Manic Street Preachers – The Early Yeats – ‘Gold Against The Soul’ Interview

Manic Street Preachers – The Early Yeats – ‘Gold Against The Soul’ Interview

Gold_Against_The_Soul_coverAlcoholics, manic depressives or the Sex Pistols of today’s generation? The Manic Street Preachers have had it all normally from the so called national music press. Pete Daley covers life before and after Generation Terrorists; to reach the delicious second album, Gold Against The Soul’.

Manic Street Preachers_main_promo_1aAn alleges ‘overnight sensation’ – the Manics have worked long and hard to achieve the status of where they are in today’s music scene. But where are they? A new album ‘Gold Against The Soul’ that to me is commercial, but to others, the best the Manics have done to date. They seem to be still pushing for that message that never seems to be heard.

Perhaps they just don’t want to be heard, or the millions of fans world-wide realise, that once that ‘message’ is recorded, received and responded to, then the Manics will fade into oblivion. Never to be heard of again. Return to that living hell they call South Wales. It’s plain to see that a group that rejected doing R ‘n’ B covers to establish themselves in their hometown, as well as the indie scene of Manchester and adopting to opt for the ‘pay to play’ policy of some of the London clubs – just to establish themselves – have the commitment to speak about their beliefs. Pete Daley speaks to Manics guitarist Richey Edwards.

You were all kids together at school. Has that influenced The Manic Street Preachers music at all?

"I think it’s easy for us as individuals because we have known each other since we were four or five. We basically are only interested in our own opinions. We judge ourselves very critically, and as long as we end up with a record that we like, we’re not concerned with how people judge it, or what criticisms they attach to it."

You said that you could well split up if you had got that a message across in your first album. You obviously didn’t.

"Yeah that’s definitely true. I don’t think we made enough of an important statement musically or lyrically with our first album. The point of that statement was, when a band can reach millions and millions of people, there’s no point in carrying on. The thing was we wanted our first album to like, outsell Michael Jackson. It was an important thing for us to say at the time. To divorce ourselves from the very indie mentality which we didn’t feel part of."

You are classed as a punk and a rock band. But you missed out on the punk era, and missed you rock stars by about twenty years.

"The thing is, we were listening almost exclusively to contemporary music. We thought that was being too elitist, liking music that nobody else had heard of. One day, we just stopped and went – if we hear a record that we like, we’re just either gonna buy it, or play it. So, we’ll go and buy the Stones or whatever and not feel any guilt. There’s a lot of guilt attached to buying old records. I mean, you can go and buy a Robert Johnson CD and everyone thinks it’s cool. But you go and buy The Stones and people think it’s dated, but there’s not much difference to me. As long as a record’s got humanity and soul, that’s all I’m interested in."

You were quoted as saying that where you lived, was virtually a hell hole.

"It was a massive hell hole because there were no clubs to go to, good bands very rarely came and played, and anything you did was basically hard work. To hear a new record was a struggle. You had to find a record shop in Cardiff or Bristol that would stock it. Every single book you had to fight over to get from the library because they would just put up nonsense like Barbara Cartland, very rarely there was a good book in. Information wasn’t that accessible, you just had to pick your targets."Manic_Street_Preacher_showcase

Is that why you read so much, because you had to fight for what you got?

"Yeah, and if you didn’t read, you’d just end up glue sniffing down the park or whatever. Which is something we chose what we didn’t want to do? Or you just ended up in a slob mentality of just going down the pub, coming back, watching T.V, having a curry and falling asleep on the settee. Which we’ve all done plenty of times, but, there were always times when we would just want to stay in and read Alan Sillitoe or watch junk T.V – anything."

It must have had some effect on what you wrote about in your songs?

"Massively. The whole thing at the time was like, 1980’s Red Wedge thing. Which was all these bands lending themselves to a failing political party, which we didn’t find any worth in, because it was just a watered down version of Party Politics. Which was just uninteresting, and reading Yung and Niche was much more important. Of much more valid statements instead of Neil Kinnock selling the Labour Party out."

The name ‘Manic Street Preachers’ seems to bear relevance now.

