20 Things You Didn't Know About Muse (20060729 Kerrang article)

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An article in the 2006-07-29 issue of Kerrang magazine.

Plug In Baby: 20 Things You Didn't Know About Muse

They were named after a porn film.
No, not Muse. Or 'Cum Sluts VIII'. Rather their very first incarnation as a trio circa 1994 was known as Rocket Baby Dolls, purportedly after a Japenese porn film. We've not seen it ourselves, but we have a good idea what it might entail. Let's just be thankful it wasn't 'Fucky Fucky'. Other early pre-Muse incarnations included Gothic Plague, Carnal Mayhem, Youngblood and Fixed Penalty.

Like father, like son
Matt Bellamy is the son of a pop star. And not some minor, played-bass-on-the-demo-version-of-'Hi, Ho Silver Lining' pop star either. Back in 1961 20-year-old Sunderland-born George Bellamy joined The Tornadoes on guitar. Within a year they were the first ever UK band to top the US charts, with their Joe Meek-produced instrumental single 'Telstar' - considered by many to be the first song to feature distortion and which went on to sell a staggering five million copies. It's a commercial feat Muse have yet to match. According to Matt, the advice imparted by Bellamy Sr was: "Enjoy it while you're young and get laid."

They're not from Devon, you know
The picturesque town of Teignmouth, Devon may be where Muse formed, but the three members and their families actually came from elsewhere: Cambridge (Matt), Rotherham (Chris), and Stockport (Dom), all moving to Teignmouth pre-high school; a fact they may have bonded over when they attended Teign Secondary School. Other famous Teignmouth residents include Charles Babbage, inventor of the first programmable computer. And, er, that's it.

Smalltown life gets them down
The very first song Matt, Chris and Dominic ever wrote together as Rocket Baby Dolls was the Teignmouth-inspired 'Small Minded'. "It was about the attitudes of people on our town," Matt said in 2000. "We didn't approve of this."

"We were sick of drinking cider and being beaten up," added Dom.

They're paid their dues
Muse's first proper tour was in May 1999 on Steve Lamacq's Radio 1 Evening Session tour, playing on a bill with Britrockers 3 Colours Red and all-girl Californian pop-punkers The Donnas. "It was certainly the first time we'd had a tour bus," remembers Matt. "Before that it was usaully only one-off shows in places like Tunbridge Wells or Hastings."

"Disappointingly anaemic when sandwiched between the other two bands," noted one British weekly that wasn't Kerrang!, of the Cardiff leg of the tour. Who're you calling anaemic now, eh? Eh?

Muse like Belgian art-rock
Odd but true. In recent interviews the trio have been enthusing about and acknowledging the influence of three cult-ish bands over the development of their career - namely Millionaire, dEUS and band-come DJ due Soulwax. All three bands are Belgian, a country not usaully renowned for it's art-rock pedigree. Therefore; Muse clearly like Belgian music.

...And dance music
For a bit, anyway. As a teenager, in the earliest days of Muse, Matt went to see challenging ambient/dance types The Orb, Orbital and Aphex Twin (twice). "That music did something to me when I was off my face in a club," he says, "but it didn't really work at home." More recently, the New York club scene has been quoted as influence on new album 'Black Holes and Revelations' and is particularly noticeable in funked-up recent single 'Supermassive Black Hole.'

They have nicknames
Granted they don't have cool nicknames like 'Don Juan', 'Snake Eyes' or 'The Fonz', but Chris has been nicknamed 'Cheers' for as long as anyone can remember, and growing up Matt was called 'Bells' (for obvious reasons) by those who knew him. Dominic, meanwhile, is known as... er... 'Dom'. Sort it out fellas - the drummer is meant to be the mad one.

They're not radio-friendly
A high-ranking executive at Muse's US, Madonna-owned former label Maverick, thought their 2001 second album 'Origin of Symmetry' - and particularly Bellamy's vocals - were "not radio-friendly enough" and told the band to re-write it. Insulted, they left the label. Though System Of A Down's Serj Tankian tried to sign the band to his Serjical Strike imprint, it was four years before the album would receive an official US release. Bet that exec feels a bit foolish now...

Art attack
The striking and somewhat enigmatic artwork for the band's recent 'Absolution' and 'Black Holes & Revelations' albums was created by esteemed designer Storm Thorgerson, previously known for his work with AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, The Mars Volta and - perhaps one of the most iconic covers ever - Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side Of The Moon'. "In one's youth, drugs, particularly acid, were pivotal in shaping your world view," Thorgerson once said in an interview. Hmm... you don't say.

