Alternative Press 2006-12 – Musician of the Month

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This Month:Christopher Wolstenholme of Muse Takes us Back Through his Musical Roots.

You make your living on bass, but you actually started playing music on guitar and drums. How'd this happen?
I started playing the guitar when I was 11. The band I was in before this one was one of those bands where [members] came and left all the time, and somehow I found myself on the drums - which I actually really enjoyed a lot more than playing guitar. Matt [Bellamy, vocals/guitar/piano] and Dom [Howard, drums] were in another band and two of their members left. I knew I could play guitar, but I'd never picked up a bass in my life. I actually wasn't sure if it was going to work out.

Have you had any formal training or are you self-taught?
All of us are completely self-taught. I might have had three or four guitar lessons when I started high school. But the woman that was teaching them -she was a lovely woman- wasn't much of a guitarist herself. So, by the time we'd had three or four lessons, everyone in the class was already better than her. I wouldn't really call it training, though. We played songs like "London Bridge Is Falling Down."

You used to play predominantly without a pick, but on Black Holes And Revelations you sometimes use one. What's different about playing with one?
I think it's natural for people to use a pick when they first pick up the bass. Then, after you find your way around and you know what you're doing, it's easier to go without one. I tried to used both [styles] on this album, because I think it creates a lot of different sounds. When you play really hard, you get this percussive kind of "clank" that I really needed on "Knights Of Cydonia" and "Invincible". I'll occasionally still use a pick, but I generally prefer fingers because I feel it's more powerful and generally a lot more dynamic. You've got four fingers as opposed to only one pick, so there are definitely advantages to that.

Are your warm-ups today any different than they were five or 10 years ago?
I might have a little play before I go on, but generally I don't do too much of that. Usually, the way the set is structured, the first few songs act as a warm-up, anyway. I remember one particular time that I tried to do a warm-up and by the time I got onstage my fingers were bleeding and I was already knackered.

What's the most embarrassing mistake you've ever made onstage?
I don't know that I'd call it a mistake, but this happened quite recently. I usually have my bass quite low and there's one song where I [play] high on the fretboard, so the bass has to be higher up. What I usually do is put my leg on the drum riser and put the bass on my leg. But I had these new trousers on, and it was the first time I'd worn them onstage and as soon as I put my leg up, I realized the trousers were too small and I put a huge fucking tear right across the arse. That was in front of about 1,400 people. [Laughs.] So, don't wear tight pants when you're playing the bass.


Chris Wolstenholme's Top 5 albums to play along to:

1.The Beach Boys-Pet Sounds


3.Primus-Sailing the Seas of Cheese

4.Red Hot Chili Peppers-Blood Sugar Sex Magik

5.Rage Against the Machine-Rage Against the Machine


Chris Wolstenholme's advice for beginning musicians

"Play as many types of music as possible, so that you don't find yourself in a situation where you can only play one type of song. I'm a bass player now, but I still play the guitar at home a lot, and the drums a lot as well. Don't limit yourself to one kind of music or even one instrument. It's nice to lift as many restrictions as possible."

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