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Forbes Interview with Matt:




Muse Frontman Matt Bellamy On A.I. Politics And '80s Movies


Muse will release their eighth studio album, Simulation Theory, this Friday, November 9. The U.K. trio of Matt Bellamy (lead vocals, keyboards, guitars), Chris Wolstenholme (bass) and Dominic Howard (drums) have delivered another stellar collection, one that is quintessential Muse -- cerebral and musically progressive, but still very human and emotional.


That dichotomy of marrying humanity and technology, the logical and the emotional is at the heart of much of Muse's music as Bellamy explains. On a recent weekday afternoon I went to the Burbank, California offices of the band's longtime label, Warner Bros. and spoke with Bellamy and Howard in very different, but equally compelling conversations.


The conversation with Howard will run tomorrow. Here first is my wide-ranging talk with Bellamy on automation, AI, Rage Against The Machine, Sia, Back To The Future and why Bellamy believes strongly in local government.


Steve Baltin: By nature these days it's almost hard to write music that doesn't at least have political subtext because it is so prevalent everywhere. Did you find that?


Matt Bellamy: Yeah, I think where artists start getting into dangerous ground is when you start getting too partisan in any way. I'm fundamentally against the whole concept of party politics. To me the concept of a party is just a hijack of democracy. The American system I think is better in many ways than the U.K. system. The structure, maybe that's the better word. In the U.K. our Lords, which is equivalent of your Senate, they're not even elected. As bad as you think things are you are, in some ways, structurally probably quite far ahead of the rest of the world. And I think it's good for America to always be aware of that. As a political structure it's pretty solid. It's something to be admired and work towards. But of course within that there's unbelievable corruption and unbelievable people taking advantage of that.


Baltin: When it works it's great, but people figured out a way to corrupt it.


Bellamy: As bad as Trump is I still think the idea that any person can become president is generally historically has been pretty admirable I think. The rest of the world you have to be very much part of the political class, very much you have to have obviously financial backing, all that sort of stuff. Or you have to be affiliated with a certain party. Obviously not a Trump fan. It's more about his personality than anything else. It's really odd with politicians, normally they always say only judge people on what they do, not what they say. In his case it's hard not to do that because the things he says are just so offensive at times and so divisive. He's one of those people, something about his personality and his way of words is a big major turnoff to a large amount of the world's population.


Baltin: Talk about how all of this infuses the music.


Bellamy: I'm not partisan at all, I don't support any particular party. So, for me, I tend to try and speak about what it feels like for me and some of the emotional things I see going on around and how it feels. And bizarrely, songs like "Uprising" we've had in the past, they could be perceived as being on the side of what is now a populist movement. But really one of the driving forces for me is that I am on the side of wanting to bring more power to the people individually. I think the people individually in their communities want to feel like they have more say and more power in what goes on. That is a bit of a theme that goes through a lot of our songs.


Baltin: Are there themes that emerged in the writing that surprised you?


Bellamy: There are some discoveries I had on making this album that are some themes across a lot of Muse albums. One of them is talking about the emergence of artificial intelligence, robotic automation and it taking away people's jobs and so on. That has been an underlying feeling that I've had for a while. The reason why is the music industry itself was probably one of the first industries to experience automation. I'm talking about musicians. For example, a lot of musicians in the whole twentieth century and beyond spent a long time training to learn to play instruments and put a lot of time and effort into that skill set. Suddenly this century starts, you're going to festivals and there are people turning up with laptops, hitting play and headlining festivals. That's automation right there. Someone is switching on a laptop and they are literally putting about 30 people out of a job in terms of musicians. It didn't really occur to me until making this album the song "Algorithms" specifically, that has been one of the themes in a lot of these albums, this complicated relationship of mistrust, but also the desire to embrace the emerging new technologies and how they affect our lives. Bear in mind what we do is very musician based. All of us play. If you go to the pop world or a lot of the music world in general musicianship has been pretty much automated. So our industry was hit with this early on. And I think it's a reason why a lot of our songs, an album like Drones or this album, Simulation Theory and a song like "Algorithms" specifically are talking about algorithms evolve and render us obsolete and all this kind of stuff. You can say that's political, but it's also of our times.


Baltin: But any good song can take on different meanings depending on what the listener wants to hear.


