by Steve Lamacq
"If we hadn't got Richey help, he might have tried to kill himself."
Richey's history of self-mutilation stretches back further than "4 REAL"
When Richey James was hospitalised last month suffering from "nervous exhaustion" it was the latest installment in the diary of a troubled mind. The psychiatric treatment he is currently receiving in a London clinic is for a condition that has worsened over the last year and has existed for far longer. Friends of the Manics guitarist have confirmed Richey has a history of self-mutilation dating to before the band formed. Richey began cutting himself while still at university, but it was the carving of the phrase "4 Real" on his arm after a gig in Norwich in 1991 that made his problems public. It looked like another band "statement" at the time, but now seems more the act of an ill person getting worse. By the end of 1993 he had started stubbing cigarettes out on his arm. In Thailand while on tour with the Manics in April, he was pictured with cuts on his chest and had begun drinking still more heavily. Although never seen as part of the Manics' "musical wing", Richey's insecurities about his guitar-playing ability and contribution to the group combined with tragedies in his personal life to worsen his mental state.
James Bradfield, Manics lead singer and guitarist: "Our first priority was to make sure Richey was OK. At first we didn't think about what we'd do as a band. We could have cancelled the tour, but he wanted us to carry on playing while he was away. But it's not the same. Playing T In The Park was terrible without him."
Martin Hall, Manics manager: "There were contributing factors to his decline. The death of Philip (Martin's brother and co-manager of the band, who Richey was very close to) was one of them. But now Richey says he would probably have ended up the same way regardless... The thing is, he doesn't see anything wrong in cutting himself. It makes him feel better. It's his way of releasing pain and his argument is, it doesn't harm anyone else. It's almost like a badge to show he's emotionally strong enough to deal with problems in his own way. He was at the point, though, where no one - not even himself - knew how far he might go. If he had carried on without any help he might have ended up killing himself.
It's like watching Shane MacGowan when he was in The Pogues. You think to yourself, 'Why doesn't someone stop him drinking?' But you realise you can't do much about it. You can't be with a person 24 hours a day. I don't know if we should have done more for him earlier on. But I don't think we saw or wanted to admit how bad the situation was getting. Looking back, you can see that he'd planned the '4 Real' incident. But he hadn't told the rest of us.
"Richey was worried about what was going on as well, it wasn't just us. It's not like we had him committed to the clinic. At first we weren't going to tell anybody about him going in, but as the rumours started we had to. The worst was that there were some allegations of hype... Even we wouldn't stoop that low.
"We're not trying to sound melodramatic, but he was very ill. And some people probably think he's stupid, but he's actually very bright, very intelligent. I've been speaking to Richey virtually every day and he seems much better. We've kept him involved in what's going on. I haven't shown him any of the recent press, but we took him the artwork for the LP to check through. It's hard setting a definite date for when he'll be back, but he wants to play the tour in the autumn. At the moment that looks likely."
[Originally published: Select, October 1994]