Most rock stars want you to call them at four in the afternoon when they’ve had time to recover from the previous night’s alcoholic, pharmaceutical and sexual excesses. Not so Nicky Wire who’s asked me to bell him at an hour when your average lark is still hitting the snooze button.
“You’ve caught me early in the morning before I’ve bored myself to death with the sound of my own voice,” he laughs in that singsong Welsh accent of his. “My body’s simply not capable of bad behaviour anymore. All I have to do is smell a cork and I’m drunk. Drugs are a serious no-no and it’s getting pretty hard to do jumps on stage with an arthritic knee and the dodgy disc in my back. Musically it’s the same; as much as I love bands like The Ramones, you can’t endlessly keep on repeating yourself. Walking off stage a while back, covered in glitter and leopard-print, I had a little look in the mirror and thought, ‘Maybe, you know...’”
Which goes a long way to explaining Rewind The Film, the Manic Street Preachers’ eleventh and - dare I say it - most adult album yet.
“That’s okay. I’m an adult...sort of! We realised pretty early on that these were not songs of hatred and failure. They’re more delicate and intimate and reflective. ‘Running Out Of Fantasy’ was a key track because it was addressing the delusion of rock ‘n’ roll; trying to be in a band, which we’ve all absolutely loved for so long, when you’re in the nether regions of your forties. ‘Sullen Welsh Heart’, which seemed to sum up the insecurities and the battle of love and hate that constantly goes on inside our heads, brought it all together.”
One of the people Nicky, James and Sean looked to for middle-aged musical inspiration was Bruce Springsteen.
“Every time Bruce is on stage or writes a lyric...he’s not fucking pissing around, he’s still putting it on the line,” Wire reflects. “Misery and meaning is what I looked for in music growing up, but now more and more it’s about enjoyment and that moment of rapture, which Springsteen is almost frighteningly good at producing.
“I’m just really glad I’ve had him, Morrissey, Ian McCulloch, Leonard Cohen and Kurt Cobain to look up to at different points in my life. I find it disturbing that there’s not a new generation of people like that.”
Who was the first on that list to make Nicky realise that he didn’t have to settle for a minimum wage industrial job in Blackwood?
“Industry? Job? There are fuck all of those anymore in Blackwood. What happened to Wales under Thatcher was cataclysmic. It was like a natural disaster, but a fucking human one caused by a certain political philosophy. I’d like to say I’m not spiteful or bitter about it anymore - I tried to cure myself, but I still feel that rage.”
Did he throw a street party when Maggie T died?
“I lived through the shit Thatcher did to my community; she was dead to me years ago. What concerns me is that her legacy - y’know, the rampant consumerism she introduced - is still prevalent in the UK. They mightn’t have the big hair or the twin-set, but there are still plenty of Thatchers out there.
“Sorry, I didn’t answer your question!”
We can try again...
“Leonard Cohen just fucking taught me about poetry, really. He and Morrissey opened up a world populated by everyone from Oscar Wilde and T.S. Elliot to Philip Larkin and The Beats. I did ‘A’ Level English and a degree in Politics, but learned far more from my musical and literary heroes.”
Among them was Seamus Heaney: speaking to us in August, Nicky described him as having a “face full of love and meaning.” You can read the full eulogy on hotpress.com.
Earlier this year the Manics threatened the English Defence League with legal action to stop them using ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ as a rallying cry.
“A fucking anti-fascist song by a Welsh socialist band with a line - ‘If I can shoot rabbits, I can shoot fascists’ - about Welsh miners going to fight Franco in the Spanish Civil War...it’s so hilarious and stupid and self-defeating on their part that for once it didn’t even make me angry. The one EDL person with half a brain cell obviously cottoned on to that because, as far as I know, they haven’t used it since.”