How Green Is My Valley

Before Richey disappeared, Nicky Wire tried to quit the Manic Street Preachers, intending a quieter life. Ironically, he now has that life and the band. He also has an album-worth of unheard lyrics about Richey, revels in new depths to his new Welsh identity and is never happier than when heís cleaning up dog hairs. This is the story of the new Manicsí albumÖ


Three years ago, someone decided to leave the Manic Street Preachers. Tired of the corrosive grind of touring and a particularly spartan chain of European hotels, he surmised that his 'role within the group could only continue at the rather extortionate cost of his own sanity - and so that was that. "We were touring 'The Holy Bible' in Europe with Suede," recalls Nicky Wire, "and it was probably the worst time I've ever experienced in my life. In some respects it was worse than when Richey actually disappeared, because he was on the verge of madness. "And James just didnít stop drinking. Nothing to do with Suede: it was just absolute fucking hell. I said to James one night, 'I'm going to leave', and he went out, got wazzed out of his brain and couldnít even fucking remember what I'd said to him. Everybody was totally oblivious to everybody else's needs. "Every morning I woke up and wanted to go home. Richey had stopped drinking, he'd come out of hospital and he'd just started smoking 65 cigarettes a day. And I canít stand smoke. I'm not having a go at him: he was fucked out of his mind, smoking that much and drinking about 30 cups of coffee a day. "Everything was bad. Me and Richey stayed in a Hotel This every night. I donít know if you've ever stayed in one of those, but the only nice thing was waking up every morning and having breakfast together, with a bit of French bread and apricot jam. That was the only smidgeon of normality during the whole tour. "The one thing that pulled me back was that, luckily, it finished. And that was it: that was the last tour we did. The only thing we did after that were those three nights at the Astoria in London, when we trashed everything. Whether Richey had gone missing or not, it was obvious to us that smashing those instruments meant the end of something." 'If we could have," says Sean Moore, 'we'd have trashed everything into tiny pieces and said, 'That is it. We canít do any more. We havenít got any instruments to play, we havenít got a stage to play on. That is it."'

Thirty-four months later, after a chain of events that barely needs recounting, Nicky Wire - still proudly a Manic - sits on his bed at the Borchamwood Moat House, a hotel that lies on the British/American cultural border -where the two countries meld in a flurry of cocktails, bottled beers and family 'meal-deals'. Hotel Ibis, cigarette smoke and apricot jam have long become the stuff of the past: even today's perfectly reasonable quarters, relative to his cur- rent elevated standards of luxury, represent for Nicky something dangerously close to slumming it. The release of the new album, 'This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours'- the first Manics album to be solely scripted by Nicky - is not much more than a fortnight away.

Down the road at the BBC's Elstree studios, meanwhile, Sean Moore and James Dean Bradfield are attempting to extract a basic level of comfort from their Top Of The Pops dressing room, while All Saints, Steps and the inexplicable airbrushed phenomenon known as 5ive rehearse their dance steps. Somewhere in the warren of studios and corridors lurks Courtney Love, here to film a pre-emptive performance of 'Celebrity Skiní, but no-one has glimpsed much more than the outer ring of her entourage. The Manics, for the first time in their history, are the show's climactic act, performing the single that has flown past its competitors to land at the Number One spot. Nonetheless, they still seem like some off-kilter adjunct to the rest of the show, following an unending stream of harmless musical nouiat with a considered, just-short-of- dour reading of a song about the Spanish Civil War. That one of the audience members, pressed up against the stage, bounces around arhythmically while wearing a pair of flashing devil's horns only adds to the incongruity.

Infusing all this oddness is the same stirring sense of moral victory that has accompanied all the Manics' successes since 'A Design For Life'' No group has ever had their first gulp of hugeness while nursing such deep battle scars - nor indeed maintained their creative integrity while their finances were blown sky-high. Think about it this way: since they reappeared, the Manics have had hit singles with a song that surveyed the history of the British ,working class, another about the death of a traumatised war photographer, and two concerning the vexed fall-out from their own messy history. Today, meanwhile, the piercing news of teenage hysteria must be momentarily silenced for a song that says "If I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists. " "Last time round,' says James, sitting on a picnic bench outside the BBC's rather grim 'Elstree Club' as darkness falls, 'It was more of a gradual response. If you look at 'Everything Must Go', it didnít actually have that many high chart positions, but - as they say in the industry, [smirking] it had a long shelf-life. It crept up on us. At no point was it like, 'Wa-hey', linking arms, thinking 'We're on our way'. We avoided that euphoria.

