NME 2007-06-16 – The Road to Wembley

MuseWiki, wiki for the band Muse
Jump to navigation Jump to search

To cite this source, include <ref>{{cite/NME 2007-06-16}}</ref>



Words: Dan Martin
How Muse went from Devon rave boys to stadium-slayers in 10 easy steps...

When Muse bring their sensational sci-fi circus to the new Wembley Stadium this weekend, they won't just be making history, and it won't just be the most brilliant rock'n'roll show you'll see all year- although it will be both these things as well. No, MuseStock's going to rule for all kinds of reasons: there's a state-of-the-rock-planet line-up so transcendentally awesome that it sees My Chemical Romance as a support band. And there's been whispers about video screens on the floor and a lightshow so spectacular it might inadvertently lead to first contact from the nearest passing spaceship.
Most importantly, though, it'll be the coronation of Matt Bellamy, Dom Howard and Chris Wolstenholme as Earth's greatest band, the pinnacle of a journey that's seen triumph and tragedy, death and destruction, and a healthy dollop of alien invasions.
It's all a long way from their beginnings as indie-grunge bumpkins in Devon. Fittingly, here, for the first time ever in their own words, is Muse's story of how they got here...


Well, Teignmouth to be exact, and a young Matthew Bellamy realises he's different
Matt Bellamy (vocals/guitar): "When I was growing up in Teignmouth, I just felt like I saw things differently. I used to think, 'Maybe not everyone sees it this way, or maybe not.' I saw myself as different, but I didn't act differently - that came later. In the first few years of school I wasn't a person who got on with teachers very well. I was very argumentative, but I had a lot of friends - I wasn't quite an outcast. I did know that music was what I wanted to do from a very young age, though, and I think that's unusual."
Chris Wolstenholme (bass): "I met Matt and Dom quite a few years before the band started because we went to school together - they were at school ahead of me, but I knew them from seeing them around town. Then a load of bands popped up out of nowhere where we lived - all of a sudden everyone wanted to play the guitar and be in a rock band. I was in a band, Matt and Dom were in another band, but theirs was on the edge of self-destruction and mine was falling apart too, so we got together from there."
Matt: "We used to take the piss out of Dom a bit, because Dom and his good mates all had long hair and wore these German army jackets and dressed up like neds. He always takes the piss out of me because for the first few gigs I'd go along in shell-suits. I was dressed up as an early-'90s rapper and they were all dressed as neds! For a year or so we did a bunch of gigs in people's houses or in little sport halls. It was a chance for a bunch of kids to get together, get drunk, hang out and trash a load of musical gear. That was all we did. It was a mess. Chris couldn't actually play bass then - he was just learning. He was a drummer at the time and I think the first time he played bass it was just a dirge of grunge for a few hours. But we really loved it, just making a load of noise, turning up the effects and doing loads and loads of riffs. It was just a noisy noise for quite a while."


The, ahem, Rocket Babydolls play their first ever gig
Chris: "Our first gig was in February 1994 - it actually wasn't as Muse, it was as The Rocket Babydolls. We only did one gig as The Rocket Babydolls - it was a battle of the bands competition - and then March 1994 was the first time we did a gig as Muse. It was a weird one really, at a roller-disco; it had the disco area at the end of a sports hall and this little stage in the corner. We thought we were turning up to do a gig with people watching us, but we weren't - we were in the corner playing and there were these 10-year-old kids skating around in circles oblivious to the fact there was a band on!"


Drugs and dancing in deepest, darkest Devon
Matt: The free party thing was big down in Devon in the mid-'90s. We were doing gigs in any old place. If we could get ourselves a generator we'd go into a gym or somewhere that we'd rent out. We'd go in there, a bunch of bands, a load of booze and loads of kids. The rave scene had a bigger impact than maybe people think. When I was 15 or 16 I was into a lot of that kind of music. I was going to a lot of dances. I was a proper raver, in as much as I did a few of the drugs and things like that. I 'went there' a few times as you do when you're in the middle of nowhere in Devon. I think the impact of that music, the idea that music could take you outside - I think that had an impact on the way we approach music quite a lot. The way that music tries to transcend reality in some way. Every now and again you get a taste of something else, a taste of something outside the ordinary."


