Muse are an English rock band from Teignmouth, Devon, formed in 1994. The band consists of Matt Bellamy (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Chris Wolstenholme (bass guitar, backing vocals), and Dominic Howard (drums).
|Origin||Teignmouth, Devon, England|
|Associated acts||The Jaded Hearts Club|
Muse released their debut album, Showbiz, in 1999, showcasing Bellamy's falsetto and a melancholic alternative rock style. Their second album, Origin of Symmetry (2001), incorporated wider instrumentation and romantic classical influences and earned them a reputation for energetic live performances. Absolution (2003) saw further classical influence, with strings on tracks such as "Butterflies and Hurricanes", and was the first of six consecutive UK number-one albums.
Black Holes and Revelations (2006) incorporated electronic and pop elements, displayed in singles such as "Supermassive Black Hole", and brought Muse wider international success. The Resistance (2009) and The 2nd Law (2012) explored themes of government oppression and civil uprising and cemented Muse as one of the world's major stadium acts. Rolling Stone stated the band possessed "stadium-crushing songs". Topping the US Billboard 200, their seventh album, Drones (2015), was a concept album about drone warfare and returned to a harder rock sound. Their eighth album, Simulation Theory (2018), prominently featured synthesisers and was influenced by science fiction and the simulation hypothesis.
Muse have won numerous awards, including two Grammy Awards, two Brit Awards, five MTV Europe Music Awards and eight NME Awards. In 2012 they received the Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. By June 2016, they had sold over 20 million albums worldwide.
Early years (1994–1997)
The members of Muse played in separate school bands during their time at Teignmouth Community College in the early 1990s. Guitarist Matt Bellamy successfully auditioned for drummer Dominic Howard's band, Carnage Mayhem, becoming its singer and songwriter. They renamed the band Gothic Plague. They asked Chris Wolstenholme – at that time the drummer for Fixed Penalty – to join as bassist; he agreed and took up bass lessons. The band was renamed Rocket Baby Dolls and adopted a goth-glam image. Around this time, they received a £150 grant from the Prince's Trust for equipment.
In 1994, Rocket Baby Dolls won a local battle of the bands, smashing their equipment in the process. Bellamy said, "It was supposed to be a protest, a statement, so, when we actually won, it was a real shock, a massive shock. After that, we started taking ourselves seriously." The band quit their jobs, changed their name to Muse, and moved away from Teignmouth. The band liked that the new name was short and thought that it looked good on a poster. According to journalist Mark Beaumont, the band wanted the name to reflect "the sense Matt had that he had somehow 'summoned up' this band, the way mediums could summon up inspirational spirits at times of emotional need".
First EPs and Showbiz (1998–2000)
After a few years building a fanbase, Muse played their first gigs in London and Manchester supporting Skunk Anansie on tour. They had a significant meeting with Dennis Smith, the owner of Sawmills Studio, situated in a converted water mill in Cornwall. He had seen the three boys grow up as he knew their parents, and had a production company with their future manager Safta Jaffery, with whom he had recently started the record label Taste Media. The meeting led to their first serious recordings and the release of the Muse EP on 11 May 1998 on Sawmills' in-house Dangerous label, produced by Paul Reeve. Their second EP, the Muscle Museum EP, also produced by Reeve, was released on 11 January 1999. It reached number 3 in the indie singles chart and attracted the attention of British radio broadcaster Steve Lamacq and the weekly British music publication NME. Later in 1999, Muse performed on the Emerging Artist's stage at Woodstock '99 and signed with Smith and Jaffery. Despite the success of their second EP, British record companies were reluctant to sign Muse. After a trip to New York's CMJ Festival, Nanci Walker, then Sr. Director of A&R at Columbia Records, flew Muse to the US to showcase for Columbia Records' then-Senior Vice-President of A&R, Tim Devine, as well as for American Recording's Rick Rubin. During this trip, on 24 December 1998, Muse signed a deal with American record label Maverick Records. Upon their return to England, Taste Media arranged deals for Muse with various record labels in Europe and Australia, allowing them control over their career in individual countries. John Leckie was brought in alongside Reeve to produce the band's first album, Showbiz (1999). The album showcased Muse's aggressive yet melancholic musical style, with lyrics about relationships and their difficulties trying to establish themselves in their hometown.
