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Exclusive Chris Martin interview


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See what Chris has to say about band's new album in an exclusive interview featured in this week's Something For The Weekend.


COLDPLAY - Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends 4.5/5


CHRIS MARTIN has a theory. In two years, his songwriting will dry up.


After penning plenty of big hits, picking up Grammy and Brit Awards and selling 30million albums worldwide, the Coldplay singer says his talents are about to wear thin, so he’s been cramming in as many songs as possible.


“I feel like you’ve got to write as many songs as you can between the ages of 28 and 33 because those are your last few years before you get a belly,” he says, bearing his wide-eyed, jokey grin.


“I couldn’t possibly write a hit record when I’ve got a beer belly, so we’re just trying to write as many songs as possible before that D-Day, or B-Day it should be — for Belly Day.”


Joking aside, the 31-year-old singer is in high spirits, but it could have been so different. Renowned for his intense personality — one minute he can be riding high, rushing around like a kid who has had too many sweets and the next, intense, moody and self-deprecating. Today, SFTW has witnessed both sides of Chris Martin.


Earlier, our chat looked like being pulled when he stormed out of an interview with another paper following a question about his wife, Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow — he is obsessively private about their relationship.


Shouting and on the verge of losing his temper (“I don’t care if we sell a million less records — this does me no good at all.”) After ten minutes cooling off outside, he returned and apologised — which is lucky because, by the time it’s our turn, he’s back to jovial Chris.


SFTW is at their HQ, a converted bakery in Hampstead, North London, where everything related to the band now takes place.


Hidden down an alleyway off a main road on the ground floor is their studio, while on the first floor is a lounge where the band and various Coldplay staff hang out.


It’s a relaxed environment for a band about to unleash the most important album of their career (they’ve proved themselves in sales, this LP’s all about credibility).


First to arrive is lean-looking bassist Guy Berryman (he did this year’s London Marathon in under four hours), then comes drummer Will Champion (who looks surprisingly awake for a dad of three-week-old twins). Next is guitarist Jonny Buckland, (as always, with a welcoming smile) and then we wait as Chris Martin turns up slightly late, his curly hair approaching the bouffant stage and multicoloured bangles layering his wrists.


Surprisingly, there aren’t hordes of fans hanging outside for autographs, as you’d expect for such a massive band.


“But,” says Chris, “We haven’t been a big band for three years as we’ve been down this dirty alleyway. We’ve been locked away and haven’t thought about it all for a while.


“Being such a big band is never a problem but it can be distracting. That’s why we had to go back to home cooking and not think about all the outside stuff, because it doesn’t help you write songs.”


It’s been eight years since I first met Coldplay, when they supported Ocean Colour Scene at London’s Astoria — months before they released debut album Parachutes and went on to become one of the planet’s biggest bands. Then they were four geeky ex-students, and just another indie band doing a support slot.


“Ocean Colour Scene, do you remember that?” exclaims Chris. “I was very excited because Steve Cradock, a real pop star, was having some lasagne at the table next to us.


“That was 2000, but, you know what, it only feels like yesterday.”


A lot has happened since then. For one, Coldplay have become the biggest band in the world. And, secondly, Chris Martin, following his marriage to Gwyneth and the arrival of daughter Apple, four, and son Moses, two, is now one of showbiz’s most-talked-about-stars.


Chris says: “You can never say you’re big — I don’t think you can ever take anything like that for granted. That’s when you get sh*t automatically.


“Plus the way we’re brought up is to not quite believe we deserve it.”


You would think someone of Chris Martin’s calibre would have got over pre-release paranoia. But evidently not.


“I do worry — a lot,” he reveals. “It’s terrifying with a new album coming out. I get really nervous. At times I am my own worst enemy — though, of course, there are others who hate me more. This record is just a fair reflection of my day — it goes up and down, happy and sad, but always ends up optimistic.”


Making their fourth album was all about Coldplay “getting better” and doing it a different way.


Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends is the most un-Coldplay record they’ve ever made.


“Ha ha, ‘the most un-Coldplay record’ — I like that. We should put that on the sticker on the album,” he laughs.


