Coldplay interview

Coldplay talk to Atomicduster about their music and getting podgy. With their debut album having entered the UK charts at number one and still currently riding high, Coldplay have delivered on early promises. Tone E spoke to the bands fronton, Chris Martin, just prior to the release of "Parachutes", an album that has whipped up quite a storm, from rave reviews to a delivery from the tongue of Creations former boss, Alan McGee.

So on this strain, Tone E asked Chris that in light of the press attention that the group have been attracting, when was it he felt that Coldplay were not going to be just another group of indie hopefuls and were really starting to make headway?

Chris: "We knew as soon as we first played together. The press has been amazing. It's great, but we're still trying to get to an established place, do you know what I mean?"

I notice from your discography that on each of your singles the band have always been credited on the production notes. Why do you feel this is important and would you like to see this continue?

"Good question. We co-produced the album. There were a couple of songs where we didn't, and we didn't like it. The thing is, A) We write the songs and B) the people we like to work with don't give a shit about being in charge. Ken Nelson (of Gomez fame) is our producer and he might say "I don't think that bit works" and we'll think maybe he's right. It's very much the five of us working together rather than someone telling us what to do."

What does it mean to be touted as the "next big thing" and what pressure does this put you under?

"Nothing and none. We tout ourselves as that anyway. So we put more pressure on ourselves than anyone. It's just fuelling the fire."

And finally, Billie has reinvented herself as Billie Piper and is attracting obvious media attention. How much of an asset do you feel breasts are in pop music and if you could choose to have breasts, what size would they be?

"I'm starting to get a bit podgy myself, so from our point of view they're not an asset. Good breasts can't make up for a lack of achievement...but they can make a good tune even better!"

Fair point.

Tone E & Nick James


A Rush Of Words To The Mouth

L. Parker

Coldplay frontman Chris Martin has garnered a bit of a reputation among journalists for being a difficult and at times reticent interview subject, but when he met with LAUNCH's managing editor Lyndsey Parker in Oslo, Norway, just before playing the final date of a European tour promoting Coldplay's astonishingly great sophomore album, A Rush Of Blood To The Head, the man simply couldn't stop talking. Slipping in off-the-wall film and television references, reflecting on September 11, promoting his favorite charity project (Make Trade Fair), and doing his best Ian McCulloch impression, the animated and chatty Martin stretched what was supposed to be a half-hour interview into a rambling 90-minute dialogue. But the time just flew by, with Martin keeping the whole LAUNCH crew at rapt attention (and sometimes keeping them in stitches). When Chris Martin talks, people listen. Here's what he had to say:

LAUNCH: Most U.K. bands don't do very well in the States. As pretty much the biggest British band in the U.S. right now, what do you think it is about Coldplay that struck a chord with the American public?

CHRIS: Well, the whole question of British bands in America, and how we feel about being a successful British band in America...I think it's great on a selfish level, because we really like our band! But I just hate the nationalistic thing; we're not real flag-wavers, though we're proud to be from Britain. America is just so huge that unless you have a bit of luck like we had with our song "Yellow," it's very difficult to be able to spend enough time in America. I don't think that we're kidding ourselves that we're better than the Beatles or anything. I think we had an enormous amount of good fortune, and we also do like playing in America, you know.

LAUNCH: Were you surprised that you won the Best Alternative Album Grammy for your first record?

CHRIS: It was great--I wasn't actually there, I was in Haiti with these people doing a thing about fair trade, and I was so scared of flying I didn't want to go to the Grammys. I was on the telephone. Of course it's great to win a Grammy, but then again, it's a bit ridiculous winning awards. It was great to win it, and I'd be really upset if we didn't and I probably wouldn't be so casual about it if we didn't win it, but you know, they're just this great invention for people to have fun with. It's just so odd in a world where people are at war and this Kyoto Treaty is not being signed and there's AIDS epidemics all over the place, you get in the news for winning for your album. It's funny.

LAUNCH: So what is this Make Trade Fair campaign that you were doing?

