3VOOR12 2003-09-24 – Interview with Dominic Howard of Muse

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An interview sometime during or before the Absolution Tour, in a Dutch church with Dominic Howard. Speculated as possibly having been before the Melkweg warm-up gig. This transcription may be inaccurate.


[Apocalypse Please segment played]

Interviewer: What are we doing in a church?

Dominic Howard: Um, we're here, because the record company had a good idea, that we should do all the interviews in a church today. Um, which... it's kind of, you know it's obviously loosely connected to the album title really, Absolution's, I think that's why they chose a church. Well absolution, obviously it's got, you know, it's got a meaning, it's got a religious meaning, but you know, it's, it's, you know it's got a general meaning of you know, being absolved and turning something 'round for something you might have done, an' um... it's connected through a few various ways on the album I think, I mean there's a song called 'Sing for Absolution' which is um, you know, a kind of key track on the album, but it's also kind of very much about um, the process of singing; the pro... process of writing music and singing music, can almost be a form of Absolution really.

I: Mm.

H: A form of deciphering, um, a lot of things that you don't really understand and um, putting them, putting them into some kind of song, which makes you feel better about something, you know?

I: Yeah.

H: Or help you understand more about, confused feelings. Um, so I mean there's that but there's also, you know when we started like, actually putting the songs in, in the correct order for the album, or in the right, the order that we thought we should put them in, um, the first track was um, Apocalypse Please, which we knew was going to be the first track on the album an' uh, we, we wanted to put that first because it kind of sets a scene; it's like a theatrical song about, you know, about, you know, Matt singing it in character, about a kind of, quite religious person, willing, um, like the end of the world, really...

I: Mm.

H: ...an' willing, you know, some of their religious prophecies to come true, to kind of validate their faith, you know? So it's kind of like an over the top, over, over the blown, over the top, over blown song an' um, that kind of sets the scene for the album, a lot of the other songs are kind of, um, related to that track, in, in a way of dealing with that possible situation, but [a] way of making it possibly making it possibly better for yourself.

I: Mm hm.

H: Making it um, um, more positive for yourself in some kind of personal way an' uh, which is, almost a process of absolution as well.

I: Yeah.

[Sing for Absolution segment played]

I: Did you have a religious upbringing?

H: Uh, no I didn't actually. Um, no. I never really went to church [laughs] or uh, or uh, I was never forced to go to church, or didn't sing in any choirs or anything like that no.... None of us did. I think that's why, be... none of us are particularly religious people,...

I: Mm.

H: ...but I think that's why, some elements of questioning religion and um, you know, looking, trying to find something from it, is why it's brought up in some of the songs, you know 'cause none of us are particularly fixed on our ideas of faith, so I mean, because of that, they're there to be questioned and talked about, discussed and I think that's why elements of that comes through in some of the songs.

I: Mm hm.

H: I, I know a few religious people that play in bands an' they certainly don't go near that, that angle of things, within their songs, you know. [...] I think music at the moment is kind of, as an art form is a, is a form of replacement for something like that, which I think a lot of people are, are looking for, are looking to at the moment you know? It's a, it's a form of the arts that makes people feel secure, brings out a lot of emotion, um, that people get... really involved with and believe quite heavily in, heavily in, so....

I: Mm hm.

H: I think, I think what it's about, is about feeling like you're really moving forward and pushing yourself. I think we've always wanted to do that an' have always felt like we have done....

I: Mm.

H: ...an' um, yeah I think, I think [for] this album we definitely felt like we were, trying to push ourselves, like just individually on our, on our own instruments an' also, you know, thinking more, about the band as a unit, you know? Uh, we def... we definitely wanted to try an' expand our musical knowledge, you know an' I al... I, to this day, you know I think every time we've gone in the studio, I've always felt like we've, picked up new instruments, tried out new ideas that we haven't touched on before an', somehow made them all work, you know. As soon as we started working with Rich Costey, I mean, he's, he's kind of, he's done like stuff from Rage Against the Machine, you know, Mars Volta, to uh, like Philip Glass and Fiona Apples, so he's done quite a broad range of things...

