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  1. This was in The Times newspaper, and to read it online I had to register with their website, so I thought I would copy it over here- Meet Muse – the world’s unlikeliest rock stars How three geeky lads from Devon took on the pop world - and won Lounging by the pool of a Sunset Strip hotel is a milksop, skinny-malink Brit tourist in bad shorts. His rodenty face sniffs the Los Angeles air, pondering food. It’s lunchtime, and he’s not long up. His spriggy hair, styled by hangover and pillow, wafts in the breeze. A fashion-backwards T-shirt hangs off his meagre shoulders. 5ft 7in in his terry-towelling socks and invisible if he turns sideways, this pasty Englishman won’t be going near the water lest one of the sunbathing LA hunks sits on him. Meet Matt Bellamy, anti-rock star. Singer and songwriter, pianist and guitarist, fond of playing the latter behind his head. Sci-fi enthusiast, conspiracy theorist. A 32-year-old former painter and decorator (“It is,” he confirms, “all about the preparation”) so concerned by the threat of impending planet-wide doom that he’s stockpiled a two-year supply of freeze-dried emergency rations. He has it stored in the cellars of his villa in Lake Como in Italy. George Clooney is a neighbour. His band, Muse, are the geeks who have inherited, if not the Earth, then at least the hearts, minds and concert-ticket money of the world’s youth. And, increasingly, the not so youthful. This month, the trio from small-town Devon (Teignmouth, pop: 14,413) also lay claim to a few hundred acres of prime rock-festival real estate: they headline the Pyramid Stage on the pivotal Saturday night at Glastonbury. It’s an auspicious moment for old schoolfriends Bellamy, drummer Dom Howard, 32, and bass player Chris Wolstenholme, 31. How will Muse, known for their concert spectaculars, top their normal shows for this special occasion? “We’re thinking we’ll get an orchestra,” says Bellamy. It’s hard to imagine this stick-thin dweeb commanding the attention of 100,000 festival-goers. But put him on a stage – ideally backed by the lasers, towers, bells, whistles and occasional acrobats that have helped Muse become one of the greatest live bands today – and Bellamy gains in stature. They say television adds 10lb to those who appear in front of the cameras. Muse’s arena and stadium shows add a good 2ft, and a grandstanding aura, to their frontman. And now that Bono’s injured back has resulted in U2 pulling out of their Friday headline slot, the leader of the pomp-rock threesome – widely regarded as the biggest British band on the planet in 2010 – is the biggest rock’n’roller at this summer’s biggest festival. Over the past year Muse have shot to the top of rock’s premier league. The Resistance, their fifth album, has sold 2.6 million copies, propelled by its lead single Uprising. They have recorded a song for the upcoming third Twilight film, making a hat-trick of soundtrack appearances in the vampire franchise. In 2007 they were the first band to perform at the new Wembley Stadium. They sold it out – twice. Muse played to 150,000 fans – and to some trapeze artists in balloons that they had anchored above the stage. In Muse’s view, if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing with giddy, over-the-top enthusiasm. It is, in a way, the same with Bellamy and his attempts to act like a rock star offstage. Even when he dresses in a manner he imagines befits a millionaire pop idol (which he is to Muse’s hugely passionate fanbase), he gets it a bit wrong. He and his bandmates went out to an LA bar the other night and “ended up meeting” Rod Stewart. By unhappy coincidence Bellamy was wearing exactly the same outfit as the 65-year-old: pinstriped trousers, a waistcoat and a grey suit jacket. Still, that sounds like an improvement on the trousers he wears during the week I spend with Muse in LA, at the Coachella Festival and then Mexico City: colour-flecked slacks seemingly purchased at C&A sometime in the early Eighties. And definitely an improvement on the clothes he once had to wear to the Q Awards after locking himself out of his house. “A floral shirt, a pair of red Adidas sweatpants and a weird silver hat. My summer civvies,” he recalls of the garb he wore to collect a trophy from the music magazine. “It gave the game away, actually. I’m not in a rock band at all. I’m just a pretty lame kid in funny clothes.” If you find Radiohead too cool, Coldplay too soppy and U2 a bit past it, then Muse are the stadium band for you. They are Queen meets Abba, flamboyantly cod-operatic and absurdly melodic, and so unfashionable that they are, after years of outsider status, strangely fashionable. “Tom Waits and opera music – two of my favourite