Origin of Symmetry and Hullabaloo (2000–2002)
During the production of their second album, Origin of Symmetry (2001), Muse experimented with instrumentation such as a church organ, Mellotron, animal bones, and an expanded drum kit. There was more of Bellamy's falsetto, arpeggiated guitar, and piano playing. 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 in Origin of Symmetry and in Bellamy's use of guitar pitch-shifting effects. The album features a cover of Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse's "Feeling Good", voted in various polls one of the greatest cover versions of all time. It was released as a double A-side single, "Hyper Music/Feeling Good".
Origin of Symmetry received positive reviews by critics; NME gave the album 9/10 and wrote: "It's amazing for such a young band to load up with a heritage that includes the darker visions of Cobain and Kafka, Mahler and The Tiger Lillies, Cronenberg and Schoenberg, and make a sexy, populist album." Maverick, Muse's American label, did not consider Bellamy's vocals "radio-friendly" and asked Muse to rerecord the song for the US release. The band refused and left Maverick; the album was not released in the US until September 2005, after Muse signed to Warner Bros.
Origin of Symmetry has made appearances on lists of the greatest rock albums of the 2000s, both poll-based and on publication lists. In 2006, it placed at number 74 on Q magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Albums of All-Time, while in February 2008, the album placed at number 28 on a list of the Best British Albums of All Time determined by the magazine's readers. Kerrang! placed the album at number 20 in its 100 Best British Rock Albums Ever! List and at number 13 on its 50 Best Albums of the 21st Century list. Acclaimed Music ranks Origin of Symmetry as the 1,247th greatest album of all time.
In 2002, Muse released the first live DVD, Hullabaloo, featuring footage recorded during Muse's two gigs at Le Zenith in Paris in 2001, and a documentary film of the band on tour. A double album, Hullabaloo Soundtrack, was released at the same time, containing a compilation of B-sides and a disc of recordings of songs from the Le Zenith performances. A double-A side single was also released featuring the new songs "In Your World" and "Dead Star".
In 2002, Muse threatened Celine Dion with legal action when she planned to name her Las Vegas show "Muse", as Muse have worldwide performing rights to the name. Dion offered Muse $50,000 for the rights, but they turned it down and Dion backed down. Bellamy said: "We don't want to turn up there with people thinking we're Celine Dion's backing band."
Muse's third album, Absolution, produced by Rich Costey, Paul Reeve and John Cornfield was released on 15 September 2003. It debuted at number one in the UK and produced Muse's first top-ten hit, "Time Is Running Out", and three top-twenty hits: "Hysteria", "Sing for Absolution" and "Butterflies and Hurricanes". Absolution was eventually certified gold in the US. Muse undertook a year-long international tour in support of the album, visiting Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, and France. On the 2004 US leg of the tour, Bellamy injured himself onstage during the opening show in Atlanta; the tour resumed after Bellamy received stitches.
In June 2004, Muse headlined the Glastonbury Festival, which they later described as "the best gig of our lives". Howard's father, William Howard, who attended the festival to watch the band, died from a heart attack shortly after the performance. Bellamy said: "It was the biggest feeling of achievement we've ever had after coming offstage. 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."
Muse won two MTV Europe awards, including "Best Alternative Act", and a Q Award for "Best Live Act", and received an award for "Best British Live Act" at the Brit Awards. On 2 July 2005, they participated in the Live 8 concert in Paris. In 2003, the band successfully sued Nestlé for using their cover "Feeling Good" for a Nescafé advertisement without permission and donated the money won from the lawsuit to Oxfam. An unofficial DVD biography, Manic Depression, was released in April 2005.
