THE S/T INTERVIEW: Colin Newman of Wire

[Photo by Adam Scott]

By A.D. Amorosi

With each release since Pink Flag‘s 1977 pressing, Wire has created a series of challenges that few bands of its stature and age–despite all those pesky breaks/breakups–would bother to maintain. Distanced yet direct, frontman Colin Newman, bassist Graham Lewis, drummer Robert Grey and guitarist Bruce Gilbert brought texture to the threadbare, melody to discord. Gilbert is gone these days, yet Wire’s passions have run hot in his absence; their harmonies rich and anthemic. As a result, the band’s new record, Object 47 (Pink Flag), is a celebration of sorts, a tribute to all that’s ever been Wire-y.

Newman and self-titled spoke while Wire prepared to tour and tout its next recording, 48. Not to mention Newman’s Githead side project.

self-titled: Is it easier to think of your work as an “object” rather than an art form–an objective salient object rather than a personal aesthetic emission?
It’s not really a statement along those lines. The term “object” has been Wire shorthand for years. Album sounds so lame and LP is just plain wrong. In [the case of] Wire’s history, is a release of 40 minutes more valuable than one of 10? Is the object the sound carried by the sound carrier? I think it’s about the total thing. We don’t mind MP3s but somehow objects have more value. With the titling we are also playing with the idea of Wire itself being an object. The fact that Wire has never quite fitted, it’s almost an alien object. This links with the sleeve.

I must say, I like that somebody in the Wire camp came up with a tag line for 47–tunes with zoom. Was that something you and Graham came into this project thinking: let’s speed this up, give it an anthem here or there, and bolster the band’s usual propulsion with more melody and vice-versa?
Ha! [If only] we were so smart! We certainly aimed for something that would be broader and more multi-hued than (the 2003 album) Send but in the end whatever the aim is the tunes themselves have a life of their own. “One of Us” is a prime example: you could sing anything you like over that playback but the tune there is what takes it up a notch. That’s the sound of me getting very excited! Like anyone who tries hard to perfect their art I now when something is very good.

The other day, I asked someone in another long-running band the question of what’s the most radical change in the longtime partnership–one that affects, for better or worse, said co-joined endeavor. They answered, ‘We don’t share hotel rooms anymore.’ What’re yours and Graham’s, especially now that Bruce Gilbert is gone?
Everything and nothing! In some respects the relationship between myself and Graham is now more like it was in 1978 than in any year since.

Who is “One of Us” about?
Well it’s obviously about someone we don’t like very much but it most definitely isn’t about Bruce.

This record is the most expansive and textural you’ve made in some time … “Perspex Icon,” even the weighty dread of “Hard Currency.” What’s at work in your mind now for Wire where is at? What are you offering yourself, bringing to your own game, on Object 47?
I think it’s all about wider and deeper vistas, brighter & deeper hues, Technicolor and Cimemascope. About finding simplicity but not being so direct as to be crass. I think we are setting out a stall about how to exactly be “classic” Wire but also totally in the present. Wire has in fact passed through one of its most trying and difficult periods ever and Object 47 is an affirmation that, in the words of “One of Us,” “We’re here, we will, we can. Finish, what we began.”

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