NME 2008-08-13 – Take a Bow

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Muse bring the curtain down on their two-year 'Black Holes & Revelations' tour at V this weekend, but before that, Matt Bellamy talks us through their South American holiday snaps

Even in Muse's astrology-obsessed world of flying saucers and Martian wizardry it feels like light years [sic] since 'Supermassive Black Hole' first probed our ears. That's because it (almost) is. Twenty-seven months, in fact, since phase four – starting with that single – rocketed into action. Yet you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Teignmouth trio brought an emphatic curtain down on their 'Black Holes & Revelations' sting with last summer's Wembley double knock-out. Matt Bellamy, captain of a stadium starship, stood surveying 80,000 gaping mouths, with trapezing sky-queens whirring about his head while searchlights scanned Mars for signs of moshing as 'Knights of Cydonia' bore holes in the Earth's crust. It felt less like a gig and more like an Olympic closing ceremony. Victory secured, chapter closed.
  But wait! This weekend's V Festival is Muse's third consecutive UK headlining appearance and after taking their apocalyptic live show global – reaching as far as Dubai, South Africa, Indonesia, South Korea, Latvia and Ukraine – it really does all end here.
  NME got inside camp Muse last week to talk about the hysterical fans, armed security, coconuts and the Arcade Fire on fire that greeted the band in Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Argentina. See Matt's stories and friend of the band Tom Kirk's candid pictures over the page. If they don't whet your appetite for the band's headline slots this weekend then, frankly, nothing will.
  Most bands would be projectile chundering [sic] at the sight of another roadie's bum-crack after all this touring. Muse? No fucking chance. Despite the fact they've been almost solidly clocking Airmiles for over two years.
  "Our manager was saying we've got to be careful," smiles a sun-kissed but jet-lagged Matt Bellamy. "But we're happy to just keep on going."
  And why not? Being the Most Explosive Live Band on The Planet™ is an addictive drug. Skydiving, parkour, underwater rugby, doing anything else after Wembley would probably have felt unnatural and half as exhilarating.
  The V shows are guaranteed to pack surprises. Last week, MP3s of the band's hushed collaboration with The Streets' [sic] Mike Skinner ['Who Knows Who'] spread rapidly across the internet, sparking rumours that the companions might play live together. For the moment, though, Bellamy is tight-lipped.
  "I'm sure we'd be happy to do it if he'd be happy to do it. We did talk about it. We'll see. I think he might be seeing how people react to it. If people like it, maybe he'll come and play. He might have other gigs booked up though..."
  Quick MySpace check: no Streets gigs. However, Skinner or no Skinner, there will – as always with Muse – be shocks.
  "We're not gonna just play all of 'Black Holes...', we might open with old tracks," insists Bellamy, "stuff that the hardcore fans have been requesting for a long time. Certainly the setlist will be different from what we've been doing."   Make no mistake, these gigs are no Wembley Part II re-heated.
  "We're trying to get a UFO to come in for V. Health & Safety as usual are ruining it all. I'm not sure V are quite prepared for what we're bringing. We pretty much redesigned the whole [thing?] and we're bringing in loads of props [that?] aren't even onstage, but just around the venue. I think their initial reaction [was?] 'No, this is a festival, that's not gonna work', but we're gonna make it happen.
  One thing you won't see, however, is any new material – even though they're already plotting album number five.
  "As a band we've already started moving on, we've written a lot of songs", reveals Bellamy. "We've bottled out of playing them live because, from past experiences, some of our favourites like 'The Fury' [sic], which should have been on the third album – we end up hating by the time we recorded."
  After V, they're having two weeks' recuperation then it's back into rehearsals.
  "On the last album we got very far away from ourselves," explains Bellamy. "On this album, we don't want to [forget] the live energy. We're not gonna be so detached from our lives when it comes to making new songs."
  This then, is the final blow-out, 'Black Holes...' bowing out, a new beginning. Don't bet on Bellamy retiring that red suit just yet though....

1 Matt and Dom have a lovely bunch of coconuts

Matt Bellamy: "That's us having breakfast after we'd been up all night after playing a gig in Brasília, Brazil. To get over the jetlag we decided to not go to bed. We went to a few bars, then when they closed we went back to someone's room – just drinking, being silly. Then we realised our hotel was just across the road from this food market. That photo's at about 6.30 in the morning. They're just raw coconuts, cut open and you drink the milk straight out of them. It's probably one of the best breakfast drinks you can have actually, full of vitamins, We were really starting to lag at that point, although our plane was at 9am or something, so we thought we might as well just keep going."

2 Is this Brazil? Then it's tome for African breakfast

"This is just before we had those coconuts in the first picture. It's more breakfast stuff. The market was run by mainly African people who specialise in African food. It dates back to when the Africans first came from Portugal. There's a lot of people playing music around there and serving up homemade food. There's all these modernist buildings around and quite a rustic market – it's quite an unusual mixture. The food was all just different variations of coconut and they were also making sugar cane juice – like sweet, pure sugar basically."

3 Dom Howard, king of Brazil, takes a bow in Rio

"Rio was this weird gig, because there were thousands of people crammed in down the bottom, whereas on the balcony there's all these rich people with tables having this evening meal. It was like there were two different gigs taking place at the same time. And there's Dom. Throughout the whole tour we kept getting thrown stuff onstage and Dom put on this gold top hat – it matches his trousers and the flags.
  "In Rio we were told a story about Arcade Fire – I'm not sure whether it's true or not – that they went to wander around the favelas [Brazilian ghettos] because they wanted to have a look and they got held up, stripped naked and doused in fuel. There's this fear-mongering that goes around bands in Rio – 'Remember what happened to Arcade Fire!' We did some tourist things there. We went up Sugarloaf Mountain; you go up there in a cable car and at the top you can get a helicopter that goes around Jesus. So, yeah, we flew around Jesus - it had to be done!"