CHRIS: Well, we got in this project called Make Trade Fair because it's run by an organization called OxFam. There's all this fuss at the G8 Summits and people protesting at the World Trade Organization and everything, and it has to do with how trade laws around the world really aren't that fair. If you you're American or English or French you really don't notice, because everything is kind of hunky-dory for us, but if you go around the world, farmers and workers just don't get what they should. And that's ridiculous. So by wearing "Make Trade Fair" T-shirts [points to shirt] and making yourself look like an idiot, perhaps you raise awareness a little bit. I'm well aware that bands with causes are like cowboys with guns. Danger! It might not go well, but who cares? This is the great thing about the Internet, 'cause there's this website called where you can read real people who know what they're talking about--rather than some dumb singer!

LAUNCH: Your first album, Parachutes was bit of an unexpected success in the States--how did you handle all of the attention, and how are you handling it now?

CHRIS: People ask us how was it when we became suddenly successful. Oh, it must have been terribly stressful, and it must be so difficult to be paid to travel around the world to play your song! And it isn't--it's the most amazing thing in the world. Of course, we take it so seriously and we can't believe we've been given the opportunity that we've been given--then it becomes stressful because we care about it a lot. And the reason we got slightly stressed when we became successful was because it was just a big change for us. You know in The Terminator when Arnold Schwarzenegger lands back in time with no clothes, slightly confused? Well, that was us. Then he goes into a bar and beats people and goes, "I need your clothes." Well, that what it was: We just needed some clothes. We needed to get our heads together, that was all, and it takes time to adapt to the idea that you don't have to spell your band name anymore. Just like by the end of The Terminator, everyone knows who that cat is. It's the same with us.

LAUNCH: Does it ever trip you out that now you headline huge festivals like Glastonbury and appear on Saturday Night Live and stuff like that?

CHRIS: You know, my whole life--and our whole lives--is a series of just being dumbfounded and in awe of what's going on around us. But I think that's what life is: No one really knows what any of us are doing here, and when you realize that, it makes you enjoy what's going on in your life, if things are going well. So on the one hand, I think, "Wow, we went from playing in a matchbox to playing in this big festival! But that's because we really believe we can do something, so it's a mixture of surprise and arrogance. You know: "Of course we should be playing to 10 million people on a glacier!" You know what I mean? So it's a funny mixture between "Oh, we can't believe it!" and "Yeah, we believe it." Like when we won the Grammy, one side was "We can't believe it" and the other was "Why didn't we get six?" [laughs]

LAUNCH: So how is A Rush Of Blood To The Head different from Parachutes?

CHRIS: To describe your new album is like having someone describe his own nose. Because you're the one person who can't really see it for what it is. Even if you look in the mirror, it's the wrong way around. And that's how I feel about talking about our albums--'cause you know, we're too close to it. I know every last stitch and button on that record and the last one. To me it might look like The Godfathers I, II and III--some epic journey. But to others it might be like Stop, Or My Mom Will Shoot!--it might not me the epic that we think it is. Sometimes you think you've made the Great Wall of China, and you haven't. So I don't know. All I know it's full of incredible love. Every time we get a chance to record a record--we've had two chances now--you start out saying, "This will take two weeks" and "We'll just put these songs down and then we'll be off to the Caribbean to hang out with George Clooney," but then two months in you think you really want to make it like brain surgery and you want every tiny thing to be correct. So it takes a long time. It's a mixture of quick work--you know, when you're suddenly inspired--and also very minute, detailed, boring work. Occasionally friends would come down to the studio, and they'd get bored in about 10 minutes. They can't understand the difference between two things when you play them, that to me it's like, "How can you not hear the bass frequency on that? It's slightly wrong!" You can be become terribly boring.

LAUNCH: I guess life in the studio never exciting as it seems in movies.

CHRIS: Yeah, I went to the set of The X-Files once, and I was expecting to see an episode of The X-Files in front of my eyes, like Shakespeare or something. And it wasn't--it was the same thing 18 times! Then I upset one of the cast members, just because I was a little bit bored and there were no cookies left. Anything that looks like it flows easily, doesn't--it takes a long time.

LAUNCH: Is this the reason the album was delayed?

