Rock Sound 2008-01-30 – New album revelations

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Rock Sound February 2008

An article in issue 106, February 2008, of the UK Rock Sound magazine.


On November 14th, 2007 in Adelaide, Australia Matt Bellamy went to a fan's house. After Muse's arena show, the moderately refreshed frontman accompanied an admirer to his parents' house, where he spent 30 minutes talking with the fan's mum and dad about music. But once Bellamy had said goodbye, he had no idea where he was. He didn't know how he would get back to the band's hotel, so he walked the streets of the suburbs in search of a taxi. Addressing such adventures, Bellamy admits to "drinking/drifting a little bit", and that after a few drinks he finds himself "easily led", but states these escapades are fun as for the last few years Muse have possibly been overly focused on work. "In some cities the fans are crazy and end up chasing you around," he says. "You really can't avoid them. When you have fans like that you end up hanging out with them, and they take you to really weird places you normally wouldn't go. In Indonesia we ended up in this dodgy bar in a shanty-town. There were chickens running around on the floor, and Dom [Howard, drums] was worried we were all going to get shot."

Adelaide was show number 90 on the epic "Black Holes & Revelations" world tour that began on May 13, 2006 at Radio 1's Big Weekend Festival in Dundee, and eventually concluded 6 shows after Bellamy's Adelaide adventure at the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas festival on December 09. Muse hit Australia twice in '07: The first time was in January when, high up on the bill, they joined Jet, the Killers, My Chemical Romand and Tool for the annual mega tour Big Day Out. Bass guitarist Chris Wolstenholme says it's his favorite festival to play as the bands hang out together, share the same hotels, and collectively get drunk. It's also where the 29-year-old became acquainted with Kasabian. "The guitarist from Kasabian is a fucking lunatic", he says. "But a very nice lunatic. One night I got very wasted with him, and he kept trying to snog me. I had his 'tache on my face all night."

Although Muse's extreme partying (think inviting people back to their own space, donning masks, darkness, music played at an incredible volume, alcohol and "wherever your mind took you, it probably happened") may have passed around 01's 'Origin of Symmetry', the trio continue to be fond of a post-gig bevvy. Las Vegas is popular for its relaxed drinking laws, and it is where during a visit, Bellamy ended up in a jacuzzi with a bunch of "strangers". At times, the band even favour the odd bit of instrument abuse. "At the July Fuji festival in Japan, we had this really weird gig", says Howard. "It was in the mountains in this forest and when the lights came on the stage all these huge bugs were flying over us. I had beetles crawling down my back and something crawled down Chris's arse and into his pants. It was awful, and we felt weird about the instruments so trashed them."

Of course the pinnacle of Muse's 2007 was the June 16 and 17 Wembley spectacular, as caught on new DVD "The Haarp Tour: Live From Wembley". With each gig spanning two hours and the two nights witnessed by more than 150,000 people, Muse were the first rock band to break in the England football team's new digs. They are also the only band that will possibly ever use a particle transportation device on loan from Star Trek: The Next Generation to transport the trio to the centre of the stadium at a cost of £10k per band member. "For us it's obvious why we documented it," says Dom. "The new venue's not particularly historic but the name is. When I think of the old venue, I remember being 8 or 10 and listening to Queen play there or associating it with Michael Jackson or Madonna: big, excessive musicians, for us to get the opportunity to play Wembley blew our minds, so we thought we had to film it. To at least remember it, to tell the grandkids." The trio admit to extreme nerves prior to performing, for Chris that amounted to several nights of pre-gig dreams where he imagined a technical malfunction, while minutes before going onstage, Howard says his heart was beating so fast he felt like his chest "was going to explode." SELLING WITH A SMILE

Chris Wolstenholme on Muse’s music in commercials: “It depends on what you are advertising. We had a bit of an issue with Nestle a while ago when they used a track of ours. They asked us, we said no because we didn’t want to be associated with the company, but they used it anyway, and so the whole legal thing kicked off. To use your music for supermarket products is a bit sad but I don’t think there’s any harm in it. For some people it might detract from artistic integrity, but advertisers usually use such a short snippet that half the time no one realizes who it was. It’s nothing we’re got anything against.


Matt Bellamy on British troops listening to music: “I have a lot of sympathy for soldiers who are really used as pawns to act out the psychotic policies being put into play by people who will never be in the frontline. I cant really have anything against them. I kind of see them as ordinary people who are a little bit lost and easily led and are being trained to take orders. So if anything takes their mind away from that, I cant really complain. I don’t think I can ever say there are people who should or should not listen to our music. I am happy for anyone to listen to it, whatever they are doing.

