Muse have been a staple of the international rock scene for over two decades, and although their recent music has divided their fan base to some extent, their incredible achievements as a band over a significant period of time are unquestionable. Matt Bellamy also rightfully holds a place as one of the most entertaining and enchanting frontmen of all time.
After last touring Australia in 2013, Muse recently announced that they’ll be returning here at the end of 2017. Notably though, they’ll only play shows in Sydney and Melbourne, at a time when cities that aren’t on the east coast are fighting a tougher struggle than ever to book international headline acts.
Music Feeds caught up with Muse bassist, multi-instrumentalist and backing vocalist Chris Wolstenholme to chat about their latest single ‘Dig Down’, why they’ve decided to play only two Aussie shows and how the band remain motivated after more than two decades on the scene.
Music Feeds: It’s been a while since you guys were in Australia and we thought we’d probably missed out on the [latest album] Drones touring cycle. Was it always part of the grand plan to get down here after the last album?
Chris Wolstenholme: I think we always planned to come back. Obviously with the massive production we took around Europe on the Drones tour, the reality of getting that down to Australia, it just wasn’t really a possibility to be honest. We wanted to get the main Drones tour out of the way and we knew there would be places we wouldn’t be able to take that production.
It was always our intention to do a little bit of touring this year and get to some of those places that missed out. Australia’s an amazing place to visit anyway regardless of whether we play there or not, so it was always our intention.
MF: You’re only heading to Sydney and Melbourne later this year, and there’s been some dissatisfied fans voicing their feelings about that on social media. Do you think it’s likely that future tours will be restricted to the east coast or do you think you’ll get around a bit more next time you come back?
CW: I’m sure we will get around more on future tours. This year’s not a particularly heavy touring year for us. We’ve done a bit in the States and we’re just trying to get to some of the countries we didn’t get to on the Drones tour initially, but it was never really our intention to do a full year of touring.
I guess sometimes it’s hard to go everywhere. We’d like to play in every city and every country all over the world on every album, but we’d never finish touring. It’s difficult to pick and choose really, and obviously other things come into play like venue availability. It’s also very close to Christmas as well so unfortunately we’ve got kids to get back to. We’ll definitely come back and do a full extended tour at some point.
MF: Your latest song ‘Dig Down’ was released as a standalone single, and we’re heard that there may be a few more singles released by themselves. Why triggered the decision to move towards this method of releasing music, at least for the time being?
CW: I think the industry has changed too much since we started, certainly since we put our first record out. But even in the last five or six years, streaming has become the way that most people seem to listen to music this days and I think that’s affected the way people listen to music. People tend not to consume themselves in entire albums like they did when I was younger. It seems to be that the whole industry and the platforms for listening to music are catered around people listening to individual songs and creating their own playlists and things like that.
So I think it was something that was worth a try, just putting out the odd single here or there. There’s less pressure as well. We decided after Drones we were going to take a little bit of time off, and that we wouldn’t tour heavily this year but we didn’t want to disappear completely. Sometimes as a band — even in times when you’re off — you don’t necessarily feel like you want to make an entire album, but sometimes it’s quite nice to get together as a band for a bit of fun and if anything comes of it you think well, ‘Well why not release it as a standalone single?’
I think for years things have been tapered around an album campaign, promoting an album and having singles to promote the album. I guess we all felt that with the way that streaming works these days and that there’s so much emphasis on individual songs, that there was no reason why we couldn’t do that. I know at some point we will do another album but I think it’s a nice thing to do in the meantime so the fans feel like they’re still getting something; we haven’t completely disappeared off the face of the planet.
MF: You guys released an artificially intelligent video for ‘Dig Down’, and we’ve seen drones and other cutting-edge technology incorporated into your presence over the years. What do you think it is that drives you guys to keep trying new things and embracing new technologies?
CW: I guess the thing is it means you can always do something different. If you don’t embrace new technology you get stuck with the same old show or the same old music. I think when you’re constantly keeping your eye on what’s available, whether it is for recording or for the show — you always know that you’re always going to be offering something new.
When we did the Drones tour, the whole idea of having actual drones flying around the audience, it was actually quite a difficult thing to make happen. There was only one company in the world that had the technology to do what we wanted, it was that new. I’m not sure if we were the first people to use it, but I think we were the first band to have stuff flying around the arena like that.
I think if you keep your finger on the pulse with technology, we feel like every time people come to see us play they’ll hopefully see something they’ve not see before. So we feel like we’re constantly moving and evolving as a band, whether it be musically or in terms of the show elements. It’s about making sure people don’t see the same show every time they come to see us.
MF: Muse have been playing massive arena shows and releasing hugely popular music for such a long time. What drives you to keep making music and taking it to the people after more than two decades of this?
CW: I guess for us, we’re in it for as long as we enjoy doing it. When music’s been such an important part of your life it’s a difficult thing to let go of, it’s a part of who you are. Being in Muse is something that’s been a part of all our lives since we were 15 years old. So it’s unthinkable that it wouldn’t be there.
There may come a day when one or all of us decide that we don’t want to do it anymore or don’t enjoy doing it anymore, but as long as we all still enjoy it we will do it. That’s always been the driving force for us — we love making music and we love performing on stage, and we love playing in front of people. For as long as we can do that we will do that.