THE INTERVIEWS TOOK PLACE AT THE UNCONVENTION EXHIBITION IN CARDIFF.
Nicky Wire Interview
In the past, dramatists used to imagine what Britain would have been like if we'd lost the second world war. You think, how would it have turned out? There's a related feeling in this the exhibition. Let's imagine we were back at the start of the Manics career, ten years ago. You could have played this mad game. What would happen if the Manics became famous? In your wildest dreams, there would be an exhibition in Cardiff, works by Picasso, Andy Warhol and stuff. Now it's actually happened, does that feel surreal to you?
Nicky: "Yeah, but my ego was big enough then and big enough now to feel justified by it. I do feel that no other band in Britain or the world could have something like this. Bands have exhibitions on their own artwork, and all the rest, but this is just something really really special."
You've already said that your favourite work in this show is by Martin Kippenberger (Vom Einfachsten nach Hause). How does he fit into the Manics' vision?
Nicky: "After 'The Holy Bible' we were looking for a single cover for 'Faster' and 'PCP'. If you remember, it was a Chinese or Japanese kid with a bottle of Coke, sucking on a straw. I'd only vaguely heard of Kippenberger before that, and I found it in a book. I thought it was perfect. And from then on, I really got into him. He's not that famous. Obviously, in Germany, he is more. But he's lived to the minute, the exact opposite to me, in every sense. It's the same idea of the cover to the Sex Pistols' 'Holiday In The Sun' - A holiday in other people's misery. "and then for 'Revol' we used one of his pictures, and for 'She Is Suffering'. He had a big impact. He's an artist of our time.
I wasn't aware of the powerful connection between the Welsh and the Spanish civil war, until I saw this show. Were you?
Nicky: "There really was a connection. About three years ago I said I was trying to write this song, after 'Spanish Bombs' by The Clash and 'Homage To Catalonia' by George Orwell. I was trying to bring it all together. I actually got sent a lot of books from university professors from Swansea and stuff. Perhaps I didn't even know the scale of it myself, the scale of the Welsh involvement. Even when we were touring America the last time, I had a really nice book given to me, and it was letters from the American International Brigade. I didn't even know there was one. So all those kind of things make it worthwhile."
We're coming up to new year's eve now. Your show in Cardiff is obviously popular, in contrast to some other high profile events. What are your expectations for the evening?
Nicky: "I'm scared to my wits end at the moment! There's gonna be an exodus from the valleys. I don't think there's gonna be anybody left up there. So much family and stuff. We're not used to dealing with that. Once we're on stage, we'll be fine, but there's a point in the show where it goes global to two billion people or whatever, so we'll probably be playing awful when we do that. But it's a great way to finish, and then we've got 'Masses Against The Classes' coming out. That feels like we haven't given up. There's something new in us. I'm really glad that that's coming out. I don't believe in retrospectives too much. We could have put a greatest hits out and all the rest of it, but we don't wanna do that yet. We still think there's a lot left."
The song 'Masses Against The Classes' seems to invoke the ghosts of old songs like 'Motown Junk' and 'You Love Us'. Is that right?
Nicky: "To coin your phrase, it's 'super-punky weirdness'. That's exactly what we went for. If you listen to it on headphones, you hear James mumbling stuff, like '1-2-3-4', and there's a Beatles lift from 'Twist And Shout'. There's a Noam Chomsky sample at the start and the last thing James says is a quote from Albert Camus. I sometimes feel that as you get older, you should strive to get into other things. But sometimes you've just gotta go back to your roots. Not just musically, but I should also be proud that I like Camus and Orwell. Just because I've liked them for 15 years, doesn't mean that I should be getting into other stuff just for the sake of it. I feel comfortable with it."
The band took some criticism in the summer. Various sections of the media will be trying to take credit for the new band style, saying, 'ah, we made the manics make a great record'. What would you say to them?
Nicky: "That doesn't bother me. Because, sad as it may seem, the NME is still a vague part of my life. It's getting more vague... But it doesn't bother me that they have to think that. Subliminally, it might even do it. Having said that, I would never do a record with William Hague, like Billy Bragg has just done. Sorry Billy, but I've won there."
The Manics' new year's eve show in Cardiff has drawn 60 000 people, each paying around £30. Most of the dance nights are charging as much as £100. Do you understand the economics of that?
Nicky: "Basically, we're losing £50 000. But with t-shirt sales and video rights, we'll probably make it back. So everyone else has gone out to make money and whatever. I think it's extremely over-rated just to sit there and listen to dance music, but then that's just me. Then again, I think the public have voted with their feet, as they say. We sold this out without even announcing a support band. Now we've got Shack, Feeder and Super Furry Animals, my favourite band in the world."
You made a comment recently about not renewing your passport. Was it flippant or were you serious?
Nicky: "Yeah, it was flippant. I mean, I threaten this all the time. It was always my idea that when the passport was up, it wouldn't be renewed. But I'm surprising our manager and the other boys at the moment. I'm very re-invigorated, I'm doing lots of artistic things and other stuff. So they're all a bit worried about me. I dunno why, but I've just about got over being 30. For a long time, about six months or so, I just felt embarrassed about being it, and then I realised that I'm a lot younger than a lot of bands."