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There's Something Going On That's Not Quite Right

Wire occupy a special place in the history of London 77. Unlike all the bands who broke up after losing steam only to cash in 20 years down the road with reunion after reunion, they never lost steam.

From Vice France

Photos by Olivier Donnet

Wire occupy a special place in the history of London 77. Unlike all the bands who broke up after losing steam only to cash in 20 years down the road with reunion after reunion, they never lost steam. And unlike other punk bands such as the Stranglers and the Damned who’ve chugged along to the present, they’re actually a real band who continues to release good albums year after year and is comprised of roughly the same lineup as they started out with (Bruce Gilbert

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just

quit). So we talked to them…

You guys get sort of unfairly lumped in with all the 77 punk groups. Were you into them or part of a different scene?

Colin Newman:

We preferred the American groups like Patti Smith, and the Ramones. The Ramones were basically just a concept, heavy bubblegum. They should have just made one album and left.

You guys are the opposite though, you changed pretty drastically from album to album.

Colin:

You have to be careful when you talk about England in 1977. In 1976 it was still possible to start a punk band, because there was only the Sex Pistols and their direct influences like the Damned. By ‘77, it was all over. We had to be different. We weren’t fantastic musicians but we had ideas. We discovered the stop/start thing—nobody was doing that before us. And when it was in tune, it was fantastic. With punk, everyone else just focused on being messy.

And half of it was just sloppy, sped-up rockabilly or whathaveyou.

Colin:

I hate fifties music, especially “rock ’n’ roll”. I was very pretentious in my 20s and thought I was going to reinvent rock ’n’ roll. I believed the final “roll” had to go and I was convinced I was the one for the job. You can only think that way when you’re 22. Back then you’re the biggest genius in the universe.

Photo by D.R.

What do you think of the spree of punk and post-punk reunions lately, like Gang of Four?

Colin:

That was in 2005, wasn’t it? To me it’s the year where the line between the old and the new completely disappeared. The new bands sounded like the old ones but crappier.

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I feel like you guys got named-dropped a lot that year. What do you think of all the bands who cite you as influences?

Colin:

You mean like Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand? They’re already old. What’s good about these bands is that they all hate Elastica. It seems they want to be connected with Wire, I don’t know why. Do you know Hot Chip? What is that shit? It’s terrible! They’re from the Elliott School. My son goes there, and a lot of bands come from that school: Burial, the Maccabees… The press loves them, but I don’t get it.

Speaking of Elastica, what exactly happened with them ripping off “Three Girl Rhumba”?

Around 1995, I was really into drum and bass. Couldn’t give a fuck about Britpop. One day, a friend rang me up and told me: “You will never believe what I saw on

Top of the Pops

,” talking about Justine Frischmann. Then

NME

called me and asked me how I felt about it all. She had told them she asked permission to use the song and that we had agreed. I just answered: “As long as I’m getting paid, I don’t care.” Never spoke to the girl.

Photo by Adam Scott

Sucks.

Graham Lewis:

We did a show in 2002 with Momus where he did an Elastica cut-up by Wire. That was fun. What Elastica did just wasn’t.

Colin:

What I really hate is the attitude where she’s all like: “It’s OK. I know them. I talked to Wire about it and they said sure.” She’s just a rich cunt whose dad bought her a rock band. I can’t stand her dad either, he’s a bastard.

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But didn’t your old guitarist Bruce Gilbert play with Justine?

Robert Gotobed:

Actually it was me who played with her. Bruce just did a photo shoot with her, in a bed. But don’t worry, it was just for a magazine.

Is it true you guys tried to make videos for your songs but got shut out?

Colin:

In 1979, we told EMI we wanted to do music videos but they refused, saying it would never work. So we left EMI. When you go to art school, you get acquainted with a thing called the media. We wanted to sell what we were doing and we knew what would be the best way. We could have reached new audiences. Our idea was to do a television advert called “30 seconds of art”. It would have been so weird that everyone would have remembered us! That was totally new at the time, and it would have been the best advert in the world!

Graham:

And Duran Duran beat us to it.

Colin:

If EMI had listened, we would have been all over MTV.

Maybe be you’re better off considering the way things have turned out.

Colin:

Maybe. Most things are full of shit now.