Guest column - Manics on film: Culture, Alienation, Boredom & Despair

Guest column - Manics on film: Culture, Alienation, Boredom & Despair

manicsThis Thursday (2 May) the Heavenly Films Night at Hackney Picture house will be screening Culture, Alienation, boredom & despair a documentary about the early history of Manic Street Preachers Kieran Evans and Q's Robin Turner. Originally intended as a 20 minute clip to accompany last year's reissue of Generation Terrorists, the full 88 minute film be shown, while the band's touring guitarist Wayne Murray is also DJing on the night. See Heavenlyfilms.net for full details and tickets. In a guest column for Q, Kieran Evans discusses the film's creation.

A few years back I got a call. A call I'd been hoping would happen for quite some time. Would I be interested in making a film with the Manics. Now, being a West Wales boy, that's like a nod from the MAN himself. A week later I was in Llandudno, North Wales watching the first night of the Journal Of Plague Lovers tour. It all sounded and looked fantastic. Plans were hatched, Ideas discussed. Everything was in place. And then sadly Nicky injured his back...so that was that...I retreated from North Wales, an opportunity lost. A few more calls came through over the years but nothing came of it. The time just wasn't quite right or in one particular case the price of Super 8 stock had risen considerably...

But then last Autumn...my good chum and Manic collaborator Robin Turner called... "You know...it's the 20th anniversary of Generation Terrorists..."

With those words, a trip to Cardiff was planned, Faster Studios the preferred location. With dates agreed and cameras readied, the M4 beckoned. Crammed into one car, we headed west. Along the way our Peruvian sound recordist got a crash course in all things Manic. Upon arrival, James sorted lunch whilst Sean and Nicky exchanged opinions on Glamorgan's cricket season. And then finally we rolled...

What was to be a breezy, 20 minute chat turned in to a three hour, revealing conversation. James, Nicky and Sean opened up and suddenly nothing was off limits. There was a lot of laughter, laced with caustic asides. Richie was discussed with warmth and love, the impending darkness and loss of a friend still years away. Their power of recall and attention to details was astonishing. Setlists were discussed, itineraries mulled over and reviews quoted word for word.

The filming complete, I then got given access to the Manics personal archive and spent days trawling through a huge wealth of material. They keep everything. Seeing them through this treasure trove of artwork, photos and film gave me a vivid snapshot of how this incredible band evolved. Photo collages and painted canvases showed their aesthetic resolve whilst in pages and pages of notes I found everything from scrawled shopping lists for booze and make up next to Chomsky quotes. Glamour and intelligence. They had both. Something music was certainly lacking in the early 90s.

Amongst the TV archive, I found a weird short news clip of the band trudging through a snow-laden field full of horses that somehow encapsulated everything about what made the Manics so different and thrilling for me. With the brooding Welsh mountains and grey dull town looming behind them, the James, Sean, Nicky and Richie wrapped in their fur coats and bright sports jackets, trudge across this bright white landscape, their heads bowed, pushing against the howling, freezing wind. In those few video frames, this battle against the elements reads like the band leaving their past behind, kicking against the norm .They suddenly stand like beacons of hope, primed and ready to take on the world.

That attitude, that belief, that philosophy propelled a generation to embrace where they came from and dragged a nation burdened with apathy into a new world. They made me believe that there were alternatives. Their songs transfixed me. Their attitude entranced me. They raged and raged and raged against the dying of the light. And they still do. Thank god for the Manics. Kieran Evans @Kierboyo

Head to Heavenlyfilms.net for more. Plus read our Q&a with James Dean Bradfield on Generation Terrorists.