jmag 2007-10-31

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Mighty Pomgolian rockers Muse have some of music's most hardcore fans, so we let them call the shots. Frankly, we were not afraid to

WORDS: Samantha Clode

"SALT Lake City tends to be one of those places where people go berserk," says Matt Bellamy. "Maybe it's all the salt plains surrounding them..." jmag finds the prodigious 29-year-old Muse frontman in the US, where he's just finished up a stint with the tour physio. "I've got mild tennis elbow, I was playing squash and I think I stretched my arm or something," he says. "But it's nothing serious, I'm just sitting here with an ice pack on my elbow. Not too many Pete Townsend guitar swings tonight, I don't think."
&nbspr;&nbspr;&nbspr;&nbspr;With a second tour in 12 months heading out way in November, the trio from Devon are bringing their huge, prog rock stage spectacular down under following a stint on the 2007 Big Day Out. Rather than us throw a bunch of questions at Muse's frontman, we asked you guys to tell us what you wanted to know...


Muse have some obsessive, dedicated fans. Where do you think the line is between being in the spotlight and having your privacy invaded?

Bronwyn, 17, Bungendore, ACT
Everyone should be entitled to be at home, relaxing away from it all and not have people knocking on their door. I get a bit, yeah, and that's the place to draw the line. When we're out on the road we try to meet people and generally be friendly, but I'm glad that we're not super famous people where we're chased when we're going to the supermarket. I expect to be able to go there without having any hassles like that. I don't want to be caught buying toilet paper!

Have you seen Museslash? (Fan stories about the band, usually involving sex.)

Becky, 15, Woodford, Vic
Museslash? No, I definitely want to check it out though, it sounds good, entertaining. I haven't heard of it until now, but I'll definitely be checking it out now, that sounds very interesting (laughs).

Who's your face pianist of all time

Lachlan, 16, Ashfield, NSW
Firstly [Russian composer Sergei] Rachmaninoff. It's a close call between Franz Liszt [Hungarian romantic], Rachmaninoff and [Polish prodigy Frederic] Chopin. Some people argue that Liszt is up there, but Rachmaninoff has some kind of weird, dark edge to his music, which I don't think I've heard with any other kind of music before. So for that reason I give it to him - he's got a dark heard.

Do you think your friendship has helped you three guys deal with your success?

Rachelle, 23, Brookvale, NSW
I wouldn't say success has been a problem, but I'd certainly say that issues come up with being away from home for eight months at a time. Especially Chris, who has kids and a family. But having a really close friendship helps us through tough times. I wouldn't define success as being a touch problem; I've enjoyed it very much. It's more the touring side.

So, any fisticuffs?

(Laughs) Yeah, well... I'm glad I don't try it because Chris would probably take my head off with one hit. We've had a few chairs thrown around and a lot of drum kits being smashed, I think me and Chris both attacked Dom and his drum kit a few times... but with friendly intentions!

If you're in Australia and you've only got $20, how are you going to spend it?

Luke, 16, Devonport, Tas
You should be able to answer that question better than me, what do you recommend I do? Can you get, like, a bus journey to the outback for that much money? I'll pretend to be on the dole and get a rail ticket to the outback and go and live in the wild for a couple of years.

What was your first trip to Australia like?

Marina, 25, Brunswick, Vic
It was brilliant. We loved all the sunshine, it blew us away. We're used to the grey, miserable depression of England, so being there was a breath of fresh air really. I remember getting freaked out by all these massive bats that were flying around our hotel. We were staying on the top floor in Sydney, and we were hanging out on the roof having a gathering with a couple of bottles of wine, and we noticed we were surrounded by massive bats. That's the first time I'd ever seen bats in my life - we all shat ourselves and ran away.

Is there any specific place you would want to be at the end of the world?

Orri, 18. Reykjavik, Iceland
On a yacht, actually. It would be nice to be on the sea, away from all the chaos, just chilling out an relaxing. Depends... if the end of the world was a massive tsunami, then you definitely wouldn't want to be out on a boat, but if it was carnage and chaos and everyone was going mental, then I think it might be nice just to chill out on a boat. Go round the Maldives or Indonesia, cruise around, swim in the sea and pretend everything's find. You could probably live off fish for a while. Get one of those little water purification systems so you could just chill out and get away from it all...

You've said seeing an image of Hendrix setting his guitar on fire opened your mind to what music could be. What was it about that scene that turned you on?

