Manic Street Preachers To Play Holy Bible Live

Band playing album in full at Glasgow, Manchester, Dublin and London; we speak to James Dean Bradfield about the shows

Manic Street Preachers have just announced that they will be playing their landmark third album The Holy Bible in full at seven gigs this December. It will be the first time the band have played the record live in its entirety, and marks the 20th anniversary of its release. It also comes almost 20 years to the date after their last performance with Richey Edwards, the founding member, lyricist and guitarist whose battle with self-harm and depression shaped the album.

The announcement comes after the band recently recorded songs from The Holy Bible in a session for Radio 4’s Mastertapes series, with tickets for the gigs going on sale this Friday, September 26, over at the Manics’ website.

tQ’s Emily Mackay spoke to the band’s frontman James Dean Bradfield last week for a Baker’s Dozen which we’ll be publishing shortly – read their discussion of the upcoming shows, as well as their recent Futurology album and the possibility of a film soundtrack, below:

With the Holy Bible gigs, are there any songs you’re not going to be playing?

James Dean Bradfield: With the Radio 4 Mastertapes sessions, we’ve had a problem trying to come up with the list of stuff we’re going to play, because we started rehearsing ‘Yes’, and then, y’know, of course, "For sale? Dumb cunts, same dumb questions…", "Oh, here we go, I can’t sing that lyric…". You’ve got "cock" all the way through the lyric… ‘You want a girl so tear off his cock’…

So I said, "OK, let’s do ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’. "Compton, Harlem, a pimp fucked a priest"… and I was like, "OK, we can’t do that one…". We really wanted to do them, but we couldn’t, because we’d have to censor so many of the lyrics. So there’s a good clue as to what songs we won’t be playing because – some of the expletives are very intrinsic to the mood of the song. And even though most of The Holy Bible was written on acoustic guitar, it’s not the easiest to play on acoustic guitar, because a lot it’s conditional to the power of how the band play it and stuff.

But you’re doing other shows, right?

JDB: Well, we still had another little argument about it today. I think we’re still spooked about it, really. I’m still spooked about doing it, because… I know what it’s like to try and sing ‘Mausoleum’, and it was hard when I was 24. The bridges in ‘Mausoleum’ have no concept of punctuation, health, the bodily organ called the lungs. I’m sure, inside, I’m nearly converted to the idea, but still having big doubts about it. I vividly remember how I felt when I was writing the music to it and when we toured it. And it was… I suppose it was a take-no-prisoners kind of vibe, we didn’t care that everything was at stake, even our record contract… we just didn’t care about anything. We just felt that it was really important just to be very myopic and single-minded about everything. I would say that I’m still essentially the same person, but it’s hard to have that sense of myopia and indestructibility when you’re 45. It does feed into how you play the songs. I’ve got to know that I can be as bloody-minded as I was. I know it sounds woefully pretentious… like some bullshit actor fishing for compliments from his agent – "I’m not sure if I can play Lear!" It does spook me out a bit, but I just really want to know that I can do it justice. There was Journal For Plague Lovers and then there was a caesura pause, you know. We knew that the only time we could ever, ever feel like a four-piece again was if we played The Holy Bible live. We knew that as soon as Journal For Plague Lovers ended. So there is that, you know. You know that there’s something at stake if you do it.

I know what you mean about being able to pull of the spirit of the songs, but wouldn’t you consider… I don’t mean doing a wholly different version, but like, say when I went to see Kate Bush. She can’t sing the tracks from The Hounds Of Love now as she would have at 27, but she finds a different way round them…

JDB: I can reach the notes, there’s no problem there. It’s just doing it with conviction. Full-throttle. It’s just the thing of… it’s easier to sing ‘Design For Life’ than it is ‘Mausoleum’. It’s easier to sing ‘Your Love Alone…’ than it is ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ because sometimes you’re not taking a breath for nearly 25 seconds. I really wanna commit to that MO of singing it as it should be sung. I’m getting myself just tied in knots… I’m sure… Nicky Wire’s three-line whip will work.

You must have been quite pleased with the reaction to Futurology… all the reviews seemed to agree you’d pulled something really amazing out of the bag.

JDB: I think… the record was obviously full of exploring other people’s ideas. It shows that we’re not completely up ourselves. That we’re still inspired by the world or other people or what other people do. We’re still quite far away from the narcissism that people believe us to be possible of. That record is inspired by other people. It’s us just being fans of the world, in a strange kind of way. Just being intrigued by it, just being engaged by it. I think that kind of fed into the reviews a tiny bit. The fact that we’re still kind of open to things.

And beyond this year and the focus on The Holy Bible

JDB: If we do The Holy Bible thing, I think we might take it to America. That would feel like a good thing, because obviously the chronology of everything that happened was – it was me and Richey supposed to be going to America, and then we were supposed to be touring America with …Bible. It was that time when it was the first time our record company had ever been excited about us, in America. So that would feel nice. That does appeal to me. But beyond that, I think the locker that our imagination and ambition is in will be as empty as it’s ever been. Because we’ve kind of just done two records in the space of a year, y’know. So I think… no one needs any mission statements from us saying, "We’re gonna do this!" We’re gonna really keep quiet. If that’s possible.

Would you consider doing any more solo stuff?

JDB: I don’t really like the idea of… I did a little solo acoustic thing the Sunday just gone… and before I go on stage, just not having Nick and Sean around me is something that just sets me adrift. It’s a terrible feeling. I kind of… the solo thing I did was OK, but I did constantly just miss them. I just did. And I’m not even trying to portray some kind of brothers-in-arms kind of picture, some kind of Band Of Brothers thing, it’s just hard not to imagine doing things with them. So I don’t really envisage doing a solo thing. There is something floating in the air that we might get involved in a film soundtrack in our downtime. Which is nice, I like the idea of us just following somebody else’s narrative, which we’ve never done. That’s in the air, but it’s not definite. I thought I was gonna keep quiet? Jesus Christ…

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