by James Hurley, MSN Entertainment Editor

Interview: Muse

Drummer Dominic Howard is mercifully free of rock star ego during the MSN Muse Interview.
Muse Drummer Dominic Howard
I know this before I even ask a question because I call him Chris when he answers the phone (thinking that's who I would be speaking to) and he doesn't seem to mind.

With apology made and bass playing questions quickly discarded, we get down to the serious business of talking about Muse's forthcoming new album, the stunning 'Black Holes and Revelations'.

Muse New Album Pose
The single 'Supermassive Black Hole' is quite a big departure stylistically. Does it represent a change of direction for you?
It is a one-off in some ways. I think once we started honing in on the songs we were feeling the most for in the studio (because originally we had about 20 and were thinking about doing a double album), we realised there's a similar depth to all of them but at the same time they had their own character.

I think we emphasised that with how we recorded each song and how we approached each song with different influences and recording techniques, so it was quite hard to pick a single in lots of ways because every song isn't that representative of the album as a whole.

So 'Supermassive Black Hole' is kind of a one-off in some ways because there's loads of different sides to the album and that's just one of them. But it is quite a radical departure for our band. We thought we'd release it first because it felt like very new musical ground for us to be covering.

It took on much more of an electronic approach to music which we hadn't experimented with too much in the past. That's its own thing, you know. I think that applies to all the songs on the album. Every song has its own character and is very unique in itself.

The lyrical subject matter (conspiracy theories, aliens, corrupt politicians and so on) is a continuation from the last two albums. Are they topics that interest all of you or is it more (frontman) Matt's thing?
Matt writes the lyrics but everything that is written about on the album, those kinds of things outside of the more personal songs about love, these are all things we were talking about and discussing throughout the whole recording process. It's interesting to see all these different themes that we were talking about around dinner tables appearing on the album. Often lyrics are written last. But over the course of the six months or the year before making the album, these were all things that we were certainly interested in and talking about. This is why they came out through the music.

Do you consider Muse to be a political band?
We've never been an overtly political band, that's not something we've ever really covered or ever felt the need to. I think the themes in this album are themes that have encompassed everyone's lives, things that have happened around the world in the last few years, many of which a lot of people seem to be disagreeing with. These kind of things are very hard to get away from. You know, you only have to switch on the news to start doubting the future of the Earth. So these things are naturally a part of most people's lives and certainly ours, which is why they came out in the music. But we've never been specifically a political band and that's the difference really.
Full Muse Band Shot
'Soldier's Song' is also quite unlike anything you've done before. Can you talk a bit about recording that song?
The chords for that song were quite old. Originally we were trying to do it in a massive, epic way but then we took a completely different approach and stripped the whole thing down. We just wanted to go for a very organic approach and try to get a really claustrophobic performance. It was a really amazing point in the album for me because when we played it, we got all these old vintage jazz instruments in, sat around in a tiny room with a couple of mikes and recorded it.

When we listened back it just sounded so huge and spacious and big, it was amazing for us in the studio. That was a real high point, a real highlight. And when the vocals starting going down, it sort of developed and grew into a huge kind of barbershop influenced piece. Again, it was kind of strange but it lent itself so well to the small, spacious performance that we recorded. And they're definitely some of the most amazing vocals I've ever heard Matt do.

Do you have a favourite song from the new album?
That ('Soldier's Song') is definitely one of my favourites. 'Knights of Cydonia' is a pretty big favourite right now, with all of us, because it shows a lot of great things about Muse in one song.

You have enjoyed toying with your fans via cryptic messages in your setlists and on your website. Is that set to continue?
I'm not sure whether it's going to continue. Maybe. It's just the nature of our fans that it grew into its own thing. We were playing a few new songs at the time and the fans always grabbed the setlists at the end of the show. We had very loose working titles for the songs. One was called 'Des' and it was a reference to Des tuning up a certain guitar for that particular song. But people started reading things into these weird working titles in such a deep way that we started playing games with it, I suppose. That developed into changing all the working titles for the new songs on a frequent basis. We started putting up anagrams of the titles and then the fans deciphered them online and it just turned into a big kind of treasure hunt. It was fun at the time but whether or not we'll keep doing it, I'm not sure


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