Interview: Nicky Wire - Muzyka z Głośnika, September 2002

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Title: Interview: Nicky Wire
Publication: Muzyka z Głośnika
Date: September 2002
Writer: Maciek Rychlicki

At the end of September, the long-awaited compilation of the greatest hits of Manic Street Preachers is released. A gift for fans or maybe closing a chapter from your history?
"I think that's it. We needed some time, looking back on everything we have achieved so far. It is also a form of thanks to the fans and informing some of them, especially in the UK, that the band existed before the great success of the album "Everything Must Go" and that Richey played in it (Edwards, the guitarist of the Ministry of State Treasury, which in 1995 disappeared without a trace - note.MR). It's also a small replay of history."

The title "Forever Delayed" suggests that the release of this album was not as easy as it seems.
"The title refers to one piece from our second album. Already at that time we thought that this might be the right title for the "best of" compilation. Many years have passed since then, we managed to release a lot of singles and we could not wait any longer - we could choose from 28 tracks. The time has come for her."

And did the tenth anniversary of the band's anniversary also have its meaning?
"Probably not. After the previous album "Know Your Enemy", the most diverse in terms of music, we have achieved extremes in our views and texts. We have reached the point where we needed a bit of a nostalgic look at what's behind us. History Manic Street Preachers is a romantic story, full of ups and downs. We wanted to remind her again. Many people think that we boast about our success. But on the record there are also traces of many failures that have happened to us."

So it should be treated as so-called concept album?
"Yes, music is a tool to tell the story of the band. That's why we chose songs from every stage of our career."

How, then, did the selection of these works proceed? Have you guided the positions they reached on the charts, did you pick them at your own discretion?
"The criterion was rather our private attitude to each piece. We really wanted to put on the album three singles "Motown Junk", "Suicide Is Painless" and "The Masses Against Classes", which had not hit any album before. We also wanted to record 2 or 3 completely new pieces. Choosing songs for the album turned out to be more difficult than we thought. I wanted, for example, "Stay Beautiful", James "Ocean Spray" and Sean "Life Becoming a Landslide". But that's how it works with democracy! (laugh)"

During the recording session during which the new song "There By The Grace Of God" was made, have you also recorded the pieces that will be on your next album?
"We recorded about 12-14 songs, of which four will go to be the B Side of the single "There By The Grace Of God." So there are about eight, but we still do not know what to do with them."

Is the release of the "best of" album associated with a sense of release - we can do what we want, start working on a new account, because we have settled the past?
"In some sense. Our next album will be something completely different, new. We've always been interested in recording an album such as "Nebraska" by Bruce Springsteen - something acoustic, clean. Summaries of the story have it that after all they solve your hands: they give you the opportunity to do what you want."

Then, crazy ideas also appear: you've probably heard lately that one of the brit-pop legends - the Blur band - records their new album with Fatboy Slim. What do you say?
"Damon's success (Albarn, vocalist Blur) from Gorillaz has caused it to open up to completely new musical genres. It is a pity, therefore, that the band leaves another co-creator - Graham Coxon. His twisted guitars and characteristic, slightly tearful vocals have always been an inseparable part of Blur. It's a bit of fun, but we started around the same time as they were, and today we're one of the few who survived."

What do you think, what caused you to survive the crisis that was undergoing Brit-pop and all rock music in general?
"We've always been friends. We grew up in the same village, we went to the same school, so we were close to each other not only as musicians, but also people. What's more, we were also regarded as "outsiders" - at the time when The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays ruled the Islands, we were considered to be representatives of glam or punk-rock. We joined Brit-pop only with the release of "The Holy Bible" - a very dark, confrontational album. But I think we've always been somewhere to the side, in spite of prevailing trends or trends. We were saved by the distance we have kept for years. Maybe it was thanks to him that we never lost ground under our feet."