live environments, where the set design is just really theatrical and interesting,” offers Bellamy, a man who performs wearing flashing plastic children’s sunglasses. His other motivation for spending a fortune on stage presentation: “Not wanting to do something the same as everyone else.” After Glastonbury, Muse are doing another world tour of stadiums. “We are making a giant pyramid with a video eyeball on top, and we’re playing inside it.” Bellamy will also be wearing a suit on which films can be played. The singer will be part guitar hero, part television. He’ll be the first performer ever to get his hands on such a suit. “Lady Gaga wants one but we’ve beaten her,” he confides proudly. Anything else? “A UFO is going to appear and give birth to an alien, over the audience’s head. I’m not joking.” Muse have headlined Glastonbury before, in 2004. But even Wolstenholme admits they weren’t sure they deserved the slot. “We didn’t know if we were ready for it. And the press were going, ‘What’s this all about? Who do they think they are?’” There’s another shadow over Muse’s last Glastonbury appearance: shortly after watching the band’s set on the Pyramid Stage, Howard’s father collapsed and died from a heart attack. “It was the best and worst day of my life in one go,” the drummer says quietly. “It’s a bit weird for me going back, really. People say, ‘You’re doing Glastonbury. It’s gonna be great, isn’t it?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I dunno. It might be f****** s*** and I might not enjoy it.’ ” Wolstenholme remembers: “It was an extreme high and an extreme low. It’s gonna be strange going back, but maybe we need to be able to associate it with a happy memory. At the time it was probably the best gig we’d done. And unfortunately it’s not remembered for that.” Glastonbury, then, will be a challenge on many levels. Howard’s mother and sister are coming this year. “It’ll be an emotional time for the family, for sure. But, you know, music’s a great thing to do. It can provide a great deal of positivity, playing and listening to it. That’s the only reason I’m going back: to play. I don’t think I’d go back just to hang about. That’d just be a bit strange. These guys are talking about hanging around for the weekend. But I don’t think I can really do that. But playing to a load of fans is gonna be the thing that makes me go there and get through it.” Muse did not have a conventional route to success. While other bands rocketed up the middle of the rock road, Muse crawled up via the margins, doing their own thing. Failing to get noticed by the mainstream record industry, they turned to a Cornish recording studio to fund their first EPs. When they were finally signed, it was by a small record label. In hip music circles, they were derided as over-earnest West Country bumpkins making daft songs with titles like Space Dementia and Apocalypse Please. They were pale copyists of Thom Yorke and co. They were prog-rock spods and had the fruity organ solos to prove it. If you liked Muse you also played World of Warcraft and were possibly bullied. If you liked Muse you were not cool. Bellamy, Howard and Wolstenholme knew this. They were not bothered. In fact they were almost proud of being unfashionable and being able to walk down the streets largely unrecognised. But still… why were Muse so unhip? “Our music was just too weird,” says Howard with a shrug. “A lot of bands come fully formed: great first album, good songs, look cool, right attitude – they’ve got the whole thing. Whereas we were kids – from Devon! – who didn’t know any better. We were just learning step by step the whole time. We weren’t that Cool New Band. So we’ve always been on the fringes. It’s still like that.” As well as relishing their contrary-Mary position, Muse also embrace their occasional naffness. Ask Bellamy if summer 2010 feels like a golden moment in the life of this proudly off-message rock band and he replies: “Well, it’s always been sort of… beige.” The names of the school bands that the three members of Muse separately played in – Gothic Plague, Carnage Mayhem, Fixed Penalty – did not suggest future greatness. But in 1994 Bellamy, Howard and Wolstenholme came together as a trio. They were Rocket Baby Dolls and tomorrow belonged to them. Except it didn’t. Rocket Baby Dolls quickly, sensibly, changed their name to Muse. The trio decided to forgo university places in favour of staying in Teignmouth and building on their strong local following. “Then all our friends f***ed off to uni and we had no fans,” remembers Howard. “We had to start from scratch. Doing as many gigs as possible in the local area. We did that for five years.” Continued in next post...
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