Rock Sound 2003-10 – War all the time

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An article and interview focusing on the release of Absolution, in the October 2003 issue of Rock Sound.


Time Is Running Out


With tales of governmental conspiracy and impending doom, the apocalypse cometh, according to Muse.
rock sound takes cover. WORDS: Ronnie Kerswell / PHOTOS: Nigel Crane

"Just imagine an innocent person being killed for something they didn't do! It's outrageous and the risk of that happening is enough for me to figure the death penalty isn't right." Pensive Muse frontman Matt Bellamy forwards his case against capital punishment. "Man judging man is a difficult area. Some people think one in every 100 people executed are innocent, you can never be 100 per cent sure with any crime - if there's that 0.01% of doubt, you can't go killing people, George Bush 'killed' about 300 people - he's the person who signed the form, he didn't have to sign it."
The fact that people are still being put to death for crimes they may or may not have committed in certain states is enough to raise the singer/guitarist's temperature a little and there's a burning question he'd like to put to the US President: "You were the Governor of Texas, during that period you had the maximum amount of executions, more than any other governor in the history of America. Do you think, within the Christian realm, that God would accept that? Do you think you're going to go to Heaven?" How does a man like that get to run a whole country? "Because he's a good puppet and he says yes to what everyone tells him to do; that's what everyone loves, all the big people who own all the companies - they all like that; they know they can control him."
Welcome to the world of Matt Bellamy who, despite living on this earth a mere quarter of a century, already has an armful of experiences to last a lifetime. His mind buzzes with sophisticated scientific explanations and he's fascinated with theories of evolution and conspiracy. Right now, with world events peppering the lyrics to their latest offering 'Absolution', Matt's mistrust of world leaders or "puppets" is apparent.
"There's definitely a different agenda going on, it's all fucked isn't it?" he asserts. "There's a group called the Trilateral Commission, set up in the 60s or 70s - basically the highest, most powerful people in Europe, USA and East Asia, those who own all the energy resources, media and the spin doctors for the presidents. None of these people are actually politicians and they decide everything, in my mind there's no question that that's who is ruling the world. Look at George Bush, he just sits there going, 'What am I going to do?' and there's instantly 20 people around him saying, 'This is what you do,' and they tell him what to say, what to do, everything.
"None of those people were elected in a democratic situation and it's the same group of people working for whichever president comes in. We vote for their puppet, the government is unchangeable because they're the people who own pharmaceutical companies, media and oil. They're so much more powerful than any politician that you can imagine, and politicians have to answer to them before they do anything - they wouldn't have been allowed into their position unless they've been through that Masonic handshakes behind the scenes thing. Unless you're in the pocket of the media people you can't even get any coverage if you want to run for any position in the government, so I've got no doubt that that's the case.
It's clear that bandmates Dom Howard (drums) and Chris Wolstenholme (bass) agree, as they gravely nod their heads while we talk in the sunny courtyard of a North London cafe, "That's why Arnold Schwarzenegger is now running for governor of California," says the drummer.
"Ronald Reagan was the first actor president and that gave the whole game away, to be honest," continues Matt. "The UK is slightly better because the debates in the Commons mean the Prime Minister has to be able to answer fast fire questions. Bush never has to answer questions from anyone because his press conference questions are pre-organised and if anyone says anything different, they'll never be allowed in the pressroom again. I might be dead in 50 years so I might as well enjoy the short time that I'm here," he shrugs, "but people should at least make an effort to vote, get involved where they can, but I'm not going to sit here and start preaching." One glimpse at the sinister video for latest single " Time Is Running Out", depicting dimly lit "war cabinet" members shuffling their papers and clicking their pens in unison, to determine the events of the last 12 months, are at the forefront of the trio's minds. Indeed with war a not-too-distant memory and the depletion of the Earth's resources a continuing problem, the advent of apocalypse is certainly a concept that Muse believe is inevitable. "On the lesser level there's war and politics but that's always been going on and always will go on," maintains the singer. "on the largest point of view, we're going to disappear, we'll get eaten up by the sun and go supernova, that's got to happen. There are already changes in the climate. I can't say there's no way it's not going to happen in the next 50 years, it's inevitable in the next 500, million years. Something is going to happen. What do we do in the meantime? Do we sit here and take it, thinking, 'Fuck it, it's all over' or do we go, 'Let's exploit all the natural resources this planet has in order to escape from it', I suppose that's what's happening, it's probably causing the world to end quicker, rather than naturally."


