Interview disc transcript

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This is a transcript of the interview featured on the promotional Interview Disc circulated prior to the release of Origin of Symmetry.

01 Introduction

02Q Have you ever been deadly serious about music?

02A Not initially, no. I think when we first started it was more of a something to do, we were quite bored and wanted to wear lots of make-up and smash up lots of gear. We entered a local band competition to take the mick out of all the bands playing there. It was only when we won the competition that we realised we needed to make some money to live.

04Q You were very young when you first got together, weren’t you?

04A Erm, yeah 15-16 with this band the three of us but we were playing in bands before that. We were about 13, I was playing in a band with Matt when I was about 14-15, and so did Chris.

06Q When you were growing up in a relatively rural area, did you crave for the bright lights?

06A I think when you’re brought up in a small town like that there’s obviously no opportunity there and you know there’s no jobs you really want to have. Unless you want to sell ice-creams for the rest of your life or something. There wasn’t really any opportunities so I think you know you’re going to have to move elsewhere, or go elsewhere at some point to do something.

08Q What do you remember about your first gig together?

08A I remember there was this group of girls that were hanging around at the time writing weird improvised stuff with us. And they decided to dress us all up and cover us up with make-up; they were pretty hot so we let them do it. And then all our friends sort of invaded the stage and trashed the gig.

Yeah. Was it the Battle of the Bands the first gig we did? We went in there and we only had a few songs so we played all the songs we knew.

I remember when they announced the winner, everyone booed cause basically it wasn’t like a big audience it was just, like us, a group of our friends and there was all the rest of the people. All the bands and their parents and stuff, and they were all going 'boo', 'fix' cause we were the only people that couldn’t actually really play, it was all like sort of attitude and no music really back then.

10Q Do you remember any of the songs you played?

10A Yeah I remember, 'Small Minded' was one, 'Yellow Regret' (laughing), 'A Turn to Stone', 'Weakening Walls'“ – my god! "Pointless Loss' (laughing). Before that all the bands were all covers bands, when we were 14-15. But that point was when we started doing our own stuff. And the Battle of the Bands was the first gig we did all our own songs, and they’re all really hard punk but with a sort of really soft vocal underneath, it didn’t really work! Well actually I think we still do that now!

12Q When would you say the Muse that we know now were born?

12A I think what happened after that is that we kept the band going. We went to college to do a couple of A Levels, failed, dropped out, the usual! Got some jobs. I think around that time music was our only escape from whatever, and we took it all very seriously, I think we all became very introverted around the time we were first releasing our own EPs and then getting record deals and stuff. When we used to play on stage we got used to playing to ourselves, we were used to people not really caring or not really being into it, cause down in Devon people wanted to hear sixties covers tracks really. We started being really introverted on stage and then cause we’ve done so much touring in the last couple of years, I think we’ve sort of almost gone back to where we were when we started. I think we’ve come out of ourselves a bit more, we’ve lost a lot of our inhibitions on stage really and are a bit more relaxed. I don’t think we take it quite as seriously as we used to, which I think is a much better approach.

14Q Who came up with the name Muse?

14A We came across the word somewhere, we didn’t know what the word meant at the time but when the band formed, I used to hang round with this group of girls that were like doing sort of strange impovised witchcraft music or something along those lines. And someone commented on this old man Richard. Some old sort of posh geezer who was really into classical music and he said it was like a Muse had come across the town and had caused everyone to try and get into something a bit more creative. And I think that we just took that name cause I thought it sounded like a good name.

16Q You had some really dodgy names before then, didn’t you?

16A Yeah, 'Gothic Plague', 'Carnage Mayhem', that was the best one 'Carnage Mayhem', 'Rocket Baby Dolls', 'Fixed Penalty', 'Young Blood' (laughing), these were different names with us with different members as well, it wasn’t just us three. Us three as we are now were only called 'Rocket Baby Dolls' for the one gig, the Battle of the Bands, and then we changed our name pretty swiftly after that. Cause 'Rocket Baby Dolls' was like a moniker we invented and the whole thing was just for that one particular gig, the Battle of the Bands thing.