The limited edition of the album will include remixes of your songs by such stars as The Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack or The Avalanches. How did you manage to encourage them to cooperate?
"With many of these musicians James (Dean Bradfield) manages to be friends personally. Back in 1993, our first independent Heavenly Records label included the Heavenly Social club, which is now an iconic place in London. Often the Chemical Brothers danced there, Paul Weller and the James group came in for beer. The fact that David Holmes, Massive Attack and the Avalanches have prepared remixes for us now shows that we have been there from the beginning. Although we certainly owe their cooperation to James, who revolves around the environment. He is more sociable than me. Only thanks to him this bonus CD is really something worth attention."

In that case, have your "known friends" never tried to encourage you to experiment with electronic music? They did not propose to produce a CD in this style?
"We attach too much importance to the words of songs. James states that it is them that determine the nature of the whole. That's why it seems to me that the lyrics on the new album will force us to record it in such a harsh, direct form as possible. But on the other hand ?? never say never! Now this album is just a one-off adventure, so far we prefer to control rather than being controlled. And so far it does not bring particularly bad results! "

You mentioned the importance of words in your compositions. Have you ever had the chance to see for yourself what they have changed in the lives of your fans?
"All this time we find out about it wandering around the websites created by fans, reading fanzines sent by them. An example is "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next", talking about the problems of the Civil War in Spain - thanks to us, many people really got interested in this issue, some did not even know about the existence of such a conflict. In other compositions of ours, we also serve many references to contemporary history or culture. The same, I remember, fascinated me in the pieces of Sex Pistols or The Clash. Their texts have opened a whole new point of view for me. I hope that the same can be said about us too. We probably have not changed the world, but we have certainly changed people. Morissey, for example, was a great influence on me. It was thanks to him that I fell in love with Oscar Wilde's work."

The cover of the album presents all four original members of the band. Has it ever crossed your mind that Richey's place in the group was taken by someone else. It disappeared at a very difficult moment - literally on the eve of the start of the great Manic Street Preachers tour.
"It was very difficult. In terms of personality or talent, no one can ever replace him, but when it comes to live performances, James, who also plays the guitar, can not play two parties at the same time, sing and jump on the stage. Getting someone new would be a big deal, but it did not seem right to us. And you have to follow certain rules. Many bands would not even think about it, just look at Oasis or Suede - they take in new guitarists and after the matter. However, we could not do that. Were we too close?"

When you listen to the guitars from the new song "There By The Grace Of God", immediately there is only one association - The Cure. Has this team ever been one of your inspirations?
"Yes, like other post-punk bands - Joy Division or Siouxsie & The Banschees, The Cure was what we listened to in our youth. Then they were joined by Echo And the Bunnymen. They all created in a bit of a gothic mood, so after years there is really something to appeal to. "There By The Grace..." is a bit cool for us, a very European piece. We did not want to come back with another pathetic number in the style of "great Manic", we needed something less challenging. Other than normal. Hypnotic..."

It will be a bit philosophical now. Do you think that for 10 years of your activity, the name "Manic Street Preachers" changed some of its meaning in some way? Is "preaching"
"The word "manic" used to refer mainly to the energy that we released on stage. "Street - street" testified about our workers' origins. We grew up in humble, difficult conditions. "Preachers" was almost a religious indication that we want to convert people, we want them to see a different side of life, they started to listen to other music. With time and with the gradual development of the band, people began to call us simply "The Manics", because they could not cope with the burden that was associated with the rest of the name. Though maybe this only applies to Great Britain...

And if you had to choose the three most important moments of your career, what would it be?
"Certainly recording our first single Motown Junk. We belonged then to a small independent label whose profile made us feel that we were doing something right. Previously, we could only dream about recording, now dreams have become reality. We witnessed the formation of an amazing rock piece - it gave us wings. Later, it was definitely recording "Scream to a Sigh", when for the first time we felt a global band creating songs that anyone and everywhere can relate to. Besides, this is a beautiful number with truly magical guitars in the background. Then "A Design For Life" - exit from the shadows. After the whole incident with Richey, we have written something so beautiful and pure that we were surprised ourselves."

