Alien invasion, ouija boards and supermassive black holes, few bands can rival Muse for eccentricity, excitement and, let’s face it, downright weirdness. Matt Bellamy and co. have thrilled, shocked and entertained us in equal measure since their inception in 1994, so when we went delving into the Devon trio’s closet, Clash was expecting to find some truly strange skeletons.
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Muse – Knights of Cydonia (live at Wembley 2007)
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1. Who’d have thought that the foundations for one of the Britain’s most exciting bands would have been laid by a make-up splattered, Jamiroquai-baiting band by the name of Rocket Baby Dolls? Well, that’s exactly what happened when Matt and his future band mates Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard played a battle of the bands competition in their native Teignmouth. “We were the only real rock band; all the others were pop or funk-pop, like Jamiroquai. We came on stage with make up all over our face, we were very aggressive, we played very violently and then we broke everything on stage,” remembers Matt. “So, when we won it changed many things in our heads. We had just discovered something: music is a matter of emotion.”
2. Matt Bellamy’s musical journey towards Muse was, suffice to say, interesting. After all, playing guitar and squealing along with three girls who called themselves witches isn’t the expected path for a classically trained pianist. But then, neither is working as a decorator, demolitionist and a campsite toilet cleaner. “We did a lot of strange stuff that I’d prefer not to remember,” the singer once said. Quite.
3. But just how did the humble ouija board end up having such a profound influence on the young Matt Bellamy? After discovering his family using one late one night, everything changed: “It was exciting to go to school and to tell ten-year-old kids all about it, as they found it all quite scary,” he said. “I knew I was different and I knew that music was what I wanted to do from a very young age, which is unusual.”
4. And if we weren’t sure that Bellamy had maintained a penchant for the strange and supernatural, he cemented it on a trip to New York in 2006 when, due to believing a that an impending meteorite was to cause a tsunami that would wipe out the entire east coast, he insisted in conducting his press interviews in a helicopter. And that’s without even mentioning his more recent revelation that he had stockpiled “baked beans and an axe” in anticipation of the end of the world.
5. Ever wondered how Matt Bellamy would like to snuff it? Us neither, but here’s what he thinks just in case. “If I had a choice of a way to go it would be drowning. You can sit on the bottom and go, ‘Hey, this is cool’ and gradually fall asleep. My mum told me it was calming; I think she fell underwater once accidentally and nearly drowned and said to me, ‘Don’t worry, that’s the way to go!’”
6. One of the first things Bellamy purchased with the wealth the band generated was a fully functioning jet pack, like, for actual flying? “It’s called a Paramotor; you attach it to your back and zoom through the air,” he said. “I’ve nearly got my licence now. You can go up to ten thousand feet if you’ve got enough oxygen.”
7. Aside from drowning and jet packs, the raven-haired singer’s on-tour antics have caused great concern for his band in the past. Howard once spoke of an incident in Vienna, when the band played in the wake of countrywide outrage over a neo-Nazi gathering. After trashing the stage, Bellamy went AWOL for two days, resulting in the drummer describing him as “possessed”.
8. The drug-fuelled excess of the band’s early tours is well documented, but little attention has been paid to the small matter of, ahem, female fans. After a particularly heavy night in Amsterdam, Howard once said: “There were definitely a few moments of filling up the bus with girls and having a laugh.”
9. The consistently incendiary Muse live show has won the band numerous awards, but what happened when they won their first award in 2000 is perhaps the trio’s most rock ‘n’ roll moment. Matt Bellamy reminisced: “After winning our first NME Award our private plane caught on fire. We had to fly to a gig and one of the engines caught alight as it was going down the runway – we were actually sitting there with the award in our hands when the engine burst into flames.”
10. On first thought, one wouldn’t expect the paths of an experimental rock band and Canadian diva Celine Dion would cross, but cross they did back in 2002 when the Titanic singer wanted to name her Las Vegas show ‘Muse’. Worried about the possible effects on their impact across the Pond, not to mention their credibility, Bellamy retorted at the time, “We don’t want to turn up there with people thinking we’re Celine Dion’s backing band.” The 140 million-record-selling Dion offered fifty thousand dollars for the moniker, but Muse steadfastly refused.
11. George Bellamy, Matt’s father, provides a bizarre connection between Muse and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. His band, The Tornados, was responsible for the 1962 hit ‘Telstar’, which was Maggie’s favourite song. And you thought Muse weren’t political.
12. During the recording of 2003 record ‘Absolution’, Muse actually were influenced by politics. With the threat of terrorism gripping the world, the cosmic, orchestra-driven album took a more conservative turn. “We ended up deciding to get back to basics; we re-recorded some of the stuff with the orchestra, toned it down a little bit. It’s not that we’re a political band, but I think it’s impossible to avoid those things,” Bellamy said at the time.
Words by Ben Homewood
Read ClashMusic’s review of Muse’s latest album, ‘The Resistance’, as well as reviews from two of the band’s competition winning fans, HERE.