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Rolling Stone interview with Matt - May 8, 2015


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http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/inside-muses-drones-strike-matt-bellamy-on-high-concept-lp-20150508

 

Muse spent the past few years pushing the sonic boundaries of rock & roll, creating increasingly bombastic music that utilized symphonies, choirs, synthesizers and, in the case of 2012's The 2nd Law, Skrillex-inspired dubstep sounds. But when they began plotting out Drones, their politically-charged seventh album inspired by the expanded use of drone warfare across the globe, the trio decided it was time to radically strip things down. "Our intention was to go back to how we made music in the early stages of our career," says Muse frontman Matt Bellamy, "when we were more like a standard three-piece rock band with guitar, bass and drums."

 

Bellamy says he's immensely proud of Muse's last three albums, but things were just getting a little out of hand. "We probably spent more time in the control room, fiddling with knobs and synths and computers and drum machines than actually playing together as a band," he says. "As I look back at the last three albums, each one had progressively less and less songs that we could play live."

 

Muse produced their last two albums themselves, but this time around they decided to bring in an outsider. "We wanted to spend our time in the live room, being performers," says Bellamy. "So we knew we had to find someone to sit in the control room and handle most of the production side." Their management team of Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch suggested Robert "Mutt" Lange, best known for producing AC/DC's Back in Black and Def Leppard's Hysteria. "Before I met him I wasn't sure," Bellamy says. "I didn't want us to be turned into a kind of Top 40 act."

 

The group flew out to Switzerland to meet Lange, who remains one of the most mysterious figures in rock. He almost never grants interviews and has rarely even been photographed. "He's a very eccentric person, very laid back," says Bellamy. "He has the air of a person that has not lived in the constraints of normal society or life for a very long time. You feel like you're in the presence of some sort of guru or spiritual outsider."

 

Much to their surprise, Lange was incredibly enthused about the project. "I figured that Mutt Lange would be more focused on, 'What's the single? What's going to be the big hit?,'" the singer says. "He wasn't like that at all. He was totally into the concept. He is the kind of person to get into the mind of the artist and whatever the artist wants."

 

Muse recorded their last three albums within a short driving distance of their families, but this time around they opted to travel to Vancouver and work at Warehouse Studios. "It was neutral ground," says Bellamy. "We all went there and had nothing to do but live and breathe the album."

 

They cheated a bit by adding pianos and synths to a few songs, but they mostly stuck to their pledge of using just guitar, bass and drums. "As soon as you pick up a guitar you're up against the legends of rock," says Bellamy. "The same goes with stadium drum kits and electric bass. Essentially, you're already in a soundscape that's very familiar and has a lot of established legendary material recorded using those instruments."

 

A concept about the dehumanizing aspects of drone technology is, however, fresh territory for a rock band. Bellamy first got the idea about two years ago when he read the book Predators: The CIA's Drone War on al Qaeda by Dartmouth professor Brian Glyn Williams. "I was shocked," he says. "I didn't know how prolific drone usage has been. I always perceived Obama as an all-around likable guy. But from reading the book, you find out that most mornings he wakes up, has a breakfast and then goes down to the war room and makes what they call 'kill decisions.' He makes that decision based on a long chain of intelligence people who, as we all know, can be very unreliable."

 

The LP kicks off with "Dead Inside." "It's about someone having something bad happen to them, but they choose not to feel it but become dead inside," Bellamy explains. "Then they go on and become vulnerable to these dark, oppressive forces, which are more than happy to take advantage of people like that." After furious dialogue from a drill sergeant ("your ass belongs to me now!"), the album gets even darker with "Psycho," "Mercy" and "Reapers." "They're about being overcome by these oppressive forces," says Bellamy. "Midway through 'The Handler,' in the darkest places, the protagonist, or me, since I'm singing in the first person, feels this desire to actually feel something. They decide, 'I don't want to be used by others. I don't want to be controlled. I don't want to be a cold, non-feeling person. I want to actually feel something.' The desire to fight against the oppressors sinks in."

 

Midway through, a JFK speech from 1961 is played, unedited. "He's addressing the American press about how to deal with the rise of communism," says Bellamy. "What's so interesting is that he never says the words 'Soviet Union' and he never says the word 'communism.' He's just talking in general terms about oppressive systems and how there are people out there who want to infiltrate and covertly control us or dominate us and create these complex bureaucratic systems that enslave humanity in one way or another."

 

The JFK speech leads directly to "Defector," "Revolt" and "Aftermath." "This is where the person tries to inspire others to think for themselves and think freely and independently," Bellamy says. "Then this narrative ends on 'Aftermath' where the person is ready to re-engage. He recognizes the importance of human love." It ends with the 10-minute track "Globalist," which is a separate narrative from the rest of the LP. "It is almost the same story with a bad ending," the singer explains. "At the end you have the ghosts of the unknown dead that have been killed by robots that will never see justice and we'll never see who they are, haunting us."

