1.Thank you so much for having answered all of my Questionnaires
over the past few years and for now agreeing to be interviewed in person,
it really means a lot to me! I thought I would begin by asking you a
question about Postcards From A Young Man, to see if as The last
band standing from your era, you have been pleased with how the
record has faired critically and commercially?
I think critically, we were almost overwhelmed, because with Journal
For Plague Lovers, I think we thought we would get some good reviews,
just because of the lyrics as much as anything. With this album being
so overtly melodic and commercial (laughing), we werent expecting
such good press, so we were really thrilled with that to be honest!
You know, mass communication was the idea, but we never conned ourselves
that it was going to be 1996 all over again, but compared to everyone
else on their 10th album, I think weve done pretty well.
2.Regarding your statement, One last shot at mass communication,
in 1996 both A Design For Life and Everything Must Go were your breakthrough
single and album respectively. But what for you have been some of the
other great breakthrough singles and albums of all-time?
I think one that really sticks out for me bizarrely
is probably Upside Down by The Jesus And Mary Chain, followed by Psychocandy.
I mean, theres obviously been bigger ones and better ones, but
as a moment in my youth (pausing), I mean you could almost say Just
Like Honey was the lead-off single, but Upside Down was the one, just
because it was pure feedback and noise. That tune does it for me (smiling)!
3.Which stage of creativity do you most enjoy nowadays writing,
recording or mixing and studio-wise, was it easier in the groups
early years when composing music, as you were all still learning about
production and so had less choices of how a track could sound?
Hmm, I think the initial idea is always when a lyric turns into
a piece of music between the three of us, however it is. Whether its
me writing both, or James writing both, or Sean adding something, I
think that is always (pausing), recording is sometimes wonderful and
sometimes fraught. Mixing, before Chris Lord-Alge, was a nightmare
hes made it much more enjoyable on the mix front. So, I think
weve become quicker in the studio, but I know what you mean about
composing music in the bands early years, there was a limited
palette back in the day, but then again, it was harder for me to reach
that limited palette (laughs heartily)! But yeah, I think were
much more capable these days and were very blunt with each other
to an outsider it can seem, not horrible, but were just
incredibly, If its shit, its shit, sort of thing.
Theres no ego left.
4.As you love the English Language (with beautiful + forever being
some of the words of which you are fondest) and having appeared at the
Laugharne Weekend in April, do you think that song lyrics are often
overlooked by the literary world?
Yeah, I think they are, and I remember that from your Questionnaire.
I remember just thinking that the key is, is that Im really happy
personally, in the realms of being seen as a rock / pop lyricist
Ive yet to really spread my wings. I think Bob Dylan obviously
has been accepted on a different level, as has Morrissey, but Im
quite happy to be in the realm of music and words being a joint force.
5.And in reference to Blueprint For Exile, do you have a gut feeling
when a subject should be a poem rather than a lyric + what are some
of your favourite poems, including Patricks?
I think I do have a gut feeling when a subject should be a poem
rather than a lyric, yeah. I do believe in self-censorship and I never
complain about being censored, so I think poetry is much more myself
and theres a certain kind of language that just speaks better
in rock music. Thats why I admire Richey so much, because he thought,
Fuck it, the word is king and do what you can with that (laughing)!
But, I cant do it like that. In terms of some of my favourite
poems, I do admire Patrick as a poet obviously, going back to There
is eloquence in screaming being on Generation Terrorists you know?
I think the collection that had the biggest influence on me though,
was High Windows by Philip Larkin the whole book really was particularly
majestic at the age of 14. And, The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, because
I did it for was it O Level or A Level (thinking)? I cant quite
remember, but it was much easier to understand when you had someone
explaining it to you. Tony Harrison also had a huge impact on me and
6.Did playing the Glasgow King Tuts Wah Wah Hut show in February
bring back a lot of memories for you all, and which other venues are
you attached to?
It did bring back a lot of memories, but unfortunately, it didnt
make me remember fucking Strip It Down, which I played worse than I
did when we played there 20 years ago (laughs heartily)! After practising
it, I totally fucking forgot the first verse! But yeah, it was a really
good thing to do! Its much more nerve-wracking playing those small
venues, because when its Arenas and stuff like that, youre
just looking at a mass and its much less angst-ridden in many
ways. So, you know, I dont think well do a tour of tiny
venues (big smile)!
7.What has been the most memorable crowd that youve ever performed
in front of, and do you have any favourite funny onstage moments?
