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Coldplay's Chris Martin thrives on post-adolescent angst


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From The Miami Herald



Posted on Tue, Sep. 20, 2005


Coldplay's Chris Martin thrives on post-adolescent angst





Chris Martin can make humility an act of hubris, and vice versa. He's as cocky and as insecure as rock stars come, a psychic balancing act reflected in his band Coldplay's crescendo/crash songs.


For instance, during a recent interview, the handsome, Bono-voxed singer says that the four hours he recently spent in a Miami studio with hip-hop producer Timbaland provided a bracing reality check - even while he acknowledges his own superstar status.


"I gleaned that it doesn't matter if you're in one of the biggest bands in the world," Martin says on a mobile phone as his car makes its way out of New York City, en route to a show in Ohio - "it doesn't mean you're very good."


Then Martin concedes this is no revelation: "But I glean that most days."


Thanks to the nagging inescapability of their hummably sad songs - and of course, to Martin's marriage to Hollywood A-lister Gwyneth Paltrow - no band in recent years has pierced the celebrity stratosphere as quickly as Coldplay. When their label EMI announced earlier this year that the British group's album "X&Y" would not come out in the first quarter as originally planned, the public company's stock took a dive. The quartet's June release was then greeted with the kind of fanfare few acts get for their third album. Ad nauseam, Coldplay (Martin, guitarist Jonny Buckland, drummer Will Champion, and bassist Guy Berryman) has been called "the next U2."


It's probably all been too much too fast, as Martin is the first to admit: "It's funny when you realize you've become one of those people that you always used to imagine lived on Mars."


Martin's success may be out of this world but, like so many blue-eyed British pop stars before him, he still kneels at the altar of black American music.


"It was the best fun I've ever had," Martin says of his short experience with Timbaland. Earlier this year, he jokingly (I think) told a magazine that maybe he would chuck Coldplay to be the hip-hop heavyweight's assistant. He won't reveal what the unlikely duo was working on, just keeps using the word "amazing."


The studio time was the finale to an MTV Video Music Awards weekend Martin also says was "amazing."


"It was crazy. First when we got there everyone was talking about the hurricane. Then Suge Knight was killed, then he wasn't killed. Then the MTV awards is kind of funny. Then last night we went out to the studio and one of the girls that works for us, we had to call her an ambulance. It was just a crazy few days."


Coldplay, nominated for four VMAs but winners of none, performed at the show. They eschewed the production's waterworks and dancers for some simple emoting and playing, with Martin wandering into the bleachers and singing to lucky audience members.


"We asked for 500 old men but they said it would damage their ratings," Martin jokes.


The 28-year-old father of 1-year-old daughter Apple likens the VMAs to a school track meet.


"These things are incredibly funny because there's all these people there with all their crews. When you watch it on TV you feel like everyone must know each other_ it's all very glamorous. But the reality is ... everyone knows who everyone else is, of course, but everyone's kind of wary of each other."


Martin says he didn't pay too much attention to the onstage and backstage conflicts between 50 Cent's G Unit and Fat Joe's Terror Squad, who insulted each other on the mikes then nearly got into a brawl behind the scenes. "I've been to a few awards show with 50 Cent," he says. "It's the same as with Oasis in London: You're glad they're there cause something might happen."


Besides, speaking two days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Martin has more important things on his mind. "The reason why I didn't really notice the beefs and all that is it seemed so irrelevant. There's these big things going on so close by. The arguments between a couple of people at awards shows, they pale in significance. Increasingly in our world we're focusing on the doings of celebrities to distract ourselves from the actual goings-on on the planet. Escapism is really dangerous."


This is the sort of BIG STATEMENT for which Coldplay is known, loved and mocked. Like U2, they are a band with causes, particularly, fair trade. These are educated lads who met at college. Their 2000 debut, "Parachutes," was a haunting, hopeful, mournful lullaby emanating from the fallout of Radiohead's "OK Computer" apocalypse. It and '02's "A Rush of Blood to the Head" won Grammys for best alternative albums. And in '03, Martin married Paltrow.


Having sold a whopping 737,294 copies its first week of release, "X&Y" solidifies Coldplay's graduation from alternative to mainstream. The album is a beautiful, if comfortable, compendium of confessed doubts and whispered assurances. Coldplay has been criticized - in some quarters, condemned - for playing it too safe on the record.


You would think having it all - height, good looks, gorgeous wife, No. 1 band, darling daughter - would inoculate Martin against the barbs of people undoubtedly less blessed than he. But he remains a sensitive lad.


"We've got to a position we've never been in before, where we're kind of part of the structure and so most people have an opinion on us," Martin says. "Whereas three years ago most people didn't have an opinion on us because most people didn't know about us. A lot of people really hate Coldplay at the moment. But I don't think they really understand we always hear about it. It's really hard to accept. We're just trying to come to terms with the fact some people really like us and some people really don't."


Martin admits that he may have a somewhat neurotic tendency to focus on the negative. "My dad always says you can't please everybody but you should never give up. I didn't really listen very much. Often the things you're told when you're 9, you don't start listening to until you're 28."


When he complains about our culture's celebrity obsession, Mr. Paltrow knows whereof he speaks. He denies reports that he has struck out at the paparazzi that hound him and his family. Still, he has a Kurt Cobain-like tendency to sound weary of fame. He's not.


"Absolutely not," he replies when asked if he ever wishes he could go back to just being in a little rock band. "I wouldn't change a single thing. Don't get me wrong - I could not be more over the moon. But from a journalistic point of view it's something you've got to try and learn how to deal with, people really not liking your music."


Martin is apparently one of those artists who needs something to fret about. That restlessness keeps him going, fuels him even.


"There's so much to write about all the time, even if you're seemingly on top. Life is always carrying on. You can write about why am I having a great day today, but then 200 miles away there's a hurricane going on. There's always life to write about."

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