Anthony, 22, Bundamba, Qld
I suppose it was the chaos and the edge, the new idea that you can do whatever you want in your life and in your music. When I was that age, being in a rock band seemed like it was going to give me that opportunity, to be loose and pretty much do whatever I wanted, both on stage in music and in my life. I always loved music, but it wasn't until I saw that that I realised it could actually change your whole lifestyle.

I heard a rumour about the recording of 'Plug In Baby' [from 2001's Origin Of Symmetry]. involving mushrooms, nudity and a sauna. What's the story?

Tim, 20, Riverview, NSW
(Laughs) Uh, yeah. It was in between recording takes. In England every now and again, certainly when it rains, loads of mushrooms grow. You take them to open your mind up to a broader dimension - you get to see the world from a different perspective. I'm sure you get them over there as well, but in England they grow in fields, you can find them anywhere. They often grow near cow shit, unfortunately. We found ourselves... not full naked, but definitely partially naked, in a bathtub rolling around. The mixture between that and doing the takes... I can't actually remember recording the songs to be honest, but I remember listening to it and saying, "Whoa, man, this is cool!" But a week later we listened to it and thought it was all a bit crap, so we had to spend a week fixing it up. But for writing and exploring new ideas, I'd recommend mushrooms. God put them there for us to use! It's nature's drug, you shouldn't make nature illegal.

Is it true Muse once supported the Spice Girls? What was that like?

Lucy, 27, Blackburn, Vic
I've no idea where this came from! I think someone stuck it on the internet for a joke and everyone believed it; it's completely false. I've never played with them or met them. I wish I did - I would've loved to have supported them... ideally on the same bus as well.

How does it feel to be the biggest little man in music?

Andrew, 21, Koolewong, NSW
(Laughs) It's quite good. With the guitar on stage you get to feel quite: "Hey man, I'm not too bad after all! I'm 5'7 but I can play some good riffs so it's all right. Everything's okay." (Can't stop laughing.)

Are you easy to work with?

Jesse, 18, Gympie, Qld
(Ponders) Um... no, probably not, I'd say. I'm easy to work with people who know me, but with strangers I'm quite difficult. Just because there are ways I'm used to doing things: it's probably the disadvantage of being in a band for so long, you become very connected together and have certain ways of working. I've noticed that when you bring other people into the equation they can misinterpret the way you are as being very aggressive or very forward. But when you're working with your own bandmates you're used to dealing that way.

Do you crack the whip, then?

We all crack whips with each other, depending what it is. They all crack whips with me when I'm playing the piano too much! I generally crack the whip at them when they're playing cheap drum riffs. Between the three, somewhere we find a balance.

Is the Paul McCartney song 'Mr Bellamy' written about you? (It depicts a delusional 'Mr Bellamy' sitting on a roof and refusing to come down.)

Marty, 26, Hawthorn, Vic
I don't think so! I'll check it out. I seriously doubt it's about me but... I'd be very surprised if it was, that would be a funny situation.

Is it true you're thinking of working with an orchestra next?

Amelia, 22, North Perth, WA
If Dom and Chris let me! No, I definitely wanted to do the whole "we've blown it and become a total pop band" and I'm sure we'll do some more bits that are a bit more groovy and more dance. More up-tempo. There's definitely a few bits and pieces lying around that have been unfinished for so long that I just think we should lay them down. We certainly wouldn't do a whole album but definitely a couple of pieces that we might be able to release outside of an album might be interesting.

How did your father's band (the Tornadoes) influence you as a musician?

Jervis, 18, Mornington, Vic
Dad introduced me to music when I was very young, and played me a lot of '50s and '60s records that I probably would never have heard of if it wasn't for him. I definitely got that more sci-fi... well, not sci-fi, but I guess what people like to call the more "spacey" sound from his band. The band he was in before the Tornadoes did this song called 'Telstar' - that song was the most well known. [The instrumental, named after a satellite, was the first British song to hit No.1 in the US.] For the '50s it did sound very futuristic, and very kind of spacey, so that element of the band definitely came from him.

Is it true you live in the house of former opera composer Vincenzo Bellini and you're trying to conjure up his ghost?

Amanda, 23, Ferny Grove, Qld
I don't actually live there. The band were building a place where we could rehearse and live while we were rehearsing, and it's in the grounds of an Italian opera composer's house. I tried to get some of his vibes going because I listened to some of his music and I think it's brilliant stuff. It definitely feels like it's got some kind of musical ghost hanging around. If I was ever going to get a house and it was haunted, I'd want it to be haunted by a great composer, that's kind of ideal for me (laughs).