You might be forgiven for thinking that life has taken a darker hue in the Muse camp. In truth life couldn't be more blissful, and on the eve of releasing their studio album after taking a year's sabbatical from their gruelling live schedule, you could say the boys are feeling good. "It felt like one big thing, from when we first went on tour at the start of the first album until the last gig at the end of the 'Origin Of Symmetry'," Matt explains. "We didn't have the chance to rest, any time off in between albums or time to even think about what we were doing. I remember doing sessions for 'Origin...' and going straight on the next tour. After Reading 02, it felt the way it was in the beginning when we were just having rehearsals, we had no pressure and we decided that we weren't going to record anything until we had the stuff."
Aside from recording the new album, the trio have been using the break to make the most of their personal lives. Chris, in particular, has been enjoying family life in Teignmouth with his girlfriend, four year old Alfie and 21 month old Ava, and with a third arrival imminent (that's one 'released' for every album), he's certainly been making the most of it! "There are times when I really miss the kids and my girlfriend, but I couldn't really see myself in a nine to five job," he smiles. "People who do those jobs get up in the morning and go to work, when they get home, the kids have gone to bed and they don't see them at all. When I go home, it's pure quality time; it's like going on holiday. I probably spend more good time with the kids than most fathers."
Dom's been making the most of his free time too and it seems that the so-called lady-killer has finally got serious. "I've got a girlfriend now," he states. In fact he's just stepped off a six hour flight from New York where his girlfriend of four months lives. He's also concerned that the passionate clinch mentioned in certain music magazines has led people to get the wrong impression. "If that keeps on getting talked about I might get a bit annoyed. I was single for a while anyway and you get those kind of questions when you're touring. I kind of got a couple of eyes thrown in my direction." So is he in love at the moment? "I think so," he replies much to the amusement of Matt, who's shrieking with laughter at the fact that it's someone else's turn to "get deep" in an interview, "Love is something that makes you smile whenever they are there," says Dom squirming. "It makes you happy and gives you the feeling of contentment."
"It's about giving without wanting to get anything back; that's the most basic way of explaining it, when you get pleasure from giving yourself and your time to another person, expressing things and expressing another side to you that no one else knows. It's when you can talk about anything, like your worst fears - you can be truly open in a way that you can't be with anyone else." It would seem that since we last spoke to the chaps, Matt has also 'got serious' with his Italian girlfriend of two years. Does that mean there'll be a rock 'n' roll wedding on the horizon then? I don't know..." he says coyly, "I don't know if there's a God to marry under."


The singer's religious beliefs are a continuing inner debate played out throughout the band's discography, and most recently, "Apocalypse Please" from the latest opus, which deals with "the relationship between you and your religious fanaticism". The source of much scientific and spiritual questioning, Matt is currently non-religious, but all that could change. "I don't really know what I believe, my belief changes every five minutes, that's the problem," he concedes. "The reason why it all comes out in the music is that music is the place where I think about all that stuff. I keep thinking about it because I can't settle on anything. It does worry me. I don't know what I'm going to do when I die, you've got to think of something, you've got to go somewhere. If you can't do that, you just panic. Making music is some kind of placement for that areal it's the only thing thatmakes me feel something beyond what is there."
"I feel the same," admits the drummer. "None of us are really religious people and I think, if anything, it's more of a confusion thing and not really knowing what to believe in. It's all about feeling comfortable if you have to face death, feeling like you are going onto somewhere else. I don't have any strong beliefs in any religious way."
"I think no one feels they have to believe until they're faced with something of a hard nature, if life's okay then they don't need to believe," adds Matt. "If you were faced with something like cancer then it would be a whole different ball game."
Having said that, Matt does have a plausible scientific explanation of origin that's more Von Daniken (author of Chariots Of The Gods), than Darwin. "I think that our DNA was mixed with a species from outer space and apes, we're a mixture of the two," he nods. "That's probably the reason why we have all these animal instincts and more advanced thought, and the conflict between the two. The comet that visits us every few thousand years has beings on it. When it comes near, they come to earth to experiment. They're like our god and I find that the most believable form of god; some other being who made us for the sake of mining some mineral that they need. Believe is a strong word; I think it's the most probably explanation for why we're here, I can't really believe things."
"The whole God and religion thing is pretty irrelevant these days," agrees Chris. "The basic Bible and all the things it stands for is irrelevant, and a more scientific point of view definitely seems more probably and more likely be something you can actually believe in. It's more real, the Bible seems to be something you're read as fantasy, it doesn't mean anything.
"Back then, people were going to the limits of their thinking, using words of their time. Those words don't relate to modern language, that's the problem. When people use words like 'heavens', nowadays, you'd use the word 'space'. I think the ideas behind the Bible are probably quite interesting and people that believe the Bible all live their lives in different ways; some of them like George Bush start wars and other people sacrifice everything they've got to go and help the third world. Within the Christian faith, a wide variety of people use the word 'religious' to justify what they are doing; it can be used for both ends, pure evil and pure good. Either way, anything that is written by a man... he's just a man, isn't he?"


