Manic Street Preachers‘ bassist Nicky Wire has opened up about returning to the road after the loss of his mother – and how he’s been inspired by Arctic Monkeys‘ acclaimed new album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino‘.
Speaking to NME before they hit the main stage at this weekend’s Isle Of Wight Festival ahead of The Killers, Wire spoke out about the world’s reaction to their latest album ‘Resistance Is Futile‘ and his thoughts on 2018 World Cup. Read our full interview with Wire below.
How do you feel about Isle Of Wight Festival?
Nicky Wire: “It’s been 10 years since we were here, in a year when it flooded, for ‘Send Away The Tigers’. It was carnage that day. The time before was 2004, when we played ‘Empty Souls’ for the first time ever. I think the island is really beautiful. I’ve been on the beach this afternoon, having some lovely fresh fish and chips. On a day like this, it’s bewitching. I’ve not seen any bands, but I’ve seen the TV coverage and it looked really good – it was eclectic, from Rita Ora to Liam Gallagher. I thought Liam was really good, and I tried watching Depeche Mode, but I accidentally fell asleep as I was so tired. I’d have loved to see Sheryl Crow today, as I’ve got a massive soft spot for her.”
How have your pre-gig rituals changed since the Manics last played here?
“Ten years ago, I was still having a bottle of champagne before every show. It’d be champagne with vodka & Ribena slammers, enjoying life much more than I do now. Now, it’s trying to get my body in a fit state to get on stage – baths and massage, getting the energy to play like a 20-year-old.”
You’re on before The Killers. Are you a fan?
Right at the start, I thought The Killers were mesmeric and they still have flashes of brilliance. I still play ‘When You Were Young’ loads, and ‘All These Things I’ve Done’ is one of my favourite tracks of that period, plus it reminds me of when my kids come along. But now? I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s any of them left (laughs).”
Now it’s been out a little while, what do you think of the reaction to ‘Resistance Is Futile’?
“I’m still completely gutted ‘Resistance…’ wasn’t No 1. To have five No.2 albums, and losing out to an airbrushed musical this time, it hurts. Five No.2 albums, that does slightly irk. But my mum passed away recently after she was ill, and I’m in a different space, really. I care slightly less.”
I heard she’d passed. I’m really sorry. Sorry to ask, but how does it feel playing your first shows since?
“We did Meltdown a couple of days ago, because Robert Smith asked us. I’m not in the fluffiest of moods, but it felt like I’d missed the boys quite a lot and it was time to come back. There’s nothing else to say, really.”
Did you see the TV coverage of BBC Biggest Weekend festival of the Manics, when you weren’t able to play?
“I did, and it wasn’t weird at all. It was quite refreshing to see us and not have to worry about playing the bass. My bass tech Richard is a much more accomplished bass player than I am. I enjoyed it.”
The four years between ‘Futurology’ and ‘Resistance Is Futile’ was the longest gap between Manics albums. Do you think it’ll be that long again before the next record?
“The gap was because my lyrics were trying too hard to reach the esoteric peaks of ‘Futurology’. Once I found a way of disconnecting myself from that, it was fine. Whether the gap will be so long next time, I don’t know. James [Dean Bradfield, frontman] is always itching to write songs all the time, because he’s electrified and full of music. To be honest, I’ve been inspired by Arctic Monkeys’ new album, as lyrically it’s such a tour de force. It’s one of the great lyrical albums of all time – the wizardry of the rhymes, the topics and the substance, I’ve found those words really inspirational. The first time I heard ‘Four Out Of Five’, I knew it was something intrinsically interesting.”
Have you always been a big Arctics fan?
“To be honest, I’ve never been their biggest fan before. I’ve always admired them lyrically and I love the ‘Submarine’ soundtrack Alex Turner did, but the lyrics on this record feel like he’s thrown off the shackles. It’s out of this world, there’s no lyricists matching that in modern pop music. (Quotes ‘American Sports’) “A montage of the latest ancient ruins/soundtracked by a chorus of You Don’t Know What You’re Doing’” – that’s sensational writing.”
In the recent NME interview, James said it’s a disgrace that so many bands now bring in additional songwriters. Do you agree with him?
“I don’t listen to enough music to judge. I gave up on music over the last two or three years. It was my brain shutting down in certain areas. I can’t separate music from words any more, and if the words aren’t good, I can’t be bothered. I used to be able to forget about that, but I can’t now. So if the words don’t speak to me, I can’t be moved by the music. There are exceptions, like Sunflower Bean – the lyrics to ‘Twentytwo’ are amazing, like Dylan Thomas transposed to LA. And Wolf Alice are the full package. I find Ellie’s lyrics really stimulating.”
Would you ever do another solo album? It’s been a long time since ‘I Killed The Zeitgeist’.
“If I ever did another solo album, it’d be pretty fucking miserable. It’d be like Lou Reed’s ‘Berlin’, but transported to Wales and called ‘Newport’. It’d be intense feedback, with screams of dissatisfaction and misery. So maybe (laughs). It’s not a bad idea.”
Do you still plan for such things?
“I used to be a man of plans, everything was pushed in that direction. But age brings the intensity of doubt to every facet of your life, and I find it really hard to be like that any more, which is pretty disconcerting for someone who’s been plan after plan.”
You’ve said in interviews for ‘Resistance Is Futile’ that modern politics are much more nuanced than is being written about…
“The complexity of modern politics makes it impossible to write about. Everything is overlapped to the point where literally nothing makes sense. In this pick and mix of political strife, is it possible to have a standpoint? And will that standpoint overlap into something you absolutely hate?”
Finally, have you been watching much of the World Cup?
“I don’t watch as much of the World Cup as I used to, but only through not having enough time. I vividly remember my first, in 1974 – the great Germany and Netherlands teams, Scotland beating Zaire. Then 1978 was the greatest World Cup ever, because of the Argentine side which I can still name every player of. It was such a mad tournament. I remember 1982 forensically, and this one is shaping up to be great. All my English friends are happy after today (laughs).”
After the Manics did ‘Together Stronger (C’mon Wales)’ for Euro 2016, should England have made an official song for this World Cup? Now we’re starting to do well, it feels a missed opportunity…
“Football songs are another dying art. No-one seems to give a shit anymore, it’s a bit sad. I like that this England side isn’t saying that you have to be from a top six club before you get picked, as the great England sides have always had players from all over the place. That idea that you had to be at Man United, Chelsea or Arsenal to be considered was such a load of bollocks. So I’m pleased for England. But will you beat Belgium 3-1, like we did at the Euros?”
‘Resistance Is Futile’ is out now. Manics’ remaining summer festival shows include Isle Of Wight, Y Not, Rize and BBC Radio 2’s Party In The Park.