Bellamy: That's my intention with lyrical editing. Sometimes I'll make sure the songs stay in a way, even thought the emotional intention is clear, the specific with what it translates to in terms of a point in time is wider. For example, the song "Algorithm" or this album, sometimes, to me, links to the dystopian vision of the early '80s. In the early '80s we see these films that talk about a future where robots would take over the world. Now we live in the reality of it and it's not as fantastical and amazing as in a film like Terminator 2, but it is actually happening in a way that's more invisible. So, to me, this album has this double correlation where it's meaningful in my childhood vision in terms of what I thought the future was gonna be, a dystopian vision of the future. But then also living in, how it's quite clinical and it's happening invisibly all around us. So the album is trying to connect these two dots together in some way as well.


Baltin: What '80s film would you want to live in?


Bellamy: Well, Back To The Future was one we referenced in a couple videos and that just looked like a lot of fun, getting in a DeLorean and going to the future. Back To The Future Part II is amazing. It has a bit where he goes back to the future and it's like now, 2020 or 2010 or something. And Biff is the president, Biff Tannen, who's like the bully and bizarrely he looks a bit like Trump. He ends up becoming the president in the future. He's like some greedy casino guy, he lives on top of this casino and the world's all gone to s**t. Some of these films are so prophetic in weird ways.


Baltin: Are there songs that are prophetic for you?


Bellamy: We already mentioned it, but the song "Uprising" has been an unusual song because at the time of writing it, it didn't seem like a predictable hit in any way. It's turned out to be our biggest song, it streams the most still and also the time I wrote it with a sort of feeling of distrust for the political establishment. That's what it felt at the time. In the late 2000s it felt like we were being lied to and manipulated. Wrote that song and what's freaky about it now is 10 years later is that song can be interpreted in so many different ways. But, to me, it hit the nail on the head about what was to come in this decade, which was the rise of populism. So I think that song kind of freaked me out in that way. It kind of foretold what was about to happen in terms of people's complete mistrust to the point where something crazy might happen and it did.


Baltin: What songs from this album are you most excited to play live?


Bellamy: I'm looking forward to playing "Algorithm" because it's very different for us, it's very electronic at the beginning, very synthetic sounding, it's influenced by '80s horror film soundtracks, John Carpenter, computer games music as well. But the way the song starts synthetic and then evolves into a full-scale rock song. I like that and we're also gonna use hopefully a cast of people. Going back to the idea of moving away from automation. The last few tours we did we had a lot of technology -- big screens, lot of lights, all the drones flying around and everything. I really want to try my best to make the next show feature human beings, not just us, but a cast of people choreographing certain formations or movements and so on. So for that song I'm hoping to do something cool where they all come out with glowing swords and take on some kind of robots (laughs). It'll be fun whatever it is.


Baltin: Is there one live show you aspire to?


Bellamy: It used to be Rage Against The Machine in terms of energy at certain points in our show. But also U2 in terms of their ability to make large spaces intimate and emotional for the people in the back. I'm not really sure where to look now. Recently things that stood out would be David Byrne's show that he did and also Sia who I think is very good with making the stage look very minimal, stripped down.

Edited by muse s'amuse
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Forbes Interview with Dom:


Steve Baltin: How is touring different now than in the early days for you guys?


Dominic Howard: In the early days of the band our first tours, first album, we were like in our very early 20s. I remember getting up and actually saying to someone, "I don't get hangovers." You just f**king bounce back and get on stage and you're off. As most people know they get worse (laughs).


Baltin: Does it change your lifestyle?


Howard: You're not as careless as you used to be. Those nights and things, excesses, you might get into still happen accidentally. But in the earlier days you just don't give a s**t. If anything it was probably around our fourth album, which was pretty messy, but we were just partying along and being rather excessive with everything we did but still going and playing the next day. It felt quite cathartic to go and do a gig because you just sweat a lot and sweat it all out. These days the shows have gotten bigger so there's more to think about and the last thing you want to do is f**k up in front of 15,000 people. That's the last thing I want to do anyway.


Baltin: What is the most memorable story from the party days?


