Alt-title: DiS & Dom, sitting in a room, i.n.t.er.view.i.n.g.
A few weeks back, just before Muse played two huge homecoming shows (discussed here) and released their hugely successful new album The Resistance (reviewed here), DiS had a chat with their drummer, Dominic Howard (pictured above, in the middle). As you've now had time to get your teeth into the album, here's what he had to say about the recording process, influences, his albums of the decade and more...
Sean Adams, DiS: Your recent single 'Uprising', reminded me a bit of a Belgian band called Millionaire - who I remember supported you years ago - and, also Battles...
Dominic Howard, Muse: Yeah, I guess you could say that. I had a bit of contact with one of Millionaire the other day and yeah, I'm a big fan. One of them was in dEUS who we all love but Millionaire are in all sorts of other bands and haven't got very big, sadly. And yeah, I really like Battles, we were all fans of their previous band Helmet when we were growing up and I love John Stainer's drumming. It's quite weird, bizarre record but I really love it.
There's no specific influences for that song though, it's just glam-rock really from the late 70s and 80s, that genre, rather than an artist.
DiS: This is the first time you've self-produced. Did this create any friction or did you enjoy the freedom to run amok in the studio?
Yeah. We had a lot of freedom. I guess when we work with a producer there's an element of wanting them to like it, like an extra member of the team. Producing it by ourselves, it was just the three us and every now and then there was a two against one democratic decision, but yuhknow, the ol' rock'n'roll foot goes down and someone loses their opinion. It happened quite a lot but I guess that's the great thing about being a three piece - we needed the three of us to be in the studio to really make serious decisions, about direction, instrumentation and everything to do with the songs, which really bought us together.
I guess, on previous records, a band member or two band members could side with the producer and decisions were made. This time, nothing could happen without us all agreeing and it really bought us even closer in many ways. A lot of feelings were aired through the process and we ended up in a much more positive space, so the personal aspect of the band is much stronger.
DiS: Were there any particular records which you used as sonic benchmarks for the production of the album?
Dom: Er, 'Love In An Elevator' by Aerosmith strangely. I was at home and had the radio on one Sunday afternoon and it just sounded so different to everything on the radio. So, I took that down to the studio and put it on. Everything is so bright, cool riffs, drums are really loud too. That was pretty big but we weren't really listening to anything whilst making the album. Because we were producing it ourselves we wanted to really look inside ourselves for all the ideas and not be referenced by a lot of things. Producers often go 'what about this, have you heard this' and you can sometimes be influenced by it. Rich Costey was great for playing us things like old Police songs and Ennio Morricone, which I think influenced the last album.
The song 'Undisclosed Desires' definitely had lots of reference points from Kanye West, Timbaland and we were listening to this weird-synth band we love called Anti-Pop Consortium. I was listening to a lot of contemporary R & B to find out what they were doing.
DiS: I've seen a few pictures from the studio and there's one with a gong. Where is the gong on the record?
Dom: You'll find it on '...Eurasia' and at the end of 'I Belong to You'. It was on the symphony but I think Matt deleted it [laughs]. I put it on everything!
DiS: Was there a lot of experimentation that didn't make it onto the album?
Dom: I usually put everything on everything. There's a lot of experimentation with different instruments and we usually try a lot of things and delete what isn't necessary. 'Undisclosed Desires' found its way with a lot of experimentation with samples. I did all of it but it isn't something I'm used doing, so I spent a lot of time with manuals learning how to do it. I guess I was approaching it in a unique, sort of naive way. It was a great process for me to go through. At times I just wanted to play it on the kit but we tried out lots of loops and things but it didn't have quite the right dynamic or power for the song. By spending weeks on it, we found a new area for the band and the album was sounding quite tame until that point. A lot of songs completely evolved into utterly different tracks from the tame place where they started from.
DiS: You're about to head out on a US tour supporting U2, how do you feel about that?
Dom: It's pretty odd to be a support band again. We haven't really done that for a while. I mean, we supported My Chemical Romance a few years ago and salmonella took the best of the tour and it was some kind of act of God got the better of us.
I've got a lot of respect for U2. They've been around for a long time and still making great music, playing huge stadium venues. I've got a lot of respect for them and I'm sure we're going to learn a thing or two which is what I'm really looking for to as we're still learning lots about touring. Sadly we won't be able to take our new stage show though.
I 'spose if there is any band in the world which we'd support it's U2 in middle America; so it makes sense.
DiS: Ok, one last question. I'm currently compiling our end of the decade coverage and I was wondering what are your favourite albums of the the Noughties?
Dom: Justice Cross that's my favourite album. It's so disgusting and so rock - I absolutely adore that album! I'd love to know what they're doing and sit in the studio and see how they put it together. I really like Glasvegas, I really like Late of the Pier and this new band called The Big Pink, who are coming to play with us on tour - they've got some great electronics with that kind of 4AD, Jesus & Mary Chain kind of ethereal backdrop. Oh and TV on the Radio Dear Science especially that first track on that 'Halfway Home' which is phenomenal.
The Resistance is out now.