Manic Street Preacher Nicky Wire on group’s new album and love for ABBA



So, Nicky, I say to the man in his 50s currently sitting some 400 miles away, have you or the rest of the group ever had a midlife seizure?

Nicky Wire, lyricist, bassist, at times controversial, longtime ABBA fan and, alongside guitarist and singer James Dean Bradfield and drummer Sean Moore, life member of Manic Street Preachers, pondered the question for a moment before to respond.

“I don’t think we did,” he said finally. “Sean had a phase – it must have been 20 years ago – where he spent a lot of money on cars. He had never learned to drive and he always wanted to. And it happened in a Porsche 911 and I accidentally opened the door right on a stone pillar.

“Fair play, he forgave me. ”

It’s noon Monday, days after the release of The Ultra Vivid Lament, Manic Street Preachers’ 14th album, and days before it hits number one on the charts, beating the challenge of Steps.

The band celebrates their new album reaching number one on the charts

Wire sits at his home in Newport, South Wales, surrounded by two guitars, piano, drums (“My son plays drums and my daughter plays piano and I pretend to play guitar, ”he says) and a lot of vinyl. His mood, he says, is somewhere in the region of moderate optimism.

“The album is selling surprisingly well because…” He pauses. “Who can tell anything? I used to think I had a vague feeling of judging the atmosphere, but not anymore. To be honest, stroke-music culture is so vital right now, so be a part of it; To be asked to do interviews and to be played on the radio when you’re on your 14th album is a hell of a success.

The fact that the Manics have been around for over 30 years since they crashed into public consciousness as glamorous Generation Terrorists in the late 1980s and despite the loss of key member Richey Edwards when he disappeared in 1995, testifies to their working class work ethic and perhaps a bit of stubborn contrarianism.

If the punk thrash of their first singles and the intensity and nihilism of their Holy Bible years have long given way to a comfortable classic rock setting (“daddy rock”, their detractors would say), The Ultra Vivid Lament is still an example. assured of what that might mean.

Read more: James Dean Bradfield on Victor Jara and the Return of the Manics

He came up behind the names of ABBA, Echo and the Bunnymen and even The Associates (“Which band, which band,” Wire says today) among his influences.

“I think this album certainly sounds like Waterloo in ’73, ’74, until Bring On the Dancing Horses in ’85 by Echo and the Bunnymen. It’s kind of a musical framework, ”agrees Wire.

“Because James learned the piano and literally wrote all the music on the piano, I think ABBA’s influence in particular seemed to come very naturally. ”

Yes, he said, he heard ABBA’s new album. “I was really impressed that it sounds like ABBA. Sometimes the mistake you can make when you’re away doesn’t sound like it used to be.

He likes the fact that their new music remains “sumptuous, seductive and quite cold.” The way they sing is never overdone, it’s not scales that go crazy. It’s still very controlled, and I really appreciate that.

Controlled is also a good word for Manics’ new album. It’s the sound of a band that knows exactly what it’s for. But that title, Nicky, what are you complaining about?

“I lost both of my parents, so it weighs on the album. It was lamenting that I lost something really precious… the warmth I had with the parents that I had. The one thing I’m more grateful for than anything is growing up with my mom, dad, and brother, and looking back with so much warmth and kindness. But obviously that also comes with a huge void. ”

HeraldScotland: Manics face Scotland next weekThe Manics face Scotland next week

Inevitably, aging and mortality therefore had an impact on the album the band created.

“It seems a little old fashioned but… We looked at each other and thought creativity was the only thing we had left. We were all 52 at the same time with the family and the kids and everything, the parents getting old and dying and all that. It really started from there. ”

It is the work of people who have known each other practically all of their lives, he emphasizes. “I had been in the same class as James at school since I was four and a half years old. We were in school together, then we were in a group. It’s probably not that healthy. And James and Sean are cousins. It’s kind of a Hollywood story, really, all in one, including Richey as well.

The past and what has been lost are an integral part of the album’s DNA. The opening track Still Snowing in Sapporo takes us back to a time before Edwards passed away, when the band was still young. “I’m walking on my own, it’s 1993 …” says the first line.

“It gives me goosebumps,” Wire says of the track. “It’s such a vivid memory of that special time. I remember more than what I did yesterday.

“I don’t know if you are the same. Such a weird thing. I remember Richey and I doing hairspray and eyeliner. I don’t even know if I have ever had a shower today.

In 2021, the Manics are far from the young brandons who have sprung from Blackwood, while mouth, makeup and absolute certainty in their own brilliance.

“I really miss that youthful certainty,” Wire admits. “The power, the energy. I wish I could be like this again, but I think it’s a real lie to pretend you’re like this if you’re not.

“It’s a lot more about navigating the intricacies of all life forms while trying to live out the fantasy of being in a rock and roll band on top of that.

“Look, we’re not going to be like the Ramones who just say ‘one, two, three, four’. I admire groups that grow and develop and have different phases and different times.

“Most of our contemporaries separated and reformed three times while we were leaving.

There is still a strange flash of anger and fire in the Manics, however. There is a verse on the new album that is quite crafted for the moment that we are living in. “Don’t let those Eton boys suggest we’re beaten,” growls James Dean Bradfield at one point on Don’t Let the Night Divide Us.

Are you hopeful or desperate right now, Nicky?

“The culture of the working class when we were young, anyway, seemed much more powerful to me. Everywhere you looked, there was someone you admired, and they came from the same kind of background as you, shared similar views. And it seems to have disappeared. And I don’t blame anyone for it. It’s just the culture.

“I always give young kids a pass because I was an idiot when I was young and I feel like they don’t get half the perks I had growing up, all the certainties. ”

HeraldScotland: Manic Street Preachers.  photograph Lake AlexManiacal street preachers. photograph Lake Alex

The Ultra Vivid Lament, it must be said, is as much about the staff as it is about the world around us.

“I also love internal galaxies, and this album is about trying to discover yourself in your 50s. What motivates you and where your beliefs lie. I think self-examination is really good for the soul. I think it’s much better to do it yourself than through a mobile device. I think this is where things can get really messy. I prefer the mirror to the screen.

There are surely few groups more aware of the weight of their own history than the Manics. Is it ever a burden?

“It’s difficult,” says Wire. “The more it goes, it becomes a bit of a burden on your shoulder.” He pauses, redirects the thought. “There are lots of things to celebrate. I am glad that we have been commercially massive and commercially disastrous. You like it more and it’s just a lot more interesting anyway.

“People always want to write about us even if they don’t like us. You can’t complain about this.

When Manic Street Preachers first appeared, they were angry, mean, and often hilarious; imbued with the arrogance and glow of youth. You seemed to hate everyone, Nicky.

“I’m not afraid to say we were hateful and nihilistic at first. A lot of my favorite music growing up was like this.

“But I’ve learned to control it and I’m trying to turn it into… I don’t know… I hate the word thoughtful… But articulating it a little better than nihilism.”

“I wouldn’t trade those early years for anything, but as a human being you have to try to develop yourself. At least that’s what my wife has told me over the past 30 years.

Herald Scotland:

The Ultra Vivid Lament is now available. Manic Street preachers perform at The Usher Hall in Edinburgh on Tuesday, Caird Hall in Dundee on Wednesday and Glasgow, Barrowland on October 5.


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