Nicky Wire salutes his heroes on Welsh rockers' 13th
In 2013, Manic Street Preachers bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire was on a weekend break to Nice with his wife. The two were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary, the first time they'd been away without the kids, and they visited the Yves Klein collection at the city's Museum Of Modern Art. Afterwards, Wire stared at the sea from his hotel room, and thought about International Klein Blue, the colour patented by the French artist in 1960. He wrote a lyric about it, then came home and continued work on what would become the Manics' 2014 album, Futurology.
Four years later, Wire was being nagged for words by Manics' singer and guitarist James Dean Bradfield. He dusted off the lyric he'd written about Klein, added to it, and handed it over. Bradfield loved it, and International Blue became the song that energised Resistance Is Futile, the Welsh trio's forthcoming 13th album. "When we recorded International Blue, it brought a focus to the rest of the album," says Wire, speaking to Q from his car during the school run. He's just been round to his mum and dad's for a roast dinner. "It's got the youthful optimism of [their 1992 debut LP] Generation Terrorists to it. It just reminds me of a young band." With its spindly rock riff and cliff-top guitar solo, International Blue lives up to Wire's description of it as a "modern-day Motorcycle Emptiness."
Lyrically, the song is one of a few "mini-tributes" on the record, due for release in April. Others include Dylan And Caitlin, about the stormy relationship Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his wife, and a track about US photographer Vivian Maier. "I've never really written outside myself," says Wire, "not exactly character songs but about stuff that's enriched my life. I was trying to get some optimism through my love of other people, rather than my hatred of myself.
Produced by long-term collaborator Dave Eringa, Resistance Is Futile is the first Manics album to be recorded at the band's new studio near Newport after they were booted out of their base in Cardiff when the leaseholder sold up to housing developers. "Everything was there and leaving was a huge wrench," says Wire. "But we've bought a place. We had to get builders in and build car parks before we even thought about doing the fucking studio."
Although they didn't invite Kevin McCloud down to document the process, the project did have an effect on their singer. "James turned into Kevin McCloud!" Wire says. "He was like a fucking site foreman on the job! Hard hat James."
They have settled into their new home, which is now "hitting the stride, sound-wise." After a few years of looking back with anniversary tours of The Holy Bible and Everything Must Go, perhaps the new location helped them to face forwards. Whether by grand design or accident, the Manics go marching on.