Nick Churchill talks to Manic Street Preachers' Nicky Wire ahead of their Bournemouth gig.
He has been the guest Of Fidel Castro, sold out the Millennium Stadium, had number one singles, been honoured at the Brit Awards and thinks nothing of appearing in mascara, sporting make-up and a pink boa...but Manic Street Preachers' bass player Nicky Wire still goes up his mum's every Friday for egg and chips. "It's still my favourite meal - that and my wife's Shepherd's pie," he tells me at the decidedly non-rock 'n' roll time of 10.30 in the morning.
"Well, when you've got kids, time's a different thing altogether."
It's quintessential Nicky Wire. At once glamorous and mundane, simultaneously courting controversy and seeking safety, he gives the impression of being a classic rock 'n' roll idol...but doesn't do drugs because he's scared of dying.
He has a thoroughly well deserved reputation for the outrageous - he once suggested a giant flyover should be built over Glastonbury festival site, and wished REM's Michael Stipe would go "the same as Freddie Mercury pretty soon".
But the truth is he'd rather have a natter about the cricket or ponder the possibility of Theo Walcott realising his teenage potential. "It's something you start getting on by the age of 38," he says. "We've been really lucky in that we landed a big record deal with CBS, or whatever they were called in those days, when we were 19.
"Of course we were going to go a bit crazy - that was our job - but we've been allowed to grow and develop. Now we're on our eighth album, plus greatest hits and a B-sides and rarities compilation, making it 10 albums in all."
"Nowadays, a band gets dropped after their first album if it doesn't sell enough. That would be like sacking Walcott after one bad game at the age of 16. We could be missing out on masterpieces."
For all the band's early reputation for media-baiting sloganeering, wild behaviour and drunken fights these days it's a far more sedate Manic Street Preachers that takes to the road, saving their energy for the show as local fans will see tomorrow when the band plays the Bournemouth International Center.
"It's what my dad would call proper word," says Nicky. "You get up, get on a bus, get out at your place of work, the venue, and get on with the job."
"I actually really like that routine for a while. In the studio you have to think harder and get creative. It's on the road where you feel like you're earning your money...I don't do drugs, so the greatest high I get is being up there on stage. That's why I still dress up, it's a part of the ritual - put on the daft clothes and make-up. That, and the fact there's always a few hundred people down the front who expect it. You have to do it for them."
The Manics have always commanded a fanatical support from their hardcore followers, so writing a set list is a tough job.
"James (Dean Bradfield, singer/guitarist} always does a solo acoustic set, which means there's always a few oddities, but you have to play your big ones or else it's a disappointment."
"But I really want to play the new record because the songs are really good. Then again, the front rows would be happier if we just played B-sides. It's a struggle."
"I reckon if a band can get 10 landmark songs out of a career then they've made it. After 17 or 18 years we've got seven or eight now, I think, so there's still something to reach for."
And this from the band who initial manifesto - as drawn up by Nicky and original guitarist Richey Edwards - was to make one album as big as Guns N'Roses' Appetite For Destruction, play Wembley...and then split up.
"Yeah, well, I think we got over ourselves pretty quickly. It was a good line to come out with at the start; you have to make a bit of an impact, don't you?"
Indeed you do. Manic Street Preachers arrived from nowhere - well, Blackwood, Caerphilly - in 1991. Dressed like the New York Dolls, they daubed Clash-style slogans and quoted Camus, Van Gogh and Orwell at will. Early single, You Love Us, sampled Penderecki and Iggy Pop and their first album, Generation Terrorists, threw up at least one soul classic in the shape of Motorcycle Emptiness. (They also had plans to ape Situationist writer Guy Debord and release the record in a sandpaper sleeve to erode both the music and the records it was filed against.)
The Holy Bible, their third album (and, for many their finest) was characterised by Edwards' emotionally-wrought lyrics, recounting his struggles with alcoholism, anorexia arid self-mutilation.
On February 14, 1995, a few months after its release, Richey's car was found at the Severn View service station near the Bridge. He has not been seen since.
"There's nothing more I can say about Richey except that I hope wherever he is or whatever he did, he is happier. Who can say? Men are so fragile between the ages of 27 and 35, I'm pleased he hasn't had that stupid rock icon thing attached to him. We've all known each other since we were four or five, so to me he was the mate who cooked me Fray Bentos pie, chips and peas at university, so we've always viewed it as a friends thing."
"It's his family I feel for - I wish they knew more about it than we do - but he's still missed."
The Manics' new album, Send Away The Tigers, has been acclaimed as their best work in a decade, since the first post-Richey album Everything Must Go, spawned hits in the title track and the anthemic A Design For Life.
"I'm very proud of some of the songs on Know Your Enemy and Lifeblood, but the bigger you get, the easier it is to lose sight of yourself. It's good to still live in South Wales - it keeps you grounded, there's a healthy amount of sarcasm that follows me around."
"With this record, we went away on our own with no management, no label and no producer and just wrote the songs. I've got two kids now, so has Sean (Moore, drummer), and James is married, so your perspectives change."
"You have yo be true to yourself. I feel so lucky for being able to do this for as long as we have, as it could have been so different. If you end up as some kind of tabloid band, that is only ever going to end in tears."