18Q Is this the perfect lineup with three members? Was there ever a temptation for four people in the band?

18A Not really, we’ve always been quite comfortable with three I think and it’s always been a three-piece. We’ve just noticed that in the last year playing live, everyone’s got to work hard, and there’s no-one else to hide behind, like another guitarist or keyboard players or other members. Everyone’s just up the front and you can hear what’s going on. There’s a lot more space as well, and you’ve got a lot more space between stuff. I can’t imagine if there were four or five people. Three parts work. I think a lot of our favourite bands were trios, things like 'Jimi Hendrix Experience', 'Cream' or 'Nirvana', bands like that, 'Police'. I think a lot of our favourite bands are three-pieces. And it’s something when we first started that we weren’t very good but I think we’re becoming a lot better musicians now and that’s something you really have to be if you’re in a three-piece because you can’t hide behind someone else.

20Q America seemed to happen first for you in terms of record company interest. Why was that?

20A At the time no-one was really signing that many bands in England. We just released the EPs through our own label and then we went over to the States to sort of meet up with various companies and stuff. We did CMJ out there and we went to L.A. the next week and somehow went into a rehearsal room and met Guy Oseary. I mean he’d had an EP for ages and he thought we were already signed. And he found out we were in town and he got us in and did a small gig for him, a couple of lawyers and Steve Jones, guitarist from the 'Sex Pistols'. And after a couple of songs he said 'yeah I want to sign you', and that was it. And that was just for the States. At the time we wanted to continue our own label in the UK because at that point anything that had a guitar in it was being dropped because the whole 'Brit Pop' thing was just dying out. All these record companies lost a fortune and A&R people were being sacked everywhere and it was all quite a depressing time for guitar music. And I think that was why we looked elsewhere, which I think looking back was actually quite a wise thing to do cause I think if we’d got signed by a UK label we’d have had more problems along the way. It’s given us the freedom to do what we want to cause they’re over there, they don’t really tell us what to do, they just give us the cash and we can do what we want.

22Q Was it quite eye-opening going to the States for the first time, albeit just to showcase gigs?

22A It was a bit of a shock because we were just obviously unsigned and just working, doing painting and decorating, just crappy jobs, then all of a sudden we had like nice first class flights and limos, and hanging at Oscar ceremony parties in L.A. It was all a bit of a surreal experience and I think at that point we thought we were actually pop stars for a second there! It was quite funny and then we suddenly realised we had to come and get our jobs again and we suddenly realised we had a long way to go. But I think we realised that’s what it’s like over there, that’s how they treat everyone when they’re trying to impress you. Yeah it was quite strange because I think we experienced what it’s like to be at the top right at the beginning and then we like had to start from scratch again straight away, but yeah it was good, good fun.

24Q After signing to Maverick, I bet when you went back home that all your mates thought that you’d met Madonna …

24A Yeah, we sort of get asked that question and the answer is 'no, we haven’t'. The main reason is that she’s got a partner and her partner is the guy that runs the company and she doesn’t really... she’s not really there, I thing she’s too busy doing her own thing.

26Q It’s a strange one, because you seem to sign different records deals in different places. Did they all come about in much the same way, or are there different stories for different deals?

26A Cause we signed with Maverick first, once that was done and in place, that was when we started looking elsewhere and it sort of happened quite quick after that. And then I think we got France next or something, one in Germany and then the UK. It’s strange with Maverick cause we asked them specifically to only do the USA because we didn’t want want to be on an American label for the UK. And because they agreed to that I think it put us in a position where we could select all our favourite independent record labels like a Belgian label that have got 'Soulwax' on. And a Japanese label that had a band we knew on and stuff. Every company that we are on is independent and we get to know the people really well. There’s no sort of corporate atmosphere in any of the labels we work with.

28Q Does it not get complicated though, knowing who you’re supposed to be speaking to?