Now the ripe old age of 25, Muse have changed from boys to men under the glare of the media spotlight. Despite attending the same school, sharing a band for nine years and travelling the world together, the trio felt as though they were getting to know one another over again as they worked on their latest album.
"We were forced through change so much and you kind of just go with it all, when you're on tour everyone becomes a slightly different person - not necessarily in a bad way; you're in 'travel mode'," illustrates Matt. "In some ways it's a laugh to be travelling the world with your mates, but you only know a person truly when you spend time outside that lifestyle. This is the only time we've done that since the beginning. It ws more laidback, like starting a new band again."
With 'Absolution posed to take them up the next rung on the showbiz ladder, are these unassuming Devonshire lads feeling the pressure?
"We've got a lot of hype to live up to," nods Dom.
"In terms of success, we judge it by how we feel about the music," explains the singer. "We feel we've done a better job than the other records. The main thing is to feel like you're going somewhere with the music and if everyone slags it off and it sells no copies we'll start playing the Barfly again. Anyway, we're not that famous," he laughs. "We've got a healthy separation. When I go home, I don't get recognised that much walking around town. We haven't got that fame level, that celebrity weirdness when people start wanting to know about your actual personal life. Obviously talking about it in the space of an hour, you are only going to cover 0.0143 per cent of my personal life and I have no problem talking about stuff, but you don't talk about your can of worms, do you?"
Although conquering Europe and Japan has boosted Muse's profile, breaking America is the next step, and with the threesome disappointed by wrangles with Maverick and the lack of label support for US tours, they've certainly found the industry a whole new can of worms.
"We felt like we could have built up a fanbase had we played some gigs," stresses the singer. "That's what's weird about it, we're known over there but not in a big way; we're known by people in the industry and in bands."
"Michael Stipe said we were the future of rock," adds Dom, grinning, but you can bet the boys weren't smiling when they found out the hard way that "kissing the arse of every radio station" Spinal Tap style, is the way to get ahead, Stateside.
"That's what it's like over there and it was a big surprise," recalls Matt. "We did that when we first signed to Maverick, our management at the time didn't tell us because they knew what we'd say. We thought we were going to play an acoustic session at the radio station so we went there with our guitars. They had all this food laid out and the people from the radio station didn't say anything to us, they were just eating all the food. We were going, 'Where are we going to play?' and they were saying, 'Ah, you're not playing', then some guy from the radio station came over to say thanks for buying the pizzas. Maverick had rigged it up as if we had gone in there and bought everyone pizzas! The problem is the industry is so tightly controlled and you can't get in there unless you play the game; they need you to bow down and if you do that, then they'll let you in."


Muse aren't about to bow down. Despite dealings with their former label, they're unperturbed and currently in the process of sorting out a new deal. "We're just trying to find a company that cares more about touring as opposed to all that," maintains Matt. "We want to build it up in a genuine way. It would be nice to have a big radio hit but I'd rather have a much smaller record deal and have people who actually like the band, not just that particular album, come out and see you play. That's more important."
And as a measure of their popularity on home turf, Muse are modest about the coveted Glastonbury, Reading or Leeds (delete where appropriate) Festival headline spot. "We'll definitely be playing some festivals in the UK next year," says the singer, "we'll have to wait to see what happens."

The album 'Absolution' is out on September 22 on Taste Media/A&E Records. Catch the trio live in October; check gig guide for details.

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