I Can't Change Things - Morning Star, 25th July 2006
by CLAIRE AINSLEY INTERVIEW: Controversial Manic Street Preachers lyricist NICKY WIRE gets his politics in a twist.
Chief agitator and lyricist of the Manic Street Preachers - possibly the only band to score a British number one hit with a song about the Spanish civil war - has just finished his third gig with new band Nicky Wire's Secret Society.
Playing to a small crowd at Suffolk's Latitude Festival is a world away from the adulation that Wire has got used to with the Manics, who would normally headline festivals rather than fill Sunday afternoon slots.
"I just wanted to stare failure in the face again. I wouldn't say it gets easy with the Manics, but it gets comfortable," he admits.
Last year the Manics announced a two-year break after nearly 15 years of controversy, success and tragedy, the latter in the form of missing guitarist Richey Edwards.
Singer James Dean Bradfield has just released his first solo album to critical acclaim and Wire is set to release his single Break My Heart Slowly on September 4, followed with the album I Killed The Zeitgeist, on the 18th.
He expects the Manics to resume, with third member Sean Moore, in April next year as planned.
Trading in his bass and backing vocals for acoustic guitar and lead, Wire says of his new material that "half of it is pointed discussion and half of it is music."
The absence of the Manics for the last year has meant that we missed the views of one of the most political voices in music's take on Live 8.
Unsurprisingly, Wire is critical of the hypocrisy of the event and the preaching of "pious stars."
"For all the worthiness and the good intentions, the great fault of it is that it is being perpetrated by capitalists. Richard Curtis is surely the ultimate capitalist. Notting Hill is the ultimate middle-class capitalist film. Why should I listen to him?"
"I cannot be lectured by Midge Ure. I will not listen. Just because he's been to Africa, he's got no right to lecture me on anything - on political theory, on politics, on corruption - the man has no right.
"Or Fran from Travis. They'll sell their songs to adverts and do anything to make money. Have Travis ever made a political song, ever?"
Wire says that bands should "use their ultimate platform to do something." He readily admits that the Manics could never have been "po-faced" about their politics by being purists and is fond of saying they are fallible and hypocrites.
Yet, he says, "I'll write political lyrics and I'll make people think."
"I just don't want to come over like an anti-charitable crusader, because I'm not.
"What I believe in is that it does save lives and I think it's worthwhile."
He points out that charity doesn't have to be done publicly. "What I don't believe is that it will change governments, political systems or corruption. Corruption in the West, in south America, at the World Bank. I think it's a high order to change that.
"The most important thing to know is that it saves lives. I think it's really worthy, if people do it well, but it ain't gonna change political systems."
"A lot of me wants a recession because it's better for music." Wire reckons that the Manics, who burst onto the music scene as John Major was taking over a declining Tory Party, were lucky "because we really had something to kick against."
As a "left-leaning socialist," he says that he has voted Labour in every election. He says that, for all new Labour's major failings, he praises 10 years of economic growth and particularly devolution in Wales and Scotland.
He believes that Blair's Britain has become decadent and he doubts that the bands making the best music now have experienced poverty to the extent that those living in the '80s did. When the Manics started, "people were either angry, or fucking drugged out their faces."
Wire is strongly critical of what he terms the "ungovernable Labour," of Derek Hatton and Tony Benn during the '80s.
"There's a real fatal flaw as I see it to the kind of Jeremy Corbyn side, because we've seen it all. I mean I absolutely love Michael Foot as a person, I think he's the most ultimate dignified politician there's probably ever been, but I've never been as idiotic to think that he could win a fucking election. Which is depressing.
"I've always thought that power is the most important thing," which he acknowledges can be a dangerous concept.
"I think it's because I've experienced what losing power does. There's no dignity at all in Tony Benn, at sitting back for 20 years as Thatcher destroyed Wales.
"He may be fucking proud of his principles, but it didn't do us any good whatsoever. Wales is a much better place under new Labour than it was under Thatcher."
"Capitalism has won and, ever since it has, I feel pretty redundant. Communism's failed, unfortunately. Socialism's teetering on the edge and capitalism is dominant. All you can do is tinker, but I don't think you can change anything. I think 'politics' should be erased and the word 'charity' be replaced.
"The middle class has won. Capitalism has had the greatest victory and it's depressing. People have bought into it much more than they did in the 1950s.
"I don't know if they're particularly happy with it, but they just buy into it more than ever. I mean, you couldn't even get bottled water in Wales when I was growing up."
So, does he believe that there is any point at all in political - not charitable - activism?
"I have deep admiration for any person who's politically engaged and activated," he says, including for Damon Albarn, who fronted up the Stop the War demo in London on the eve of the Iraq war.
"I really admire all those movements. I'm still a political animal. We're all waiting for the next great leap forward, in political theory. Something will come along, I genuinely believe that.
"There is hope. There's hope round the corner, it's just when is the problem."
He doesn't pretend to offer any activism himself. "There was this great thing from Joan Baez where she said that everyone thinks that Bob Dylan turned up to every protest going, but he didn't, he just sat at home and thought about it and I have to admit that I'm much more like that. I'm not a doer but a thinker. I'm quite embarrassed by it."
If you're going to find Wire more directly involved in politics, it would be combining two of his greatest loves.
"Nothing would make me happier than to be minister of culture and sport for the Welsh Assembly. I think I could do a really good job." He says that he'd like to go into politics, but has too much of a past - which is an understatement.
He believes that Cameron's Tories are threatening to become a genuine challenge to new Labour and, despite their "wafer-thin" policy, can see people believing in him.
Gordon Brown, he reckons, could make things "10 per cent better" and admires his commitment for real change in Africa.
"There are enough people in the Labour Party to save it," he is sure, citing Peter Hain, Ed Miliband and, perhaps more surprisingly, John Reid as possible leading lights in turning the party around under a Brown leadership.
It's a shame that, as minister of culture for Wales, he wouldn't have the ability to implement his parting policy - privatising the royal family, which he describes as "the ultimate humiliation."
They'd lose all their staff, they'd have to work like fucking Trojans and they'd be miserable as sin. I think that would be the ultimate embarrassment, to privatise them. It would be fantastic."