I: Mm.

H: ...but um, he was kinda like focusing quite heavily on the power... on the rock side of things an' kind of getting the drums and bass to sound, much more punchy, heavy an' um, kind of make them stand on, stand on their own...

I: Mm.

H: ...and still sound really big without, you know, anything from Matt on top, any pianos or guitars, so we kind of focused on that quite a lot an' I think that made us, me and Chris, think about the way we play, just slightly differently an' uh, kind of made us play, I think just more kind of, uh, just kind of harder in a way really, it just kind of changed the way we, we thought about dynamics really, between the two of us. Um, so I think that was like a certain improvement, that say you know, we used, I think there's loads of, you know, of advances, I mean, th... the piano work that Matt did, I think is definitely a step forward from what he's done in the past...

I: Mm.

H: ...an' like I said about the vocal work, I think, I think he's quite proud of um, the vocal stuff an' the string stuff as well which is, um, something we haven't done an' um, there's a lot more you know, I think Chris worked a lot on really kind of playing a, more kind of faster bass lines.

I: Mm.

H: There's a lot of kinda like sixteen note diga diga diga dig kind of stuff which he hasn't really done before an' um, you know it's kind of, stuff that's actually quite hard to play, that we didn't think we'd be able to play live until, you know the last couple of weeks when we started rehearsing it.

[Sing for Absolution segment played]

I: What are um, like infl... um, musical influences from, of the last years, maybe, that you wanted to incorporate?

H: Uh, yeah. I think um, I think around the time of the album, I think we were listening to uh, what were we listen... you know a bit of Nine Inch Nails an' The Police, I think there was a couple of tracks, well one track, that's kind of got quite a Police influence on it; Thoughts of a Dying Atheist.

I: Mm hm.

H: A kind of Police, Police and Smiths kind of vibe. Um, um, as far as you know, anything heavy that's kind of influenced over, influenced us over the last year is maybe something like System of a Down really, I mean, they've had quite a strong influence I think, on a lot of people an', you know, the piano stuff; Matt was, started listening to people like Liszt...

I: Mm.

H: ...an uh, so I think, I think there's definitely different musical influences on this album, an' maybe some more kind of, k... I think you know, a bit of ABBA an' some kind of 80s kind of electro-pop stuff had a little bit of an influence.

I: Mm.

H: I think when you've got a lot of different influences, I think when it's, when it's obvious that you've got a different, a lot, a lot of different influences, I think if you mix them well, I think it's kind of, that's when you find something new I think, I think if you take things from the past, um, you know, like some of this piano music that Matt listens to, which is hundreds of years old,...

I: Mm hm.

H: ...an' you apply that to, incorporate that with kind of, modern rock instruments an' modern rock kind of technology, I think that kind of mix of history and styles is when, you know, what we found, we think we found something that's, that works, that sounds quite new an' we feel like we're doing something original. [...] The first bit of recording that we did was um, Butterflies & Hurricanes an' Blackout, which were the, the orchestrated tracks with...

I: Right.

H: ...we used an eighteen-piece orchestra, which uh was, unbelievable to work with. Um, an' it was just a shock when they started playing because, they're just so professional. [laughs] Classical players and string players are, but um, um yeah, so we started off like looking down that route, which was quite, you know, when, as soon as you get a load of strings in it kind of seems much bigger an' quite you know, exaggerated...

I; Mm.

H: an' uh, we thought about applying that to a few other songs, but we, we kind of made the decision not to an' just thought; well we only wanna use the strings on those two tracks because, some of the other tracks, we tried it on a couple of other tracks but it wasn't really working, so we kind of pulled it back an' stripped down a couple of, some of the other songs an' kind of went for a more minimalistic approach. Um, but I think those two tracks is where it kind of, where it kind of, we let go a little bit an' uh, I think Butterflies & Hurricanes has about sixty vocals on it...

I: Yeah.