28A It gets a bit messy, yeah. It has been in the past but it’s coming together now because it’s sort of a pretty new thing really. I don’t know whether it had been done that much in the past anyway, it’s generally chaotic, and who knows it may all go pear shaped, I don’t know, so far it’s working well. I think. But yeah I know what you mean it’s hard to get your head round it cause there’s so much going on it’s very chaotic and we don’t really know what’s happening. We’ll be suing someone in about four year’s time. (laugh)

30Q It must be hell for release schedules…

30A Yeah. It’s sort of easier this time cause last time when we first came to release a single here, there were certain places where we didn’t have deals; and for some reason it was just all over the place stuff being released in different orders in different countries. But it’s a bit easier now because we’ve got all the deals pretty much everywhere. From the start, first single, it’s all gonna get released at the same time pretty much. Well no, it’s not in the USA, we’re not sure when we’re releasing the record there yet, so everywhere else apart from there!

32Q How important was it doing these two independent EPs before you went into the studio to do the album?

32A I think it’s a good thing for any new band to do really. It shows that you’re willing to just do it on your own if no-one else is gonna come along and help you, you’ve got this sort of nerve to try it yourself. And we were fully trying to do that, we were saving up our money to do a few EPs and trying to sell them at gigs and stuff. I would have happily continued like that, I think it gave us a first chance in a decent studio to go and record. I don’t know, it just helps, it got us a few gigs, and basically that’s what got the deal with Maverick. A couple of them were seeped out onto the internet and that was how Guy said he got hold of it. So the fact that we released them was what got us all the stuff in the first place, all the deals anyway. I think the main thing was just to sell it locally to people who come to the gigs. And try and get more people at our gigs locally, that was our main aim. But then it sort of spread out. We sent a few to a few radio stations and a little bit got played on XFM and stuff like that. That sort of thing always helps.

34Q Would you regard them, looking back at them now, as glorified demos or proper releases?

34A I think the first one was a glorified demo, the second one I’m not sure – they’re both limited just because we weren’t that known we didn’t think that we could probably sell more than 1.000 anyway, that’s the reason why it’s limited. Not because at the time we’d struggle to sell 240 and we did struggle initially. But then we got a little of radio here and there, and that sort of helps. At the time though they were proper releases and also when you get the proper studio time to make a full album, then you get to look back at them as maybe demos and compared to the stuff that’s on the album. But if we continued that way then we probably would have stayed alone that line of making records on a low budget.

36Q I take it you enjoyed working with John Leckie on Showbiz because obviously you’re working with him again…

36A The reason for John Leckie was because the first time we weren’t actually working solely with him on his own, there was another person who produced those first three pieces with us. It was sort of a co-production between this guy and us and we’ve never actually been alone with John Leckie in the studio, there’s always been this other person or someone else, and so we wanted to do more intimate things with him. But another main reason was because we are changing our sound slightly and we have changed a bit. It’s not like radical, we’re not coming back as some sort of electro band but I want people to know the changes have come from us. Sometimes you go with a completely different producer people might think „oh, they’ve changed and it’s because of that“. We have done stuff with Dave Bottrill who’s a different guy; we actually only intended to do „Plug In Baby“ with him cause he was only available at one point. But we got an extra week given to us in the studio, so we did end up doing about four songs with Dave Bottrill, which we thought were just going to be demos and ideas for the album. But I think those ones are going to make it onto the album and then the rest of it we’ve done with John Leckie. So it’s actually almost identical to the first album, I mean the production (laughing). I mean the first album was like, you know, we did four or five songs with some person and sort of finished and rounded it off with John Leckie, so similar sort of thing to what we’ve done now, even though the music is very different.

38Q Obviously, Dave Bottrill’s done a lot of rock stuff. Are you proving your rock credentials?

38A I think that on this album there’s stuff that is more heavy rock on this album, it’s a lot more to what it is on the last album. It’s a lot more like we are live, it’s a lot more like a three-piece. And I think the level of musicianship is a lot better than it was on the first album, in other words you don’t have to hide things behind multi-layers, you know, we can just be more and say this is what we sound like as players. But yeah, I’d say there is more rock stuff on this album than there was on the last album, it’s more raw sounding in places.

40Q I suppose as well, with the second album you’re starting from scratch. The first one was building up materials over a period of time. Now you have to actually write an album…

40A Yeah and all the stuff, even though we’ve got like maybe 40 or so songs that were quite old before Showbiz, all the songs on this album have actually been written since so they’re all like very new, so yeah.

