It's Tuesday afternoon in a hotel in Norwich that appears to have been modelled somewhere between the Crossroads motel and Alan Partridge's temporary roadside accommodation. Nicky Wire sits drinking cranberry juice while we sit updating the Report From The Field photo blog section on the website (keep checking for on the road stuff over the next week or two). The band are using their day off to record B-sides for the next single ("Autumn Song"). Wire is in a jubilant mood in spite of the surroundings.
So, three weeks since the album was released...
"Got shown Greg Haver's blog the other day - he's got his own f*****g little blog, and it's just three pages of him moaning about the album being number 2 by 690 copies... he just wanted more money from his points, it's hilarious. We love Greg, he's working on an album with the Hot Puppies at the moment, says it's amazing. Two weeks into the tour and Glasgow and Wolverhampton have been the absolute highlights so far, the second night in Cardiff ran it pretty close. Everything has been great overall, some really good leeryness in Preston, I've got a really nasty gash on my leg. For some reason, when I came on in the second half in my skimpy miniskirt, there were some real lads, I got four pints chucked at me. One grazed my cheek, one got me in the leg. I was just being my usual self, going mental. It was all good fun... well, as good fun as a pint in the face can be. I think it ended up with me saying "You obviously threw that at me 'cos you're such a f*****g ugly c**t" and something to the tune of "Come up here and you'll get a f*****g bass across your head" to which James goes "Ooooooooooooo!"... so Preston was pretty 'lively', as they say... "Naughty" as Danny Dyer would say. Glasgow Barrowlands was just an amazing gig. If the album had have been number 1, 'cos it was the day after, that would have been like when The Faces played Sunderland the day after Sunderland won the FA Cup, supposed to be one of THE great celebratory gigs. If every city had a Barrowlands you wouldn't want to do a bigger gig, it really is incredible. If Swansea had one of them...
So, tour wise, we went from pre-tour nerves to physical breakdown. I've had a torn calf muscle. I went to the masseur at the hotel in Manchester (long story, went there after the Preston gig), she told me - I think she's exaggerating. James has got a dodgy knee. The nerves have gone at the moment, but they'll be back in London. It's always the way, it's fine then we get there and it goes to shitting ourselves straight away. Huw Stevens turned up in Preston as well, he was up for that Radio 1 shindig but left early to come see us. He's a good "Zeitgeist" believer, he got a dedication, all the "Zeitgeist" believers get dedications. He loves Johnny Boy and they were supporting, so he got to see them. He's a big fan of Strange Death Of Liberal England, I told him they're doing 3 shows so hopefully we'll see him again. The Enemy joined us last night, they were really good. There's something about them boys. The supports have all been great, I think we chose well there. Hopefully we'll do something similar on the arena tour at Christmas... shit, shouldn't have said that...
Album wise, it's a bit more frustrating knowing we were so close. With the single we ended up loosing by a couple of thousand so you kind of take that on the chin, but when it's as close as it was with the album. Back in the day you'd have just had a buying team, someone would have made it happen, more TV ads... but, you know, "Everything Must Go" was number 2, and, honestly, if you'd have told us after "Lifeblood" that we'd be selling out a tour in two hours; having the biggest hit single we've had in probably 10 years; our biggest hit album in 5 or 6 years - it's gone top 10 in Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, it's already doing well in Sweden, Germany, Greece, Austria - it's the biggest radio hit we've ever had there. Switzerland, Italy... if you'd told us there was a chance of that at the end of "Lifeblood" we'd have bitten your hands off to get it..."
Do you think the solo records helped level the playing field a bit?