'So the first time I've actually felt any astonishment was with this single. But I didnít know how to react, so I just didn't react." What were you feeling inwardly?. "I was just relieved - not to be a bridesmaid anymore, a perennial bridesmaid. It's nice to be taken off the shelf. But even now, I'm not quite sure. It's only one single: it could all go fucking wrong. That's one part of us now: we never make any plans and we never take anything for granted. Superstition is very ingrained in us. "But we are one of the more unlikely big groups, yeah. I wish I could be more arrogant about it, but I still donít know quite what went right with 'Tolerate'. I walked out of here today, and it was full of 14-year-olds, and not one of them fucking knew me. You realise that, as a lobby group, they're very strong. "And it's mad to think we've outsold that. it's almost like you're coming up against Ronald Reagan in politics. It's just like, 'Fuck! I'm a really intelligent man, I've got a first from Harvard in literature and politics, and I'm losing to fucking Reagan.' It would feel like that.' Thankfully, it didnít. Victory, however fleeting, went to intelligence, history and one of the more elegantly understated hit singles of the last ten years. Sometimes the right people win. The Saturday before the Manics mooch through Top Of The Pops, Sean Moore is slouched in a Cork hotel foyer. Twelve hours earlier, the band turned in a deliriously thrilling performance at the city's opera house in front of a crowd so devoted that some of them punctuated the show with a chanted request for 'Revol', the achingly obtuse song from 'The Holy Bible' that would doubtless have led the 1500-strong crowd to commence heart warming singalongs of topical couplets like "Gorbachev - celibate self-importance / Yeltsin - failure is his own impotence".

No-one casts Sean so much as a curious glance: he is merely an anonymous man on a sofa in a Stone Island baseball cap and a pair of W-advised shorts. No matter that he, Nicky and James will soon climb aboard their bus and begin a journey to Slane Castle outside Dublin where they'll play in front of 80,000 people; this morning, give or take a handful of autographs, they glide out of Cork with silent ease. There are no discarded breakfast trays festooned with cigarette butts and whisky glasses, no bills to settle for damage to the sauna, none of the frisson of anxiety that usually ripples around hotel foyers when rock groups come to stay. James and Sean - who by 2am had sensibly switched from whiskey to water - were up until four or so, happily reacclimatising to the social milieu that comes with touring ('It actually worries me that I still like being in a really blokey environment," says James. "I always get bored of the company of women really quick- ly"), but everyone then went quickly to bed and got up for breakfast. As befits people of their age, success has brought the Manics deep-pile comfort rather than orgiastic excess: the low-intensity warmth that conies from good hotels, limitless taxis and the wherewithal to pursue your own idiosyncratic obsessions. Their road-life takes in such X-rated pleasures as Nicky Wire's nightly swim (good for the joints, apparently), a fondness for room service - at Borehamwood Nicky chooses pizza and cups of impossibly milky tea - and Sean Moore's propensity to tinker with his collection of gadgets, which he refers to as his 'kit': at Top Of The Pops he plays patience on one of those electronic personal organisers that comes with a digital pencil. Around them is the same aura of control and graceful restraint that characterises elements of their music. They diligently keep appointments, maintain an extended, tight-knit family of management, road crew and record company employees, and stability is manifest in their every move. The gorgeously precise sleeve-art on the latest album says it all: in 1998, the Manics are an air-conditioned, sparsely-furnished kind of group. Were they to secretly visit your house, you begin to suspect, you would- have no clue they were ever there. Much of the impetus behind all this can be traced back to Nicky Wire. There are those who would like to believe that he unwinds after a concert by reading Marxís Philosophical Manuscripts or making his way through his 37th Baizac novel. Far from it: by his own admission he spends most of his time diligently maintaining his pristine personal world. "I'm not reading much at the moment, any- way," he confesses. "I made a conscious decision after Richey went missing that my lyrics wouldnít be infused with so many references and intellectualisms. They're still there, but I'm just not as clever and erudite as he was. With some of his references, I didnít even know them. He'd be reading three books a day." So what do you tend to do when you're ferried back to the hotel? You're obviously not one for the wee-hours bar life. "Telly, bath... I always pack my suitcase before I go to bed, so if we're going the next day everything's done the night before. I wash my pants: ever since I saw Joe Strummer in Rude Boy washing his T-shirt, I always wash those and my socks. I have been known to spend three hours at night blow-drying them." This fondness for the quiet maintenance of cleanliness and order applies just as fixatedly in his home environment. "When I went home last week," he says, was out with the Sellotape on the settee and chairs. The dog sits on them, so I use Sellotape to get the hairs off. It's the best way - better than a hoover. It may sound odd, but I spent about an hour and a half doing that at 12 o'clock at night. But I actually enjoyed doing it, so I donít think there's any problem." Fretting about dog hair and dust, mind you, is a mere fragment of Nicky's domestic mindset. Home, for the lyricist of a group who ended their first album with the apposite words "There's nothing I wanna see / there's nowhere I wanna go", is everything.

