Interview (200701 Today article)

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This transcription may be inaccurate as we have not seen an original copy.

"Rock music for clever people" seems like a terribly pompous way to describe one of the most powerful rock bands on planet Earth.

However the tag — bestowed upon them by countless rock music critics — is one that English trio Muse find most amusing.

"The music we make has a lot of depth to it. So, I would consider the people who listen to our music cool, smart and intelligent people," drummer Dominic Howard told TODAY with a laugh in a phone interview from his home in London.

The critically-acclaimed band — famous for their blend of indie and progressive rock, but best known for their energetic live performances — will play at Fort Canning park on Tuesday evening.

It is the group's first visit to these shores and one that is highly anticipated. According to concert promoters LAMC Productions, they have sold over 6,000 tickets for the one-night-only event.

But, before you think Howard is taking himself a bit too seriously, he breaks into chuckles.

"You don't have to be intelligent like us," he said, reassuringly. "Music is about provoking emotions. If you feel something for what we do, then that's great."

If there's one thing that's surprising — and refreshing — about this 29-year-old, it is that despite being part of one of rock's biggest bands, Howard isn't one to let success get to his head.

It would be perfectly understandable, though, if he were to let his success rule his ego.

After all, since Muse appeared on the rock scene in 1999 with their debut album Showbiz, the Devon-based trio have fashioned a distinctive kaleidoscopic rock sound built on a steady diet of Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Pink Floyd and Queen.

Last year's Black Holes and Revelations became the band's biggest hit so far: The album hit the No 1 spot in nine countries and has sold almost 2 million copies around the world.

In Singapore, the album has sold over 15,000 copies since it was released in July.

It is clear that Muse — made up of Howard, bassist Chris Wolstenholme and guitarist and frontman Matthew Bellamy — are on top of their game.

Revered music magazine Q recently crowned the band 2006's Best Live Act, putting them ahead of bookie favourites U2 and Coldplay.

And it just keeps getting better. Last month, the band announced that they are slated for a gig in the rebuilt 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium in London next June.

The tickets sold out in under an hour.

"I'm definitely pleased with how Muse have grown," Howard gushed as he discussed the band's good fortunes.

"People may talk about U2 and Coldplay ruling the rock world, but I don't think people can argue with us after selling out the Wembley Stadium," he said, laughing.

"I think it just proves that we have a big fanbase which enjoys watching us perform live. But that's also because the whole industry is changing. Not a lot of bands are selling as many albums as before.

"But, for us, the live element is growing massively. So, it's a healthy sign, if nothing else."

What makes Muse so endearing, perhaps, is their continuing eccentricity. Their reputation for outlandish conspiracy theories involving UFOs, futurism and the supernatural have garnered them a cult following which includes celebrities such as Justin Timberlake, The Killers' Brandon Flowers and even Paris Hilton (who was reportedly turned away backstage because singer Bellamy couldn't be bothered to meet her).

"What? Are you telling me you don't believe in conspiracy theories?" bellowed Howard, when queried over their affinity for the left field.

"Everything that Matt sings about we agree with," he said.

"It's pretty 'out there', but these are things we talk about around dinner or in the recording studio," he added, before going off on a tale of government conspiracy and alien abduction.

Howard was clearly in a chatty mood — unusual for a man who famously detests doing interviews.

"Oh, I just had a break for Christmas," he explained. "I took a nice long breather at the Virgin Islands. It was nice because, just before that, we were doing our European tour, which was the longest tour we've done.

"It was totally amazing playing such huge gigs, but we were totally exhausted by the end of it all."

Still, the rocker is ready to roll again.

"I've been looking forward to playing in Singapore," he enthused. "Some people have told me 6,000 may be a far cry from the tens of thousands we're used to.

"But I assure you, we will put on a storming show nonetheless."

- TODAY

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