The Irish News 2008-04-04 – Live Inspiration

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An article in The Irish News' 2008-04-04 supplement, "Scene". The information within was taken mostly from a press conference at the Meteor Awards 2008.




Regarded as one of the best live bands in the world, English rock trio Muse have just confirmed two major gigs in Belfast and Dublin this summer. Scene spoke to frontman Matt Bellamy about extravagant purchases, Irish stalkers and the band's soon to be recorded fifth studio album...


ON the day of our interview, Matt Bellamy is in good form. In just a few hours, he and his band mates Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard will collect a Meteor Award for Best International Live Performance thanks to their epic headline show at last summer's Oxegen Festival. It will join their NME, Brit and Q Awards for best Live Band on the increasingly crowded and entirely metaphysical Muse mantelpiece. Strolling into an uncomfortably bunker-esque conference suite nestled deep in the bowels of a trendy Dublin hotel, Bellamy cheerfully greets the rag-tag bunch of hacks assembled before him and instantly begins fielding probing questions. Such as: "What's been your most extravagant purchase?"
"When I was younger I bought this stupid thing called a Paramotor," he explains ruefully. "It's basically a 50cc motor attached to a big propeller and a paraglider.
"It's the same as the one that guy used to fly into the Mike Tyson fight a few years ago. That's what gave me the idea to buy it, actually. It cost me about ten grand and I've only used it once. I keep meaning to learn how to fly it properly."
So now you know. However, what you don't know is that Muse will be taking a break from recording their new album this summer to play two huge gigs in Ireland: one at Dublin's Marlay Park on August 13 and another here in Belfast the following night at a venue yet to be determined.
Expect something large and al fresco, as the trio have now pretty much outgrown traditional indoor venues.
Always an entertaining live turn over the course of their last couple of albums, Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations, the Muse concert experience has developed into a mesmerising combination of overblown apocalyptic rock and eyeball searing, mind-blowing visuals.
For ample evidence of this, proceed directly to the impressive CD/DVD package, HAARP, recorded live at their triumphant two-night stand at the new Wembley Stadium last summer.
HAARP catches the band at the peak of their live powers, performing the best bits of their steadily growing back-catalogue to an adoring audience of thousands from a stage adorned with more dazzling lights and video screens than Times Square. There's even a couple of satellite dishes, just for good measure.
Ironically, Muse's dedication to providing an unprecedented live spectacle seems to stem from simple old fashioned insecurity.
"We've always had this paranoia that the three of us aren't really worth looking at," admits Bellamy.
"We probably spend most of the money we make on trying to make our live concerts spectacular so that the audience always have something more interesting to watch."
It seems the band are looking forward to returning to Ireland to show us just how much they deserve those recently acquired gongs.
"The Irish shows are going to be great," Bellamy enthuses. "Even though we're currently taking quite a long break to work on the new record, we've decided to still do a few concerts here and there just to stop ourselves from getting too lazy and forgetting how to play - which is basically what happened when we did the last album.
"It'll also be a great chance to try out some of the new songs live before they're released, which we didn't do at all for Black Holes and Revelations. For that record we were actually making quite a conscious effort to move away from what we were doing on stage, so this will be something different again."
Although their new work in progress is still very much at the planning stage, according to Bellamy the end result is already shaping up to be quite eclectic.
"We will get together over the next couple of months to do a bit of work and finalise some of the new song ideas we've had," he says.
"Direction wise, I think on the last two albums we developed quite a pluralistic approach to music. Some people see us as quite a progressive rock band, others see us as a pop-rock band and so on - which is fine.
"We quite like the idea of putting out records that are full of different ideas and styles, especially because these days people just download the songs they like anyway. I know I do. Only a minority of people still listen to albums as a whole any more.
He adds: "I suppose other people see some sort of personality in our records in terms of threads that run through the album, but I think that's maybe just quite a subjective thing on the part of the listeners. I tend to see them as separate entities co-existing as a whole.
"At the moment, if I had to predict what the new one will sound like I'd have to say very mixed indeed.
"We're building our own studio in Italy so once that's finished we'll probably start working on it ourselves before bringing in an engineer and going from there. I don't think we're disciplined enough to make a whole album on our own - we'd never finish it!"
Given their much publicised penchant for conspiracy theories, UFOs and general unexplained weirdness, Muse have become magnets for the lunatic fringe who like to obsess over every last work chosen by their favourite artists - ironic given Bellamy's dismissive opinion regarding the importance of his own much scrutinised lyrics.
"I much prefere [sic] people to be influenced by the music itself, rather than the lyrics themselves," he says firmly.
"To me, lyrics are always a secondary attempt to provide meaning. There's something in music which is obviously beyond language itself. It's communication in its purest form."
Sadly, there's just no convincing some people, such as the over zealous Irish fan who's been stalking Bellamy at his home in Italy. "There are definitely a few people that pick up on the more obscure elements of the songs and take it a bit too far," he comments.
In the mid-West of America fans often come to our concerts and try to give us bibles. One person even went so far as to underline passages and told me how they related to certain songs and that all my songs are really just about searching for God and redemption.
"Then there's one Irish guy who keeps leaving bags full of really crazy stuff at my house.
"There's loads of bottles with messages written on and loads of poetry that he's written about the end of the world.
"I think he's tried to create these bits of clues and puzzles that are supposed to lead me on some kind of journey somewhere or something.
Bellamy adds: "My neighbour gave my address to him. Apparently he claimed to be a family member. He said he was Irish, was wearing all military gear and was a little bit on the edge."
Taking in the shocked Irish faces looking back at him, the Muse man quickly rallies, adding: "But I think Irish People are great though, generally! I'm half Irish anyway."
Indeed, Bellamy's mother Marilyn was born in Belfast before moving to England in the 1970s just prior to his birth.
"I've already been back to Belfast a couple of times over the past year to see my nan, my aunties and uncles," he reassures us.
Still, if security at this summer's upcoming Irish dates appears to be rather tighter than usual, you' know why. Best leave your army fatigues at home, just in case.

Muse play Dublin's Marlay Park on Wednesday August 13 and a Belfast show on Thursday August 14, venue to be confirmed. Ticket details to be announced soon.

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