The sixth track on 'this is my truth...', 'My Little Empire': a quiet, contemplative song whose music conveys the creeping sense of a resigned passage towards doom. Its lyrics ("My little empire has risen and it's set / My little empire is as good as it can get") are, at first sight, elliptical and opaque - but once you're told that it's about Nicky's obsessive devotion to the world within his four walls and how it might eventual- ly prove his undoing, it makes an affecting kind of sense. Tellingly, it also features Nicky's first recorded outbreak of proper singing. "My Little Empire' explains how a lot of the songs are written," reveals James Dean Bradfield. "It explains the ideals and values that have constructed Nick's environment. I donít think there are many people who'd write a song like 'My Little Empire': it's about the value of Nickyís style of authorship. And out of that song arises the album." There follows a brief flurry of conversation about why, given that it's the key track of the LP. It wasnít placed at the start; James says that would have been too egotistical, threatening to turn 'This Is My Truthí into 'Nicky Wire: The Rock Operaí. "It is my favourite song on the record," says Nicky. "It's saying that the things that make me m happy can be just as destructive as alcohol is or drug addiction. Sometimes I think I lead such an introverted life, such a withdrawn life, with no social interaction, that perhaps it'll lead to disaster - but it's what keeps me sane. "I just wonder about my owiv mentality sometimes: do I have a right to express A these opinions? My big thing writing a lot of this album was knowledge over experience - like that quote by Tracy Emin when she said, 'I decided to experience all these other countries by just fucking men of different nationalities.' It's kind of the same with me. I never feel the need to go bungee jumping in the south of France for the sake of the experience." Aside from touring, Nicky Wire makes a point of avoiding travel. Prior to 'Everything Must Go', he and his wife had a short break in Barcelona - hence "I've walked Las Ramblas, but not with real intent' from 'Tolerate' - but his practical horizons seem to end some way short of the Welsh border. There are no holidays in Mustique or fact-finding missions to Cuba: all told, in fact, tourism seems to amount to something rather distasteful. 'I don't travel if I can help it," he says, with a faint air of self-criticism. "There's still so much I've got to know about Wales and Britain."

For the moment, Nicky Wire is happiest exploring his own world of Sellotape, his dish- cloth and the now-legendary Dyson hoover. How close to obsessive compulsive disorder does his addiction take him? "There have been times in my life, for instance when I was 15 or 16, when I think I was really close to OCD," he says, tellingly opting for the requisite acronym. "I had certain little traits like switching the lights off 30 or 40 times to make sure they were off, and locking the door 20 or 30 times. "It wasnít so much cleaning stuff then, it was more of a safety thing. It only lasted a year. I donít know if things develop, but I do love cleaning. It gives me such a sense of fulfilment." 'My Little Empire' manages to convey the sense that, on a philosophical level, there's something rather pitiful about that. 'Exactly. The whole thing about 'My Little Empire' is that all empires crumble into dust."

