An Artist? I'm A Polaroid Freak - The Observer, 30th October 2011
For the best part of 20 years, Manic Street Preachers' bassist and mouthpiece has been collecting photos of the controversial band. As the best of them are published in a book, he tells the stories behind the shots
Manic Street Preachers began their career with the following gambit. "We'll release one double album that goes to No 1 worldwide," said singer James Dean Bradfield in 1991. "One album, then we split. If it doesn't work, we split anyway."
If the quartet from Blackwood, south Wales, didn't entirely keep their word, the part about making a chart-topping album became true several times during their turbulent, event-packed career. Other highlights include meeting Fidel Castro, headlining the Millennium stadium and writing songs for Kylie Minogue. The low points are obvious and mostly concern the disappearance of Richey Edwards, rhythm guitarist and friend since childhood, in February 1995.
All the while, bassist Nicky Wire has been collecting mementos in the form of Polaroids. Some he's snapped himself, others he's snaffled from photographers during promo sessions and on tour, with a telling selection compiled in a book, Death of a Polaroid: A Manics Family Album. Published next month, it's a gallery of jumbled memories and a highly personal visual history of the band.
"The images are part of me," says Wire. "If you order the limited edition you get an actual Polaroid and it hurt to give them away. For a while, I wished I hadn't agreed to do it, but it was too late as we'd sold 50 online."
Wire acquired his Polaroid habit as a boy, his parents handing over the camera, which seemed like a toy at the time, to him and his older brother, Patrick, during birthdays, holidays and Christmas.
"I don't think I'm an artist," he says. "I'm not a photographer. I'm a Polaroid freak who thinks that the colours and the vividness and the memories encapsulated in this art form are spectacular. Nothing moves me more."
Adding to the sense of nostalgia, the band are also releasing a 38-track singles compilation, and will perform each one at the 02 in December, their last UK show "for a few years". When Wire discusses what the Manics might or might not to do next, he uses the world "if" a lot.
"There's a clearing of the decks going on with this book, and the greatest hits," he admits. "If we're going to have one last go as a band, we need to reinvent ourselves. We won't be releasing a record for two or three years but we'll be trying hard to make one. Can we do something good enough so we keep going? We've got to do something that impresses us. We've got to do something gigantic."