As the bombastic frontman for British prog-rock band Muse, Matt Bellamy is responsible for some of the most outrageous rock riffs in popular music.
Bellamy’s wailing vocals are instantly distinctive, but it’s his experimental guitar breaks and leads that have also come to define Muse, and it’s the band’s energetic and OTT live performances that have drawn comparisons to the likes of Queen, Pink Floyd, and other rock opera masters.
Bellamy with Muse is a dish best served live, and having played 6 mammoth world tours thus far, Muse is a band that looks far from ready to slow down anytime soon…
Born in Cambridge, England in 1978, the son of an Irishwoman and a rhythm guitarist, Bellamy’s infatuation with music began early. He started playing piano at the tender age of 6, and picked up the guitar at age 11. As a teenager at Teignmouth Community High, Bellamy met and befriended Dominic Howard and Chris Wolstenholme in school bands, and thus Muse was born circa. 1994.
The band have 7 studio albums under their belt (Showbiz, Origin of Symmetry, Absolution, Black Holes and Revelations, Resistance, The 2nd Law and Drones), all of which have spawned many international hits including ‘Plug In Baby’, ‘Time Is Running Out’, ‘Supermassive Black Hole’, ‘Uprising’, ‘Madness’ and much much more.
Although Bellamy plays some big names like Gibson, Fender, and Gretsch in the studio, he favours Manson guitars (a small UK-based guitar maker) live.
Bellamy owns between 38-45 Manson guitars, and nearly all of which were built by Hugh Manson himself, and dubbed the Mattocaster or MB shape. The Mattocaster shape resulted from Bellamy wanting a guitar with “the body of a Fender Telecaster and the sound of a Gibson Les Paul”.
His most famous custom made axe is the Manson MB-1. The first striking element of the guitar is its red glitter finish, perfectly complimenting Bellamy’s glam-rock stage persona. The toggle kill switch is a cool feature that allows Bellamy to create rhythmic stutters by turning the knob between the live and kill positions. The coolest feature on the MB-1, however, has to be the built-in MIDI touch pad, which can used to control an effects processor, digital synthesiser and even stage lighting.
Vocally, Matt Bellamy’s three-octave range is what sets Muse apart from its counterparts. He shrieks, wails, screams and croons in falsetto, mimicking the sounds of his riffs and leads.
As previously mentioned, the MIDI touch pad is responsible for Muse’s iconic futuristic sounds. By touching, tapping and running his finger over the in-built pad, Bellamy is able to manipulate effects by opening and closing a filter or lengthening and shortening the delay time, resulting in some very spacey sci-fi sounds.
Bellamy is known for writing and producing some of the best contemporary arena anthems, combining call-and-response choruses with aggressive, rousing riffs and lyrics exploring big-world issues such as politics, technology, the environment and apocalypses.
Almost every Muse track has a Bellamy great riff or lead.
There’s the spaghetti-western twang of ‘Knights of Cydonia’, the sporadic spasms of ‘Micro Cuts’, the electronic cries of ‘Plug In Baby’, the metal licks of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, the solid head-banging riff of ‘Psycho’, the rise up and rebel call-to-arms of the ‘Supremacy’ intro and the fret-tapping skills in ‘New Born’, the gentle solo of ‘Madness’ and the crazy AF synth spits and screams of ‘Unsustainable’.
There are three awesome live DVD’s of Bellamy and Muse in action. There’s the 2002 Hullabaloo Soundtrack, which showcases live performances of the band’s first two albums Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry. Then in 2008 they released HAARP, a 20-track document of Muse’s Wembley Stadium take-over in June 2007. And at the end of 2013, Muse brought out Live at Rome Olympic Stadium, which was the Italian leg of the hugely successful The 2nd Law world tour.
Below is a segment from Muse’s recent performance at the Netherland’s annual Pinkpop Festival, where the band headlined alongside Robbie Williams and Pharrell.