Pour la troisième fois de son histoire, Wire, le légendaire
quatuor issu du punk, redémarre. Ce nouveau départ
en trombe, amorcé dès l'an 2000 par une série
de concerts, s'est concrétisé l'an passé par
la sortie de deux EP, "Read & Burn 01" et "02",
parus sur Pink Flag, le propre label du groupe - des disques dont
Colin Newman déclare qu'ils s'apparentent, par leur caractère
instantané et immédiat, à des sortes de "white
labels". Ce retour en grâce se confirme avec la sortie,
le 28 avril, de "Send", premier album du quatuor depuis
douze ans (et l'excellent album "The Drill", en 1991).
On aurait tort de croire cependant, à l'écoute de
ces 11 morceaux nerveux, rapides, courts et "basiques",
à un pur et simple retour aux sources. Du punk qui a marqué
leurs débuts, Wire semble avoir retenu surtout l'esprit -
ce "do it yourself" auquel le développement de
la scène et des technologies électroniques est venu
donner un nouveau souffle. Ainsi, la simplicité formelle
des morceaux de "Send" (dont six titres figuraient déjà
sur les EP précédents : le plus surprenant étant
qu'on a l'impression, à l'écoute, qu'ils ont été
réenregistrés) masquent mal un formidable travail
de studio, sous la férule de Colin Newman, porte-parole du
groupe. Cet album est ainsi le fruit d'un extraordinaire travail
d'"editing" et de mixage, comme si le groupe avait choisi
de faire repasser sa musique par le filtre de l'electro (celle d'Autechre
comme celle de Fischerspooner - qui a d'ailleurs repris The 15th,
morceau tiré de l'album 154 de Wire, sur son album). Groupe
intelligent et inspiré autant que fondateur, Wire démontre
aujourd'hui que sa postérité n'est pas plus douteuse
que son actualité. Si ce quatuor est constitué de
quatre fortes individualités musicales - de Colin Newman,
Bruce Gilbert, Graham Lewis et Robert Gotobed - qui, toutes, possèdent
leur propre conception de cette véritable aventure musicale,
c'est avec Colin Newman que nous avons choisi de nous entretenir.
Pour évoquer tout à la fois le parcours personnel
de ce musicien qui est également directeur de label, producteur
et même plasticien, mais aussi le passé et le futur
de Wire, trois longs entretiens par e-mail, complétés
de conversations informelles, ont été nécessaires.
C'est la "substantifique moëlle" de ces propos souvent
passionnants et lumineux que nous vous livrons ici (certains extraits
ayant été publiés dans les numéros 13
et 21 du magazine "Octopus").
réalisée par David Sanson
avec Bertrand Dermoncourt et le concours de Vincent Laufer
are the audience, you are the star"
- About evolution & reception -
have you been making any distinction between your compositions -
the ones that were for Wire, the ones you kept for you?
It didn't really work like that. It was more to do with material
and diversification. I wrote the majority of the "tunes"
on the first 3 Wire albums, however I never considered it fair that
I dominated the writing so in order to give more space for the others
I started selecting what I brought to Wire which left a lot of material
over. The original plan was to see if we could get a "Wire"
imprint at EMI and put out quite a diverse set of material on it.
I could say it wasn't really a practical consideration or I could
say EMI didn't have the vision. Anyway they were going through corporate
changes and in the end Wire just left with no real plan to find
another record company. "A-Z" was written & demoed
and Beggars Banquet wanted to sponsor it. It seemed like a sensible
idea. Nothing was really planned; Wire at that point (1980) wasn't
very interested in chasing after deals. A lot had happened in the
last couple of years to disillusion us. For myself I just needed
a soapbox !!
evolution could be seen through its relation with technology, which
developments you have been following. Your first albums were recorded
in a classical analogic studio ; the "It seems" period
seems to be under influence of the sequencer ; and then the computer,
for the projects on your label, Swim. Would you agree with that?
I must admit to being extremely wary of all pronouncements by musicians,
DJ's and journalists containing the word "technology"".
The very recording of music involves some kind of "technology".
I'm sure there were many that lamented the disappearance of sheet
music when records came in ! I've always used appropriate technology
for the time. However it has to be said that from the mid-80's the
liberation provided by affordable technology has provided a great
spur to differing kinds of creativity. Right now multi-track hard
disk recording/manipulation through fast home computers allows the
kind of working methods followed in analogue tape days to be more
seamlessly integrated with the more sequencer/sampler style of working
from the previous period. Not only that but now we can make videos
using the same system.
you speak of using the "appropriate technology for the time",
would you agree with people who say that the current means are a
kind of danger (see the conceptions of Brian Eno) since they make
it all the more difficult - and necessary at the same time - to
make choices as the amount of possibilities and choices has become
"Option Paralysis" is a fact of modern life. It could
be argued that this increase in choice is actually part of man's
spiritual development. As mankind matures it is able to deal more
with more freedom. Our forefathers had less choices... More choice
doesn't make you any happier or any better at what you do. As artists
we have to develop the instinct to make decisions about what technology
is relevant to what activity.
is your attitude regarding sampling, and how do you use it?