Muse released another live DVD on 12 December 2005, Absolution Tour, containing edited and remastered highlights from their Glastonbury performance unseen footage from their performances at London Earls Court, Wembley Arena, and the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles. During the 2004 Absolution tour, Bellamy smashed 140 guitars, a world record for the most guitars smashed in a tour.
Black Holes and Revelations and HAARP (2006–2008)
In 2006, Muse released their fourth album, Black Holes and Revelations, co-produced once again with Rich Costey. The album's title and themes reflect the band's interest in science fiction. The album charted at number one in the UK, much of Europe, and Australia. In the US, it reached number nine on the Billboard 200.
Before the release of the new album, Muse made several promotional TV appearances starting on 13 May 2006 at BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend. The Black Holes and Revelations Tour started before the release of their album and initially consisted mostly of festival appearances, including a headline slot at the Reading and Leeds Festivals in August 2006. The band's main touring itinerary started with a tour of North America from late July to early August 2006. After the last of the summer festivals, a tour of Europe began, including a large arena tour of the UK.
Black Holes and Revelations was nominated for the 2006 Mercury Music Prize, but lost to Arctic Monkeys. It earned a Platinum Europe Award after selling one million copies in Europe. The first single from the album, "Supermassive Black Hole", was released as a download in May 2006. In August 2006, Muse recorded a live session at Abbey Road Studios for the Live from Abbey Road television show. The second single, "Starlight", was released in September 2006. "Knights of Cydonia" was released in the US as a radio-only single in June 2006 and in the UK in November 2006. The fourth single, "Invincible", was released in April 2007. Another single, "Map of the Problematique", was released for download only in June 2007, following the band's performance at Wembley Stadium.
Muse spent November and much of December 2006 touring Europe with British band Noisettes as the supporting act. The tour continued in Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia in early 2007 before returning to England for the summer. At the 2007 Brit Awards in February, Muse received their second award for Best British Live Act. They performed two gigs at the newly rebuilt Wembley Stadium on 16 and 17 June 2007, where they became the first band to sell out the venue. Both concerts were recorded for a DVD/CD, HAARP, released in early 2008. It was named the 40th greatest live album of all time by NME.
The tour continued across Europe in July 2007 before returning to the US in August, where Muse played to a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden, New York City. They headlined the second night of the Austin City Limits Music Festival on 15 September 2007, and performed at the October 2007 Vegoose in Las Vegas with bands including Rage Against the Machine, Daft Punk and Queens of the Stone Age. Muse continued touring in Eastern Europe, Russia, Scandinavia, Australia, and New Zealand in 2007 before going to South Africa, Portugal, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Ireland, and the UK in 2008. On 12 April, they played a one-off concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Muse performed at Rock in Rio Lisboa on 6 June 2008, alongside bands including Kaiser Chiefs, The Offspring and Linkin Park. They also performed in Marlay Park, Dublin, on 13 August. A few days later, Muse headlined the 2008 V Festival, playing in Chelmsford on Saturday 16 August and Staffordshire on Sunday 17 August. On 25 September 2008, Bellamy, Howard and Wolstenholme all received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Plymouth for their contributions to music.
The Resistance (2009–2011)
During the recording of Muse's fifth studio album The Resistance, Wolstenholme checked into rehab to deal with his alcoholism, which was threatening the band's future. Howard said: "I've always believed in band integrity and sticking together. There's something about the fact we all grew up together. We've been together for 18 years now, which is over half our lives."
The Resistance was released in September 2009, the first album produced by Muse, with engineering by Adrian Bushby and mixing by Mark Stent. It topped album charts in 19 countries, became the band's third number one album in the UK, and reached number three on the Billboard 200. Reviews were mostly positive, with praise for its ambition, classical influences and the three-part "Exogenesis: Symphony". The Resistance beat its predecessor Black Holes and Revelations in album sales in its debut week in the UK with approximately 148,000 copies sold. The first single, "Uprising", was released seven days earlier. On 13 September, Muse performed "Uprising" at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards in New York City.
