Matt Bel­lamy heads into the vir­tual world on the band’s con­cep­tual new al­bum.

Q (UK) - - Contents - NIALL DO­HERTY

Are we liv­ing in a sim­u­la­tion? Per­haps Matt Bel­lamy and co’s lat­est al­bum can solve this mind-blow­ing mys­tery…

While he was mak­ing the new Muse al­bum, Matt Bel­lamy thought back to the first time he laid his hands on a syn­the­sizer. It was the ’ 80s and the seven-year-old Bel­lamy had al­ready learnt to play the pi­ano a lit­tle bit when he no­ticed a syn­the­sizer sit­ting in his house. It was a Juno 6, Roland’s flag­ship model, and the in­quis­i­tive young­ster couldn’t help but have a go. “For some rea­son, the first time I touched it, it had the ar­peg­gia­tor set­ting on it. I held the chord and it made this sound and I was just like, ‘Holy shit!’,” says Bel­lamy, speak­ing to Q from his LA home. Some­thing about that fu­tur­is­tic cas­cade of tones made a huge im­pres­sion on Bel­lamy, and the ar­peg­gia­tor synth ef­fect has been a trade­mark sound through­out Muse’s ca­reer, adding a spacey dy­namism to their an­themic rock songs. It reaches a cul­mi­na­tion on Sim­u­la­tion The­ory, the forth­com­ing eighth al­bum from the Devon trio. What be­gan as the acoustic-sound­ing al­bum Bel­lamy has been threat­en­ing to make for over a decade mor­phed into Muse’s most

elec­tronic-sound­ing record yet when the front­man be­came in­ter­ested in vir­tual re­al­ity. “That co­in­cided with my in­ter­est in synths re­turn­ing quite heav­ily af­ter the Drones al­bum and tour, which felt very rock,” he says. “I found my­self drift­ing back to­wards elec­tronic sounds and synths.” You get the sense it doesn’t take much for the Muse front­man to dis­ap­pear down a worm­hole, and the idea of sim­u­lated re­al­ity sent his imag­i­na­tion into over­drive. “There are some the­o­ries around that sug­gest we are liv­ing in a sim­u­la­tion,” he says, in the mat­ter-of-fact way other peo­ple de­scribe what they had for tea. “I’d say the speed that com­pu­ta­tional power is evolv­ing at, in 10 or 15 years’ time, it’ll be pos­si­ble to vir­tu­ally cre­ate a sim­u­lated uni­verse. If you com­bine that with the di­rec­tion that vir­tual re­al­ity is go­ing in, it’s quite pos­si­ble in 20 years, we’ll all have a uni­verse in our pocket. Our phones will have a uni­verse app.” Per­haps he could have got this all off his chest by sound­track­ing Spiel­berg’s adap­ta­tion of the sim­i­lar­lythemed Ready Player One ear­lier this year, but he wasn’t asked. “The big ’Berg! I’m not quite on his speed-dial yet, but maybe. I think John Wil­liams keeps that job for now.” In­stead, the three-piece, com­pleted by bassist Chris Wol­sten­holme and drum­mer Dom Howard, chan­nelled those themes into Muse’s most un-gui­tary and ex­per­i­men­tal record yet. “We didn’t want to have one pro­ducer that got too in­volved in the whole project,” says Bel­lamy. While Bel­lamy’s histri­onic vo­cals en­sure these songs sound un­mis­tak­ably Muse – what other front­men could wail, “This means war with your cre­ator!” in a way that makes it sound like it’s from Ter­mi­na­tor: The Mu­si­cal, as he does on opener Al­go­rithm? – a va­ri­ety of col­lab­o­ra­tors bring new flavours to the LP. Hip-hop pro­ducer Tim­ba­land adds a per­cus­sive swing to the thump­ing Pres­sure, while Grammy Award-win­ning hit-maker Shell­back in­jects Get Up And Fight with a so­phis­ti­cated pop sheen. Else­where, the band worked with Black Holes And Rev­e­la­tions’ Rich Costey and Dr Dre/ Eminem col­lab­o­ra­tor Mike El­i­zondo. “I was think­ing about ways to overtly blend eras and feel­ings and in­stru­ments that don’t go to­gether in the same song,” says Bel­lamy. Af­ter their record-break­ing Drones tour, the trio will now con­sider how to cre­ate an­other live show that pushes the en­ve­lope. Maybe they could bring vir­tual re­al­ity into it? “We could chill out on a green screen at home and be any­where we want,” laughs Bel­lamy. “The great thing about sim­u­lated uni­verses is that you can move through time.” Muse, live on the moon with Ge­orge Formby sup­port­ing and a stand-up set from Tommy Cooper. You heard it here first.

“There are some the­o­ries around that sug­gest we are liv­ing in a sim­u­la­tion.” Matt Bel­lamy

“Those walls look a bit pix­e­lated to me”: Matt Bel­lamy at work on Sim­u­la­tion The­ory in LA.

Mind blow­ing: drum­mer Dom Howard (left) and Bel­lamy get the horn.

String the­ory: bassist Chris Wol­sten­holme does a bit of hot de­sk­ing.

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