"None of us seem to remember how we got our name. Because we’ve known each other so long, James was always babbling on about this stupid name that he’d thought up when we were about fourteen. When we had a game of football, we’d always want to call ourselves that, and it just faded into the recesses of our minds. I think it’s a good name. Everybody remembers it, which I think is important."

"We felt that we were getting there. I think that it’s important that bands never get satisfied – and we realised it’s a better position to be in than we were six months before, and that we were in a position to make an LP like we wanted – which was good – that was the most important thing."

How many gigs did you do in Wales before you moved to London

"We did a couple. It was very Spartan over a long period of time. We did a tiny little gig in our home town, which was like very troublesome, because bands had never played there before, so it caused too much of a reaction – we can never go back there. The piano got smashed up and stuff, the whole place was wrecked. Not because of anything we were doing, just that it was a chance for people to get really loud and cause trouble because there was no bouncers or security. It was like they almost expected it to be like a cubs gathering, and it wasn’t. Then we did a gig in Cardiff, a couple of gigs in Swansea, and a couple in Newport. But it was just non-stop, non-reaction. People either expect you to do the R ‘n’ B covers all night, or they’re not interested in what you do – unless you are an American band."

Manic Street Preachers-1993_promo_4b

There doesn’t seem to be a music scene in Wales.

"It’s just non-existent. There’s just nothing there. Every now and again, people try and start one – and nobody cares."

It’s at a stage where if anyone says "name a Welsh band or artist" all they come up with is Tom Jones.

"All the time we get asked, especially when we go abroad – "You come from Wales? Do you like Tom Jones? Are you a friend of Tom Jones?" That is all it’s known for.

Wales is a very depressed country. There’s just nothing left anymore, everything has closed down. In some places in the North, or in Scotland, people try and do something for themselves. There are thriving music scenes. In Wales, people are past caring. They are just not interested in doing anything. Just getting their giro, and going out and getting drunk. Which is completely understandable, because, there just doesn’t seem a chance of anything changing. Even when we were teenagers, there were a few people who tried to start a band, but nobody would give you a gig unless you did R ‘n’ B covers. You just loose heart. When we were at school, there were so many people who had aspirations to doing something, but by the time they left, they ended up with nothing left. They’re only interested in having enough money to go down the pub, or take drugs."

"Yeah, people have a vision of us being elitist, but we have never turned down an interview – no matter how tired we are – whether we’ve just come off a bus or whatever. Maybe we’ll ask to do it in an hour’s time, but we never think we are too big to do something – even when ‘Motown Junk’ came out, and we got front covers in the mainstream press – we would still do any fanzine that would want to do us."

Manic_Street_Preachers_promo_3a

You then moved to London and started gigging. But, the venues where you played, you had to pay to play.

“It’s like a really expensive way of doing things. I think that’s why so many provincial bands only last one or two gigs in London, and then go back home and split up and never do anything again. We just had a lot of self belief, and we kept going back until we got noticed.”

After a few gigs in London, you got media hype. Record companies were sniffing around, and fans just latched onto you.

"People seem to think that we appeared out of nowhere. This ‘overnight sensation’. But, we did two years of hard work. Trying to get gigs, writing to people and getting everything organised.

I think, because we had so long to formulate our ideas, they were very very well thought out, and that’s why a lot of people understood us straight away."

Could the initial success of The Manic Street Preachers be that people want a rebellion in music, and because there was just nobody else around that offered that?

"And the fact that we really believed that music could have soul and use electric guitars. When we started, Manchester was just ‘everything’ and there seemed no alternative to it."

Do you feel that you were achieving what you set out to achieve?

"We felt that we were getting there. I think that it’s important that bands never get satisfied – and we realised it’s a better position to be in than we were six months before, and that we were in a position to make an LP like we wanted – which was good – that was the most important thing."

Interviews – small or large – is that the philosophy behind the band?

"Yeah, people have a vision of us being elitist, but we have never turned down an interview – no matter how tired we are – whether we’ve just come off a bus or whatever. Maybe we’ll ask to do it in an hour’s time, but we never think we are too big to do something – even when ‘Motown Junk’ came out, and we got front covers in the mainstream press – we would still do any fanzine that would want to do us."

‘Generation Terrorists’ generated interest in the USA. How’s that gone?

