Nicky Wire talks to Digital Spy after his band's live return.
After nearly two years away, Manic Street Preachers returned to these shores on Sunday with a live show at Hyde Park. Rather than playing to the faithful, they entertained fans of James Blunt, Jack Johnson and Jamie Cullum on the bill of BBC Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park. Just as they came off stage, Digital Spy and others caught up with bass player, lyricist and unofficial band spokesman Nicky Wire to talk all about the gig, 11th studio album Rewind The Film and more.
How was it being away, and why return here of all places?
"What made us start again was Portmeirion, Festival No. 6. That's what brought us out of our semi-retirement and this came up, we got asked, and it seemed like a good little warm-up, get our limbs moving again. It was quite enjoyable again, I quite liked it!"
You've just done the British & Irish Lions tour - was it strange playing to rugby fans given the tone of the new album?
"Yeah, it was the oddest kind of experience, but probably one of the best. You had probably 50: 50 - 1,500 hardcore Australian fans who just wanted to hear 'Revol' and what have you, and a lot of people who just wanted to hear James go 'Oggy oggy oggy'. But it gelled really well - it was a good mixture of feather boas and rugby tops. It was the trip of a lifetime actually. It sucked us in to a deluded world of non-reality. That's not really what rock 'n' roll is."
There's a lot of collaborations on the new record, is there anyone out there you still really want to work with?
"We wrote '3 Ways To See Despair' for Morrissey but we were too scared to ask him. He's the one person I couldn't bear rejection from. I can take it from most people. We'd love to do something with John Lydon, maybe some kind of Afrika Bambaataa 'World Destruction' kind of rap.
"There are lots of people James would love to do - like [Wilco frontman] Jeff Tweedy did with Mavis Staples, some kind of soul album with brilliant old singers. It invigorates us, working with other people. It's not because we dislike James's voice!"
You approached Kylie Minogue back in the day, would you consider giving Lady Gaga a call now?
"She was at the same hotel as us the other day, and there were millions of fans outside, and every time I walked in, just for a minute I thought, maybe..."
We spoke to WWE Superstar Wade Barrett last year - is anything going to come of you doing his theme music?
"Now this could be a way of being young again! He has got in touch and we are thinking of it. James would love to let loose on a real f**king metal, really '80s metal riff. His tattoos are amazing, he's a proper hardcore fan. Which is very odd, when he gets on stage in those skimpy little pants. I suppose it's quite fitting. I think it might happen actually. I think when we get a bit of downtime James would like to do it. It's the genius of being in the band - Arthur Scargill, Kylie Minogue and Wade Barrett. That's our demographic."
The last track on the album '30 Year War' is a different tone to the rest - more traditional Manics - is that what the next album is going to be like?
"A little bit, it's definitely a link to the next album. I didn't want to give it to James, the lyric, because it's kind of classic Manics territory - class warfare and all that, chips on your shoulder. I think it works really well as an introduction, sonically, to the next record."
What did you think about the reaction from the public and the media when Margaret Thatcher died?
"I felt nothing, because she'd been dead to me for years and years. The song's about her philosophy really, it's not about her. I see my own community f**king wrecked and barely ever recovered, so I don't really need to celebrate or dance. It didn't have any impact on me at all. The damage has been done where I live, so I just felt kind of cold about it all really - in every way. I just didn't want to see it or hear it. I'm just really proud that terrible film with Meryl Streep [The Iron Lady] basically it was only the south of England that f**king watched that. No-one in Wales, no-one in Scotland and very few in the north of England watched it."
Do you still get nervous when you have a new album out?
"I think we get f**king worse, because you realise how hard it is to be 44 and still competing with lots of young people. I think it feels more nervewracking than ever, to be honest, because we've got this inbuilt thing to communicate with people. We still want people to hear it, if people want us."
It seems like they do!
"Yeah, but it's hard. Most of my favourite bands, by the time they were in their 40s, on their 11th album... well, they didn't exist. All the bands we grew up with have split up and reformed. We're still here, ploughing a lone furrow."
What do you think young bands should be singing about now?
"I think there's lots! Lots to partake in, but I don't really hear any. Maybe with the exception of Plan B. Last year he tried to address certain aspects of what it's like to be young and growing up in Britain. As a rule I think most people want to ignore it and just enjoy the good times, which I find slightly disheartening. There's a lot of stuff to write about, and it shouldn't be up to us to do it. We're way too old. I'm glad I feel old now. I've never felt a generation gap until this album really. I do feel slightly ostracised from youth, which is good. It's the way it should be."
Generation Terrorists captured what it's like to feel young and restless, critics are saying this album captures another stage of life...
"A s**t stage!"
Was it intentional, or did it just come out like that?
"It was just looking in the mirror, I came off stage one night and I was covered in glitter, leopard print leggings on. I thought I was Ke$ha or someone, and I realised I was a 42-year-old man who had to take my children to school the next day, and I just felt a tiny bit old. I thought I've got to readjust a little bit."
