Muse frontman/guitarist and electric guitar pioneer Matt Bellamy says supporting the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their Californication Tour was where the stadium-rocking British prog act learned their craft as a live band.
It was at the turn of the Millennium, when the Chilis were tearing it up across select dates in Europe and across the American Midwest, the cresting mega-stardom of the Foo Fighters in support, with Muse playing warmup.
Speaking to Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, on the day Muse’s new album, Will Of The People is released, Bellamy said it was a wake-up call for the band, who had hitherto been more reserved onstage.
The lessons learned on those dates paved the way for moments such as Bellamy going full android and playing a robot glove synth – vintage Italo disco meets the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and all the super-massive production that goes into a Muse show in 2022.
“We really cut our craft there, watching other bands play,” Bellamy said. “It was the Chili Peppers one. We opened up for the Foo Fighters and Chili Peppers. We were the opening band. We did a leg around Midwest America, and that was amazing. That was really cool.”
Muse had just released their debut album, Showbiz, in September 1999, with all tracks written by a callow but prodigious Bellamy. As he explains to Lowe, having flirted with the idea of becoming a classical musician, or perhaps playing jazz, he had fallen into a prog sound.
He was entranced by the sounds; the songwriting would be sharpened in time. But Bellamy and co paid close attention when the Foos and RHCP were on. This, they learned, was how it was done.
“Getting to see them play every night, both of those bands, that was ’99, real early days, and I do think that actually changed the way we played,” said Bellamy. “Before that it was shoegazer-y, indie, shy, and after that tour, after seeing Flea doing his thing and the energy he puts out there, it was like, no, we need to up our game massively.”
They did. And in many respects, Will Of The People does likewise. Just when we thought we had all got a handle on what Muse are about – the sci-fi elements, the world-building, prog epics and falsetto vocals – here they come along with an album that has songs such as Kill Or Be Killed, which features Muse’s first death growl on record and has drummer Dominic Howard using a double-kick pedal.
This, says Bellamy, comes from Slipknot, whom his son, Bing, turned him onto during their commute to school each morning. Muse have covered Slipknot live on recent dates. “It turns out, these metal players are absolute geniuses,” said Bellamy. But he reserved special praise for Rage Against The Machine, whose rap-rock iconoclasm and agitprop manifesto he can’t get enough of.
“We’ve learned from, in my opinion, the best. I’ve seen Rage Against The Machine 15 times. I just saw them twice this weekend. It was unbelievable. I even got a look from Morello.
“Our seats were just to the side of the stage, and he was playing Calm Like A Bomb – and I think he might know it’s my favourite song. And I was like, ‘Yeaaarghh!’ I was just going for it, and he gave me a wave, and it was like, ‘Tom Morello waved at me!’ [Laughs] It was amazing. I loved it.”
You can watch the full interview with Lowe in the video above.
The next leg of Muse’s tour in support of their new album kicks off on 6 September at Xacobeo Festival, in Vigo, Spain. See Muse for full dates. Will Of The People is out now via Warner Records.