‘Simulation Theory’, Matt is keen to stress, is “in some ways, our least political album”. It’s a convenient side-step, and one that says a lot – when your supposed “least political album” features tracks about “the idea that thoughts are contagious” (‘Thought Contagion’, naturally), and a song that quite literally begins, “Pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-paganda / Pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-propa-gan-ganda / Propa-ganda , Propa-propa-gan-ganda / Pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-pro-ga-ga-ga-ga”, it’s fair to say you’ve bedded yourself into politics quite deeply.
His reticence to discuss current affairs is perhaps understandable, though. Over the last few years, Bellamy has become something of a political soundboard, his every opinion courting headlines and cries of hypocrisy. At the tail-end of 2016, he was dubbed ‘pro-Brexit’, an accusation which he denied on Twitter, writing, “Im only Ok with #softbrexit single market & free movement of people”, and adding “YES, free to do trade deals outside of EU – YES”. More recently, he’s compared Trump’s America – where he now lives, in a plush LA mansion – to George Orwell’s dystopian sci-fi novel 1984, and lashed out at party politics. Regardless of ‘Simulation Theory’’s escapist bent, then, the Muse singer is still a political voice.
You were quoted this week as saying that you don’t really believe in party politics. Where do you see yourself on the political spectrum now?
Matt: “In some ways it’s largely been the same for a while. I come from a rural part of the country, and a lot of people in the West, and maybe the world in general, feel that this centralisation of government into somewhere further and further away from where they are is something that needs to be stopped. Unfortunately, we’ve come up with a very negative way of doing that. This populism that’s emerging in the West is not something that I like at all, especially not the way that it’s coming through. But my position is essentially the same.”
What is that position?
“Some people want to see a real actual reform of the political structures that we’ve been living in for the last 100 or so years. In the case of the UK, it’s just not that democratic, with the head of state and the Lords not being elected. I think that would be a start, for sure. But a stage further than that is that I think party politics itself, and the two-party system, is becoming a bit tired. I think people would like to see something different.”
What would that be?
“I don’t know. I think maybe proportional representation would be better, as opposed to First Past The Post. I don’t know if there’s ways you can limit the size of parties, maybe – I think that would be a good thing. Coalitions of three or four different types of party might be a method. But, ultimately, it’s hard to control parties, because parties are essentially groups of people who get together and say ‘We’ve going to try and hijack the House of Commons, to do what we want to do.’ But I do think there must be a structure somewhere – Switzerland appears, to me, to be the most democratic country. They have lots of referendums and it’s very decentralised. So, I think that that’s what people are crying out for.
You were also apparently mis-quoted as being pro-Brexit?
“I am definitely pro-reform of the EU, for sure. Brexit is an ugly method to attempt to go about that. I’m not really remain or Brexit really. Remain suggests that you’re accepting the status quo of a relatively non-democratic power structure, which is on top of an already non-democratic power structure. So that’s flawed. Brexit itself – the idea of distancing ourself from Europe, doesn’t interest me, because I think in the interests of human rights, and in the interests of immigration, I’m in favour of the free movement of people. And also in terms of defence – I think there ARE a lot of reasons we should have unification with Europe. But where I disagree with the EU is on things like trade, and so on. So, the question that I wanted to answer with the referendum wasn’t asked, which is reform of the EU.”
Do you think there isn’t enough nuance in these conversations?
“If you ask big, black and white questions with huge, gaping holes in information, then you’re gonna create this irrational division. Imagine if the EU, tomorrow, said ‘We’re gonna reform, we’re gonna change – the commission is gonna be elected, we’re gonna focus on these things and these other things are going to be left to the states to decide’. Imagine that kind of reform? There would have to be a second referendum, because it’s a different EU. So, I think that’s the kind of path that the EU should take, because it’s running this risk of losing itself to this populist movement that’s spreading across the whole of Europe. I feel like that would be so refreshing for an organisation like that. And also in the UK – look at all these old fuddy-duddies in the Lords with their wigs and stuff. The fact none of them are elected is just embarrassing – I think it’d be so refreshing if the establishment, instead of trying to beat us down to accept the status quo, actually recognised that there’s a problem here.”
Do you still feel connected to things on a populist, grassroots level? You’re doing well – you’re in a pretty big rock band.
“Obviously, I’ve been very successful and I live a much more wealthy lifestyle to what I used to live when I was a kid. But being in the band high sch—I’ve been in America too long – since secondary school, in a pretty rural area in Devon, we’re not major city, metropolitan people. So, I think for that reason, some of those things have always kept us feeling a little detached from the mainstream. We’ve never been a pop charts band, and so on. So, I think there’s various reasons where some of those issues do still feel relevant to talk about.”
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