Anyone who’s been to a live Muse show knows the sensation – the second encore is over, the band walks off stage and all of a sudden your ears are filled with a persistent, near-deafening ring.
Muse drummer Dominic Howard knows the sound quite well. With three recent tours under his belt, he explained to The Hatchet how he’s learned to live with a constant, aural buzz. “You just get used to it I suppose. I’m sure I’ll be deaf by the time I’m 50.”
While Muse doesn’t intend to promote hearing loss, it’s a potential consequence of the band’s theatrical, live sets. Muse’s flood of piano, drums and guitar can cause causing even the hardest-assed concertgoers to stealthily purchase earplugs.
“We thought about handing out in-ear monitors to people as they walk through the doors,” Howard said. “So (audience members) could control their own volume throughout the show. We’ve always been a pretty loud band.”
Correction: Muse is only loud at certain times. When band members are not engaged in an all-out sound explosion, they’re actually pretty calm, shifting dramatically to soothing ballads and sudden piano fogs. It is these extremity-oriented dynamics that have put Muse’s recent album Absolution (Warner Bros.) on the map. “People in America really seem to get the rock side of our band, and in the U.K. they like the lighter side,” Howard said.
Muse released Absolution to U.S. audiences last May, six months after it was distributed to the rest of the world. Since then, the band has trekked across the country with The Cure and on its own headlining tour. A combination of radio hits, album sales and critical praise for Absolution have brought the band back for one more stateside round, this time out to college campuses nationwide with fellow Brits Razorlight on mtvU’s Campus Invasion ’05 Tour.
Like any U.K. band whose front man sings in upper register, Muse most frequently draws comparisons to Radiohead. However the virtuosic melodramas and jagged hard-rock tension of Absolution has placed the album in a class of its own – its bears resemblance to the work of composers Richard Wagner and Rachmaninov. Howard said Muse’s classical sensibilities are entirely self-taught, acquired simply by being avid listeners.
The three band members began playing together as schoolmates at age 13. After donning such names as Gothic Plague, Fixed Penalty and Rocket Baby Dolls, Howard said they realized “all those names were shit,” and an older man in their hometown of Teignmouth, Devon, suggested the name Muse.
After finishing up the mtvU tour, Howard said Muse is heading back to the studio to record its fourth, full-length LP. With stated plans to lighten up on Absolution’s raging, apocalyptic themes, Howard said he couldn’t guess exactly how the new material will sound. “It’s hard to tell until you get into the studio,” he said. “It’s always such a mixed bag. All songs sound very different. We’ve never really stuck to one thing or one genre. All I can say is that it definitely won’t be anything we’ve done before.”
Muse will perform at Cole Fieldhouse at the University of Maryland at College Park (Green Line) Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.