The Manics prepare to go onstage at Slane Castle in the breezy warmth of late after- noon. For five minutes or so, they're forced to wait at the side of the stage. James, an evident fidgeter, drums his hands on the railings that lead the way from ground level. Sean flexes his arms in much the same way that athletes do in the prologue to the starting gun. Nicky, meanwhile, coolly stares through his Elvis sunglasses at the Castle itself, a grand, fire-gutted construction that towers over the mini-valley that contains the crowd. The show is a little perfunctory, suggesting that the Manics have fatalistically accepted being temporary handmaidens to The Verve and opted to get it all over with. The guitar part of 'Motorcycle Emptiness' somehow goes uncomfortably awry - the futility of playing new songs ('Tsunami', 'You Stole The Sun From My Heart, 'Tolerate', 'The Everlasting') in such an environment is transparent from the off. Still, a good half of the crowd frantically lap it up; for the duration of the Manics' performance, a smattering of Welsh flags are hoisted about a dozen rows back. Later, as he drinks whiskey and coke in the bar of a hotel so exclusive that Baby Spice sits just over the way with an unidentified male companion, lames rues the fact that Slane Castle. momentarily put them back in the First Division (in the football sense), when the band have long been rightly resident in the Premier League. The only true high point of the event was the unexpected appearance backstage of Mo Mowlam, the Secretary Of State for Northern Ireland: along with John Prescott, the only member of Her Majesty's Government that the Manics truly admire. "She was really surprised when I actually talked politics with her," Nicky says. 'The first thing I said to her was,' What was it like in the H- Blocks?' and she seemed quite taken aback. By the end, we'd kind of reversed roles: we were talking about fear of flying or something, and she was going, 'Why donít you just take drugs or get drunk like everyone else', and I was almost like the reactionary in the corner going, 'No - I donít believe in all that stuff'.' Back in Borchamwood he turns his attention to the concerns embodied in the aforementioned Welsh flags, the one that he habitually drapes over his amplifier, and 'Ready For Drowning' - the song from 'This Is My Truthí that surveys the fate of the Welsh in a similar fashion to the way that ĎA Design For Life' sought to capture the fate of the UK's working class.

Its impossibly melancholic point is the analogy between the Welsh psyche and the fate of Treweryn, a North Wales village that disappeared from the map in the late'60s. It was flooded to create a reservoir that would supply Liverpool with its drinking water (during periods of drought, according to Sean, you can still make out the rooftops) - much as, Nicky says, a ceaseless chain of Welsh people seek to adjust to their circumstances by drowning their synapses in alcohol. Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Dylan Thomas and Richey Edwards are the most notable examples; count- less anonymous thousands accompany them. "This album," Nicky continues, expanding the conversation out of his front door and into the surrounding landscape, "is very much base(i around me and Wales. I've never written about Welsh identity before: these days, I've got to search for things to write about, whereas in the past everything would be driven by anger and all the rest of it. Now I've got to delve more. "'Ready For Drowning' is the most complete song I've ever written, I think. It, started off with the mythology of Richey: this taxi driver boring me shitless with, 'Ooh, what about that boy who's gone missing. 'Then I read about the drowning of the village. It was the first time I'd been fully aware of what an insecure, fucked- up race of people we are. So it's half Richey, half Welsh identity - about how many of our !cons either drink themselves to death or run away. "I think,' he continues, 'that drink has played a massive part in the people we are and where we come from. There's such a level of enjoyment in it, as well: in being blasted. James is so happy sometimes when I catch him at three in the morning, completely wrecked. He's just really pleased." Back to Wales, anyway. When did Nicky's newly-discovered sense of nationhood enter into the frame? "Well, a sudden awareness occurred in me, four years ago, that being Welsh was having a massive impact on my life: on the lyrics, on the band. There was something inside myself, and I had to delve deep to fully understand it. "For a start, the very fact that we were Welsh meant that we had to try 100 times harder than any other group. Even now, in some terrible mews magazine, someone's reviewed the album and the headline is 'Boyos To Men'. And I'm not saying it's racist or anything: I just find it incredibly thick. In a way I'm glad I've got all that now: it gives me something to rail against, to use as a creative feeder." Can you speak any Welsh? "We were never allowed to learn. And that's another big bit of resentment in us: it wasnít on the curriculum for the whole of South Wales. I'd have loved to have been able to speak Welsh." WW you ever learn? "No. My brain is too addled. I could never have done French or German. I've got ten 'O' levels, three 'Aí levels, two As and a B, all the rest of it, and no languages. Languages and science I was hopeless at." In truth, in the context of his home environment, Nicky's heartfelt attachment to Welshness is something of an anomaly. Unlike those in North and West Wales, most residents of the Valleys are indifferent to any such notion: few speak Welsh, fewer still feel any need for absolute home rule. Valleys culture, as Nicky points out, is utterly unique, founded on a landscape in which industrial townscapes are crudely cut into scarred hillsides, and a bizarre falling between national categories. The English, it is often said, are suspicious of the Valleys because their people are Welsh; Welsh speakers, meanwhile, decry them for being too Anglicised. "That's true," he nods. "You come from Newport, all the way up to EbbVale, and it's like no other culture. There's such a white trash element to it, which I love. Me and James kind of revel in that. You go to other countries, and people are still caught up in wearing cut-off leather jackets and dodgy denims, but in the Valleys it's total street culture at its best. Whether it's a shell suit that you look fucking cool in, or Kappa stuff, I just love it: the fact that they're just totally street." Your notion of Welsh nationality seems to be a 20th Century thing: it seems to have very recent roots. "Well, me and James do have big arguments about this. Sometimes I'll feel very guilty about not knowing any Welsh, not delving back more into non-industrial history, but James is quite adamant that we're creating something new, so I go along with him on that. The Valleys Welshness is very new: it's like we're creating our own language. But I do think we're a uniquely fucked-up race of people. No two ways about it." More so than the Irish? "Oh yeah. I think the difference is - and I'm not insulting the Irish - but I think Irish people have the ability to look on the good side of things, whereas Welsh people will always be massively pessimistic."