Life on Mars
The rather stonking 'Black Holes...' closing song 'Knights of Cydonia' is about an area of Mars where a controversial rock formation in the shape of a face can be seen. Some photos have identified a Jason Voorhees-type mask effect.This in turn has lead to conspiracy theories - always a favourite Muse subject - that the formation is in fact a NASA cover-up "because there's more than one 'human' face there, and evidence of pyramids and a city". Closer inspection has revealed, however, it is, in fact, a bunch of rocks after all. Who wants to hear another song about 'rock'? But stick some knights in there and now you're talking...

Tom Waits for no-one
Matt Bellamy is a big fan of gravel-gargling American troubadour Tom Waits, to the extent that he, like Waits, used animal bones as percussion during the recording of 'Origin of Symmetry'. The band also regularly used to come onstage to Waits' eerie poetic piece 'What's He Building?', most notably on their acclaimed 'Hullabaloo' DVD. Secret info: the song itself can be heard on the CD by rewinding from track one. Or slightly less secretively: by going out and buying Waits' rather fine 'Mule Variations' album.

They are the 'Da Vinci Code' of rock
And infinitely more interesting. Touring the US in May 2005, a possibly bored Muse constructed a treasure hunt that began with a series of cryptic online messages, codes and anagrams to be deciphered. Only 13 people cracked the code, which led to a bicycle which they signed and hid under a bridge, the final code the combination to unlock the bike. It's not quite the same as unearthing an original Da Vinci but, hey, you can't do wheelies on a painting....

Bleed American
Muse rarely cancel shows and certainly never abandon them halfway through, yet one such occasion occured in 2004 while playing a show at THe Cotton Club in Atlanta. "I noticed something was wrong immediately because he leaned over to his roadie and pointed to his mouth," said an eyewitness. "It looked as if someone was pouring a water bottle down his face constantly, but it was blood." Nice. A somewhat blurry clip can be seen on website www.youtube.com by searching for 'Muse, Atlanta'.

Hey sailor!
One of Muse's more memorable early gigs was playing to 20 people in a venue called The Charleston in the French port of Cherbourg way back in June 1995. "It was some sort of gay sailor's bar," says Matt. "A real dock-side bar with a couple of loose sailors and skinheads." Afterwards, the band unwittingly smuggled 200,000 Regal King Size, red wine, beer and spirits back over the channel for, according to Chris, "a local dodgy geezer taking advantage of young bands for the purposes of smuggling." All the equipemt and swah left a tiny gap in the van for the trio to squueze on top of. They got paid £50 for their troubles.

Rocking all over the world
Bassist Chris Wolstenholme once played guitar for his beloved Status Quo. For a soundcheck, anyway. It was while visiting a friend at a college in Plymouth in 1997 that the silent one filled in for real-life David St Hubbins, Rick Parfirr, who was 'resting'. "Can anyone play guitar?" asked the denim-clad ones. "He can!" shouted the bassist's mates pointing to Chris. Of jamming with Francis Rossi and co, sources say the stoic four-stringer liked it. He liked it, he liked it, he la-la-la-liked it.

Jobs for the boys
Well-spoken, international jet-setting English gents they may be, but Muse have done their fair share of hard graft to get there. Before the band took Matt cleaned shit out of campsite toilets, erected scaffolding, did painting and decorating and demolished a shopping centre. Dom, meanwhile, worked in a school canteen and packed Spice Girls T-shirts in a factory, while Chris worked as a golf caddy, in a guitar shop and an on and off ice-cream van, "executive position, mind".

Water waste of time
Armed with only a pair of Speedos and some sticks, Dom recorded some of his drums part for opening 'Absolution' track 'Apocalypse Please' while in a swimming pool full of water. Which seems a little excessive. The band also experimented with recording his cymbals while submerged in water to create a gong effect. It sounded shit, though, so was abandoned after many hours of fruitless titting about.

You're so vein
Around about the time of 'Origin of Symmetry', Matt began to express his eccentric traits, such as dying his hair new colours on a daily basis and developed a habit of drawing over his veins with a pen. The effect was strange, but the reasons were a little less exciting - his mother Marilyn had made it clear she didn't want him to get an actual tattoo so he made do with biros and markers instead. Aw, bless...

Knob twiddler
Muse's fourth member is the recently added Morgan Nicholls, who fiddles with knobs and stuff onstage. The band originally approached the sometimes Streets bassist to stand in for Chris after he broke his wrist playing football against The Cooper Temple Clause on tour in 2004; all three Muse boys were fans on Nicholls' first band Senseless Things, who, ironically, had provided them with their first mosh-pit experiences a full decade earlier.

Words: Ben Myers

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