 

It's hard to imagine any of the songs getting airplay on Top 40 radio, but Muse have managed to become a stadium-level act all over the world without the benefit of mainstream hits. "I'm sort of happy to not have had to rely on the mainstream methods to reach people," says Bellamy. "I think when you rely on those too much, you lose a bit of your independence. You have to play certain games and you have to start worrying about things like commerciality."

 

Muse are booking a world tour right now that will find them performing in the round, and they don't plan on applying the stripped-down approach of the album to their staging. "Its going to be even more theatrical than probably any show we've done in North America," says Bellamy. "I don't want to promise too much, but we want to incorporate drones into the show. I don't know what health and safety will allow us to do though."

 

There's talk of playing the entirety of Drones at a special concert at some point, but the regular show will feature cuts from the band's entire career. "We want to integrate the old songs with the new songs," the singer says. "The goal is to create a sort of abstract narrative, not necessarily a specific story."

 

Countless people have argued in recent years that the album as an art form is dead, but Muse hope this whole project will prove that idea wrong. "Apple, iTunes and streaming services have made the single a more easy thing to access," says Bellamy. "What that's done has made the album as a collection of songs almost meaningless. But an album that has a concept or story or reason to be an album, if anything, has more meaning now than it ever has."

 

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/inside-muses-drones-strike-matt-bellamy-on-high-concept-lp-20150508#ixzz3ZZz9xn7j

Edited by JessicaSarahS
Add direct link, edited typos and date in title, added info to OP.
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It states that the Globalist is the end. Even drill sergeant and jfk are discussed, so drones apparently is less worthy of mentioning than those two tracks.

 

No, it states that the narrative "ends" with The Globalist, which is its "own self-contained narrative". We knew this already.

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wtf is he on about "less and less songs we could play live?"

There was ONE song on T2L they didn't do live, and my biggest complaint about the setlist was actually how MUCH new stuff they played, leading to cutting out big hits, and having no room for any fanservice/rare stuff.

I saw 9 songs out of 12; people unlucky with the piano song/s saw 10.

 

Interesting that one of the biggest fears with Mutt as a producer for some fans here was that Mutt had done all that Top 40 stuff, and Matt mentions that fear as well.

 

And overblown production, center stage confirmed. :'(

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There's talk of playing the entirety of Drones at a special concert at some point, but the regular show will feature cuts from the band's entire career. "We want to integrate the old songs with the new songs," the singer says. "The goal is to create a sort of abstract narrative, not necessarily a specific story."

 

Nice to hear that it sounds like old songs will be in contention more than usual.

 

Not bothered about any of this 'narrative' bollocks though. When I go to a gig, all I want is a fun time and a good performance. If I wanted props and narratives, I'd go to the threatre. Thankfully, it sounds like they won't go too overblown with it though.

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Not bothered about any of this 'narrative' bollocks though. When I go to a gig, all I want is a fun time and a good performance. If I wanted props and narratives, I'd go to the threatre. Thankfully, it sounds like they won't go too overblown with it though.

 

I'm calling "couldn't play X song - didn't fit the 'narrative' " added to the overblown visuals getting in the way of song rotation. :chuckle:

 

Agreed.

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Live could mean parts. There was a lot of backing track usage on the last few albums, or effects to mimic parts they couldn't replicate fully. So far we haven't seen anything major in that field except the opening to The Globalist.

 

I can't say I have one way to enjoy a show either. It depends on the group, and how any extras are pulled off. Sticking to one preferential way feels limiting. The band already did good last tour at pulling out songs at random despite their large productions

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Maybe not the "theatrics" so much, but I don't see how the 360 stage isn't going to affect at least my enjoyment of the songs.

 

I just really, really want to see the band perform their songs, not their backs, or the underside of the stage, giant pillars/other equipment that obscures the band, actors, etc.

 

Plus, in my experience in NA, at any rate, you pay quite a lot for the ticket, and get like 15 songs, to boot.

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I wonder if "Drones" could just be kinda like "Black Noise" on the latest NIN album. It's essentially just a continuation of the previous track and you hardly even notice the transition. Unless you're listening on shuffle and it cuts off early or whatever. That's annoying.

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Ugh, 360 stage confirmation killed any hype I had for this tour. I'll have to enjoy the hell out of the Mayan. It is seriously the worst idea ever. It doesn't work for theater, it doesn't work for comedy, it doesn't work for business presentations and it sure as hell doesn't work for live music performances.

 

Unless Muse does something absolutely fucking amazing to offset the negative aspects of a 360 degree stage, this is going to be worse than the towers. What a shame, after getting it right on T2L's arena tour...

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