T in the Park 2010: Ten reasons to watch Muse
1. They don’t do safe, they only do epic
While Snow Patrol and Coldplay continue to turn out music to cry to, Muse have eschewed morose introspection in favour of ostentatious magnificence. And their fans love them for it. Across five albums they have perfected a vastly popular blend of spaced out hyper-rock that is half metal fury, half operatic bombast and all rock excess and squealing guitars – like Slayer and Queen trapped on spin cycle for eternity.
2. Matt Bellamy is an evil genius
Since forming the band in sleepy Teignmouth, Devon, Matt Bellamy has been the architect of this insanity, writing all of Muse’s reflections on the chaos of the universe and the nearness of the apocalypse. It’s led to some accusations that he’s a little unhinged. ‘It happens all the time. You say things like, “the aliens are coming down to take us all away” as a joke, obviously, but I get portrayed as some kind of mental bloke,’ he laughs. ‘It’s quite funny to read some of it back. “Did I actually say that?”’
3. It’s not that pretentious … honest
2006’s Black Holes and Revelations proved they could keep the weirdness and the hardness in equilibrium. ‘We were just trying to find a different way of being heavy, by being kind of crazy – using insanity to be heavy, rather than a typical rock idea of being heavy using a fat riff,’ explains drummer Dominic Howard. ‘Trying to find a new kind of heaviness that makes you just want to smash up your bedroom.
‘The more that we do some sort of pretentious concept song, the more we want to balance it out by doing a straight-ahead rock song,’ adds Bellamy, ‘which doesn’t require any deep thought [and makes] you just want to go fucking crazy and roll on the floor.’
4. They’re in good form
This may be the first time they’ve headlined the Main Stage at T (they last played in 2004 when they headlined the NME Stage) but they’re also headlining Glastonbury for the second time this year and have sold out two nights at Wembley Stadium in September. This is after having supported U2 on their unfathomably huge 360° tour and having headlined America’s finest festival, Coachella, in April. To say they know how to rise to the occasion is a bit of an understatement.
5. It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it
Now favouring an apocalyptic alien attack motif, the band has introduced a strong sci-fi element into their live show. Their current UFO stage set-up is so large, it actually blocked MTV’s satellite signal from German festival Rock AM Ring earlier this year. ‘There’s this rule that all the money you get paid for a gig, you put back into the gig,’ says Bellamy. ‘And you try and keep that going all the way up via theatres and arenas to the festivals. We have to make up for just being a three-piece somehow.’
6. They know the revolution is coming
‘Just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you,’ sang Kurt Cobain on Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’. It’s a lesson Matt Bellamy has learned well. ‘I like the idea that people will rise up and create a revolution. It’s kind of a dream that hopefully will happen, otherwise we will all end up in a George Orwell, Big Brother [society], with people being treated like cattle.
‘I was in Norway the other day and we were queueing for an hour or so and someone came up, had their eyeball scanned, and went straight though. And I thought, “fucking hell, it’s happening already.” There are ID cards in Italy that have your medical history and before you know it we’ll have cards with our financial history [on them] and job interviews will just be a swipe of a card. I think it’ll keep going in that direction where you can’t move or breathe or doing anything out of the ordinary without being stamped on. I like the idea of people waking up to this fact and trying to steer things in the other direction.’
7. They’re disturbed by fungi
‘I think Origin of Symmetry  was one of the sessions that went downhill, mainly because it was mushroom season at the time and they were growing all over the fields round the studio, so it took a little twist,’ says Bellamy of recording their second album. Hallucinogenic mushrooms aren’t the only natural forces that have influenced them.
‘After six or seven weeks of recording Black Holes and Revelations, cabin fever kicked in and things start to slow down,’ remembers bassist Chris Wolstenholme. ‘Every night these three or four bats would fly through the window. I was scared shitless the first time they came in, but after four or five days it became surprisingly comfortable. You’re doing several takes and these bats are circling. They became our friends.’
8. They bring their own celebrity entourage
Bizarre as it sounds, Matt Bellamy is rumoured to be dating Hollywood actress Kate Hudson after the pair spent a mid-June weekend away together in Paris. Not that The List cares too much about showbiz fraternising, but if you’re going to prop up the green room like a proper rock star you should really have a beautiful, talented Hollywood actress on your arm. Bellamy can tick that one of his rock’n’roll checklist: hair gel; high voice; celebrity girlfriend …
9. If the end of the world came, they’d provide the exit music
When nuclear war/the next ice age/the global threat of terrorism brings the world to its knees we know what Obama will have on his iPod. ‘Tracks like “Apocalypse Please” [from Absolution] are talking about religious fanaticism mixed up with military action causing the apocalypse,’ explains Bellamy. ‘There are moments of panic when you do believe something like that could be true, but often they get suppressed and pushed to one side because it’s not acceptable for everyday life. I mean you can’t walk into the pub with your mates and go, “shit – the world’s about to end.” The things that don’t come out in everyday life come out through the music.’
10. ‘Knights of Cydonia’
We end with Muse’s most mind-bending track; a galloping mix of Ennio Morricone and hard rock sci-fi psychosis. ‘It’s a combination of The Matrix and a Clint Eastwood film, some kind of western on Mars … with lasers and intergalactic war,’ says Bellamy.
‘The first time I heard the chords was on the tour bus in the States,’ adds Howard. ‘We were in the middle of Arizona. Listening to that music and seeing the desert, I instantly connected the visuals to the music: a bunch of knights riding horses, blitzing Mars.’ Don’t say they’ve got no imagination.
Muse headline T in the Park’s main stage on Fri 16 Jul.