What wasn’t recorded was the bassist’s altercations with hotel staff on the night of June 16. “I spent most of the night fighting with the concierge, because I had my family with me and they didn’t put beds in the room for my three kids,” he says, “I was up for two hours trying to sort that out (what a ) and so they next day I was knackered.” Surprisingly after 20guy months of touring, the trio aren’t sick of each other. “We see each other 95% of the time”, says Dom. “So if we go home and don’t speak to each other for four weeks its no big deal, because for the remaining 11 months of the year we are in a cart together. I am not sick of them at all, in fact I am not sick of anything on this tour.

ON NOVEMBER 15, Matt Bellamy is in his dressing room at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena. Dressed in a white t-shirt, black trousers, and a zip-up black leather ankle boots, he sits in a designer brown leather chair. His focus is on a length of Blu-Tack, which he stretches and twists between his fingers, joining it together to make a loop (bless). Over Bellamy’s shoulder is his travelling wardrobe which houses a selection of jackets, jeans and some gold and silver-trimmed trainers. Unlike Muse’s dazzling show, the vocalist keeps his stage attire simple, apparently never having entertained the idea of flamboyant dress (um, scarf? Glitter pants?). “Our old tour manager supported I should go on stage wearing a cape and fangs but I think it would be very embarrassing,” he says, torturing the rubbery adhesive, “I didn’t think it would go down very well with the fans. With our music we’re explored a lot of over the top ideas and areas, and I think if we were to translate that into the way we looked it would be too much. I have been a little bit careful not to just lose it and put loads of make-up on and wear a cape and come to the stage in a flying saucer. That’s the beginning of the end when that happens.”

Bellamy’s eyes light up at talk of a UFO-themed stage entrance, revealing that at the end of the “Absolution” tour, in Tucson, Arizona, he saw an extraterrestrial aircraft. According to the 29-year old, the band were at a Days Inn Hotel where they had checked in to spend some time away from the tour bus. While in the swimming pool, the band looked up at the sky and there it was. “It was a small, silver sphere moving very fast,” says Bellamy. “Then another one appeared and then they both disappeared upwards so they became so small you could no longer see them. We were unsure what it was, so we phoned up our tour manager who was at the venue about 30 minutes away and got him to go outside with the crew. They could see it too, so I’ve defiantly seen a UFO.” The occurrence has not however spurred Bellamy to book a spot for space tourism. “If you could go up for a couple grand, maybe,” he says, “but I’m not going to pay £100,000 to have a personal experience like that. I think that’s a bit excessive.” It’s possible Bellamy’s interest in the unexplained stems from his mother’s as a medium.

“At a young age I noticed that I’d go to school and set up a Ouija board and other people would find it disturbing,” he says. “They’d read things as being very dark and very unusual when in fact to me it wasn’t. It’s taken me time to realize that if you are having a Ouija board with someone who starts seeing stuff and experiencing terrible things, its quite likely that person has some psychological problems they are not yet aware of.” But the chances of Bellamy conducting a Muse séance remain low. “I think Chris would do it,” he says, “but Dom’s not that into ghosts and stuff. He’s a city boy. I’m not sure if I can really believe it now. I think its more of an exploration of your own mind and other people’s minds around you, and that can be quite scary.”

FOR THE BEGINNING of 08 while Muse are inactive, Bellamy will divide his time between London and his home in Lake Como, Italy, the place composers and artists have visited throughout history and where Winston Churchill retreated to during World War II when he needed a break. Although Bellamy has never met neighbor George Clooney, he has seen the movie star riding his bicycle. “It’s a place you go to chill out or be inspired to do art or something,” he says. “If I wasn’t touring I’m not sure I could live permanently. It’s a very quiet life but its all about food. Everyone, [not all?]. is obsessed with food. You will be having dinner and you are already talking about what you are having for dinner the next night.” Gastronomy aside, it is however a place where Bellamy can write. After all, most of the lyrics and half of the music for “Black Holes and Revelations” was written there. Bellamy says he never trusts his writing instincts while on tour, but waits until a few months later to discover what direction he wants to take. His thoughts right now dictate a piece of music more in the classical realm rather than a conventional album.

“I could easily look at a bunch of new songs that don’t even have a guitar,” he says. “So I think I’m battling to try to keep the guitar a part of what we do next.” As far as lyrical ideas, Bellamy says Muse’s fifth album could be less themed than 03’s apocalyptic “Absolution” and the band’s latest political/sci-fi installment. “Our last album has five songs that are strongly connected and then a few that explore personal things, more down-to-earth concepts,” he says. “That’s something that has always been difficult for me to do because I’m quite shy. It is something I am staring to be a bit more comfortable with, singing about life experiences and personal things, and I defiantly want to explore that a bit more. There will always be songs to try to inspire change in some way or to make people realize that they shouldn’t give up hope in whatever they are feeling. Trying to deliver optimism in our music is very difficult, and in our early albums we could easily have been labeled pessimistic. I’m attempting to give people who listen to our music something a bit more optimistic, rather than feeling everything is falling into a... black hole.”

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