Who the Hell Actually Listens to Muse?
I went to meet the legions of Supermassive Musers to find out why the melodramatic Devon prog-rockers seem to have become Britain's perennial headliner.
All photography by Shauna Keane
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.
Britain has a habit of holding onto things, merely because they never went away. Ant and Dec, Now That’s What I Call Music compilations, All Bar One, You’ve Been Framed, Dad’s Army – these are all things that should have disappeared years ago, but instead they’ve endured; propped up by their inoffensiveness, refusing to die by virtue of continuing to exist. And we’ve let them.
I’ve always put Muse into this category. I have vague recollections of appreciating them as a pre-teen in the early 00s; the raw, angsty excitement of the “Plug in Baby” opening riff in my Walkman headphones on the way to school; Matt Bellamy’s strange little face plastered across the front of the NME. But at some point, me and my friends lost interest and moved onto something else. Their constant theatrics, sixth form-style social commentary, and aviators tucked-into-V-necks became too much to stomach, and I, perhaps arrogantly, assumed that others might lose interest too.
But this particular 3-piece from Devon never went away, did they? They’ve been around for over two decades and seven albums. Last week, it was announced that the band would be headlining Glastonbury for the third time and nobody even started a petition. Their current world tour has grossed well over £16 million in ticket sales, with 131 international shows so far. They have become the perennial British headliner. Matt Bellamy, a man who thinks that human beings are genetically engineered slaves for aliens and the queen is a reptilian shapeshifter, is bigger than ever.
Clearly I am missing something, because numbers don’t lie. There must be a lot of Serious Muse Fans out there. The guy sitting two tables away from you in the office could be a Serious Muse Fan. The girl who you were chatting to in the smoking area last night could be a Serious Muse Fan. You could be a Serious Muse Fan. Apparently, Muse fans are everywhere, although I have absolutely no idea who they are.
I decided to hang around outside the O2 arena ahead of their sold out concert and simply talk to people, understand their passion, and make sense of why Muse have become more popular than water. The first person I came across was this guy (below), who nearly knocked me over after doing vigorous roley poleys down a steep grassy knoll.
Noisey: When did you first get into Muse?
Renatas: I was going through YouTube when I was really young and I was like “Oooh, what’s this background song to this weird illuminati video?” and then I heard their song “Uprising”. I was on one of them YouTube benders when you’re really warping your mind with what’s going on in the world.
Right, so, Muse are part of the Illuminati.
There are theories that they control the world and stuff, or are sorting out the world and giving people help.
Muse are saving the world?
Yeah, let’s go with that.
How do Muse make you feel?
They make songs for warriors. Like “Unite! Let’s kill those bad guys! Tell them I did not yield! Tell them I fought to the last dying breath!"
At this point, I decided to walk away because he was doing high kicks and eating cheesy Doritos at the same time. I felt a bit disappointed that my lazy stereotype of a Muse fan wasn’t actually miles off. I came here to be disproven damn it – not to just have my own perceptions echoed back at me endlessly. If this is what Muse fans are like, things are even worse than previously imagined. Then I stumbled on and came across this guy, who seemed fairly non-manic, and eager to talk.
Noisey: Hello. How did you become a Muse fan?
Sam: Well, you hear them on the radio because they’re a big popular band, but I guess I didn’t hear their complete discography until a year ago. Their music is really contemplative and critical of society – especially their new album Drones. It’s about how we’re all mindless drones. This is actually the first time I’ve ever seen Muse and it’s been a dream of mine. I got the tickets for my 21st birthday.
What’s your favourite album and why?
Black Holes and Revelations because it’s the most amazing workout music. If I’m out on my bike and I need the energy, it really pumps me up.
Matt Bellamy cheated on Kate Hudson. Your comment?
I don’t really believe celeb gossip. I think celebrities get a hard enough time as it is just having their own personal lives. Just leave them alone. Let them live. Relationships fail.
So, young Muse fans do exist. However, he clearly wasn’t a superfan and he’d come with his mates. I decided to try and scope out somebody on their own, preferably with a Muse t-shirt, so that I could learn more about what might lead a person to love Muse with an enduring and unquestionable passion. I wanted to find the most Matt Bellamy Matt Bellamy fan.
Noisey: Is this the first time you’ve ever seen Muse?
Carl: No, this is the fourth time.
Would you call yourself a superfan?
No, but I’ve liked them since 2004.
Will you be seeing them at Glastonbury this year?
No, Glastonbury is too busy for me. I’d rather see them at somewhere like Download.
Carl seemed angry that I was talking to him, which I thought was odd because if you’re wearing a Muse t-shirt at a Muse gig, surely you’re inviting somebody to talk about Muse with you. At this point, I also realised that there were a disproportionate amount of dudes going to see Muse. Swathes and swathes of white, straight males in packs, chugging craft beers, going to see Muse together. I decided to go on a Muse cruise around the queue to see if I could find a woman to speak to. I found Sophie (below), who had come on her own.
