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Sacramento Bee: interview with Chris


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For years now, Muse has been huge in Europe, big in Australia, cherished in Japan – places that appreciate elastic-to-falsetto vocals combined with orchestral arrangements and monster guitar riffs.


Formed in Devon, England, in 1994 – when singer-guitarist-pianist Matthew Bellamy, bassist-keyboardist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard were teenagers – Muse creates a sound that is big wherever it's heard.


Even Muse's mellowest songs brim with energy, and the band's great sense of showmanship comes through in its music videos as well as live performances.


The United States is getting up to speed on Muse mania, fueled by the band's reputation as one of the finest live acts in the world. After appearing on all three "Twilight" soundtracks and scoring a hit with the anthemic, spin-class ready "Uprising" ("We will be vic-tor-iiioous"), off the 2009 album "The Resistance," Muse headlines – and sells out – arena shows in the United States.


On Tuesday, the band appears at Arco Arena. Wolstenholme, reached by telephone last week before a show in San Diego, discussed Muse's career and sound.


It seems as if you really broke through in the United States over the past few years …


Yeah, I think when (2003 album) "Absolution" came out, that was really our first album in the States. The first record deal we ever signed was actually in America, with Maverick. And we did (1999 album) "Showbiz," and nothing really happened. … I think (the label) wanted a big radio hit before they were willing to pay for us to go on tour, and we didn't really understand that.


Obviously, we know now that America is quite different from the rest of the world in the way radio works. But we always felt that in Europe and everywhere else where the band was doing well, it was through doing lots of touring, and going back (again and again) to places. We were always a bit dumbfounded, really, because we always felt there was no reason for that approach not to work in America.


When (2001 album) "Origin of Symmetry" came out, by that point, we thought America was gone, really. Maverick didn't really like the album, and they weren't willing to pay for us to tour, so we thought, "Well, we will concentrate on Europe and Australia and Japan."


So we did, and then, when we did "Absolution," (current label) Warner Bros. came on board … they had seen what had gone on in the rest of the world, and they were willing to put up the money to try to break this band through playing live. And we did about six months of touring in the States, and we just kept coming back.

How much did appearing on the "Twilight" soundtracks help your popularity in the States?


It really helped. I think in this day and age when people don't go out and buy as many records, you use things like that to expose yourself to people who don't know the band. It caused more of a buzz, and more people came out to see us live, and now it is sort of catching up. We are playing in arenas over here, and we are really enjoying it. I think that is what we always wanted but we thought we could never have.

You are now known as one of the best live bands around. Did it take awhile to develop your live act?


Yeah. The kinds of bands we grew up listening to were bands that always had good live followings – Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine. … We wanted to (attain) that kind of level of respect. I think the true heart and soul of any performer or band is what they do on stage, what they do for real. Anyone can be good in the studio.


In the early days, we were quite good players, but I guess we had confidence issues. We wouldn't move around all that much onstage. In the early days, particularly supporting bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters, we felt so out of our depth, because we were young kids, 19 or 20 years old, in front of 25,000 people every night. And it made us realize we had to "up" our game a little bit, you know? Almost become actors, if you like.


We just used to stand there and play. And we realized in order to play well live, you have to put on a spectacle as well. It was something we grew into to the point that it is very natural now. I think it is something that everybody has inside them, but there are always self-consciousness and confidence issues that cloud it.

You have been compared a lot to Queen. How do you feel about that?


I don't mind it. I mean, I love Queen. I think Queen are a great band.


All of us are fans of Queen. I think Queen were of that generation that our parents grew up in. I remember listening to a lot of Queen records when I was younger because that's what my mum and dad loved. And I think it was the same for Matt's parents. They listened to Queen. It was the kind of thing that was always on in the car when you were growing up. Those are the kinds of things that do influence you later in life.


I think musically, we're quite different. I think the rhythm section is very different. (But) I think there's an openness we have that Queen had, and kind of this, you know, not being afraid to be a bit silly sometimes. I think that was what Queen were all about – being very over the top and not being afraid to make a (fool) of yourself. I think that is something we learned from them.


But there are also times where this band is very subtle, as well. I think Queen are obviously one of many (influences). I don't mind the comparisons. I can see where they come from.


As long as people don't say we ripped Queen off, which nobody has done yet. (laughs).

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