Nicky Wire talks toilets and stage-trashing, as we celebrate 10 years of Manic Street Preachers in the Melody Maker interview.
Something odd happened to the Manics this year. The fight, attitude and passion seemed to drop out of their world. Interviews were polite, if indeed they decided to talk at all. Live too, things were more than a tad lacklustre. Their appearance at Glastonbury plodded when it should have flame-grilled the cows in the upper fields. Thing was, they were up for two more festival appearances. All the evidence suggested this was going to be messy.
Then at T In The Park, there was a flurry of activity. Their US tour was cancelled due to James' mother falling seriously ill and the rumour mill got up to speed in hours: was it true they were splitting? Had they flopped in America? were they bored with the whole shebang? Their performance that night was incendiary. But further intrigue was to follow with the cancellation of more US dates. So what really happened to the Manics in 1999? Only one way to find out...ask Nicky Wire.
You've had a year of ups and downs...
"It always is with us, isn't it? I think when you become in the limelight as much as us, there's that voracious appetite to write about somebody, then the kind of tiny things that go wrong get blown out of proportion, Which I'm happy with. I'm a student of the press so it doesn't bother me. I mean, James loses his voice, it's not that exciting to me, but I went into Tower Records and got the Melody Maker and I felt quite excited. 'Disaster!' Which it wasn't. It wasn't that exciting to me."
Do you still feel the excitement after 10 years?
"Oh yeah. I wouldn't be doing it otherwise. I can't say I feel it of every single gig. Trudging through Germany sometimes, it's not the most exciting thing on earth. .
What was the highlight of the year?
"Just becoming big internationally, really. There's always been pockets around the world, but this year we've played to 10,000 people in Helsinki and Stockholm, and going to Japan and Australia and doing well out there, It's been a real buzz. We've sold two million albums now without selling any in America really, which is quite an achievement. Y'know, our big quote was to be the biggest rock'n'roll band in the world. We're not quite there, but, you know, we're getting there.'
How far until you become the biggest band in the world?
"We're only America off, If we crack America somehow, we'll be right up there with the biggest of the big boys."
How was the American tour in the end?
"It was... all right and I f***ing hate the place. I quite enjoyed it this time."
What don't you like?
"Well, it's just the biggest facade in the world, isn't it? Just America, in general, is just a sham. It does get you down, the false nature of it."
The glitz and the glamour must have appealed?
"The size of it appeals, the enormity, the scale of it, but, at the moment I just feel lost when we're out there. It's changed a bit. We were playing to a thousand people a night at some of the gigs which, for us, is something of an achievement, It's usually one man and his dog... but it's a funny old place, I can't get to grips with it, Yet. We had a really good time in Canada cos the record's done well there, but that's totally different."
The festivals this year were eventful, weren't they?
"I think they were a turning point T In The Park was, certainly And not just for the press, but for us as well, cos we've been incredibly professional for us this year, which is not necessarily in our nature."
Do you find it strange that people still make such a fuss after 10 years?
"Nah, it makes me feel good because if they don't then I know it's all over, like when you become a band that's just a bit 'Why bother writing about them?'"
Have you felt like you've had to keep your head down and be diplomatic?
"I think, yeah. We've played the game. We've been obsessed with working. Our work ethic is generally big, anyway, but just being nice to people..."
Is that an effort?
"Yeah, it is. If takes its toll on you. I'm glad to be freed of the shackles of that."
So what happened? Was there a flashpoint?
"To get to that point of reacting against something, there's got to be a big build-up of hatted. It's not like when we started when you could attack everything. When you meet other bonds and pretend to like them and shake their hands and all the rest of it, you can't go slogging them off, so I just decided that really all that post six months had been pretty false and just...it's great being the most unpopular man in rock'n'roll again."
Did you decide to do it or did something inside just snap as you walked onstage?
