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Muse Bassist Chris Wolstenholme Shares Thoughts on ’2nd Law,’ Personal Demons, Band Credibility + More

Christopher Wolstenholme
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

U.K. rockers Muse have become one of the biggest bands in the world, selling out arenas on a regular basis. After releasing their sixth studio album The 2nd Law late last year, the trio have embarked on a worldwide tour in support of the record. Bassist Christopher Wolstenholme shared his thoughts on fans’ early perception of The 2nd Law, singing lead for the first time and more in an exclusive interview with GRD.

Muse dropped a trailer previewing The 2nd Law last June that left fans divided. “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” featured elements of dubstep that the group wasn’t known for at the time. Panic over the EDM influence proved to be unnecessary as it wasn’t nearly as prominent as critics anticipated. Despite many fans quickly judging The 2nd Law based off of a two minute clip, Muse weren’t bothered too much by the criticism.

“It’s always difficult when you want to present something from your new album, the first thing you’re going to let people hear,” says Wolstenholme before Muse’s show at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. “I think we just thought maybe we should put something out there that is the most out-there thing on the album, which obviously gets people talking. I think sometimes whether it’s negative or  whether it’s positive, at least it gets people talking and it builds up the anticipation for the album.”

Wolstenholme continues: “I think the one thing that was frustrating was obviously a lot of people start talking about the electronic influence and the dubstep thing. But the whole point of that song was that it was almost anti-that really because it was all done with real instruments. I think with electronic music we’ve always been really turned on by the sounds of it and we wanted to see if we could create something as intense but using real instruments. I think that was one thing that didn’t come across initially with that song. Once the album came out people realized it wasn’t all like that. It was just showing off one new element of the band.”

Wolstenholme admitted in the past that he had battled alcoholism for a significant period in his life. The Rotherham, England native was able to find the strength to face his problem and has been sober for a few years now. Two tracks from The 2nd Law, “Liquid State” and “Save Me,” were written by Wolstenholme about his struggles being an alcoholic, which he also sings lead at the suggestion of frontman Matt Bellamy. Knowing he had to perform the songs live made him nervous at the beginning.

“The first time we did it was in Germany,” Wolstenholme recalls. “I think that was the first show we did for this album. It wasn’t a massive gig but it was still 2,000-3,000. It was pretty terrifying. It’s strange when you’ve played the same role in the band for such a long time.”

“I’ve been the bass player and done backing vocals and various other bits and pieces. You don’t realize to what extent the attention is all on you when you’re a singer. And it was really weird because the one thing I was aware of as soon as we started playing the song was the focus of the whole crowd shifted to me. Obviously because I never sang before six albums in is kind of a strange time to start doing that. Everybody was very interested [laughs].”

Music and politics have been making headlines on both sides of the Atlantic for quite a few years now. Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello wasn’t too pleased when former Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan revealed that he was a big fan of the rap-rock pioneers. Muse have their own story line with conservative radio host Glenn Beck, who raved about their 2009 album The Resistance. Wolstenholme doesn’t necessarily care about WHO listens to his band’s music, but has a problem when someone tries to group them into a cause they do not want to be part of.

“I think the whole thing with Glenn Beck is if he wants to like our band that’s absolutely fine,” Wolstenholme states. “But I think he was almost looking for political support from our music. It was a little bit like, ‘Yeah, we’re the same,’ and it wasn’t really like that. He got the wrong end of the stick, really. That’s the impression that I got. I’ll be honest, I’m not really up on my politics. It’s not something that I feel particularly comfortable talking about purely because I don’t feel like I’m qualified enough to talk about it.”

Wolstenholme continues: “The thing is my understanding of the lyrics [2009's "Uprising"] is that it was much more about the people as opposed to a political movement. It’s about living together and fighting for things together. It wasn’t in support of any one particular political movement or anything like that.”

Watch the entire interview with Chris Wolstenholme below, where we also discuss last year’s London Olympics and if the music industry should make a better effort to prevent addiction problems. Muse continue their North American tour for the next two months before returning to the U.K. in May.

Watch Muse Bassist Chris Wolstenholme Interviewed by Dave Kim

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