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Kings Of The Wild Frontier - The Western Mail, 14th April 2018

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Title: Kings Of The Wild Frontier
Publication: The Western Mail
Date: Saturday 14th April 2018
Writer: David Owens
Photos: Rob Browne, Alex Lake



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It’s been four years since their last album and much has changed in the world of Manic Street Preachers . David Owens meets the band as they release their new album Resistance Is Futile and attempt to navigate the noise and confusion of current world events...

There's a cloud hanging over the Manics and it’s not just because of the rain that’s beating a path from the grey, slate scratched sky on the outskirts of Newport.

This is Wales after all, as wet as a country can get without officially being declared part of the sea.

Close to civilisation but through winding lanes and hedgerows, and at the head of a valley, there lies Manic Street Preachers’ new home Door To The River.

While the name of their former studio Faster, which they departed in late 2016, bristled with the furious polemic of the song it was named after, Door To The River breathes in a lung full of country air.

It’s not quite Last Of The Summer Wine with James, Nicky and Sean recast as Compo, Clegg and Foggy, but it does see the middle-aged, former firebrands coping with the onset of their 50th birthdays, while trying to make sense of the confusion of an increasingly alien world as they contemplate their rock ‘n’ roll dotage.

It remains to be seen whether this is their midlife crisis moment, but we’re here to discuss their 13th album Resistance Is Futile, a release that may not have even seen the light of day. (More of which later).

Across its 12 songs it surges with melodic power providing a lightning rod to past glories, while taking inspiration from their considerable back pages. Contained within are nods to Generation Terrorists, Everything Must Go, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, Send Away the Tigers and their most recent studio album, Futurology.

It’s been four years since that album’s particularly glorious panoramic journey through Europe and much has changed in that time – both for the band and the world around them.

They’ve had the distraction of two 20th anniversary tours for The Holy Bible and Everything Must Go.

They’ve also had the upheaval of the move from the totemic Cardiff city centre studio that acted as such a potent and nurturing centre of creative excellence; the courtyard in which it resided being torn down to make way for apartments.

You can’t stop progress or the inexorable tide of gentrification, even if you’re a Welsh natural treasure it would seem.

So they arrive at a new home and a new beginning with a new album which carries with it the twin aims of making sense of the rapidly-shifting social and political landscape, while seeking inspiration and solace in art and culture.

Sean Moore is the first to greet us when myself and our photographer Rob arrive at the studio. Led to an upstairs lounge the centre piece of which is a widescreen TV and two large sofas, it’s apparent their replacement boys’ clubhouse is fast taking shape.

The affable but notoriously less vocal, in interview situations at least, of the three Manics is the first to chat. The new found star of Twitter, who recently joined the social media platform and has quickly built up a cult following amongst the Manics’ fanbase for his dry wit and cherry bonhomie, apologises for the large heater that is giving the room a welcoming glow, explaining that the building’s boiler has broken down and the heaters that are dotted around the studio are a stopgap measure while the problem is fixed.

He also can’t contain his barely concealed glee at how short his commute from his home in Bristol to their bucolic bolthole now is.

Nicky Wire is next in. It appears he’s just finished several hours of European press phoners giving the album a last push before its release.

He is, as always, a spiky haired collision of biting humour and down-to-earth confessional, gently ribbing me about leaving Cardiff to come to Newport for the afternoon, while hilariously railing against the online media outlets the band’s PR has made him ring.

“I’ve never heard of half of them and I’m not sure they even know what the f*** I’m talking about. Still I’m sure our PR company know what they’re doing,” he chirps, sarcastically.

James Dean Bradfield then arrives to take us downstairs to the studio where the plan is that I’m to speak to the Manics’ frontman first and then to Nicky, who is going to catch his breath after his phone exertions and join us later.

As we’re led through to the studio, reassuringly there are remnants of their former home everywhere you look. The Faster mural detailing the band’s heroes and inspirations – which used to adorn the toilet block of their former base, is propped against a wall ready to be re-sited and added to, while the Aneurin Bevan statuette that presided over their vintage mixing desk as ‘executive producer’ its back in its rightful place atop the grand old desk.

