The Manic Street Preachers are still sweeping all before them as they head Down Under, writes Cameron Adams
Nicky Wire, bass player in Welsh trio Manic Street Preachers, is recalling his proudest moment. It wasn't when their latest album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, entered the British charts at number one. Nor was it their recent sell-out UK stadium tour, playing to more than 10,000 fans a night and taking fellow Welsh heroes Catatonia along for the ride.
No, Wire relishes more simple pleasures. "One of the best moments of my life," he remembers. "was last year when we stayed in this nice hotel. I always keep hotel rooms really tidy - make the bed, neaten up before I leave. There was this 60-year-old maid who found me before I left and said, 'It was a pleasure cleaning your room, I didn't have to do anything because it was so tidy'. I was so proud."
If Wire is not your average reckless rock star, Manic Street Preachers are not your average rock band. They are credited with putting the politics and passion back into pop music. Their legion of fans treat the band with the kind of reverence that Wire lavished on his teenage heroes the Clash and Joy Division.
"I was a particularly sad, obsessive fan," Wire says. "I was really passionate about the things I believed in, so I don't feel uncomfortable when people treat us like that. I think that's the way it should be. It's what makes our fans different. Instead of throwing a joint on stage they throw obscure poetry books and things they know we like."
Clean-freak Wire is also finding vacuum cleaner bags at his feet after discussing his love of hi-tech Hoovers, "It's become a bit of a caricature," he says. "Before that I was known for having a massive gob and putting my foot in it. Now I'm just known for hoovering."
One of Wire's early outbursts suggested the band would split after their debut album (Generation Terrorists) sold 20 million copies. It didn't and they're still here. though time has wearied them.
"I wish we'd had this kind of success earlier," Wire admits. "We were so harsh on other bands when we were young, we always said bands should get out while they were on top. Now we're at the point where we feel maybe we should put all our efforts into the studio. We're at a bit of a cross-roads. We're only 29, we're still young compared with other bands, but it's the first time we've collectively felt a bit old."
Do the Manics have a self destruct button? "There has always been a self-destruct button in the band, we've just kept our Eager off it for the last three years," Wire says. "The one thing about this group is that we've always wanted to change. I think that's what helps the best groups going, something always changes, whether it's he sound or the image. We've tone all that stuff, maybe it's tine for a break from touring after this album."
Their current success follows a series of tragedies that would have finished off a lesser band. First their meager Philip Hall died of cancer then guitarist Richey Edwards disappeared with-out trace in 1995.
Wire says the constant sightings of Edwards around he globe annoy the band. "There so far-fetched," says Wire, wh was closest to Edwards in the band. "Richey has been in Goa, to Tenerife to Auschwitz and back to South Wales in six months with no passport. Every time there's a new sighting it gets less and less plausible for me. If he's still alive Richey is too clever to be ought like that. He wanted to do That he did and he won't be fount until he wants to be found."
Does it get easier to deal with? "It depends on the day," says Wire. "February 1 will be the fourth anniversary of when he went missing. There'll be loads of press attention so that will wipe you out for a few days. Working constantly makes it easier to black out, but there's obviously times when it comes back."
This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours is the first Manics album with no input from Edwards. His legacy remains with 1994's The Holy Bible, one of the bleakest records of the decade, detailing his battles with alcohol, bulimia and self-mutilation.
"I feel embarrassed about people buying The Holy Bible some-times." Wire admits. "You think of a kid who vaguely likes us getting The Holy Bible as a Christmas present. I hope it doesn't ruin his life!"
However Wire enjoys the band's popularity and accompanying platform.
"I've always felt that if you've got something to say you should say it to as many people as possible. We had a song called Repeat which is a real anti-monarchy song. I wish that all the people who buy our records now could hear a song like that. But we've never been snobbish about who buys our records.
"We've always had higher standards than most bands, right from the start. A lot of bands lack ambition. We always had massive ambition, admittedly some was unfounded."
Does Wire still consider the Manics a subversive band? "I think we have been, it's hard to tell at the moment. We're always hyper-critical of ourselves. If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next was a number one single and it was about the Spanish Civil war. We're not so obvious in our subversion; it's more subtle."
After writing a song called Australia (where Wire wanted to escape after Edwards' disappearance) and working with Kylie Minogue on her Impossible Princess album ("she's a genuinely lovely person"), the notoriously aircraft-phobic and sports-mad Manics are finally headed Down Under.
"Australia is one of the finest sporting nations in the world and that's how I judge a country," Wire says. "Australians are born winners. They love to crush the opposition. especially the Poms, and I love that."