With memorable crowds, there are just too many to say. I could
pick out the first time we went to Japan in particular, because everyone
told us that the fans were going to be really reserved its
that cliché but they were just the most barmy and fucking
mental crowd! We did 5 nights there and I remember getting off the plane,
because all of a sudden, there was just loads of fans there (pausing),
there were probably 600 - 700 fans! Me and Martin, our Manager, I remember
actually looking behind us and going, Is there someone famous
coming off the plane (laughing)? And then we realised that they
were waiting for us (big smile)! So that, and obviously the Millennium
Stadium springs to mind. Theres been plenty of funny onstage moments,
mostly to do with me and Richey I guess, but there is the well-told
one that is perfectly true, about Richey falling asleep on James
foot during Life Becoming A Landslide at The Garden Party in Belgium
8.Youre renowned for your scissor-kick jumps and James for spinning
around on one leg, but are there any performers who throw shapes
/ iconic stage moves that standout for you?
Oh yeah, the Jim Morrison bend, where he sort of contorted his
body as well (pausing), I mean looking back at Paul Simonon, he actually
very rarely did anything like that really, he was just immaculately
cool same as Sid compared to other musicians. But, I think
all forms really, from the sulky / surly rock-solid Ian McCulloch, I
am a man of mystery sort of thing, to more energetic performers
and for me, movement makes me play better, the whole flow of
9.Prior to touring, you often rehearse lesser-played songs from your
back catalogue purely for fun. But are there any Manics tracks that
youve never played live and would like to + which track do you
most enjoy performing?
Are there any Manics tracks that weve never played live
that I would like to (thinking)? You could probably tell me (big smile)!
Condemned To Rock N Roll I know we did the first
half of it once before Motown Junk, but I would love to play that! Ive
also got a soft spot for So Dead I dont know if weve
ever done that? Probably not. I wouldnt mind having a crack at
(thinking), maybe Im Not Working, just to see how much we could
bore the audience (laughs heartily)! I particularly enjoy playing Golden
Platitudes, Ive got to say, and its become a hell of a moment
live you know? I think obviously something like Motown Junk, weve
probably played more than any other song ever that and Motorcycle
and still, especially when you go to different countries, you
do think that theres at least 60 - 70% of the audience who have
probably never seen us live before, so its almost like you have
to prove yourself again.
10.Although as a band you never jam, you mentioned that The Descent
(Pages 1 & 2) was written on the Tour Bus whilst travelling across
the USA. But have you ever written any other songs on the Tour Bus or
in unusual places?
Yeah, No Surface was a bit of a Tour Bus song and The Everlasting
as well. Not all of No Surface, but the genesis of it was and I remember
with The Everlasting, we were driving back from Newcastle or
from Glasgow to Newcastle and I remember James playing it to
me on the Tour Bus. I dont know if it was ever as good as when
he played it to me that day to be honest (wistfully), it was just acoustic,
sprightly and fantastic! But there you go.
11.Of all your songs to date, which lyric has been the easiest to
write, and which one has been the most difficult?
Ooh, Im trying to think (long pause + thinking)
Platitudes was very much stream-of-consciousness, but I dont know,
Im going to have to have a think about that.
12.Did you enjoy working with Dame Shirley Bassey, and is there anybody
else that you would like to write a song for in the future or
perhaps a song about a person / topic that youve never written
With Dame Shirley Bassey, from start to finish, it was just a
really effortless thing. Me and James just thought, This is something
that we cant turn down. I had a few lyrics, then the title
came and I gave James the lyric and he wrote the tune in a day, he did
the demo and I think her voice on it is fucking extraordinary
its obviously the best track on her album (big smile)! It could
be a Manics song, and I think thats the beauty of it. James
demo is on our official website and theres some different lyrics
on there, some darker ones, but I was quite happy to change them. Id
love to write a song for Morrissey or Gruff maybe, from the Furrys
not that hes ever short of songs though, I mean, hes
a complete genius!
13.A lot of fans think that the God Save The Manics EP + Lifeblood
and SATT eras, boast some of your very best flip-sides. So, combined
with upcoming PFAYM b-sides as well, will there ever be a follow-up
to Lipstick Traces along with more previously unreleased rarities?
I think there will be another Greatest Hits, because I think Forever
Delayed was slightly shabby it was just the biggest hits, in
sales figures at least. Taking into account what weve released
since and what was left off, it would probably be 36 tracks now instead
of 20. So maybe therell be a companion piece to go with that,
rather than another b-sides / rarities collection.
14.Do you have a favourite b-sides era / cover version, and what
would be your Top 5 MSP b-sides list?
