Melody Maker 2000-06-28 – I Don't Care if I F*** It Up Any More

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An article in the 2000-06-28 issue of Melody Maker magazine.


I don't Care if I F*** It Up Any More

After their triumphant Glasto Maker joins Muse for an arty day at London’s Tate Modern – and finds Matt Bellamy in unusually self-doubting mood…

“Spiders rule the universe,” whispers Muse frontman Matt Bellamy, with all the nervous panic of a lesser cast member from “Star Trek”. A lesser cast member who’s just lost his comrades, his communicator and the contents of his bowels somewhere on a hostile, alien planet. A lesser cast member, in fact, who’s about to lose a large chunk of his intestines to a million-food-tall, metal spider called “Maman”. No, really. Any minute now…

except, of course, he’s not. Because this particular mammoth spider, my friends, is art. At least it is to the hundreds of tourists, advertising executives and single-blokes-out-on-the-shark here at London’s new art empire, Tate Modern. To matt, though, this is war. “I hate spiders!” he quivers, glancing fearfully up at the huge, metal bug. “I hate them because they’re superior. Spiders are the only animals on our planet which have traveled [sic] further into space than us. They go into suspended animation, and they are able to stay in that state for eternity until they hit the right conditions. Then –bam! – they spawn back into life.”

Live in… um, space. Uh-huh. So how do they get up there?

“They just float!” he screams, terror blighting his eyes. “They float off in the air currents. They’re tiny, though! Tiny! So small you could never see them with a naked eye. There is a theory that we might have evolved from spiders, actually. They come down in a comet, hit this planet, and that’s how life actually started on Earth.”[note 1]

He turns away grimly, and says the oddest thing we’ve heard all day.

“I’d hate to have come from a spider.” Erm…quite.

Matt thinks about these things too much. We can say that with a degree of certainty because we’ve never once considered the fact that we might’ve evolved from spiders and yet – strangely – we’ve managed to live happy, secure and productive lives. Then again. We never snapped up and astonishing record deal when we were barely out of short trousers, we never recorded a debut album as intensely powerful as Muse’s “Showbiz” and we’ve never managed to get our hair to be quite so spiky. But we are not in Muse.

We’re not fighting to make the world a more exciting place.

“Still stuff is boring,” complains Matt, prowling around the Tate Modern’s galleries, searching among the mutilated canvases and twisted installation, among Damien Hirst’s infamous “Pharmacy” (Matt: “It doesn’t mean a thing to me”) and Donald Judd’s large, aluminum [sic] boxes (Matt: “it’s just a box, isn’t it? Look! It’s called ‘Untitled’ as well!”) for signs of bright, technological future. A future where virtual-reality lasers will zap into his eyeballs, sending him into a fantasy land where colour has a smell and everyone needs to be plugged in overnight to recharge.

“That’s the whole problem with this place,” he adds, “with all art galleries – they’re too still. They don’t really look like anything new. Everyone knows what modern technology’s capable of, but where is it? Where can we get hold of it?”

so what you’re saying is that modern art just isn’t modern enough?

“well, where’s the stuff that’s really gonna be remembered?” frowns Matt. “You only remember the pioneering stuff, and too much modern art is all about playing with some concept from 50 years before. It’s nothing new. Like, who do we even remember from 100 years ago in music? I wonder if any of the bands who are around now are going to be remembered. I reckon the vast majority of them will be forgotten.”

Including you?

“Probably. But maybe we’re just not modern enough. As people we are. F***ing hell! We’re here! In the present! Right now! But, musically, everything we do has been done before. We do have a little bit of uniqueness I suppose, but at the end of the day, we just... well, we get a bit rock’n’roll, you know?”

And that’s dated?

“I think it is,” he hums. “Yes.”

This isn’t the Matthew Bellamy you were expecting, is it? It’s certainly not the one we’d read about: the decadent bon viveur who couldn’t give a shit if fascists take over Europe, as long as he has record company money coming out of his arse, his champagne’s been perfectly chilled and his cigar’s been rolled on the most virginal of thighs. He seems… well, less pretentious than we’d been led to believe, more full of fears and doubts and insecurities. And it’s not something he’s unaware of, either.

“I think I was a bit pretentious for a little bit,” he says, settling in a nearby pub. “For a moment, I thought that the music was… well really good, and I accidentally answered questions in a way that might’ve sounded really twattish and anal. I’m definitely aware of that.”

