Interview (200005 Mucke and Mehr article)

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MUSE (05/00)

Scarcely a band was as much on the spot in Germany during the last twelve months as Muse. First they dropped in for very few club gigs in November last year when nobody really knew the guys yet. This changed abruptly when Matthew Bellamy (guitar, vocals), Chris Wolstenholme (bass) and Dominic Howard (drums) released their first single "Muscle Museum" in mid-November, an absolutely catchy song. Its style promptly reminded most people of Radiohead, after all Muse play an extremely interesting mixture of placid and much rocking parts as well, Matthew using his voice in several octaves, very extrovert, very intensive. Muse however see themselves influenced more by Jeff Buckley. Their career started with several school bands in Devon in Southern England. After trying a few times the trio got together and just started making music. They earned big interest at the "In The City Conference" contest in Manchester and soon they got signed at the US label Maverick. Two EPs were released, most of the critics were fond of them and the fans were anyway. Then Muse went to the Sawmills Studios in Cornwall, recording their debut album with producer John Leckie who also worked for the Stone Roses. In Germany "Showbiz" was published in September 1999, surely being the album of the year for many people, after all it was a brilliant record and it still is. After that they went on tour as support act for Live and Bush, the fanbase was growing more and more. The singles "Uno" and "Sunburn" were released and the prestigious festivals got booked as well. In May Muse finally came back for a headlining tour bringing a few promising new songs which were integrated into the set. When playing live, Muse fascinated their audience, whether on tour or at the festivals, nobody could elude the great songs and the stage show with an outstanding Matthew at guitar and mic. Now "Unintended" was released as the fourth single off the album, a wonderful love song. Reasons enough to finally publish the interview from May which we conducted during the tour.

MUM: Please tell us something about how you got together again. I read you played in school bands.

D: Yeah, we already knew each other when we were very young, 12 or 13 or something. We were a few people who liked music and also made music and there were several small bands. This band then grew out of this, about six years and a half ago.

MUM: So you just started out as a trio?

D: Yes. All the other bands consisted of four or five people but we tried as a trio and it worked.

MUM: What kind of music did you use to play?

D: Cover songs of Sonic Youth and stuff like this.

MUM: What kind of music do you listen to at home?

D: I used to listen to much American music, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine and so on. Now I listen to Primus, Jimi Hendrix and Deus.

MUM: You played the "In The City Conference" in Manchester and you won?

C: No, we got third. There were many up-and-coming bands playing there.

MUM: This was your first bigger gig?

D: Yes, and above all it was the first outside Devon. We had played there quite a few gigs.

MUM: After the "In The City Conference" gig there wasn't much time till you had the recording contract, right?

C: Yeah, it was just three or four months. People from America were quite interested in us. In England not many bands were signed on at this moment so we had a look at the offers from America and decided for the best one.

MUM: Why did you decide on John as producer?

C: We already met him quite a while before we got signed. We became friends and he wanted to make the album. We knew some of the things he did before and we liked them very much. So we decided to work together with him.

MUM: Will you go on working with him?

D: No, I don't think so. Maybe sometime in the future but surely we're going to try out something new for the next album. We're going to record it in another place with somebody else.

MUM: Are you working on new material?

D: Yeah, we already have some new tracks we're including into the set.

MUM: Does it bug you to get these Radiohead comparisons rubbed in all along?

D: No, not really. Everyone talks about but it doesn't really bug us though it isn't true really. We were influenced by Jeff Buckley, for example. Radiohead may be influenced by him as well.

MUM: Do you like Radiohead?

D: Yes.

MUM: You supported Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bush, Live and many other big bands on tour. What did you learn of these bands?

D: The Red Hot Chili Peppers are a very good band, we watched them every night. Even if they play the really big arenas, they aren't distracted by everything happening around them after all those years, they concentrate on their music. Surely we learned something of this.

MUM: Is there any band of which you would say you had most fun with?

C: Last tour was good.

D: Yeah, it was. Bush are nice guys, this was fun.

MUM: When you were on a small club tour in Germany in November, there were certainly not many people coming, now you already play in small sold-out halls. How do you valuate the development of the band in the meantime?

C: It really worked well for us. We had very tiny gigs then and then we came to Germany with Bush and Live. So this now is our first real tour here and it works very well by now, it's fun.

D: It's good to be a headliner. We really had many support gigs.

MUM: Does your success surprise you in any way?

D: It does. There was very much happening last year. That's a steady graph ascending quite steeply and every single makes it go on.

MUM: What comes next?

D: Now we're touring, then we're going to play many festivals. Rock am Ring, Rock im Park, Bizarre, Roskilde, Pink Pop. Then we're going to finish the album.

MUM: Do you know a release date for it yet?

C: Maybe at the beginning of the next year but we're not sure. It also depends on whether we're going to tour in Japan and Australia or not. We hope we can record the album at the end of the year.

MUM: How do people react in America?

D: Reactions are good, very good. It was different, we played in big arenas and the people seemed to like it. But it's weird, there are huge arenas and there are only seats. Strange.

MUM: Is there any gig you would consider as your best?

C: There are several factors that make a concert a good one. Sometimes a concert is great for us simply because the audience is great. Sometimes it's great because we play well.

D: The concert in Hamburg recently was very good, for example.

MUM: And the worst concert?

C: Yeah, this was in London and it was broadcast live in Japanese TV. Everything went wrong there. Instruments didn't work, everything was in confusion and into the bargain it was live in TV. This was probably the worst one.

MUM: You haven't been a very long time in business yet, but would you say you conceived some things different?

C: There actually are some things you don't think about much before. You think of concerts and the studio but so much else is important, dealing with the press and all that stuff.

D: We had to learn how to do interviews. Videos, artwork, other things...

MUM: Do you consider yourselves more as a live band?

C: Definitely. When we started this was the motivation, we wanted to play live.

MUM: What do you think about the MP3 discussion?

D: Well, of course it's not that good for the record industry, the companies lose much money. But it's very helpful to popularize the name of a band. Maybe you won't sell any records anymore sometime, but then you can go on tour and play in front of thousands of people because they know you anyway.

MUM: What do you want to express with your lyrics?

D: The first album is very personal, it's about life experiences. The second album is gonna be a bit different, other roles will be chosen as well.

MUM: Do you have the ambition to write lyrics as well?

D: No, Matthew does that.

MUM: Is there a band you'd like to play with?

D: Yes, Deftones and Deus.

MUM: Deftones are playing Rock am Ring, too.

D: Really? Hopefully it's the day we play too.

MUM: I just know that you're playing contemporaneously with Korn which bugs me very much.

C: With Korn? That bites.

MUM: Thank you very much for the interview.

MUM: Mucke & Mehr
D: Dominic of Muse
C: Chris of Muse


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