Laut 2003-10-02 – We feel sorry for bands being hyped

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'We feel sorry for bands being hyped'

Cologne, Maritim Hotel. When entering the small room I see a young guy who could be a university student in the second semester.

This is Dominic Howard, drummer of one of the most independent bands Britain currently has to offer. Soon it becomes apparent that he is of the same opinion.

Yesterday you played a great fan concert. Was that your idea?

Yeah. We haven't played for more than a year and yesterday was the third gig of our little tour. When you release an album you have to do lots of interviews and other promo things and we just wanted to give a little warm-up in small clubs. The fans should have the possibility to hear new songs. All tickets were raffled for free. We wanted to remember what it's been like in small clubs. Now we had the longest period in the history of the band we didn't play a single gig. About 13 months. In the meantime we led a relatively normal life and recorded the album. That's so far away from the crazy and fast lifestyle of the last years. In the small clubs you see the people's faces. You find an intimacy which is not possible in a big hall, and that's perfect to remember what it is like to play a gig. And it feels good! (laughs)

How much do you think about the audience when playing? How they react on you, what they see in you, or what you mean to them?

Pretty much. You see people with many different expressions. You see people in front of you who lose themselves in the music. People who get really aggressive, and others who just stare, hardly move and try to understand what is happening. You take all these feelings with you. This helps to get energy on stage.

You presented the new album. Why is it now called 'Absolution' instead of 'Small Print'?

Actually, at no point it should be called 'The Small Print.' That were just rumours. We chose the name 'Absolution' for various reasons. The song 'Sing for Absolution' is about writing and making music. This can be a kind of absolution as well but not in a religious way. Absolution can mean finding something pure or positive through things you maybe don't exactly understand or things that are strange or confusing, things you first consider as something negative. Singing or making music can be a way of understanding these things. To put them into a frame which makes them understandable. The first song 'Apocalypse Please' is a very theatrical song about religious fanatics and their wish that their prophecies come true. So that they can confirm their religion. There are lots of modern religions which have many prophecies about the end of the world and which really want this to happen. The end of the world is quite a terrifying and alarming thing. There are plenty of songs on the album talking about possible things going to an end. Be it the end of the world, of a relationship to somebody or of your job. Like 'Butterflies and Hurricanes.' This song is about finding hope and fighting things to make the best out of such situations. And this probably can be connected to a certain absolution.

On your last album, the lyrics were mostly about being in love with somebody but not getting love back. Now it's more about losing. I think.

A song like 'Falling Away' certainly is about lost memories and how memory sneaks off and you just forget certain things. However, this can be a good thing, too, because it helps to develop and to change if you have to. There are some love songs like 'Endlessly' as well. There are plenty of more far-reaching songs like 'Time Is Running Out' or 'Hysteria' which draw a more abstract image and can be put in relation to many things, just as 'Time Is Running Out' can mean to change things, for example in a relationship, or how you feel towards society. These are more generalistic fields.

You said that your new album is about moments of extreme fear. Dominic says nothing. Just looks at me blankly. Well, I don't know who it was, maybe you haven't said this at all...

Well, I don't know. Fear, well, 'Rule by Secrecy' is about fear of people with power or responsibility. Fear you can't control no matter how hard you try to fight against. Still I don't think you find that much fear on this record, it's much more positive and uplifting.

In an interview for your first album you said that you want to risk more with every new record...

Before we got signed, we were just who we were. Three nineteen years old who went into the cellar to make music for themselves. I think 'Showbiz' represents quite well what kind of people we used to be. 'Origin of Symmetry' was very much influenced by our lifestyle then. All that touring and travelling. Everything used to be very chaotic, crazy and hard to understand. The album was written in almost every free minute. Some songs were written during soundchecks and the whole recording process happened during these tours. The album also shows this bewildered aspect, what happened to our lives then, and our process of change. This time it was more like with the first album again. We took time out and wanted to make an album which comes more from a personal area of us. We had a huge room in London and just went there when we wanted to. We didn't have any duties such as concerts or interviews. We just went into this room to make music. The whole album sounds more personal and is influenced by everyday feelings. I think we lead a relatively normal life.

You brought a big orchestra into your studio. Did you have the sense that you as a three piece couldn't give enough?

Dominic looks as if he was proud of this action There were a few songs that were written having strings in mind. We already tried this for our second album but in the end didn't use anything of it. Now we wanted to use more strings and thought about eighteen people. However, it turned out to be a whole orchestra. We wanted to make something new and it really worked well. It worked very well with the two songs we wanted strings for, 'Blackout' and 'Butterflies and Hurricanes.' We tried this with other songs as well but it didn't feel good then. It just became too classical. It wasn't the right feeling for the songs. That's why we swapped the producer and worked together with Rich Costey. We wanted the songs to be more minimalistic again. After that we totally concentrated on the rock aspect to balance this 'over the topness' of the strings out.

In my opinion your new songs are much straighter than the last ones which were more interlaced. Was this your intention or did it just turn out to be this way?