Im not sure about a favourite b-sides era / cover version
really, but I do absolutely love Donkeys and Comfort Comes, and I think
Im Leaving You For Solitude which Sean wrote the music
for is absolutely beautiful and could have snuck on the album.
I definitely think Welcome To The Dead Zone should have been on Send
Away The Tigers instead of Underdogs, I think its great and Sean
wrote the music for that as well! To complete my Top 5 MSP b-sides
list, it would obviously be Prologue To History at the top, its
the best one lyrically and it should have been on This Is My Truth instead
of Be Natural or something. Ive got a soft spot for Are Mothers
Saints as well, but Im glad that we lived in the era where b-sides
were still seen as part of the band, because its not happening
*Nickys Top 5 MSP b-sides list in full: Prologue To
History, Donkeys, Comfort Comes, Im Leaving You For Solitude,
Welcome To The Dead Zone*
15.As youve consistently put out high quality b-sides (with those
recorded for the last single release from each album usually bridging
the gap between LPs), who do you think will also be remembered as some
of the best b-side bands?
I think The Smiths did have some really good b-sides, some of
them even turned up on albums I think Cemetery Gates and Well
I Wonder might have been b-sides and were then put on an album. So yeah,
definitely The Smiths. Obviously The Clash, they had some good b-sides,
but I think we might be up there. I think Oasis have got some decent
b-sides from their early albums as well. I think Suede fizzled out,
because the b-sides around the time of the first two albums are brilliant,
but once you get past Bernard leaving, the albums are still good but
the b-sides tail off.
16.Which songs do you feel best capture both the spirit of rock n
roll and the invincibility of youth, e.g. The Undertones Teenage
Im thinking of school discos (smiling), stuff like She Sells
Sanctuary by The Cult and God Save The Queen by the Pistols, because
it does make you feel the ultimate form of rebellion really. And obviously
something like Welcome To The Jungle, because its a hard rock
song that made you feel like you could do something!
17.And as a group that has always seen the importance of having a
strong image, who for you, have been some of the sharpest dressed bands
and artists over the past 50 years + are there any acts who you feel
offer the complete package, form music to lyrics to attitude, to artwork
to videos to the way they present themselves?
I think for me and I think its because of the reissue
but I really love the way early Dexys looked and Dont Stand
Me Down Dexys, the way they changed their image (pausing), Im
going through a Dexys phase as well, so Id definitely have them.
Vic Godard actually, he used to look fucking amazing! Bowie, The Velvet
Underground John Cale and Lou Reed were at their peak Id
say, they looked amazing as well and obviously a bit of Hanoi
Rocks. But, I think the Pistols offered the complete package and its
the one band you really cant copy, because you can never get the
guitar sound, you can never get the vocal sound and you can never get
the rage I dont think weve ever got close.
*Nickys favourite MSP visuals
Album Artwork Know Your Enemy and Journal For Plague Lovers
Single Artwork You Love Us (Heavenly)
Videos A Design For Life, Tolerate, You Love Us, Motorcycle Emptiness,
Let Robeson Sing and Kevin Carter
Look The Holy Bible
T-shirt Whos Responsible? You Fucking Are*
18.Continuing with the theme of visual stimulation, what do you think
of The Arts Councils funding being cut, and do you have a cherished
painting, play, exhibition or museum?
Well, I think well be mourning this for a long time, and
Nick Clegg will be remembered as the man who took his party into political
oblivion, from which they may well never recover, because hes
given a veneer of respectability to an obviously Thatcherite right-wing
government you know? Hes made them seem cuddly and fine, and that
just spills over into all forms of cuts. We all know there has to be
a certain element of cuts, but theres a better way of doing it
and its a pity more people didnt oppose it. As for a cherished
museum of mine, its only small, but theres a little museum
in Tenby which has a lot of work by Augustus John and Graham Sutherland.
Its in one of the most amazing locations, looking out to the sea
it only has a small collection, but its very West Wales
centred, which is fantastic!
19.Now that youre in your 40s, who are your heroes?
I think Ive gone past it really, and I think my main heroes
now, are the people who I just know as friends and family, rather than
20.I read that you use Fender Jazz, Gibson Thunderbird, Italia Maranello
and Rickenbacker basses, but what are some of your all-time favourite
(Big smile) Derek Forbes has written a lot actually, early Simple
Minds, The American and stuff like that stuff that I would love
to emulate, but probably would never be able to reach. Obviously, Paul
Simonon was a hero growing up in more ways than one, in terms of his
style and his sound, but Derek Forbes is very underrated as a bass player.
