On their globe trotting tour Gear's Gav Coulson caught up with the Manics in Tokyo...
Blackwood, Wales might not appear to be the most likely town to produce one of the UK's biggest rock bands, but from these humble roots in 1986 the Manic Street Preachers went on to do just that, and judging by the interest in their 2010 release 'Postcards From A Young Man' and subsequent tour, they show no signs of losing any of their original appeal anytime soon. "The tour has been brilliant so far" says bassist Nicky Wire after touching down in Tokyo after their Australian leg of the tour. "It's our first visit to Australia in 11 years and the crowds have been ecstatic, as have we. All this following on from a fantastic, but very long, UK tour, which illness aside, was a very memorable campaign."
Ina career spanning 3 decades We band has seen some Changes (most notably of course the disappearance of guitarist Richey Edwards, now officially pronounced dead) but has retained the central core of James Dean Bradfield on guitar and vocals, Sean Moore on drums, and of course bassist Nicholas Allen Jones, known to Manic fans as Nicky Wire (because of his 'wirey' 6'3" frame). In addition to bass duties, Nicky contributes a major portion of the lyrics, and provides occasional Vocals.
So what was it that made him get into playing bass, and who influenced him? "I started off as a rhythm guitarist but then realised how amazing James was," explains Nicky. "Then I saw a picture of Paul Simonon of The Clash - I fell in love with his low slung bass, his cheek bones, and his style. From then on I realised the tall ones have to be the bass players.
My main influences are Ronnie Laine, Derek Forbes, Peter Hook, Barry Adamson, Jah Wobble and Mike Mills. More than anything I just wanted In be a bass player that never got in the way of the song."
Nicky was born on January 20. 1969 in Blackwood and attended Oakdale Comprehensive School with James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore and Richey James Edwards. He excelled at football was captain of the Welsh national schoolboys' team aged 15 and was offered a trial at Arsenal Football Club, although nothing became of this because of his back and knee problems.
It was at school that the band first began to come together, and in 1989 they recorded their, first single, 'Suicide Alley' which led to them signing a deal with Damaged Goods Records for one EP, 'New Art Riot. The bands rise was meteoric, and following a brief signing with indie label Heavenly Records, the band were snapped up by Sony UK's Columbia Records and began work on their debut album, 1992's 'Generation Terrorists'. Its combination of androgynous glam punk imagery, left-wing politicisation and intellectual lyrical style soon gained them a loyal following and cult status.
Eight top ten albums and fifteen top ten singles later (including number ones with their 1998 album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours' and the singles 'If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next and 'The Masses Against The Classes') they have lost none of their original flair for subjects such as alienation, boredom and politics, or indeed their ability to mix and match marry different styles and influences. "At the moment we are Listening to Miles Davis 'Bitchies Brew', Led Zeppelin's 'Physical Graffiti' and 'Sandonista' by the Clash..." says Nicky. In addition, they also won the Best British Album and Best British Group accolades at the BRIT Awards in 1997 and 1999, and a Lifetime Achievement Award by the NME in 2008.
On recent albums Nicky has begun to use Italia Maranello basses, including a custom made acoustic model for the band's 2007 acoustic sessions. "I chose them initially because they look truly beautiful and unique - but they are also utterly solid in terms of tuning in a live context. As someone who throws his bass around, this is vitally important! He continues "Also, in the studio they are deep, thick and rich and an absolute joy to play" Often seen with his silver, red and gold finished Italia Maranellos, Nicky has just took delivery of a specially commissioned Black Sparkle with gold back to complement them.
Back in September 2006, Nicky released a solo album, 'I Killed The Zeitgeist' which was preceded by a solo gig at the Hay festival. The set list consisted of material from his forthcoming album, as well as a short acoustic rendition of 'Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll' from the 'Generation Terrorist,' album. Nicky toured small, intimate venues across the UK with his band The Secret Society affording fans the opportunity of seeing their hero at close quarter.
Eschewing the typical rock'n' roll lifestyle, Nicky lives with his wife Rachael (his childhood sweetheart, he missed the band's appearance on Top of the Pops due to their honeymoon and was replaced on the day by a tall Manics roadie wearing a Minnie Mouse mask!) and their two children in the Newport suburb of Allt-yr-yn, and until recently, still lived in an end of terrace house in the village of Wattsville, near Blackwood. Unfortunately, when a tabloid newspaper printed a picture of his house with the number clearly visible, he was forced to move, but he later paid tribute with the tack 'Wattsville Blues', from the 'Know Your Enemy' album.
So what's next for Nicky and the Manics? "We have a lot of touring and promotion left to do for the 'Postcards From A Young Man' album" says Nicky, "We are currently In Japan and have a string of TV and radio commitments when we return to the UK. As always we are itching to return to the studio. but them Is still a long way to go with the live side of this album."
And does he have any last words about his Italia Maranello? "I love playing my Maranello! They are a beautiful workhorse that won't let you down live or in the studio."