Nicky Wire on the press, Shirley Bassey, and the future of the Manic Street Preachers: Part Three
In the final part of our epic interview with the Manic Street Preacher's Nicky Wire he talks technology, the press and The Horrors...
CAD: I gather you’ve got quite a liking for The Horrors? They remixed a track for the JFPL EP [which is out this week] - what is it about them as a band that appeals to you so much?
NW: I think it's two things. One; that they were ridiculed at the start, which I can really relate to... and the kind of glamour side - the makeup and the hair. But second; they turned completely in on themselves, like we did with The Holy Bible and just said, “Fuck it, we have to do this on our terms” and by turning inside on themselves, they made a wonderful record. I like the first album, for its garish Cramps-iness, but I think this album is just really… [lost for words] there’s only one time in your career you can really do that. You can just block out everything except yourselves and your own taste in music and lyrics and whatever. I think that's what they did.
CAD: Well, it's quite difficult now with the press so obsessed with "new" bands. Once you've done one album you're considered to be over in most cases, aren't you?
CAD: There’s no room for coverage of bands on their second record, beyond the next big thing.
NW: From Generation Terrorists to Everything Must Go is actually only four years. It took us four albums to sell millions of records, and we’re lucky in that we became such a cult band that we were… viable.
CAD: Do you think if you were starting out now, that you’d be a different band? Because you took such a long time, getting this kind of manifesto together…
CAD: …and there was a climate for you to be able to grow up in public as it were.
NW: I think it would be really difficult for us now. I do. Partly because we weren’t prepared – Sean and James aside – musically. We didn’t even play ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ for six months after we recorded it. Me and Richey didn’t even learn it…
CAD: I read something about that… nowadays James would be able to get a loop station and do it all himself!
NW: Yeah…! It’s interesting to think, what with the Internet, would Richey have been into [this or] that… because the [first] album’s pre-digital. Richey had a typewriter – he never had a mobile phone, even. It seems like such a different world…
CAD: It’s hard for me to imagine what that would have been like.
NW: Well Sean… Sean’s always the first with technology. He had computers, and he was one of the first people to have a mobile phone – he had a satellite phone. But Richey never ever had one. To garner as much knowledge as he did - I mean, he didn’t even have satellite TV. That first line [on the new album], “the more I see, the less I scream”, I’m thinking: fuck, what would he think now. You didn't actually see that much then - the saturation now is just so great.
CAD: In that respect, music is consumed so much through the internet now, where as for you, the journalists were so much more important, almost as translators of what you were doing as well as disseminators. Has the rise of the internet changed your relationship with the Press and have you still kept those relationships with those writers?
NW: We have. I’m still kind of old fashioned. I still really admire journalists. I think they can fill in the gaps the band can’t themselves. I’m still overwhelmed when there’s a good review; when it’s written well. When there’s a bad review – and I know it’s correct – I still take it in, on some level. We’ve never been “All journalists are cunts…” In the modern age, to be blunt, there are more random people, who are much more spiteful than journalists… Do you know what I mean, in terms of the Internet?
CAD: Indeed. Reading back on old Manics interviews there were some fantastic writers, like Taylor Parkes…
NW: I think he went mad…
CAD: …a fabulous writer; and Simon Price [Manics biographer]…
NW: He moved to Brighton… [both laugh]
CAD: He’s getting married tomorrow apparently.
NW: He is! No, he was thinking of cancelling it to come here! [much laughter]
CAD: I was surprised he wasn’t having it here - have the reception backstage, wedding in the Roundhouse! Do you feel that you owe quite a lot to writers like him?
NW: Yeah…!?! To tonnes of people – to Keith Cameron, and James Brown, who did fanzines that James [Dean Bradfield] used to buy and then wrote pieces on us. To Stuart Bailey, who gave us our first review, for ‘Motown Junk’. There’s still people out there, like Connor from the NME, and Hamish.
CAD: I saw him Twittering last night, at the gig. He always Twitters after each song, and you just think – Watch the gig!
NW: I know, but that’s okay. I think… when you’re really engaged with culture, then you still think music’s that important… [Distant wailing of JDB warming up] Sounds like I'm going to have to go to soundcheck.
CAD: A few more quick questions then... Is that the sound of someone turning pages on the beginning of 'Journal For Plague Lovers'
NW: It is. It’s actually me, turning the pages of Idris Davies’ Gwalia Deserta.
CAD: I knew I’d never get to find that out unless I asked you!
NW: I read somewhere, on the Internet, it’s someone turning the pages of the holy bible. Thee Holy Bible… but No, it felt like a nice kind of bookish thing, being in a library.
CAD: I love little touches like that. That’s what’s different about you as a band, that you plant these things for people to find. If they want to find them, they are there...
NW: I always want to do that, but James gets kind of frustrated with me, saying, “If a song’s not good enough…” but I think when it’s all placed together, you can add them in. Even the Richard Burton thing from ‘Ready from Drowning’, which is from The Medusa Touch is one of my favourite things we’ve ever done. It gives clues to a … different universe.
CAD: It’s what you set out to do when you start a band… creating this other world?
NW: Well we thought so but we just didn’t find many compatriots along the way…
CAD: So, you’re playing 'Don’t Look Back'-style, tonight, all the way through. Would you ever go back to some of the other records and do that?
NW: No. When we’re finished and we need the money…! But No, it’s just the sign, really, that you don’t matter – that you’ve become nostalgic.
CAD: So, have you thought what happens next? Or are you just focusing on the album?
NW: Of course, but James has already screamed at me to Shut Up about it. I wrote the Mission Statement for the next record: Heavy Metal / Tamla [Motown]! James said "Why the fuck... don't start going on about that..." and I wrote "Van Halen playing with The Supremes".
CAD: You’ve always had that Spector-ish quality. Maybe you should get Amy Winehouse down…
NW: Duffy… but No, we have actually written a song for Shirley Bassey. That's going to be good.
CAD: Well, thank you so much – have a great show tonight
NW: You going to be there?
CAD: Yes. I don’t know if I’m going to be down the front…!
Video: 'Motorcycle Emptiness' by Manic Street Preachers live at the Roundhouse 29/05/2009
Journal for Plague Lovers is out now - read our 9/10 review of it here. The Journal for Plague Lovers remix EP was released this week, featuring reinterpretations by The Horrors, Adem, Errors, British Sea Power and Andrew Weatherall. manicstreetpreachers.com