Slowly - in a Transit - but surely they spread the word
Dom Howard (drums): "We felt young, even though we were probably about 20. We didn't get so out of control that we lost our minds, we stayed at a solid level. Back in those days we didn't think about the big picture - it was all about living a day at a time. And by the end of that we'd sold out two nights at the Astoria. Every little step felt amazing. I certainly felt out of control in those days. We felt naïve, almost more cynical about everything that was going on around us - we built up a lot of defensive barriers. We built up a lot of Devonian barriers."
Matt: "Our first tour in a van was pretty cool, when we squeezed in the back of one of those Transit vans touring the UK, all of us sharing one bedsit. At the time it was shit, but looking back it was absolutely brilliant. That lifestyle gave us a taste of life on the road and we liked that - we liked that element of travelling and being in new places every day. You can be embarrassing and drunk and have offensive parties, whatever you want, and the next day it's all gone. You're in a new town with new people!"


The crowds are getting bigger and the aftershow parties are getting weirder
Chris: "The first couple of gigs we did in France - we did a festival in St Merlot - we had no idea what to expect. In Devon we were doing bigger gigs, but we got put on this festival bill in France - we'd never been there before, and we ended up playing to 10,000 people. The impact of that was massive. We came back with renewed confidence."
Dom: "The touring thing became a lot more fun and we wanted to delve into that kind of excess and have as many great parties as possible. It was amazing and really funny. There were a few moments when we went close to the edge. We were doing mushrooms a lot in those days, particularly around Europe. You lose touch with reality, even the next day you're still a bit out of it. We definitely lost the plot a bit. There were definitely a few moments of filling up the bus with girls and having a laugh."
Matt: "We used to buy loads of Venetian type masks, all these silly masks, and the idea was we'd wear them, get a lot of people to wear them - mostly women - and take it from there. Most of the time we had other things on. The masks arrived because our initial attempts at parties would often devolve into a kind of signing session, so the mask is a great way to get past that. We'd put the masks on and drink whatever was available - if we were in Amsterdam then take whatever was available - and let the chaos ensue!"
Dom: "That was a funny old time. When you're at that stage you don't get recognised enough to feel uncomfortable in a group of people you've just played to. It'd involve organising and handing out lots of passes to the girls that were the hottest in the club and getting them all back in the room and putting these weird Venetian masks on and drinking and turning up the music really, really loud. It definitely went a bit Eyes Wide Shut for a while. You can relax a lot easier when you've got a Venetian mask on. You can do whatever you want and not feel like you're exposing too much..."


The 'Hullabaloo' DVD and LP document a band careering to the height of their powers
Matt: "Towards the end of touring 'Origin Of Symmetry', we played our biggest gig of the time in Paris. We felt that we were playing our best gigs then, and agreed that we should capture it. The first album ['Showbiz'] was a bit of a grind, a lot of self doubt, but we'd approached the second album with a positive carelessness both in terms of the albums and the touring. We felt that we had to remember that. We brought along one of our mates who'd lost his job, so he became the party organiser and documented a lot of it on video camera. At the time I felt all that wasn't going to happen again, coming out of yourself and reaching that moment of freedom that you really want. I think a lot of people get in bands without wanting to be famous or successful - a lot of it is about wanting to be free of the constraints of society. That was what I experienced at that time."


...and become, quite simply, amazing
Matt: "After 'Hullabaloo' we did a couple of tours in America, which was when we were falling out with our American record label - they wanted me to sing without falsetto. We went to Boston to make a couple of songs. That was when 9/11 happened. When that kicked off, it stunted the recording process, and it wasn't 'til a few months later that we started recording properly. We ended up in Ireland and Los Angeles doing 'Absolution'. That was where a weird, moody vibe took over. A bit more pessimism started to seep through on a few songs, more so than on 'Origin Of Symmetry'."
Dom: "'Absolution' is a lot more concise and not so beserk as 'Origin Of Symmetry'. That one was us and [producer] John Leckie taking about little men that live in the centre of the Earth. But working with Rich [Costey], being a bit more accustomed to American rock music, it had a very different sound. The crazy stuff is condensed into what are the best elements about the band, because we still didn't feel like we'd made a record as heavy as the gigs, and that record just about captured it."
Matt: "We lived in Winston Churchill's old house in Brighton. He had this old hunting house where he used to stay - we rented that out for six months and that was where we recorded the album. We were tempted to live together, but it didn't really work - we were always dotting off to see girlfriends. That was our last attempt at getting a place where we were going to record and live together."


