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Wire FAQ


Everybody Loves a History, or so the saying goes, but just who, what or why are Wire?

The who is relatively easy—the most enduring line-up of Wire has been Colin Newman, Bruce Gilbert, Graham Lewis and Robert Gotobed. There have also been various partners-in-crime over the years such as producer Mike Thorne and ghostly-voiced video-maker Angela Conway. In the very early days there was a guitarist who did 'one blues solo too many' in the shape of George Gill and, of course, there was the absence of drummer Robert Gotobed after the completion of the band's Manscape album. But he's back now (and George isn't).

What are Wire? Hmmm, good question. I guess Wire can be seen as a (very skewed) pop band, taking on art sensibilities and elements of verse. It is transitionary at all times, moving between and outside genres rapidly.

Saying what Wire were might help. With some certainty we can say that Wire were a punk band for at least a few months, some elements of which can be heard on the band's debut album, Pink Flag. However, describing what followed can often prove difficult. Chairs Missing and 154 saw Wire move through post-punk and new wave to a kind of psychedelic pop—lyrics becoming increasingly diverse, intricate and obscure, pieces becoming fractured, dissonant and beautiful all at once.

The band exploded in 1980, producing Document and Eyewitness, which is akin to a musical car crash. Turn and Strokes also gives one an opportunity to hear some of the wreckage.

Then they all went solo for a bit. Colin Newman continued to mash pop until it screamed, producing the often manic A-Z with cohorts Thorne and Gotobed. Gilbert and Lewis embarked on a four-year course in noise terror, collaborating under a plethora of guises such as Dome, P'o, Cupol, and with Daniel Miller as Duet Emmo.

Wire reformed in the mid-'80s, performing as a 'beat combo'. This mix of simple drums, bass, guitars and vocals didn't really work until they added an echo unit and gave birth to Drill. They dugga'd on, releasing three albums for Mute records, The Ideal Copy, A Bell is a Cup Until it is Struck and IBTABA. Despite the simplistic live set-up, one noticed an ever increasing use of technology, such as sequencing and sampling within these releases.

Of course, solo projects were still rife during this time. Colin Newman began to explore alternative instrumentation with the sedate Commercial Suicide, and produced his first fully sequenced album with It Seems. Bruce Gilbert decided to veer wildly between noise terror and musical scores for alternative ballet, and Graham Lewis attempted to become a pop star with He Said.

Wire then embraced technology for the band's next two releases. Manscape was a kind of under-stated techno prior to the word and indeed genre filtering into the public consciousness. The Drill dugga'd along for over 40 minutes, providing various interpretations of Wire's dissonant epic. Robert Gotobed, fed up at not being able to play the drums, left the band and became an organic farmer. The remaining three then dropped the 'e' to mark the departure.

Wir released only one album, the forward-looking mash of techno, poetry and Wire that was The First Letter. Aspects of former releases were evident from the sampling of Pink Flag to the rhythmic nuances of Dugga evident in some tracks. Despite a brief flurry with live performance and a one-off remix of an Erasure track this was where Wir(e) finished for a second time.

Again, the solo machine trundled on, even more impressive than before. Graham Lewis went frantic with H.A.L.O. before settling down with Omala and creating the ambient, immersive He Said Omala project. Bruce Gilbert continued to terrorise everyone with his shed, and Colin Newman, ever one with a wry sense of humour, went the whole hog and set up his own record label, Swim Records, which along with releasing self-titled records also has an impressive catalogue of electronic and post-everything artists under its wing.

Wire Mail Order also appeared during this time, offering a rare glimpse of an alternative Wire with the likes of archive material such as Pre>He, rare tracks on Coatings, and the very first Wire tribute album, Whore.

Of course, just to prove that they really are smart arses and great at juggling a half dozen projects at the same time, Wire reformed in early 2000, setting up their own label, pinkflag, and playing a short tour that saw 12XU paraded as 'fine art' at the Royal Festival Hall. I suppose Bruce Gilbert thought it logical.

And as for 'why are Wire'—well, why not?

Craig Grannell

This FAQ ©2004 Wireviews.