There is also, as James Dean Bradfield explains, the small matter of the Welsh accent. "Unfortunately, because of Shadwell [deliberately pathetic character from sketch show Naked Video] and what have you, people think it's the funniest accent in the world," he half- smiles. "Nobody finds it sexy. It was so hard to pull girls when I was young. Sorry to take it down to such a puerile level - but nobody ever said 'Oooh - say that again ... Ď Which all seems very well until you alert the Manics to the fact that the Welsh are not quite Britainís most unfairly ridiculed regional sub- group. There are always... "Brummies," says Nicky Wire. "Yes. I think that's right."

'Ready For Drowning' begins with four lines that teasingly begin a simple anecdote, only for the lyrics to dovetail into something different. "Here's a true story,' it goes, "said some- one to me yesterday / said he'd heard it in a taxi / Must have had him at my mercy... " "I was in a cab," recalls Nicky Wire, "and the driver was reading the Argus, the Newport local paper. It was horrible, because I think the head- line was 'Jump Of Deathí with a picture of the Severn Bridge. And this was quite soon after- wards, probably when Richey's car was discovered. I was thinking, 'I'm getting really narked by this', but I couldnít be arsed. I think I said I worked for Olympus Sports in Cardiff and I was coming home." This is not Richey's only appearance on 'This Is My Truthí: 'Nobody Loved You, the last song they completed, is a touching paean to him, and the closest - according to Nicky Wire - that the Manics have got to 'Nevermind'-era Nirvana. Its words were presented to James Dean Bradfield at 2am, and he was unsure of their subject matter, thinking at first that Nicky would hardly leave a subject of such gravitas until the end of their stay at the studio. 'It's a beautiful lyric," says Nicky, without a hint of self-consciousness. "There's that line 'Give me some of your carrier bags', because me and Richey always used to turn up at each other's houses with carrier bags, from Spiller's Records in Cardiff, with June Brides and Bodines [both long-lost '80s 'indie' acts] records in them. [Wistfully] I just always remember him with carrier bags." It also contains the line 'It's unreal now you've gone, but at least you belong"... "That's the only thing that gives me comfort: that he's totally taken control of what he Wanted to do. If I thought otherwise, if I thought he was genuinely mentally imbalanced or kidnapped, it would be the most horrific thing to have to live with. But to think that he actually did what he wanted to do, wherever he is now - dead or alive - that he belongs, makes me feel OK. "I've got an album of songs about Richey that we could do. I've probably got 15 lyrics I could give to James, but it just seems tacky. But it's a gigantic driving force within me: I do write an amazing amount of lyrics about Richey." Presented with this revelation, James Dean Bradfield shrugs a particularly meek kind of shrug. "I donít know about that,' he casually admits. "I donít get to see those lyrics. If I see a lyric, I've got to write to it. He probably knows that if I see those, and like them, I'd just want to write to them and I'd nag him all the time. "Making this album, there was one song Nick gave me - and if you look at it, it probably should have been on the record Ė called 'Anniversary To No One'. It's almost like an incantation to death for everybody: it was the one song that was completely and utterly disenfranchised from feeling anything good. It was like, 'Level the world'. Why didnít it go on the album? Because he felt too superstitious. And I did, too."