"Oh no, When we were at T In The Park, I went up to Scotland about three days early by myself. I didn't want to fly, so I got a train. I stayed at this nice hotel and swam constantly and did a bit of working out, bought myself a nice dress and felt really trim and I just vibed myself up. The toilet thing had just happened, which I was kind of happy about. If we'd done that in '92, everybody would have thought it was a fantastic gesture. It's just because we're rich that people didn't like it."
It wasn't a scam then?
"Noooooo. I'd do it again."
You really wanted a private toilet just for the three of you?
"Nah, it was just me. You can't tarnish the other boys with it. I just didn't want anyone touching it really. So I was in my hotel room and I just thought of a couple of things and walking onstage at T In The Park, I knew it was all going to happen. All that bile was going to come out."
It's been a long time. How did it feel?
"I just felt cleansed, I'm still counting the cost of trashing the stage. I'm personally liable for that"
Have they sent you the bill?
"T In The Park haven't because we trashed our own gear, but at V99 I might have smashed one of their lights. Or two. Or three. Or four. They've very expensive lights, you know."
Did you feel you had to pull something special out of the bag at T In The Park?
"Yeah. We got particular criticism for Glastonbury, which doesn't bother me. It was just an OK show. I don't think it was as bad as everybody thought it was, but it was just normal, average. We played well but it wasn't enough for us. We are acutely aware of that. We know people expect more from us, You can't deliver all the time, With T In The Park, it was just meant to be and it's just been the same ever since. V99 just carried on that grand tradition."
It's been uphill all the way, then?
"I think so. Doing 'Masses Against The Classes' as well, We wanted to do that and that'll be out in January and we're happy with that."
Is it the sound of the Manics going back to basics?
"Yeah, I mean the lyrics are particularly spiteful. Just like 'You Love Us', for us, was ironically arrogant. It's not like a political Class War type thing...Masses Against The Classes."
It's not a gentle song either, though, is it?
"No, oh no, it's a really hard... a bit like 'You Love Us'. It's a bit like 'Motown Junk', it's got lots of weird samples, stuff like Noam Chomsky at the start, little ad-libs in it as well. When 'Motown Junk' came out, it was described as super punky weirdness. That's what this song is, It's not like The Offspring or anything, though."
You've said the last part of the New Year’s Eve show will be the only 20 minutes you'll play live in 2000. What will you do for the remaining 527,020 minutes?
"I expect that I'll come offstage and then go home. I only live 20 minutes away. I'll linger for a while, but, you know, I'll go home and then we'll start rediscovering ourselves, Cos 'Masses Against The Classes' has got nothing to do with the next album. The next album will be totally different in every respect to what we've done before."
James has mentioned Manics Mk4. Is that going to be the case?
"Definitely Image wise, sound wise, it will be different. Even if we look like fools, it's going to be different. We want to make the effort to look... it's good when people take the piss."
Do you think you've ever looked a fool?
"I don't personally, but people do, ho ho. And I can understand that because most bonds are generally so bland,"
Everyone said you would split at some point this year, did you ever come close?
"I'm surprised at these split rumours, The Belgium thing was hilarious. I just..."
You were dead at one point.
"I know! I just got up and left. Me and Sean got on the Eurostar and come home, Sean only come because I didn't know how to buy the ticket."
What about the future?
"We've still got a record left in us that will redefine ourselves, If that doesn't work then, justifiably, we might split up, but not at the moment, There won't be a tour for 18 months, that's basically the truth. There's just no time. We want to have a new record out because we're sick of playing the songs and you know we want to reinvent ourselves... the stage show and everything,"
If you got to interview the Manics, what would you ask?
"Where's all the money gone? That's what we ask our manager all the time! And I'd ask...why are Gomez so shit? Because they are," It's been 10 years now since the Manics shook up our world. And, as always, just when you think they've f***ed it royally, they bounce back bigger, brighter and more confident than ever. Who knows what 2000 will hold? Whatever it is, you can bet it's not going to be uneventful as far as the Manic Street Preachers go."