“We’re more nervous with this because it’s a bit of a risk making a whole album as one piece. There isn’t a Yellow or anything like that on it but that’s what we felt like we had to do.


“But we also have this confidence. Doing a big show or festival is pure joy for me because I love it. But as soon as we come off stage, I tend to click straight into that mentality of ‘I can’t believe we’re supporting Ocean Colour Scene,’ just as I was all those years ago.”


Viva La Vida is a huge departure from 2005’s X&Y, which was never their greatest moment. It was wishy-washy, overproduced, with stale lyrics and a real disappointment after their classic A Rush Of Blood To The Head in 2002.


So it’s a joy that Viva La Vida, an album about death and life, dark and light, arrives with many musical moods, changing atmospherics, multi-voice choruses and meaningful lyrics. Chris says: “You don’t want to be writing about being on tour or that you only got two nominations at The Brits because people can’t relate to that. You have to go back to singing about human things.”


Will adds: “We had a specific mission. We wanted to have more vocal identities on the album as opposed to just Chris.”


The making of the album also marked new personal pressures for the four friends who met as teens at University College London (UCL) in 1996.


Jonny explains: “The tension between the band was that we didn’t know where we were going next. But our new studio, and getting producer Brian Eno in, gave us a new focus and everyone was fine again.”


Will smiles: “Coldplay is like a marriage and we’ve passed the seven-year itch point. The relationship between the four of us is much stronger for surviving.”


Inspired by the music and life in South America at the end of their X&Y tour last year, Viva La Vida became a project about colour and energy.


Will explains: “We’d become a little monochrome and we’d come as far as we could.”


“Nothing was off-limits on this record,” says Guy. “We didn’t have a particular musical style or sound. We just listened to music from all around the world, from all periods.”


Making the album, the four were listening to a diverse range of records including My Bloody Valentine, George Gershwin, Donna Summer’s State Of Independence (“It’s Brian Eno’s favourite song, he played it all the time,” says Chris), German industrialists Rammstein and Mali desert rockers Tinariwen.


And so does Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends mark Coldplay’s very own revolution?


Jonny says: “Yep. Coldplay’s musical revolution. I had to throw out a load of pedals — there was a revolution in my pedals, because we wanted a new sound.”


Even the album’s artwork — Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading The People, a famous painting of the French Revolution — ties in with the theme of rebellion and they’ve been wearing their own customised French revolutionary costumes of late as well. It’s their revolt against everything that they stood for before.


Tapping his fingers, Chris ponders: “Some say this album is brave — I just see us as being very lucky. We got Phil Harvey, our fifth and invisible member back and we got to work with producers Brian Eno and Markus Dravs. We were ballsy in asking people to come. It’s difficult when you’re successful, to admit that you need help.


“Brian was obviously top of the heap. We wanted someone who did what Brian did for Bowie and U2 but we never ever thought Brian would say yes. We asked him ‘Where do we find a new Eno?’ And he said, ‘Well, I could try!’


“You can’t help but get swept up in his enthusiasm. No one has been a teacher with us for a long time. He’d tell us about books, films and exhibitions to see. There were moments when we were like schoolkids again. We’d wind down and ask for ‘Uncle Brian’ stories. It was so inspiring to hear his tales.”


It was a productive time for the band, they were writing song after song after song. It was picking the final tracklisting that proved tricky because they all couldn’t agree.


Chris laughs: “We try a lot of ideas but we do have a high ‘throw it at the wall’ ratio. For every one song released we have had 20 that are even worse! We had tense lunches. There was a period when we wouldn’t talk and everyone got annoyed because their track wasn’t included. We’d have the list up on the board and overnight someone would change it.


“Like with the song, 42 — it’s our attempt at a Radiohead song. No, it’s our 97th attempt at a Radiohead song, but the first one that’s worked.


“Working on songs, I tend to give each song about six months but Will will let you know within the first verse if it’s sh*t!


“We’ve tried for eight years to do a Radiohead-style song which goes from one place to a different place — and never repeats itself. But Will’s always said, ‘Nah I don’t like it’.