That was just the way the songs worked this time. I don't know really...'Butterflies' and 'Blackout' were the first songs we recorded and these are really complex. We wanted to balance this out with straighter pieces such as 'Time Is Running Out' or even 'Hysteria.' 'Endlessly', for example, has changed very much. In the beginning it was more of a rock song, a bluesy riff. Then we decided to make it as simple as possible. Because it just felt how the song should be. It didn't have to be flamboyant.

You sold your single 'Stockholm Syndrome' through the Internet. In Germany it didn't work that well reputedly.

Everywhere else it did. It was seen as a very big success because it was a very new way to publish a single. We had launched a new website and wanted to give a new song into the bargain. There were a lot of downloads and if the format was relevant to the charts it would have been a top ten hit. It just was something we wanted to do. Many people fight against downloading but all of us are guilty. I do it as well after all. If you surf the Internet and download music it is just a good way to find new artists and to spread music.

Do you think that people will pay for it sometime?

I don't say this from the point that we don't earn money with it: To get things for free is just to easy. People don't have a problem with paying for music, they have done this for quite some time. It's just about finding an acceptable way for it on the Internet. But now that filesharing is so popular, there are disadvantages as well: the sound is very bad sometimes and sometimes you don't even know what you're downloading exactly. I hate this shitty sound. If you pay and are sure it's good quality, then it can work. Look at iPod. People pay 99 cent for a track and there are millions of downloads.

Some artists are afraid that the album gets lost this way. That you only know particular songs and not the whole order the band worked out.

If music downloads are controlled like with I-Tune, you can still present the album as it is meant to be. Besides, Internet is getting faster and faster, and sooner or later you won't download just one song anymore. You will just click and buff, there's it completely.

I think that Muse are always set up on perfection. Everything you do looks very perfect always. Aren't you afraid that it may not be the case some time?

I don't think that all we do is perfect.

When you are on stage, it does sound very straight and perfect.

To us, it doesn't Laughs. I think that's just how we play. But by no means I think it's too perfect. It's always very spontaneous and full of energy. We have always made the music we wanted to make. The three of us take our instruments very seriously and analyze ourselves very much. This can be good or bad, but in most cases it's an experience you can learn very much of and which can change your own style as well.

How much routine did you get over the years? Isn't it boring sometimes?

Practice?

No, routine!

Dominic looks up from his foot which played with a coke cap. Now his answer comes quick like a shot: No! We play the songs differently every night and have never played a set up show which doesn't leave space to breathe. It also feels different everytime and that's just why we go on doing it.

Once you said that you're proud of not being hyped very much. How important is that to you?

It's not really important because we already did our third album. We're already kind of an old band, so hyping is over I think. We've never been one of the cool bands. In British press there are many bands being hyped very much. We've never been one of them and this was really good. I think people can't do that with us anyway. Because we've always felt very different compared to all other bands.

Why?

Because nobody makes similar music to ours. laughs. We've never been involved in any scene and have never been lumped together with other bands. We feel very independent from any scene, any other band or any style. We have our own identity. I really do feel sorry for many bands being hyped very much, who obviously are pigeonholed. You really have to think then that you have very little identity. I'm sure this doesn't feel good.

How do you keep your freedom as a band? Do you feel pressurized?

Not really. We aren't pressurized at all. We all have musical freedom and we also have most things under control. I have no idea why we have this freedom as a band, maybe because we've never been afraid of trying out something new. We've always let us influence by many different styles and musical eras and have never been afraid of trying out something musically.

Have your influences changed over the time?

Errrr, sure. You [get] influenced by many things. During the time between the first and the second album, Matthew started listening to much more piano music, such as Chopin or Rachmaninow. Surely this had a massive impact on how the band sounded afterwards. But I think it's a very thin line, to mix these different styles and genres and though make a good song which doesn't sound like a fucked up prog rock song. But this is essential if you want to find an original style. We're influenced by hard rock as well as things being hundreds of years old. You try to mix all this together. That's very hard but it's how we find our sound.

In an article about you I read that you want to make contact to normal social life by your after show parties. Are after show parties a normal social life for you?

On the last tour, we met lots of people und always invited many people backstage after the gigs. That was fine. We had a good time and made contact with the people who came to see us on stage. That's definitely better than being completely isolated from everything around. So we had a lot of parties. That just happens if you have many people in a room, a stereo and many drinks. Is glad and laughs. That was good, although it was a bit muddled. But back in those days, it was fine. Things were very crazy...

Why?

Drunk times on the road...back then.

So you don't have parties anymore?

Don't know. This can happen if you're touring for a long time. You can get very bored and have to compensate that with parties. But who knows what happens next time. We haven't been on tour for quite a long time, we don't know what happens this time. Maybe it's gonna be a very clean life and we start coming to appreciate cathedrals like this one over there (points at the Cologne Cathedral where he has been twice). Or it is gonna be a wild, crazy time again. Maybe both. laughs

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