CHRIS: Yeah, we haven't yet ever finished any piece of recording on time. Even way back when we were doing our first little EP, when my best friend Phil, our fifth member, was paying for it, he said, "I could probably afford two days", and then after the two days we'd be on the phone going, "Phil, could you sell another pair of trousers? 'Cause we could really use another day." And the more budget we have, the more it just seems: "Could you not just spare us another 2 million pounds, so that we could finish this clarinet part?"

LAUNCH: Does being so perfectionistic come from the pressure of having to follow up such a successful first album?

CHRIS: Well, the pressure that we're under is not the same as, you know, feeding your family or working in a mine or being attacked by some military organization. You know what I mean? The pressure is what we make it. I mean, we could sit back and take cocaine all day if we really wanted, or just do any old stuff. The reason why we felt any pressure on this record, or on the first one, is only because we put ourselves under pressure. Because we don't want to be bad.

LAUNCH: Are the rumors true that there were a lot fights among the band when making this record?

CHRIS: I think every record is difficult to make. Even the best chef, no matter how many great meals he's made, if he suddenly doesn't care, it won't be a good meal. Well, it'd probably be all right, but you know what I mean. Of course we had arguments, but we were never at gunpoint!

LAUNCH: So there's no truth to the idea that this is your last album, or that you're going to break up?

CHRIS: I love all rumors, because it's just incredible that anyone cares. No one really cares, if you think about it; people just ask about it in interviews. The way I look at it is that we could die at any point. We're on to me is very fragile, and there's no point in saving songs for your 15th record, 'cause you might not make it to your 15th record. There's no point in saving energy on a concert just because you have a concert the next day. So it might be our last record, I don't know. We won't make another record unless it's better. And at the moment, we really don't have anything left!

LAUNCH: Do you think this record is better than your first?

CHRIS: I can't possible compare records. It could be awful. It could the worst record that anyone has ever heard. I really don't have any idea.

LAUNCH: I understand that you guys were in the studio at the same time as Ian McCulloch and you guys got chummy. Can you tell me about that?

CHRIS: One of the most amazing things for me, and for us as a band, was that over the last two years, just at the time that people started talking about us critically...because before you start to sell albums no one talks about you in a bad way, 'cause there's no point, and then all of a sudden we had all this criticism, and that's when we were really going through a difficult time. One of the things that got us out of that was going to America and being able to sort of start again. And secondly, it was meeting people that we were really inspired by, who thought we were OK and seemed to understand what we're trying to do, and seemed to understand that we were only on our first record and that we might not be Mozart on our first record. You know, everyone from PJ Harvey to U2 and Oasis and all these people like my friend Tim [Wheeler] from the band Ash and bands like Embrace and Ian from Echo & the Bunnymen. They really gave us a lot of confidence, because they kind of accepted us. We felt like part of the gang--not really, but it felt good that people accepted us in our own field. Not journalists, or radio people, or record company people who had to tell us we're good, but people who had no reason to come and say hello. That was great. Even Fred Durst--I'm not the biggest Limp Bizkit fan, but it was nice to have a chat, you know? Just because otherwise you really feel that you're rubbish, and to have other people say that you're not is nice.

LAUNCH: Do you read your own press?

CHRIS: I really don't very much, 'cause it sends me crazy. It's like being on a leash--you get pulled all over the place. One minute you think you're brilliant and the know. I find it very strange.

LAUNCH: So did Ian McCulloch collaborate with you, or was he just in the studio at the same time as you? What was the situation?

CHRIS: Well, Ian McCulloch was a really good influence on our record, 'cause we went to Liverpool where the Beatles are from because of our co-producer Ken. There's room there and it's really small and we really love it, and it's detached from the business side of things. It's really brilliant, I can't describe how brilliant it is. The only thing that we were only missing was confidence, and Ian would come in and everything would be OK, 'cause he's a confident guy. Of course he's got the same insecurities, but he made me feel better about the fact that we were trying to push ourselves a bit, and he made me feel OK with being obsessed with a record. The only way that we really collaborated was one day he said [adopts dry Liverpudlian brogue], "Chris, the record sounds OK, but have you got a song that goes one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three. Every record should have a song like that." And I thought, "Sh-t, we haven't got one!" So over the weekend we wrote one. So there's one song on the record that he told us to write!

