Jump to content
a-museing

“Back To The Future” – Matt Bellamy On The Cover Of Australian Guitar Magazine, 2010

Recommended Posts

http://erato1.wordpress.com/

 

Back To The Future

 

When it comes to guitars, Muse’s Matt Bellamy designs, loves and destroys.

 

Story by Matt Reekie, Photo by Peier Van Velihoven

 

Englishman Matt Bellamy (born 9 June, 1978) is a guitar innovator, not only for his playing with alternative trio Muse but for the crazy guitar designs he has helped pioneer in collaboration with legendary UK guitar builder Hugh Manson Australian Guitar catches the Muse main man as he and band mates Chris Wolstenholme (bass/vocals) and Dominic Howard (drums) prepare to head back to Australia again this November. Their first headlining visit in support of their fifth album, 2009s The Resistance, Muse are bringing every light, laser beam and video screen of their elaborate stage show for the first time ever. And Bellamy will be packing a full arsenal of mind-blowing Manson creations.

 

Is Hugh Manson a significant secret to your success?

 

MB: I’m certainly very lucky in that we came from a fairly remote part of England. Devon – which is in the southwest – is like a rural place by the sea; there are not really any major cities nearby. So to have been brought up in the place where Hugh Manson was based was a stroke of luck. He was always known as having the best guitar shop in the area. I think he used to be Led Zeppelin’s guitar tech in the ’70s and when he retired from touring he retired to that part of Devon.

 

When I was growing up I couldn’t afford any of his guitars. It wasn’t till I was around 20 or 21, when Muse started touring on our first album ['99s Showbiz], I thought, well I’ve got a bit of money now, for the first time I can go and buy one his guitars. The first one I bought was a seven-string that I used on ‘Citizen Erased’ on our second album [2001s Origin of Svmmetrv] but when I met him he explained to me that he could make any guitar that I wanted, any shape or any design. So I went away from that and I thought, well if I’m going to spend a couple of thousand quid on a custom-made guitar then I might as well make something unique.

 

Let me guess, The Delorean?

 

MB: Yes. I think because it was the first expensive thing that I’d ever bought in my life, I put a lot of effort into making sure it was something unique and interesting. I went back to the drawing board and started going through various guitars that I’d played and I always liked the body shape of the SG but also the Telecaster.

 

And I prefer the sound of P-90 Gibson guitars. So I was kind of looking for something that looked like a Telecaster but sounded a bit more like a Gibson. So I sketched out a guitar shape, which is basically similar to a Telecaster but it has a little hook on it, a bit like an SG. Then I thought to myself, instead of getting a standard wooden guitar I might as well get something unusual. I was a big fan of Back To The Future and I loved the car, the Delorean. I found out it was made of aluminium or steel or something so I thought it might be cool to get a guitar that had a rough metal finish, not a shiny metal finish. As I was putting more thought into it, I decided to get some effects put in there as well. Because I’m a singer I can always move away from the pedal board and still do some special effects on the guitar. That’s the reason I put effects in there.

 

Was the in-built effects addition something that Hugh was already doing or was that your idea?

 

MB: I don’t think he’d ever done anything like that before. He had done certain unusual things but nothing to do with putting electronics on guitars, or at least not the amount of electronics that I wanted. So he had to get assistance from someone else to help him with some of those bits. Especially when I started getting involved in [Korg] Kaoss Pads and ribbon controllers and proximity sensors and all these kinds of effects. Some of them were quite difficult to get mounted into the guitar. That was definitely new for him.

 

The designs become more hi-tech after The Delorean, right?

 

MB: Yeah, the Delorean was pretty straightforward. It had a [MXR Phase 90] phaser in it and [Z.Vex] Fuzz Factory in it, which is like an extreme distortion pedal. Then the one I did after that had a proximity wire and it also had a ribbon controller which was taken from a synthesizer so I could get Theremin -type sounds. Since then I’ve done various other things. The most common one has a Kaoss Pad inside, because it’s so versatile, you can connect it to any MIDI device. Obviously you can connect it to a MIDI Kaoss Pad but you can also connect it to any MIDI synth and you’ve got X and Y controllers, so you can do effects or samples or anything.

