The self-imposed sabbatical is over, as Nicky Wire, Forest fan James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore return to the charts with Send Away The Tigers and the gig circuit, including a Rock City sell-out next week. Nicky Wire explains himself.
Why Send Away The Tigers?
Send Away The Tigers is a phrase the late comedian Tony Hancock used whenever he started drinking. I saw a parallel between that line and the animals being released from the zoo in Baghdad when the Allies invaded. A misguided idea of liberation. Also that idea of being haunted by a wrong decision. With Hancock it was sacking his writers and moving to Australia. And, if it weren't for the Iraq war, in historical terms (not mine) Tony Blair would be seen as a decent Prime Minister. Now his life is utterly ruined. On a smaller scale, certain things I've said which have been stupid and inane... they're what I'm gonna be remembered for.
Why the return to the big rock sound of the '90s Manics?
I'd been reading a lot about Pete Townshend after doing Quadrophenia, and how he realised that he'd lost touch with what Who fans loved about The Who. We've been through a process of destroying what we are. And all great bands do that but ever since Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth we've been trying to reduce ourselves to a pile of rubble. Just because you become fearful of what you've become if you're intelligent and have a brain. People forget we started off as an indie band on Heavenly and did do self-financed stuff. So we reacted to what we'd become. 2001's Know Your Enemy album was self-indulgent and lazy with scattered moments of brilliance our Marlon Brando period. And our last album, 2004's Lifeblood I mean, if you listen to Love Of Richard Nixon it just sounds nothing like Manic Street Preachers. It sounds like the Pet Shop Boys on steroids.
You and James both released solo albums in 2006. Did your I Killed The Zeitgeist and his The Great Western get something out of your systems?
Doing the solo albums has been really important and really helpful in terms of letting us do the albums we wanted to do in a vain kind of way and then realising what we're genuinely great at. Doing the few solo gigs that I did, meeting people and being stimulated and having loads of fun, I realised that The Manics had lost that element of fabulous disaster the Technicolor moment of the Sex Pistols being so hilarious, as well as serious. We had loads of fun and we were both happy with the results. But it was good to know that we're seen as a band. People don't identify us as individuals. I find that encouraging. I did five solo gigs and, apart from 200 hardcore fans that followed me around there was no one! Utterly disastrous. It made me really face all the fears I faced when I was young. It was challenging and invigorating. Perhaps James was a bit more shocked, because he's the consummate musician.
Was there ever a possibility of the band splitting up?
We never contemplated splitting. We didn't have a friction-based disaster because we're not those kind of people. But there was a general malaise.
What was drummer Sean Moore up to while you two were doing your solo work?
He's had two children. He goes shooting a lot. He's a member of a shooting club; he has learned the martial art of Kendo. He's a very mysterious character, Sean, otherworldly at times. He boarded his attic. He's a technological pioneer and is always at the cutting-edge of that. He also relearned his drumming a bit. He'd kind of lost all his rock tendencies. So he spent a lot of time listening to Appetite For Destruction and old Who records, trying to get back what he was. Sean has written a lot more of the music with James this time around.
Why choose Nina Persson of The Cardigans for the first single Your Love Alone Is Not Enough?
When I was writing this song it was coming out as a duet. And I was thinking, "Maybe James will let me sing it." But when I played it to James on a little cassette machine - quite nerve-racking, actually - I said, "I thought Nina could sing it with you", thinking he might say, "Why don't you do it?" Of course, he never did! He came back with the whole completed song three hours later. And Nina was the perfect choice to sing it. I think The Cardigans are one of the great-underrated bands and I love her voice.
Is it true that Your Love Alone Is Not Enough is about Richey Edwards?
It's a complicated lyric. What it's trying to say on one level is that any single element is never enough for a country to survive. You can't solely have religion, or love, or democracy. We need all these elements for any country to be coherent. It is also about people and specifically, suicide. There are just too many people I've known who have killed themselves. James was like, "Great. Another (eff)ing song about suicide! I thought you did all that on your solo album?" I guess people will assume it is about Richey, too. He was in a successful band, he could have had a nice girlfriend if he wanted, and we all loved him. But it wasn't enough. Whether it's suicide or not, obviously, we don't know. But there's a line in there: "I could have seen for miles and miles/I could've shown you how to smile/I could've shown you how to cry..." it's just that feeling of regret. Could someone have done more?"