Nicky Wire. 33 years. Almost two meters of Welshman, socialist mind and body of fanatic sportsman.
Nicholas Allen Jones takes care of the telephone in the London hotel at 11h of the morning. Shortly afterwards, he is interrupted by room service. "British breakfast" not? "No - continental. I am on diet" laughs.
He speaks without embarassment of his certainties... Balanced and with notion of his limitations and the limitations of the band.
Then, the new collection?
"In the United Kingdom we had 28 singles and it was now or never. The choice process was difficult, we all have favourite songs, some of which had not arrived on the collection - like 'Roses In The Hospital' - but we did not have space. Many people thought that we only existed after [the album of 96] 'Everything Must Go'. We wanted to count our history. It was difficult to reduce for the 20 chosen songs."
What had he felt while they chose the songs?
"The good part was to have heard of new the songs [he means to hear the songs afresh] to get passionate for them. We were young and idealistic. We wanted to conquer the world... "
"It's most important to reach many people. We obtain to give a different perspective to them. We spoke of things that through other bands they never would have heard. Certainly not boy bands."
The band goes to start the "Greatest Hits Tour". Is it a "farewell tour"?
"I believe not. If it was, we would have said, because more people would come see us, it would be the last time that they could make it"
But if they do not finish, what can follow, musically speaking?
"We always spoke of an acoustic album, 'Nebraska' type, by Springsteen. It would be a new beginning. It must be for there that we go."
For this record, Nicky Wire already has a fortnight [which has to mean fourteen] lyrics, ready to be put to music by James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore.
The interviewer asks about Portugal.
Nicky replies, obviously talking about when they'll visit: "in world-wide tour of 2003. Perhaps in March"
The Coliseu of Lisbon, was considered by James, the singer, the best [gig] of the year of 1998.
"I remember well. Great night. The room is spectacular."
Why it is that they had not played one "encore"?
"Ah, we never play, never. What we have to say is said with those songs - and is alone this. But perhaps this time, who knows."
The Manics of now is not the same ones of 12 years ago? What they were?
"I know that some of our fans had thought that we had reached our artistic and creative peak for the height of the 'Holy Bible'. I understand this. But I do not believe that our ideals have traído [changed?] We continue with our fights, and 'If You Tolerate This...' is about the civil war of Spain and was our single more vendido, therefore never it is known [this has not all translated] I was and am a fan; I understand that if [people] want to keep an initial idea on a band and that if they are disillusioned when it does not go where we thought they [should go] During times I [followed] the Smiths..."
Then he will be contented for knowing that they circulate rumors that the Smiths can reform.
"Morrissey is too much needy to make this. But I admire him" [This hasn't translated. I do know the Smiths aren't going to reform, maybe this is what he's saying more or less]
Interviewer asks about "the current musical panorama?"
"It has good bands, like The Vines and The Strokes, but beyond music it is all emptiness. Morrissey spoke of Oscar Wilde, the Sex Pistols and the The Clash of cultural guerrilla. Now... But taste of the Idlewild, is interesting. He has good music, but this is alone, and I always wanted more than this"
Nicky Wire: músico/instrumentista or man of lyrics/words?
"I try to write lyrics that say something valid. I value the words. I consider this my art... To write lyrics is very important. When the words and the ideas flow..."
Interviewer asks about the new songs.
"There By The Grace Of God" is a song that tries to be European, very cold. Spiritual. In the line of "The Long And Winding Road"... " [epic ballad of the Beatles]
"I had never written songs on this, and I wanted to try anything lyrically new. In the United Kingdom, we lose the notion of religion. We changed the organised religion for... The people think that David Beckham and Luís Fig are deuses [gods?]
Perhaps the people have reasons to follow these ways...
"The artificial drugs, the Prozac, the death penalty, had made me question... To want only one thing becomes the easy life - heroin or alcohol. To be in negation [?] is a more easy way. To know the choices in our life. But I am not to choose a side."
He continues therefore an observer, conscientious critic... For the compilation of War Child, "One Love" they had chosen Out of Time, by the Rolling Stones. It had to be a song that has been nº 1.
"We made a bombástica thing, ultraproduced. Much, much Phil Spector."
We wait with anxiety. Already in 1995, on the first War Child record, "Help", they had made a curious version...
"Yes. Of "Teardrops Keep Falling On My Head" From the film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", from 1969, with Paul Newman. It was a strange choice! In these occasions we can choose different songs from that which we are accustomed to making"
[me: and it's one of the best songs on there]
The four members of the band are Welshmen, from the small mining town of Blackwood. They had always had a complicated relation with their native land.
"Wales is a very small country, 3,5 million people. A village mentality. But I continue to live there. I walk on the street and the people are likeable. We played in the Millenium Stadium for the Championship of Europe with Italy. To be honest, ten years [ago] no-one would speak of Wales, they would say England or the United Kingdom. Now already we have a proper identity. The people feel better with themselves" [or something like that]
"We know/understand that we can look at our history and that we can make something. Thatcher thought that they had destroyed Wales. We depended on the mines... Now there's a good feeling in Cardiff" [most of this didn't translate]
Interviewer asks about Tony Blair. A socialist knows that they cannot say very well of Labour.
"We always voted Labour in Wales... They do not have the socialist values that I grew with, but could be worse."
Other musicians are more confident. For example, Damon Albarn of Blur and 3D of Massive Attack launched a campaign against the Anglo-American intention to attack Iraq. Remembering that he took Politics and Sociology at university, Nicky replies:
"Damon and 3D have all the right [to do it?] but I do not believe the effectiveness."
The war on Iraq?
"I am not pacifist, I do not believe pacifism..."
He talks of "reading Marx, Engels, the great socialists" but this bit didn't translate well.
However, he continues to like politics!
"If I was not in a band, would be in politics"
He continues, however, to credit the effectiveness of Marxism?
"Still I believe. I come from a half leftist, very syndicalistic, mining area of Wales. Still we believe these ideals there. I grew with this reality..."
He mentions travelling: "Japan, Thailand, Cuba - am with another vision, of the immense difference of the world. The communism in its worse, the capitalism in its worse. The communism in its better. One is with the notion that the great projects, the great ideologies, always fail due to human nature. Communism as theory could save many people, but... I am a socialist existencialista. One mixture of Jean Paul Sartre and socialist Clement Atlee" [British prime-minister after II World-wide War]
Who is thus defined cannot belong to a normal band...
"People in the United Kingdom find that we are pretentious... We are different..."
Still he has time to speak of sport.
"I was always a fanatic. Cricket, soccer, rugby"
Also he has time to be father and to be in a band.
"Am always full of homesickness... Now I want to come back home"