Nicky Wire's lyrics can be crudely divided into two brackets: those that find him peering into his inner self and foraging through all manner of existential disquiet (Australia, 'No Surface All Feeling,'1'm Not Working, 'You Stole The Sun From My Heart'), and a minority that grapple with the ungainly issues of history, society and politics (A Design For Life', 'Tolerate', 'Ready For Drowning', 'SYMM'). Within the latter, there is an agenda that lies several furlongs from the scattershot political agenda of the early Manics. Nationhood, class struggle, the lessons of history... for a group who once sang "Repeat after me / death camp palace", it seems alarmingly orthodox. To some extent, Nicky agrees: there are times, he says, when he begins to see himself as a "social historian"' So is there a danger of becoming a straight-laced bleeding-heart? "Oh, definitely," he nods. "But if you said that to James, he'd be so annoyed. He hates words like passionate and defiant and proud. He despises all that. All those things do creep into the lyrics, but it is a big worry. It really is." "I hate the word 'passionate'," says James, 'just because it sounds like you're trying too hard. Passion is something that you force out of yourself, and I've never forced anything out of myself I've always spewed it out; I've never been like, 'Come on! Get it out! I can reach the top of the mountain!' it's never been like that: whenever I've listened to any of our songs, I've never heard any passion or glory." One quality, mind you, has long coursed around the Manics' veins: righteousness, the unmistakable stuff "characterised by, or proceeding from, standards of morality, justice or uprightness' (according the to the Collins English Dictionary). It used to pour from the sneering sentences that used to tumble into Nicky Wire's microphone; these days, it imbues the odd crucial conversational moment. These days, his tirades are more focused, less founded on outrage for outrage's sake. He gets very close, as ever, to speaking for pop culture's silent minority: the people who spurn trend - centric hysteria and get rightly offended by r hypocrisy, piety, dishonesty and every other celebrity transgression. On occasion, his sentences read like the kind of thing you'd find in a music magazine's postbag in a month so good that it felt almost fictional. "I get incredibly annoyed by The Beastie Boys,' he says, "and that Tibet thing they do every year. Why donít they do a concert about the way their own people wiped out a whole race in America? Why donít they even talk about that? The supposed moral high ground they get for doing a gig for Tibet ... We all know it's a good cause, but it just fucking smacks of that American superiority. "You've only got to look at their own country: they put people on reservations, for fuck's sake. It fucking annoys me. And then they said to The Prodigy, 'We donít want you to play 'Smack My Bitch Up. What a pious bunch of fucking c***s." There is, inevitably, more: ten minutes later and - in terms of subject matter - just a few metaphorical yards away. 'The only thing people seem to be arsed about these days is legalising cannabis. That's what we've reached ~ and what a sad fucking state of affairs. And the people who say they're in favour of it cawt be arsed anyway. When there's a march, there's like 5000 turn up, because the rest of them are all sitting at home smoking spliffs. "That's the liniit of our radicalism. I find it worthless and tedious: The Independent writing to us saying 'please sign this petitiod. I'd rather have a law to stop people talking to me when they're on cannabis, cos they bore me fucking shitless. Put those c***s in prison.' He slows down. "Actually, a big thing in our career was when Richey had a spliff for the first time. No-one spoke to each other for the next five hours. It was '93 or'94 and I suppose our reaction was a punk leftover. I almost considered the band to be over. The mad irony is that if had been smacking up, we'd have been, 'Oh, that's alright'."

Four or 50 years later, three days after Slane Castle and 24 hours before Top Of The Pops, Nicky Wire is in a cavernous photographic studio in North London. In a backhanded homage to The Who's 'The kids Are Alright' (the cover features them asleep under a Union Jack), the Manics are pretending to slumber under a vast welsh flag. The pose, in a roundabout way, is nicely apposite: in late 1998, the Manics are a group at case with themselves - bedevilled by the odd bout of nervousness and existential angst, perhaps, but able to sleep soundly at night. Where once they haphazardly leapt from one episode to another, they now seem to glide. For how long, mind you, is a moot point, and one best addressed by Nicky Wire. Will he still be a Manic when he's 35? "I think... I really want to do a Greatest Hits. And maybe one more album. However long it takes us, I suppose." And after that? "Nothing. I'm genuinely happy being sad and bored. I have no desire to do anything else; if I can survive, I'll be content walking the dog, living with my wife, seeing my family, watching the telly. It might change, but that's how I feel." Have you ever thought about writing a book? 'I'd like to write a book about us. There are so many fragments I've got stowed away: letters from Richey from when we were young, details from tours - waking up in the morning and Richey banging his cheek against the wall, blood streaming out, which I can eulogise about and find quite charming. I'd like to get everything like that out, but I'd never write a proper book. It takes a special kind of person." As does taking 'If You Tolerate This' to Number One and creating an album as gracefully accomplished as 'This Is My Truthí. We should make the most of the Manic Street Preachers while we can: someday soon, Nicky Wire will finish his breakfast, survey his world, calmly knock on James Dean Bradfield's door, and signal that that, in Sean Moore's words, is it.