Here Matt talks about going back to (relative, for Muse) basics, and there are a few interesting snippets about some songs, in particular, The Handler and The Globalist. I'm so excited, guys!!
PLUG IN BABY
New Album Exclusive!
MUSE talk exclusively to Q about their back-to-basics approach for new album Drones.
YOU know that the universe is finite when Muse start talking about boundaries. The past 10 years have been a period of expansion and experimentation for the trio, a time in which they have redefined what it means to be a modern stadium rock band. Their live shows have included a giant robot on wheels, a stage designed to resemble the HAARP ionospheric research station in Alaska and a UFO with acrobats hanging off it – but when it came to making Drones, their forthcoming seventh studio album, they were struck by a very un-Muse thought: is it time to rein it in a bit? Their last record, 2012’s The 2nd Law, featured electronic power ballads and surging dubstep-influenced instrumentals, but Drones is as close to a classic back-to-basics rock album as Muse get.
“I loved The 2nd Law, but it was the first time we actually realised, ‘This is too far,’” frontman Matt Bellamy tells Q, sitting in a control room at Air Studios in North London. They have commandeered most of the building: long-term collaborator Rich Costey is in a studio upstairs mixing the album, drummer Dom Howard is in another overseeing radio-edits, while they have been using one of the live rooms as a rehearsal space for an upcoming UK tour. It’s the day before they unveil the first song from Drones, an old-school rock racket called Psycho that re-appropriates a thumping riff that’s been cropping up in their live show for years. “That riff is from 1999,” says Bellamy. “Dom was always saying, ‘Turn that into a song!’ and I was always like, ‘Nah, it’s too redneck, dude.’”
An urge to reconnect with their former selves prompted Bellamy’s change of opinion and much of the record is a return to what the singer describes as “three-piece heavy rock”. “It was good for us being in a room together to remind ourselves that it isn’t always about putting your head in a laptop or a synth to try and find something new, ” says Bellamy. “Sometimes three musicians in a room can find something new. We wanted to bring this album back a bit towards that.”
There are two big nods to the past on Drones: as well as Psycho’s dusted-off riff, a raucous anthem called The Handler features a middle-section that harks back to the title track from their 1999 debut, Showbiz. “The lyrics are almost a question-and-answer with that song,” says Bellamy.
After bassist Chris Wolstenholme contributed two songs to The 2nd Law, Bellamy resumed full control of songwriting duties. He had stuff to get off his chest: “I went very internal, very into my paranoias and weird feelings and life experiences. It was quite personal,” the singer says.
He has projected these themes into the band’s first fully-formed concept album – the Drones of the title refers to when someone in a vulnerable state can be manipulated and indoctrinated. It’s not hard to make the connection between his split from fiancée Kate Hudson last year and the opening track Dead Inside, a swaggering, angry electro-ballad. It’s a song about “a relationship ending and a person becoming dead inside themselves” says Bellamy. “There’s not a lot of love on this album.”
Recorded at The Warehouse in Vancouver between October and January, Drones was co-produced with Robert “Mutt” Lange, the man behind AC/DC’s Back In Black. After self-producing their last two albums, Muse felt ready for some outside influence. “You can get overly caught up in your own way of doing things,” says Bellamy, “and it’s hard for me, at times, to take input from other people. He was one of those people I knew I would listen to.”
Of course, the back-to-basics approach that Bellamy talks about is relative. One of his favourite songs from the new album is a track called The Globalist that’s 10 minutes long. “The first half sounds like something from a film, then it goes to a middle section that’s metal then the outro is a big piano ballad,” he enthuses. This is how to strip things down, Muse-style. Buckle up. NIALL DOHERTY
Muse (from left, Dom Howard, Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme). “With the last album it was the first time we realised, ‘This is too far.’”
Muse at The Warehouse, Vancouver (above, from left) Matt Bellamy admires the carpet; Dom Howard tests out his new cymbals; (below) Chris Wolstenholme gives good face.
He’s behind you! Muse start work on Drones at The Warehouse, Vancouver, October 2014.
THINK ABOUT IT, MAAAN
Apparently, the cover art for Drones is about how we’re all drones, controlled by other drones, controlled by one big drone, or something. Here are five other sleeves with “a message”…
Metallica …And Justice For All
The title is super-ironic as Lady Justice is not only blindfolded, she’s being torn asunder. By whom? Look at her uneven scales spewing out money. Big Business™ is the assassin! Except they’ve escaped justice by actually killing it. Grr. Those guys!
The Cranberries Bury The Hatchet
A terrifying ???? eye bears down on ???? stripped, compliant and trembling in fear. Why? We are all being watched all the time. Even when we’re doing a poo in the desert. This country!
When you think about it, we’re all naked and drowning but still grabbing for cash as a literal lifeline. But – look! – there’s a fishing hook there so we’ll be, literally, caught. Still the innocent baby wants the money. Even though he, literally, has no pockets.
Radiohead Hail To The Thief
The title a creaking pun on Hail To The Chief, the US President ??? because, right, George W Bush “stole” the 2000 election. ??? words mesh ad slogans and debates about the War On Terror because war is like, consumer goods, all about profit. Wake up, sheeple!
Dr B & Joe Monmouth Government Ordered Dominance
Oh no – the police are the puppets of a mysterious unseen force gloomily standing over the bodies of the people who have dared to defy their fascist rule. And the initials of the album title spell out… GOD. So, yeah, religion is bad too!