"I think the solo records made us look like different human beings, which was really important. Kind of more frail, fragile... more talented even... something outside of what we're known for. We're a bit like the Ramones in a sense - Richey has always been Richey Manic, I'm only known as the Wire 'cos... 'cos I'm the coolest. In a purely technical way, I don't think I'd have ever done anything like writing half of "Your Love Alone", I just don't think that would have happened if I hadn't learnt how to write songs for myself... that's not taking credit at all, by the way. Also I think they might have reminded people in a way as to why they liked us in the first place, might have removed some of the bullshit that's built up over the last few years. The best thing about those solo records is that they didn't sound like the Manics, with the exception of "Still A Long Way To Go" off James' record, which I do think would have made a great Manics track. James' was definitely a great singer/songwriter record and mine just sounded like nothing unless you grew up with C86 and Lou Reed."
You're never tempted to get up and do a solo section, like James does acoustic songs?
"Zeitgeist" nearly came up the other day but I bottled it. We did do a few bars of "Wattsville Blues" 'cos some idiot's calling out for it. On James' solo tour they used to shout for "Sleepflower" every night, so we've started playing that every night after the acoustic bits. It's sounding f*****g great, we're just sounding like such a gigantic rock band at the moment. Handclaps sporadically break out in the breakdown. That and "Autumn Song" have really worked. "Autumn Song" just sounded like a single straight away, from the first gig in Cambridge. The last two nights we're done "Imperial Bodybags" which is a tough one to play, it's like a pile driver, pure metal rockabilly. "Born To End" has been in a lot, that's great. All the stuff I talked about previously, about reconnecting with the fans, the people who first fell in love with us, it's all come good. The only problem at the moment is that we aren't doing anything off "Lifeblood". It's not because we don't love the record, it just hasn't seemed to fit. I've been trying to get James to do "1985" acoustic, but he can't remember all the words! Everything else has been represented, there's something like 6 songs off "Generation Terrorists"... "Little Baby Nothing" has been amazing every night. I think this is the best we've ever played, Sean (Read) & Wayne have really taken the pressure off James with backing vocals... there's a brilliant Larry Sanders episode which is based around the idea of 'the man who plays piano with his ass', which is what Sean Read is. On one song, I think it's "Kevin Carter", he's doing percussion, he's playing the sax solo and he's doing keyboards and backing vocals. He is the man who plays piano with his ass. Wayne's really singing really well and it's the best Mooro has ever drummed. I know it's boring for people but it's f*****g amazing. His time keeping is incredible he's just reached a level. He's turned into one of his gadgets, he's become a f*****g human metronome. Bradfield's solos are truly heroic, the spirit of Slash has re-entered his body and soul, he sounds like Jeff Beck on steroids."
What's been going on the bus?
"Been listening to Gallows. We watched "A History Of Violence" a few times, absolutely brilliant film. "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" - Sean's been watching all the spaghetti westerns. "Football Factory", "The Business" - for some reason I love Danny Dyer, he's so bloody homoerotic in that it's hilarious. "Sexy Beast", Richard Pryor live, "Snakes On A Plane". "F**k Forever", Babyshambles. If we covered that we'd turn it into a rock beast. The Hold Steady, I like that record apart from his voice, it's like early Wilco. The Enemy, been listening to them, they've definitely got that spark there. Got the Strange Death Of Liberal England 7" given to me, not managed to play it but it looks nice which is half the battle. James has got a real soft spot for the Kaiser Chiefs, so they've been on a lot. Been reading Kurt Vonnegut "A Man Without A Country". James got me a book, "Non-Violence" by Mark Kurlansky, which is brilliant, James thought it would be funny to get that for me. Been reading a great magazine called 032c, the Berlin issue, the Werner Herzog and Simon Norfolk features are out of this world. I've been given a load of brilliant homemade clothes by fans, been wearing loads of it on stage. Loads of bracelets made for me. I've been spending loads of money on Urban Decay make up, really good glitter stuff. And I've been finishing most gigs off with an ice bath to sort my legs out. You get a massive bag of ice from catering, lie down in my pants and get covered in ice... there's an image for you."
What you doing now for your day off?
"Now, we're just off to the studio to do some B-sides for the second single, "Autumn Song". There could be a Nicky Wire's Secret Society number on there, could be a McCarthy cover and apparently James and Sean are doing an instrumental called "The Vorticists" - watch this space!"