CD now - interview (1999)

For Muse There's No Business Like Show Business

Hailing from the seaside town of Teignmouth, British trio Muse delivers emotionally riveting, inescapably moody dreamscapes with the majestic grandeur of artists twice its age on the imploding debut, Showbiz.

Barely 20 years old, vocalist-guitarist Matthew Bellamy, bassist-vocalist Chris Wolstenholme, and drummer Dominic Howard manage to pull off first-rate dramatic rock orchestrations that compare favorably with the much heralded Radiohead (whose producer, John Leckie, lent Muse a guiding hand).

Able to go from stormy to sunny within the context of a song, Muse has conquered America with the nearly operatic "Muscle Museum." Bellamy's soulful outpourings depict haunted woefulness, vulnerable sadness, and schizoid terror, as his yearning, beautifully forlorn falsetto grapples with demons. He's quiet and reflective on the acoustic ballad "Unintended"; ornery and unsettled on the Scotch-twisted, grunge-wreaked "Sober"; and seething and intense on the cataclysmic mantra "Cave."

"Some of the songs on Showbiz have changed shape over the course of the five years we've been playing them," Bellamy suggests. "You could translate songs differently, in a loud and heavy way, or a mellow and quiet way, and still make it sound good. On songs like 'Falling Down' and 'Unintended,' the words came first. But usually the music is first, then the melody. Then it's getting the lyrics to fit around the music." But if Muse's songs seem harrowing and bleak, it's probably not due to suffering through any great heartache or pain. "It's all about power and hitting people with large walls of sound." -- Bellamy

"It's not all about relationships with people. It's sometimes about growing up with all this technology and everything around us. I think you could learn to do things the wrong way. The problem becomes communicating with people," Wolstenholme explains. "Then again, on the other hand, the Internet and e-mail have made that easier. It's a smaller world. Our songs could seem negative from the outside, but it's uplifting for me. It's about sharing experiences." Though inspired as a teen by South American composer Villa-Lobos' passionate orchestral arrangements, as well as Spanish guitar master Andres Segovia and Baroque music, Bellamy admits Romantic composers like Chopin and Rachmaninoff may be closest to his heart. "Berlioz made music so heavy and loud that, in a sense, nowadays you could achieve that volume with only three musicians," says Bellamy. "It's all about power and hitting people with large walls of sound."

John Fortunato

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