The band play the gig of their lives, but it's tainted by tragedy
Matt: "Glastonbury was the first gig of that size where I wasn't really nervous. I'm always nervous before gigs, but I remember saying to Dom and Chris as we were walking to the stage, 'I feel fine, I'm not worried or anything, I just know this is going to be brilliant.' That feeling is what stands out for me. I didn't really doubt it. Normally before gigs for five minutes I'm thinking, 'I don't think I can do this any more.' Having a heavier edge to the sound and being able to play to a UK audience. That was what we've always gone for, so it was good to be accepted by the Glastonbury crowd. I used to go a lot when I was younger - I loved that festival - but me and Dom and Chris always thought it would be Reading where we'd end up. I feel a lot more at home at Glastonbury rather than, say, Donington, even though I know we could do Donington too. If you had to take away all the layers in the band, you'd find that our heart lies in the kind of music you'd find at Glastonbury but pushing it towards a harder area rather than a heavy band who take it the other way."
Chris: "Everyone was looking at us like underdogs before that. We were terrified; we didn't think we were big enough to be doing it either. Headlining Glastonbury, you can't say no. Then, on the day, we realised what we were actually doing. We turned up at four in the afternoon, it was raining, I think James Brown was playing and it was one of the most loaded looking crowds. Morrissey went on and got arsey with the crowd and that didn't go down too well. He was just being a bit of a cock. We were like, 'This is gonna be awful - Morrissey's a huge name and James Brown's a huge name and people have said to us, "What are they doing headlining?"" But when we came off, we'd played the best gig of our lives and the crowd was immense. It felt so strange - we'd been all over the world and we'd played the best show of our lives back in Somerset. I think a lot of people's perceptions of us changed that day."
Matt: "Dom's dad dying after the show; it's a terrible time for anyone, but I'm not sure those things can ever happen at a good time [Dom's father Bill collapsed and died shortly after watching his son perform on the Pyramid Stage]. Everyone has to go through those things, it's a shame it happened there, but I don't think it dampens the way Dom would feel about that gig. If anything I think Dom was glad that his dad was there to see what was then our finest moment. If you can say anything positive about it it's that. But obviously the aftermath was a hazy, blurry, nightmarish affair..."


The award-winning 'Black Holes & Revelations', to be precise
Dom: "Winning Best Band at the NME Awards 2007 was great because we'd never won that one. We weren't even there and we did the acceptance speech when we were playing live in Taiwan. So if we'd won Best Live Band the weird piece of footage that we sent would've been more suitable, but we were winning so many live band awards then it just seemed comedy. Like, give someone else a chance!"
Chris: "The biggest highlight for me was headlining Reading last year. We went there as kids and I think it was 10 years to the day that I saw Rage Against The Machine play - and that was one of the best gigs I'd ever seen! Their show has embodied my perception of Reading ever since, so to be on the same stage headlining 10 years down the line was a pretty good feeling. Out of all the festivals in Europe, Reading is the best rock crowd you're ever going to get. No matter what time of day you're on, you know the crowd are going to be mental - you don't get that at any other festival."

10 WEMBLEY 2007

It doesn't get any bigger than this
Dom: "This is gonna be massive, it's the pinnacle. We're tense. Booking it was like playing poker, it felt like a gamble, but then we put it on sale and it sold out quickly so we thought, 'At least people are gonna come.' That kind of step up into that area, we just thought, 'Why the fuck not?' It's great doing festivals, but why not do your own?"
Matt: "I'm moving into the calm-before-the-storm period. I was panicking about it a few months ago. Preparations have been going on for six months now, but I'm starting to zone out from it and forget about it. I think it's nice for the few weeks before the gig to not think about it. I don't want to be pulling my hair out about lighting and special effects. If we don't work it out I'm just gonna let it happen by itself."
Dom: "I've been very cocky about it behind closed doors, but I've been shitting myself about it as well. It's a weird feeling because it's such a big event. And no-one else is doing it apart from George Michael, and that's just a joke! I don't even know why he's doing it? Is it sold out? Who knows? Who cares!"
Matt: "I think we're gonna play the longest set we've ever played. It'll cover most bases and it'll stand out as the most comprehensive list of songs that we'll ever play in our setlist. I think in the future, the next period of touring, I'll be looking to do things quite differently onstage. In the realms of churning out 25 songs, this'll be the most that we'll ever do in a gig. It'll definitely be our favourite songs. After this there'll be a period of doing different types of concerts. And then we'll come back to the big concerts and go even bigger!"





