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Muse Comfortable Wherever It Plays

Of the Oakland Press

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Muse is a band that prides itself on being able to take anything that’s thrown at it. The British group, on the road to support its fourth album, 2006’s “Black Holes and Revelations,” is comfortable playing everything from mammoth gigs — such as last month’s Live Earth stadium show and this weekend’s Lollapalooza ’07 festival in Chicago — to more modest affairs such as 89X’s 16th Birthday Bash on Thursday in Sterling Heights.

Then again, we probably shouldn’t expect anything less from the winner of this year’s Brit Award for Best British Live act.

“We’re quite used to sort of changing around the kind of slots we play and where we play,” notes singer-guitarist Matthew Bellamy, 29. “We’ve kind of been doing that for years really. Like, one minute you’re playing stadium gigs in England; next minute you’re playing sort of like to a few thousand people in Malaysia or something, you know, or whatever, or 500 people in Atlanta, wherever.

“We’re quite used to sort of adapting ourselves to whatever situation we’re in.”

It’s served the group — formed in 1997 in Devon, England — well. “Black Holes ...” has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide and helped earn Muse the Best British Band trophy at this year’s NME Award. In the United States, it’s sold more than 300,000 copies, approaching the gold standard of 2003’s “Absolution.”

The Muse members feel “Black Holes ...” benefited from the three-year break between albums, including a long gestation of songwriting in rural England and recording in New York City.

“We were rebuilding the band in some ways,” explains drummer Dominic Howard, 29. In England, he says, “we were very secluded, very detached from any other civilization of any kind. We all lived in the same place. We really wanted to start again and go back to how we used to make music before we were signed, before we went on tour and had to think about anything other than the music.

“It was great for us to kind of break the band down and rebuild again.”

And having done that, Howard says, Muse was wide open to new stimulus and inspiration when it began recording in earnest in Manhattan.

“New York had such a profound influence on the music, and a lot of things changed there,” he says. “Recording by day and going out by night, absorbing the energy of the city, even just subconsciously hanging out in the clubs, had a big influence on tracks like (the current single) ‘Supermassive Black Hole.’ ”

That experience, Howard notes, led to Muse “experimenting a lot with synthesizers ... and building songs up from an electronic point of view rather than just applying it later on.” But he and his mates — including Bellamy and bassist Chris Wolstenholme — were careful to keep the human and organic element of their, well, muse at the forefront.

“We’ve always been a rock band at heart,” says the drummer. “But in the studio, we never let that restriction influence the music. We have lots of different styles of music we’re very interested in, and we want to show many, many different sides of the band. This album shows that, I think.”

Muse expects to wrap up touring for “Black Holes ...” by the end of the year and then commence on its fifth album. The good news, Howard says, is that despite the intense creative process and heavy road schedule, the group members still manage to get along well.

“Yeah, we’re pretty good that way,” Howard says. “We all knew each other before we got in the band, and we only got in a band together ’cause we knew the three of us were the only people who had extra passion and extra drive for the music and wanted to do something new and fresh.

“So we developed our friendship out of making music together. It’s been years now, and it’s kind of brotherly like a big family on the road. We’re not killing each other — yet.”

The 89X 16th Birthday Bash, featuring Muse, Social Distortion, Cold War Kids and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, takes place 5 p.m. Thursday (August 2nd) at Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights. Tickets are $33.50-$43.50 pavilion, $26.50 lawn. Call (586) 268-5100 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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