4 At a signing, the band are showered with gifts

"All the fans seem to throw all sorts of stuff onstage. Anything you can see like flags... ah, no, there's not one here... um, yeah, stuff like teddy bears and weird hats. I'm wearing a straw hat and soft toy in this picture at a signing. This is a peasant hat which is like the ones that the farmers wear. I wore that at the gig that night."

5 Lifestyles of the rich and famous...

"This was actually on a private jet – we don't make a habit of getting them. We were told that NME were looking for a cover shot, so all the shots are natural except that one, which is posed. That was the best we could come up with."

6 Forget The Beatles, Muse-mania hits Chile

We only did one signing session in South America, which was this one in Chile. It was pandemonium. Loads of people turned up, it wasn't like Spinal Tap. That's how many people couldn't get in! The record shop coaxed us to [?] and wave. We felt a bit embarrassed to go and wave at the fans, a bit like the Queen, but Dom pulled it off. It was quite a Beatles moment, really. It's really moving getting treated that way when you've never been somewhere before.

7 "Does sir want speed with his, er wiskhy?"

"It was a bar, I think it was in Bogota, Colombia. There seemed to be this speed thing going on. Things are a little bit more flexible down there, if you know what I mean. I didn't try any of it, put it that way. You'd have to ask someone else in the band whether they tried it or not, but I didn't – it's not my kind of drink. Things were generally very cheap. Beer was about a dollar. In Argentina we all stocked up on leather jackets. There are loads of shops full of cheap leather, you can go in and they measure you up and make you a customised jacket. We were trying to get those World War II-style ones with the fluffy collar like in The Great Escape."

8 Backstage orgies? Nah, just silly hats and shakers

"Here's one of us looking a bit silly as we came offstage – as little bot of post-gig excitement. That's another hat that was thrown onstage. That's Rio, obviously, that's Dom's gold hat. That's a shaker in my hand that Morgan [Muse keyboardist] uses for 'Supermassive Black Hole' – we started bringing it into every song we could because it seemed a bit, y'know, South American."

9 'Welcome to Brazil': the crowd use sign language

"This is either Rio or São Paulo. There are loads of messages floating around, a lot of stuff coming at us onstage - more than normal. South Americans are very noticeable from their constant gifts and notes. We actually started doing a few requests. You can't see it here, but lots of people had messages for 'Citizen Erased' – we haven't played that song for about a year or so but we played it there. One sign says 'Fans Run The Show' – that's true as well. We've sold about 10 records in South America, whereas most of the venues we were playing to, like 10,000 people, so that's quite a poignant statement because of the websites the fans run. If it wasn't for the internet we wouldn't even be there."

10 Can someone please call security?

"There was a lot of security in Colombia. Even in our hotel rooms we had armed security outside the doors. I suppose there's a lot of edginess there, there's still a kind of civil war going on behind the scenes. From what we were told before we got there, we were expecting something a lot more harsh. We went out to bars and places and it seemed fine – the locals seemed really keen to say, 'This place is alright'. It's got that feeling of having a lot of artists, a lot of musicians around and it's genuinely a really cool place to be."

11 Altogether now: "Wah-wah-wah-wah-wahhh"

"In South America they do one thing in particular that's totally different to anywhere else – they sing all the guitar solos and guitar melodies louder than anything else. They don't really sing words very much, but they sing the guitar stuff really loud. Even really fast things like the bassline from 'Hysteria' or the melody from 'Knights Of Cydonia' – it turns into a football crowd."

12 Have a break, leg it to side-of-stage

"I've been forcing Dom and Chris to do a cheesy '80s drum solo just so I can have a break. Halfway through the gig I come off to the side-stage and have a little drink. I like watching them struggle, being made to do a solo – Dom really hates it!"

13 Does my bum look big in this Colombian flag?

"The crowd keeps throwing flags – it just seems like the right thing to do is to wrap yourself up in them. Or at least put them on the bass drum, that always gets a big cheer. We were in Colombia on Independence Day. The crowd had all their faces painted. That was a real patriotic day. That night we went out and there didn't seem to be any bars open and we ended up in this place that was like a school hall, not like a normal bar, but just like a sports hall with a few tables covered in booze. So we ended up getting involved with the local, traditional Independence Day night out which was good. It was a completely different type of night out to anything you see in London."

14 Art Attack!

"We got a lot of drawings and pictures. That one's a drawing of me with red hair. I'm not sure what to do with it – I'm a bit embarrassed to put them up at home, but it's too rude to throw them away. So you end up keeping them. In the loft at home I've got about 30 or 40 portraits of myself – which is quite a bizarre thing. I'll put that one there along with the disturbing oil painting of me naked with a crow on my shoulder. The Russian one, that's the legendary one, the one that disturbed us all the most.

15 Matt 'enjoys' his red, red wine

"This is a glass of red wine, which is the first thing I drink when I come offstage. Red wine is the only alcohol I ever drink onstage as well; I don't usually drink onstage, except water. We did a few gigs in the early days and it was the only alcohol that I found that didn't dry me out. It seems to lubricate things quite well."

Muse Play V Festival, Chelmsford (Saturday, August 16) and Staffordshire (Sunday, 17)

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