Howard: There's something in there somewhere (laughs). For me, it's just a period of time where it was just chaos. There was one night where any idea you could come up with was a good idea and we were in Vegas, I think we were doing a bit of press out there. And our record company was with us at the time. We were all just on mushrooms, it was our mushroom period, we were spending a lot of time in Amsterdam. We're in Vegas and on a ton of mushrooms and we're like, "Let's get a bouncy castle set up in the middle of the desert." Someone sorted it out, we ended up going out into this pitch black desert middle of nowhere, somebody got a generator set up, we took our support band out there, which was a bunch of girls, and just bounced around off our tits wearing ridiculous masks. It was a really f**king surreal thing. So there was a time where any idea you came up with it didn't matter.


Baltin: That is one of the dangers of the music industry, having everything and anything available to you. Looking back on it, do you consider yourself lucky to have made it through that time and do you have a new appreciation for being able to play music?


Howard: In the early days of any band you kind of go through this absolutely crazy, stupid, losing your mind kind of phase. I think we're lucky because so many people go too far or can't take it or can't take the pressures of even just being successful, people buying your records and stuff like that, to self abuse, where it goes terribly wrong. We've certainly been through our own bouts with that. Chris [Wolstenholme], our bass player, had a real bad time with alcohol for a while. He's been sober for eight years and seeing him really on the brink of losing everything -- band, family, career -- he got himself out of it, came through it. Why some people can do it and not others I don't really know. We consider ourselves lucky we're still making music, but more importantly enjoying making music cause we're not just making music for the hell of it. We make it cause we want to and we love it and we feel like it's good enough to show the world. So we definitely count ourselves lucky.


Baltin: When you look at this album then are there moments that you see where Muse is growing into as a band?


Howard: This album is definitely the sound of us really broadening and yet again trying to broaden our musical horizons for sure. I suppose stepping stones to this album are probably not the last album, they were probably the album before and maybe some albums before that. So songs like I suppose "Madness," which was two albums ago, that felt like a real branching out kind of track. Fortunately it did quite well, which was a shock cause I was like, "This is either gonna bomb or do really well."


Baltin: Matt was saying he is still shocked "Uprising" is the most popular Muse song. So how often are you not sure where something becomes a hit?


Howard: That is still steaming ahead in the world of streaming and stuff like that. I remember when we did that song in Italy and Matt was saying, "I've got this track here, guys." We put it all together, did a demo of it, and I remember saying to our management at the time, "We've got the first single." And I kind of knew. I thought straight away I liked it. Songs that were really unexpected, definitely "Madness," because I knew it was good and liked it. But it was so different at the time for us. It actually did really well because it was on the radio for weeks and weeks. "Psycho," on the last album, that was a real surprising one cause I just didn't think...that was the most played song on the last album. It ended up being quite a live fan favorite. And I just thought was some dumb B-side (laughs).


Baltin: Funny you mention that about "Psycho" because music in 2018 is much more democratic. As a fan you no longer have to wait for a label to push a single. The minute you play it live it goes on YouTube and they pick their favorite songs.


Howard: Absolutely, we've almost released 50 percent of the album so far. We've released five songs and you're right, it's changed so much. In the past collectively you choose a single and you push it to radio and you're ramming it down people's throats, like, "This is the song we thought people would like." Now it just doesn't work like that. Now you throw it all out and see which one it is. So out of the songs we haven't released I'm really curious cause tracks like "Propaganda" that sound really different, god knows what fans are gonna think of that. But you never know. They might love it or hate it. We put out "The Dark Side" just when we announced the album and I really loved the reaction to that because I think a lot of the fans really love that song because it's got a slight reminiscent feeling of some of the stuff we've done in the past. But also feels very up to date and current in the way it sounds. I was really surprised by the reaction to that. I can't predict what song is gonna go down well or not. It's a complete surprise, but I like the way that works these days.


Baltin: Who are the artists for the way their sound and career evolved?


Howard: Queen. I'm probably the biggest Queen fan in the band. People probably think it's Matt because he's sung big harmonies in the past, but it's probably not really. I've always loved Queen. I love them for that reason. I've loved how their musical diversity has gone over all the place. It's an interesting thing cause we get faced with that a lot as a band cause it's now our eighth album. Some of your fans get so attached to your old stuff because they made some emotional connection to it when they were 16, 18, whatever it was. Then sometimes you have a hard time dealing with your favorite band changing or being completely different because of how you felt at that time. I think we face it all the time. "Do we just stay being the same kind of weird rock band or do we change? Do we evolve?" I think we've always wanted to evolve, I think we had to.

