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Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers may not have made a huge splash in the U.S., but they are one of the biggest bands of the past two decades in the UK.

While other bands like Blur, Suede, and, most recently, Oasis have fizzled or flamed out, the Manics have remained together since 1986. Bassist Nicky Wire, singer/guitarist James Dean Bradfield, drummer Sean Moore, and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards had all known each other since they were students in a small Welsh primary school, and their shared love of intelligent, edgy rock music led them to form a band.

The Manics released their first album in 1992, blasting on to the music scene with Generation Terrorists, a politically charged album featuring dark, intellectual, and often surreal lyrics from Wire and Edwards. By their third album, 1994’s The Holy Bible, they had achieved wide recognition from critics as one of the UK’s most promising bands.

However, around the release of The Holy Bible, lyricist Richey Edwards started unraveling psychologically. The flamboyant and inscrutable Edwards had battled drug abuse, depression, and self-harm for many years, but it was becoming clear that his behavior was adversely affecting his bandmates.

In a now-infamous NME interview from the band’s Thailand tour dates for The Holy Bible, journalist noticed that Richey had “slashed himself several times across his chest with a set of knives.” Richey told her, “When I cut myself I feel so much better. All the little things that might have been annoying me suddenly seem so trivial because I’m concentrating on the pain. I’m not a person who can scream and shout so this is my only outlet. It’s all done very logically.”

In February 1995, Edwards simply vanished. Many assumed he’d committed suicide, but no body was found. Richey Edwards sightings became commonplace, but none were confirmed.

His bizarre disappearance left the band without closure. But, as Joy Division did after Ian Curtis‘ death, the Manics moved forward as a trio. And they achieved superstardom with the 1996 album, Everything Must Go. Wire, Bradfield, and Moore continued to allot Edwards a cut of the band’s royalties, holding out hope that he’d one day return.

Fourteen years after Edwards’ death, the Manics have released Journal for Plague Lovers, an album featuring lyrics pulled from a journal Richey left behind. Two weeks ago, I spoke with Nicky Wire, who explained why 2009 was the right time to make this album and why they selected Nirvana producer Steve Albini to oversee it.

He also shared his memories of Richey, talked the about the band’s first U.S. tour in a decade, and yes, we even discussed politics. You might be surprised at what the notoriously outspoken Wire has to say about the U.S.

Click here to listen to the interview with Nicky Wire.

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By Kevin Wicks
Kevin Wicks is the founding editor of Anglophenia.