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We chat to Muse ahead of their first Melbourne show in four years

The problem nowadays is that if we play a new song live, it’ll inevitably make it onto YouTube within five minutes of us playing it. In a way, it spoils it for when the songs actually come out... We want our albums to always have an impact and to surprise people.”

It's hard to be down to earth when your band is best known for being up in space most of the time. Still, Chris Wolstenholme manages to bridge these two worlds comfortably. He's a politely-spoken, family man in his late 30s off-stage. When he picks up his bass, however, he ascends to a whole other galaxy as one-third of Muse, one of the biggest rock bands of the century.
 
Their high-concept, prog-rock-inspired live shows have seen them fill arenas and stadiums for at least a decade, hitting their monolith status circa album number four, Black Holes and Revelations. It's interesting to note, then, that 2017 has seen Muse on a comparatively smaller scale than usual.
 
“This little run has been pretty stripped down,” says Wolstenholme – almost oblivious to the fact that a “little run” of “stripped down” shows for a band like Muse are still bigger shows than most bands could ever dream of. “We've mostly been playing outdoor shows, and obviously there's a limit to the kind of equipment you can use while you're in that environment. We can't build our own stage or anything, of course, so we've been learning to adapt to the places that we are playing at. I think that's how we're going to operate for awhile.”
 
When it comes to Muse's upcoming show at Rod Laver Arena – one of only two headlining shows the band are playing this month – don't expect all of the usual bells and whistles that came with their previous visits. “We put enough stress on ourselves with the [previous album, 2015's] Drones tour,” Wolstenholme reasons. “It was probably the most ambitious tour we've done, and we did it for about nine or ten months straight. It was stressful, and there were a lot of things that went wrong, but it was still a great show. After that, it feels quite nice to have a slightly more casual year of touring and to not be doing shows that are as extravagant.”
 
New ideas are formulating for the next Muse record, which is set to be recorded and potentially even released in 2018. These December shows, however, will not feature any new music – save for ‘Dig Down’, the standalone single the band put out earlier this year. Wolstenholme says that the band hasn't performed new songs before they've been released in over a decade – and coincides that with the rise of the internet and of smartphone usage at shows. “Around the time we toured Absolution, we used to play new songs all the time,” he says. “We played 'Hysteria' for about a year before it was released.
 
“The problem nowadays is that if we play a new song live, it’ll inevitably make it onto YouTube within five minutes of us playing it. In a way, it spoils it for when the songs actually come out – it deadens the impact of an album if you've already heard six of the songs on a crappy-sounding video. We want our albums to always have an impact and to surprise people.”
Across nearly 25 years and seven albums, Muse have pushed themselves to be a challenging, occasionally polarising band. What's perhaps the most remarkable about them, however, is the fact that they have achieved everything in their career without a single lineup change. It's always been Wolstenholme, vocalist/guitarist Matt Bellamy and drummer Dominic Howard – and, over two decades on, that's the way it looks like it's going to stay. “No matter how much our lives have changed outside of it, this band has always been a constant for the three of us,” says Wolstenholme.
 
“It's been a part of our lives since we were 15 years old. It's definitely out of the ordinary – most bands tend to have members come and go, but it's always just been about the three of us. We know one another inside and out. We don't really have major fights – and, if we do have disagreements, then we work them out. At the end of the day, we look back at it and remind ourselves how lucky we are that we get to do this.”

Muse will perform at Rod Laver Arena on Monday December 18. They’ll be supported by Nothing But Thieves.