Manic Street Preachers Talk Ownership In the Digital Era, Share Remix From Warm Digits: Premiere

Alex Lake
Manic Street Preachers

Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers released their Resistance is Futile single “Hold Me Like a Heaven” last month (May 4). Today, Newcastle electronic act Warm Digits has revealed its remix of the tune, which adds a powerful new context to the rocker in a facilitative way.

Manic Street Preachers and Warm Digits have never met to this day, being a few hours’ drive away from each other; a drive from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Blackwood in Wales will set you back about five hours. No matter -- the remix is a testament to how the Internet has utterly demolished time and space as to who can collaborate with whom. While platforms like Soundcloud can act as a slippery slope as to quantity over quality in music, Warm Digits’ remix hits the Goldilocks zone between those two extremes: it’s simply a second set of hands in service of the song.

We caught up with Manic Street Preachers’ drummer Sean Moore to discuss the remix of “Hold Me Like a Heaven” and how social media’s ability to break down barriers made it possible.

How did you end up working with Warm Digits on the remix? In what way did that collaboration come about?

Basically, I was a fan of Warm Digits' latest record, and I liked them on Twitter. They contacted me and said “If we could do a remix for you, we’d gladly do it.” The opportunity came up and it was just easy. I’ve never even met the lads yet, but with the Internet, it’s a relationship I totally enjoy. Maybe in the future, I’ll be able to thank them for it. I’ve thanked them over Twitter and emails and texts, but we haven’t actually physically met as human beings. That’s the digital world for you.

How much physical distance is there between the two groups?

They live up in the North East of England, so that’s a good four, five hour drive.

Is this the first sort of online collaboration you’ve done, or have there been others?

The remixes we’ve done have pretty much all been like that over the last decade or so, but we’ve actually met the people in passing at festival sites or in hotel rooms. Sometimes bands have supported us. But the remix really changed how it happened in that way. The convenience of the Internet and everything. You’re not lugging around huge tapes and all that.

I would imagine our globalized world would be such a boon to musical collaboration. You can collaborate with someone you’ve never met!

Exactly. People, through technology, have remixed a lot of our records, going back to Send Away The Tigers, but again, we’ve never really met. That’s just the way it is now. Going all the way back to Generation Terrorists, that was remixed for an American audience. These days, people are using laptops and it’s a lot more convenient. But there’s so much content now that it’s very difficult for people to wade through to get to the really good stuff. It’s hard to get to the real sustenance.

Do you feel like that excess of content is a positive thing for music? Because decades ago, I imagine you didn’t just go out and join a rock band; there simply were the rock bands, like The Doors, and that was it.

I think it’s become so homogenized that I think it’s a lot harder to rise above and become individual. It’s gotten to the point where bands have to be more like personalities. Not that Jim Morrison wasn’t a personality, but they were far more unique than they are now. I think it’s almost like a checklist of things to do to become famous. Whether it comes from the soul or not, I don’t think so, personally.

Wouldn’t the advent of Soundcloud, et al, provide too many choices? Do you think there would need be some form of “filtering” in the future to sift through all of it?

That is the bane of the future. My biggest fear is that they’re going to start asking record companies for payment to place their products at the front of the streaming queue. It would be beyond merit. It would be a product placement, like in advertising. You pay a fee and your item gets the premium push there. It’s like payola with radio in America back in the day! I can see that happening if it isn’t regulated properly. How do you address the balance? iTunes hasn’t been able to do it. Amazon hasn’t been able to do it. And Tidal with their problems there. It goes back to the days of payola. Streaming serves a purpose, but there’s something within me that doesn’t feel comfortable with not owning something. The fact that I’m just leasing music and then not being able to pass that down. You can’t pass down a record collection via streaming. That’s the only thing that doesn’t sit right with me, is the fact that those memories and moments in life that we map onto something that’s physical and being cherished as a legacy, passed down. We’re losing ownership of that.

This remix, particularly, feels so musical rather than arbitrary. There’s a connection between the two artists.

It’s great because they’re sort of working-class and they’re pursuing more of the organics of making music. Despite being electronic, they’re still rock n' roll. They took the song in its entirety, rather than just taking a little section and looping it. They used the structure of the song to give it a foundation. Some people don’t. They just take out the bits and cherry-pick. They just totally transform it.