But maybe there was a class element working away there too, matt. Maybe people thought muse were all pretentious fits because you don’t come across like the usual rock’n’roll scrubbers we’re all used to.

“Well, that’s another misconception about us,” he groans. “People think we’re public school and we’re not. Not even remotely. I’ve never even walked past a public school! Well, actually I have. I’ve thrown bricks at them, but that’s it, you know? The misconception is that people think we had very simple, nice, middle-class lives, and that’s not that case at all.”

As it happens, you do have quite a scrubby background, don’t you, Matt? We’ve heard stories about car theft and all sorts…

“Hmmm,” he blushes, fidgeting with his shirt sleeve. “Yeah. But it’s nothing I’m proud of. I never wanted to be doing stuff like that, and it sounds much more dramatic than it actually was. I just got involved with a really dodgy crowd. I’ve always managed to get involved with really dodgy people, for some reason.”

He pauses. Sips his drink, looks at bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard. Blushes again. Then laughs. “Apart from these two. But trust me, if you ever want to fall in with a dodgy crowd, get a job cleaning toilets on a camp site. That’s where I met a lot of dodgy people. I’ve done all the jobs, me. I’ve had the flove up to there, unblocking drains. But why on earth are we talking about this?”

Because otherwise people will think you’re the kind of pances who swan about art galleries all day!

“Look,” he smiles, “if we’re bright in any way, it’s not university cleverness. It’s common sense. It’s just common sense.”

You realize that makes you sound like a smug, Tory bastard, don’t you?

“Aaaaaaaargh! Jesus!”

All right, Matt. We’ll stop being mean. Let’s move on to dribbling over your ridiculous abundant talent, shall we?

Or maybe not. Barely has the second round of drinks staggered its way to the table than Matt says the following. And, trust us, he actually means this.

“I think I’m crap. I’m a crap guitar player. I’m really not very good. And I thought I was a good singer until I met Coldplay. That guy’s got a real voice. He can sing.”

You read Melody Maker. There’s a fair chance you’ve heard Muse by not. Maybe you’ve even seen them play one of their unspeakably explosive live shows. Well, matt can play guitar, can’t he? And he can definitely sing. Boy, can he sing…

“Naaaaaah,” he piffles, wafting the suggesting away with his flapping hands. “I used to think I was an all right singer, but I’ve gone off myself recently. I’ve just started screaming at gigs now, doing weird voices and stuff. A year ago, I was like: ‘Sing! Sing lovely notes and beautiful melodies!” I never used to scream at gigs, In case I damaged my voice, but I just don’t care if I f*** it up any more.”

Isn’t that a bit ungrateful?

“Is it?” he shrugs. “Look, I admit there was a time, when we were recording the album last year, when I did think I was good at something. But, since then, I’ve gone out into the world and toured with people who are way better than I could ever be. Take Flea from the Chili Peppers – he’s an absolute genius. He’s like Jimi Hendrix on the bass. People have been saying in reviews that I’m the new Hendrix, but that just makes me go, ‘Baaaaaah, bollocks!’ I do put everything I can into my playing, into this music, but there’s so much more to learn. And I’m really gonna make sure I get the chance to do that learning, even if it means disappearing for a long time.”

Learn what? You’re already the best live band in the world!

“Ha!” he laughs. “that’s definitely not true. No, no, no. Rage Against The Machine, Tom Waits, The Flaming Lips – excellent shows. Even bands like Korn or Slipknot. Slipknot are f***ing amazing! They are!”

“That’s a show!” grins Dom. “But don’t they just kick each other’s arses onstage? Which is almost what we do, but in a more negative way.”

“Nah,” counters Matt, “underneath those masks, they’re loving it, really! Actually, speaking of masks, I nearly did a mask thing on our last tour. I was gonna wear one of those typical, white-faced alien masks, and I was gonna dress up in while and have a projection on me. Just for ‘Unintended’. It was gonna be a love song from an alien’s point of view- wanting to be part of the human race, but just not quite able to get in. I was… m, advised not to do that. You see, I’m losing the care about how I look onstage these days. That’s how we are in rehearsals, pissing about and rolling around. I’m always making a twat of myself. God knows why people want to pay good money to look at me wriggling about, though! I wouldn’t!

