We met Nicky Wire, bassist of the Manic Street Preachers, for a coffee and a few facts about the upcoming album "Rewind The Film".
Hello Nicky. We are sitting in the middle of Gibson Center Berlin. There are several models of electric guitars hanging around us, but where are the electric guitars on your new album "Rewind The Film"? In any case, none of the two singles that were already decoupled were heard?
I think there is actually only one electric guitar on the album. The heavy guitars were an important feature of us, many people know us for our guitar sounds, so it was a big decision not to record this time.
Where does this decision come from? Is that just happened from the gut?
After the last album "Postcards From A Young Man" it felt as if we had already let out all the energy and all the melodies, so the big manics anthems. Only when we started recording did we realize that we were going to make a very tender album. It just did not feel right fitting with massive guitars.
On Facebook you posted you had 28 demo songs and that it felt like you recorded two albums. Can one count on further material?
Yes, you can count on more songs that will be more post-punk, more angry and dirtier, more towards "Holy Bible".
Do you want to make sure that the fans of the harder, older time can be just as satisfied as the supporters of the quieter songs?
Yes, perhaps. By contrast, "Rewind The Film" is probably the biggest risk we've ever taken since "Lifeblood." It does not fit the image of the people of us.
"Rewind The Film" seems very nostalgic to me. Also, in your latest video for "Show Me The Wonder," you're not housed in an ordinary rock setting, but instead playing a local cover band that has seen its best days. Do you play with these matters of aging and looking back?
Yes I think so. It's not just that we try to understand ourselves, it's also about the relics of the past. I think we woke up right with this album. We looked in the mirror and thought "Hey, we're already 44, we've been there for 22 years!" I think we just wanted to be a bit more honest with ourselves and get the ideals of the band under control. We wanted to question decisions and how we could change. In addition, we were surrounded by a lot of losses, one of my best friends died ... There's a lot of mortality on the album. The videos were both filmed in the area where we grew up, "Show Me The Wonder" plays in a workers' bar. "Rewind The Film" treats the present more, with "Show Me The Wonder" we traveled to the seventies and the next video will be the Eighties, so there is a kind of red thread behind them.
You are known for writing politically engaged lyrics. Will "Rewind The Film" also contain critical lyrics?
So you have to know that it's more like a personal album, there will be only one title, the last one on the record. "Thirty Year War" is probably the only political attack. In principle, it will be more about the loss of people and ideals, but the last song is about a specifically British cause, about the attacks on the British working class.
Another thing you said on Facebook was that a song like REVOL could never do a good job these days, just as it did 19 years ago.
Yes! That's the way to say that. The thing is simple, that there is no longer any kind of cult bands, no more danger! I think the mainstream absorbed almost everything. There is nothing that shocks you!
Can not you talk for you and your band as well?
I think we were treated corruptly a long time ago. It is impossible to escape the consumption and the pervasive culture. You see, we are already older, we may have been out long ago (laughs), but there's nothing left that has not been done yet. It's a scary idea, because a Lady Gaga is considered subversive today rather than any rock or alternative band.
But it seems to me that pop has become more political again lately. In England, Bobby Gillespie (The Primal Scream) sings of slaves of the 21st century and a devoted underclass. Kanye West is reminding us in America not to fall into a modern, late capitalist slavery. Feminism is another big topic. But what can pop music actually contribute to political progress and emancipation? With what feelings do you look at the current developments?
Again, the people you mentioned are all in business for a long time. Where are the young people who are interested in politics? Primal Scream are older than me, they're fifty! I wonder where the teens are screaming for rebellion. I mean, Kanye West has his fifth or sixth album out there, right? I do not see the younger ones taking matters into their own hands.
What do you mean, why is that?
The young people are more interested in their digital rights and WiFi reception than in human rights!
In Germany, most people actually understand English, but sometimes it seems as if they are not listening on purpose and pretending that they do not understand anything. In the UK, it is certainly more difficult than the radio listeners to escape the lyrics. In your biggest hit in this country, for example, it says "If I can shoot rabbits then I can shoot fascists". What are the reactions to such texts in England?
It is difficult to expect every single one to understand the lyrics. It was a number one album, but I still do not expect everyone to understand that this was about people from Wales who went to the Spanish Civil War to fight the fascists. But I think most people understand, but it's not really about that. It is much more important for a band to understand themselves. We have always tried to process what we love and what we are interested in in our texts. This includes politics, other musicians, writers and of course what we care about. And you can not ask for more from a band than to turn your heartfelt affairs into honest songs. It's just that I have studied politics and Richie Modern History. That's what our texts will talk about because we've done it half our lives and we're still interested in it today.
A few years ago you played a concert in Cuba. Among other reasons, the trip was politically induced, right? Would not it make any more sense to think about playing in countries in political turmoil? The bankrupt southern European countries, the North African countries or perhaps Turkey?
So Cuba was - as you said - a mix of many factors. But it was mainly a rock'n'roll fantasy, we just wanted to do something different. We did not make any money with it, we lost thousands of pounds, but as far as the other countries are concerned, frankly, we play where we want to be. Of course, judging by meaning, it would certainly make sense to play where the messages in the songs would resonate most. The recording of the songs is very different. Japan, the country in which we have the most publicity outside of the UK, loves us because of the rock'n'roll glamor and this typical rock nihilism. In Spain, on the other hand, we are more familiar with our sociocritical texts. Especially in Barcelona "If You Tolerate This ..." is still a big hit.
Ever since you were founded you have not been known to write classic love songs. On their new album the Pet Shop Boys sing "Love Is A Bourgeois Construct". Are there, transferred to you, a connection between your aversion to love songs and your left beliefs.
This is a very interesting approach and strangely we even have the same designer who designed our albums. I think Neil Tennant has been brilliant lately and not just the music. His interviews are so clever and intellectual and I know exactly where he's from. But I think that's an excuse, as if you excluded something from the start, so you would not have to go there. I just do not want to write about being married for 20 years. I do not want love songs because I just do not consider them important, maybe I should do it. I want to protect my privacy, and I find it much easier to write about social and political issues.