Thu 18th Nov, 2010 in Features
The Devon-upon-Entire Universe trio Muse have been coming here for years, and though they’ve been progressively growing in stature and nipping at U2’s heels in the So Big It’s Ridiculous Stakes, their performances have never been anything less than amazing.
The band will be back in the antipodes with their mind-bending, visually arresting and American-conquering Resistance tour in the next month. Drummer and occasional fake frontman Dominic Howard phoned in from New York to tell fans what to expect this time around, why rotating 360-degree risers aren’t as fun as they look and how recording bass drum sounds in a swimming pool is a totally legitimate thing to do, even when said pool is full.
“Well, you know, arenas, not stadiums. Like what they play basketball in and stuff.” There is, apparently a difference. Howard, humble rock star that he is, would like to point out that Muse are currently playing an arena, rather than a stadium tour across the US of A. Not that it makes much difference when you consider the kind of set-up the band has going at the moment. For Howard and bandmates Matt Bellamy and Chris Wolstenholme to put their current show on the road, they need no less than eighty crew members travelling with a custom-made stage. “Sometimes you can turn up and the stage is already there,” Dom jokes, “but that doesn’t work for us.” That might have something to do with the ridiculous set-up the boys have going at the moment, which includes purpose-built skyscrapers for each player, enough lights to blind an entire invading alien army and, you know, a giant UFO with an acrobat inside it.
“So it’s actually a massive helium sphere,” explains Dom, “which is controlled by two guys with ropes because naturally it just wants to float off back into space. It looks so cool and it looks good for us, too, because we have something to get distracted with given that nobody’s looking at us at that point in the song!” The subtle difference between a stadium and an arena tour, then, “is the amount of crazy shit we get to pull off. Like in Europe, we had this massive spaceship docking on the stage and we’d walk out of it.” Howard is nevertheless wary about the prospect of bringing the UFO to Australia, “We are doing one outdoor gig in Perth, though, so they might get lucky.” The rest of the bells and whistles, however, are on their way over, including the best ‘party trick’ of all, the skyscrapers.
Nobody has it worse (or better, depending on your ability to deal with heights and motion sickness) than Howard, whose drum riser not only propels up to five metres off the ground, but also spins around, while he’s playing. “When they stop [at the top] they kind of shake and wobble…it was slightly nauseating,” he says, “The whole drum riser also rotates around 360, so I can face the entire audience who are behind the stage; to be honest, that’s a bit weird. Looks cool, but it really puts me off a bit. Most times I just try to close my eyes, try and remember where the drums are!”