Originally installed at Rockfield Studios in the ‘70s, the mixing desk reverberates with the echoes of some of the incredible albums which were recorded using it; Empires and Dance and Sons and Fascination by Simple Minds, A Farewell To Kings by Rush and Heaven Up Here by Echo and the Bunnymen. The band even managed to establish that a small part of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was recorded using it.

The desk made its way to Faster after a stint at Monnow Valley Studios, also in Monmouth, and was painstakingly installed in Door To The River after a team including Manics’ in house engineer Loz Williams and several local builders removed the window to the studio and winched the desk in.

Named after the string-laden, previously unreleased track that appeared on their 2002 Greatest Hits album Forever Delayed, Door To The River is more than aptly titled, given its proximity to a river that runs in the valley behind the studio.

I suggest to Bradfield that the building is the Manics’ version of Led Zeppelin’s famous early ‘70s north Wales rural retreat Bron-Yr-Aur.

“Yeah without the drugs though, and more cups of tea,” he laughs.

For a band’s whose grandiose opening salvo was that they were going to release one album, sell 20 million copies and split up, it’s ironic that here we are 32 years after they formed at Oakdale Comprehensive and 26 years since their debut album Generation Terrorists was released, still ploughing their own rock furrow. The irony is not lost on the singer.

“There’s irony everywhere. We said we were going to sell more albums than Guns ‘n’ Roses and we end up supporting them on their victory lap instead,” he says referring to the Manics’ gigs with their teenage heroes on dates in Europe this summer.

“Nick and Richey were something else in interviews though. My poker face was amazing, but inside I would be screaming ‘what the f*** are they saying?’ I didn’t know how to sell 20 million f****** records.

“I would have been great on the front bench with a Prime Minister I didn’t agree with. I would be like, ‘Yeah, yeah’,” he says nodding in agreement, “But I would have been in the toilets shouting f****** ****!”

Now elder statesman of rock ‘n’ roll Bradfield states that one of the questions they get asked the most is: “What is it like to be in the band at this age – approaching 50?”

“I’m still the youngest member by a month, by the way,” the frontman is quick to point out.

“Like an aging actor what is your motivation now? It makes you feel like some kind of bluesman – (he adopts uncanny deep south American drawl) – well back in my day I used to tune my with a pitchfork, I would do five shows a day and two matinees,” he laughs.

If contending with those landmarks birthdays was enough in itself, Resistance Is Futile sees the Manics at a crossroads, and Bradfield admits it’s been a strange period for the band, making sense of the confusion – not only of the world shifting ever so quickly on its axis, but of their own place in it. As well as the little matter of having to find a new home, of course.

“It has been a strange period,” he concurs. “We wrote about 20 songs for this record. Four of the songs were written in Faster – we had demos of Dylan & Caitlin, The Left Behind and Distant Colours, and Song For The Sadness.

“The Left Behind was pretty much the last thing we did there. We had to mothball the gear from Faster and then find the place that was to be the new clubhouse that would see us out to the end of our days – The Manic Street retirement home.

“That was a year out of our lives at least, going through the rigmarole that everybody goes through when they buy a place.

“It’s not something we took lightly. You know we’re not Noel Gallagher, buying a place together wasn’t a light undertaking for us.

“So we had to go through the lengthy legal process of buying it and putting in for planning,” he says. “By the time that had come to an end, a year had passed. Then we had to reconvene, because we didn’t want to go and book a studio somewhere else and see if we could come up with the goods.

“When we came here I had recorded some demos in (erstwhile Manics’ session musician and member of Wales’ fan band The Barry Horns) Gavin Fitzjohn’s Watertown Studios in Cardiff Bay.

“I recorded demos there of Vivian, People Give In, Broken Algorithms and Secrets of Forgotten Wars. By the time we came here, we started working to see if those demos meant anything.

“In the interim there had been a gap where we hadn’t played together as a band, so that was strange reconvening an album way over a year after it had been started.”

The frontman says that gap gave the band plenty of time for reflection, as they woke up to a world they found difficult to recognise.

“It was quite strange to know that things had changed – cultural change, economic change, political change, seismic event change. In that intervening year and a half we had time to reflect.

