in shops, and people and people can’t buy it. I am quite happy we have signed with Sony.”

So you have recorded for few tracks already for the debut album?

“Yeah, well we did ‘You Love Us’ because there was like, a lot of demand from new fans to get our record, but we were really dissatisfied with it at the time. We were unhappy with the sound of the original record, so we did it again; but ‘Motown Junk’ was really an innocent time for us, we did it in one of the first ‘takes’. It was one of the first times we had been in a studio, so we just churned it down as the ‘B’ side for the single, we didn’t bother doing the song again.”

It’s nice to have the record company to the money into it, so you can get the record sounding the way you want it. The way you like it.

“Especially for me. I attach no importance towards production or sound. I mean I can play the first Clash LP or ‘Appetite For Destruction’ and still love both records; even though one is one of those badly produced of all time and one is like the biggest production job ever.”

So the production job on your album, ‘Generation Terrorist’ is quite slick really, isn’t it?

“James and Sean are like real musicians. When we were little kids, we loved that first Clash LP. Now I can still play it, but they (James and Sean) find listening to it appalling because they are really music-minded; they just find it dissatisfying that they can’t make out certain guitar solos. So we’re all glad we work with s major, they said, we want to use a good producer, this is the studio we want you to use, and we want six months to do it and it was all ok.”

The band are all form Blackwood, South Wales, which is quite an unlikely area for a band such as yourselves to come from, what is the music scene like there?

“There is no scene at all where we come from, it’s just like a dead town; everything that there was to do, even when we were younger, it was all closed down. The cinema closed down when we were about eight. A lot of the football pitches got turned into like parks or housing estates. There’s just nothing to do, it’s just a wasteland.”

Pretty frustrating yeah?

“I think that’s why we did manage to get a deal, because we just saw no importance at all in our hometown. Some bands did like 200 gigs a year, which were all in little pubs. We just spent a year, saving our money and trying to move down to London.”

Record labels still seem really keen to pick up the strong regional identity, like the whole Manchester scene…

“There’s no regional identity in Wales because Wales is dead, who is ever gonna care, no-one is ever going to care about regional identity in Wales.
I find it so patronising that bands in Wales that think it is a big idea to sing, a dead, or dying language of no importance to the world.”

The inspiration for the songs on ‘Generation Terrorists’’ any clues in the liner notes – there’s quotes here from Confucius through to Chuck D. Were they actually inspirational to Manic Street Preachers?

“No, because we were so bored where we are fro. We made a conscious decision not to go down the pub every night, get beer’ed up, and pick a fight with your mates, just like everyone does. We just with becoming stayed in, and played records all day long and read books all day long and wrote songs all day long.
Gradually the music got more and more important with James and Sean and they got really obese with becoming good musicians. Me and Nick carried on and read books and stuff. But when we came to the LP, it just seemed natural to use some of our favourite quotes with the songs; they’re not necessarily specific about the songs. They were just things we really liked.”

The Confucius quote ‘Stay Beautiful’ where was that actually from?

“I think we picked that from Confucius’s favourite Quotes, like we didn’t try to be really pretentious. We did not try and read the Collective Works of Niche and Confucius, we just used some of their quotes/ I mean the Nock Con quote, we picked up on an article on the Rolling Stones, we hadn’t read all his works! You know, we just pick up quotes where ever we find them. We are not very proud. I mean at the moment I am reading Batman, like the Dark Knight Returns – I am not trying to be too artistic.”

You were saying before we started this interview, that you get a lot of press, maybe too much press. The single ‘You Love Us’ it about critics isn’t it?

“Yeah, it was about critics”

“I just got frustrated. I would never want to direct my feelings against someone else. I’d rather do it to myself because I think it’s much more positive way of dealing with your emotions…”

How do you feel about the music critics?

“No problem at all. We’d moved down to London, we had done just a few shows and we started getting an obscene level of press, with about 10-12 gigs, Sounds said, we want to put you on the front cover and it was a really good cover feature and stuff, After that we started getting press in every single publication / A lot of it, at least 50{56f2936c3fbc3de09a84fd52b6c7526482536b9cf55829985307b198e62a23d8} of it was really antagonistic; then we wrote ‘You Love Us’ around February last year. It was like if you have a problem with us, don’t write about us, you’re only writing for us because you know we are more interesting and you can say things about us, which you can’t do with most bands and yet you find us so appalling.

We are everything they want to write about, yet they find it so hard to believe. They expect every band to be brought up on a really low mediocre standards of the 80’s; Where all you offer your audience is a love song, you stand completely still on stage, you just wear baggy jeans, just drink cider and black and it is just, y’know, f**king hell! (And grins)

What was it like to do Top Of The Pops for the first time?

