Seemingly every band has reunited within the past ten years. Many of them bands who insisted that they would “never” do something-or-other.
Then there are the bands like Wire – who formed nearly 40 years ago – whose members have always pushed forward artistically, regardless of trends and other obstacles. While Wire was not active much for most of the 1990s, its frontman Colin Newman did still release more than a dozen albums, EPs and singles in that decade.
Wire – who I sadly discovered, like many, as the result of Elastica’s plagiarism of Wire and subsequent lawsuit– are still doing it on a grand level. In support of their self-titled 14th full-length release, the band will be in the area with gigs on June 3rd (Music Hall Of Williamsburg) and June 4th (Bowery Ballroom). Outside of our region, Wire has an on-going music festival of its own called DRILL, which will be in Chicago from June 11th through 13th, and may return to the States again in 2016.
I had the honor of asking some questions to Colin, one of the smartest men in rock, who smartly explains his opposition to nostalgia in popular music. At the very least, his work ethic and creativity are inspiring. Die-hard fans will also be happy to know that Colin has more music in the pipeline for release within the next 12 months.
For long-time Wire fans, how would you describe your new self-titled album?
Wire’s Colin Newman: Hmm…from my POV this is a really important album. Those that recognize it see that we are on a very important and creative run of work, perhaps the most important since the ’70s, or in some opinions ever. I think it may take non-fans a while to see that but the feedback I’m getting from fans is that they love the album and feel it [to be] the strongest in many years. Given that “Change Becomes Us” and “Red Barked Tree” also got a lot of love, that’s no mean achievement! I think we go sweeter and darker than we ever have. Wire refuses to be one-dimensional, I’m sure we’d be more popular if we were but we are still in it for the long run!
Word is that Wire has been turning down nostalgia-related reunion offers for years. Was this a product of being frustrated with reunions of your peers? Or more about wanting to emphasize Wire’s modern-day existence?
C: There is a lot which is about the basic disposition of the band. We’ve never been good at nostalgia and I think the root of that is that we simply aren’t entertainers. That’s not to say that there’s no entertainment to be had from us, but it’s about a mindset. Wire has always been an art project that uses the tools of pop and rock to make it work. Also, the “comeback / oldies” approach is very destructive of future possibilities. By going that route, any band is basically announcing that they feel that no work they are able to do is able to compete with the output of their youth, that may come from desperation at their new work not being accepted or cynicism. Either way, making new things is what Wire has always been about. It’s our raison d’être.
Is there a number or any sort of offering that would get you out there to do the fan favorites exactly as said concert promoters had wanted?
C: No, not really. It would also not be good business either. It’s a one-way street & a one-shot deal. We’d lose credibility with the considerable number of people who support us in our basic approach, make a bunch of money playing to people who want to see us once before we’re all dead and then have nothing to fall back on once all the money’s gone…
In a Rolling Stone piece a few years ago, you mentioned 99.9 percent of the world not knowing Wire. Yet your songs have been notably covered by artists like Lush, My Bloody Valentine, Fischerspooner, The Feelies and Yo La Tengo, beyond whatever one would call Elastica’s recordings. Why do you think Wire is better received by artists like The Velvet Underground?
C: Obviously it’s very flattering to be loved, covered and to an extent referenced by a lot of artists of succeeding generations, but it’s not something anyone aims for. We of course want to recognized for ourselves! Matthew Simms, our guitarist, overheard a couple of the guys working in the record shop near Nuemos in Seattle before our gig last week there talking about us. They were trying to find the U.S. equivalent of Wire and having a hard time over it. Basically, the conversation ran that they they couldn’t think of any band that had produced a body of highly influential work in their youth and still continued to release vital albums up to the current day. Put that way, Wire is quite unique. That .01 percent of fans of the band totally love us for that and they are for sure not all in bands! However, the fact that we do have a dialogue with so many contemporary artists of all ages leads quite naturally to our DRILL: FESTIVAL and the way we curate it.
Is there something that you wish more people knew about you in general?
C: Americans who bang on about the first three albums and refuse to listen to anything else by us should know that those records either got very bad reviews, or were totally ignored in the U.S. when they were released. People simply didn’t get them. On our first visit to the U.S.A. in 1978 — we played a short residency at CBGBs — I was told on more than one occasion that we didn’t deserve to be on-stage, as were not musically competent enough. This was not to do with our ability to play, but the fact that our music was too simple. So I see that attitude of ignoring what we do now as the same kind of musical conservatism. These are not just empty words; in the U.K., the album got Album Of The Week in The Guardian — that’s basically the most important review you can get in the U.K. these days — and “Burning Bridges” is the best-selling Wire track on U.K. iTunes, period.
Given your large discography, what’s to be expected from upcoming live shows in New York?
C: Well, obviously the new album will loom large in the set but we, as always, draw on our discography for the rest of the material we play. Expect surprises!
And what’s ahead for you once this run of shows is over? Any chance of another Colin Newman solo album? More from your other projects like Immersion or Githead?
C: Well this run ends with DRILL: CHICAGO, and on that subject we have two other DRILL’s, one of which is in the U.S.A, under discussion. There’s some European dates later in the year. I’m also planning to re-release my first three solo albums later in the year. Malka [Spiegel] and I recently moved to Brighton and we are in the process of creating a Brighton-based band as the “international” lineup of Githead does make gigging difficult. The last Githead album “Waiting For A Sign” was only released last December. We also are thinking a bit about maybe doing something with Immersion too. In April 2016, Wire will release “Read & Burn 04,” which still needs to be completed…No peace for the wicked (laughs).
-by Darren Paltrowitz