Muse master music world
Getting away from it all was behind success
Isolation can do strange things to your mind. Rockers Muse spent four months cut off from everyone.
No phones, no TV, no contact - the band disappeared off the face of the planet.
Holed up in a remote French chateau their darkest thoughts of conspiracy theories, alien invasions and failed relationships took hold to shape new album Black Holes and Revelations. Their most innovative album to date it stormed in at No.9 in the American Billboard charts and has just been nominated for a prestigious Mercury award.
The Evening Express exclusively caught up with bassist Chris Wolstenholme ahead of their show at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre on November 6.
"We were living in a chateau in the south of France in a bid to get away from everything that influenced our life," he said.[more]
"The driveway was five miles long and it took about three hours of solid walking just to get to the end of it. It was a great place to make music because we were shut off from everything, which allowed us to really focus on the music. There was no TV, internet, telephones. We were isolated. We couldn't even get a mobile signal out there so there was nothing to do but write music.
"For our first three albums we were still holed up in the studio when the tour was booked. That placed added pressure to get the record finished and after so long in the studio it ultimately ends up rushed. This time we did not impose any release or tour deadlines, we just allowed ourselves space and time to let the music grow. We got so much writing done but when it came to actually recording the songs the process began to slow down in France.
"Eventually we relocated to New York where we would record throughout the entire day until midnight. It was very regimented and a total change from France but the urgency and vibrancy of living in New York gave the record another edge."
Scottish fans were treated to the world premier of the new material when Muse headlined at the Radio One Big Day Out in Dundee in May.
Chris pauses over the phone, then sighs:
"Oh God - that was so nerve-wracking. It was our first performance in over a year. You can practice all you like, but it's only when you get out on to the stage and play you realise how the songs will go down. It was terrifying because we normally start off with a few low key gigs before playing bigger venues and festivals. But we dived right in with millions of people also listening on the radio, so the stakes were definately high for the new songs.
"When we kicked off into the riff for Knights of Cydonia from the new album it seemed like almost everyone knew the song already. Quite often when people hear a song for the first time they just sit back and listen, but we got a real physical reaction in Dundee.
"I really missed playing live because we enter another level on stage and after playing these songs it knackers us. We are drained which is why we play a few slower tunes in the middle, just to get our breaths back.
"If the crowd in Aberdeen give us a similar reception to the one in Dundee it will be a great night."
Singer and lyricist Matt Bellamy explores his wildest fantasies on the new album, with songs like Exo-Politics which focuses on a possible alien invasion.
"Yeah", laughs Chris, "Matt loves wild stuff like that, playing along with crazy theories in his lyrics. For a lot of people lyrics are the be-all-and-end-all but there has to be a balance with the music as well and Muse just get it right. Without the music the lyrics are meaningless."
Muse will tour Europe and headline at the Reading festival before hitting the Granite City in November.
After seven years of solid touring it was an incendiary slot at Glastonbury in 2004 that elevated them from being one of the UK's biggest underground bands to one of the biggest bands in the world.
"At festivals there are no sound-checks, you just walk out in front of thousands of people and basically hope your gear works.
"It might be a fantastic gig or it could all fall apart, that is part of the appeal. Glastonbury was phenomenal and it was the concert where everything came together and it just clicked for Muse. The entire hour on stage was perfect and it was the pinnacle of our career, the best we have ever played live.
"Muse will have to go a long way to top that but we will be doing our best in Aberdeen."
Muse master music world