From Nirvana and Queen to Millionaire
Andrew Trendell
14:43 9th March 2015

From the tender to the triumphant, the ballads to the bombastic, the classical to the cock rock, the sounds of Muse are many and extreme. Naturally, such an eclectic and eccentric band have a wealth of influences behind them. 

From the hard rock of Rage Against The Machine and Nirvana to the stadium-filling anthemics of Queen, Depeche Mode and Bowie (via the pure pop joy of Michael Jackson and Prince), Muse listen to pretty much everything - and it certainly seeps into their out-of-this world sound. 

So, as the Devonshire space rock trio prepare to return with seventh album, Drones, we take a look at 17 bands that had a massive impact on the sound of Muse. 

  • Rage Against The Machine: Perhaps the most obvious of all of their influences thanks to the Tom Morello-esque, mean and beefy sound of many of Bellamy's riffs, Muse are on record as stating that RATM are one of their favourite bands of all time. Not only was their Reading and Leeds headline set in 1996 one of their formative experiences as a band, but it also inspired them to one day headline themselves. Bellamy has admitted being inspired by the 'purity' and belief behind what they do, as well as recruiting Rage producer Rich Costey for Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations.

  • Nirvana: The impact of Nirvana on Muse is apparent, especially in their earlier days when the band would cover Kurt Cobain and co, with their sound clearly rubbing off on them. Bassist Chris Wolstenholme once said: "We were into Nirvana when we were younger, when we were in previous bands we did covers of their stuff. It was what got us into bands really, it was what made us want to be in bands."

  • David Bowie: Let's face it, pretty much everyone has been inspired by Bowie - especially when it comes to space rock. Muse are no different, admitting that 'Heroes' had a huge influence on their track 'Invincible'. Drummer Dom Howard once told radio station Triple M that Bowie showed up at their studio while making Black Holes And Revelations to collaborate, but they were unprepared so just played him a few tracks. Oh, how different history could have been.

  • Depeche Mode: Around the time of Black Hole And Revelations, many remarked on the similarity between 'Map Of The Problematique' and 'Enjoy The Silence'. When asked about Depeche Mode, Matt Bellamy replied: "I can understand the association, because they're a band that never really fitted in exactly with the music of their time. They had their own thing, their own style, own sound. I respect them very much."

  • Tom Waits: At the turn of the century, Bellamy went to see Waits in New York - dubbing it "one of the best gigs" he'd ever seen. He would influence the sound and percussion on Origin Of Symmetry's 'Screenager' before the band used 'What's He Building In There' to introduce them on stage for that tour. Bellamy later told Uncut: "I would like to have played the guitar part or have played anything weird on Mule Variations. I love Tom Waits because he's an artist who makes me not afraid to get old, and that's rare. I think it's a rare kind of thing to have that level of wisdom. And his lyrics are just astounding; everything in life is inside his lyrics."

  • Michael Jackson: Speaking of the Absolution classic 'Time Is Running Out', Wolstenholme said: "Time Is Running Out was one of the last songs we did on Absolution. We'd recorded 70 per cent or 80 per cent of the album and we went to Ireland to redo some stuff and finish off some new tracks. But that was one of the last bunch of tracks that we wrote. We wanted to go to something more funky, a little bit more... not funky but a little more groovy. It was something we'd never really done before. Something that made you want to click your fingers. Something that was more influenced by someone like Michael Jackson or someone like that. We wanted something that sounded like 'Billie Jean'."

  • Queen: Heirs to the pomp and insanity of Queen's stadium rock throne, the line between Muse and Freddie Mercury and co is easy to see. Bellamy once said: "In the world of rock, Queen stands out as a good example of the clash between guitar and piano in songwriting. I think that’s where you stumble across those more unusual arrangements and chord structures. In my heart I want to do more hard rock music, but at the same time, I'm much more attracted to the piano."

  • Jeff Buckley: With the soaring falsetto and maestro tendencies, it should come as no surprise that Bellamy is an avid fan of Buckley. He told Kerrang in 2005: "Back then, it wasn't really cool to sing falsetto because Nirvana and all that stuff was in. We saw Jeff Buckley do a concert, though, and he wasn't scared to be a high-voiced male. I think that helped me open up and not be afraid to use a more expressive and emotional vocal style."

  • Ennio Morricone: The genius behind many of the modern world's most classic filmscores, the band admit that Morricone's Western romantic instrumentals were a huge influence of several songs from Black Holes & Revelations - such as City Of Delusion, Hoodoo and Knights Of Cydonia. The band have also known to perform 'Man With Harmonica' live.

  • Franz Ferdinand: Yes, as surprising as that may seem. Bellamy told Q in 2004: "They're combining dance music and rock music in a really cool way, without samples or sequencers. It's something we're interested in trying". Many believe that to be a driving force behind some of BHAR's dancier elements like 'Supermassive Black Hole' and 'Exo-Politics'.

  • Deftones: Not only are their similarities in their love of a mix of histrionics and aggression, but Muse were huge fans of Around The Fur in their youth - so imagine their delight when they became labelmates on Maverick back in 1999. Bellamy can often be heard performing the riff from 'Headup' after 'Newborn' live.

  • Millionaire: One of Belgium's most brilliant and underrated exports, the Prince-esque stoner meets space-rock sound of their flawless debut Outside The Simian Flock was a direct influence on Muse's 'Supermassive Black Hole'.

  • Prince: As well as inspiring some of Bellamy's higher falsetto moments, The Purple One's sexy swagger also ended up all over 'Supermassive Black Hole'. Not only that, but the band do a pretty mean cover of 'Sign O'The Times'.

  • Lightning Bolt: The band are huge fans, often covering 'Dracula Mountain', with Bellamy on record as saying: "To me, the drummer of Lightning Bolt is one of the best drummers in the world; he’s like the lead. Bass and drums, that’s all it is. Very experimental."

  • System Of A Down: SOAD frontman Serj Tankian once famously offered to sign Muse to his own label back in 2002, which they declined. However, Matt Bellamy went to state that the band were a huge influence on the track 'Stockholm Syndrome'.

  • Sergei Rachmaninov: Throughout Muse's career of dabbling with strings and complex piano arrangements, they've always had one foot as firmly planted in the classical world as that of rock. 'Megalomania', 'Exogenesis: Symphony' are said to have more than a touch of Rachmaninov to them. Frontman Matt Bellamy once told Keyboard mag: "With Rachmaninoff, Lizst, and Chopin, there’s a mystery to the music, it’s much more abstract and much more able to stimulate your imagination."

  • Weezer: Any child growing up with alternative music in the Nineties was likely to be touched by Weezer, and the Blue Album and Rivers Cuomo becoming the nerdy and ironic guitar hero had a huge impact on Matt Bellamy and co.

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