Nick talks to good mate Robin Turner
Holed up in a small demo studio in Cardiff, Nicky, Sean and James are working on demos of new songs with Dave Eringa. Always with the fierce work ethic, they have demoed six songs in four days. It’s hammering down rain outside, but here, they are in ebullient mood, possibly due to the Grand Slam, possibly due to the NME Godlike Genius Award, possibly due to the fact that the songs are so brilliant. Nicky and James sat down to share their thoughts at the end of a remarkable year.
Last time we spoke was three days before the NME Awards...
NW: Even though it was a long old day, It reminded me a bit of the Cuba/Castro experience - it’s one of those things that just flashed by in an instant, that you wish you could just suck it all in. For us it was a very big deal, it was very important, I just wish I could have taken it all in more. I thought the gig itself at the end of it was pretty majestic. From the bagpipes at the start of it to the glitter at the end...I peaked twice in one day, which is not like me. I talked so much on the red carpet. James and Sean just disappeared and left me there with Joe Calzaghe (what a man and a true sporting great), doing the rounds. I felt very drained and empty at the end of it. It really was pretty special though. At the actual Awards, Conor gave a really nice speech, and then they did a montage of footage and interviews. Peter Hook was absolutely brilliant about us, really funny, really charming, spot on. He compared our career to the Joy Division/New Order situation then he said, “I’m not sure about the bass player wearing a dress!” It was gorgeous. Zane Lowe was really nice about us; I still love listening to Zane, even though he doesn’t play us anymore! Ryan Jones, the Welsh captain, he sent a message saying “Well done boys, ‘ave a good night!!” how cool is that. Kylie had done one that was lovely; unfortunately it was in the wrong format so they couldn’t use it. I was fucking gutted. Same with the Super Furry Animals, they shot one on a mobile phone, it was really lovely, but they couldn’t get it to work. We’re going to try to put them on the website ‘cos they were both so great. Those two would have topped it all off for us.
It must have been strange turned up there, knowing you were winning the top award – usually there is the element of surprise with these things.
Yeah, it was odd. You get the nod at the other awards ceremonies that you might be in with a chance, but knowing that you’ve won in advance, it made me want to compose a speech and try to find the defining moments of our career for it. Playing four songs in front of other bands really was harder than I thought it would be. I closed my eyes the whole fucking time we played! I thought Danny Dyer was brilliant there, when he gave the Best Film award, which went to ‘Control’ – he just said “Thank fuck it’s not ‘Atonement’!” I thought the boys from ‘Gavin And Stacey’ (James Corden and Mathew Horne) were just brilliant presenting it. It wasn’t the greatest atmosphere for them as it was early in the day, I think lots of bands knew they had to play later so people weren’t getting tanked up like the old days, but I just thought they were hilarious. I thought the Gallows were really good even though it was humongously loud; Frank the singer was giving out daffodils to the crowd. Me being an idiot, I thought it was a St David’s Day thing. When he gave one top me I said that and he said it was for Cancer Research...their guitarist, Laurent came into our dressing room later, smashed out of his skull, he was a huge Manics fan, he was ranting “I’ll do anything for you, I’ll sell swag for you! I’ll do a really good job too!!” He was really charming. Fair play, I thought they were lovely lads.
Who else came through as a fan on the day?
Russell from Bloc Party, the pretty one with the haircut and translucent skin, I had a really nice chat with him, he was a real sweetheart, and he was raving about ‘The Holy Bible’. Also Huw Stephens wrote something really nice about the whole day and our award in the Western Mail, Huw is a true gentleman. Apparently Alex Kapranos did whisper to an NME journalist “Nicky Wire is the biggest prick I’ve ever met” – I don’t know why he whispered it, fair play really, he should have shouted it out, it’s all rock ‘n’ roll isn’t it? I’m really glad he found success after trying out every genre and every different style in about 10 different bands. I’m really pleased he finally found success so late in life. Billy Bragg, I had a quick chat with him, he is a proper elder statesman. I had a chat to The Horrors, I think they’ve got something special, they look amazing, but why they had Kelly Osbourne on their table is beyond me. They are just one record away from being something really outlandish and important I think.
At the end of the day, you walked away with a Lifetime Achievement Award, the equivalent to what Macca won at the Brits the week before...