 

One of your latest inventions is the “Keytarcaster”, a guitar with strings but no pickups and a two-octave keyboard built into the body, tell us about that?

 

MB: It’s not even technically a guitar. It’s a piano keyboard on one side and stringed contact MIDI controller. So it looks like a guitar but it’s actually a keyboard. We had a song on the new album [2009s The Resistance] called ‘Undisclosed Desires’ and the recording has actually got no guitar or piano on it but it’s got a lot of keyboard parts. It’s got deep bass-synth parts and also some high-synth parts and I wanted to be able to play those things live without Sitting down or without being stuck behind a keyboard. So I came up with the idea of keeping my guitar shape but where the right hand would be I’ve put a two-octave keyboard with full size keys, then on the fretboard where my left hand would be I’ve got a stringed contact controller. It’s stringed exactly like a guitar only when the string makes contact with the fret it sends out a MIDI signal. So technically I’ve got two separate keyboards, one for the left hand, one for the right hand. The left hand plays deep bass-synth sustaining notes while the right hand does the high-pitched, sort of rhythmic stuff.

 

Also, the most recent one I had made was for a song called ‘The Resistance’, which starts off with lots of guitars doing harmonies together and also some synthesizers all mixed together creating a sort of choir of Theremins. That was something I couldn’t really do properly live so I decided to get my first double-neck made. The top neck is a standard six-string guitar but the bottom neck is a fretless six-string with an EBow built in. So when you touch it, it sounds very similar to a Theremin. Because there are no frets you can just slide your fingers around and get any tone you want, quarter tones or micro tones and you can do that whilst holding down chords or sustaining notes [on the other neck] at the same time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

contd.

 

How do you keep up with all the latest gear?

 

MB: I think it all depends on what you like to listen to. If you listen to contemporary R&B music, dance music, electronic music, the stuff they’re doing is way ahead in terms of being in touch with technology. If you’re inspired by that music, as a rock band I think you find yourself doing things musically which can’t be achieved easily with the standard guitar, bass and drums. For that reason you automatically lean towards trying out new effects pedals or incorporating synthesizers or even doing away with the guitar entirely and trying different instruments.

 

I think Muse has always been more interested in the future of music rather than the history of music. That’s one of things that’s most unusual about us. Most rock bands are very knowledgeable and are very interested in the history of rock, the ’60s and the ’70s and all that kind of stuff, whereas we are not. We are more interested in contemporary music and finding ways to use what’s going on right now in our band, which is basically a traditional rock set-up with guitar, bass and drums. So I think we take more from contemporary music than the history of music.

 

Manson Guitars now do a line of Matt Bellamy signature guitars based on the Seattle, Glitterati and Delorean models. Are these the real deal?

 

MB: They are identical to what I play. They are based on the original designs and they are all handmade by Hugh and his assistant. Apart from the fact that there are different electronic options people can choose, if they want to have a MIDI Kaoss Pad or not. But the fundamental body shape, the pickups and the sustainers and all that kind of stuff are exactly the same as what I use. Originally I wanted to keep them all completely unique for me, and I did for a while, but Hugh was getting so many calls and emails from people trying to get them made that it just became rather awkward really. In the end I cracked and said, “Why not, we might as well do it.” I think by now the guitar is very much associated with me so I feel quite comfortable that my identity is not going to be taken away by doing a signature model.

 

People might think that such fidgety gear wouldn’t be sturdy and hardwearing on the road – is that a misconception?

 

MB: Absolutely. There’s the guitar that I call “Santa”, which Hugh calls The Glitterati – it’s the red glittery one with the Kaoss Pad in, which I use on really heavy tracks like ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and stuff. The last few months I’ve been throwing that guitar in the air, not necessarily trying to smash it, but I’ve certainly thrown it round. I’ve thrown it against the amp. I’ve thrown it into Dom [Howard]‘s drumkit. It’s landed on its neck, on it’s side, it’s gone all over the place and the Kaoss Pad has not been affected at all. It’s got a couple of chips on the woodwork, but generally I think they’re pretty strong.

