Following your Muse - interview

We sit down with the massive UK rock band ahead of F1 headline gig

Interview

What makes The 2nd Law unlike any other Muse album?
Dominic Howard (drums):
I think album is certainly the most diverse bit of work we’ve ever done really. I mean that certainly stems from just all the kind of bizarre and mixed influences we have that come into the band, whether it be orchestral music, classical piano music, to just rock, classic rock. Metal in some cases, electronic music. Funk. I mean kind of bits of everything really. Anything we like we like to absorb all of those influences and bring it into the band.

Chris Wolstenholme (bass): I think with each album we do we don’t always know necessarily what direction it’s going to take, but I think the important thing with the ideas that we have is that we have to try something new. We've never been a band that likes standing in the same place for too long. When we got in the studio I think there was a bunch of maybe 18 or 19 songs, but I think what dictated the 12 or 13 that were going to be on the album was which songs feel like they couldn’t have been on a previous album. We spent a lot of time experimenting with a lot of things, with the music and sounds in particular, and I think that’s why this album has this kind of freshness to it. Every single song kind of has its own character and musically they're all very different, but also sonically they're very different as well. I think we definitely wanted to make an album that sounded fresh and uplifting and I do feel like we've done that with this album.

Matthew Bellamy (guitar and lead vocals): Yeah, I think when the band started it was just the three of us, just a simple three piece; guitar bass and drums. It quickly became apparent that some of the songs we were writing and things required additional instruments. So quite early on we realised that being diverse was going to be important in terms of incorporating other instruments like pianos and synths and electronics. We’ve always been interested in experimenting with those things and also our musical influences are very diverse. I’ve always liked film music, classical music as well, also dance music and R&B so I’ve always been intrigued in trying to find ways of incorporating that into what is essentially a pretty traditional rock band set up. Across the albums I think those styles have become more and more prominent and separate to each other. I think on this album they’ve almost become three separate genres. We kind of have electro-pop, we have classic rock and we also have pretty much orchestral, soundtrack-style music. I think these three things have become quite separate on this album and it’s great because it almost feels like I’m in three different bands. I think the three of us have been very open minded towards music since we started and I think that’s one of the key things that has kept us going and kept it interesting for us.

How has your previous success affected this album?
Dominic Howard:
I mean The Resistance doing so well, that’s amazing… blew our minds. We got to play big gigs in countries that we’ve never played before, we played some of the biggest gigs of our lives on that tour and the whole thing was amazing. But I don’t think we feel too much pressure to live up to our past. I mean, it’s always been very important for us to close the book on that chapter, close the book on that album I suppose, have a little break and completely start a new one. I don’t know, I mean when we go in the studio it’s simple but we’re just making the music that we like.

Chris Wolstenholme: I don’t think you really feel that kind of pressure because you make music that you want to make and that’s the way this band has always been.

Matthew Bellamy:
I think we’ve all had to be very open minded to deal with the success we’ve had and also the different types of music we’ve got into, and the all the things we’ve had to do from what it is being in a rock band. I think we keep each other in check basically because we all remember each other when we were, before we were – well we’re definitely not cool now, but trust me when I say we were a lot less cool when we were in school – so we all remember each other back then.

What is The 2nd Law?
Matthew Bellamy:
The album is called The 2nd Law and I think when we were making it, every time I was watching the news I kept seeing stuff about the banking crisis, the economic crisis, and there seemed to be this paradigm of obsession with growth. The financial news always seems to be obsessed with growth and I kind of wanted to have a deeper understanding of what's behind that. I started looking into a bit and it kind of got me into things that I read in the late ’90s about peak oil, and energy dependency, and how economic crashes and collapses and growth, and all that stuff is really very much related to energy and energy production and so I started reading about energy and obviously the laws of thermodynamics and the 2nd law is talking about energy and how energy works. The 2nd law of thermodynamics tells us that energy basically is decreasing. Unfortunately it seems to be decreasing everywhere. You know the universe is spreading out, cooling down. The energy in our bodies and the earth and the sun and the stars and so on seems to be gradually cooling down. So I feel like I became interested more, I suppose, with philosophically what this means, because evolution and humans seem to be going directly against this 2nd law; we seem to be growing and evolving and wanting to grow and move forward and it seems like this is the battle that we have. We have it in our personal lives. We have it in the economy, and I think that it became a sort of philosophical thing and a metaphorical thing that I started to spread out throughout the album.

What did you learn making The 2nd Law?
Chris Wolstenholme:
I think with each album you learn a lot, you venture into new areas and things that we’ve learnt now aren’t necessarily things that we’re going to use in the future. I think for us music is always an education. There’s so much music out there, there's so much from the past to draw on, and to listen to, and every time you listen to music, whether it’s something that you like or you don’t like, you will always learn something. That’s what music is. No one ever peaks when they make music, you can always get better whether it’s playing your instrument or singing or writing or producing. There's always improvement to be made and I think that’s what we enjoy about making music; that you will never ever quite feel like you’ve reached the top. You always feel like you could do something better. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks, and I think that that’s the beauty of making music, because sometimes when you do reach the top of something it’s very difficult because you're kind of like ‘well that’s it. Where do I go from here?’ There is no more up you know. I don’t think you ever feel like that when you make music.

Dominic Howard: I think you always learn so much when you make an album. You learn a lot about each other, a lot about how each other plays. You just learn a lot about music and all sorts of things. I think you know we’ve learned that we’re kind of still not afraid to be open and try new things. I think that’s always been one of the main like driving forces of the band in some ways, when we approach an album you really try and find new ideas and not get too comfortable. Trying, pushing each other out of our comfort zones is something we always attempt to do in the studio which is great because that’s how you find new ideas really. I guess we felt pretty chuffed also that we were able to produce another album by ourselves, so I think that confidence in the production kind of role as well was something that we learnt more about, and certainly realised that we could do it pretty well, I hope. It sounds like it to me anyway, so I think the great thing about music is you never stop learning. There's always so much more to discover and learn so looking forward to that process.

Matthew Bellamy: The process of making this album has been a lot of… we’ve learned quite a lot doing it I think. As producers I think we’ve really learnt so much. I mean I’ve learnt how to write for a brass section and for a choir as well. That’s been the first time I’ve ever done that and that was really great, learning how these different instrumentalists, the different kind of ranges they have, the different dynamics they have and working with them on what they want to be able to offer as well. I think that was a really big learning process. Also just having, as I say, the open mindedness I think we’ve always had has just proven to be really great on this album. We’ve managed to create for ourselves some almost completely different genres to what we've done before, and in the case of Chris doing his songs it’s been great to have him coming forward as a songwriter for the band and also wanting to be singing as well, so that’s great for me because I can just sit and concentrate on the guitar for a bit, and you know, take a take a back seat for a bit. So it’s been lots of new things that have happened and lots of great learning processes.

Why has Muse been so successful?
Matthew Bellamy:
All I can say is that all three of us are just so open-minded. I think that’s the one. The most important factor, I think, that’s really kept us together and kept us, kept the music exciting for us, and I think that I turned up on the last album Resistance with a kind of symphonic piece, a three part kind of classical piece, and I was like ‘hey let’s do this’ and they were like ‘Cool, yeah, great man, let’s go for it’. I don’t think it’s like that in every band really, and I feel very lucky. I’m sure the guys feel the same. We’re all just very lucky to be in a band with open minded people who are not really afraid to try anything.

Muse perform at the Abu Dhabi F1 on Saturday November 2. For tickets see www.yasmarinacircuit.com.

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