With the upcoming deluxe reissue (out 5 November)of their debut album Generation Terrorists - a glam-punk extravaganza that cut through the grey slush of UK indie like a glitter-sprinkled blade back in '92 - we spoke to Manic Street Preachers frontman to discuss the record (which was named this year's Classic Album at Monday's (22 October) Q Awards), revisiting the past, memories of missing bandmate Richey Edwards, the importance of keeping your promises and more.
How the devil are you? "Ah, not too bad - how are you doing?"
So it's 20 years since Generation Terrorists was released. Obviously from Nicky Wire's manifesto at the time the band wasn't supposed to last this long, but did you personally see it as a career when you started making the album? "I didn't think of it as a career but I saw the band as something I never wanted to end. There was Nick and Richey's mission statement of one perfect album, sell 16 million records and then split up in a bout of self-immolation. I remember me and Sean looking nervously at each other thinking, No, no we wanna carry on! Some of our favourite bands like Echo And The Bunnymen or The Clash - if they'd split up after the first album you wouldn't have Ocean Rain or you wouldn't have London Calling. Anyway we had to revert to plan B. When Generation Terrorists was released we obviously weren't going to sell 16 million records so we failed by our own outrageous standards."
A glorious failure? "I don't know about glorious but it was a monumental failure [laughs]. We'd announced our own greatness without having much to back it up. Richey and Nicky being fucking mental and releasing those mission statements - if we weren't motivated by fear of failure then I don't think Motorcycle Emptiness or Little Baby Nothing would have turned out like they did... Like team coaches - Nick and Rich believed they had talented players but they had to put the fear of God into us!"
Very motivating. Did growing up in Wales inform Generation Terrorists? "I live in Cardiff full time now. I'm back there. Young people who are mad about their music end up wanting to escape the place where they grew up. As soon as they leave they spend the rest of their lives trying to get back to it. At the start we were embittered and disappointed by missing out on the great age of the Valleys being a political, intellectual, physical and industrial powerhouse. When we'd left Wales we realised it was our inspiration and we went back like scolded cats! On the album songs like Repeat and Natwest Barclays Midlands Lloyds we were connecting the dots between our economic situation and the Thatcher government. Then there were songs like Little Baby Nothing which were about gender politics so it went beyond our Welsh borders."
How do you end up with an 18 track double debut album? "We didn't have any snobbery about music. We were just obsessed about it all - The Bodines, June Brides, Big Flame, Shop Assistants, Public Enemy, Guns N Roses, early Aerosmith, Einstürzende Neubauten, Killing Joke, Smiths, Rush, Kraftwerk, Motown, ELO, Orange Juice. That smash-up between musicians who were fiercely into jingly-jangly music into something like Motorcycle Emptiness didn't occur to us. It was natural. Rob Stringer who signed us to Sony never questioned our magpie sensibilities or our obsessions. He thought it was our strength. Same with [managers] Martin Hall and Philip Hall. Philip had massive faith in us. He was 30 grand in the hole from us smashing equipment for a year. We were just lucky with the people we met in the record industry. No one tried to tame us."
Have you ever come to terms with the devotion of your fanbase? Strangers obsessing over the band - especially in the early days and then around The Holy Bible - intense? "I was slightly uncomfortable with it for a long time. I think now that side of it has dissolved and what's left is people that realize that we load our music so much with our intentions and effort that they don't need to be bothered with the ephemera around the band. Around the time of The Holy Bible it was slightly disquieting. I've always loved the in-depth analysis of music but even for me the way some fans over-emotionalised and over-intellectualised The Holy Bible became something I wanted to be distanced from. A lot of people assume The Holy Bible is a massive comedown, a huge maelstrom of emotion but Faster particularly is self-empowering and This Is Yesterday still gives me a sense of melancholic victory. Sometimes it feels like a great pre-match speech. Enough sporting analogies!"
You've managed to get a few in. Is there a sadness at all recalling a time when you still had Richey with you in the band? "In terms of us being bandmates we're completely at ease with it. We've been through lots of anniversaries now. We're used to coming across beautiful curled up photos, old lyrics, interviews and hearing his voice. It used to be like a punch in the stomach. We used to roll on the waves every time but inevitably we've done so much in terms of retrospectives and reissues that we're used to it. It makes us smile to see him. The only negative emotion we have is when we see a new interview from some band, someone who is meant to be the benchmark of something glorious and we think, Fucking hell. If he was around now he would just destroy. Intellectually? He'd kill everything. He'd have the biggest twitter following in the western world - for better or for worse."
Will there be a gig to celebrate the Generation Terrorists reissue? "We can't in Britain because when we did the O2 show at Christmas we actually said that it was our last concert in Britain for two years. We're desperately trying to hold ourselves to that [laughs] we've done our best. We might put something up online in a couple of weeks time. We might go through a couple of songs that we never play live, we might go through some in the studio and put them online. We would have liked to but we'd put this UK live embargo on ourselves for the O2 show so we can't..."
If you've made a promise... [laughs] "Yeah, and we always keep our promises don't we?"
Listen, we've got a stupid question to ask you last... "Cool!"
Have you seen WWE Wrestler Wade Barrett's tattoo? "I've heard about Wade Barrett, yes. He's got a Culture, Alienation, Boredom And Despair tattoo hasn't he?"
He certainly has. It's a beautiful tattoo but so incongruous. "Right well let's just put this out there - if you're listening Wade Barrett we will do your fucking theme tune - just get in touch. That would be the ultimate Situationist, bizarrist spectacle wouldn't it? Us being played over the airwaves in some Enormodome in front of 20,000 mad Yanks in Colorado somewhere..."
That's the definition of breaking America. "Guy Debord would be proud!" Michael James Hall @michaeljamesh
For more head to Manicstreetpreachers.com.