Interview: Nicky Wire, Bassist, Manic Street Preachers - Edinburgh Evening News, 28th September 2010
NICKY WIRE is a bit of a rogue, isn't he? A great interviewee, for sure. Pretty likeable. Extremely literate. Very outspoken. A bit of a rent-a-quote. So the Manic Street Preachers' bassist and lyricist will have known exactly what he was doing when he told the press a few weeks back that the band's tenth studio album, the just released Postcards From A Young Man, represents "a last shot at mass communication". And if, as suspected, he was looking for column inches by hinting that it might be their swansong, then job done. The music press swallowed his words hook, line and sinker. He wasn't fooling everyone, though. Those who have followed the Welsh band over the course of their 20-year career know not to read too much into Wire's words, for there's always the big bold statement to accompany the release of a new Manics album. There's always a side show in the build up to a record hitting the shops. Old pro that he is, seems he was at it again. Wire now stresses that he didn't mean this would be the Manics' last release, rather that the early Noughties were unkind to them, and they're currently riding on a second wave of relevance. "We've thrown everything at this record, and made something genuinely commercial," he says. "We're well aware it could connect with people or be a complete disaster. There are no in-betweens. "It's Not War (Just The End Of Love) is our biggest radio hit in years and there's a good feeling around, but I just don't know what that means any more. Ask me this in 1999 and I'd have said 'We'll sell a million records'. Now, we could sell 50,000." The Manics have sold eight million albums and had two No 1 singles, but the trio have spasmed in and out of fashion since bursting on to a Manchester-obsessed scene in 1989 with debut single Suicide Alley, never quite managing to stay in rock's major league for more than an album or two. Then, usually right after they've been written off as past their sell-by date for the umpteenth time, they rise phoenix-like to become hugely popular again. Given that Postcards From A Young Man follows sizeable successes Send Away The Tigers and Journal For Plague Lovers, that's probably what Wire meant when he said "last shot at mass communication". He meant that if they can deliver another commercial success with their tenth album then they might just cement their place in the top flight for good. Either way, though, the band aren't planning on retirement any time soon. "We survived Madchester, Britpop, whatever," says Wire, speaking ahead of tomorrow night's gig at the Corn Exchange. "We've drifted away and made our own niche, much like the best bands do. "Of course we'll make more music, indulgent, 70-track albums probably, but we'll always be around," he goes on."We could trade on our past and make quite a good living doing it, but we've still got this inexpressible urge to communicate, and get our point across. "I think we've really done it this time. We may never be this good again." When Wire, James Dean Bradfield (vocals, guitars), Sean Moore (drums) and the now missing-presumed-dead Richey James Edwards (guitar) first emerged from the Cardiff music scene in the late Eighties, they definitely weren't your average guitar band. Decked out in feather boas, eyeliner and nail varnish, the four young men combined lyrics of leftist politics, philosophy and high culture with a glam-punk soundtrack. But while they're a lot more pop- orientated now than they were back then, Wire insists that they've not gone soft on us. "You can't be angry forever," says the 41-year-old. "But I think we channel the anger in more constructive ways these days. "The air of nostalgia on this record is defined by our personalities being the same as they always were. The nihilism and the vanity of rock 'n' roll, which I think is important to all great music, is still deeply embedded in us, but now there's the faint sense of wisdom that age has brought us, too. "I'd love to believe in the absolutes, but they don't exist anymore," he adds. Art-rockers turned occasional pop superstars, the Manics, whose impressive back catalogue includes such classics as Motorcycle Emptiness, Masses Against The Classes, Motown Junk and A Design For Life, get accused of selling out every time they score a big hit. According to Wire, though, they've always aimed for the mainstream. "When you look at most bands, by the time they get to their tenth album, people may still come to the shows but everyone knows that the albums have been rubbish for years. "Or you're an artist like Patti Smith or Leonard Cohen and everyone goes to the Royal Festival Hall to see you and thinks its marvellous, but no-one listens to your new record. Well, that's not good enough for us. From the moment we started, we wanted the biggest number of people to hear what we had to say. We want to hear these records on the radio." The Manics, who played their first Capital gig to just a few dozen curious punters back in 1989, have long been a formidable live act. But even after all these years of touring, they love being on the road, now more than ever in fact. "Touring is pure enjoyment now," says Wire. "It's hard work but I really feel that sense of the dignity of labour. It's mental refreshment, it's broadening your horizons. This has really come in the last five years, since Your Love Alone and how that's opened doors for us from Croatia to Singapore."