Muse on new album: 'We felt a little bit fearless with this one'
Babies. Bankers. The second law of thermodynamics. Three years after their chart-topping The Resistance, Muse are back with a new album that might just be their most eccentric yet.
"We felt a little but fearless with this one," says Muse drummer Dom Howard surveying the expanse of knobs and faders on the vast mixing desk at Air Studios.
It was here in this former Victorian church in a quiet corner of Hampstead that Howard and bandmates Matt Bellamy and Christopher Wolstenholme began work a year ago on what was to become their sixth studio album, The 2nd Law.
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This is the most diverse and eclectic and experimental album we've ever done.”
A year on, the band are back in residence - in the final stages of rehearsals for a European tour that kicks off in October.
Technicians swarm over mountains of musical equipment, while huge black flight cases sit ready to be shipped out.
"I think this is the most diverse and eclectic and experimental album we've ever done," says Howard.
"We wanted to give every track its own character and touch on new ideas and break a little bit of new musical ground for the band as well."
That new territory includes excursions into funk and dubstep, and two songs written and sung by bassist Wolstenholme.
"The last album was more about trying to define the sound of the band," says Howard.
"On this one we opened up a little bit more and made some songs sound really big and live - influenced by some of the big shows we've done - and other songs are really intimate and electronic."
The album kicks off with Supremacy, a huge-riffed rock outing that wouldn't be out of place at the start of a Bond movie. Had Muse, perhaps, submitted the track for 007's latest adventure, Skyfall?
Howard laughs off the idea. "It's got a little whisper to the Bond vibe - it all goes a bit crazy Live and Let Die in the middle. My view is they should use it for the next James Bond film, but I don't know what's going on with that. I heard Adele was doing it!"
After the driving throb of the single, Madness, comes the disco funk of Panic Station, complete with a horn section. A Rachmaninov-infused piano piece leads into Muse's Olympics anthem Survival.
With its operatic flourishes and bombastic guitar, it was a song that divided opinion. Muse played it at the Olympics closing ceremony in August, having already carried the Olympic flame in their home town of Teignmouth, Devon.
End Quote Dom Howard lifts the lid on Muse's new stage show
I'm going to do some kung fu and fend off some businessmen.”
"We felt really proud to be involved with the Olympics. I didn't really think I would be because I'm just a really unpatriotic person," Howard says.
The closing ceremony itself, he says, went smoothly despite "shambolic" preparations. "Nobody thought it was even going to happen on the day, but it was perfect on the night. It emphasised the good feeling everyone was having."
While the new album takes its title from the second law of thermodynamics, the new set of songs reflect changes in the personal lives of the band as well as events in the wider world.
The track Follow Me was inspired by frontman Matt Bellamy's recent fatherhood. It opens with the sound of a heartbeat belonging to his son, Bingham, who was born last year to Bellamy and American actress Kate Hudson.
"Bing's heartbeat was recorded while he was still in the womb," says Howard. "The song is about Matt becoming a parent and being responsible for another human being."
Meanwhile, the next track, Animals, ends with a sample of bellowing Wall Street stockbrokers. Howard confirms the song is Muse's take on the banking crisis.
"Animals is probably the most political song. It's aimed at the bankers and people who gambled everyone's money and ended up putting countries in debt.
"We added the sound of Wall Street traders screaming right before the bell goes. It's pretty dark how lost in it these people are getting... they sound like a bunch of animals."
Muse's gigs have a reputation for lavish spectacle. What's in store for upcoming tour?
"On stage we're going to have these huge upside-down pyramid which can turn itself inside out," says Howard. "It represents the power hierarchy turned on its head."
He also promises "dancing aliens", and another swipe at bankers.
"I'm going to do some kung fu and fend off some businessmen, who are losing their minds as they realise they've lost everyone's money."
The 2nd Law is out in the UK on 1 October.