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Manics' Nicky Live & Rewired - The Inverness Courier, 6th August 2015

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by Margaret Chrystall

TWENTY-SEVEN years ago, four Welsh boys got together to change the world and scar the face of rock music with their own signature.

Now with their 12th album Futurology behind them – and 1994 album The Holy Bible toured last year and this in the UK and US – bassist Nicky Wire admits it’s time to start thinking about the next one and it might not be easy.

The band’s 1988 manifesto from small town Blackwood was to sell millions of albums, sell out three nights of Wembley then disappear – but only still-missing, troubled Richey Edwards has mastered that trick of invisibility.

Bolshy, political, anthemic, as famous for singer James Dean Bradfield’s straining shout as bassist Nicky Wire’s feather boas and drummer Sean Moore’s quiet presence, The Manics have survived the years and done so with credibility.

Last year’s album Futurology saw them pioneering, Euro-focused and optimistic after 11 earlier albums, three number one singles, two Mercury Music award nominations and 10 million albums sold.

After a few weeks off, the three are in their studio in Wales rehearsing "to get back up to scratch" for Belladrum.

Nicky said: "I think Futurology was a key album really, it was a kind of success, critical and commercial.

"And to be as old as we are and still connecting with people, that kind of made us do the Holy Bible tour.

"I don’t think we’d have done that unless we felt we were still relevant.

"That was the final thing that made us think ‘Yeah, it’s now or never to do the Holy Bible tour’.

"There was a lot of confidence in Futurology and it’s going to be hard to top it really.

"We haven’t written any new songs at all."

He laughed: "We’re a bit scared at the moment, I think.

"There are scraps and bits of words and stuff, but we’re just looking for a bit of inspiration perhaps."

But Nicky paints a picture of the Manics in the studio that wouldn’t look too different from their earliest days.

"I’m married and all the rest of it, but when you strip away the facade and it’s just the three of us in the studio together, it’s very similar to the atmosphere it was 20-odd years ago in our bedrooms, really, smoking and moaning ...

"But we are genuinely dedicated and love what we do. As long as that’s still there, we’ll be alright."

Maybe Nicky is less mouthy than he used to be – biographer Simon Price called him "sarcasm on stilts, a rock n roll Oscar Wilde"...

"Well he did have a big influence on me growing up, Oscar Wilde, through Morrissey really.

"All our icons growing up – your John Lydons and your Ian McCullochs – they did have that sort of thing in them, a kind of wit with scathing nastiness.

"We just thought that was the way bands were, really.

"Unfortunately, when you’re in it, you realise that bands just want to be friends with you."

With a touch of amused regret, Nicky adds: "Every festival we go there is always someone who obviously hates me for some reason.

"For the first 10 years I absolutely revelled in it, but now I just keep my counsel. I don’t want to turn into an embarrassing dad!"

He’s mellowing in other ways, not always by choice.

"I haven’t drunk anything for just past four years now. It’s not some sort of choice I wanted to take, but my liver wasn’t functioning properly.

"But I genuinely do miss it, nothing used to make me happier than a bottle of champagne onstage.

"It’s just a lot harder – especially in the social situations you find yourself in."

Any substitutes?

"Just stronger and stronger coffee! You just become a kind of coffee connoisseur looking for the magical one."

But the power of performing is just as strong for him.

"One thing I love about being in the band is the moment of expectation of dressing up – and just feeling like a different person in some ways.

"In my normal life if I jump three foot in the air with my bass in the garden, I’d never get up again – I’d collapse in a heap.

"But there’s something about being in a band, I don’t know if it’s genuine adrenaline in charge, but it does take you to a different dimension.

"Thankfully that still exists for all of us.

"I remember Pete Townshend saying how, literally, your mind feels rewired when you’re onstage.

"I have no idea how younger bands feel about stuff like that – they’re probably too interested in listening to the click and keeping time – but for us there’s such a carefree abandon.

"And I think – even during fallow periods in selling records sometimes – we’ve always been a live band that people love to keep coming to see because there’s just such an air that something could go wrong – or a transcendent moment.

"But I do like that element of risk."

On their website, they have favourite random top 10s and one of NIcky's is of songs by singer and producer Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice - who spends a good bit of time in the Highlands having a house in Helmsdale.

Is he someone Nicky's come across playing live and at festivals?

"We have crossed paths, but growing up he had such a genuine, smart way of reinventing the wheel – just the way those records sounded. But up to this day he makes great records, given all he’s gone through.

"In our studio, I did a big collage of all our favourite icons and he’s up there.

"But with a lot of those people, I never feel the need to meet them – I’m just a fanboy and I really enjoy being a fan. I like being a bit star struck really.

"We were at some awards the other day and Black Sabbath were there and theirs was the first record I ever bought – a seven-inch of Neon Knights – and I’m sitting there thinking ‘How strange that I’m sat in a room getting an award watching Geezer Butler get one too!’

"And that record is still one of my favourites."

No trace of Richey Edwards has been found since he disappeared on February 1, 2005 from his London hotel room after album The Holy Bible was completed, just his car found at the Severn Bridge a fortnight later.

Would he think the Manics’ career had lived up to his dreams?

Nicky replied: "That’s a tough one. Yes, I think we have been kind of respectful and as dignified as a rock n roll band can be.

"But I’m glad that we changed, that after the Holy Bible we came back with Design For Life, it would have been embarrassing if we had constantly tried to make really dark and disturbing records because we didn’t feel that way.

"So I think we have been true to ourselves and changed and morphed – and gone back again sometimes.

"I think we’ve done pretty much the best we can.

"It’s just a shame he hasn’t seen some of the most amazing times we’ve had and the scale of stuff – the stadiums – and we’ve been round the world and all that.

"Back in those days... it’s just such a different world. I’m kind of thankful in a lot of ways that we have had so much time to grow as a band. We had people who had faith in us and to be able to repay them over the distance is a really nice feeling."

It hasn’t stopped lately, we could do with some rain, to be honest ...