“What I’m getting into is prolonging the ending,” he adds. “staying onstage longer than we’re welcome. I’m starting to have private moments in public, playing with the strobe lights, lying on the floor until I get really comfy. One night, on the last tour, I ended up on the floor with these smashed speaker cabinets around me, got really comfy and just lay there for about 15 minutes. The tour manager had to come on and ask me whether I was asleep or not! That’s my aim – to fall asleep onstage at the end of a gig. Smash everything the huddle down, just appreciate the peace.”

Time to cut to the chase. Matthew Bellamy, I put it to you that, despite your wriggling, despite your protestations, despite your ridiculous sense of unworthy guilt, you have become a star.

“Nooooo.”

Yeeeeeeees.

“Nooooooooooooo. No, no, no, no, no! That’s not what I’m after at all. Definitely not. It’s not something I’ve ever intended, or wanted, or something I’m aiming to expend on. Besides, we’re not a big band at all. Of course you’re gonna be treated that way at your own gigs, but it just doesn’t work that way in day-to-day life.”

But it does with you. Everything about your screams, “Big, rock pig superstar waiting to happen”. You might be young, but everyone around you scuffles about like you’re this great, heroic butterfly who’s about to crawl out of the low-rent, indie chrysalis and take over the world. Any minute now. You’ve even started smashing up dressing rooms, and how star-like is that?

“That only happened once!” he protests and, fair enough, that’s true.

It was at the German equivalent of MTV’s Five Night Stand a couple of months ago. Muse’s gig was pulled out at the 11th hour and £3000 worth of damage was inflicted on whatever the band could grab and smash. Nevertheless, Travis have never behaved like that. Ever.

“But we were f***ing ready for that gig,” explains Matt. “The energy was there! So, when it was pulled, we were f***ing gutted. The level of negativity which set in at that point was immense, almost as it that was it, the end of the f***ing band.”

Don’t apologise. Kurt Cobain would be proud of you. John Lennon would probably give you a big sloopy kiss. It’s brilliant.

“Look,” he panics, half enjoying the praise, but seeming every bit as concerned that it might actually be true, “I know what you’re saying, but I’m only like that when things go terrible wrong. I’m not a prima donna! I’ve never said, ‘Do you know who I am?’ Ever!”

Still, there are limits. And, yes, Muse remain a very small band in the bigger escheme of things. Their big-push single “Unintended”, only went to Number 20, despite everyone’s sure-fire Top-10 predictions; they’re getting played on Radio 1, but they’re still a long way from A-listing Sonique out of the way; and, though they’re playing over 40 festivals this summer – taking in sites as unlikely as Israel, Turkey and Greece – it’s not as if they’re headlining any of them. Still, Muse have all the spirit they’ll need to see them grow. And, in spite of Matt’s unease, they have more than enough talent to reap the highest rewards. They’re just desperate to avoid the traditional pitfalls. That’s all.

“I saw some really dark stuff in the USA,” reveals Matt, edgily, as the pub’s kicking-out-time draws close. “I don’t want to name names, and it was far more crew and industry than the band themselves, but I saw… well, very dark-side stuff. Pure dark-side. Stuff that makes you sleep less comfortably. People getting hurt. Psychologically. And some of that got to me. Some of the stuff involving young girls and old men. That got to me. Quite seriously.”

And perhaps that’s why, for the time being at least, Muse’s ambitions are humble. Dom’s got his eyes set on bedding (or should that be “bushing”?) the unquestionably over-age Appleton Sisters when Muse play T in the Park next week; Matt’s working on some highfalutin scheme to reinvent crowd-surfing; and Chris is just sitting back, counting the pennies and dreaming of the day he can buy Rotherham United Football Club (new slogan: “F*** Off!”). Simple dreams. Certain futures.

“When you’re younger,” explains Matt, finally, “you dream of being known all over the world, massively famous, purely because it’s the exact opposite of what you are. But when you get to where we are not, that really doesn’t seem so important any more. That’s sad? Ah, but the thing you’re missing is that we probably will become massively famous!

“In fact,” he grins, getting up to leave. “I think we definitely will.”

And that’s really an end to it.

Sarah Bee
Matt about the gig: "We played pretty rusty, but the vibe was good. The crowd were good, they were up for it, they were up for dome rock, which was good to see. The most rocking moment was a song we hadn't played before - 'Ashamed', it's a B-Side from the last single. it was a bit of a gamble. It was a bit messy, I just had something at the end rrrarr! F***ing hel! I just had to f***cking let it out!!"

Notes

  1. This assertion is based on exogenesis, see Exogenesis: Overture.

See also


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