“We never had that time before where we started a record then had to stop and then started again.

“That had a part to play perhaps in the mood of the record, which reflects us as people to a certain degree. You would wake up and go ‘wow it looks like New Look has gone or Toys R Us has gone, wow Trump is President, oh Brexit has occurred, wow Theresa May is going to have to broker a deal to form a government’. So much has happened in that period of time.

“That’s what’s reflected in the album. So you get some songs like The Left Behind, Sequels of Forgotten Wars, and Distant Colours which are drawing on how quickly things evolve and change now – especially in the digital sphere where gestation is so quick.

“Then you have other songs like People Give In which is asking for people to be a little more empathetic towards each other and for things to be less polarised.

“And I can’t believe we’re taking that stance,” he says. “We were the band that polarised everything. Now the polarisation is way too much for us even. We’re living in a completely different time to the one we grew up in.”

Without wanting to make them sound like the Geriatric Street Preachers the other half of their latest album sees them doing what they do best – seeking inspiration from art, culture and people and wearing those influences proudly on their sleeves.

“International Blue is centred around the life of (French artist) Yves Klein, Vivian takes inspiration from the life of (photographer) Vivian Maier, In Eternity celebrates the role of David Bowie in rock ‘n’ roll culture, and then Liverpool Revisited is a song about Victory – how the people of Liverpool took on the entire British establishment over a long, long period of time and never gave in.

“So there are positive songs, songs that are confused and songs that ask for people to reconcile their petty hatred.”

One of the most startling tracks on the album is Broken Algorithms – a full-throttled, twin-engine, metal roar that sees Bradfield at his rock hero best and which, frankly, wouldn’t have been out of place on Generation Terrorists.

“Nick handed me two and half pages of A4 taped together and I was like ‘oh thanks cheers’, he laughs. “I read the lyric and I didn’t want to chuck any of it away. It was brilliant. He indulged himself with the lyrics, so I thought f*** it I’m going to indulge myself and go for it musically.

“Sean got his Motown Junk self back drumming on that track, with a bit of Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain and Rush drummer Neil Peart thrown in for good measure. There’s no reconciliation in that song, there’s no empathy, there’s just attack, so we thought let’s go for it.”

Talking to the Manics’ frontman you sense he’s more than set for the next adventure, the next instalment in the story of a band like no other. I ask him as he approaches his big birthday, teetering on the edge of 50, whether finding a place in the world, reflecting on what’s gone before and what’s to come, has caused him any sort of insecurity as he to how he and the band now fit in?

“I do numb myself off to my own insecurities pretty easily,” he says. “I can close it off. When you’re a teenager you go through those periods of feeling insecure about the way you look, how tall you are or how tall you’re not, whether a girlfriend has dumped you. I quickly decided that those insecurities were useless.

“I don’t want to sound like a blunt northern journalist,” he states, dragging up an accent couched somewhere between Wigan and Wakefield – “fookin ‘ell lad pull yourself together.

“Seriously though, I don’t care about age, sometimes you feel it physically, but not much. Today I got a strain in my hand which happened with me trying to create some strange new chord shape. But I had that when I was 23 as well.

“But moving was the one thing we could have done without,” he confides.

“We are self-aware enough to know that this is the last place we’ll ever have and hopefully it will be for a long time.

“When we settled here, it did feel right and to be honest it was my turn to commute to work. For more than 10 years I had been living in Cardiff and now Nick lives very close and Sean’s commute is nearly equidistant.

“You are looking for something intangible when you buy a place, but we did want to retreat to the country. I do feel happy in the countryside. I always have, even though I live in the city.”

He hints that he wants the studio to be used to its fullest potential mentioning there may be one soundtrack in the offing, to follow his first forays into movies with submarine thriller The Chamber, adding that he has ideas for the band to do something “drastic and folly-esque”, but refuses to be drawn on exactly what that entails.

“Saying that top of the tree is still writing songs that communicate to so many different people,” he adds.

“Being in a band I still think, ‘Wow, me, Nick and Sean could do this’. It would be good to try something new. It means you’re still excited about the musical dimensions of the band.”

