Among the cavalcade of big name UK acts such as the Spice Girls, Pet Shop Boys and Fatboy Slim performing at the Olympic Games closing ceremony last month was epic rock trio, Muse.
In fact, pint-sized singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy and his bandmates were sandwiched between Monty Python's Eric Idle and Queen guitarist Brian May during the dizzying celebration of 50 years of British music.
"I think that was exactly the right place for us," Bellamy laughs from London. "That's probably where we are musically."
The frontman for Muse, a band much loved on these shores for their bombastic live performances, adds that while it was too chaotic backstage at Olympic Stadium to really absorb the enormity of the occasion, he enjoyed the gig.
"It had been a while since we'd been on a big stage like that," he says. "We were backstage and we met all these other artists and some other people were really, like REALLY nervous. Seeing other people really nervous helped me relax a little bit."
The threesome performed a new ditty called Survival, the official song of the London Games. The first single from their sixth studio album, The 2nd Law, builds from a piano stab a la Laurie Anderson's O Superman, with Bellamy intoning "race, life's a race/and I am gonna win", to an overblown rock'n'roll wig-out that would do Freddie Mercury proud.
Muse started work on Survival after being contacted by Elton John and the Olympics organisers last year. While there was no follow-up on the initial approach, the band continued to work on the song, which would feature on their next album whether the Olympics used it or not. "In the back of our minds, we definitely thought 'Well, maybe we can push this song a little bit further'. We thought it might be something that could be used," Bellamy says. "They ended up coming back to us about six months later . . . and started asking again for a song for the Olympics. We said 'Well, this is the one we've been working on - here it is'."
While Survival more directly relates to the incredible physical attributes of elite athletes, Bellamy says it also plugs into the overriding theme of The 2nd Law - specifically, the balance between man's exploratory drive and the catastrophic cost of that insatiable hunger for energy.
Such environmental concerns have always weighed on his mind, but Bellamy admits that fatherhood has added to the burden. Last year, the singer and his wife, actress Kate Hudson, became parents to Bingham Hawn Bellamy.
"In the past, I was probably more embracing of the chaos," he says. "I think, by having a child you take on responsibility and you think differently.
"Look at the London Riots - if I was 15 or 16, I probably would have been out there, running around going 'Fight the system, man'. But having a kid, you think to yourself 'I don't know if I want people burning the streets for no reason'."
The new album ends with two (mostly) instrumental tracks with jolly titles, The 2nd Law: Unsustainable and The 2nd Law: Isolated System. Never a band to shy away from topics rarely associated with rock'n'roll, the two instrumentals (and much of the album) refer to the second law of thermodynamics. And the songs sound like dubstep maestro Skrillex remixed the Blade Runner soundtrack over Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.
Bellamy laughs and explains that film scores have had a strong influence on his career. "I remember 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first time I was really blown away by music from a film. Of course, in the 80s, endless blockbusters had great big soundtracks, Aliens and films like that."
Muse have been indulging in cinematic journeys in recent years. Previous album The Resistance culminated in the three-part symphonic suite Exogenesis, while 2006's career-best Black Holes and Revelations concluded with Knights of Cydonia - a track as inspired by Ennio Morricone as by sci-fi flicks.
Two songs on The 2nd Law which are far more rooted in reality came from bassist Chris Wolstenholme. Save Me and Liquid State were inspired by his struggle with alcohol addiction.
"In the past he's come up with bits and pieces here and there, but never full songs," Bellamy says. "This is the first time he's come in with full songs and some of the lyrics are so personal. I felt like it was right for him to sing them.
"He's been through a rough period in his life. He went through a lot of turmoil to get out of it. When he sort of 'woke up' and wrote these songs, it was part of his healing process."
Muse seemed to tour Australia every other month during 2007-10. However, the trio (completed by drummer Dominic Howard) have been strangers for the past two years. Bellamy says they'll be back next year.
"If the album does well enough in Australia, we're hoping to come and play stadium concerts," he says. "We'd love to bring a big show down there."
Muse kick off their European tour next month and plan to take it a little easier than they did during the manic touring sparked by the success of Black Holes and Revelations. Bellamy even reckons his missus and bub might join him on the road.
"I think Kate's got some work to do as well around that time, but hopefully we'll be able to see each other as much as we can," he says. "We don't tour the way we used to, you know, we do two weeks on and a week off.
"We've definitely gone insane," Bellamy laughs. "You mention 2007. I remember that being a particularly insane period in my life. We've been touring quite heavily for 10 years... Now we've all got families, it's nice to have them around as much as possible."The 2nd Law is out next week.
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