It's been seven years since Richey's disappearance and the band still feels different, even after all this time. We never wanted to be a three-piece because the balance we had as four was amazing. The symmetry was perfect, but I think replacing Richey would have been a bigger mistake.
Richey and I met when we were kids and lived near each other, so he's always been a very close friend. We played football together and did all the things friends do. I've known James Dean Bradfield since I was five and Richey lived up the road, and I think that's why we've stood the test of time. It's very rare that a group of very close friends form a band together.
We always got on away from music as well and did everything together. James and I were in the same year at school and Richey and Sean were a year older. They were the two weirdos. People would look at them because they had strange hair and wore odd clothes. They were into Echo & The Bunnymen before us and Richey was into Nick Cave, so when we met there was a bond which just got stronger.
Richey and I began to write lyrics together and it was always a joint effort until the end. I think it's bizarre that everyone goes on about The Holy Bible being Richey's album, and I don't mean to put him down in any way when I say this, but he wore none of the music whatsoever. I wrote 25 per cent of the titles and the lyrics and yet everyone says it's his album.
I'm not taking anything from him, because the spirit of the album is undeniably his, but it's hard for us to call it his album. To actually sit down and write with another person can be difficult, but up until The Holy Bible every lyric and every song was pretty much 50/50 between us. I suppose it was nice not to talk about guitar chords, I could talk about words with Richey.
We really miss him. Lately I think we feel happier remembering all the good things about Richey, which is important because it's easy to fall into the trap of just remembering the bad stuff. After all, it was only miserable for the last year. Before that it was all glory.
There wasn't a sense of darkness surrounding Richey when we were recording, but towards the end there was a horrendous atmosphere. It was almost as if we were waiting for something to go wrong. We sensed something bad was going to happen at that point and I suppose you could say, Oh he carved 4 Real into his arms four years earlier, you were always waiting for something bad.
But I think the truth was that there was a sense of impending doom. And with that there was a feeling there was nothing we could do about it. When a person gets to that level it goes beyond one of his friends trying to sit down and talk to him. We'd done all that. We'd put him to bed and looked after him and it reached a level where it was so bleak it was out of our control.
But I still have so many fond memories of him. When we played at a festival in Belgium, he fell asleep on James's shoe during the set. James had to tap him on the head to wake him up. Richey was a fantastic drunk at that point. He was a loveable person and I think it's sad that some of our fans don't even know he existed. Maybe it's time we re-educated all those Mondeo drivers in Northern Europe...
[Originally published: Q, October 2001]