In typical Manics form, maybe three or four days after, it did come down on us, that thing of “Where do we go, what do we do?” – in typical Manics fashion, one of the greatest days of our career turned into “It’s all over!” James especially. It did feel odd, you start thinking about things and realise it’s not far off 20 years since we signed with Heavenly, 1990. We always see “Motown Junk” as us being a fully formed precociously talented entity, on a proper label. In the speech at the awards I did thank Heavenly, I thanked Tennessee Williams, Echo & The Bunnymen, Aneurin Bevan...on an on, a really long list...and I forgot to fucking thank Martin Hall, our manager. Which is unforgivable. Scott Thomas, Mitch Ikeda, Mark Farrow, Rob Stringer, Simon Price, The Enemy, Terri Hall and Lizzy Gould...I even found a copy of our first NME cover, which was when Richey and me spent all day wandering round Shepherds Bush trying to find some girl to give us both love bites. Wouldn’t do that today! I remember when we won in 1997 for “Everything Must Go”, I can remember Owen Morris and Mark Bowen (Wichita Records) being there, on the tables screaming, people like Cian from the Super Furries passed out under the same table. It felt like the working classes had won back then – it didn’t feel like that this year. It didn’t feel like a lot of people were driven by the overwhelming desire to be in a band, it was more like a career option from school. It’s the reason why there’s so much good behaviour these days. It was weird at the awards, people are so interested in their laptops and Blackberry's, it’s such a disconnected generation, no one seemed to want to have any real fun. One thing I have to say, I feel really sorry for Muse – they only ever seem to win Best Live Band, or Best DVD or something shit like that. It’s not even like I love them that much but they really are amazing musicians, they are the Rush of our era. It’s like “We need to get Muse here, give them the Live Award!” I’m sure they want more as a band and they deserve more!
How was the gig?
I thought Cerys sang incredibly. She was a bit nervous at the awards because it was full of industry people, but she delivered everything and more. I thought Tom from The Enemy was really good, they are a working class rock ‘n’ roll band. We asked him to do it, it’s not like he was begging to do it at all, we just thought it would be something good to do. There wasn’t a big intellectual logic behind it – we like him, we like his band. It was a good thing to connect with a different generation. They are desperate to be in a band, he is driven; he loves the process of communication. You can’t be snobby about things like that, I’d rather him than a million of these other stage school Brit School bands.
So four days later then...
It just felt like we’d peaked. With those two NME covers we had, Hamish McBain’s piece, the second one, '10 Ways To Be A Godlike Genius', it was almost embarrassingly positive! It just felt like “How the fuck do we come back from this?” It was nice to see Cuba being mentioned in positive terms for the first time in ages. It’s been seen in such a bad light, almost a faux pas. After the euphoria of doing the gig in Cuba, everything seemed to go completely wretched almost straight away! I’m not sure how it happened but it seemed like we’d offended so many people just by doing it. I remember thinking at the time “I’ve slagged so many people off and said so many bad things, but we never got anything like the amount of shit we’re getting now!” It’s funny, now launching an album, the most exciting thing is just doing a gig in a pub in Camden or “I’m doing a fucking tour of people’s front rooms!”
And how has coming back to the studio been?
I think it’s the best thing that could have happened. I think it’s like when footballers or rugby players they play and have a real hammering and all they say is that they want the next game straight away, to get it out of the system. The whole day of the NME Awards was unbelievably brilliant, we are so chuffed and honoured to have it, there is no complaints at all, it felt humbling, a real privilege to win it, it was just the next few days we felt...I don’t know...it’s different to every other award we’ve ever won, this one was about 18 years work...we’re scarily grateful for it really! Having said that, I think we fucking deserved it! Like I said before though, we got ourselves back in the position where we did deserve it. If we hadn’t done “Send Away The Tigers” we’d never have won. That day I must have done 50 interviews on the red carpet – I did feel, with the sheer amount of information that ends up on blogs and in the papers, that people must be getting sick of hearing me crapping on – so this is the last one of these for a while! It must look sometimes like I want to do it all but it’s just a division of jobs. I feel like I have talked myself into oblivion.