42Q There were not only different producers as well as doing it yourselves on the new album but different locations for recording. There were some interesting ones as well…

42A It’s always a good thing to do, I think not staying in one place for too long, sort of doing a few weeks somewhere, and then somewhere else rather than just staying. Some bands who do it the other way stay in one place for six weeks. But I think with us, it’s nice to go round and get a contrast of different places. And also we don’t really go to the studio to work out songs or write songs, we always do that on our own, in rehearsals, stuff like that. So we only book time when we’ve got something to do. A lot of bands, I’m not sure how they do it, they get in the studio for months and months, it must cost thousands of pounds. I don’t know what it is but we can’t afford to do that! So we went to Real Works studio which is a nice place in Bath which is a really massive studio actually. We want to go there, so we can set up like it was live, and we’re there for three weeks and we did about nine songs which aren’t quite finished, and we’re right in the middle of it now. Next week we’re going to a studio in London which is going to be good. It’s some boat which is on the Thames up in the Richmond area which is owned by „Pink Floyd“ and they don’t normally let people use it, but John Leckie used to work with them, so he pulled a favour and we got to go on that. It’s got some really weird history about. I think they bought it cause they heard Charlie Chaplin used to have loads of his parties there when he used to come over, so hopefully we’ll try to muster up some ghosts or something.

44Q Touring last year, you were with the Foo Fighters and the Chili Peppers. What was that like?

44A Big! (laugh) That was really good. I mean it was quite shocking when we got on that tour really, but it was just massive arenas to 20.000 people every night. So it was a little bit scary when we first went up there, but we got used to it in the end. We were a bit unsure of how to present ourselves I think when we got on that stage. In the end we just got into it and started being a bit more open with the way we performed.

46Q I bet you really felt like rock stars playing something like that…

46A Yeah. We had to come out of ourselves. You can’t hide when you’re in front of 25.000 people, and they were the biggest gigs we’d ever done at that point cause that was before we ever did any festivals. So I think it was a good thing, it prepared us for all the festivals, we ended up doing 50 festivals last year. I think the biggest gig we’d done before 'Chili Peppers' was maybe a few hundred people or something or maybe 1.000. But to suddenly see a wall of people like that into the distance, the first one was actually in Paris and I remember I was so shocked by what I was seeing, the amount of people there, I actually forgot to play! I was so more interested in trying to take in the sight that I was having trouble actually holding some of the cords. But I think after like the third gig we each became used to it. And then when we were back to start playing on smaller stages again we are much more energetic on stage cause we were used to covering a larger stage, so I think it really helped us.

48Q Did you get on well with the bands?

48A Yeah, they were all really nice guys and laid back. It was quite a fun tour, beers and stuff. Yeah, all the 'Foo Fighters' were cool. Chaz (sic) is a really good guy from the 'Chili Peppers', it’s all quite sociable, especially on stage with all the bands. Most bands are watching each other and sort of interacting slightly with the other bands while they played. A thing you noticed on that tour was the importance of having a good time after the gig and having parties and relaxing a bit more. I think if you’re doing a gig every night in a new city everyday and say you just do the gig and go to your hotel, after a while I think you can feel a little bit disconnected to your audience. I think it’s good to maybe go out with them or have a party or just have some people back and get pissed up. You feel more connected with the place and you feel like you’ve experienced something there, and it makes the whole touring experience much more enjoyable.

50Q How did you go down?

50A It was alright! (laugh) We were the first on, so we were on quite early, and sometimes there were people walking in while we were playing! Sometimes at a few gigs the crowd kicked off a little bit and sometimes people were watching, checking us out, but obviously cause we were the first band on, everyone was waiting for the 'Foo Fighters' and 'Chili Peppers'. It just sort of made us realise that you’ve just got to do so much touring over there, which we haven’t done that much of – that was only a three or four week tour. We did a few gigs with them in Europe, I think they were the best ones, the one in Paris with the „Foo Fighters“, that was the one where the whole place sort of went mental and it felt like it could have been our gig at that point. And that was really strange.

52Q Rock seems to be big news at the moment. Do you feel part of some sort of scene?

