Initially starting as a foursome in their teens, Manic Street Preachers (vocalist/guitarist James Dean Bradfield, drummer Sean Moore, lyricist/bassist Nicky Wire, and rhythm guitarist Richey James Edwards) have been functioning as a trio since the unexplained disappearance of Edwards in 1995. Romantic, idealistic, self-destructive, and iconic, Manic Street Preachers have become increasingly more successful—at least in their U.K. homeland—with the release of each album. Now numbering at eight albums (plus a greatest hits collection), the Welsh band’s latest, Send Away the Tigers, sees the group returning back to what inspired them musically when they first got together. Writing from his kitchen in Wales, the always articulate Nicky Wire responds to our questions clearly and concisely.
More so than any of your albums in the last 10 years, Send Away the Tigers has very obvious references to other bands, in a very unapologetic way.
Send Away the Tigers wears its influences on its sleeve. We wanted to sound like an anthemic rock band again. All the influences that made the band became obvious and apparent, from The Clash to Guns ‘n’ Roses. We have not sounded like ourselves for 10 years. We felt good about doing it now.
There are a lot of references to America on Send Away the Tigers: musically, lyrically, politically, and perhaps even inspirationally. What is the impetus behind this?
The presence of America in the present culture is unavoidable. America has been a negative and positive influence throughout our career. It is both an inspiration and an object of despair.
Considering you’ve been in a band for about 20 years, do you think over time, you lose a certain amount of excitement about it? What do you think are some things that can bring back that beginning feeling of excitement?
After 20 years you unavoidably become cynical and less idealistic. For Send Away the Tigers we deliberately recreated a sense of naïve anger and youthful optimism. This was fulfilled by the three of us, alone, making music in a small room in Cardiff [Wales] with no distractions.
What are some things you used to think and believe in at the early part of your music career that you now realize were naïve or unrealistically optimistic?
Initially we had genuinely insane thoughts of destroying the British Royal family and making every other band redundant, but I am glad we had such unrealistic ideals. It made us the band we are today.
What are some things you believe now that you know are practical and have a distinct possibility of actually happening in the future of the group?
I have a deep routed belief that the lyrics and music created by Manic Street Preachers makes a lasting impression for the good, for some people. In practical terms I think that is all we can hope for.
You have been saying you’ve been through a process of destroying what you are as a band. What do you mean by that? Why and how would you do that?
As I said before, for the last 10 or so years we haven’t sounded like the quintessential version of the band we are. We confused ourselves and our fan base. Lifeblood in particular bared little relation musically to the band that created “A Design for Life.” The huge success of This is My Truth Tell Me Yours made us question the whole reason behind Manic Street Preachers. But now we have found ourselves again.
How is your solo album [I Killed the Zeitgeist] and James Dean Bradfield’s solo album [The Great Western] approach and sound different from what you do with the group? How did it have an effect on what you’ve done with the group since their releases?
My solo album was utterly different from Manic Street Preachers. It was cheap, amateurish, drenched in feedback with a Lou Reed vocal style. Both our solo albums helped us focus on what we love most. They were an exercise in de-cluttering and musical vanity.
How would you describe the other two members of the band?
James is tenacious, hardworking, hilarious, generally late, and a guitar genius. Sean is a complete mystery—like all drummers you have no real idea of what he is thinking.