Dressed in a pale pink blazer, jeans and sunglasses the sullen Welsh heart of bassist/lyricist Nicky Wire is in jovial spirits. And so he should be, having just released ‘Rewind the Film’ Manic Street Preachers’ finest album in an age which heralds yet another significant sonic overhaul from the band who refuse to be anything less than themselves. This latest reinvention saw the trio consciously undertake a forensic examination of themselves and their place in rock, a process which Nicky Wire describes as “Staring in the mirror, I think, as the best Welsh poetry does. Just looking at yourself and trying to navigate your way through middle age and the delusion of being in a band, all those clichés really.”
“Once we get onstage those clichés still resonate but, with the new record we tried to be more delicate, intimate, acoustic, soulful.” Despite the critical acclaim for the new album Wire is still equally proud and self-effacing of his own abilities as a musician.“It’s quite hard playing the songs live because they are really delicate and there’s a bit of you that wants to fucking go, You Love Us and go for it. We’ve kind of reigned ourselves in a bit I think” but Wire admits that there is a certain amount of self-doubt involved in making such a major change in their musical output. “Yeah there is because we’ve been pretty successful especially since ‘Send Away the Tigers’, it’s been like a second part of our career really which is more rock based. I suppose you could sandwich in a version of [the band] with ‘The Holy Bible’ which exists in its own space.” Wire is happy for ‘The Holy Bible’ to exist in its own unique stratosphere in a similar way Suede’s ‘Dog Man Star’ does, “I think it’s really healthy for bands to do that.”
It wasn’t intentional to produce two records in the one set of recording sessions “It just happened. The first title was ’70 Songs of Hatred and Failure’ because we wanted to have one more than Magnetic Fields, they had 69 songs about love…it runs off the tongue” says Wire with a grin.”We got to about 30-32 songs and then we realised there was this really severe parting of the ways between this really delicate side” which went on to become ‘Rewind the Film’ “and this really post-punk, jagged quite nasty side” which will make up the bands next release ‘Futurology’ set for release April 2014.
The two albums “have nothing in common really” be it musically or lyrically. “It’s much more about emotion and travel and the inspiration you get from any little shitty corner of the world. In your own country, be it anywhere,there’s always a story to be told.” However the closing track on ‘Rewind The Film’, 30-Year War, gives some insight into what is to come both lyrically and musically. “It has a hint of future retroism which is very prevalent on the next album” says Wire. The final track listing for ‘Futurology’ is yet to be settled with Wire informing us that it needs to be “whittled down a bit” but he does reveal that there are “two instruments” on the record.
Wire describes the sound of ‘Rewind The Film’ as “a bit Bond themey” whilst making references to Motown, Phil Spector, Glen Campbell, Neil Diamond, “that pure melody…seeps through a bit on this album.” He describes how working with Shirley Bassey led to one of the collaborations on the album. “We wrote a song for Shirley Bassey four or five years ago which is how James met Richard Hawley because he’d written a song [for her] as well. We really enjoyed it, the track we did I kind of wish we’d kept it for ourselves because I love The Girl From Tiger Bay. I’ve got a demo of James singing it and he’s really letting it rip.” Why are there so many guest vocalists in recent times? “James is bored with the sound of his own voice” after “250 plus Manics songs.” says Wire jokingly. Wire’s own voice is much maligned by critics and he doesn’t seem to have much confidence in his own singing abilities, despite having delivered his finest vocal performance to date in the form of 4 Lonely Roads a duet with folk singer Cate Le Bon. He admits that he “didn’t want to sing” Rewind The Film, passing the duties over to Bradfield even though the demo on the deluxe version of the album proves him more than capable.
Singer James Dean Bradfield referred to the Olympia as a “dusty old friend” at their recent Dublin show and likewise Nicky Wire seems to have a genuine affection for the venue and Ireland. “The Olympia is in the top list of venues we’ve played” enthuses Wire who fondly remembers supporting The Verve at Slane in 1998 when the Manic Street Preachers were at the peak of their popularity. “Slane felt like the biggest gig at the time really, that and Knebworth supporting Oasis.” Wire’s affection for Ireland dates back to the early ’90s. “Ireland was my second proper trip abroad” he recalls. The band played in Ireland for the first time in McGonagle’s in December 1992 in support of their debut album ‘Generation Terrorists’ and Wire was taken by the “lyrical history” and the people. “We try to come here whenever we can” he says. “We recorded [parts of previous albums ‘Lifeblood’ and ‘Send Away the Tigers’] in Grouse Lodge.” It’s safe to say Nicky Wire and co will be returning to The Olympia in 2014 but the leopard-print skirt and pink feather boas may be left behind as Wire tries to “avoid clichés.”
Wire is less than enamoured with the current music scene though, declaring James Dean Bradfield as “the last guitar hero” with much pride and sorrow. He crosses his arms and retorts “it’s a bloody long summer!” to the mention of disco, before declaring The Horrors the only modern band he’d like to be in, though he concedes he may have some trouble with the colour scheme but not the back-combing.