52A I think rock or metal is quite big but it’s all American dominated at the moment. I think there seems to be a lack of soul in a lot of it. I do like a lot of the stuff that’s coming in, but I think there needs to be rock music from this country or from Europe even that is breaking through. That’s what we’re doing really, we’re trying to sort of show that people in this country are into that music and people like playing it. It doesn’t always have to be American.

54Q Do you think you have a particularly English sound?

54A Yeah, I think we sound English. There are so many bands saying they’re from other countries, a lot of like UK rock bands or metal bands obviously are sounding really like they’re American or something. I don’t think we sound like any English band in the last decade, but I think you could draw comparisons to bands like the 'Police' or something (laugh). I’m sure there’s bands in the past, in the seventies maybe. I think a lot of the bands in the last decade, the nineties, English rock bands were very sort of quirky, gimmicky, sort of English, sort of thing. And that’s not really what I’m into. I’m into music that has more of a global influence. But I think, well to me we sound very like a UK group, yeah.

56Q You mentioned earlier on all the festivals that you did last year. One in particular – 'T in the Park' in Scotland – you cut it a bit fine really didn’t you. What happened?

56A Where were we the day before? We were in Paris, no Norway? No it was in Paris cause the pedal board went missing. The whole day started off really bad. We were in the airport and then someone phoned up and said 'We’ve just found a pedal board' (on the stage of the gig where we had been before) 'with your name on it'. So that was like at the start of the day, and then our plane was late, and our tour manager had to stay in Paris to get this pedal board, and we ended up flying down to London and missed the flight. Oh yeah, it was terrible! We missed the flight that had to get us up to Scotland, and we had no tour manager or anything to sort it out, and we were like constantly running around, I was on one desk, you were on another desk, you were looking after all the luggage. And then I had to go tell Dom something, but I couldn’t because I couldn’t leave this woman at the desk. And I ended up missing this other flight because I had gone to try and find Dom (laughing), and we arrived one minute before we had to go on at seven o’clock. But at that point I think the promoter said it was too late, and ended up putting us on at the same time as 'Travis' (laughing).

58Q Are festival crowds pretty much the same wherever you go?

58A The festivals we did in France, they were quite varied really because there were a few festivals where we were the only rock band and there were a lot of world music and accapella groups and jazz bands. So the crowd was mixed but open and up for listening to whatever. Germany was always pretty nice. It’s really rough, people jumping up and down and quite violent, not violent but you know what I mean (laughing).

I think my favourite festival was in France because like Dom was saying, the mix of music was really different. And it’s the sort of festival where it was really pleasant to go out and watch other bands playing cause you’d see stuff that you’d never ever see before, cause after a while you see all the same bands. But then again we did four gigs in a row with 'Limp Bizkit' headlining 'Deftones' and I think a couple with 'Rage Against The Machine' and we were playing on the same stages as bands like that. They were all the southern Europe ones and I think there was one in Portugal or something, or Italy, I think it was Italy actually, and there were 60.000 people and we had to open the stage before the 'Deftones', 'Limp Bizkit', and obviously the crowd were geared up and they didn’t really know us. We just played the most full on set we could, and the whole place went off. I remember all this dust and all this smoke cause it was so dry, all this was really strange cause we played at ten o’clock in the morning their time and they all went mental. They all actually got out of bed to see us at 10 a.m. and we were playing at the foot of this mountain, the only mountain in Japan, mount Fuji. And we could see it and it was a really amazing scenery and stuff but I was knackered at that time and i couldn’t believe it, it was boiling hot as well, it was like a billion degrees and we came out on stage and I didn’t think anyone would be there, but there was this big mass of white clothing everywhere. They must have been in there since seven o’clock in the morning (laugh). All the gigs in Japan are really early even when you do your own headline tour there, all your gigs are finished by eleven o’clock at night. It’s really strange.

60Q It was obviously a very hectic schedule as you said. Did you forget where you were?

