Manic Street Preachers - Nicky Wire

Nicky Wire

Last updated: 03 December 2008

Born: 20 January 1969
Role: Bass, lyrics, backing vocals

The towering, bass-wielding motormouth with a taste for controversy and a fetish for wearing women's frocks, Nicky Wire is a ball of contradictions.

We are total prostitutes. Sluts! If we can get across what we really feel, that's more important than any credibility.

Nicky Wire

On one hand, Wire - named in honour of his lofty frame - is Wales' most celebrated glamourpuss punk-rocker, throwing mighty scissor-kicks and slaying sacred cows with every lash of his sharp tongue. Yet offstage, Nicky is a teetotal homebody with a cleanliness regime that borders on the obsessive-compulsive and - count 'em - three Dyson vacuum cleaners.

Born in the rundown former mining town of Blackwood, and brought up a mere 200 yards from Richey Edwards, Nicky was a gangly boy who excelled at sports, especially football - indeed, he even received a trial for Arsenal football club, although a bad back put pay to any dreams of a career at Highbury.

Nicky, however, was also a voracious reader and writer. "By the time I was 16 I'd read and studied the complete works of Philip Larkin, Shakespeare, all the Beat generation, every film," explains Nicky.

Marxism was another formative passion, the result of growing up in an area still defined by the radical politics thrown up by the Miners' strike of the mid-'80s. Elder brother Patrick Jones was also an influence, his hand-written volumes of verse about life in post-industrial Wales an inspiration to the young Wire and his early lyrics.

Always one for running off at the mouth, Wire has landed the band in hot water on countless occasions. Few can forget the time he told a Glastonbury crowd, "Somebody ought to build a bypass over this sh*thole," or wished death-by-Aids on REM singer Michael Stipe.

Indeed, sometimes his quick tongue has overwhelmed his good sense: at a gig in Bangkok, where the security guards wielded electric batons and the penalty for treason is death, Nicky dedicated a furious rendition of Repeat to the Thai monarchy. Manics biographer Simon Price attests that Nicky spent a sleepless night worrying if he was going to be clapped in chains by the Bangkok secret police.

One of Nicky's most glaring contradictions is his attitude to Welsh identity. When asked, in the early days, if he felt European, British, or Welsh, he responded like a man that recognized no borders: "Nothing. I wish we could feel something - maybe we'd be more rounded people. We've always been too alienated."

Yet by 1996, Nicky's feelings towards the land of his fathers had mellowed. Live shows saw him play with a Welsh flag draped over his amp, and on Ready For Drowning - a song from 1998's This Is My Truth - he paid lyrical tribute to Welsh heroes like Dylan Thomas and Richard Burton. When asked by a journalist what his favourite journey was, his answer spoke volumes. "Coming home over the Severn Bridge," he replied.

Nicky does admit a few vices. He used to be addicted to fruit machines - "I had a three grand overdraft at university because we'd put £50 worth of tokens in to try and win £4 worth of tokens for a meal," he explains - and he's an avid viewer of every sports channel on the box.

Perhaps it makes perfect sense, then, that this very sedentary revolutionary is married to his childhood sweetheart, Rachel, who he met when he was 16. They live together in a house in Blackwood, a town Wire reckons he will never leave.

"I could be happy in these four walls for the rest of my life," he confirms. "I'd be happy if I never left Wales again. It might seem like a prison to some people, but the prison I've put myself in makes me feel happy."

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