Manic Street Preachers’ music has been described as aggressive, alienating, melancholic and uplifting - and over the past two decades, it’s earned the band cult status. Currently in Australia for their sporting-themed Lions tour, bassist Nicky Wire speaks to Veronica Fil about obsessive fans, the band’s upcoming albums, and his best Melbourne shopping tips.
So you’ve got two studio albums coming out soon. What made you decide to release them separately, rather than make the one album?
They really are very different sounding. One is acoustic-based, lots of brass, very soul. The other is very European and spiky and nasty. For a while we tried to merge them together but it didn’t really work; we’d already set out to write in two different styles. The first album is slightly more commercial, I guess...the second one is not. But they’re both pretty miserable.
Do you feel like you’re constantly on tour? As a homebody, being on the road all the time would be my worst nightmare...
I’m a homebody too. But I’ve learned to get inspiration from travel. We arrived early in Melbourne on Wednesday morning and it’s just a city that makes you so happy – wandering around looking at record shops and book shops and clothes shops - you can’t fail to be inspired.
I’m sure a lot of people agree. I came from Perth, which at the time felt like the most isolating place on earth. In Melbourne, there’s always something happening.
I’ve been to Perth several times, and it’s such a lovely city, but it can be such a lonely place. It’s a beautiful place, and there are great arcades, but...it’s just very lonely. Actually, I think that’s why it produces the most amazing music. They’ve got Tame Impala, Kevin Parker...I think because they’re all so fucking odd and there’s nothing else to do!
So, do you have any favourite Aussie bands?
Oh, growing up it would have been Nick Cave, the Triffids, the Go Betweens...but I’m not so much aware of the bands out there at the moment.
Why is your current tour labelled The Lions Tour (in reference to the Lions vs. Wallabies rugby matches)?
Most people don’t expect it! But growing up in Wales - it’s the national sport. It was a good opportunity to come out I guess. And in all honesty, it will probably be our last time out here, which is really sad.
Do you get your fair share of obsessive fans?
Not so much as we used to, but in the past there were some dark times. We’d get letters in blood...people with serious psychological problems. It was hard because you’re just helpless, you don’t know what to do. Tattoos I always found odd. When people get you to sign their body and then [use it as a stencil to] permanently tattoo it there.
I can think of nothing worse than having someone’s name tattooed on my wrinkly, 80-year-old belly.
[Laughs] It’s a big thing back home though!
If you weren’t a Manic Street Preacher, what band do you wish you could have been a member of?
The Smiths - just to hang around with Morrissey, more than anything. It would have been an education in itself. I would have been in The Libertines, but not for long. It wouldn’t have suited my very calm lifestyle.
When can we expect to hear your new releases?
I think September for the first release. It’s very acoustic and heartbreaking, very melancholy. The second one - probably April next year.
And finally, what are your picks for must-visit shops in Melbourne?
I’ve just been wandering around the city really. [Checking out] Lost and Found markets; Polyester Records; Basement Records...loads of good stuff. There are so many brilliant second-hand bookshops here too.