The Resistance Tour began with A Seaside Rendezvous in Muse's hometown of Teignmouth, Devon, in September 2009. It included headline slots the following year at festivals including Coachella, Glastonbury, Oxegen, Hovefestivalen, T in the Park, Austin City Limits and the Australian Big Day Out. Between September and November, Muse toured North America.
Muse provided the lead single for the film The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, "Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)", released on 17 May 2010. In June, Muse headlined Glastonbury Festival for the second time; after U2 canceled their headline slot following singer Bono's back injury, U2 guitarist the Edge joined Muse to play the U2 track "Where the Streets Have No Name".
For their live performances, Muse received the O2 Silver Clef Award in London on 2 July 2010, presented by Roger Taylor and Brian May of Queen; Taylor described the trio as "probably the greatest live act in the world today". On 12 September 2010, Muse won an MTV Video Music Award in the category of Best Special Effects, for the "Uprising" video. On 21 November, Muse took home an American Music Award for Favorite Artist in the Alternative Rock Music Category. On 2 December, Muse were nominated for three awards for the 53rd Grammy Awards on 13 February 2011, for which they won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album for The Resistance.
Based on having the largest airplay and sales in the US, Muse were named the Billboard Alternative Songs and Rock Songs artist for 2010 with "Uprising", "Resistance" and "Undisclosed Desires" achieving 1st, 6th and 49th on the year end Alternative Song chart respectively. On 30 July 2011, Muse supported Rage Against the Machine at their only 2011 gig at the L.A. Rising festival. On 13 August, Muse headlined the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco. Muse headlined the Reading and Leeds Festivals in August 2011. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of their second studio album Origin of Symmetry (2001), the band performed all eleven tracks. Muse also headlined Lollapalooza in Chicago's Grant Park in August 2011.
The 2nd Law and Live at Rome Olympic Stadium (2012–2013)
In an April 2012 interview, Bellamy said Muse's next album would include influences from acts such as French house duo Justice and UK electronic rock group Does It Offend You, Yeah?. On 6 June 2012, Muse released a trailer for their next album, The 2nd Law, with a countdown on the band's website. The trailer, which included dubstep elements, was met with mixed reactions. On 7 June, Muse announced a European Arena tour, the first leg of The 2nd Law Tour. The leg included dates in France, Spain and the UK. The first single from the album, "Survival", was the official song of the London 2012 Summer Olympics, and Muse performed it at the Olympics closing ceremony.
Muse revealed the 2nd Law tracklist on 13 July 2012. The second single, "Madness", was released on 20 August 2012, with a music video on 5 September. Muse played at the Roundhouse on 30 September as part of the iTunes Festival. The 2nd Law was released worldwide on 1 October, and on 2 October 2012 in the US; it reached number one in the UK Albums Chart, and number two on the US Billboard 200. The song "Madness" earned a nomination in the Best Rock Song category and the album itself was nominated for the Best Rock Album at the 55th Grammy Awards, 2013. The band performed the album's opening song, "Supremacy", with an orchestra at the 2013 Brit Awards on 20 February 2013. The album was a nominee for Best Rock Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards. The song "Madness" was also nominated for Best Rock Song. The album listed at number 46 on Rolling Stone's list of the top 50 albums of 2012, saying "In an era of diminished expectations, Muse make stadium-crushing songs that mix the legacies of Queen, King Crimson, Led Zeppelin and Radiohead while making almost every other current band seem tiny."
Muse released their fourth live album, Live at Rome Olympic Stadium, on 29 November 2013 on CD/DVD and CD/Blu-ray formats. In November 2013, the film had theatrical screenings in 20 cities worldwide. The album contains the band's performance at Rome's Stadio Olimpico on 6 July 2013, in front of over 60,000 people; it was the first concert filmed in 4K format. The concert was a part of the Unsustainable Tour, Muse's mid-2013 tour of Europe.