“But then that song all came out in four minutes. It sounds like three different songs. And then Will said, ‘OK, let’s do it’.


“I don’t know what was happening to him that day but he said yes!”


Viva La Vida bears legendary producer Brian Eno’s trademark ambient soundscapes — though the band say his touches are not as obvious as you might think.


Guy explains: “Brian helped us a lot with the rhythms, singing and song structures. So I don’t think it sounds like a Brian Eno record.


“All the things you associate with Eno weren’t anything to do with him really. We were working with a guy called Jon Hopkins, an amazing keyboard player, producer and writer. A lot of things you might have associated with Brian were his contributions.”


Chris adds: “We have a lot of singing on the record which comes from Brian — we just stood in a group and sung all the time. But in this studio, it didn’t sound right so we took a field trip and found a nunnery in Barcelona.


“Every time you hear lots of singing together on this record, it’s probably in a nunnery.”


Chris Martin is the first to admit that Coldplay will never be liked by everyone and he will never be seen as cool.


He says: “The good thing about the Coldplay backlash is it’s always going on somewhere and will never go away. We’ve never been unanimously liked and that’s probably a healthy thing.


“Someone told me two days ago, that Paul Weller was saying how sh*t we are. I can live with that.”


So what do you say if you bump into each other?


“Well, you’ve got to be very civil. We all have this pop star politeness.


“If you’re nasty about anyone, you tend to meet them the next day and you feel like a tw*t. And I don’t like feeling a twat — it’s not nice.”


Key Tracks - By Chris Martin


Here Chris tells us about the album and some of the tracks.


“We know Vida La Vida is a risky album name, because it’s in Spanish and because there’s another title as well. We’re well aware that the title is pretentious. But that was what it had to be called. It comes from a painting by Frida Kahlo, who always mixed darkness and sadness with light and joy. And it just seemed like that painting was what we had to write about.”


LIFE IN TECHNICOLOR: “We wanted to write a song which would sound good on a mobile phone. And also we like the idea of not having any singing at the beginning. So we could present the music before the singer comes in and ruins it all.”


CEMETERIES OF LONDON: “It’s our attempt at a Smiths song. It’s about witch drownings. I was interested about that period in London where people were supposedly drowned for being a witch. And that’s where that song came from. About being accused of something you didn’t do.”


LOST: “The line in this song ‘Just because I’m losing doesn’t mean I’m lost’ is what the whole record came out of because we were feeling down at the end of the last tour. That line arrived and it was, ‘OK, that’s how we kinda feel. We know we can improve.”


LOVERS IN JAPAN/REIGN OF LOVE: “We always wanted a song title which was two in one – buy one get one free. Part of the reason for having two titles in a couple of places with slashes is because Justin Timberlake did it on his last album. I just thought it was cool. You have to know how to steal and where to steal from.”


CHINESE SLEEP CHANT: “It was called Chinese Sleepshot but then we decided to change it. It’s another attempt at a ringtone. The Eastern bit.”


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Bump! How did this go unread for so long?!


Thanks! :D


Earlier, our chat looked like being pulled when he stormed out of an interview with another paper following a question about his wife, Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow — he is obsessively private about their relationship.

Shouting and on the verge of losing his temper (“I don’t care if we sell a million less records — this does me no good at all.”) After ten minutes cooling off outside, he returned and apologised — which is lucky because, by the time it’s our turn, he’s back to jovial Chris.



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I'm glad this has come out because hopefully it means The Sun won't come out with a 'Stroppy Chris' headline tomorrow in the Bizarre Column. I think it shows the real him. It's also the first thing from The Sun I've read in a while that sounds like it wasn't written by a 9 year old. Bonus, thanks for this.

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For their faults The Sun is one of the only British papers not to launch a vicious attack on them.


The Mirror, The Daily Mail and The Independent have now all had their say.


Is nice to see something positive, for once.

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Great Article. Hmmm. they must be getting tired of all of these interviews! But its about time i read a bash free article without even a hint of criticism. But I don't see how Cemeteries of London is a possible ringtone, i dont think so, mroe like lost or lij.

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