And the most memorable performance?
"No doubt a concert in Cuba. We've never played anything like it. People did not even know how to react to our music: some danced, some began to accompany us on their guitars (!), The most normal part of the world fell asleep somewhere in the corner. Just being in this place was something weird, even shocking. And what about playing there... Something fantastic."

When you are preparing a new song, I understand that her words first appear?
"Yes of course."

In that case, have you ever dared to use any text, because it just seemed too controversial to you?
"I would be lying if I said something like that never happened. Sometimes you also get into topics that you personally move, but that would not interest anyone else. I would not call it censorship, it's just editing what you want to say. In particular, Richey's lyrics were quite dramatic in his pronunciation. He was a fascinating personality with a very - I would say - rich inner life. For comparison, my texts are perhaps more expressive, and they more often deal with political issues."

In that case, I have to ask you about the latest scandal connected with the political pronunciation of George Michael's piece" Shoot The Dog. What do you think about mixing politics with music in this particular case?
"This song is just proof that you need to have a catchy chorus or use a cool sample to make people really interested in what you have to say. Then you can go down even on political topics and it does not bother anyone. People picked up the subject included in "If You Tolerate This..." only thanks to the great melody in it. The song must be good both from the musical and lyric side. One can not be replaced by the other, which, in my opinion, is being tried recently by Michael Michael. Maybe because it's too important for him? It is rare to combine social poetry with good music. But if it succeeds, such gems as "Street Fighting Man" Rolling Stones, "White Riot" The Clash or the best example, "God Save The Queen" Sex Pistols."

So you are moving on a fairly risky area. If you were singing about love, no one would even pay attention to the words...
"Yes. There is quite a lot of decent music around, but from the text page no one has dropped me on my knees long ago. There are no more personalities that would stimulate my mind like Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer or Morissey."

But are there no more bands that would be inspiring to you?
"Maybe The Vines. I appreciate them for their approach to music and the chaos that they skillfully produce in it."

The Strokes?
"I do not mind them. If I was a teenager now, I would like to play in such a band. However, I am looking for something deeper, something that exists not only in the musical layer."

And finally: you are just going on a route around Europe. Can we expect to see songs that are not on the album "Forever Delayed - Greatest Hits"?
"Yes. The basis for every show will be the tracklist of this album, but because we are planning to play really long concerts, such as Bruce Springsteen, you will hear a lot of our songs on them. In this also those that you have long ago forgotten about."

Track by Track - James & Nicky

A Design for Life (from Everything Who Go album - 1999)
James Dean Bradfield: This song was the first one we wrote after Richey went missing. It will always have a special meaning for us. There is no self-pity or personal reflection in it - this is the message of all the thoughts we have been voicing as a team over the years. You will find influences on it that you have never suspected us before: Motown, strings, rich arrangements. We were afraid only that too orchestral sound could alienate us as some of the more die-hard fans. As time has shown - these fears were unfounded.

Nicky Wire: At first sight, it seems that we've finally written a text that everyone understands. A serious message immediately becomes more accessible when the song has a catchy chorus - most perfectly caught what we wanted to say in it, although some probably still seem to think that it is a song about drinking. The inspiration for its creation was the library in which my wife worked. You will probably be surprised: how is it, the song about the library? But post-britpop could do such things. It was the first issue in which we focused on stories about social problems and class struggles, instead of analyzing history through the prism of everyday events and existential problems. It is amazing that it was then believed that we were moving such original subjects when we were basically looking at the ordinary socialist reality.

Motorcycle Emptiness (from the Generation Terrorists album - 1992)
James: This is the first song Richey and Nicky wrote in half. I remember listening to it for the first time and thinking to myself - it really can appeal to you! When we recorded our first CD, our producer Steve Brown said that he needs a number of characteristic riffs that could become his trademark. In this way, Steve added his three worse to him, making "Motorcycle..." one of our flagship tracks.

