Members: Dominic Howard, Matthew Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme
While some describe them as a post-Britpop band, Muse staunchly deny such associations. The music which inspired them was not Britpop; they cite the influence of the American grunge music (exemplified by Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden), combining such influences with the alternative and experimental approach of British groups like The Verve and Radiohead.
The high-pitched vocals of Matt Bellamy are described as a cross of those of Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke.
FORMATIONS AND EARLY YEARS MID 1990'S
The three members of Muse were in separate bands at the school they attended in the early 1990s, but came together to form one band shortly afterwards. This new band changed names a number of times, being called Gothic Plague, Fixed Penalty and Rocket Baby Dolls before adopting the name Muse (the chronology of these names is unclear, as Muse have given confusing and contradictory accounts in various interviews).
In 1994, under the name Rocket Baby Dolls, they took part in a local Battle Of The Bands contest, playing with such emotion and violence (going as far as to break everything on stage, a trait which has remained to the present day) that they stood out from the competition, and won. Following this success, the band members chose to forego university in order to pursue a career in music.
Following a number of gigs in London and Manchester, the band, now named Muse, had a significant meeting with Dennis Smith, the owner of Sawmills, a recording studio in a converted water mill in Cornwall, S.W. England.
This meeting led to their first proper recordings and the release of an eponymous E.P. on Sawmill's in-house Dangerous label. Their second E.P., entitled Muscle Museum, attracted the attention of influential British music journalist Steve Lamacq and the weekly British music publication NME. Dennis Smith subsequently co-founded the music publishing company Taste Media especially for Muse (the band has stayed with the company to the present day). This was fortunate for the band as it allowed them to preserve the individuality of their sound in the early stages of their career.
Despite the success and acclaim of their second E.P., British record companies were reluctant to back Muse, with Bellamy's vibrato-laden, high-pitched vocals and the band's unusual live act. However, the American Maverick Records took a gamble on the band, arranging a number of gigs in the U.S. before signing them at the end of 1998. Upon their return from America, Taste Media arranged deals for Muse with various record labels in Europe and Australia. John Boden, producer of Radiohead's highly acclaimed second album The Bends and The Verve's first full-length A Storm in Heaven, was brought in to produce the band 's first record Showbiz, which is considered by some to have heavily influenced Radiohead. The album showcased the band's aggressive style, and features a number of lyrical references to the difficulties they had trying to establish themselves in Teignmouth.
The release of this album was followed by Maverick giving Muse prestigious support slots for the Foo Fighters and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in a series of gigs in the United States, playing to audiences of more than 20,000 people. 1999 and 2000 saw Muse playing major festivals in Europe and gigs in Japan and Australia, accumulating a considerable fan base in Western Europe (though in Britain this following remained somewhat left-field).
ORIGIN OF SYMMETRY 2001-2002
After the tour the band quickly wrote and recorded their second album Origin of Symmetry, again with Leckie producing. This album saw Muse innovating more than on Showbiz, exploring their style in ways they were previously unable to realise, which resulted in a heavier, darker rock sound, with Wolstenholme's bass, often overdriven or synthesized, compensating for the limitations imposed by their three-man lineup.
The band experimented with unorthodox instrumentation, such as a church organ and an expanded drum kit. There was more of Bellamy's high pitched vocal lines and distinctive piano playing, inspired by the works of pianists of the Romanticism movement, such as Sergei Rachmaninoff. Bellamy cites guitar influences such as Jimi Hendrix and Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine), the latter evident in the more riff-based songs on Origin of Symmetry, and in Bellamy's extensive use of pitch-shifting effects in his solos.
The general eccentricity of Muse's fundamentally rock style has seen them likened to 1970s rock band Queen. Bellamy has cited Freddie Mercury as an influence on his song-writing.
The album might have led to Muse making a significant impact on the American music scene, but Maverick had reservations about Bellamy's vocal style (considering it not to be "radio-friendly"), and asked Muse to change some of their songs prior to U.S. release. Insulted, the band declined and left Maverick altogether, preventing the release of Origin of Symmetry in the U.S.
Following the album, Muse released Hullabaloo, a DVD featuring their live performance at Le Zenith in Paris in 2001. A double album featuring a collection of b-sides and recordings of some songs from the Le Zenith performance was released at the same time. A double A side single was released featuring new songs In Your World and Dead Star, a move away from the grand opera style of Origin of Symmetry. The single was greeted with a mixed reaction from existing fans, but radio friendly song lengths and styles helped to attract many new fans.
CRITICAL ACCLAIM ABSOLUTION 2003-2004
In 2003, a new studio album, Absolution was released. Produced by Rich Costey (who had previously produced Rage Against the Machine), the album demonstrated a continuation of the experimentation displayed in Origin of Symmetry, while maintaining a sense of the band as a three-piece.
Muse continued to blend classical influences into their hard rock sound, the overall effect being somewhat Wagnerian in style. The band has made reference to a theme running through the album - the end of the world, and reactions to that situation. This draws mainly from Bellamy?s interest in conspiracy theories, theology, science, futurism, computing and the supernatural. The song "Ruled By Secrecy", for example, takes its title from a Jim Marrs novel about the secrets behind the way that major governments are run ? many lyrics on this album have political references.
Similar themes were explored in Origin of Symmetry; the song "Space Dementia" is named after a mental disorder identified in some astronauts following prolonged periods in space, and songs such as "New Born" make reference to a hypothetical future where technology has a detrimental effect on society.
