The Muse story is relatively short. They formed in Devon, England in 1997, although the three members had been banging it out in bands together since they were 13.
Often compared to Radiohead, Muse evolved away from that sound by introducing a heavier sound on their latest album ‘Absolution’.
While they were in Australia for the Big Day Out, Muse’s Dominic Howard spoke with Tim Cashmere.
Tim Cashmere: You’ve been together for ten years now, what kind of things have you learnt as a band?
Dominic Howard: All sorts of things, we started when we were very young. We started when we were sixteen, but when we first actually started recording albums and touring we were very young. It makes you much more aware of your surroundings I think. It opens up your mind and your eyes and it makes you become more aware of the world and what’s going on around you, you’re more perceptive or something you know? I think we’ve just grown up over the years and learnt loads about who are as people and how we played our instruments and it’s definitely kind of a growing up process, but it’s all about commitment. You know, believing in something you do a lot and kind of fulfilling that and fulfilling the things you really want to do!
TC: I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to stick with it considering you headline 18,000 seater venues in the U.K
DH: Yeah we’ve just done a massive tour around Europe. It was bizarre because we didn’t think we’d actually be able to pull it off you know? But I think we did just about and we had some amazing gigs. Playing to that amount of people is more of an overwhelming experience. It was the best tour we’ve ever done! We tried to have an elaborate stage show with various backdrops and we had moving video screens and confetti bursts and that kind of thing.
TC: …but not at the Big Day Out.
DH: No, we can only really do that at our own gigs. We also had a really big visual content to the show, which was something we hadn’t really done before and we spent a lot of time working on that and the whole thing looked good as well, but we needed to do that just to attract the attention to the three of us on stage.
TC: …and also when you’re that guy who always gets the furthest possible seat from the stage…
DH: Yeah you need to see something.
TC: Over the years you’ve become heavier and heavier as you’ve gone on…
DH: Yeah I think we have.
TC: When you were starting, did you really intend on being a heavy band?
DH: I think we’ve always had that heavy side, but I don’t think the first album really captured it. The kind of songs we were playing didn’t really capture that heavy side of the band, but we’ve always had riffs. We’d play in the set a little jam or something like that, but we’ve always had that side, it’s just that the first album didn’t really capture it. Then from that people used to say how heavy we were live compared to our albums and how it’s much more of a rock gig. I think gradually over three albums we’ve captured more of that live heavy side on the album and I think this time on ‘Absolution’ sonically it sounds much fatter and we’ve definitely got a closer sound to what we’re like live.
TC: On ‘Absolution’ you have the track ‘Falling Away With You’, which at least part of it is quite a contrast to everything we just said in the last minute or so. As it opens it almost sounds a little Simon and Garfunklish!
DH: Yeah it is a bit like that isn’t it? We questioned that a few times, but we just went with it. We’ve always had the softer more sensitive side I guess musically and we’ve never really been afraid of trying out all those ideas really and try different styles and feels and we always want to try and do different things, but I was really shocked when we started doing demos with the album, because we’ve never done demos before, I remember listening to the demos thinking the whole album sounds really diverse, every song is so drastically different to the last one. It’s a different style of music and everything was different about it dynamically, so I think we’re kind of shocked about what we’ve come up with, but it was nice because once we came to the end of the recording process we actually started to sound like an album. All the songs are quite different, but it still fits together really well and sounds like an album.
TC: How long does an album like ‘Absolution’ take to make?
DH: We did a couple of months I think of demoing and the recording took about six or seven weeks or something like that and a couple of weeks for a mix. I think it’s probably four months, three or four months or something, which is a bit different to the first albums. They took like two months each, but we’ve always been under time constraints and this time we had much more freedom to do what we wanted to do. We made sure we had the time to try things out rather than feeling like we were rushing anything.
TC: You’re nominated for the Brit Awards this year, which is my favourite awards ceremony out of anything because there is always shenanigans.
DH: I’ve never been there. I’ve seen it on TV with my family, not for a while, but we used to watch it. It’s a real pop, glitzy, glamorous type of awards; it’s like the biggest awards in the U.K.
TC: Is your mum going to be watching?
DH: I’m sure she will. I think she’s actually quite desperate to come along as well, because we’re playing there. I think she’s trying to subtly blag tickets off me. It should be weird, I don’t really know too much, I haven’t really looked into our awards in terms of how it’s been voted for, but I’ve heard that fans can actually go in and vote for an award, but at the same time a lot of it is really industry lead and it’s a panel that has the final decision.
TC: So would you prefer an industry voted award or the public to vote?
DH: Public yeah. We’ve been to the NME awards and the Kerrang awards and we’ve won a few of those and it’s nice to win them, but since it’s readers of the public it really makes it feel like it’s worthwhile rather than the MD of some record company deciding what they think is good, but it’s the biggest thing so it should be fun.
TC: Do you have any shenanigans? Like when Macy Gray gave her drunken acceptance speech… and Robbie Williams challenged Liam Gallagher to a fight?
DH: Oh right, um… well I don’t know yet we’ll have to see. I don’t actually know who’s turning up, we’ll have to see if we can get any rivalry going! I think you need a few drinks before you try and bash together a speech at those kind of places.
TC: Do you pre-write a speech?
DH: No. It’s totally loose, you have to say whatever comes to mind.
TC: I’m waiting for someone to make an acceptance speech that says “God, my friends, my family… all had nothing to do with making this album, so I’d like to thank ourselves.”
DH: Oh right? It probably will happen! Maybe we’ll do it, it’s sarcastic, but funny.
TC: Tell us about your website www.muse.mu. It looks very cool.
DH: Yeah we spent a bit of time on it before the album came out, because our last website was shit and we wanted a better online presence on this album. We wanted to keep it updated all the time. We launched it at the time with [what was] a brand new track ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ as a download, which is the cool thing to do really. You paid 99 pence to download it and we had the artwork and the video as well, so it’s something that we really spent a lot of effort and it came out well. We have a friend called Tom who comes out with us and he works within our management office as well and he takes pictures of us and documents lots of stuff and keeps it updated. I want to do more, we’re going to do a broadcast soon of the gig we played at Wembley Arena in London. We were going to come in at certain times and check it out, which would be good. We just want to do more webcasts to keep it really live. If you take a good high speed connection and just take it to the gig, it’s just on there. We want to do all those kind of things, and we will one day!
TC: That’s a pretty good idea!
DH: Yeah, we should get on it!
TC: Do you read your fan posts?
DH: On the message board? Yeah yeah, we keep on it every now and again to see what’s going on. It’s funny to read what they’re all talking about in there. There’s different sections of it, because there’s the random issues page, which is them just arguing with each other and then yeah, it’s interesting to see what they’re saying.
TC: Do you ever jump in on the arguments?
DH: I haven’t done once or twice before.
TC: Do you find that people don’t believe that it’s you when you post?
DH: Yeah often. Someone will say “No that’s not him” and then someone else will say “Yes it is!” then that will just develop into its own little thread with its own argument that will just continue on.
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