Nicky: One of the eternal postulates of the early Manicians: to strive for something that can never be achieved. It has a bit of melancholy hope in it and reconciliation with failure. This song was one of the first ones where we just sat at the table and wrote in a few moments! I will always feel something strange listening to this piece. In the text layer, there are so many ideas mixed together that it would fit several songs. You can see at once that this is our job!

If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next (from this This Is My Truth album Tell Me Yours - 1998)
James: One of the last issues written during the session for "This Is My Truth...". Originally, I thought that we would only post it as one of the b-sides on the single because it had a title for too long, talked about too serious matters, etc...We recorded it in two days and suddenly Nick stated that it really is something. For me, it was such a comet of history - it was flying away and returning with once committed sins, for which we should be ashamed so far.

Nicky: This title was taken from a propaganda poster, hung by the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. I will never forget how we played this piece in Barcelona in front of over 3 thousand people who sang with us every line. It is not only a historical document - it is also evidence of the courage of our ancestors, which unfortunately we can not boast of anymore. It is also the middle part of the trilogy started by "A Design For Life" and ending with "Let Robeson Sing".

La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh) (from Gold Against Soul album - 1993)
James: Sometimes the reasons for the creation of our songs are quite prosaic - this one was created so that you could dance to it. Because nobody ever tried to dance to our songs. In reviews she was called the last big single Baggy. It was quite nice.

Nicky: The title of this song comes from the letter that Van Gogh wrote before his suicide. From the music side - it's one of our most successful singles - a bit of Baggy, Queen and a fantastic guitar inset. Classic single.

There By The Grace Of God (new song)
James: This title, in conjunction with our name...I had to be careful that it did not work out like a megalomania. I wanted to record something cool, not much involved, completely different from everything so far. Nick thinks he's a bit like "Enjoy The Silence".

Nicky: The most important is the verse "With grace we will suffer, with grace we will recover", so there is a good dose of optimism here: suffering can be overcome. Would you expect such a statement after Manic Street Preachers ?! In addition, he mentions everything we believe in, what remains after religion - drugs, pop stars, football or science.

You Love Us (from Generation Terrorist album)
James: Pure, youthful enthusiasm. Regardless of whether it's a successful piece or not, listen to the worship of the Pistols in it. It's about not limiting yourself. Youth is to use it. A tribute to Steve Jones.

Nicky: A text that completely defines our entire work. And he and the title comes mainly from Richey. Each line is a good killer. I remember a fragment of the review that the NME published on this occasion: "The SME is a band in which everyone would really like to play, even if we say we hate them." We were terribly stupid when we left and sang "You Love Us" in front of fans like The Levellers. We would have preferred if people really hated us...

James: Sometimes Nick gives me some text and I have absolutely no idea what to do with it. This piece is about to escape. So I decided that I would make a piece of it that could be played in all sports programs. And I think it worked.

Nicky: This piece is about running away. Bowie sang about escaping to the moon, but for us Australia symbolizes even a more distant place. Richey's body was not found...all these horrendous rumors and in general...This song is very simple in its pronunciation. And very honest. It does not talk about paranoia, but about the despair that various "circumstances of nature" can bring to you.

You Stole The Sun From My Heart (from the album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours - 1998)
James: We wrote this song surprisingly quickly. Nick gave me a very longing, depressing and docile text for him. It was like a manifesto of surrender. And I tried to emphasize this attitude by composing music for it. I wanted the lines to resemble the tears flowing down my face.

Nicky: I wonder why so many people are asking if this song is about my wife..."You Stole The Sun From My Heart" is extremely grim. I wrote him flying by plane and thinking that I do not care if we break up soon or not, because the flight was so boring and I felt so bad that it was irrelevant. Life gave me a soul anyway. I noticed, however, that people probably do not realize the horribly negative pronunciation of this song. Fortunately...