LAUNCH: Which one is that?

CHRIS: A song called "A Whisper." So that was nice. Like I said, it's really cool when people you respect start to respect you, and then you start to realize that you're all just people and everyone is just as paranoid as everybody else. It's a funny day when you realize that--when you realize that Jennifer Lopez is just as ugly as you in the morning...well, maybe not as ugly as me, but you know what I mean. It's also quite worrying, because governments are just normal people. So it's a mixture of giving you confidence and making you very, very scared about the state of the world.

LAUNCH: You all met in college...weren't you guys still in school when the band started to get a bit of attention?

CHRIS: For all of us, going to London was like a fairytale about a guy called Dick Whittington who goes to London with his cat, Puss 'N' Boots. And he becomes the mayor of London for no reason. He just goes there with a bag of clothes and his cat...I don't know why he went with his cat, but his cat can talk. Anyway, we all went to London and by some amazing stroke divine intervention we met each other at college, and that was the most amazing thing that happened to me. If we hadn't gone to London and hadn't gone to college, it wouldn't have all happened. As for the timing, we did have the funny thing of doing exams at the same time of having a record deal. A bit like the girl from Star Wars, Natalie Portman, it's kind of like what she has: She has to do a paper, but she goes, "Aw, this really doesn't matter, 'cause I'm in Star Wars!" We were like, "This is important...but aw, who cares?"

LAUNCH: Did you guys finish school?

CHRIS: Well, yeah, that made us really relaxed and so we did all OK, 'cause we really weren't worried. Which was a great thing. But I always dream that I'm at school doing exams, and we have a record deal, and halfway through the dream I always say to the teacher, "Why am I doing this exam? We're already a famous band!" And they're saying, "You just should." Then I wake up sweating, and it's terrible.

LAUNCH: Spending so much time together, do you guys ever get sick of each other?

CHRIS: The life in our band, to be honest, is absolutely amazing. We haven't stopped now for 10 months, since we started making our new record, but the thing is none of us can really believe that we've been this blessed. And I know it sounds very cheesy, but they really are my closest friends. It's amazing to me how close we really are. Two years ago, I thought, "I wonder how it will be?" Because we went from occasionally seeing each other to being together all the time. But really, it's very exciting. I always wanted to be a part of a gang, you know--it's like being in the mafia. No, I don't want to talk about the mafia because it's really cool--we all split our money the same way between the four of us and our fifth member, our best friend Phil who is really our advisor and guru. It means we never have to argue about money, and that's the thing that often comes between most bands. And the fact that we split all equally has really brought us closer together.

LAUNCH: So there is no jealousy a la No Doubt's "Don't Speak" video, where the others get resentful that you get most of the attention?

CHRIS: To be honest, we were just in a magazine in Britain called Q and it was just me on the cover, and they didn't tell us this was going to happen...but none of us really mind. I don't know, I think all singers have a desire to be in the spotlight, and not many bass players do. I think that everyone but singers knows that fame is utter nonsense from a very early age, whereas it takes singers a few more years to realize this. So sometimes it really annoys us when they say it's just him or just me, but when a car comes toward you, all you see is the front of the car, that's how it is with bands. There's always a front figure and a front face, but there's also the engine and the seats and the things that hang from the mirrors, all the little details that you never see when it comes past you. People that know us properly know that we would be lost without any one of the four of us--the five of us, really. I would be like some terrible version of Sting, and no one would want that! No, I don't think Sting is bad at all, I like Sting...well, he's all right, but the Police were better, you know what I'm saying? We did have one week where I basically destroyed the band 'cause I was a total loser--this was about three years ago. And I woke up the next morning after having done something terribly bad and some voice just said, "You idiot, you idiot!" And then we managed to piece it back together.

LAUNCH: What did you do that was so terrible?

CHRIS: I can't tell you, but it will never happen again. Because I know I've been given a gift, and without the others I'm lost--and they're lost without me. We're like the Waltons. You need all of them for the series to work!

LAUNCH: Is there any significance to title of your album?

