Colin Newman

Four decades at The Coalface? We celebrate Wire’s birthday with frontman Colin Newman

Photo: Owen Richards

40 years as a band, eh? How long did you think it’d last? 

To be honest, no idea! Especially at the beginning. By the time we released ‘Chairs Missing’, only a year later, it didn’t feel like it was going to stop any time soon.

‘Silver/Lead’ is released on the 40th anniversary of your live debut proper at The Roxy in Covent Garden in 1977… 

One day before in fact, as all releases these days are on Fridays! The date is no coincidence, if Wire is to celebrate 40 years then it makes sense to do it with a new album.

The word ‘proper’ suggest it wasn’t your actual live debut?

There was a band called Wire that existed in 1976, but it was someone else’s band. We mainly played that person’s songs. I doubt the earlier incarnation would have survived much beyond April 1977!

What do you remember about the gig that night?

The previous incarnation played The Roxy in early 77 and had been told we weren’t good enough. A friend from college insisted we were going nowhere fast with our founder member and we should get rid of him ASAP. Meanwhile, said founder had in fact broken his leg and was hospitalised. We, of course, continued rehearsing without him. Even his songs sounded better without him! We secured the gig at The Roxy with a rehearsal tape of our improved sound. Our founder had become superfluous. Bands are brutal.

You’ve always been a forward-looking band. Do you mind looking back? 

We’ve always been happy to talk about the past, we just don’t want to live in it or trade off it. Nobody expects us to be trotting out all the hits we never had, so we’re quite free in that respect.

Do you feel as ground-breaking as people say?

There is no limitation on unique style and Wire have pushed the envelope more than most. I discovered a long time ago that Wire sounds like Wire whichever combination you throw it in. The idea is to just make it as good as it can be.

Are there any bands you’ve influenced who you wish you hadn’t?

Yes. Am I going to name them? No!

What’s the most common question you’re asked in interviews?

They change all the time. This time round everyone mentions the sheer quantity of releases we’ve made in recent years. It’s true, even if it wasn’t entirely by plan!

… and the most the stupid question?

I refuse to answer the question “what’s the best record ever made”…

Is there a question you’d like to be asked?

I never get asked how come I don’t produce other artists.

How come you don’t produce other artists?

It’s a question of time and money. It pretty much means I‘m locked into a production for at least six months if it’s an album. That has a cost attached and my presumption is that I’m way too expensive for the kind of artist that might benefit from my “touch”.

‘Silver/Lead’ is out on Pinkflag

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