Kevin Carter (from Everything Must Go - 1996)
James: One of the last songs Richey wrote the lyrics before he disappeared. I remember playing this piece on an acoustic guitar on the eve of this event. I also remember how he wanted it to sound more like Nine Inch Nails, with all the hustle and bustle.

Nicky: A typical text written by Richey. I do not understand his fragments to this day, but maybe this is how it should be...It seemed that Richey often emphasized that he "just feels like Kevin Carter". For me it will always be a bit abstract...but also a great song. Sean plays trumpet solo in it and the bossa nova rhythm only emphasizes his love for jazz.

Tsunami (from This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours - 1998)
James: It's a song from the time when we understood some things too literally. This is the original version of the song, which sounds great in my opinion.

Nicky: A song about the promise of silence, about barriers, and finally about how something that we have built for a long time can always break with a bang.

The Masses Against The Classes (not included on any record, 2000)
James: While over the years, the bands surrounding us have started to get more and more reflective and bland, we have remained ourselves - we are still reacting with aggression to evil. Take, for example, "The Holy Bible" - times were not favorable for us and we sounded like parallics. And now, when my mother was very ill and everything indicated that we would record the saddest song possible - something completely different was created. The song is full of bile, bitterness and anger. Sometimes sadness finds an outlet in this way.

Nicky: We've had a real battle to write, record and finally publish this song. We did not want to see this single on the market, neither our label nor even the manager. He stood in difficult moments, especially for James. But it's still one of the numbers I'm most proud of. It's almost like an updated version of "You Love Us" - we prove that during these years we have not really changed much and hate is still an equally attractive theme for us as love.

From Despair To Where (from the album "Gold Against Soul" - 1993)
James: It was the first single from the second album and we can hear our musical escape from everything that was played back then. In addition, you can finally understand what I'm singing about. After "Generation Terrorists", where we sounded like a racial punk band, we can hear that one and a half year of concerting has taught us something. Then we tried to give everything, climb the limits of our capabilities only to be noticed. With the second album, we were more confident. We did not want to sound like an amateur student band playing at the club.

Nicky: Since we've been able to determine the composition of the songs for this album, we've re-discovered some of our songs. Here, for example, is a great starting verse: "I write it alone in my bed..." I write it exactly what happened in our life then: lack of order, depression without reason, emptiness, sense of losing .. Especially Richey felt that despite everything we achieved, we failed to solve the basic problems in life.

Door To The River (not released on any disc)
James: We started working on this number while recording sessions for "Know Your Enemy". However, we quickly realized that it does not fit the album because it is too...home. It irritated us a bit, because it sounds really cool, it has great words. One of the best we've written since very, very long time.

Nicky: We took the title from a painting by William De Koonig, one of my favorite painters. This song literally tells about death. We wrote him watching The God Channel, a channel dedicated to God and led by Gary Busey (an American actor who has recently been converted officially). But this is nothing cynical. He does not talk about God, he does not mention Christianity, but he has a higher strength in him. It is a bit like "Long and Winding Road".

Everything Must Go (from Everything Must Go album 1996)'
James: The most optimistic recordings I've ever heard came from the Motown label. Even in the more "gloomy" times for them, even Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", it filled me with the wild joy of life that I later wanted to achieve by writing "Everything Must Go". The words emphasized that we are back again as a team full of ideas and unwavering faith in their ideals.

Nicky: Words very suitable for that era. Such a dialogue with fans, sometimes explaining certain matters, sometimes just announcing them. I have the impression that everyone understood what we were thinking at that time, even though for some we were already becoming a "too commercial" band. The most important fragment: "Escape from our history". The lyrics to the songs on the album were as if they were all of themselves: we all felt Richey's deficiencies, left behind so much material, so much was happening in our heads... At the time, we first encountered "Wall Of Sound" (with the sound wall) "Phil Spector and in the studio, with the help of Mike Hedges, we tried to reproduce this effect.