I’ve been thinking recently, since “Lifeblood” then onto my solo record, I did 23 lyrics for that, then “Send Away The Tigers” which was written at the same time, lyrically I just kind of need a break at the moment. I kind of think maybe I’ve been saying the same thing for a couple of years now and I need to find a different way to express. I do love writing words and I’ve written a load of stuff, but I just think the older I get, I just need to be really spot on. It would be nice if we could carry on but I could have a break from writing, to recharge somehow. So, you hear it hear first, Mooro is going to write the lyrics!! Him and Dave Eringa!
Dave has made it into the little video we’ve done for “Umbrella”, he got himself in there. My brother came down the studio the other day and shot a load of stuff. The “Tolerate” noise on the record, we got Dave to play it on his fucked up Moog in the studio, so he’s in, like back in “Gold Against The Soul” days. That’s going on the site as soon as it’s done. The “Umbrella” thing is an odd situation, especially for me with my insane marketing head on. Part of me thinks we should have given it a massive push as it’s selling loads on download, maybe we should have had a physical format and made it an official Manics single. I’m really perturbed that if it’s perceived that way, we’ll have had 33 consecutive Top 40 singles since “Stay Beautiful”, back when we signed to Sony. I don’t want our record ruined. I can take it as a happy accident as long as the sales don’t push it to Number 42 or something but it is definitely not an official Manics single.
What’s been rocking your world?
Been listening to ‘The Moral Maze’ on Radio 4 – it’s a philosophical question show, goes out on a Saturday at 10.15 in the night...heavy going but brilliant. The name of the show sounds like the story of the Manics career! Brett Favre retiring from the green Bay Packers, the greatest Quarter Back I’ve ever seen, a true American hero, he broke down crying when he finished. Puma Clyde, my favourite trainers, all that I ever wear...I’ve got 60 or 70 pairs of the fuckers. I wouldn’t call it an endorsement as such, but they just sent me a box of 20 pairs of trainers, and some for the boys as well. That was just brilliant. World indoor athletics championship...really love that...60 Foot Dolls I’ve gone back and listened to them a lot – that’s an underrated record on the sly, they were a proper fucking rock ‘n’ roll band the Dolls. They were a proper cult band.
I forgot to mention about Tottenham winning the Carling Cup which was brilliant, we had a great season really, Ramos is a genius, I’m just so pleased for Ledley King, he’s such a fine figure of a man, Robbie Keane, such a loyal servant and Dimitar Berbatov he is Andy Garcia in disguise...
And, obviously, the Grand Slam...
Before it happened I stopped myself thinking about it, it was too scary. On BBC Wales they had a highlights programme, all about the 2005 Grand Slam, I sat down there with my wife and she looked at me and said “What’s wrong with you, you’re covered in goose bumps” – what does Mitch called it? Chicken skin! – anyway, it’s the Grand Slam; it’s such a huge thing! James went to the match but I couldn’t do that, I watched it from my sofa.
We talked previously about a Welsh renaissance, and Duffy has been Number 1 since then, Wales won the Grand Slam...
Cardiff City in the semi finals, Swansea City looking at promotion, Joe Calzaghe...to have one of the top 3 boxers in the world with us at the NME Awards kind of made you feel pretty invincible – I don’t know why I didn’t slag more people off. I was well protected! He nearly ripped one of the security’s heads off at the 02...the security there was fucking abysmal – fair play to the Kaiser Chiefs for cancelling their gig there. The security fucked them off so badly they moved the gig to Wembley. I only got back into the venue for the actual gig, clutching the award and saying to some idiot “Do you want to be the man who stops us going on stage?”
I must say, at the end of all this, I did genuinely miss Richey at the Awards, just for his honesty, his friendship, his companionship, his sense of humour, his naivity and his poetic beauty.
How do you think he’d have reacted to it all?
Well he’d have got fucking hammered, that’s for sure. We only ever went to one awards ceremony when he was still around, the first NME Awards in 1995. It was for best radio session. It was at the Embassy on Tottenham Court Road (now Spearmint Rhino). Justine and Damon were there rowing, “Giant Steps” by the Boo Radleys won album of the year. It’s just sad that everything since then, Brits, Ivor Novello’s, it’s all been without him being there.
So where next?
We’re just bashing around making a real dirge. It feels great to be making a melodic dirge, it really does. You can’t come up with a “Design For Life” or a “Your Love Alone” every day of the week...there’s no parameters and no predilections for what we’re doing down here, the songs may never be released...it’s “just music, maaaaaan!”