“Yeah, I mean it I was a quite sad because like every Top Of The Pops… like every kid grew up watching it. But I thought it would be all bands playing on different stages, playing one after another. It’s so, like, professional. You never get to meet another band, you all go in one at a time, and there is only one band in the studio at one time.”

Another time, I have to ask you about, is that infamous NME interview…

“I just got frustrated. I would never want to direct my feelings against someone else. I’d rather do it to myself because I think it’s much more positive way of dealing with your emotions. It’s, like, where we come from, we see loads of people who are so bored and pissed off with their lives that they decide that beating their girlfriends up or smashing up their own house or taking the piss out of their parents. You know, I have always said it is a weak thing to do. And I’d much rather do it to myself.”

On that subject, ‘Methadone Pretty’ the song has a quote from William Burrows saying “Junkies the ideal product”…

“You sell it back to the consumer.”

How do you feel about Drugs? Are you strongly anti-drugs or do you say it’s up to the individual?

“No, I don’t feel anything about drugs, we have just met so many people in London that thought it was like every time we meet them – I’m so high, I’m so outrageous, I am such a threat to the government. We saw people bloody glue sniffing, you know, in your school and that wasn’t a big deal, they didn’t think they were being cool. They did it because they were fucking bored with nothing worth living for.”

When you read quotes from William Burrows and Confucius It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that it’s pretentious and then you see quotes from the likes of Chuck D. That sort of balances it out.

“That’s why most bands, if they put a cover version on their LP, they try to find the most obscure record from 1963 that nobody knows about; We did one from the most spasmodic film of all time you know like ‘Time Square Dam dog that is the biggest pop film of all time, It’s so basic and obvious that it really appealed to us. I mean just like little things do when you’re a little baby.”

Traci Lords appears on Generation Terrorist’ on the song ‘Little Baby Nothing ‘how did you get involved with Traci Lords, how did she get involved on ‘Generation Terrorist’?

“I asked our record Company to send all our press and all our records to her, which they did. She called me up, at Blackburn Studios and we were about three months into the recording of the LP. I spoke to her for about 20 minutes, then spoke again a few weeks later. She said, “I can’t promise to do the record, as I have never sang ever before.””

How old is she now?

“I think she is 24 now.”

She was actually famous of being an underage porno film star…

“Yeah, she was America’s biggest hardcore porn star. The vice squad discovered that she’d done 39 of her42 films when she was only 15!”

We heard that it nearly saw an end to the American porn industry…

“Yeah, which is like really good? I thought its brilliant, but like she said, “I’m not sure I want to do it, but I will meet you and see you play live. So the next London show was December (1990), she flew in that afternoon, we all talked then, she later loved the show. She then said £can we do the song for the album, next day?” she recorded her parts in one morning!”

How Does It Feel? Manic Street Preachers – a chart band?

“”I don’t know. It’s just been a really busy year, when we started off, we always said we don’t want to appeal, like we grew up in the 1980’s, There were so many bands that gave themselves such low standards that they would be around for eight years before they were ever going to make a LP. They would play hundred and thousands of gigs. We always said like from the day we moved to London, from getting our first revue; if we don’t get into the charts, you know, like within a year, we’re not saying anything that people are interested in therefore we are pretty meaningless, we will just piss off. ‘Stay Beautiful’ got too number 40 in the (UK) charts, even before the LP came out, which is unusual these days that a single would go Top 40 without an LP.”

It seems to have happened pretty fast, is it two years since the very start of the band?

“People think it is really fast and hyped, but it was still a year to a year and a half, before anyone had ever heard of us. We were just writing, saving our money and begging to get gigs with like any band, and any venue in the whole country. It’s such a difficult place to come from, where we live there is no music scene at all. At least if you’re in a city like Manchester there’s a chance you might get noticed there’s a chance, you get a support slot with someone.”

I have saved the difficult ones to last; do you have a favourite track from the album?

“My favourite track is probably ‘Condemned To Rock n’ Roll’ the last track one LP.”

Any particular reason?

“It was like the last thing we wrote; that song, just as we were due to going to the studios, I always think that the last song we wrote is the one I like.”

We also think you may like…

Part 2 of Manic Street Preachers – The Early Years – Gold against The Soul Interview.

The The – Another Drowning Boy. With Guitars Matt Johnson interview.

Joy Division – Ian Cutis Interview – Those Days

Ramones – Joey Ramone Interview  – ‘Mondo Bizarre’

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Manic Street Preachers – The Early Years