A compilation, a new album in the works, more distressing rumours about Richey and the prospect of the greatest football song ever - Eamon Sweeney finds Nicky Wire of Manic Street Preachers with plenty to talk about
Write them off at your peril. Just when you thought you’d seen the Manics once too often, they pulled a stonker out of the bag for Witnness. A blistering Saturday Upstage headliner ransacked the vaults to deliver ‘Prologue to History’, ‘Its So Easy’ by Guns N’ Roses, ‘Camper Van Beethoven’, ‘Skinheads Bowling’ and the last track they worked on with Richey Edwards, ‘Judge Yourself’.
Following last year’s Forever Delayed Greatest Hits set, a new collection entitled Lipstick Traces – A Secret History of the Manic Street Preachers also sees them in archivist mode.
Given such a wide choice of source material, are all compilation decisions made unanimously? “I’m the chief spin-doctor who puts it to them and if they are arsed they dip in,” Nicky Wire laughs. “With this one we did a poll on the website and 10,000 fans voted for their favourite b-sides. It’s a healthy mixture.”
Away from his own Manic responsibilities, what gives Wire a buzz in the year Y2K’03? “I love Radiohead and Super Furry Animals and I absolutely adore Goldfrapp, all for very different reasons,” he offers. “Kinesis are a really good young band. I just love The Thrills for the pure pop sensation that they give me. They remind me of Primal Scream with ‘Velocity Girl’ when they were jingly jangly Byrds copyists. I’m still in love with music and I’m still in love with pop culture. The last six months have been really good. If I was a young kid now I’d probably wouldn’t want to like us because there are plenty of new bands out there. It’s a really good time to see Kings of Leon crashing into the charts and even The Darkness.”
The good news for Preachers’ fans, meanwhile, is that there is another new studio album in the offing with the working titles ‘Blueprint For Exile’, ‘Litany’ and ‘The Unwritten Diaries’. “Its just going to be an elegiac pop album,” Nicky reveals. “Ten tracks of us trying to be uplifting which is probably not that uplifting (laughs). Its melancholic and has lots of epiphanies and fragments of civilisation which will show a different side to stuff. There is always politics in there. Gosh, its hard to explain. We’re trying to be just a little more romantic I guess. Carol Anne Duffy is a poet I’ve been reading a lot and she has been a big influence on my lyric writing.”
On a much sadder note, shortly before Witnness, the spectre of Richey Edwards again loomed after the discovery of a human skeleton ten miles downstream from the Severn Bridge, the spot where Edwards disappeared on February 1, 1995. An examination of dental records revealed that the remains were not those of Edwards, but perhaps yet another victim of one of the most notorious suicide spots in Wales.
“It’s just horrendous,” Wire reflects. “It seems to happen every time we put a record out. The year before it was a pair of trainers which apparently had Richey’s feet in them which wasn’t true. I knew it wasn’t true because the trainers were so fucking shit. It was such a slight on the man that he’d even wear trainers like that. They were like Robert Smith trainers or something. We’d just come offstage from playing to 20,000 people in Denmark and someone says they might have found Richey’s body. I think it would have broken most bands but we’ve tried to become anaesthetised to it.”
“What people don’t understand was that Richey was a friend first. We’re all friends first and bandmates later. I played football with him since the age of five so its always a personal thing rather than get sucked into this rock icon. He is just the bloke that played right wing when I played centre forward. For his parents, it must be more horrendous. James went to see them last week. Welsh people cope. They’re good at being miserable and getting on with it. I think if we had come from a different class we’d probably have spent the last ten years whinging about it. That’s not our way.”
As an early single asked, “from despair to where?” No doubt Nicky’s football colleague, wherever he is, would be thrilled with Wales’ progress in the European Championship Qualifiers. “I don’t want to curse them,” Nicky cautions. “I’ve done my research into Portugal and the hotel and everything are on hold. We’ve got to win the group. If we get into the play-offs I’d really worry – we’ll probably get you in the play-offs which would be terrible. You’re on a bit of a tidal wave of goodness at the moment. We are a bit more prone to disaster. I’ve seen us lose against Scotland, Denmark and Romania – at least four times in the final game! That would be too painful. If we do qualify, we will write an amazing football song. I’ve written it in my head and it’ll be amazing but again I don’t want to curse them.”
Anyone out there got a song in the offing in the event of a Wales/Ireland play-off?
Lipstick Traces – A Secret History Of The Manic Street Preachers is out now on Sony