 

Any ideas for what you want to have built next?

 

MB: I’m into the idea of automated arpeggiated pitch-shifting. So in other words where you playa chord and it will arpeggiate that chord in a rhythm. I want to invent one that will stay in the same key for the whole song. No matter what chord you’re playing it will stay in the same key. A rhythmic arpeggiator I think it would be called.

 

I know John Paul Jones takes Hugh Manson on the road as his tech – have you got someone equally as savvy?

 

MB: Yeah, my guitar tech, Jason Baskin, he’s the best. He’s been doing it for a long time. He did Guns N’ Roses, Smashing Pumpkins, he’s probably one of the most technical people I know. He’s an absolute expert both with guitar bodywork and internal electronics of the guitar; setting up the entire rig.

 

What is the biggest problem you have with sound on tour?

 

MB: For guitar the biggest issue has always been microphone placement and microphone choice and microphone pre-amp. Those are some of the things people think about the least but which actually have the biggest impact on sound quality. I’m pretty happy with the way my amps sound but sometimes you’ll get to a gig and they’ll use the wrong microphone a bad pre-amp and the whole thing just sounds shit and you think to yourself, I can’t understand why sounds so shit coming out of the PA compared to it sounds when I’m stood in front of the speaker.

 

I spent a lot of time doing research into that and found this thing, I can’t even remember the name of it, but it’s basically a sound shield. It’s shaped like a half-tube, kind of like a skate half-pipe, and it’s about a 30cms wide and it’s metal on the outside with foam and on the inside it’s got foam spikes. So when I put the microphone on the speaker I put that around it and it basically stops all reflections coming back into the mic which causes phasing problems. So I found that’s been the biggest help with my guitar sound live.

 

I know you favoured a Dickinson amp on The Resistance. Do you use that live?

 

MB: I do use that live at the moment, but only as my monitor speaker. I have my main amps am speakers mic’d up offstage and then I run the signal into the Dickinson which is onstage directly just behind me.

 

What is the hardest guitar part you have to pull off live?

 

MB: Our guitar parts are pretty simple really but the tapping solo in ‘Invincible’ often went wrong. I’m the sort of guitarist that doesn’t care too much about making mistakes. My technique has never been that precise. I’ve always been very interested in people like Hendrix and Kurt Cobain who used their mistakes and their nuances to add to the character. For that reason I don’t really have that many technical parts.

 

Muse played Glastonbury in June and The Edge got up to play with you after U2 pulled out. How did you get him to do that?

 

MB: When we found out U2 pulled out we decided maybe we should do a cover song as a tribute. BL then when I went to work out the guitar part for ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to sing it and play it at the san time. So I contacted The Edge, I sent him an email and he said, “Yes”. He’s a legend and the way he plays is amazing – such a unique style. He was very innovative in the way he used guitar effects pedals and things. So we rehearsed it a couple of times day before and then he turned up and we started playing the intro and as soon as he started that guitar part we all just looked at each other, like and went, we can’t believe this is happening. Then to top it all off he got right into it and just before the vocals started he came right over to me and he was stood one foot away from my face and really looking at as if to say, “Come on, give it your best.” I thought to myself, shit, he’s probably heard Bono do this every night for the past 30 years. It was quite daunting Onstage when we did it at Glastonbury I think the crowd really appreciated it because they didn’t get see U2 the night before.

 

Muse are bringing the full-scale stage production to Australia in November. What did this entail?

 

MB: It’s the biggest production we’ve ever brought to Australia by a long way. It’s an arena show, which means you can customise the venues and the stage to how you want it. I’m hoping we get to play son places where we the audience goes 360 degrees and we play in the middle. I’m not sure yet because some of the venues are quite different. But yeah, moving platforms and the video screens all over place, it’ll be cool.

 

 

SMASH IT UP

 

In the Guinness Book of World Records 2010, Bellamy is credited as holding the world record for most guitars smashed on a tour.