For me a sampler has been so much part of studio equipment for so
many years (used on every single project I've worked on since and
including "Commercial Suicide") that you can't have any
more opinion on it than you can on a mixing board or microphone.
Samplers are a bit superseded in these days when we have multi-track
hard disk recording but I still use them to an extent. There is
only one sample off someone else's record on "My Pet Fish"..
We'd always spoken to Benjamin Lew about doing something like this
and in fact still have a DAT somewhere of samples he gave us. The
other artists provided us samples to use in the compositions. In
general we don't really use recognisable samples from other people's
records (although train spotters might know where some drum breaks
came from before they were on the sample CD's we got them off) mainly
because it's a bit naff!
arrangements seem to have always had a big importance for you. Yet
today you have given away the "song" form. Would you say
that until your "discovery" of instrumental music your
songs have been an expression for feelings, and that since then
your music has become more ""abstract"? Would you
consider it as less "personal"?
For me it's all about appropriate technology and appropriate cultural
response to the period one is working in. In my opinion many artists
start off (if they are any good) very much in tune with the "cultural
gestalt" which throws them up. Then so often what happens is
that they presume that by continuing in the same vein they will
just get better but so often it's just the same thing refined (and
very often less interesting) I become easily bored and I like to
challenge myself. Singing or not singing is definitely a response
to where I am and what music I'm hearing as well as the fact that
I can become extremely bored with the sound of my own voice. I'm
not sure that putting a voice on something makes it more personal.
isn't the text or the mere presence of a voice the best way to install
a kind of "intimacy" or proximity with the listener?
It's so dependant on who is singing or adding voice. For the voice
to convey real intimacy or proximity it has to be real. So it is
pretty important whether the person adding the voice thinks it's
a worthwhile activity or not! In terms of my own work it's really
down to whether I believe that I have something to add with my voice.
There are drawbacks with using voice. It can make something more
literal or tie the music down to some kind of narrative, however
abstract. For me personally instrumental music was a great liberation
from formal song structure
A lot of the stuff Malka &
I have done together which is either instrumental or on which I
haven't sung is much less formal than some of the songs I've done.
I somehow can't feel that something that is more formal is more
personal. In the final analysis I make stuff to please myself or
we make stuff to please ourselves. It's the only valid way to do
it, in my humble opinion.
consider your lyrics in Wire maybe as the most "directly personal"
(it is a compliment), but each of the members of Wire seem to have
manifested a need of expressing himself through words and sometimes
to use them as a reflection of your current situation (in the band
as well as in privacy). Has this need become less important for
you, perhaps as a result of a new kind of stability? Do you still
There is a context thing with Wire in that I've always been considered
more a "tunesmith" than a poet. I personally have never
really attempted to be a poet although in recent years I have discovered
I'm good at expressing myself through text. Some of Bruce's words
are painfully personal ("Two People in a room" or the
awesome "Ticking mouth"). Somehow "3 girl rhumba"
doesn't have that kind of gravitas.
Having said that I do write the odd text to be sung /spoken. My
intention is that the new CN album Malka & I are working on
does have some voice.
I suppose the real point in respect to these questions is that what
always turned me on about music was never the words and always the
music. I'm not being falsely modest when I say I don't set a great
deal of store by my words. However if something profound does come
out then it's because I'm trying hard not to be unpretentious about
would you explain the fact that most your greatest "hits"
(i.e. "Alone", "Their terrain", "Better
later than never", etc.) are the songs that are the most "arranged",
where there is the most polyphony, with a lot of melodical gimmicks?
these hits? I'll grant they
are somewhat formal.
musical influences, what was your interest :
- for psychedelism, since your first three albums are quite psychedelic,
- for the pop music of the 60's (the perfection of your vocal lines/arrangements
is not far from Paul Mccartney's)?
- for techno and electronic music (did this bring to the point of
reconsidering your approach of music)?
Blimey! Don't know about any of that really! The problem is I don't
really know what any of that means! Just what does psychedelic mean
in 2000? Can anyone recall Paul McCartney without immediately thinking
of "Mull of Kintyre" or "Ebony & Ivory"
these days? And who the hell would want to be compared with that
!! And just what does techno or electronic mean in 2000 when anyone
making techno is retro and all "recorded" music is electronic.
I know I'm playing with words here but actually I consider all these
things to be completely irrelevant to how I work.
us, you are a brilliant songwriter. Have you ever been considering
yourself as such? Are there current "classical" songwriters
that you particularly like? Why don't you sing anymore : don't you
like your voice anymore? even on the Wir album you sing less than
I've answered some of this before. To be quite honest I'm not that
much into songwriting any more. I think the idea of voice &
music can be a really devilish combination but it feels to me that
most people doing stuff with the narrative song form are just repeating
stuff which has been done before. I'm not going to pronounce it
dead because I'm sure someone somewhere has some kind of possibility
to re-invent it BUT it seems to me that the kind of music where
everything is dictated by the voice sounds very old fashioned right
now and has done for some time. However, as I said before I'm quite
into singing right now.