How Muse Rediscovered Humanity on 'Simulation Theory'
By Andrew Magnotta @andrewmagnotta
November 15, 2018
Muse has never shied away from having a point of view.
The trio's near-25-year career has been punctuated by thematic, genre-defining albums heavy with political and social commentary. The band's lyrical themes have often dwelled on how authorities, organized religions and technology can distance, demonize and dehumanize people.
But in between stints on the Drones World Tour in support of one of its gravest albums to date, Muse escaped to the recording studio, to craft a new album using inspiration from lighter subjects and nostalgia. That became the band's eighth studio effort, Simulation Theory, which is available now.
After rocking the iHeartRadio Theater in New York with a career-spanning set list, Muse front man Matt Bellamy explained the multiple levels of the time warp to iHeartRadio's Amber Miller.
Bellamy says Muse hasn't recorded an album while on tour in nearly two decades.
"In the early years, we made albums where we'd be like touring, then in the studio for a week or two, then back touring again," Bellamy explained. "So we thought it might be nice to mix it up and do it that way this time. And that's why the [new] songs came in piecemeal a little bit, because we were breaking it up in between doing shows. ... It was nice keeping the vibe fresh, being on stage and then being in the studio."
In addition to running from stage to studio like the band hadn't done in years, the band members looked to their respective childhoods in the '80s for inspiration, taking elements of pop culture from their earliest memories and appropriating them into the new album.
Bellamy says Simulation Theory for him began as a reconnection with his childhood love for video games. In particular, it was an embrace of modern virtual reality gaming.
"Most of Muse has been about stuff we sort of came to in our teenage years onwards," he adds. "It was nice to go back to that really early point in our life in the '80s and find some of the sounds that we liked."
If Simulation Theory doesn't sound retro to you, it certainly looks it. The band has completely forgone subtlety with its aesthetic, evoking '80s film and television at every turn in the visual presentation of the record, from the album artwork to music videos for "Deep Down," "Thought Contagion," "Something Human," "Pressure" and others.
So how will Muse incorporate Simulation Theory into its spectacle of a live show next year?
Bellamy says the band learned some lessons about high-tech on the Drones World Tour. Maybe we shouldn't worry too much about the singularity just yet.
"We actually realized that humans are more reliable," he says. "We're actually going to bring more people on tour with us, some performers, more instrumentation, some of the brass elements, percussion elements. So we might have some interested additional people, basically, playing with us rather than so much tech stuff."
Though still a relatively young band for a gang of arena rockers, Muse has already built up a legacy. Twenty five years in, it's getting to the point where people want the band to look back at what it's built. Drummer Dominic Howard says the band is working on reissue packages for the first two albums to celebrate some upcoming milestones.
But more importantly, Muse is here to stay and there's no end in sight — just a lot more music and incredible memories.
"I think we plan to stick around and carry on," Howard concludes. "I think we've always admired bands who can do that ... that's the hardest thing, just actually sticking together."
Get all of Muse's tour dates here.
Photos: Rachel Kaplan for iHeartRadio