"America hasn’t gone brilliantly because we’ve only actually done six gigs over there – it’s like expecting to do well in Britain and only playing in London and Glasgow. So, I think we’re gonna go back at the end of this year, and hopefully go there for a long, long, tour."

How did it go?

"It was just small club gigs which were quite good. But obviously, six gigs isn’t enough to sell a lot of records."

What was the publicity like? Was it like the British press where as soon as they build you up, they started to shoot you back down again?

"It’s a lot different over there. It’s mainly like a monthly press. They just write about you like every band that comes from Britain. They are very hyped British bands, and everyone gets treated the same. I think that’s why we want to go there and do it as a live band – because I think it’s the only way you can do that country."

Why did you go back to producer Dave Aringa for your new album, ‘Gold against The Soul’?

"We finished work in November and then just went straight into a demo studio and we came out about 4 weeks later with the album all finished. We were all happy with all the songs, we knew what they wanted to sound like, so we didn’t want to use a mainstream producer because they’ve got their own sound and vision of what a record should be like. So we just phoned Dave up and sais "Look, come down, let’s see how this works out", and everyone loved what we were doing, so we decided to stay with him."

Could it be that you have had every argument that any band could ever have – when you were kids back in Wales?

"Yeah, exactly. Most bands are like really insecure with each other because they’ve only known each other for a few weeks, and they’ve got together through music paper ads. We’ve done all ours through growing up – in the privacy of our own home – and musically in the public eye, so we’re not like that at all."

Some interviews are just there gunning for the Manics, and the recent one in Melody Maker almost confirmed that the Manics are alcoholics and manic depressives – that doesn’t do you any favours…

"Yeah I know – you can’t avoid the truth. I think most of our fans will understand what we are trying to say in that interview."

The new album ‘Gold Against the Soul’ seems to be a return to the ‘Heavenly Singles’…

"We had ten songs which we worked out clearly in our heads – and it just needed a more like authentic band feel."

It’s been described as commercial…

"I don’t think so. I think it’s quite removed from any idea of commercial. Commercial to me at the moment means a very techno based back beat – completely missing dance culture – and I think the sort of music we’re making is very un-commercial, because there’s hardly any records like that in the charts."

What about the Manics belief that you need hypocrisy in your life to survive.

"I think everybody can have specific values and specific ideals – but you still need hypocrisy in your life to survive. That comes across in Generation…"

Yeah I think so. Especially with all these phrases on the sleeve, it also made people read them and think. Do you think that was effective?

"I don’t know if it was effective. Some people find it really pretentious, but at the end of the day, if one person goes away and reads Philip Larkin or whoever – I think it’s good."

Manic-Street-Preachers-1993_promo_2Is it that you want to educate your fans?

"I think you’ve got to make music that they like – maybe at the end of the day they find a book that they feel is really brilliant. I think it’s better than them sticking a picture of you on the wall."

Have you got your ultimate message across yet?

"I think you’ve just got to keep working at it. We’re not a band that keeps asking for time off to go and sit at home – we just want to work as much as we can. That’s why we don’t turn down interviews."

People claim that with this album the Manics still haven’t done their best work yet…

"It was written very quickly – from November to December – and we were just really pleased about it. We just went into a demo songs and came out 4 weeks later with 3/4 of the album done – they are really brilliant songs. We just believe in working hard."

People could say the Manics did it just to let everyone know they’re still around…

"I think it would be really easy for us to say to Sony "We’re having trouble writing songs – send us to the Bahamas – and we’ll have an LP out in about two years", and they would have done it, which is all a record company is interested in – in making sure our next record is good. We just didn’t see the point in being excessive."

You have that type of scope on your label?

"People think that on an indie label, you’ve got freedom – but on a major, you’ve got a lot more – because they’ve got money to do what they want."

That just depends on the band.

"It does depend if the band’s intelligent enough to want to do it. I think that if you’re on a major label and you just let them dictate you – you’re just silly."

People don’t see you as an intellectual band.

"I suppose not – they always judge working class bands as being yobs and stuff."

 

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Manic Street Preachers – The Early Yeats – ‘Gold Against The Soul’ Interview