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24.06.2003 - 17:24 UTC+0 // Source : NME June 2003 - // Thanks :

MUSE have spent the last year holed up in recording studios across the world working on the follow-up to their massive-selling 2001 album, "Origin of Symmetry". With a working title of "The Smallprint", the band originally planned to record an uplifting album with massive orchestration. Then the Uk and Us went to war with Iraq and everything changed. Here in the exclusive first interview since finishing the album, singer Matthew Bellamy speaks to NME about Muse's new album, downloading free music, and that Nescafe advert.

Nme : We hear you've almost finished the new album. What does it sound like?

Matt Bellamy: "It's pretty much done. We started off woth a full orchestra, pushing it right over the Queen mark - 98 backing vocals, 32 piece orchestra and all sorts! We did two songs like that and kinda lost our minds. We ended deciding to get back to basics and hooked up with Rich Costey who's worked with people like Phillip Glass, Fiona Apple and Rage Against the Machine. We're somewhere in-between all that! We did the whole album and re-recorded some of the stuff with the orchestra, toned it down a little bit."

Have you got the album you wanted?

"It sounds a lot harder now than I expected. In terms of genetal context, the world's changed in the last year, the world events of the last year and a half. It's not that we're a political band but i think it's impossible to avoid those things. They've all come into everyone's life whether they like it or not. I think there's a lot of apocalyptic stuff going on in a lot of the songs. While we were recording all the war (with Iraq) was coming out and we were in the process of recording while watching that. The direction definately took a pretty harsh change in the middle of it all.

What was it like recording in America when the Gulf war broke out?

"You hang around in England and see these massive protests all over Europe and the whole place is going wild and then you go to America and everyone's eating burgers and driving around in big fucking Suv's! No one gives a toss! I think there's a lot of people in America that do give a toss but they're too scared to speak up about it. I think it's a bit crass when people who haven't really got a political background start talking about politics and for that reason I've tended to avoid it in the past. But in the last year and a half it's been impossible to avoid the fact that the world is generally going in the wrong direction and America is gradually building an empire, and Tony Blair is just licking George Bush's arse."

How have your feelings about the current political situation affected your music?

"In relation to the album it's come across more as a general fear and mistrust of the people in power. It's about moments of extreme fear, and a fair bit of end of the world talk."

Nestle used your cover of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" on a coffee advert without your permission. What happened there?

"They asked us to do the advert and we said "no". And it just turned up on TV. We said, "This is ridiculous, can you take it off?" They did and then replaced it with some bloody crappy version of the song which is even more of a wind up! We got some money but we're going to give it to charity. A large percentage of that will go to someone like Oxfam (who run the Make Trade Fair campaign helping independent coffee producers among others), and then the rest to some local charities near where we're from in Devon."

Are there any products that you'd be happy for your music to promote?

"You have to be careful, I'm not necessarily against adverts, as long as it's something we agree with, be it the company or the product that we would ourselves use. A nice, decent, fast car wouldn't be bad! [laughs]"

You've decided to release your first single from the new album as a download from your website (details below). Why is that?

"People always want to get things on the internet before the album comes out these days. I think it's a case of knowing the internet is a major way to promote this new stuff. We're going to put a song out there that we probably wouldn't release as a normal single. It's about six minutes long and it's pretty fucking cool! There'll be a normal single when the album comes out too. A lot of people who are into our band use the internet for getting songs rather than HMV."

You're pro-downloading then?

"I've got an iPod and everything. I think it's something that should be used as a way of promoting bands. You can't fight against it. I'm always downloading stuff. I'm guilty!"

'Stockholme Syndrome' will be available via the band's website from July 7. Fans are advised to check the website on July 1 for download details. A single is planned for August, with the album following that. Fan club shows will take place in September, with a massive European tour in the autumn.