Nicky Wire

Manic Street Preachers
Send Away The Tigers
2007 Tour
Nicky Wire Questionnaire & Photography: Steve Bateman

It has been said many times before and will likely be said many times again, that the very best bands always overcome uncertainty and hardship during their careers, perhaps none more so than the Manic Street Preachers.

And if 1996 will be remembered as MSP's triumphant comeback after Richey's tragic disappearance. Then 2007 will be remembered as the year both Your Love Alone Is Not Enough (with Nina Persson) and Send Away The Tigers, reconnected the three-piece with the Everyman. Or more importantly still, "reconnected James, Nicky and Sean, with all of the things that made them excited when they were 18 or 21."

Although Know Your Enemy (2001) and Lifeblood (2004) showed a band eager to experiment, to reinvent and test themselves, neither LP was a success commercially. And even led to a large fraction of fans and critics declaring that the Manics had lost their way / prematurely questioning if they had anything left to say. In all fairness, if somewhat lacking in direction, Know Your Enemy has some genuinely memorable moments, and for me, Lifeblood is an underrated glacial gem from start to finish!

But as Nicky wrote in his Send Away The Tigers essay, "The Manic Street Preachers have been through a process of destroying what we are. All the great bands do that… sometimes you have to learn from your own past." He continued, "Doing the solo albums has been really important and really helpful in realising what we're genuinely great at. I realised that the Manics had lost that element of fabulous disaster, and on this album, we've gone back to source. We never contemplated splitting, but there was a general malaise. If we hadn't done that small tour after Lifeblood in late 2004, which reminded us what people like about us, we might have fizzled out."

Thankfully, the Manics' 8th studio album is their finest record in over a decade, and with a lean, perfectly chosen tracklisting, it's all it ever promised to be and then some, and is a rock 'n' roll LP that you'll want to play over and over and over again! Uncut even proclaimed, "The Manics reunite with their strongest qualities - their heart, humanity and soul." Aesthetically, the group are once again dressed in military apparel (also referencing their past through their artwork), and look as confident and unified as they sound on record!

Having had the great pleasure of interviewing James face-to-face in October 2006, R*E*P*E*A*T was afforded with the opportunity of quizzing Nicky via a Questionnaire on the current MSP Tour (which saw 23 dates sell out in a record 2 hours), with the view to this being a companion piece to JDB's Interview. The questions were submitted to Hall or Nothing on June 1, 2007, and Nicky kindly hand wrote his answers and returned the Questionnaire to us on June 18.

In closing and before Nicky's Q&A, I'd like to conclude with a few more notable extracts from his Send Away The Tigers essay, which sum up the band's positive mindset on their present and future, whilst never forgetting their past… "When we started, we thought the most shocking thing we could do, because of Indie snobbery, was say that we wanted to be like Bruce Springsteen and The Clash… we wanna be huge. Our oddness was our normalness. Now, hopefully, it's our idealism - the John Lydon idea that anger is an energy - that's gonna separate us. You have to be direct."

"The Guilty Pleasures thing has also had a bearing, because it did that classic thing of making you feel better about some of the records you like. We love classic radio records by The Eagles, Boston and REO Speedwagon, and we wanted to get back to that, but with our obvious lyrical bent."

"Indian Summer does refer to what I hope the Manics are having. That's the purpose really. There's no point carrying on if we don't. We've had a brilliant career, but most of all, we've stayed amazing friends, which in rock 'n' roll is very rare. Friendship's seen us through a lot, and that must count for something. When the three of us are together, there's no real feeling like it that we can get anywhere else. You work things out together. We just sit, talk or not talk, watch, read, listen. It's a beautiful thing."

1. The idea that everything happens for a reason, can easily be applied to the Manic Street Preachers' history and your career, but do you yourself believe in destiny?
"I believe in some kind of serendipity - the path of the secret history."

2. What would the Nicky Wire from the Manics' early days, think of the Manics of today?
"I've always thought we were important - that hasn't changed."