60A On the festivals, yeah, sometimes with some of the tours. I remember when we came back and did the UK tour in May I thought I was in Germany, and we were in Norwich (laugh). Someone came in to do an interview, I think it was Select or something and they came in to do the interview and I was expecting him to have a German accent cause we had just come from Germany. When we did a festival in France and we had a bit of a gathering in the bus afterwards, we had a few people back and we had a few drinks and it was a semi-party in the bus. We all fell asleep, drove, and we woke up in Spain and there were two strangers on the bus with no passports, and we forgot we were in Spain. I’m not sure who invited them, I’m not sure if it was me (laugh). I deny that it was me but I was very drunk at the time so I can’t remember. But I remember that was a bit of a strange one having to get these two people back without any passports, we had to drop them home and sort of smuggle them over the border.

62Q How do you feel when you get to the end of a tour? Is it a sense of relief or can’t you wait to get back on the road again?

62A The end of a tour has only happened once! (laugh) We only ever had three or four days off between the tour, so it felt like since the album’s been out it’s felt like one very long tour. Apart from the two weeks we had off during Christmas. When that came to the end I suppose it was nice to have a break for a bit and sort of relax. I went for a swim with some sharks, saw a hammerhead shark, cause I do Scuba diving. I went to the Maledives and it was really nice to do something different. But then when a bit of time passes by you get that urge to get back out there again cause I really love it. Everything’s changing all the time and that’s a nice way to be.

64Q I take it that the new album’s going to take you all over the world again …

64A I think so, probably more so. There’s still a few places where we haven’t been before, just one or two yeah! (laugh) We’re going to start touring some places like a lot of Mediterranean countries where we haven’t been before. So it’s going to be good to get down there and I think hopefully we’re gonna get to South America and South Africa. I’ve never been there before. I think initially we’re just doing a big European tour which is the biggest we’ve ever done before. But then after that there’s no definite plans, I think we’re gonna be much more selective with festivals this time, we’re probably only going to play maybe one festival in the UK and then next year we’ll probably play a whole load again. If we can!

66Q Is it sometimes I suppose you’re almost living the rock’n’roll dream. Is it quite difficult to separate reality from fantasy sometimes?

66A Er, it’s difficult to say what reality or fantasy is anyway, if reality is getting a job, getting a car and getting married to me that’s a fantasy (laugh). Well nightmare actually (laugh). Si I’m not sure, it depends on what your definition of reality is. When you swing round and you’re in your hotel the whole time and you go from one place to next, then it can become a bit blurred and you don’t know where you are and you don’t really feel connected. When you spend time to at least look around the cities you’re in and meet some people or whatever, you feel a sense of reality enough to keep it real. As long as you stay away from drugs I think you’re alright.

68Q Does the fact that you’ve known each other for so long help you keep your feet on the ground?

68A I think it probably does. I think it keeps us on the ground in the sense that none of us have ever seriously gone off the rails. I’m sure that if any of us started doing something that we noticed, you know become damaging to ourselves or something, then obviously, because we know each other so well we’d recognise that it’s not normal and point it out to each other. Because of the way we make music we all sort of understand how we play and how we react to different situations on stage and different situations in the studio. Yeah, I think it can only help. We’ve been through all sorts of shit with each other (laugh). The fact that we’ve come this far means that you know there’s nothing that could really break us.

70Q What’s the most rock’n’roll thing you’ve done as a band? How Spinal Tap has it got?

70A Oh Spinal Tap! (laugh) I think the most Spinal Tap thing that ever happened was I designed this big light show with these big white cones that came down and I was going to be inside one of them and doing these sort of shadow things! (laughing) And everyone sort of said 'Easy – that’s a little bit sad' (laughing). I really thought it was some sort of act of genius, with sort of steam and lighting show with this classical piece at the front everyone was like 'what a pretentious wanker'. I realised I was wrong and at the end of the gig I just got inside a cone and trashed it. Was it the Astoria gig? I ended up inside the cone and I couldn’t get out of it. It was like a cone made of material and it was the end of the tour, the big thing happening and I was inside it and I ended up getting stuck and I had to stay on stage. The gig finished and the lights came up and I was stuck on stage. (laugh) Until everyone had left the building and I was still there, I actually rolled and hid underneath the drum kit inside a white cone (laughing). That’s as about Spinal Tap as it got.


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