CHRIS: The phrase "a rush of blood to the head" must be a British phrase, because everywhere we go people say [affecting American accent], "What does this mean? Are you embarrassed? Are you blushing? Do you have some problem with your ears?" No, is the answer. The phrase is about when you do something on impulse, when you suddenly think, "I'm going to go to Paris today," or "I'm going to ask Rachel Weisz to marry me," or "I'm going to ring up J.Lo and ask her to do a remix album," whatever. It's basically when you feel really alive, when you get a shot of adrenaline. I'd tell my grandfather, "One day I'm going to build a bridge." And he'd go, "Do it now, my boy, do it now." People are always saying, "One day I'll be a writer," and then you get to 80 and then you think, "Oh, bollocks, I really wanted to be a writer!" And so he would give me a slap, and my dad as well, like, "Get on with it!" There's no reason why you can't do things. And we're all going to die one day. And that's what it means: Get on with it.

LAUNCH: That's an ironic title, since you were so methodical about making the album...

CHRIS: What's funny is the making of the record was very impulsive--I don't know why, but songs arrive very quickly and Johnny's riffs arrive very quickly. But after you've had that moment of impulse on a song, recording them is another whole different horrible kettle of fish. I wish you could transfer the songs from your head onto CD, like in the two minutes, but it takes hours to get the right sound. So the song is always existing, but it's just takes time to translate it.

LAUNCH: I've read that the events of September 11, 2001 had an effect on the album. Is this true?

CHRIS: I did an interview on September 15, and I was asked if I thought the events of September 11 would have any affect on me. Now, this was the week when I was looking out the window, and I was like, "This is it, we're all going to die. Finally the West is going pay for all the trouble it causes around the world." And so I said, "Of course it will have an effect," because we were desperate to record and we were desperate in general. That's what I mean by a rush of blood to the head: You have to live every moment now, 'cause you never know when it's going to end. And of course that had an influence on the album, and it was about doing things now and appreciating life now, when there's an event that slaps around the Western face and says, "Hey, you could all die at any moment. Big tragedies don't only happen in India!" In England there's no natural earthquakes or hurricanes, so we live in a little bubble, really, and when New York gets hit, that's very close to Europe and Britain, and so in that sense it was like, "Oh right, I actually know the World Trade Center." So of course it will affect me and my life. That's the one side of it, the whole mortality thing. The other side is the political side of it: Why does someone want to do something like that? They couldn't have said, "Let's do that for a laugh." There's a big, big, big reason why, because people are mistreated. And it makes you think, "What do I do in my life that is suppressing other people?" It basically raises a lot of big questions, an event like that, and so of course it affects you. And so if you do an interview three days after it and someone asks if you think it will affect your album...this is a time where the concept of doing an interview about an album is totally ridiculous, because you're waiting for someone to nuke the world. It's not like there's 11 songs about September 11, of course not, but it just added to the desperation to record and to the disbelief that the biggest thing that we have to worry about is whether our drums sound right on our record. It's not about whether we have enough food or whether we can't live on our homeland, you know what I mean?

LAUNCH: Speaking of interviews, how is the press treating you these days?

CHRIS: We really got a hard time from press all around the world for good reason, but they've been amazing to us for our new record. We've deliberately changed some things with the way we sound, 'cause we want to move on and we don't want to do the same thing twice, and we were very nervous how the NME and Q would react to it--whether they would have rather us stayed doing the same thing. But even despite all the criticism, but they've been nicer to us than they ever have been in the last month or so. Of course it will turn, I'm sure, but so far it's been amazing. It sounds ridiculous, because maybe no one will ever buy our new record or whatever, but we know that as a band we pushed ourselves to the furthest possible extreme, because of all the music we've been hearing and all the people we've been meeting and all the places we've been going--it just fills your head with ideas. I don't know where songs come from, whether they come from some magic place, but I just felt we had done the first record and now we wanted to do something with the same emotion that we like, but something that sounds really different. And so far, the press has been nothing but really, really encouraging, when they could have not given it a chance.

LAUNCH: You said there are certain things you changed about your sound--what specifically?

