An audience with... Matt Bellamy (200705 Uncut feature)
An audience with... Matt Bellamy
The Muse frontman tackles some tricky subjects, from mediums, mind control and Ouija boards to flinging shit at Tony Blair...
It's the day after the Brits, where Matt Bellamy's band Muse collected the award for Best Live Band. It's a testament to how far removed he is from a traditional rock'n'roller that instead of celebrating into the wee small hours, he chose to spend the evening enjoying Valentine's Day with his girlfriend. Tomorrow, this sci-fi quoting, Rachmaninov-loving conspiracy theorist is due to meet with health and safety representatives from Brent Council to discuss the band's pyrotechnical requirements when they become the first act to play the new Wembley Stadium this summer.
Last year's magnificent Black Holes & Revelations delighted Muse's rabidly devotional fan base, and you grabbed the chance to interrogate Matt with gusto, inundating Uncut's inbox with a record number of questions - some of them, frankly, a little scary. Among other things, you just had to know the size of his carbon footprint, his attitude to hats, how he's learned to brainwash people. And here are his answers.
What was the last book you read, and what did you think of it?
The last book I read was called Brainwashing: The Science Of Thought Control by Kathleen Taylor. It's about the history of brainwashing, which has only really been around since the Chinese started doing it with prisoners of war in WWI, I think. I learned how to brainwash people, which is quite useful if you want to use it, but you have to use quite extreme methods.
I've also been reading Zecharia Sitchin's The 12th Planet, a series of re translations of the Aramaic tablets that the Torah - which is the base of Islam and Judaism - was originally drawn from. The new translation content that references to "the heavens", for example, are really talking about space travel. The 12th planet is a planet with a civilization like ours who mined earth - I know this sounds laughable - cloning themselves with a fifth of their intelligence to do the work. it's been proven we only use a fifth of our brain.
There's lots of pornographic fantasy threads on the Muse message board. How do you respond to this material?
I find it very entertaining. They've got the pictures of Dom [Howard, Muse drummer] when he's playing, pulling sexual faces like he's in the midst of some weird position. There's threads about me from older ladies? Er, I haven't come across them yet...
If you were a monkey, who would you fling your pooh at? Blimey, it'd have to be Tony Blair I think. He's a nasty piece of work isn't he, really? Full of shit, so the best person to get one in the face, I think. He's just a puppet, isn't he? I've never been a fan of the way he's kissing America's arse all the time. You have to get involved in Europe. Europe's the way forward, and I'm not sure that he's pushing that because he's too keen on America.
When are you going to leave the whole science fiction thing behind? It's getting a bit boring.
That's tough, isn't it? I think with the emotion of the songs, when you're touching on epic things, you use whatever language makes you think of epic stuff. So for me that's always space for some reason. I suppose 20 years ago it would have been the oceans and the sea and the wine and the desert. I think people use whatever language they regard as being epic, and for me that's space and outside of Earth.
Would you ever play to our troops in Iraq or overseas? My younger brother is 19 in Iraq and the only celebrity he's ever seen is Gary Rhodes.
That's a very difficult question to answer. Of course the troops and everyone - the people out there - they believe what they're doing is for a good cause and that's to be admired. Obviously they're out there on what they believe is our behalf, when, unfortunately, it's on behalf of big business. I'd be happy to go out there and play to them, but I think if I said anything of what I believed I'd probably be booed off very quickly.
ELP, Yes, Genesis, or Rush?
I'd go for Rush, simply because they rock.
You tour a lot. But with the urgency surrounding humanity's impact on climate change, do you worry about your carbon footprint?
Yes, definitely. It's something we're starting o get more and more concerned about. In fact we're on the fence about doing this 7/7/7 climate gig that Al Gore is organizing.. We've been asked to play and a few other bands have, but the only way we can get to it, because we've got gigs that night, is by private plane. It just seems contradictory, so we're trying to find a way to get round that. I think we're gong to team up with Snow Patrol and a couple of other bands who are in Ireland that night and all go on a normal plane together.
The economy is based on energy use. And the way to tackle climate change isn't as simple as just hitting everyday people. What I'm scared about is that the governments have gone and introduced and environmental tax when the damage has already been done. I think we should have reverse taxes orientated towards big business over the past 20 or 30 years. We should be attacking the people that ruined it back in the '80s. There's a lot of companies out there that have made billions and billions in profits - I think taxation of big business needs to be dealt with properly. But yes, we are definitely above what and ordinary person would burn, because we have loads of trucks, but we're below the really big offenders at the top, and I think you have to start there and bring it down.
Do you like hats?
I don't mind them, put it that way. I wear beanie hats every now and again, but I always find I get itchy. I've got a Stetson as well, which I wear whenever we're in Texas. I've got nothing against them. Maybe when I'm Edge's age I'll develop a close relationship with hats.
I read your mum was a medium. What is your opinion on mediums at the moment, and celebrity mediums like Derek Acorah?
I think they're tapping into something, but I think the explanations for what it is are completely bogus. I don't think it's possible to contact the dead. When someone's dead, they are dead, but their memories could live on inside use. I think they could be capable of contacting other people's memories. It's a form of psychology and a lot of this is on the fringes of what science is looking at now. They can't contact somebody's uncle, but they are tapping into a psychological area that's not that known about, but in the next five or ten years will be.
There are inter-relations between use, the way our brains work together that we're only just starting to understand. If you're using an Ouija board you can tap into buried memories that we have between ourselves, and I think it's possible not to be aware that your hand is pushing the glass, because it's a form of self-hypnosis.
When Jehovah's Witnesses knock on your door, what do you tell them?
I used to bring them in a try to help them! When I was young, a couple of them knocked on the door and I brought them in and had a chat with them for about an hour.
I find it really interesting that they feel like they have to convert others into their belief system without really questioning or debating much about that belief system. It's interesting how these religions encourage brainwashing by selecting particular targets, people who are obviously in need of something, and then hone in on them. I'd bring them in, have a chat, show them the brainwashing book and say, "Read this, then I'll talk!"
Have you noticed that certain parts of "Knights Of Cydonia" sound like "Telstar" by The Tornadoes [Matt's dad's band]
Absolutely... in the guitar sound. We were aware of that when we were making the album. My dad's band mainly played instrumental music, and I always wanted to bring some more instrumental elements into our albums, to have more abstract moments. On the opening part of that song, we made a conscious effort to make the guitar sound like a 1950s synth, one of the first synthesizers around, that they'd used for the sound of the "Telstar" bit. That was deliberate.
According to the Mayan calendar, our demise is just a few short years away. Why bother playing Wembley Stadium when you could hop round the continents working up debt that you'd never have to pay?
We've got six years according to the calendar. Building up debt, spending money... I'd rather play Wembley. It looks like we'll be the first band to play there, but there's been talk of U2 or the Stones coming in to play the week before use. You can't really argue with U2 or the Stones!
What song do you wish you had written?
"Blue Valentine" by Tom Waits. I would like to have played the guitar part or have played anything weird on Mule Variations. I love Tom Waits because he's an artist who makes me not afraid to get old, and that's rare. I think it's a rare kind of thing to have that level of wisdom. And his lyrics are just astounding; everything in life is inside his lyrics.
How long after finishing an album do you think about the next one?
Usually as I'm finishing that one. When we're mixing an album is the time I write most stuff, because it feels like a last chance to squeeze something onto that album,. So you end up with loads of new ideas with nowhere to go! Then we go on tour and don't write for a long time, so when we do start up again, it's often from the point when we were finishing the previous LP!
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