We chat to post-punk pioneers Wire about their brand new mini album, the wonderfully named Noctural Koreans...
When did you start work on Nocturnal Koreans?
Colin (Newman, vocals/guitar): "The original recordings for both Noctural Koreans and Wire were done in Rockfield in May 2014."
Graham Lewis (bass, vocals): "Researching the answer to your question I discovered that I began writing one song, 'Forward Position', in 2009…"
Why did you want to give these songs a separate release rather than include them on your self-titled album?
Colin: "More by accident than design we ended up recording 19 songs in Rockfield on those sessions. It quickly became obvious that this was simply too much for one album so work on certain tracks was prioritised as it would not have been possible to complete the production on all the tracks in time. Further choices were made as a result of our decision to limit the Wire”album to a single vinyl rather than the double of it’s predecessor Change Becomes Us."
"These days, now that vinyl is an important medium for us again the long lead times needed for vinyl manufacture do influence our decisions. In the end we went with the Wire album being the songs which conformed most to the live band aesthetic, which made the cut for us. It was never about which tracks are “better”. 8 tracks remained, in various stages of completeness. We would have added them to the pot of stuff towards the next album (which we begin recording in May) or see how many could be developed to a successful conclusion. We did a couple of days in Brighton Electric back in August 2015 and then I worked through to the tracks being delivered in early November. At the start of the process it was not clear if we had an EP or something more. However because these did not have to conform to the live band aesthetic it was possible to push the production a little further and in the end there were 8 working pieces."
Has the way you write songs changed in your years as a band? Or do you write in the much same way you did when you started?
Colin: "The basic writing dynamic hasn’t changed since the beginning of the band. I write most of the tunes and Graham writes most of the texts. Songs can arrive in a number of ways but it is more likely that a piece that can be simply demonstrated with guitar and voice will end up being something we can play live. Pieces we can play live aren’t necessarily better than ones we can’t, in fact Nocturnal Koreans is mainly made up of songs we can’t really play live! My gut feeling is that the next album will also contain pieces we can’t play live. I think we need that breadth in the material."
How on earth did you come up with the name Nocturnal Koreans?
Graham: "Condemned to stay, not one but two nights, in a shabby hotel in Massachusetts, a touring Wire found itself billeted with cracker barrel redneck meth heads, a Pan-African evangelical convention and the ultra Christian Koreans of the title. The Koreans were seriously jet-lagged, stranded and sleep-walking with wrecked travel plans, hence they were as Nocturnal as yours truly. Something like Scooby Doo/The Partridge Family having a bad trip directed by John Waters on a budget…obviously, a subject matter gift for a song."
What’s the song on the album that you’re most proud of?
Colin: "As songs I’d say both 'Internal Exile' and 'Still' came out extremely well on the record. Both are based on very simple foundations but both have developed far beyond what might be initially imagined from the source material."
What are your plans to take the album out live?
Colin: "The big advantages of having Nocturnal Koreans as a standalone release in 2016 are that it keeps our profile up and provides a source of off year income to the band. The disadvantage is that it being an “off year” (we can typically tour seriously only every other year) we can’t really support it in the conventional way with touring."
"As Pinkflag is our own label and we don’t have to conform to anyone else’s schedules we felt the release a risk worth taking and seeing the reception so far I think this to be well judged. The mini-album is different enough from Wire to be considered a development and sets up expectation from both audience and band that our 2017 release will be something special. What with 2017 being our 40th year of existence it had better be, we aren’t looking back!"