Last June saw the release of Drones, the seventh studio album by the English rock group Muse. The band’s lead singer and guitarist, Matthew Bellamy, comes from a musical background: his father was a member of The Tornados in the 1960s, but Matthew Bellamy is often in the news for non-musical reasons. Last year he separated from his girlfriend, film star Kate Hudson, with whom he has a young child. And he says that separation is a theme in the album Drones:
MATTHEW BELLAMY (STANDARD BRITISH ACCENT)
It’s always been a theme for me, for everything I’ve done. And I think it’s difficult to know exactly where it comes from, really. I think maybe in my teenage years, maybe when my parents separated, or something, there's... I had a period of time in my younger teenage years where I kind of felt a little out of control. You felt like your life wasn’t in your own hands. And I think one of the ways I started the band was finding a way to escape, finding a way to get my own control of my own destiny, you know, so, some of these thoughts, some of the things that I was having when making the album, but the theme for this album, “Drones” in particular, came from reading about drones. I read a book called "Predator Drones: CIA Covert Warfare" or something like that. I can’t remember the exact name, but it was like two years ago. It was like a journalist but documenting all the different drone strikes that had taken place in the FATA in West Pakistan and Afghanistan.
And he had more to say about this:
And I was quite shocked at how prolific it was and how much there has been and how advanced the technology was. I started learning about the term “kill decision” – you know, like how kill decisions are made, and how there’s often like a sequence of people… (it) usually ends up with somebody in... Washington – sometimes, actually, Obama. Often Obama would be coming down for breakfast in the morning and after his breakfast, he would literally make a number of kill decisions. He would be presented with options , you know, but the point was the degree of distance that was created. Technology creates a huge degree of distance between the end result and the decision, the kill decision, and this distance is getting bigger and bigger. I think that the new technology they’re inventing now, this year, is autonomous drones, you know, drones which can make their own kill decision without any humans involved, you know. It struck me that drones, modern drones, is kind of like the ultimate technological example of how human empathy is being like taken away from everything, you know.
But he hopes that people might react against this:
The idea of loss of empathy, what it is to be psychopathic, how easy it is to act psychopathically in... in the modern world using technology. And how... what... I would like to hope that maybe the person, eventually , there’s something inside them that cannot be corrupted, that eventually wants to wake up and feel again, and, you know, make connections again, but also to kind of fight back against, I guess, in this case, it’s kind of the faceless, psychopathic – also represented by technology – efficiency that we seem to be accepting in the 20th century, especially moving into the 21st century.
Matthew Bellamy is a highly respected guitarist. Indeed he has been called the Jimi Hendrix of his generation. How does he feel about that?
I think that’s ridiculous! Yeah, I think... I think that's ridiculous! I’ve never fully understood the references to me being a good guitarist. I mean, I think it’s a sign that maybe the guitar is not very common, you know, in the last decade, you know. I mean, I think there’s not many guitarists, you know, really. I mean, you know, there’s a few, but there’s not… you know, you go back to the ‘70s, there was hundreds, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of great guitarists, you know. I think we live in a time where intelligent people or clever, creative people, have actually chosen to use computers to make music – or they’ve chosen to not even work in music, they’ve chosen to work in tech. I think there’s an exhaustion of intelligence which has moved out of the music industry and has moved into other industries, you know, or moved into using technology in a different way, you know. I don’t think we live in a(n) age where there are many superb instrumentalists any more because being an instrumentalist is a specific choice to actually reduce your options, you know, in the modern world, you know. I think... so many young people today are actually choosing technology.