As the album is released this week, the singer says the band still harbour ambitions for a number one, although he recognises that is becoming increasingly difficult nowadays.

“We’re quite combative in our ambitions and perhaps our ambitions are a little unrealistic as we face our 13th album,” he says.

“Everybody away wants a number one but that’s getting harder these days.

“The whole streaming thing is difficult. You know lots of people are listening to your music but not everyone wants to buy it.

“But it’s been given the best chance – the videos and concepts Nick and Kieran (Evans – filmmaker and long time Manics’ collaborator) have come up with ahead of the release of the album have been great.”

To support the album, the Manics’ will be playing a UK arena tour ahead of a string of summer festival dates. It sounds like fans are in for a treat.

“We’ve rehearsed seven songs off the new album,” reveals Bradfield. “We’ve dusted off six or seven songs we haven’t played in more than 15 years. We’ve rehearsed one song we’ve never played live at all as well.

“We’ve also practised two new covers – and I’m in the process of shaking up the acoustic section a bit.

“Nick and Sean demand it,” he jokes. “Nick always says if you want to do three in the middle feel free.

“And I’ve still got a pride that I’m still not using a teleprompter on stage even with 13 albums worth of material. I like the challenge of remembering all the words.”

The joy of interviewing the Manics is that you never quite know where the conversation will take you and what theories they will posit. As perfectly evidenced when I ask Bradfield how long he sees the Manics continuing.

“I don’t know. For quite a while yet I hope,” he replies. “It’s silly to try and prophecise about how long a band is going to last.

“I think there’s one crucial component in why people lose faith in rock stars when they get older and that’s because everyone wants their rock ‘n’ roller to be super skinny.

“If it’s not there in the picture I don’t know if I can believe that rock ‘n’ roll band anymore.

“When a painter becomes a bit more gnarled and perhaps a bit more bloated they think that’s experience and by osmosis it will transfer to his painting.

“When an actor suddenly morphs into something less youthful and optimistic, people again think it will seep into his acting and he’ll be more of a character actor.

“When a writer loses the shine in his eyes, like an ageing labrador, people think that melancholia will drip onto the page,

“But when a musician is not 9 stone 3 anymore, they just think he’s having too much of a good time.”

In turn I query Bradfield’s beautifully constructed thought process, protesting that I love Van Morrison. The singer lets out a throaty laugh and admits: “Well, there are exceptions to that rule,” before adding, “It’s not as good a theory as Nick’s mind, which is the better the food culture has gotten in Britain, the worst the music has got.

“I remember a studio owner saying to me: ‘When young bands used to come here they would ask us where the nearest off licence was and what the best pub was and who was the best person to buy their blow off. Now they come here and they’ve all got thumbs in their mouths and they go into the kitchen and they all get their f****** cook books out!”

Refreshed and reinvigorated after his phone promo earlier, Nicky Wire dons his trademark shades and takes his seat.

Wearing a T-shirt in tribute to Welsh rock legends Budgie, he’s keen to talk, initially about the band that is arguably the most underrated but the most influential Welsh rock band of all time.

He begins extolling the virtues of the chirpily-titled Panzer Division Destroyed from the equally eye-catching 1980 EP If Swallowed Do Not Induce Vomiting, before enthusing over a b side to the single Keeping A Rendezvous called Apparatus. “Absolutely incredible,” he states firmly.

He follows this up with, “Then there’s Parents – from the early ‘70s it sounds like Radiohead with Shirley Bassey singing. It’s f****** amazing.”

He is, of course, not wrong.

It appears that the Wire hasn’t lost his love of music or indeed the habit of buying records.

“I still go record shopping, yeah,” he confirms. “I went into Diverse Records (in Newport) to get the Sunflower Bean album and disappointingly they didn’t have it. I gave them grief over it and then they gave me grief about not being able to order the white vinyl of Resistance Is Futile,” he laughs. “But we both sorted each other out so that was fine. I love Diverse though. It’s a great shop, even though I’m trying to by a record half the time and they’re more concerned about getting me to promote something they’re doing.

“But it’s great that they’re still around and Spillers and Kellys in Cardiff.”