21.As youve called Postcards From A Young Man A tribute
to the album and as you adore record shops, whats the most
expensive album that youve ever bought, the best bargain youve
ever found and have you ever discovered a group on a compilation that
went onto become one of your great loves?
Jesus Christ (excitedly), thats a good question (big smile)!
I think the most expensive album would be Dylan Thomas reading his poetry,
some sort of first edition on vinyl, that was pretty pricey!
*I say to Nicky that like many MSP Fans, Ive spent A LOT of money
on Manics collectibles and rarities over the years*
(big smile) Ive just managed to re-buy all of my McCarthy
12s on vinyl, from this little shop in Newport Market they
managed to get all of them for me which was really nice, they helped
me out! Vinyls not as expensive as it used to be actually now,
you can get some good bargains out there, but I cant think of
anything really genius that Ive got over the years
like to get my copy of Therese by The Bodines again on 7. As for
discovering groups on compilations, probably on C86 if you count that,
definitely! McCarthy - Celestial City was on there, The Wolfhounds and
obviously Velocity Girl was on there, which is still my favourite Primal
Scream song ever! Actually, going back to your question about a favourite
cover version of ours, that one is charming.
22.After releasing 10 long players and twinned with your mythology,
you said that the Manic Street Preachers will be up there with
the Gods. But which artists / bands do you feel put out a vital
tenth record + are there any who you think can still attract a mass
audience beyond their core fanbase, or continue to have an enduring
crossover appeal after 10 albums?
We did some research and nearly 10 albums in, as a rule, theres
not much. Most bands and I think these are each of their tenth
albums apart from The Stones Exile On Main Street, Station
To Station by Bowie and Pump by Aerosmith, the cupboard was pretty bare.
So, there werent many good ones from bands who had got to 10,
I have to say. As for bands who continue to have an enduring crossover
appeal after 10 albums, The Beatles and The Stones would have to be
23.Do you ever stop to think about just how special it is that youve
been a part of two great songwriting partnerships from collaborating
with Richey on lyrics, to providing James with words to put music to
and what do you consider to be some of the great songwriting
partnerships in the history of popular music?
I do think about that, yeah, and I think ours are particularly
(pausing), the whole thing with Richey disappearing makes it almost
seem like a separate thing, just because of The Holy Bible and some
people forget that we wrote La Tristesse and Motorcycle between us
some of our best ever songs we wrote together! Even Faster is a fair
bit of mine, my title and 25% of the lyric, not that I want any credit,
but we also wrote Roses In The Hospital theres tons of
stuff where we just sat down together. So, thats the biggest thing
we miss really (wistfully). Im sure he would have fucking added
some darkness to something like A Design For Life (laughing). Some of
the great songwriting partnerships in the history of popular music are
obviously your classic Strummer and Jones, Jagger and Richards, Lennon
and McCartney. But, Im also going to say the Reid brothers, because
Im going through a bit of a Mary Chain phase at the moment
its just the simplicity of them you know?
24.As you still proudly display the Welsh Flag onstage, I thought
it would only be fitting to ask you a question about Welsh Pride, so,
what are some of your most treasured things about Wales?
There are a lot things, and without being overly patriotic I guess,
theres obviously the place I live, my family and friends, the
lack of ego definitely you cant walk the streets of Newport
pretending youre a huge rock star the beaches, the air,
Kyffin Williams, Joe Calzaghe, West Wales, Tenby, the views and fish
n chips (big smile)!
25.Lastly, R*E*P*E*A*Ts Editor, Rosey, was unable to be here
today unfortunately, but hes currently working on a book about
the history of the fanzine / webzine and asked me if I could ask you
what you think about the publication celebrating its 16th Anniversary?
I wouldnt be chatting to you if I didnt respect R*E*P*E*A*T.
I mean, I have had every draft of your Questionnaire (laughs heartily),
but everytime Ive gone to fill it in, Ive thought, This
is just going to be easier if I talk (laughs heartily again)!
But, I admire anyone whos hung in there that long and its
nice that theres still enthusiasm around (big smile)!
*After our interview has finished, Nicky kindly signs lots of my Manics
records (including the rare Sleepflower US Promo CD) and gives me a
A very special thanks to Nicky, to MSPs Tour
Manager Angus, to Liz, Terri, Gill and Tom @ Hall or Nothing, and to
the Manics Manager Martin, for all of their time and help. Stay
Pic South Wales Evening Post, 1993, more here
Young guys, young girls.
Talent wanted for getting out of this and playing.
No special qualifications.
Whether youre beautiful or youre bright.
History could be on your side.
- The Situationists
Pic Phil Rose, 1993, more here