Are Muse Cracking Up? (20010310 NME article)

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The second time Matt Bellamy thought he was losing his mind was when he started eating maggots. It was the third day that Muse had spent naked together in the Jacuzzi and any hint of sanity had been blasted clean out of his brain by Mother Nature's finest grade magic mushrooms. His bandmates sat giggling in the bubbles as he watched the sliver of the mushroom in his palm morph from vegetable to worm, then started squirming wildly. He took a deep breath closed his eye, popped it in his mouth and started chewing.

And instantly went deaf in one ear.

"We were recording in Ridge Farm studios," Matt gibbers, gabbling furiously away as if puking words. "We finished the first five songs for the album and then we woke up in the morning and there was this field full of mushrooms right next to the studio. So we ate them all. We had to have everything remixed because we were all in a Jacuzzi together eating maggots. They did not into maggots and we're not really sure why that was."

The first time Matt Bellamy thought he was losing his mind had been when the spikes started coming for him. It was midway through last year's gruelling festival tour through Europe, Japan and Australia and the strain was starting to show. He dyed his hair a different color every other day and painted the veins on his arms black "because it looked cool". These stage shows had become so destructive and unpredictable that Muse had been banned by eastern Europe’s biggest equipment hire company and eaten up most of the budget for their second album in trashed guitars and presidential suite orgies (in Japan they became notorious for entertaining as many of the locals at once as possible). At the end of one insane gig Matt got himself wedged inside one of the huge plastic cones of their stage set and had to roll under the drum riser until the crowd left the building, the Tasmanian devil meets Derek Smalls.

”I’m not sure it could go further than that,” Matt ponders. “It’s like death. You feel like time is running out and you’ve got to make a difference in the remaining moments you have onstage. It’s about squeezing in as much as you can before you go”.

Munching cold bacon in the palatial back room of a top secret barge studio on the Thames, where Muse are carving the final slashes into the neck of their second album, Matt, sweet yet sullen bassist Chris Wolstenholme and baby-faced booze-liking drummer Dominic Howard are relaxed, un-dyed, and thankfully fully clothed. They’re buoyant in anticipation of bringing the whole of creation to its knees when faced with their new single ‘Plug in Baby’ - Phantom of the Opera meets The Clash on Neptune - a surefire Number One-with-a-scud-misscile smasheroonie. But last summer, as their sci-fi grand punk blitzkrieg left a trail of blood, spunk and injured bouncers across the globe they were a musical and psychological time bomb, a band pushing the pedal through the metal, on a highway to hell straddling the back of madam Hedonism’s flaming Harley But in the end, man, it was the water that finally fucked them up.

“I’ve got a problem with drinking water,” Matt confesses. “I’m not very good at it. When I first went out on tour I used to get dehydrated and I used to get these really bad headaches at this point here (points to the back of his head). I didn’t realise that it was because I wasn’t drinking. I remember I was having these strange hallucinations of this triangular blade, really silver metallic, razor sharp. I was in this landscape, completely arid, grey, dead, with an endless horizon; it’s like a bigger planet than this one because the horizon was so flat and it went on forever. The sky was baking blue, burning heat and I was in there trying to dodge these blades that were flying everywhere. One would always go and cut me right in there. And it wouldn’t cut my head, it’d just sort of go in and I could feel it cutting into my brain. It wouldn’t damage the exterior of my head. I used to have that recurring, it seemed like more than a dream to me, it seemed like it was really happening; it was with me during the day, travelling on planes, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

I’d drink more water, mate.

“I saw a programme on TV one night,” Matt continues, “and they were talking about Psywar, psychological warfare and the influences that governments have had over their populations in order to make them believe they’re having a war for the right reasons, things like that. How they can use mobile phones, they can use the microwaves inside the things to do stuff to us. I thought that was what was happening.”

You thought the government was trying to control your brain through your mobile phone?

“Not necessarily the government but I went through a number of different theories. It got to the point where I was thinking that maybe that’s what real life is like and this is all a dream. Then I thought it was one of the number of phobias I had and then I went to the doctor and he told me to drink more water and that was that.”

But it’s the obedience drugs in the water that they’re using to keep us down, brothers! Ahem, pass the Evian. Cheers.

As Lee ‘Scartch’ Perry would tell you, the eagle of a genius he don’t come a-swoopin’ ‘less madness be his perch, my cauliflowers. And Matt Bellamy is a class-A, top-grade, split personality psycho-bastard top rock nutter in excelsis. A full year of on-the-road mayhem, plus a string of mid-table hits from the half-million-selling debut album, Showbiz, was like feeding the nervy, insecure mogwai Matt of ’99 medicine after midnight and unleashing the slavering, razor-toothed monster Matt. He considers himself to be some kind of mental cyborg-cum-Etch-A-Sketch who can erase all elements of his “bored and frustrated” pre-Muse personality and “download” a brand new one from passing acquaintances. His formative experiences involve throwing newbron baby chicks at a wall (“But only print that if you point out that I was six at the time”) and breaking the neck of wildfowl for 50p a time as a fetching boy on posho pheasant shoots. Onstage he treats his guitar like an escaping burglar and gets the Red Mist at the tiniest technical error. He’s a hardcore Hannibal, Norman Bates with a road crew, ‘’Seven’’ turned up to II.

Rather like the new Muse album as it happens. Furiously trying to gnaw its way out of the traps as we speak, it’s an expansive, explosive knacker-smack of a record that’ll leave the NAM veteran gawping in their exhaust dust, wondering where their eyebrows have gone. Previews of the completed (as yet untitled) tracks display a vista-scraping ambition that takes in a church organ grandeur, twinkly synth experimentation and chunks of rock that makes ‘’Deep Impact’’ look like ‘’Singing In The Rain’’. It’s Muse fulfilling every inch of gushing hype and more and its major thematic concerns are death, rioting, death, metal spikes in your brain, death, the ever circling conundrums of the universe, death, death, and death.

“I’ve written a song which I think I’m gonna call the ‘Thoughts Of A Dying Atheist’,” Bellamy announces. “I’m trying to imagine what it would be like to die in that situation, at that last moment, when you truly believe it is the end. I try to conjure up the thoughts that you’d be going through. I can’t find anything I can believe in, and that’s my problem. Any religion I can see the flaws very quickly. Also, even if it’s pure science everything that seems to be coming out of is anti-human. If we really wanted to evolve using science then we’d genetically redesign better creatures that could actually live in space and breathe other atmospheres. And fly. But the thing we were talking about is the death-bed one and it’s like, if that really is the end, you’d want to go back and have to most amoral existence you could ever have. So if that really is the case, why aren’t we all going wild?”

Okaaaay. But before we all strip naked, neck a bucket of heroin and go turkey-fucking in the streets, do you think Muse’s time has come?

Matt laughs: “Hyip-hyip-hyip! I hope not. I’m glad that we didn’t get big straight away. It’d be nice to experience what it was like being in a massive band, the biggest band ever, that’d be cool, but it’d be nicer to have earned it gradually because then you know how to enjoy it. It’s taken me a while to learn how to enjoy this. If it comes along now I’ll know what to do with it. Blow it all, that’s what it’s there for. If I get it, it’ll be for the purpose of burning it.”

Cling on tight because Muse are a star about to go supernova. Turn on, plug in, burn out.