While most bands have a fanbase that revolves around one area of the world, Muse have slowly grown into a band that literally has the entire world as their fanbase. After a missed interview because the UK group was in Latvia, drummer Dominic Howard finally gets on the phone from a beach in Monaco, where they’ve just played a private show for the prince the night before, to discuss how the band survives this heavy touring schedule and what fans can expect from their forthcoming concert at Madison Square Garden.
Where are you in Europe today?
Monaco. France has always been a big favorite of mine because we’ve pretty much been playing here since day one. I think our fanbase built up bigger in France than it did in the UK in the early days so we’ve got a nice connection with the French public it seems. They’re always nice and warm, always singing along.
How do the European crowds compare to the crowds in the US?
Similar in some places. American crowds seem to be different from coast to coast. It’s a big country so there’s a lot of varied responses. I like Philadelphia, that crowd’s definitely up for it. South of L.A. gets pretty crazy, like San Diego. They’re almost flailing off the handle. And Salt Lake City, actually. That was one of the best crowds we had on the last tour. They are freaked out.
Are you ever surprised by which shows are crazy and which are more subdued?
It’s sometimes surprising. It’s really varied. In the big cities they’re often more subdued, but that seems to be the way it is all over the world. It’s weird how some crowds are more respectful of each other and not really moshing or creating that big circle of death, or whatever it’s called, and how other people like to do that and they maybe like pain a little bit more.
How does the crowd response affect the way you play?
You’ve got to feed off each other. If the crowd’s immediately going mental, you respond to that and it gives you more energy and then when you’re kind of flailing around, the crowd responds to that as well. It’s a reciprocal energy that’s flying around. But sometimes when the crowd is quite still and just watching you, that feels quite strange. Sometimes you feel a bit more self-conscious. Or sometimes it makes you play better because you know everyone is studying what you’re doing. It’s very different. Every gig has its own vibe. It’s never the same.
Are there things you consciously do as a band to ensure that a show is the best it can be?
Try not to get pissed up the night before the gig. That helps. We’re trying really hard to do that at this point in the game. Because you feel very different when you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Try and get yourself excited for it. Run around the room a little bit, jump up and down, get the blood flowing. Nerves are something we always have and I think those nerves are the thing that actually gets you going through the first few songs. I don’t think we’ve ever played a show where one of us hasn’t said ‘I can’t do this’ right before. It happens every time. Someone always says it. You think you can’t do it, but it turns out you really can and it’s fine.
Do you feel any kind of pressure to play a venue like Madison Square Garden?
I think it will be fine. I’m really looking forward to it. Last time we played in New York it was at Hammerstein and the crowd was really wicked. I don’t really think major cities like New York hold more pressure than other cities; I think it’s kind of all the same. The problem with the major cities really is that’s where your families come out to and you get a bit more stressed. I think it will be good. We don’t really feel pressured like that too much.
Are you at all surprised that Muse are big enough to play Madison Square Garden now?
Yeah a little bit. It felt like the right move, though, even though it’s much bigger than Hammerstein. It’s a big jump, but we’ve always taken gambles with our live shows and moved into bigger places. Sometimes you’re not sure if you can sell it, but you’ve got to go for it and it seems to work. We play that size everywhere else in the world and having that size of production is something we really wanted to do in New York City so it seemed like the right choice.
What sort of production do you have?
We’re going to having pretty much the same as what we’re having for the European festivals we’re playing right now. I’ve got this big kind of pod, satellite thing—we call it the satellite—that the drum kit sits inside. And we’ve got lots of screens, lots of video content being played with the song. It’s a full-on, very loud—very loud visually as well as musically—electric rock show. It should be exciting.
Do you ever get distracted by all that going on around you while you play?
I have in the past. Right now I can’t see anything thankfully. But the other day we kind of changed it up and we had some videos around me so I was looking at it while I was playing and it puts you off. But right now I can’t really see anything. We’ve even done some gigs where, for some reason, there’s been a big mirror on the other side of the room—mainly in the States, actually—and you find you can actually see yourself playing. That’s a bit strange because you watch yourself and think, ‘Oh I look a bit silly there’ or something.
Do you think you look good when you play?
No. But I don’t really think about it while I play. I’m sure we’re all groaning and making silly faces and pulling silly moves.
Have you started writing any new songs?
We haven’t really actually worked on anything. There’s a few bits and pieces floating around, but it’s hard to tell what they really are because they can change so much. It’s hard to know where we’re going to go in the future. There’s always going to be music, but as to how we release it and present it, it’s quite broad. There’s always a lot of piano music so we’ve been thinking of maybe doing a load of piano music and separating it from the rock music. Maybe doing two different tours around all that. But it’s really a bit too early for us to have any plans. We’re touring until the end of the year. We’ll probably start working on music next year and just see how it goes, you know?
How do you keep from getting burned out on so much touring?
You just gotta stay healthy. Keep it together upstairs. We’re trying. It gets a bit crumbly around this time. We’ve been on tour for over a year now so things get a little bit flaky. You just gotta sleep well and do what we’re doing today, which is sitting out on a beach. We’re gonna go jet-skiing in a minute. That sort of thing makes you book another week’s touring if you get to do this. We’re just used to it because we’ve been doing it for so long now. We’re lucky because we all enjoy it a lot. A lot of bands I’ve spoken to and seen can’t handle it. We all enjoy it, which enables us to keep playing all over the world.
Muse will perform at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 6. For more info visit muse.mu