Paul Reeve Interview 2019
Many thanks to Paul for taking the time to answer a few questions.
March 12, 2019
Q: How did you initially get involved with Muse?
A: Initially, I was introduced to them through Dennis Smith, Sawmills owner, when I was working there. Although the name Muse came later. During the first Muse EP sessions I believe.
Q: What was your first impression of the band personally and professionally?
A: I first saw them live in Falmouth, it was exciting, noisy and passionate and I was happy to see what we came up with together. It wasn't really until the first sessions that I started to feel a genuine emotional connection to their music. Personally, they were easy to get along with and we had a laugh. They were obviously intelligent and we found common ground both musically and personally.
Q: Can you describe the production process for Unintended? Was the song’s first iteration different from the final production? What was your impression when you first heard it?
A: During those early sessions there was a mutual respect and ideas flowed easily. I felt confident to contribute musically; more so than when they had started to become successful. For Unintended, Matt played and sung it to me on an acoustic guitar sitting in the window at the mill. I was blown away by the song to be honest (although tried to be cool and not show it!) it showed such maturity, both musically and emotionally. I remember driving home early one morning listening to the rough mixes of Unintended and thinking, if this doesn't make people sit up and take notice, I really should think about giving up on music production. It moved me when we recorded it and still continues to do so. The final production was careful not to compromise Matt's purity of vision for the raw song. We recorded the drums at double speed so that when the tape returned to normal speed, they had a dark, dreamy feel. We then built the track around that. I don't remember the exact order. I do remember Matt asked me to try some ideas on Unintended and Muscle Museum and they went out on the canoes for a couple of hours. It was during this time I came up with the echoing sound on Unintended and the bass synth shadowing Chris's line on Muscle Museum. I was delighted when they came back and liked it.
Q: Was there any time where you had to challenge the bands vision/creativity because it didn’t make the best sense or just didn’t work?
A: In the early days it was easier to do that, but there was rarely any need. Part of what makes them a good band is Matt's singular vision. If we tried something and we weren't sure, we would have a discussion about it. Sometimes, we'd live with something for a while and take it out or replace it in the next session. I definitely see a key part of a producers role to challenge ideas, but at the end of the day, I am there to help the artist capture their vision, not mine.
Q: How did you decide which songs to lend your backing vocals and what was the thought process behind each?
A: I have a deeper voice than Matt and at the time Chris wasn't as skillful a singer as he certainly is now. Matt and I would talk about what tracks would suit my voice. Although Matt has a spectacular voice and emotional range, it adds another dimension and a sense of class to include other voices in backing vocals.
Q: Did you have a moment when you realized that these fellows were going to become a great band? Was there a particular song that really hit you as “the next big thing”?
A: If I really knew what was the next big thing, I would be a wealthier man! For me, music (and all art) is about the communication of emotion. It was clear they could do this from the outset. I have worked with many people who do this well over the years. Success is about many factors, only one of which it talent. There are many examples of artists who have success with little genuine talent...they get the other bits right. I think I realised they were going to be really successful when they filled Wembley Stadium for the first time. I knew they were creatively successful after our first session. I always though Butterflies and Hurricanes would be more massive than it was.
Q: From what I understand Matt is very private about recording his vocals, can you describe what that was like from a producer’s standpoint? What’s his reasoning?
A: This is where Matt and I really connected. As a singer myself, I really understand the need for privacy. It's about capturing the right performance and to do that, you have to be in complete control of your environment. You can't really do that with any audience. Matt did his vocals with just me. He totally trusted me in that way right up until they became skilled producers in their own right. It was a privilege and something I remember very fondly.
Q: Did you attend any early Muse performances circa 1997-1998? If so, do you recall a song titled Swm?
A: I have been to several concerts, and the name rings a bell. But I don't remember anything else about it, sorry.
Q: Someone mentioned that Muse had written about 40-50 tracks (they could be exaggerating) before working on Showbiz. Do you remember any of those songs? Did they end up on future albums? Were some so horrid they will never see the light of day?
A: Any song that wasn't good would have been filtered out by Matt before the studio. There were stronger songs but everything was of a certain standard. It wouldn't surprise me to learn there are lots of songs that didn't make the grade, but I would have only heard a few of them. Many tracks ended up as B sides and we did lots of recording at Airfield Studios that ended up on Hullabaloo. I still really like the sound of those sessions.
Q: Are you still in touch with band? Any plans to work together in the future?
A: I haven't spoken to Matt or Dom for ages. We have very different lives...They are world class rock stars and I'm just me :-) I was in touch with Chris until a couple of years ago. I really enjoyed helping them to find their style and encouraging them to go outside of the rock genre. They have really found a format that works both musically and commercially. In the unlikely event they ever have a crisis of creativity, I'd like to think they'd call me.
Q: How do you feel about the new album, Simulation Theory?
A: To my shame, the last record I listened to was the last one I worked on, The Resistance. Is it good?
Q: Lastly, what’s your impression of Muse’s fanbase?
A: What is clear is that they transcend generations. I think anyone who gets what Matt, Chris and Dom are doing must be pretty emotionally intelligent, intellectual and all road cool!