Although the bass player admits that since moving studios he doesn’t go to the Welsh capital anymore.

“When we were at Faster I would nip into Cardiff all the time. Then all of a sudden when you realise your work doesn’t need you there, it feels like an effort.

“It makes me realise how lucky we were to have Faster. The idea of literally being able to nip into Cardiff especially while James was playing a guitar solo for f****** hours on end, I could waste three hours wandering around Cardiff. I can’t escape him now.”

There’s that mischievous laugh again.

“It was probably the right time to move though,” he adds. “It was getting a little bit on top of us at Faster and for Sean the commute was horrendous.

“It’s easy to romanticise the move to the country. It was much less of a wrench for me than it was for James who loved the sound and the smell of Faster. Moving here has given us a new widescreen perspective. Like I say it can sound overly romantic, going from quite a gritty urban area to somewhere where you can overlook Newport and see the Transporter Bridge and the world spread out in front of you.”

When I sit down with the band, it’s five days before the album is released.

When asked how he was feeling ahead of Resistance Is Futile being let loose into the wild, he admits chart placings are still important to him.

“They are for me deep down,” he says. “However, we do have in front of us the immovable object that is The Greatest Showman (soundtrack – that has been 12 weeks at number one in the UK album chart). “It’s just staggering. I hated Michael Crawford’s Barnum. The circus – oh my god,” he shudders. “I just cannot believe how that album is just so gigantic.

“We’ve had four number two albums, three number three albums, so I would imagine we are looking at something around there,” he adds.

He reckons the promo the band undertake is ramped up with each release, and this time the PR has been relentless.

“It definitely gets harder,” says Wire. “I find we’re doing at least 20 times as much stuff as we used to, half of which I have no f****** idea what they are. I’m directed to do them, it’s like ‘oh yeah just send Wire in’, I’ve never heard of these f****** things, but I am reassured they’re worth doing.”

The once outspoken musician, never afraid in the past to give both verbal barrels to anyone in his sights, says that he should probably be more active on social media, but can’t bring himself to do it.

“If I was still drinking I would probably be on there more. I’m not actually equipped in that world at all. I like using it from time but I just can’t be that succinct and I certainly don’t feel like having an argument on there.

“I wish I could be more engaged, but the precious nature of certain things is so trivialised. Like when someone passes away, I think should I say something and then I get twisted up. By the time I make a decision it’s too late and everyone would think I didn’t mean it anyway.

“I’ve just always enjoyed talking to journalists. I’m old school like that. You ask anyone under 30 in a band now and that doesn’t even seem like an option that’s in their head.

“They (the record company) are lucky with us that I love marketing. I’ve always been obsessed with that side of things. I don’t mind maximising the potential of the record. Although nobody knows if it’s all going to add up.”

I posit that of the press he’s been doing, some of the journalists would be half his age. I wondered did he feel a disconnect between interviewer and interviewee.

“Yes, a lot of the time they don’t even seem to know what the f*** I’m talking about at all. It’s not even in a nasty way. When you think about it, this person I’m talking to was two years of age when Everything Must Go came out. That generation gap has been accelerating. When I was young I could listen to my parents’ records. I wanted to know about The Beatles, The Stones and Neil Diamond. That seems to have widened to the point where I can’t even pronounce half the names or even pretend to know what the records are that are in the chart nowadays.”

The musician has two children, a daughter aged 15 and a son, 11, who he is pleased to report do plunder his own record collection.

“I come home from being away and I do notice big sections of my CDs missing – like where’s my Sonic Youth section gone? And then I go in my daughter’s room and it’s been placed there.”

Which can only be a source of pride, I counter.

“Yeah, you’re right, I do pretend I’m not thrilled but deep down I am.”

If Wire has his suspicions about social media and coming up across as a technological curmudgeon, he is positively incredulous at the Twitter cult that is Sean Moore.

“From a man who has barely ever talked to anyone,” he laughs uproariously. “It’s unbelievable the way he converses with fans. Sometimes me and James say to him ‘you haven’t spoken to us for three days and you’re having all these conversations with people that you’ve never met before!’