Faster (from the album The Holy Bible - 1994)
James: It's one of those songs whose uprising was a real nightmare for me. I wrote it about 22 times until I found the right melody. It was at the time when I returned to my parents' home and looking through the piles of magazines and recordings that I had once collected, I realized that I had completely stopped to notice things that in my youth were of great value to me. It was not by accident that I could write this piece for so long. He is simply very schizophrenic. After 20 attempts, I came to the conclusion that I should simplify it as much as possible. It is enough that the words themselves were already quite confusing.

Nicky: The only song from the album "Holy Bible", which we wrote together with Richey.

Little Baby Nothing (from the Generation Terrorists album - 1992)
James: First, we wanted this song to be sung by Kylie. Then Traci Lords. And note: she agreed! Richey composed it when we still lived at our manager Philip, within 10 minutes! I remember, however, as I told him that we must be good megalomans, since we think that we can write for other performers.

Nicky: My title, the rest of Richey. Then I wondered if praising women in our song is not an exaggeration, but now I consider this piece as our little "woman". We wrote it after 19 years and it is as mature as hardly anyone.

Theme from M * A * S * H ​​(Suicide Is Painless)
James: Here we are caricatures of ourselves. We recorded this song especially for the NME for a compilation, the income from which was assigned to people with contractile paralysis. The only recommendation was to make a cover of some old hit. Nick and Richey immediately stated that it must be "Suicide Is Painless", because of the title and times in which it was made. The song was chosen for the first single promoting the compilation and when it immediately hit the top ten of the charts, we were pretty pissed off that our first hit was written by someone other than me!

Nicky: I still do not know if this piece is a source of pride or not. We sound a bit like Metallica on it. Originally, this piece was created in times of strikes and power outages, so it either does not mean anything, or is some real subversive.

So Why So Sad (from Know Your Enemy album - 2001)
James: I have mixed feelings about this piece. This is my tribute to Brian Wilson. Just a peculiar song like "Little Baby Nothing".

Nicky: I'm listening to this song for the first time since it appeared on the single and I feel how much I like it again. In isolation from the rest of the album sounds unusually ambiguous. And sadly. The end of the 1960s, the end of optimism. You can not rebel against anything anymore. In the context of the compilation with the biggest hits, it may look a bit fun. Like a song being played by some portable radio. It also has a lot of nuances that I love to catch every time I hear it.

The Everlasting (from This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours album - 1998)
James: I used to share this piece for a while, but it's good again. I recall the context in which it was written. Many of Nick's lyrics on this album were like old-fashioned hymns, or they were especially evocative of images like the Old Testament. We wanted to have a real hymn and here he is!

Nicky: My biggest text faux pas in history! "The world is full of refugees (just like you and me). These two lines kill the meaning of the whole song for me. Phil Collins might as well have written it. But it's good that there is such a piece. Without him, there probably would never have been "Masses Agaisnt The Classes". It sounds like some 20th century cosmic hymn.

Motown Junk (not released on any disc)
James: I remember how Nick read to me about how Mick Jonez and Joe Strummer had quarrel at the end of their career because Mick did not want to play White Riot concerts. Joe said: "The evening we will not play" White Riot "will be the end of The Clash." "Motown Junk" is in a sense our "White Riot" - a concert during which we will not make this number will be the beginning of the end for us. The song itself has the atmosphere of our environment, all the ideas that already germinated in us, but we could not express them yet. Listen to how happy we can finally record in the conditions we have only dreamed of before. Motown Junk is probably our only perfect recording.

Nicky: We wanted to record a single that would really talk about something. Only completely sexless pop hits appeared around. The starting point was the Motown sound for us, to which we added some dangerous sounding sounds. The text seems a bit claustrophobic, it tells you about the need to escape everything in which you have grown up. From Baggy, from Wales...A real cry of despair from a small, provincial town. The recording itself proves that it is impossible to escape from it completely. Our entire environment sounds in it. There is so much energy in it...If we do not play it during one of the concerts, it means that we were cheating!