You’re never too old to learn something new.
Manic Street Preachers might have 12 studio albums under their belts – with a 13th about to drop – but the band are still open to new ideas.
The trio, who are playing the 6 Music leg of BBC Music’s Biggest Weekend in Belfast on 25 May, say they’re always happy to pick up a tip or two off a fellow artist, and so are quite open about acknowledging their influences.
In fact, when the band’s James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire stood in for Iggy Pop on 6 Music recently, they were happy to pay their dues to the musicians who have left their mark on them via a special, hand-picked playlist.
Yet, it isn’t just the Manics’ songs and albums that have benefited from their influences. Here are 6 unexpected ways the likes of Wire, Julia Holter, Iggy Pop himself and more have reshaped Manic Street Preachers' world.
1. The Manics' many duets wouldn’t have happened without Iggy Pop
Nina Persson, Traci Lords, Richard Hawley, Georgia Ruth… Manic Street Preachers are not shy about inviting collaborators to appear on their songs, although it seems none of these duets would have taken place without 6 Music’s own Iggy Pop.
“Iggy Pop’s Candy is one of those songs that kind of got us to love, and realise how powerful duets could be,” says James Dean Bradfield.
“We’ve done lots of duets – songs like Little Baby Nothing and Your Love Alone – and I really do think us doing so many duets came from that song. It’s a beautiful, beautiful song, it’s got narration in it, it’s got soaring voices in it – the gravitas of the Iggy going underneath Kate Pierson and just pinning the harmony down – it’s just beautiful. It really is an underrated Iggy Pop moment.”
However despite their many musical hook-ups, the band admit there is one duet they’re still aching for, namely their own shot with The B-52s singer.
“Candy makes us want to write a song for Kate Pierson actually,” declares Nicky Wire. “If you’re out there Kate, get in touch!”
2. Girls Against Boys got the band 'up' for recording The Holy Bible
It’s thanks to the Washington DC indie hardcore band that the Manics were ready to record their seminal album The Holy Bible both as an influence… and the reason James Dean Bradfield turned up to the studio on time...
“I kept playing Learned It by Girls Against Boys on repeat round about The Holy Bible era; when we were part way through recording the album,” recalls Bradfield. “Bizarrely it was one of my wake-up songs, every morning for about two months. I really latched on to that song and I think they had a small bearing on the music I wrote for The Holy Bible, so it’s a good memory for me.”
However not everyone in the band remembers Bradfield’s choice of alarm call so fondly.
“I remember James' obsession well,” laughs Nicky Wire of hearing the song a lot. “To my pain!”
3. Anna Meredith unknowingly shaped new Manic Street Preachers' material
With the Welsh band set to release their new album Resistance Is Futile in April, frontman James Dean Bradfield says he owes a debt to contemporary composer Anna Meredith... Not that she’d realise it if she listened to the band's new record.
“I first saw her performing Nautilus on 6 Music, when they were doing their festival from Glasgow [in 2017]. I just became fascinated with the track because it just never stops moving,” says the frontman.
“It’s just pure forward motion! I went straight out and bought her album and it just helped to unlock a couple of things inside me, around writing tunes for the new record – not that any of our new songs sound anything like Anna Meredith, but sometimes someone else’s music unlocks something inside of yourself. I love her music.
“I don’t think anyone else makes music like Anna.”
4. Wire’s hatred of Nicky Wire and co. is a good thing
The Manics are all fans of post-punk overlords Wire, however it seems the feeling is not mutual despite sharing some similar musical territory.
“I absolutely love Wire. I went and bought Wire’s album 154 when I was about 15,” says James Dean Bradfield. “It’s strange, we’ve been watching a German gig of theirs in the studio on YouTube while we’ve been making our new record and it makes you realise apart from just being a very arch art punk rock band – I’m sure they will bridle at that description – they were just really tight and really cool.”
He was such an admirer of the band, he even sent the group some fan mail.
“I sent Wire a postcard once because they were doing a reformation gig at the ICA [in London] in the 1980s and I got a postcard back from them which was really nice,” recalls Bradfield. “Then jump on another 10 or 12 years, I switch on the radio and one of Wire was slagging us off on Roundtable! Such is life.”
Not that the diss has left the Manics downhearted. If anything it means they love and are influenced by Wire even more.
“We admire bands that hate us who we love,” explains Nicky Wire (no relation), “though there’s a lot of them!”
5. Julia Holter has given the Manics’ songs character
She is an artist who has charmed many people over the last couple of years, and the Manics admit they too have swooned for the atmospheric songwriting of Julia Holter.
“Her recent album Have You In My Wilderness really captured me,” says James Dean Bradfield of the Californian singer-songwriter's work, adding she's helped inspire his own songs.
“The way she seems to write about different people and different characters in her songs really helped me with writing one of the tunes on our new album,” he explains of her impact on Resistance Is Futile...
Sadly, he is a bit more coy about whether Star Trek villains The Borg have had any influence on the Manics' latest output.
6. The Radio Dept. stopped James from getting road rage
Despite detailing his Motorcycle Emptiness on 1992 debut Generation Terrorists, James Dean Bradfield is a relative newcomer to the roads… and it’s thanks to Sweden’s The Radio Dept. that he’s stayed safe while driving.
“I only passed my driving test two years ago and their song Running Out Of Love is something that kept me calm while I was a novice driver out there, trying not to slip into road rage, trying not to exceed speed limits, etc,” he admits.
“The song really kept me grounded as a new driver.”