NME 2011-03-22 – "We're pushing the boundaries of what's possible"

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Scan, front cover
Scan, pages 6–7
Scan, pages 8–9

An article concerning Muse's headline positions for Reading and Leeds Festivals 2011.


With Muse returning to the Reading And Leeds Festivals to headline after give years away, Matt Bellamy and co tell Barry Nicolson how these shows could change the band forever

“We’ve always seen Reading and Leeds as being pretty much the pinnacle of all rock concerts,” says an audibly chuffed Matt Bellamy, whose band have just been confirmed to headline this year's double-header – along with My Chemical Romance, and The Strokes and Pulp, who will co-headline.
  The band have a long history with the festivals. They first went to Reading as punters in 1994 and got stoned for the first time while watching Cypress Hill (“Their entire production was a 15ft hand holding a spliff,” recalls drummer Dom Howard fondly), then in 2000, when they made their chaotic debut appearance, bassist Chris Wolstenholme’s train to Leeds was delayed and he ended up missing half the set. This time around, however, they’re planning on writing a whole new chapter, with a setlist that promises to be heavy on material from the band’s pivotal second album, 2001's ‘Origin Of Symmetry’, and one that far outstrips the time they headlined the second stage and employed a group of old schoolfriends to moon at the audience (“We were young and stupid!” exclaims Dom). They’re planning an audio-visual spectacular that Chris promises with “push the boundaries of what’s possible at a festival”. It’s sure to be epic. And it should be, as the band have told us that the gigs could be the most vital they’ve played so far. Mainly because Matt has admitted that the shows could see the band “draw a line” in their career. Over the next six pages we’ve got chats with the major players on the festival's line-ups – but first, let’s get to the bottom of what this all means for Muse.

It’s been five years since you last headlined Reading and Leeds. What are your memories?

Dom: “I’ve said it so many times before, but Reading was the first festival we ever went to, back in 1994 when we were teenagers, and so it felt like such a huge achievement for us to be headlining the bloody thing. It brought back a lot of memories and retrospective feelings about our younger years. And we’re looking forward to it just as much this time. We can’t wait to get back.”

Have you got anything special planned for this year?

Dom: “Well, it’s going to be a very different gig, because we won’t have played in England for almost a year by then, and we really don't want to do a similar kind of show to what we did at Wembley. We want to do something special, so that this feels like a one-off.”
Chris: “The thing is, we’ve kind of stopped touring ‘The Resistance’ now, and we felt that if we were going to do these shows, we should make it something unique. We’ve been touring the last album for a year and a half, and people have seen that show already, you know? So we’ve been thinking for a long time about what we can do – we were talking for a while about doing some sort of B-sides set, or playing stuff that we haven’t played for a long time. There are a lot of older songs that never get a look in.”

Does that mean we can expect a more retrospective set?

Matt: “Well, we realised that it’s been 10 years since the release of ‘Origin Of Symmetry’, and that album was the first one we made that was... I don’t want to say ‘competent’, but it was our first fully thought-out album. These are going to be our last gigs for a while, and in some ways I suppose it will feel like we’re drawing a line under one phase of our career. The first album, to be honest, didn't really feel like much of a breakthrough. It was on the second album that things really started happening for the band, and when we focused on the live side of things much more. So it'll be like coming full circle: we’ve gone off one one a little bit, and now it feels like the right time to really pull it back and remind ourself of what we were actually doing 10 years ago.”
Dom: “‘Origin Of Symmetry’ was an important album for us, because it felt as though we’d really changed as a band from ‘Showbiz’. We’d become different people, we’d grown up a bit, and we definitely changed as a live band over that period – and drastically so as a studio band. We really lost ourselves in the mad epicness of some of the music we went on to make over the years. So it felt like a real turning point for us, and it feels right to celebrate the things we’ve achieved over the last 10 years.”

As a band, you guys have always been about progression. Isn't it dangerous to start flirting with nostalgia now?

Matt: “Haha! Not really, because this is a real one-off. It’s probably the last time some of these songs will ever be played live again, to be honest. Our albums have always been about moving forward, sound-wise, and the next one will continue with that.”

Speaking of the next one, can we expect to hear any news songs?

Chris: “I don’t know, to be honest. We’ve just had a bit of time off, and there’s not really been any communal work dons so far. Matt and Dom have been living in LA, and the three of us haven’t really had a chance to get together yet and start working on new stuff. Matt’s got a few things he’s been working on, but in all honesty, our intention was for 2011 to be a quiet year. The plan is for the three of us to move back to London towards the end of the year, and then start making the album from about October onwards.”
Matt: “We might do, if we’ve had time to create anything by then. It’s not out of the question. With the next one, I want to incorporate a bit more of the live show onto the record. On the last couple of albums, it’s felt as thought we’ve been pushing the boundaries outside of what we do live. So the whole reason we’re doing Reading and Leeds is to keep us fresh for that. One way or another, those gigs will have some kind of impact on the record. We could end up drawing a line, or reminding ourself of how to start again.”

You’ve mentioned that the production will be different from ‘The Resistance’ tour. Can you let us in on any more details?

Chris: “We’re going to take it as far as we can. We’re going to push the boundaries of what’s possible at a festival. There are obviously certain things we can’t do, when we did the Wembley shows, the production was being set up all week! But we’ve managed to pull off some pretty spectacular stuff at festivals before, and there's no reason why we can’t do that again.”
Dom: “We’re going to try and set up the whole stage like the ‘Origin Of Symmetry’ cover, and have those weird, crooked, Tim Burton-style antennas [sic] – or goalposts, or whatever they really are – onstage, and try to bring that whole cover to life, to create a 3D version of it. It’s going to be very cool. It’s going to be exciting and interesting, and very visual.”

So, a set of rarities and little-heard oldies (with, Dom insists, “A proper rock-out at the end”)? Juxtaposed with a unique stage set never to be reproduced again? The possibility – if not exactly the promise – of new material, and a show that the band will use to decide their future direction? Count us in for that.
  “Every gig is unique in its own way,” says Dom, “and particularly the big ones. They all feel very different to [sic] each other. But Reading and Leeds especially is [sic] going to be fun...”

[ . . . ]

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