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Interview:
No "Resistance;" Muse Wins Over U.S.
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

When it comes to Muse and its burgeoning popularity, resistance appears to be futile.

The British rock trio’s fifth studio album, “The Resistance,” hit No. 1 in 13 countries after its September release, while in the U.S. it debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, Muse’s best showing ever.

The first single, “Uprising,” gave the group its first No. 1 hit on Top Alternative Songs poll, and Muse was even nominated in the Rock Band category at this year’s People’s Choice Awards alongside Daughtry, Green Day, Kings of Leon and Paramore.

Now, the group is on the road playing arenas in North America — something it’s been doing for several years in the rest of the world, so there’s some satisfaction that fans are catching up on this side of the pond.

“It’s nice to know that America’s following what’s happened everywhere else,” says bassist Chris Wolstenholme. “There was definitely an anticipation with this album that I don’t think we really felt with any of our previous albums coming out over here ... So it’s nice to be getting up to that level where we can maybe play arenas like we do elsewhere in the world.

“So, yeah, it definitely all seems to be coming together.”

Muse — Wolstenholme, singer-guitarist Matthew Bellamy and drummer Dominic Howard — came together in 1994 after playing in separate bands at Teignmouth Community College in Devon, England. Originally called Rocket Baby Dolls, the trio won a local battle of the bands early in its career, changed its name to Muse and moved to London, signing a deal and recording its first album, “Showbiz,” with John Leckie (Stone Roses, Radiohead) co-producing, in 1999.

That history and background, according to drummer Howard, has kept things peaceable between the three band members over time.

“We’ve known each other for so many years,” Howard, 32, explains. “We’ve grown up together. We’ve seen lots of different changes in each other and seen lots of different, you know, physical, personality changes — this whole thing about growing up, you know.

“But we’ve always stuck together, which is quite unique, really, because not too many people have friends from when they were, like, 10.”

Muse’s early albums hit big overseas and caused a bit of a stir in the U.S., although it made even bigger news in 2002, when it turned down a $50,000 offer from Celine Dion to allow her to call her Las Vegas show “Muse.” So it was something of a surprise for Muse to find out what kind of audience it had when it toured in 2004 to support its third album, “Absolution.”

“Even initially when we were doing small clubs ... all the gigs were full,” Howard recalls. “It really was an amazing feeling. It blew our minds, really, ’cause we ... didn’t realize we had any fans over here.

“So the fact that the word had kind of spread underground and, like, through the Internet and through whatever medium, is really an amazing thing to actually see that firsthand.”

Bellamy, 31, credits touring as Muse’s most effective means of promotion on these shores.

“It always seems that the band has become known through playing live, mainly, as opposed to record sales or anything like that,” he explains. “The heart and soul of the band was what we do onstage. And it seemed wherever we toured, you know, we’d come back and it’d be a bigger venue in the same town kind of thing.

“So I suppose in some ways, that’s sort of an old school way of getting yourself out there, you know, and I think over here, that was great.”

Wolstenholme, 31, says Muse has always enjoyed “extreme reactions” to its music — even from unexpected quarters. Last year, for instance, conservative radio and TV commentator Glenn Beck praised “The Resistance,” calling the band “brilliant” and saying that “they know the time we live in.”

After that, however, Muse — which doesn’t consider itself a political band although “Uprising” does have overtones — asked Beck to retract his endorsement, to which he responded, “I didn’t mean to destroy all their credibility and coolness.”

More to the band’s liking where three Shockwave NME Awards in Britain — Best British Band, Best Website and Hottest Man for Bellamy — as well as a Best Act in the World honor, beating out Coldplay, Kings of Leon and Oasis, at the Q Awards in London. But Wolstenholme says he and his bandmates tend to accept those prizes with the proverbial grain of salt.

“We don’t take anything for granted,” he explains. “We know that there’s a certain expectation on this band with the quality of music that we make, and it’s an expectation that we put on ourselves as well, ’cause we always want to better ourselves.

“And, you know, if you make an album and you don’t feel like it’s better than the album you’ve done before, then you should probably either pack it in or start again, you know?”



Muse and Silversun Pickups perform at 7 p.m. Saturday (March 13) at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $39.50. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.



Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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