3. Thom Yorke was once quoted as saying, "If you're a pop star, all you're trying to do is search for immortality." What are your feelings on this statement?
"I'm not looking for immortality. I'm looking for the truth."

4. Going on past interviews, you seem to have a true love and appreciation for the history of rock 'n' roll?
"It's all down to Lipstick Traces - Greil Marcus made me believe in a different Universe."

5. If you had to go shopping for someone and buy 4 LPs, 1 from the past, 1 from the present, 1 personal favourite and 1 MSP album - what would they be and why?

Past - Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols
Present - Bright Eyes Cassadaga
Personal Favourite - McCarthy I Am A Wallet
MSP - Lipstick Traces

6. Words have always been of extreme importance to the Manics, but when writing your lyrics, have you ever felt the need to hold back, or has there ever been anything that James was uncomfortable singing?
"Sometimes you have to edit yourself. James edited A Design For Life a lot. One song, War Forever, James refused to sing."

7. Are there any songs that you wish you had written?
"Millions. At the moment, Four Winds by Bright Eyes and Have You Seen Your Mother by The Rolling Stones."

8. Can you remember where you were, and how you felt, when you first heard an MSP song on the radio?
"I think it was Stay Beautiful in my bedroom at home. Felt amazing - vindication."

9. When I interviewed James last October, he told me that when it comes to Manic Street Preachers records and collectibles, you "pretty much have everything." What are some of your favourite items and will there ever be an MSP Box Set?
"Too much to go through. Letters To + From each other are the most beautiful."

10. Do you have any favourite stage outfits and gifts from fans + how many button badges and feather boas do you own?

"All my best stuff is from the fans, except my white cotton dress from Cuba which I gave away."

11. The Arctic Monkeys have undeniably been a pop culture phenomenon, but where do you see the next musical movement coming from?
"Outer Space, Russia, or maybe West Wales."

12. Why do you think so few bands have a 'do or die' attitude, or as James puts it, will "piss blood on stage for you"?
"Because they don't care - they have no desire to change people."

13. If you were the Prime Minister of Great Britain, what significant changes would you make?
"Make voting compulsory and raise taxes."

14. Your love of sport has been well documented over the years, but for you personally, what have been some of the greatest sporting moments in history?
"Steve Ovett winning Olympic Gold. Linford in Barcelona. Colin Jackson breaking World Record. Joe Calzaghe vs. Jeff Lacy."

15. You're constantly writing lists, but what's the 1 list that everybody should make?
"The shopping list for the week."

16. Would you ever consider putting on special one-off Manics' shows, where the band would play an album in its entirety and in song order, along with selected b-sides from that era?
"Maybe in 10 years time."

17. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough and Send Away The Tigers, have revived both the band's commercial and critical fortunes - but is this what you were hoping for, and what are your feelings on The Music Press' treatment of MSP over the years?

"It's all good fun. Love + Hate, no in between."

18. Has the band surpassed your expectations / what have been some of your personal highlights over the years?
"I will tell you when it's all over."

19. Do you still hope to eventually write your own book on the Manic Street Preachers?
"Yes, but it's years away."

20. Is it rewarding for you, to think that yourself, James, Sean and Richey, have had such an impact on peoples' lives, and is there anything that you would like to say to your fans?
"Yes, it's the best thing about the band."

21. The Music Press only ever seem to write about the sadness surrounding Richey, and solely portray him as a Tortured Genius / Icon. But do you have a particular fond memory, or warm story about Richey, that you may be willing to share with us?

"Nothing in particular - he was my friend, my soulmate."

22. Lastly, chips or cream buns?
"Chips are the only food I can always eat - any time of the day anywhere."

A very special thanks to Nicky, to Claire @ Hall or Nothing, and to Robin @ Heavenly for all of their time and help. Stay Beautiful.

"When a man is young, he is usually a revolutionary of some kind.
So here I am speaking of my revolution."

- Wyndam Lewis