“His humour comes across so well on Twitter,” says Wire, before making reference to the hilarious daily call and response exchange between Sean and Kieran Evans.

The resolutely pro-European filmmaker posts ‘F*** off Brexit’ in Welsh and English, and depending at which time of day it is, the Manics’ drummer replies with a cheery “Morning!” or “Afternoon!” in both Welsh and English.

It is a lovely moment that never fails to bring a smile on a social media platform that can seem to many as nothing but white noise.

Talking to Wire you get the feeling that he’s mellowed hugely from that kohl-eyed, dagger-tipped assassin of yore. Which is confirmed when I ask him if he’s going to celebrate turning 50.

“F*ck that,” he snorts. “No I’m not. It terrifies me because I thought that by this point I literally wouldn’t care at all. I would eat what I want, and drink what I want and swear when I like and not care about what I say. But I’ve actually gone the opposite way.

“I certainly say a lot less than I used to, because you know it’ll blow up into something – and any sense of humour, or irony, or p***-taking that we all grew up with will be just blown up.

“Liam (Gallagher) has shown that there is a definitely an old school romantic notion of rock ‘n’ roll. His gigs are full of young kids. My daughter loves him. To her he’s a star.

“But is there a band out there now who still think along those lines? They’re not allowed to are they. The pressure’s on from the start. Get your numbers up, do this, do that.

“You’ve got to have that real carefree, fearless attitude like Liam has, whereas I’m not like that anymore.”

Wire says he’s certain the record company would like him to emulate the sorts of viral videos that have contributed to the success of Brand Liam.

“They would like me to do more, definitely, almost as a self-contained entity, being Mr Nasty, slagging everything off. They looked at my history and probably thought ‘why doesn’t he do that anymore?’

He confesses he just doesn’t feel comfortable in that skin.

“No, I don’t. It would keep me up at night everything I say. I can’t quite let myself go like I used to. You look back at the interviews of me and Richey, I don’t think we would be quite so tolerated today,” he laughs. “It would be very interesting though.”

It appears there’s much playing on the mind of the musician. This comes to light when I bring up the subject of a BBC story last October on the day the band played a gig at The Roundhouse in London for the Q Awards, which stated that the Manics might not release another album.

“It was when I was doing the red carpet thing and to be honest my mum’s been really ill. She’s had leukemia for the last year,” he says, his usually confident demeanour slipping and his vulnerability pouring out. “She was given six months and it’s been a year so far. She’s 80 and she’s done really well, but she’s not been too well lately, so it’s hard to watch that happen.

“Me and my brother (the poet Patrick Jones) have been back and forth to Blackwood, sleeping up at the house. My dad is 83. he’s been amazing looking after her as well.

“Everyone goes through it. You get to that point where your parents get really old. We’ve always been a close family. My wife goes up and cooks for them. It’s just been really hard.

“That particular day it was difficult. It was the Q Awards and we had to play after it. Usually at the Q Awards you can kick back and enjoy yourself. Then we had to do the gig afterwards.

It was a bit like Everything Must Go where we had lots of songs and with this record we had lots of good songs but they really didn’t come to life until International Blue, same with Everything Must Go when Design For Life brought everything into focus.

“At that point it didn’t feel like it was coming together, so that’s why I said what I did. That’s how it felt at that time, although I was probably just being a bit miserable that day.”

Had he ever thought he didn’t want to do it anymore?

“Quite a few times yeah,” he says. Funnily enough quite a few times when we were huge. I remember at the end of This Is My Truth campaign I was so genuinely knackered. We’d done about three really big European tours. It was also the one time we’d even made a bit of progress in America.

“But we did Masses (Against The Classes) first and that was a definite reaction to that feeling. The other day it was 18 years to the day that Masses got to number one. It really hit me the thought of a record starting with a direct sample from Noam Chomsky and ending with a quote from Camus and in between it’s just guitars and shouting. And it went to number one. That will never happen again.”

It seems like as a band there have been moments that have rescued the Manics and brought them back from the brink.

“Yes and sometimes that’s commercially and sometimes that’s critically,” says Wire. “We’re obsessed with both things. Sometimes you get them together like Everything Must Go. Futurology saved us in a critical sense. Fans think of it as a late period masterpiece.