Noisey: Is this the first time you’ve ever seen Muse?
Sophie: No, this will be my 19th time.
Now we’re talking. Why do you like seeing them so much?
I just think they’re energetic. There’s always a lot going on. I like the staging and lighting. I do theatre lighting, so I find it really interesting. Obviously the music’s good too, otherwise I wouldn’t see them.
It must get really boring seeing the same thing again and again though?
No, it doesn’t. I’ve followed them on tours. I’ve followed them to different venues to see how it translates to different places. I probably view it more for the staging than most people.
I wonder how many people go to Muse gigs for the staging... Anyway, what’s your best Muse-related memory?
I’ll be really honest, I went through a state of depression, as most people do. I was at a train station and I was getting ready to jump, and I put Muse on my earphones and it made me think “You know what? There’s so many good things in life, you shouldn’t let go.” So that’s my best link to Muse.
Wow. That’s pretty significant.
Yeah, in the spirit of that moment, they saved my life.
I felt like a right dick after speaking to Sophie. Her love of Muse is fairly unquestionable. To me, the band’s power-packed, epic choruses have always sounded like adverts for internet suppliers, but to Sophie, they had come at a point in her life where she needed something to uplift her, to give her back some power and to show her that there’s light amidst the darkness. Sophie’s love of Muse felt far purer than my Twitter-length indifference of them. It also made me question the validity of, basically, my entire career to date. Before I sank into glumness, I came across this happy couple (below), who had travelled all the way from Norwich for the night.
LIZ AND DAVE, 58 AND 65
Noisey: Why are you huge fans of Muse?
Liz: I love their music, they’ve always done really good albums, and this is the third time we’ve seen them live.
How many times a week do you listen to them?
Liz: Every day. All the way to work and all the way home.
How do they make you feel?
Liz: Good and happy. They do a good light show, don’t they? You say something, Dave.
Dave: Yeah they do a good light show. They’ve been getting better and better as they’ve gone along. We’ve seen them at Wembley Arena twice.
You'd be amazed how many people have told me how much they enjoy the staging and the lights.
Satisfied that I’d gotten my happy ending, I was just about to leave all these people to go inside and enjoy all that extra-terrestrial riffage they’re so into, when I heard a bunch of men bellowing, beating their chests, and spilling Jack Daniels on their shoes outside a Tesco Express. I felt magnetically drawn to them.
Noisey: Hey! How you doing?
Lawrence: I have to apologise – I’m a little bit tipsy. I’m here with my dad and brother, and we always go to gigs together and drink. We’ve been to the O2 before to see Black Sabbath.
What’s the difference between seeing Muse and Black Sabbath?
I don’t know, it doesn’t matter. IT'S LIVE MUSIC!
How long have you been into Muse?
Since I was at school, really. I got into them when they started getting really big. When I was a kid I used to get up early to do a paper round and watch Scuzz or Kerrang! in the morning. That’s when I saw Muse for the first time.
So it’s a pretty nostalgia based love?
Yeah, definitely. When you hear them, you know it’s Muse. And there’s something about a three-piece that makes a really big sound.
If Matt Bellamy died tonight and you had to replace him with somebody, who would it be?
No one could replace him.
[At this point, Lawrence’s dad Darrel bundles in…]
Noisey: Hey! What brings you here?
Darrel: My sons bought be a ticket for Christmas, so I’m going to a gig with my boys. It’s the first time they paid for me to go to a gig.
Who’s a bigger fan, you or your sons?
My sons are. They’re trying to educate me after I educated them. The first concert I took them to was a Madness concert, and then Bad Manners at Butlins. Then I took them to see AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Trivium. I wanted to ground them in metal and rock.
Do you think Muse are up there with the greats?
Well, we’ll probably have to listen to a bit of “Psycho Killer” later.
Thanks for chatting. See you later.
As I left the strange, food chain-littered, concrete-covered world of North Greenwich (if you’ve never been it’s like a cold, low-budget version of Dubai), I realised that I probably wouldn’t ever truly understand the appeal of Muse. Music, by its very nature, is deeply subjective, and therefore one person’s anthem makes another person want to scrape off their own skin. And I started to almost feel jealous of that.
However, after my evening of probing the Supermassive Musers – which I am calling them but they do not call themselves – I did feel slightly closer to understanding who might go and see Muse and why. I guessed that it was white dudes who quote The Big Bang Theory and do air guitar on night’s out, but actually there was a whole world of people streaming into this gig. The general consensus was that Muse made people feel more powerful or uplifted. Muse helped people get through their depression when they were going through a life horrors. Fathers came to see Muse with their sons to bond. Couples fell in love listening to Muse, and seeing them live brought them closer together. Some came for the riffs, some came for Matt Bellamy, and some just came for the staging. Muse fans are like any other fans really. I never thought I’d say this but: lets all raise a glass to Muse.
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