INTERVIEW: Wire | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Mike Hipple

Despite the parodic date of their first show on 1st April 1977, Wire were an audacious, plucky four-piece who certainly weren’t there to fool around. Clad in minimalistic clobber and shaken slightly by the prospect of the night ahead, the bunch of 20-something’s graced the infamous Roxy Club in London’s Covent Garden with an air of fortitude to refashion the music of the 1970’s – a feat they undertook with ease. Sharing the bill with The Cortinas, The Models and The Buzzcocks, the ‘anyone can do it’ attitude of punk allowed them to concoct a sound that was often chronicled as thrillingly modern, and eradicate the idea that to be cool and revolutionary, you must also be instrumentally adept.

“I was living with a girl in North London at the time,” cites Colin Newman, frontman of the band, “and she had the conversation with me that I had to move out, so I moved to Watford and thought to myself that I need to get in a group if I can’t succeed with girls.” Colin’s womanly mishaps were a beacon of light in the grand scheme of the situation, and the original members of Wire were recruited to play a local college gig night. After the theoretical ejection of a member to chisel them down to a four-piece, their previous disavowal from the Roxy was wavered, resulting in the gig that altered the next forty years of their lives. “There weren’t really American-style punk groups in Britain at the time, it was far more experimental there. Patti Smith and Jonathan Richman were what I was into at the time, and I wanted to bring my inspiration from them over here. We believed in what we were doing, and we had that appropriation of the group where we never classified ourselves as punk.”

As the 1970’s descended into thrashing guitars, bloody saliva and screeches, Colin’s tenacity for his band powered them above and beyond the blasé. “I think by 1978 we were aware we were having an effect, although probably not in London. Everyone had a predicament over the Sex Pistols; they were generational dividers. If you liked them, then you were over, you were old. There was a lack of identity and originality, and from the beginning we broke the rules and made it our own. Wire is as much an art project as it is a band, but in some ways, it is also none of those things.”

Wire is as much an art project as it is a band, but in some ways, it is also none of those things

From the critically acclaimed release of their debut record Pink Flag in 1977, accompanied by Chairs Missing and 154 in the consecutive years, experimentation was rife and fans found it difficult to place Wire within a specific cardboard box of genre. Despite the overtly immediate success they managed to comfortably snuggle into, it wasn’t always a jovial knees-up of smashing hotel rooms to smithereens and cruising around the country on fabulously air-conditioned busses. “There’s been many hilarious moments in the band. We used to laugh an awful lot, to the point where there’d be tears rolling down our faces and you couldn’t get words out. However, most of what you do and how you do it becomes reality, it becomes life, and you’re accustomed to it. As you get older, everything isn’t as funny as it used to be.”

Plodding on through several hiatuses, a solo career and the curation of the band’s very own international festival, DRILL, despite their brief pauses, the four-piece never truly stopped. “There’s been periods where Wire has ceased to exist, and it got to a point where the reasons for not doing Wire were more than the reasons for doing it. When I began my solo career, it was never for more attention like a lot of people do it for; I had far too much material that wouldn’t have suited the lo-fi vibe of the group. I only got the job as the frontman because I had the bottle, and it certainly wasn’t because I was the best at music or the best looking!”

Forty years down the line and with a recently released fifteenth album tucked firmly under their belts, Wire’s extraordinary shape-shifting abilities of remaining current on the scene is admirable, despite their guarded approach to the digital age. “Back when we started out, there was no direct way to communicate with your fans unless you met them. There’s a lot about social media that is highly fluid and completely bogus; everyone has something to sell, and I’m very suspicious of it. I don’t have an Instagram account where I take photos of my feet every five minutes to keep my fans updated. It’s got to be about the music, which I think is being lost.”

Wire play Newcastle’s Riverside on Friday 3rd November.



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