  • 'Muscle Museum' EP released
  • Muse signed to new music production company and label Taste Media
  • Madonna's label Maverick sign Muse in the US. The parties will fall out before the release of 'Origin Of Symmetry'
  • October 4: debut album 'Showbiz' is released


  • February: Muse win their first NME Award for Best New Artist


  • June 18: Muse make giant leap forward with the release of second album 'Origin Of Symmetry'
  • Band win £500,000 in damages from Nestlé after they used their cover of 'Feeling Good' for a coffee commercial despite the band refusing permission



  • July: Muse break new ground by releasing the first single from their new album, 'Stockholm Syndrome', exclusively as a download, shortly before full-scale single 'Time Is Running Out'
  • September 22: Muse released their third album 'Absolution', produced by Rich Costey


  • June 27: Muse play "the best show of their lives" headlining Glastonbury. But the day ends in tragedy when Dom's Howard father collapses and dies onsite moments after their performance


  • Muse win their first Brit Award, for Best British Live Act
  • Muse play The Cure's Curiosa Tour of North America alongside Interpol, Mogwai, and Auf Der Maur. During a football match with The Cooper Temple Clause, Chris Wolstenholme breaks his wrist. In order to save their V Festival headline slot, they train up Streets bassist Morgan Nicholls, who remains a sometime fourth member to this day



  • March 1: Muse win the ShockWaves NME Award for Best British Band, a week after winning (another) Best Live Act at the Brits


Book of Revelations


Matt: "The last book I read was called Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control. I learned how to brainwash people, which is quite useful if you want to use it, but you have to use quite extreme methods. It starts with 'milieu control', where you control the person's outside influences, and ends with using physical punishment. It's pretty dark..."

Thought 'Muscle Museum' was some hare-brained conspiracy fantasy about the harvesting of flesh by government forces? It isn't. Those are simply the words found either side of 'Muse' in most dictionaries.

Last autumn's American tour with The Like saw Muse come up with a novel way of spending downtime; hiring a bouncy castle out in the desert near Vegas. The Like's bassist Charlotte Froom remembers: "So we're all on this bouncy castle, all dressed up as aliens. We bought streamers and silly string, and we were, like, 'Let's make it new rave!' It was really fun. Then we all started a séance in the bouncy castle..."

Muse named their guitar techno breakthrough album 'Stockholm Syndrome' after the psychological response in a hostage situation where the captive falls in love with their captor. The term was coined by psychologist Nils Bejerot in 1973.

When the power failed at one of the first shows for 'Absolution' in Paris back in 2003, the band stripped their dressing room of booze and passed it out into the agitated crowd. "It was to stop them all from shouting, 'Play acoustic!'" shudders Matt.

'Knights Of Cydonia' is named after the Cydonia Mensae region of Mars, in the planet's northern hemisphere. Certain planetologists believe it was once a coastal zone, implying there was water there - and also, possibly, life.

"At Wembley, I wanted to put a giant Tesla Coil - one of those things that shoots up lightning - in the middle of the crowd with a fence around it," says Matt. "I wanted to simulate electricity going off and us appearing in a puff of smoke. But we weren't allowed to do that. We weren't allowed to fly in on blimps either, in case they exploded."

"I don't know what sort of music you'd call it," reveals Bellamy of the fluoro fiends,"but they're doing that extreme sampling stuff. Some of that stuff's really interesting. I really liked it."


Supermassive Support Bill

Drummer Dom Howard on the other bands joining Muse at Wembley

Rodrigo y Gabriela
Dom: "I came across some YouTube footage of them playing some Spanish festival with 6,000 people in the tent dancing around to two people on some nylon string guitars. Amazing! They cover other people's songs as well, but in that style. I just love that kind of music - that flamenco guitar style has definitely been an influence on our music. We used to play a lot of flamenco style, especially on the first album. It'll be a nice daytime thing to listen to."

We Are Scientists
"We met them in New York. I really like them as well - a great three-piece band. They're incredibly funny guys, but people shouldn't forget that they're also a great band with great songs too. And we can all look forward to some gags after the show!"

The Streets
"We've done many, many gigs with The Streets over the years and we spent a lot of time with those guys this year at Big Day Out in Australia. I was watching from the side stage at Reading last year and I just thought it was amazing. It's such a fun ride when they play live, what with all the crowd interaction and everything that's going on."

Biffy Clyro
"I've always liked them; I've always liked great three-pieces. Apparently their album is full of pop songs, but that new single they have with all the strings is incredible - having that kind of string arrangement with that kind of rock song doesn't feel that typical. They're pushing into new areas. And the drummer sings! They've taken their time like we did but it seems like now they're really stepping up."

My Chemical Romance
"They're taking a style of music which you probably think they are and taking into a reallly expressive, epic, place. It really sounds very Queen and I love that. We have a bit of Queen in what we do too, so hearing that has made me appreciate their music a whole lot more. Their live show is amazing - they put a lot of energy and soul into their performance.