Do Muse fall into roles in the studio?

Chris, 17, Gienelg, SA
Dom tends to take the role of the pedantic devil for the detail; he goes mental for absolutely every little detail. Chris is more the person who moderates the vibe and says, "Look, this isn't happening, take a break and wait for a day, wait for a few hours until it's going to happen." Dom would play the same song 20 times a day and get it wrong 20 times, whereas Chris would say, "Let's just take a break and come back." Dom would be all, "No, let's keep playing." I pretend to be behind the desk. I'm always drawn to being with the producer. I should be on the other side of the glass singing and playing, but I'm always behind the desk trying to control things - I always end up getting told to fuck off and get back in where I belong!

So are you into recording other artists?

Yeah, definitely. It's frustrating when we're making our own records, because I want to be involved in the production myself but I can't do it when I'm actually playing, you know? It's something I'd like to do when I'm older, too old to tour or something. So maybe in about 10 years when I'm slowing down a bit and I've got tennis elbow - tennis everything! - I'll start producing records instead.

What's one of your most memorable moments visiting Australia?

Dom, 22, Preston, Vic
There's been loads. The Big Day Out is always loads of fun, I got to hang out with a lot of great bands there. This year was good: it's a bit of a blur, but I remember trashing someone's house. We had an amazing party in this really expensive flat in Melbourne. Some crazy guy decided he would let a few bands part there. By the end of it I remember seeing Mike from the Streets holding a couch in the air - he was surfing the couch while taking paint off the wall! I feel sorry for the guy whose house it was, but he certainly should have known what was going to happen when he invited us!

If there's a colour for sex, what would it be?

Caitlyn, 15, Chirnside Park, Vic
(Pause) Well it's got to be red hasn't it, surely? Blue's a bit too boring.

It's pretty obvious from Black Holes And Revelations you're disillusioned by the current political climate. Does public apathy get you down? Or do you hold out hope for a revolution?

Tegan, 17, Banara Point, NSW
I'd say I'm generally optimistic about people, but I'm pessimistic about society, and the way it's all been put together. But generally I'm very optimistic that people will pull through and come out shining at the other side. I think w're likely to see some heavy shit over the next 50 or 100 years, but if you look forward 100 years there's going to be a group of people having a laugh somewhere.

A couple of big bands have joined together lately - Audioslave, Velvet Revolver. If you had to start another band who would you have in it?

Josh, 22, Waverton, NSW
Speaking of Audioslave, Tom Morello would certainly be the guitarist; Flea from Chili Peppers on the bass. Drums... who's brilliant? Maybe Jimmy Chamberlain, the guy who played for the Pumpkins. Singing would have to be Tom Waits, I'd say. I think that would be an interesting grouping.

Everyone is impressed by the XY synth pad on your guitar in 'Invincible' Do you do all the work on your guitars yourself?

Dan, 19. Armidale, NSW
I've just always fancied something and gone, "I can't believe no one thought of that before." I had this effects unit I was using, the XY controller, and I thought, well, why don't I just stick it in the guitar? Luckily I've got a friend who makes guitars, so I said, "Can you stick this in the guitar for me?" and he worked on it for a while. It took us a couple of goes to get it right but it was quite decent. So it's just a case of imagining something and having a mate who can built it. So a lot is custom made, not personally by me but invented by me, if you like.

How difficult is it to use a jetpack?

Kieran, 20, Waurn Ponds, Vic
(Laughs) I wouldn't know, because I've never used a jetpack. I think I saw one once, didn't Michael Jackson use one to get on stage? I've got something that's a bit like that, but it's not actually a get engine. It's a 50cc engine with a propeller attached. You just take a sort of parachute to jump off a hill, and you use the engine to push you higher and higher, It's not really a jet, though - "jet" makes it sound a bit more exciting!

Will you be using this device on stage?

The problem is it's very weather dependent, so it could go terribly wrong. It's 50/50 that I could hit the stage - there's a chance I could accidentally go in to the crowd and the propeller would probably mince up about 100 people! So maybe I'll save save that for when we're playing a super massive outdoor venue. "Everyone stand back!"

Lastly, jmag wants to know what's the question you'd most like to be asked?

You're going to ask me that now, aren't you? I'm trying to imaging someone coming in to an interview and just saying, "Ah, fuck it - do you fancy a pint?" If you ever meet me, instead of doing the interview just say that and we'll go down the pub, have a drink and have a much more relaxed time. Well, next time, that's what we'll do. Sounds good to me.

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