“Every Wire album is about the material. Every piece has to have its own life…” - hmv.com talks to Wire
After they came back together at the start of the 21st century, post-punk pioneers Wire have been relentlessly productive.
New albums appeared in 2015, 2016, and 2017 along with a slew of reissues and a lot of touring. Things have slowed a little in 2018 and 2019, but they fly out of the traps in 2020 with new album Mind Hive.
The 17th studio album of the band’s career has been produced by frontman Colin Newman, who spoke to us about how they made it...
Prior to this album, you’d done three albums in three years and then a three-year-gap, was that the plan?
“The three records in three years wasn’t a plan, it just worked out that way. It was a crazy thing to do, really. From around 2010 onwards, we’d gotten into a three-year cycle with albums and tours, it worked, but it meant there was an awful lot of material in a pot and we had a lot to work with. That’s why we ended up putting out so much. I think three in three years, as well as the re-releases, that was too much. How much Wire can people take?”
Having put out so much, the pot must have been empty?
“It’s always like that. The writing process for a new Wire album is quite specific. I won’t write until we’re a month away from a booked time in the studio. I bring quite simple things to the band and they bring a whole extra layer to it. I’m not very prescriptive with what they add, we work out the arrangement between us. Every Wire album is about the material. Every piece has to have its own life. It’s really important not to set out to make any particular kind of record. That would kill it.”
You’ve been working together for a long time now, does the process happen more quickly?
“I tend to work very fast. The nature of Wire is that it’s still very much a band, but we don’t jam. We establish a framework and we work to that. I don’t understand how bands jam and come out with songs.”
You’ve produced the album, are you through working with outside producers?
“For a band of Wire’s maturity, it’s very hard to accept an outsider and make them the boss. Certainly in the traditional sense of a producer. I’m not the boss, I take what we make and work with it. I wouldn’t know how to work with a producer now. I don’t know what a producer does anymore, aside from putting their name on the cover and charge a lot of money.”
Artists go looking for a sound, or, for younger artists, it’s discipline…
“Discipline has never been an issue, it’s never been in our thinking. I don’t understand why you would employ someone to make your band sound the same as another band. I know established producers offer younger bands direction, but it’s just the recipe for something that isn’t going to last very long.”
It’s a nine-track record, did you want to keep things tight? Or was that the songs?
“That was a bit of a battle for that, to decide what would make the final cut and how it all would fit together. It’s complicated by ‘Hung’, which is almost eight minutes long, which is basically two tracks. If we tried to do a 10-track album it seemed to lose the flow.”
Where did Mind Hive come from?
“It’s a bit of A Hard Day’s Night story. The first track ‘Cactus’ has some obscure wrestling references and we were rehearsing it to play live. At that point, it didn’t have a title, but Rob (Grey, drummer) needed one to have it in his notes. He wrote down ‘Wrestling’ and I said ‘No, not that, I’m not calling a song that’. He then planned to write down ‘Hive Mind’, which is a line, and he wrote down ‘Mind Hive’. I burst out laughing. It’s so fantastically meaningless.”
You’re out on the road pretty constantly for the next few months, is that the start of a full year of touring?
“We’re about to go out in the UK and then we’ve got more American dates in the autumn. A band of Wire’s vintage has to be careful. We shouldn’t tour too much. We should do enough to let people know we’re still about and for people who want to come. We’re doing a week-long UK tour, not a three-week slog.”
“It’d be bad for us to be endlessly on the road. Rob is in his 70s now. We’re trying to do less now. We had a period between 2010 and last year where we were on the road a lot. There was a sense, when we toured in 2017 that we just toured all the time and we’d be back soon enough. We don’t want it to be like that. So we’re doing less and hopefully, that’ll make them more special. We’re not in our 20s anymore. We can’t be up for everything all of the time.”
But you are going to Russia to play a festival…
“And we might even be going to Mongolia. What a conversation stopper. How many bands can say they’ve played in Mongolia?”
What sort of set are you going to be playing?
“We played quite a special set in 2017 and we only tinkered with that in 2018 and 2019. This will be root and branch. It’ll be new material and other songs that we haven’t played for at least 10 years. Time for something new.”