Matt: "I don't even know if we're going to do another album. What I mean by that is we might do something different. When we come off tour in November, I don't think it'll be long before we start releasing material. I don't think we'll release an album for a long time, but we'll release some stuff either online or in some unusual fashion.
"There are constraints with an album and single - there's a few things I'd like to do which don't fit into that. There's a few little things - there's one borderline classical and rock music thing I'm working on, but I think I'll find a very tasteful way to pull it off - maybe with an orchestra. I really don't want to find a balance that doesn't sound laughable... I'm sure we will end up doing another album!"
"Wembley is the biggest show we've ever done but at the same time I like the minimalness of it. I like not going over the top with the stages stuff, because in the future we will do that and get other musicians. But this summer, I like that romance of the minimal three guys on the massive stage."


"It's like a giant Lego set," explains the band's production manager Chris Vaughan who is charged with taking Muse's ideas and assembling it inside a soccer stadium in time. "We went to a village in Europe and built the stage to check it worked. It must have looked like the Martians had landed!"
Like the band, the stage set for Wembley will be pushing as many boundaries as possible.
"We're relying a lot on technology," says Vaughan. "We've got a brand new video screen, which the wind can blow through! Everything we do requires being surrounded by 120 tonne cranes and then we add the instruments and equipment and then they come."
With Muse very keen to make their Wembley shows as spectacular as possible - Matt told NME that he'd like to bungey jump off the stadium's new arch but "health and safety" would probably stop him - Vaughan admitted he had his work cut out making their visions a reality, but they've got close.
"You try and deliver the show that the artists wants," he explained. "It's very easy if you allow the artistic process to get compromised by budgets and then you'll get a dull show. Great concerts come out of crazy ideas, it's fun and unique working with artists who come up with ideas and have knowledge of the equipment and logistics. Muse are a real rock band which brings with it its own dynamic."
Vaughan is confident everything will be ready in time then for Saturday.
"It takes us four days. There's a touring crew of 70, 100 local staff, 32 trucks, three cranes and generators. We'll go in on Tuesday morning and spend two days building the stage then another day setting up lighting, pyrotechnics, special effects. Then on Friday we'll do a full run through. Then Saturday is show night," he explained.
"Whenever any band plays a show like this the adrenaline always starts pumping, ideas start flowing. They want to make it extra special."


"These are the tracks we'll listen before Wembley," says Matt

Lord Buckley
The Train
Muse claim this American eccentric from the 1940s invented rap. "He's a preacher-stroke-rapper," confirms Matt. "Like a freestyle poet and he's like an old posh gentlemen."

Gustav Holst
Mars: The Bringer of War
English composer Holst and his classical prog with heavy metal muscles fortells of the oncoming storm. Further proof Muse are exploring new classical directions.

Good Stuff
With Dom's love of Klaxons and The Streets, Muse are now funked-up. Brixton's Clor split up soon after this track came out, but the brain's behind now produce Shitdisco.

The Flaming Lips
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
Wayne Coyne's magic realist wonderland of giant rabbits and evil glove puppets is only a few galaxies away from Matt's own private universe.

Lightning Bolt
Magic Mountain
Darker than hell and louder than war, these Rhode Island rock bass'n'drum fantasists are a reminder for Chris and Dom to keep their game raised.

Shy Child
Generation Y (We Got It)
This New York duo open up Saturday, so Muse won't even need to play the CD on this one ("Get there early to see them," Dom orders).

Death From Above 1979
Blood On Our Hands
Jesse and Sebastian played with so much rage they expired after one album. Keeler than moved on to helm MSTRKRFT.

Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Battle Royale
The slickest, sickest group on the new rave block, DIOYY's cubic squelches are just the thing to whip Dom up to fighting weight

Muse returned to their party boy ways while making 'Black Holes...', tearing round the New York club scene. Perhaps that's why dance rock's best make the list.

Cold War Kids
Hang Me Out To Dry
Every disco-metal party needs a mo to reflect. As Matt gets 'in the zone' to California's chief gloom-spreaders, let's hope he revives 'Unintended' live.

Triumph Of A Heart
Disembowling bass thuds and Japanese beatboxer Nakako conspire to make up the most dancefloor-licious cut from pop's chief pixie's 'Medulla' album.

Man Of Mystery
Yep, this brand new Muse track is fast-becoming a live favourite. A cover of 1960s instrumental group and - whisper it - sometime Cliff Richard baking band, The Shadows, was recorded by the band in double quick time to be included on this CD. Muse had to use a mobile studio on their laptops to mix and complete the track. They worked overnight on their tourbus between European shows to get the instrumental finished and emailed over to us in time. Fortunately they made the deadline, and here it is for you.

Lord Buckley
The Nazz
More facts about Buckley: he would often receive visitors in the nude, he pioneered the use of LSD and dubbed the rest of his family with noble titles.

Go back to NME magazine