CHRIS: We didn't consciously say, "No more this, no more that," but I think that naturally your tastes develop, and now I'm a little less fearful of what anyone thinks of it. It's great when someone really likes it, but we don't care, 'cause we got so much criticism we thought we'll just do what we want. And I really started to get excited about music that I never was excited about before, like Oasis and Nirvana and Echo & the Bunnymen, and things like Johnny Cash. I realized after the first record you don't have to listen to music by white men of your age to listen to music that can mean something to you. You can listen to whatever you want, and no one can tell you can and can't do that, and that's an amazing freedom to have. And so when we went into the studio, we were like, "We don't care what anybody thinks!" Of course we do, but we'd try anything. It doesn't have to be on an acoustic guitar and it doesn't have to be slow. And that was really nice--it'd be boring to do Parachutes II.

LAUNCH: I read a review somewhere that described A Rush Of Blood as sounding like Coldplay, but stadium-size, like it has a bigger sound...

CHRIS: You know, the one thing I hate talking about in interviews is Coldplay's music. Which is a shame, because that's what we're being interviewed about, but I don't know. It could be the biggest pile of cow dung in the world, but on the other hand it could be good.

LAUNCH: Your live shows seem to have evolved a lot too--you seem much more animated and confident onstage now.

CHRIS: Well to be honest, I know I shouldn't be saying this, but I just don't care about completely showing how much I care about music or about my band. To me my band is this thing I've been given, that we've been given, and I just refuse to do it halfheartedly. That's what we've been put here to do, and I'm desperate to show that. And rather than do a song that's quite fast or quite sad, why not do a song that's really fast or really sad? I just got sick of being in the middle of the road. For a while, we were really scared to try anything different. Then one day in America in Atlanta, I just thought, "F--k it," and we all thought, "F--k it." If we care about a song, then we'll care about playing it, and if we care about making a record, then we'll be obsessed about making the record. If someone let us do this for a job then we're going to do it properly. And when we go out onstage I'm happy to see as many people as possible, whereas before I'd be like, "Oh shit!" Now I'm like, Nice of you to join us, this is going to be OK."

LAUNCH: Was it daunting or fun, or both, to headline a big festival like Glastonbury?

CHRIS: I remember when we were driving in a car with Michael Eavis, who organizes Glastonbury, and he turned around and said, "Chris, do you want to do the Friday night at Glastonbury?" And I was like, "Yes, please, Mr. Eavis." At that point I couldn't believe someone had that much confidence in our band, knowing that we had yet to record our new record and that we had a lot more work to do. But he gave us that vote of confidence, and that was it. That was one of the biggest influences on us that year. That's when we all thought, "If he believes in us like that and all these other people believe in us, then we're not going to be afraid to show that we do as well." And so that's why we refuse to do anything that's halfhearted, whether it's a song or performance. That's what annoys me, and what gets me about America and about music in Europe and in Britain, is that it's just so bland. It's like it's a love song but it's not really a love song, or it's a song about going out for a party but it doesn't really sound like going out for a party. It's just "quite good." I hate things that are quite good. And I'm sure there's people who are saying, "You're talking nonsense, because your band is only quite good," but I just got fed up with things that are quite good. So I either want to be either really good or really bad. Either one is OK.

LAUNCH: Do you go out on a limb this way with your lyric-writing as well?

CHRIS: With lyrics you just do whatever you feel. Some people might absolutely hate it, but it's better than doing something and going, "We'll take that out, because that might upset them" and "We'll take that out because of this," and then you sort of water it down. Why aren't Hollywood films aren't as good as they started out" Because you have to gear it to the biggest demographic. It's just a shame that the great music and the great films of America often get buried 'cause they're too specific for the people that will love it. You know what I mean, like David Lynch or Roberto Benigni--you know that film, Life Is Beautiful, I love that movie because it's fearless. It's not for everybody, of course not, but if you try and do something for everybody, then it won't work. You'll just pull it apart until it's this bland nothing.

LAUNCH: So I take it pleasing the masses is not a concern for you on this record?

CHRIS: No! Of course I'll be distraught if no one likes what we do, because we're not trying to alienate anyone. But we're just trying to not be afraid about really, really caring about something.

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