Nicky Wire promises 'inspired' new album as MD Mike Smith builds multi-genre publishing powerhouse.
Warner/Chappell MD Mike Smith has unveiled his vision for a “factory of world class songwriting”, as Music Week can exclusively reveal the Manic Street Preachers have joined the publisher’s burgeoning roster.
Smith, who has already swooped for writers including Liam Gallagher, J Hus, Katy B, Andy Partridge, Birdy, Matt Clifford, Dave and Fred Ball since starting his current role in late 2016, worked with the Manics while at Columbia in the late 2000s.
“We’ve kept in touch and I always said that if the opportunity came up for us to work together, I’d love to do it,” Smith told Music Week. “From a personal point of view, it’s great to be working with friends again.
“I love working with these great rock acts - it’s wonderful - and if those opportunities arise, I will always pursue them. But that doesn’t mean we’re any less enthusiastic about chasing a new British urban act, or great pop songwriters.”
Manics bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire told Music Week that Smith was the main factor in their decision to sign with Warner/Chappell.
The band are signed to Sony’s Columbia label and made three albums during Smith’s spell as MD - beginning with 2007’s Send Away The Tigers.
“Send Away The Tigers was something of a renaissance for us and then we did Journal For Plague Lovers and Postcards From A Young Man, so when [Smith] mooted that he wanted to sign us, it was really easy for us,” said Wire.
“That’s nothing against Sony/ATV - we’ve been with Sony publishing for 23/24 years, but to work with Mike again felt like an opportunity we couldn’t miss.”
The Manics have two No.1 singles under their belt - If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next (1998) and Masses Against The Classes (2000) - a feat that seems unrepeatable in the modern era.
Wire said he was puzzled as to why rock chart hits had become so few and far between.
“There is brilliant music being made all the time, but that idea of having a No.1 record seems as distant as me flying to the sun,” he chuckled. “I can’t second guess what the public wants from music.”
“It’s challenging for a rock band to cut through on anything like as many playlists as more electronic, pop, urban and hip-hop artists do,” noted Smith.
“I don’t think it’s impossible - I firmly believe that rock acts will enjoy chart success - but those songs need to be able to work in as many playlists as possible.
Playlists essentially govern chart success now. Inevitably, the more playlists you’re on, the more times you’re going to get streamed.”
The Welsh trio, whose back catalogue remains with Sony/ATV, return with their 13th album, Resistance Is Futile, on April 6.
It is their first LP since 2014’s critically acclaimed Futurology (49,826 sales), which itself came less than a year after their 11th LP Rewind The Film (59,311). The four-year gap between albums is the longest of their career.
“Since then it’s been a struggle to find where we’re going next,” admitted Wire. “What we found is the three of us get an immense amount of inspiration from each other in the studio. As you grow old, and everything becomes uncertain, it’s hard.
One of the last things we’re sure about is when we make a really great record, and we feel like we have done. We obsessed over every single song to try and make it as good as possible.”
Working with legendary acts represents a different kind of conundrum for a publisher, explained Smith.
“The job goes two ways,” he said. “It’s about finding and discovering new talent, and bringing it through, and then also getting to work with established talent and nurturing that.
“There’s a particular challenge working with artists that have been making music for many years, maintaining their profile and enhancing it.
That was something I learned about when I was at Columbia. When you’re working with artists who’ve been around for an awful long time - like Bruce Springsteen - it’s fascinating seeing how you maintain that longevity and are still are able to deliver artistically valid music.”
Chappell is building three recording studios in the basement of its offices at the Electric Lighting Station in Kensington. “It’s something I’m very excited about,” said Smith.
“When I worked for EMI Music Publishing, we had two amazing studios and would have artists and writers on our roster in there all the time.
“I want to have the same thing going at the Electric Lighting Station. I very much want to have as much activity from our writers in the building - our A&R team, working literally on top of a songwriting team, so that we can become a real factory of world class songwriting.”
Smith summed up his first 12 months at the publisher as “tremendous”. “There’s nothing like coming in and being able to ride the success of people like Stormzy and Rag’N’Bone Man,” he laughed.
“But it was great to be able to add to that with people like Liam, J Hus and Dave, who all signed in the last year, and I’m really excited about what’s happening with HMLTD.”
He added: “It’s a constantly changing landscape, but I’m very optimistic for the business. There’s some excellent urban music out there – the way that music from the streets has become genuine pop music is brilliant and I think that’s made the charts a more exciting place than it’s been for a long time.
“I feel enormously privileged to be in a position to be a part of all that because it is a tremendous time to be involved in the music business in terms of what’s coming through at a creative level.”