Muse began writing their seventh album soon after the Rome concert. The band felt that the electronic side of their music was becoming too dominant, and wanted to return to a simpler rock sound. After self-producing their previous two albums, the band hired producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange so they could focus on performance and spend less time mixing and reviewing takes. Recording took place in the Vancouver Warehouse Studio from October 2014 to April 2015.
Muse announced their seventh album, Drones, on 11 March 2015. The following day, they released a lyric video for "Psycho" on their YouTube channel, and made the song available for instant download with the album pre-order. Another single, "Dead Inside", was released on 23 March.
From 15 March to 16 May, Muse embarked on a short tour in small venues throughout the UK and the US, the Psycho Tour. Live performances of new songs from these concerts are included on the DVD accompanying the album along with bonus studio footage. On 18 May 2015, Muse released a lyric video for "Mercy" on their YouTube channel, and made the song available for instant download with the album pre-order.
Drones was released on 8 June 2015. A concept album about the dehumanisation of modern warfare, it returned to a simpler rock sound with less elaborate production and genre experimentation. It topped the album charts in the UK, the US, Australia and most major markets. Muse headlined Lollapalooza Berlin on 13 September 2015. On 15 February 2016, Drones won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album at the 58th Grammy Awards. On 24 June, Muse headlined the Glastonbury Festival for a third time, becoming the first act to have headlined each day of the festival (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). On 30 November 2016, Muse were announced to headline Reading and Leeds 2017.
Simulation Theory and reissues (2017–present)
In 2017, Muse toured North America supported by Thirty Seconds to Mars and PVRIS. Howard confirmed in February that the band were back in the studio. On 18 May, Muse released "Dig Down", the first single from their eighth album. In November, they performed at the BlizzCon festival. "Thought Contagion", the second single, was released on 15 February 2018, accompanied by an 1980s-styled music video. In June, Muse opened the Rock In Rio festival. On 24 February, they played a one-off show at La Cigale in France with a setlist voted for fans online. A concert video, Muse: Drones World Tour, was released in cinemas worldwide on 12 July 2018.
On 19 July 2018, Muse released the third single from their upcoming album, "Something Human". On 30 August 2018, they announced their eighth studio album, Simulation Theory, to be released on 9 November. The announcement was accompanied by another single and video, "The Dark Side". The fifth single, "Pressure", was released on 27 September. The Simulation Theory world tour began in Houston on 3 February 2019 and concluded on 15 October in Lima. A film based on the album and tour, Muse – Simulation Theory, combining concert footage and narrative scenes, was released in August 2020.
In December 2019, Muse released Origin of Muse, a box set comprising remastered versions of Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry plus previously unreleased material. For the 20th anniversary of Origin of Symmetry in June 2021, Muse released a remixed and remastered version, Origin of Symmetry: XX Anniversary RemiXX.
Described as an alternative rock, space rock and progressive rock band, Muse mix sounds from genres such as electronic music, progressive metal and art rock, and forms such as classical music, rock opera and many others. In 2002, Bellamy described Muse as a "trashy three-piece". In 2005, Pitchfork described Muse's music as "firmly ol' skool at heart: proggy hard rock that forgoes any pretensions to restraint ... their songs use full-stacked guitars and thunderous drums to evoke God's footsteps". AllMusic described their sound as a "fusion of progressive rock, glam, electronica, and Radiohead-influenced experimentation". On the band's association with progressive rock, Howard said: "I associate it [progressive rock] with 10-minute guitar solos, but I guess we kind of come into the category. A lot of bands are quite ambitious with their music, mixing lots of different styles – and when I see that I think it's great. I've noticed that kind of thing becoming a bit more mainstream."