Is it harder for new bands with the commercial pressures to have the freedom to be political and to mess up?
"It's a fine line. If you want to do it surely you should still be driven to do it. But it's definitely harder, because we were lucky enough to be on Sony and sell no records, then sell loads of records. I don't know if a band can sustain a career anymore. It's a shame, but you should still follow your convictions, I say."
How much attention do you pay to the critics these days?
"I read every review. Even the s**tiest microblog from the depths of f**king nowhere. But I like people's opinions, to be honest. I don't care if they're bad. Obviously you want them to be good. Sometimes criticism is very healthy. I've learnt a lot from some of my favourite music writers who have criticised us. When you get a good review - this album's had lots of good reviews so far - it feels good."
Are you ever tempted to go on anonymously and comment?
"It's dangerous! I've watched The West Wing and The Thick of It too much to ever dip into that pool, that cesspit!"
You famously love pop music and pop culture, but what do you think of The X Factor and other reality TV shows?
"It's completely kind of outside my world, but it doesn't infuriate me like some other stuff. I've said it many times, me and Richey did some of the worst TV ever. Talking to glove puppets, a little sheep was talking to us in Ireland when we were 22. It'd be wrong of me to be high and mighty and say you shouldn't do it. It's just mass communication. It's not my thing, but it doesn't make me as mad as Ed f**king Milliband."
You played a Radio 2 set for a Radio 2 crowd, was there a bit of you deep down that was tempted - Buckingham Palace up the road, to kick into 'Repeat'?
There's always that in us! But like I was saying earlier, I don't know if it's a tiny bit embarrassing now. I'm sure it'll come back. At the moment I think it's all because we've got kids and everything, it doesn't feel quite right. You've got to believe. It's why we struggle with The Holy Bible sometimes. It's such a mental state of mind when you play those records. You can't fake it, the crowd know it. They all know - our crowd more than any crowd will f**king tell you. It's a hard balance really. But we'll get it. I'll get it back."
When you released Journal For Plague Lovers, you played it in full - would you do that for another album?
"It was very demanding to do, maybe because of the tone of the lyrics, and obviously it was all Richey's lyrics. Afterwards we felt like we wouldn't. Having said that, it's 20 years since The Holy Bible next year, and there's a bit of us that thinks, maybe we should for once, stop being so f**king principled and make loads of money and play it! Try and get a hologram of Richey, or something, like Tupac! But I'm not sure. I don't think we will again. We found it hard to pace the set, we wanted to come on and do a load of greatest hits. We're doing five or six of the new album on the tour. Richard Hawley's joining us for three of the dates, Cate Le Bon's joining us for a few of the dates to do a duet as well. That'll break it up a little bit."
Do you ever see the band stopping one day - or will you go on forever like The Rolling Stones?
"I think we do see an end to playing live. I don't think we see an end to making records. We just love being the three of us together in the studio. It's the one time where all the hatred and the spite... there's no-one there but us three, and we can just be like we were when we were 18. It's a magical feeling really. It's such a bond. But life, physically, you can't... like I said, we don't like faking it really."
Will you do any more solo records? Will Sean ever get the chance to do a drums 'n' horns thing?
"I'm trying to get him to do a one-man band live! I've got loads of songs, really s**t, out of tune, Lou Reed feedback songs, which I'll probably chuck out. I don't know about James, really. I think he'd like to do just an instrumental guitar w**k album, where he can just go off the leash and live out all his metal fantasies, really. I'd like that."
'Show Me The Wonder' and 'Rewind The Film' are like the antithesis of each other - did you intend them to be heard together?
"No, 'Show Me The Wonder' came late. It was very natural, we were listening to loads of Elvis, '70s Vegas Elvis, and James just thought he'd come up with a radio hit single. We still think like that, we're not particularly snobbish about it. It's the one song on the album that is very uplifting. It has been a radio hit so I've got to give it to him! It came very late and I think we were a bit nervous about it. But it's got a kind of '70s class about it that sort of fits in. Just about."
How creatively are you involved in the videos?
"Pretty much it's always down to me, because the other two really hate videos. I think when it works best I do get really involved. Like with this director Kieran [Evans]. The third instalment is with Craig [Roberts] again and will be set in the '80s. We started now, went back to the '70s, and the next one's going to be miners' strikes - desolation, repossession, divorce! It'll be like f**king Boys From The Black Stuff... the videos do have a really nice melancholic feel to them."
What will be the next single?
"It's a toss-up at the moment between 'As Holy As The Soil' or 'Anthem For A Lost Cause'. But it'll fit the video theme whichever. Craig is just brilliant to work with - Submarine is one of my favourite films ever and he's a lovely guy, a real sweetheart. He's got kind of a Welsh LA accent, because he lived in LA. He's like a small version of Richard Burton. He's sweet."