Finally receiving mainstream critical acclaim in Britain, and with a new American record deal, Muse undertook their first international stadium tour. It continued for about a year and saw Muse visiting Australia, USA, Canada and France. Meanwhile, the band released five singles.
Along with Oasis and Paul McCartney, the band headlined at the Glastonbury festival in the middle of the year (Bellamy described the concert as "The best gig of our lives"), but shortly after the concert finished, tragedy struck when the drummer's father, Bill Howard, died from a heart attack. "It was the biggest feeling of achievement we've ever had after coming offstage", Bellamy said. "It was almost surreal that an hour later his dad died. It was almost not believable. We spent about a week sort of just with Dom trying to support him. I think he was happy that at least his dad got to see him at probably what was the finest moment so far of the band's life." With support from his bandmates and family, Dominic decided to stay with the band.
Muse continued their hugely successful tour. Their last dates were in the USA and at the Earls Court arena in London, where they played an extra date due to the high demand for tickets. They won two MTV Europe awards, including "Best Alternative Act", and a Q Award for "Best Live Act". At the end of 2004, Vitamin Records released The String Quartet Tribute To Muse by The Tallywood Strings, an album of instrumental string versions of some of Muse's songs. At the 2005 Brit Awards, Muse were awarded the "Best Live Act" award.
The band finished touring in January 2005, but visited the USA in March and April, as their profile there was considerably higher than before. On 2 July 2005, Muse participated in the Live 8 concert in Paris.
NEXT ALBUM 2005-2006
In an MTV interview, Bellamy said that he wants the next Muse album to be more "upbeat". While Absolution and Origin of Symmetry were characterized by lyrics with a dramatic melancholy and apocalyptic feel, on the next album Bellamy is looking to "draw on things like optimism and hope". The intention is to expose this side of the band's music, and the strength which carried the bandmembers through the difficult times following the death of Dominic Howard's father.
A DVD biography called Manic Depression was released in April 2005, but the band wasn't involved with the project and did not endorse the release. Another DVD was released on December 12, 2005, Absolution Tour, containing re-edited and re-mastered highlights from the Glastonbury Festival 2004, and previously unseen footage from London Earls Court, Wembley Arena and the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.
Since August 2005, the band have been working on a new album Black Holes And Revelations, due for release on July 3, 2006
From August to October 2005, they recorded in Studio Miraval, southern France. After a month, the urge to radically change their surroundings was felt, as Dom explains: "In the end, our conversations at the table were all about the end of the world and post-apocalyptic survival, it wasn?t very healthy." Muse jetted off to New York, on the home ground of their producer, Rich Costey. They returned home on 20 October for a week, before leaving again for New York to continue recording until late December. After the Christmas break, they returned to their London studio for mixing. According to various European magazines, promo versions of the new album have been in circulation since the end of March.
The first single from the album, "Supermassive Black Hole", was first played on radio on May 8 and released for download on May 9. Reactions from fans to the new single (which was unfortunately for the band leaked onto many fansites on May 7) have been very mixed as it represents an extreme departure from the band's existing work, incorporating influences from Belgian electronica and Prince and even drawing comparisons with Britney Spears. The single will receive a full online release on June 12 complete with a b-side and (as yet unfinalised) artwork, with a physical release scheduled for June 19. The music video for the single premiered on Channel 4 on May 18.
The band have started setting tour dates, with their first live appearance of the year on May 13 2006 at BBC Radio 1's One Big Weekend, within which two new songs from the upcoming album were played. These two new pieces are titled "Knights Of Cydonia" and "Starlight", and subsequently "Knights Of Cydonia" has been heralded as a return to their rock roots, and has received critical acclaim from many fans. "Starlight" has received mixed reviews, and again, not unlike "Supermassive Black Hole", has been criticised as a departure from their exisiting sound. Muse are also headlining performances at the Reading and Leeds Festivals during the month of August.
The band have played the album in progress to a number of music magazines for review, often accompanied with interviews. Interviews suggest that the new album will have strong political themes, possibly concentrating on themes such as the ongoing Iraqi War.
1999 - Showbiz
2001 - Origin of Symmetry
2003 - Absolution
2002 - Hullabaloo
1998 - Muse
1999 - Muscle Museum
2002 - Dead Star/In Your World
2001 - Bliss
2002 - Hullabaloo
2003 - Time is Running Out
2003 - Absolution (Limited edition album DVD)
2003 - Hysteria
2004 - Sing for Absolution
2004 - Butterflies and Hurricanes
2006 - Black Holes and Revelations
Helping You Back To Work: Volume 1. (1997) - "Balloonatic" (Early version of the song "Twin")
Little Nicky: Original Soundtrack (2000) - "Cave" (Track 10)
Not Another Teen Movie: Original Soundtrack (2001) - "Please, Let Me Get What I Want" (A Cover of The Smiths song, Track 11)
Swordfish: Original Soundtrack (2001) "New Born (Paul Oakenfold Remix)" (Track 5)
Tainted Love Single UK CD2: Marilyn Manson's single (2002) - "Please, Let Me Get What I Want" (A Cover of The Smiths song, Track 3)
1 Love: War Child Charity Album (2002) - "House Of The Rising Sun" (A Cover of The Animals song, Track 3)
Paris Derni?re: Volume 3 (Compilation Album in France) (2002) - "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" (A cover of the Frankie Valli song, Track 2)
3 Petites Filles: Original Soundtrack (2004) - "New Born" (Track 3)
Millions: Original Soundtrack (2004) - "Hysteria" (Track 2), "Blackout" (Track 7)