For their second album, Origin of Symmetry (2001), Muse wanted to craft a more aggressive sound. In 2000, Wolstenholme said: "Looking back, there isn't much difference sonically between the mellow stuff and the heavier tracks [on Showbiz]. The heavy stuff really could have been a lot heavier and that's what we want to do with [Origin of Symmetry]." Their third album, Absolution (2003), features prominent string arrangements and drew influences from artists such as Queen. Their fourth album, Black Holes and Revelations (2006) was influenced by artists including Depeche Mode and Lightning Bolt, as well as Asian and European music such as Naples music. The band listened to radio stations from the Middle East during the album's recording sessions. Queen guitarist Brian May has praised Muse's work, calling the band "extraordinary musicians", who "let their madness show through, always a good thing in an artist."
Muse's sixth album, The 2nd Law (2012) has a broader range of influences, ranging from funk and film scores to electronica and dubstep. The 2nd Law is influenced by rock acts such as Queen and Led Zeppelin (on "Supremacy") as well as dubstep producer Skrillex and Nero (on "The 2nd Law: Unsustainable" and "Follow Me", with the latter being co-produced by Nero), Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder (on "Panic Station" which features musicians who performed on Stevie Wonder's "Superstition") and Hans Zimmer. The album features two songs with lyrics written and sung by bassist Wolstenholme, who wrote about his battle with alcoholism. It features extensive electronic instrumentation, including Modular synthesisers and the French Connection, a synthesiser controller similar to the ondes martenot.
Many Muse songs are recognisable by vocalist Matt Bellamy's use of vibrato, falsetto, and melismatic phrasing, influenced by Jeff Buckley. As a pianist, Bellamy often uses arpeggios. Bellamy's compositions often suggest or quote late classical and romantic era composers such as Sergei Rachmaninov (in "Space Dementia" and "Butterflies and Hurricanes"), Camille Saint-Saëns (in "I Belong to You (+Mon Cœur S'ouvre a ta Voix)") and Frédéric Chopin (in "United States of Eurasia"). As a guitarist, Bellamy often uses arpeggiator and pitch-shift effects to create a more "electronic" sound, citing Jimi Hendrix and Tom Morello as influences. His guitar playing is also influenced by Latin and Spanish guitar music; Bellamy said: "I just think that music is really passionate...It has so much feel and flair to it. I’ve spent important times of my life in Spain and Greece, and various deep things happened there – falling in love, stuff like that. So maybe that rubbed off somewhere."
Wolstenholme's basslines provide a motif for many Muse songs; the band combines bass guitar with effects and synthesisers to create overdriven fuzz bass tones. Bellamy and Wolstenholme use touch-screen controllers, often built into their instruments, to control synthesisers and effects including Kaoss Pads and Digitech Whammy pedals.
Most earlier Muse songs lyrically dealt with introspective themes, including relationships, social alienation, and difficulties they had encountered while trying to establish themselves in their hometown. However, with the band's progress, their song concepts have become more ambitious, addressing issues such as the fear of the evolution of technology in their Origin of Symmetry (2001) album. They deal mainly with the apocalypse in Absolution (2003) and with catastrophic war in Black Holes and Revelations (2006). The Resistance (2009) focused on themes of government oppression, uprising, love, and panspermia. The album itself was mainly inspired by Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Their sixth studio album, The 2nd Law (2012) relates to economics, thermodynamics, and apocalyptic themes. Their 2015 album Drones, is a concept album that uses autonomous killing drones as a metaphor for brainwashing and loss of empathy.
Books that have influenced Muse's lyrical themes include Nineteen Eighty-Four, Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins, Hyperspace by Michio Kaku, The 12th Planet by Zecharia Sitchin, Rule by Secrecy by Jim Marrs and Trance Formation of America by Cathy O'Brien.
- Showbiz Tour (1998–2000)
- Origin of Symmetry Tour (2000–2002)
- Absolution Tour (2003–2004)
- US Campus Invasion Tour 2005 (2005)
- Black Holes and Revelations Tour (2006–2008)
- The Resistance Tour (2009–2011)
- The 2nd Law World Tour (2012–2014)
- Psycho Tour (2015)
- Drones World Tour (2015–2016)
- North American Tour (with Thirty Seconds to Mars and Pvris) (2017)
- Simulation Theory World Tour (2019)
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