“Resistance Is Futile seems like a much broader album.

“It is like a collection of singles – a pick ‘n’ mix from lots of our records. There’s a bit of Everything Must Go, there’s quite a bit of Generation Terrorists in there and This Is My Truth as well as Send Away The Tigers.

“I’m always one for concepts and themes and after Futurology it felt like that had reached its conclusion and we needed to maximise every bit of melody that we could.

“It’s a hopeful album trying to make sense of what is going on in an increasingly turbulent world and the digital hysteria that surrounds it,” he adds.

“Those tech companies love that everyone is going even deeper into their phones and their iPads. They’ve got no desire to connect humanity, they’re just the ultimate capitalists. They’ve made products out of people they don’t even have to sell you anything.

“The volume of opinion is just too much. There’s too much good stuff, there’s too much bad stuff and there’s too much in between to disseminate. It is an album of bewilderment at times. I wouldn’t say it was a judgemental album. It’s not saying this is better or that’s better. It’s working out who to cope and seeking art as a refuge and a hiding place to feel something is tangible and timeless and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Reviews for the album have been unanimously positive, something that Wire is understandably overjoyed at.

“On the surface it’s a nice technicolour feeling at the moment. We know that doesn’t add up to what it used to be, but I think for some people it’s a relief to have us back.

“Sometimes with the press and media you can feel slightly out of step, but this time it feels like we’re in step with a lot of journalists who feel the same way.

“It feels like we’re all trying to navigate our way through the mess.”

They may have hung around for three decades but the bassist confesses he is still excited to hear his band’s songs on the radio.

“It is still a massive thrill for us. You can show me a million views on YouTube or followers on Twitter, but when I hear one of our songs on the radio it’s still a great feeling.

“So many of our old songs keep getting played as well. So thank god for PRS, it’s still such a good old school form of revenue, although I’m sure some f*cker will try and take that away from us soon as well.”

Finally, I ask Wire about his famously troublesome knees and are they reason this particular Manic hasn’t partaken in the many charity treks that his fellow Manics have.

“I told them I can do five miles in the Norfolk Broads or Holland,” he laughs. “As long as it’s flat, otherwise my knees wouldn’t be able to take it.”

NICKY WIRE ON HIS UPCOMING EXHBITION

“I’ve got an exhibition of my paintings and polaroids this year in Tenby Museum which has a beautiful gallery that looks out on the sea.

“I’ve got a place in Tenby. It’s one of my favourite places on Earth.

“I go in the gallery a lot there and got talking to the people who run it and they said why don’t you do an exhibition. It’ll be taking place in September.”

JAMES DEAN BRADFIELD ON SUPPORTING GUNS ‘N’ ROSES

“I’ve had a loose correspondence with Duff McKagan. He played bass guitar on A Billion Balconies Facing the Sun from Postcards From A Young Man.

“I played on stage with him once at Hammersmith Odeon. He’s one of the coolest, nicest rock ‘n’ roll dudes ever. ‘Dude’ is not a word I use much, but he really is. He’s so cool.

“I sent him a test saying I hope the gig sin Europe will eb great, I’ll try and pop along to one of them. It would be great to play with you, but I’m going to trouble you.

“And he replied (adopting LA rock ‘n’ roll voice) ‘Hey you never know man!’

“We are going to have to go to the heavier side of the Manics’ back catalogue, but I’m keeping it at the back of my head at the moment. But when it gets around a week away from the shows I’m going have to brush up on my solos just in case Slash watches me!”

JAMES DEAN BRADFIELD ON WELSH SINGER THE ANCHORESS

“We asked Catherine (Anne Davies – The Anchoress) to do the vocal with us on Your Love Alone at The Roundhouse gig at the Q Awards and she said she would love to give it a go.

“Then we asked her to do the vocal on Dylan & Caitlin from Resistance Is Futile and the first couple of takes she sent back it was there straight away.

“I think it was Nick who picked up on her music first and we both loved her album Confessions of a Romance Novelist.

“She’s like a Welsh Chrissie Hynde on that record.”