On January 23, Midori Tsukagoshi spoke to and photographed Richey at his home in Cardiff, for Japanese magazine Music Life. Nine days later he vanished. This is their conversation, translated from the Japanese by Select.
Why have you shaved your head?
"I was bored with my old hairstyle, it was irritating me. If I can't sleep I tend to have destructive ideas, and I have to do something to sort them out. I couldn't sleep and all I could think of doing was shaving my head. So I did."
"Yeah, I've never had such short hair before (laughs). But that's alright. I can sleep now. I'll do anything to be able to sleep. I did it two weeks ago now. Look, it's grown so much (laughs)."
In Japan it's very significant to shave your head.
"I suppose it was a big thing for me, too. I'm very vain, you know, and I was almost in love with my hairstyle. But in the end I just felt like abandoning things like that. I dumped a lot of notebooks, threw them in the river. They were full of notes, thoughts for lyrics, that kind of thing. Since Christmas I'd been writing a lot of stuff, but when I look at them again I realised 80 per cent of them just weren't very good. Some people keep everything they write, but unless it's good, you shouldn't. I mean, you can see this flat isn't big enough to keep everything anyway. So I spent a whole night reading through it and then threw away what I didn't like."
That sounds quite dramatic.
"Yes! I am a drama queen (laughs)."
Can we move on to your time in hospital last summer? If you don't mind...
"I got lost somewhere. I just went there, then came out to come back to reality."
You injured yourself...
"Yes, and I drank a lot... I thought I was strong and my body and spirit could take the punishment, but I was wrong. I was weak. In the end I found I just couldn't physically get out of bed and I didn't understand why. It's very important for me to understand things. Like, last summer I'd sit thinking about the smallest things over and over. But it's difficult to live in that frame of mind. It means you can't move. Back then I was living on my own, without anyone to speak to. I didn't even have a telephone."
It's important to clear your mind sometimes.
"Exactly. But, the thing is, sometimes I'll write solidly for a few days and it'll be nothing but rubbish, and then I'll worry I won't be able to write anything else. That makes me feel sick in myself. At times, I'm just fed up with myself, but I know it's the result of something I've done and I have to accept that."
Do you find it difficult?
"Not really. I have no regrets. Regrets are meaningless. You can't change yesterday or tomorrow. You can change only this present moment. I try thinking, like, 'There's only today, I'll do what I can do today.'"
It seems you have such a clear idea of what you want. But last summer you seemed to lose track.
"I haven't had a drop of alcohol since last summer. Until then, especially since I left college, I'd been drinking an enormous amount. I didn't eat properly when I was drinking, and my vanity made me hate the idea of having a big ugly beerbelly. I didn't want to be fat. So I was always drinking and I felt sick all the time. I was able to read, but I couldn't tidy the house, clean the bath, watch a film, I couldn't do anything else."
Were you frustrated?
"Very much. All I was doing was destroying myself. But to me, the worst thing I did was keep trying to be normal, which is how I ended up in hospital. Now, I wake up in the morning and I know what I want to do - I want to write, it makes me feel better in myself. It'd be easy to churn things out, and if I didn't care about words I could just write some rubbish - you know, write in rhymes and make the songs easy for James to sing.
"But I value writing songs, I do regard myself as a good poet, I work hard. Songwriting is an art and I really try my best at it. I get such satisfaction from it, and I didn't want to lose that part of me.
"You know, I miss my dog, Snoopy. He died two weeks ago. That's why I shaved my head... He was 17 years old. I've had him since I was little." (Stares away, looking forlorn.)
When you were in hospital, James visited you almost every day. You obviously have friends who care about you deeply. Did that help? Or did it just put you under more pressure?
"I didn't feel under any pressure at all. Every single person in the world must know someone who cares about him or her, but... (long pause)... you can't make anyone do what you want them to do. You can say, 'Please do this, please do that', but you can't really make them do what you want them to. People say to the mentally ill, 'You know so many people think the world of you.' But when they don't like themselves they don't notice anything. They don't care about what people think of them. When you hate yourself, whatever people say it doesn't make sense. 'Why do they like me? Why do they care about me?' Because you don't care about yourself at all."
Has this experience, including the stay in hospital, changed you?