H: ...an' uh, but I think there was a lot more, we kind of, I think we were more, um, we were kind of like choosing, as far as the layering goes, we kind of built up quite a lot of layers, but we kind of, we recorded quite a lot an' then took it out, you know, but um, I think we were more kind of, focused about what we should keep and what we should shouldn't keep this time.

I: Mm hm.

H: I think last time, I think it was a bit more, we'd just like throw a load of things at a song an', kind of just kind of go with it but I think this time we're much more focused on um, just what's right for the song an' not just try to make it sound too big, which I think maybe, we were thinking around on the last album, you know. [...] Uh, I think this time, I mean Matt spent a lot of time building a lot of vocal layers up, which is something we hadn't really done much of in the past an' there's a lot more backing vocals on this on this album an' much more layering of the vocals, which...

I: Mm.

H: ...um, is kind of excessive but at the same time it just sounds really good, you know. Suddenly having like, having sixty vocals come in out of nowhere, just for kind of spots,...

I: Mm.

H: ...areas, spot harmonies an' effects. I think we were just more kind of conscious about what we were doing an' as far as like putting layers on, I think we were just more aware of what we were doing an' an' uh, more in control of it.

[Endlessly segment played]

H: You know, when we got signed and when we kind of started touring on Showbiz, that was just a continuous period of time, all the way up to last year really an' in that period of time we also made Origin of Symmetry.

I: Mm hm.

H: So I think the second album is kind of... quite, you know very much about, the... the process of kind of change and you know, suddenly our lives changed so much an' we were touring around an' it gets quite you know, hectic an' crazy and confusing sometimes when you're moving around the world so quickly an' I think that album reflects on that an' kind of losing connection with the past as well, I think that's what that album's really about.

I: Mm hm.

H: Whereas this time 'round, we, we, we took quite a bit of time, well we took about you know, a couple of months off or a month or something off last year when we played Reading last year, which was our last gig an' um... an' then, just kind of, we got this room in London, then just starting coming to this room just to make music, which kind of, it felt really good, 'cause it felt like we hadn't done that for so long because, you know, the last album was made in sound checks an' various little rehearsal rooms, whenever we could, like in between touring schedules...

I: Yeah.

H: ...an' it was recorded in that way as well an' uh, so this album's more about kind of just being in a room together an' just um, kind of going back to almost how we used to make music in, in the first place, which is kind of just, coming up coming up with ideas an' uh, kind of making music for ourselves initially, really. [...] I'm really excited about it, I mean, playing the new songs an', looking forward to how they're gonna sound live an' how they're, I mean how they're gonna change an' how we're gonna play them. Um, you know I'm really looking forward to it an' uh, the tour we're doing is the biggest tour we've ever done as well so....

I: Mm.

H: [...] This time 'round I think we, we, we've changed a bit and we're just about to start a tour an' we, we, we were talking about it yesterday an' we, we don't really know how it's gonna be, apart from we know it's gonna be different to the last tour we did an' last tour, we kind of, you know we went a bit crazy at times an', we kind of lost it [?] you know, down the road, got a bit loose [laughs] an' uh, but I think 'cause of that I, we never had, it... around that time a, a lot of h... of how we were feeling was to do with like loosing connection of the past, so I don't think an... any of us really took anything on the road to remind us of home, I think we made more of an effort to kind of, loose everything that reminded us of home an' just go out with just like one...

I: [?]

H: ...one little bag an' just see what happens really...

I: Mm hm.

H: ...an' just, uh yeah, take it from there rather than trying to, have some kind of connection from home. [...] Just the life style just felt a bit, a bit mad you know, we were having quite a bit of parties an',...

H: Mm.

H: ...you know, the gigs were, kind of loose an', you know we were trashing loads of gear an', just the lifestyle just, felt quite you know, um, so the whole thing was just like a big ol' ride really, so I think this time's gonna be different but we're not sure how it's gonna be different you know we're.... It's either gonna be, even more wild than it's ever been or it's gonna be really calm an' peaceful an' uh, more, focused on playing good shows you know, so I dunno, we'll see.

[Time Is Running Out played]

See also


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