Edited by muse s'amuse
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El Mundo Interview with Matt:




Influenced by virtual reality, 'Blade Runner' and science fiction, Muse launches its eighth album this Friday


Muse will perform on July 26, 2019 in the Wanda Metropolitano de Madrid


Accustomed to seeing him jumping, screaming and endless guitar drums, Matt Bellamy hardly seems like him in the offices of the Warner record company in London. Slowly, with a calm voice and an affable smile, the singer and leader of the band Muse is only recognized by the strident red leather jacket that you saw. It seems incredible that within its seventy meters it can contain an energy so big that it can shake the bodies of tens of thousands of people.


"Since I've had my son, we have not toured as hard as we did when we were twenty-somethings. Then we spliced ​​10 consecutive weeks without stopping, but in the last two years we have only given 13 or 14 concerts, so I never really left my home for more than two weeks, "he explains. "As you get older, it will be easier to find that balance. When you are young you only want to work and work ».


But this Friday his group will release the eighth album, Simulation Theory, and Matt must return to a life on the road that took him last week to burst San Mamés [performing for 30,000 fans who paid 5 euros each to attend the MTV World Stage concert] and try to repeat success on July 26 at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid.


"With this album we wanted to do something different from the previous ones, something that was less instrumental and more vocal, a more colorful and more diverse album in the sounds and how they mix with each other," he explains.


«I have had periods of my life in which I have been truly anguished for what may happen to the world in the future. Songs like The dark side serve me to reflect what it feels like when fear comes to you and you just want to escape to see things from a better perspective, "he analyzes. "We all have those moments, during life or even during the week, when we lose faith in everything. That's when I try to investigate my feelings to capture what is what motivates you to want to turn the situation around. "


On this occasion, political criticism is hidden under much less explicit metaphors than those that were seen in his latest album, Drones (2015), but Muse continues to bet on the reflection that every individual should do about their own role in a changing society and increasingly dominated by technology. "In this case we get a bit into science fiction to explain the idea that we live in a simulated reality from which we try to escape. It is an analogy of that strange real life that we all want to run away from and in which we sometimes feel trapped as if it were a videogame, "adds the Cambridge composer.


"We have had influences from 1980s films such as Blade Runner with regard to the idea of ​​asking ourselves, what is reality for each one of us and why do we get the pleasure of escaping from it?"


And is that Bellamy, who after several hours of interviews confesses to being "a little bored of talking so much about music", has found the inspiration to compose the new album in two moments that allowed him to escape from everything. "One of them was when I bought a virtual reality kit and, although I enjoyed it, I realized that when you return, this reality seems much less real to you. The human conscience has a great ability to adapt, and it is something you realize when you are forced to abandon the daily life of your friends, your family, your home ... It is very simple, "he reasons after 20 years of career.


"The Burning Man festival also changed the way I look at things. There is no technology, everyone is equal, and when you come back, you see the world in a different, healthier way, in which you take everything less seriously. When you're there, no one is interested in talking about Trump, for example. "


But Matt, who sees "refreshing" to be allowed to "talk about politics from time to time," finds it hard to "distance himself from the debate, even if it's good once in a while because it allows us to realize how well they can connect with each other in the world we have now ». Therefore, now that the United Kingdom is facing a key month in terms of the negotiations that will lead the country to leave the European Union on March 29, the 40-year-old composer does not want to remain silent.


"The truth is that I do not think that anything that has happened in England during the last two years has been a good idea. Before the referendum, the United Kingdom, like other countries, felt that the European Union needed reform, as an elected commission or a presidential system reflecting its composition more democratically" explains Bellamy.


In fact for him, when asked if he is for or against Brexit, the referendum was "too binary", because he wants to "remain in the EU, but in a different EU". "I love that people can move freely across borders, but I think we Britons have a special passion for democratic processes and that's what we're running into here," he reasons.

Edited by muse s'amuse
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'Devout LA bachelor Howard even has a girlfriend – “we’ll see how that goes. I don’t know why I haven’t settled down, one day, of course, I’d love to."'


I bet she loved reading that, Dom. Sheeesh.

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