"I don't feel much different. I just realise I've got more time. 'Cos my lifestyle has become 'healthy'. I've quit the alcohol and everything. I can now use the whole day. I used to start drinking as soon as I woke up, so the day was shorter. Some people maintain that all the best writing is done by alcoholics and junkies. That's all crap: the more addicted you are, the less time you have to write. You just lose sight of your motivations and intentions. I wasted whole days. I'd wake up and feel so sick that I couldn't do anything. I lost day after day."
You're extremely sensitive. Do many people in the music industry have much in common with you?
"No, a lot of them are just unfeeling. No one working for a record company really thinks about bands. I respect Mishima. (Yukio Mishima, quasi-fascist and masochistic Japanese author who believed in the revival of the Bushido tradition. Committed ritual suicide in 1970 after failure of token coup attempt.) He had sensitivity in his work and it fitted in with his life. His work is absolutely beautiful! Full of kindness and beautiful music. And he built up his body - he had a really strong physique. He was tremendously sensitive. It's the kind of sensitivity people like Morrissey are supposed to have. I think if you're like that you needn't always reflect it in the way you behave. I agree that Morrissey was quite sensitive in the writing on his first two albums but not now - everybody says, Oh, he's so sensitive! But I don't really agree. Have you seen him live? He carries on like a madman! Sensitivity doesn't mean being shy. Most British indie bands just stand on stage and look at the floor: 'Look at me, I'm so sensitive!' But it's just pretence."
Do you like being on your own?
"Yes, I do. Of course. I'd love to love somebody seriously. But, considering what I'd expect and what would be expected of me, it seems quite difficult. I feel nobody would want to live with me. I feel daft telling you this, but it's true (laughs)."
You really believe that?
"You love somebody seriously involves being trapped by jealousy. It's really hard. I've never wanted to love somebody insincerely - and I don't mean only sexually but intellectually and mentally too. For instance, you might be watching TV with someone you loved and see an attractive person on TV. It'd be insincere to me to have any feeling about the person on TV. Most people are more mature than me in that sense but I still can't deal with it. If my partner said, 'That poster of River Phoenix looks gorgeous!' I'd have to say 'Bye'. If I was in the street and my partner was thinking, 'Wow! He's stunning!' I'd wonder why she was with me. Seriously, if I was in love with a woman, she'd have to be more attractive than Bette Davis, more than anyone else. I'd peel every picture off my walls."
When was the last time you had any kind of relationship?
"I've never had any long relationship. The longest, when I was young, was about four days. Since the band started, I've only really been involved with one girl. I can speak to her more naturally than to anyone else. It means something. But I've never told her I love her. I've known her for years, but I've only kissed her once... once, twice. That's all. How can I explain? When I love somebody, I feel sort of trapped."
Can you imagine you'll ever have a long-term relationship?
"Relationships at my age mean giving without expecting something back. But it's not love."
It says 'I Miss My Virginity' on your badge. Do you really miss it?
"Definitely! It's the only time I took anyone's advice on how to live my life. I didn't sleep with anyone until I was 21. I'd never met the right woman, and I knew it wouldn't be as wonderful an event as people said. It was an experience. But I believe experience is different from life. One day I met a girl and did it. The next morning I found I was the same person I'd always been. I wasn't reborn like people said. That was the first time."
You've got the word 'LOVE' written on your fingers. Is that your new slogan?
"(Laughs) It's not a slogan. I write something on my fingers every day. Mostly 'LOVE'. I never write 'HATE'. Because I don't hate anyone. I'm more negative about myself than anyone else. I don't want to waste time. Even though I have terrible experiences with people, I can forget them. I just think 'Fuck off' and that's the end of it."
Are you afraid of anything?
"Not of God. I'm rather amazed by people who are afraid of getting on planes or cars or something. When somebody throws something at the stage I laugh. Like 'Are you afraid of something?' If something hits me in the face, it's not the end of the world. I'm not afraid of anything especially. But I'd never resort to violence. I'd rather sympathise with the other person. I suppose racism comes from fear. People try saying they're strong. But that's not true. Everyone is weak."
Where do the Manic Street Preachers stand right now?
"The band is getting better and better. The lyrics are, too. I've found better ways to express myself. Though I don't need to know if my words have become more acceptable than before, I hope they have. Some songs on 'The Holy Bible' are pretty clear. I don't think I've changed what I say, but maybe I'm saying it in a different way."
[Originally published: Select, May 1995]