 

“No.1, I don’t know how I got in there, and No.2, I don’t know if it’s true or not,” says Matt modestly. “Someone must have been counting other than me.” His record of 140 guitars was apparently set on the Absolution tour, although he claims he never set out to break any record. ”Sometimes I didn’t even break them,” he says. “I’d chuck them into the crowd and someone would keep them.” The only guitars Bellamy loves playing are his own Hugh Manson creations. ”On the first album tour I only had the one original Manson guitar and I was still using lots of other guitars,” he says. “But I was always having problems, I didn’t like the way they sounded or I didn’t like the way they felt. So as I’d buy new Manson’s, I was discarding the guitars I’d had.

 

Now I don’t have anything else but Manson’s, I’ve probably got about 8 or 9 now, I’ve trashed all the others.” Out of all the guitars Bellamy has sent to six-string heaven, there is one that stands out as his greatest regret.

 

“A lovely sunburst Gibson double-cutaway,” he recalls. “I didn’t mean to smash it, I was pushing it into the amp and suddenly the headstock gave way. It snapped and I was completely surprised by it. I tried to glue it back on but it never worked the same again, so that was a shame.”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Santa? :chuckle:

 

Thanks for posting!

 

:LOL: that was my exact thought when i read it

 

:happy: I know nothing about guitars but this was really interesting! Thanks for this! And can someone post a picture of the guitar he was talking about at the end? the one that he broke on accident? :erm:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
:LOL: that was my exact thought when i read it

 

:happy: I know nothing about guitars but this was really interesting! Thanks for this! And can someone post a picture of the guitar he was talking about at the end? the one that he broke on accident? :erm:

 

muse-at-totp_1548761c.jpg

couldn't resist :chuckle:

 

Can't help with the second part though :erm:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Santa? :chuckle:

 

Thanks for posting!

 

 

:chuckle:

 

I remember him referring to it as Santa before, but I don't remember when. I prefer the Glitterati. :happy:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Santa? :chuckle:

 

Thanks for posting!

 

Yeah! :LOL: Maybe we should take Matt's lead, now we know. :)

 

It's all a bit technical for me, but it's obvious that Matt is closely involved in the construction of his guitars. :happy:

 

Thanks for posting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
muse-at-totp_1548761c.jpg

couldn't resist :chuckle:

 

Can't help with the second part though :erm:

 

I'm trying to think what show this was, it wasn't Top of the Pops was it??? I think it was here in England though, my memory's all Mattified :stunned:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm trying to think what show this was, it wasn't Top of the Pops was it??? I think it was here in England though, my memory's all Mattified :stunned:

 

TOTP Xmas Special. 2009

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Santa? :chuckle:

 

Thanks for posting!

 

You know he also has "the son of Santa"? :chuckle:

 

 

 

Manson_mb1.jpg

 

 

 

we shouldn't be surprised really... I mean this is coming from a man who dresses as a Christmas tree/decoration :LOL:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SO THAT'S HOW THE KEYTARCASTER WORKS. Anyway, lol, Santa.

I liked this a lot, very interesting. :happy: Thank you. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cool. Thanks for posting the interview.

 

Maybe in the future we'll see Matt with a guitar that fires lightning. :chuckle:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MB: I think it all depends on what you like to listen to. If you listen to contemporary R&B music, dance music, electronic music, the stuff they’re doing is way ahead in terms of being in touch with technology. If you’re inspired by that music, as a rock band I think you find yourself doing things musically which can’t be achieved easily with the standard guitar, bass and drums. For that reason you automatically lean towards trying out new effects pedals or incorporating synthesizers or even doing away with the guitar entirely and trying different instruments.

 

:yesey: Even chart friendly pop music is far ahead in terms of technology & production compared to a standard rock band.

 

Now I don’t have anything else but Manson’s, I’ve probably got about 8 or 9 now, I’ve trashed all the others.” Out of all the guitars Bellamy has sent to six-string heaven, there is one that stands out as his greatest regret.

 

Don't think this is necessarily true if you watch the Making Of stuff for the Resistance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...