Since Richey Edwards disappeared, Nicky Wire has stepped in as the Manic Street Preachers' lyricist. Miranda Sawyer talks to him about life without his old friend, and why he now enjoys being disliked.
"We don't want to talk about love/We just want to get drunk." When was the last time you felt like that?
I gave drink up four years ago because I had a bad liver. That line's an ironic statement about how the working-class people are patronised - that's all they do, they're not sensitive, they just get pissed and fight.
Sometimes that seems like the only thing to do, though...
I don't think there's anything wrong with getting drunk. That line's the opposite to "Girls And Boys", pompous middle-class people taking on working-class culture and mocking it. When I was growing up I'd walk around dressed like the New York Dolls and I'd be called a poof - but I didn't look at those people and think, those are worthless scum. If they've been working in a factory all week then they've got every right to get smashed out of their brains and take the piss out of my haircut.
Is the present lad culture pro-men or anti-women?
I don't think it's pro-men, I think it does a lot of men a disservice. I just think it was clever to spot that gap in style magazine or all the boy bands. Young male anorexics are catching up with young female anorexics and a lot of it is down to this perfect image of the boy band.
Don't you like Take That?
Gary Barlow has written one good song in his entire life and the rest of them are complete talentless fuckers. Muppets.
Do you think you sound like Queen?
Well I don't. I think it's much more Spectoresque than that. But people say James' voice is like Freddie Mercury... We've mellowed. It takes its toll, you know, the last couple of years.
Are you going for glory this time?
I think we could. But I dunno if I'm prepared to do that at the expense of another one of us ending up in an asylum. I've realised we're a bit more sensitive we ever gave ourselves credit for.
When was the last time you cried?
The last time I cried was at the Hacienda on Friday night and that's the only the second time I cried since Richey went missing. We did a warm-up gig and it was the worst I've ever done in my life. It was so small and enclosed and Richey wasn't there and it wasn't right. It felt like starting again as a band. You sing a song with some of Richey's lyrics and you see people you know in the front and it makes it all a bit pointless. Should we be standing here? I just walked offstage and I was blubbing like a complete buffoon.
Was it difficult making the LP without him?
To be honest, Richey just got pissed in the studio anyway. He never played anything. I missed going into his room and he'd be doing a collage and we'd watch telly and just natter. That's what you miss, not the professional stuff.
Do you think he's dead?
Well, my head tells me that he's dead, but deep down I think he's alive. Richey had the intelligence to disappear and become a sewage worker with a big beard living in a tiny bedsit.
Did you sympathise with Noel Gallagher over his "I hope Blur get Aids" outburst in the light of your previous remarks about Michael Stipe?
You could tell that it was just one of those gigantic slips of the tongue. It was like Peter Hook after Ian Curtis was found (dead), he went, oh the cunt fucked up our American tour.
Do you relate to that?
I can deal with it. And our new non-image is a bit like when Joy Division became New Order, they had a non-image. We've gone from punk to glam to Apocalypse Now - I couldn't really think of anything else to do. Especially without Richey. I'm not going to crucify myself and stub cigarettes out on my arm and become an anorexic and a drug addict just to please people.
Is drug-taking glamorous?
It's not for me but I can still understand why it is. I thought Trainspotting was warped but glamorous. Same with Drugstore Cowboy. Trainspotting wouldn't have put anyone off, despite what they said - apart from the baby scene. I haven't got a good handle on drugs, I've never taken any, I've never smoked a cigarette in my life. The only thing that functions well in my body is my brain and I just don't like losing control of it.
Did you prefer playing a sports stadium to playing a hippy festival?
Yes. At Maine Road it was cleaner and everything about it was more energetic. Glastonbury, I just detest it, I was really glad it was cancelled. I hate fake pseudo pagan festivals. Some fucking twat of a dancer covered in beads playing a big fucking didgeridoo. I just can't handle it. It's not me. The last time we played there I said, "I hope they build a bypass right through this field."
You're goading me into my nervous reaction and getting me to say things that will make people hate me.
It makes me laugh.
It doesn't make the public laugh.
Even if people hate you, they'll still like James, though - the naughty boy of the band.
James is so nice that everyone likes him. And none of them like me. I'm not allowed out any more 'cause I'll ruin James' social life. But I enjoy being disliked and misunderstood.
What about Sean, what gets him excited?
I think Sean gets most excited when he's spending money. He's into gadgets and he'll buy designer labels. He'll buy Comme des Garcons and con himself that it's better quality. It's secret retail therapy. And James likes it when Sean spends money because then James has got more money than him.
Do you hate Man Utd?
Yeah. I always support the underdog. But I hate the English rugby side more than I hate Man Utd.