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[Interview with Chris] Coldplay Play It Cool


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THE RAIN is lashing as I stand ankle-deep in mud, along with more than 100,000 other bedraggled souls, at Glastonbury Festival in the UK. As Coldplay rip into their tender tear-jerker "Fix You", an extraordinary thing happens: people all around me start weeping. Everywhere I look people are singing along with tears streaming down their faces. Couples clutch each other in a "they're playing our song" kind of way. One young woman lies on her back in the cold, grey mud and bellows out the lyrics to the stars, or perhaps to God. "Yeah, it's crazy, man!" Chris Martin, Coldplay's lead singer, tells me over the phone from London. "Sometimes there might be thousands of people having a deeply emotional reaction to my songs, but meanwhile I'm just thinking about how not to fall over on stage or how much sweat is pouring off me. I'm usually thinking very silly things as I sing."


As I was thinking very silly things that night at Glastonbury in 2005. Martin was wearing a very tight, tailored black shirt, and on the huge video screens you could see that he had split the seams under each arm. While other people were singing along to his tortured tales of confusion, loss and self-doubt, I was imagining his wife Gwyneth, at home the next day, doing a wee spot of darning.


Not that I can mention Paltrow. Martin is notoriously protective of his private life, and generally terminates interviews if asked to discuss his wife, his daughter Apple, four, or his son Moses, two. But today he is in an expansive mood.


"Having a family has both improved me and made me more grumpy and impatient," he says. "It really turned up the contrast in my life. The good bits are better and the bad bits are worse. When your child is crying or hurt, it's the worst feeling in the world, and when they're in great spirits, you can be almost overwhelmed with joy.


"Having kids makes you feel things more deeply, not just within your personal life but also about the state of the wider world you know they're going to inherit. You want to do right by them. Being married, with kids to care for, makes me want to work harder on music. My time is more precious now, so I don't want to waste a second of it."


AMONG THE numerous personality flaws available to a modern day rock star, few are so widely disdained as being ordinary. If you drink vodka with your muesli, shag a gaggle of groupies before lunchtime and pass out by two in the afternoon, then you are behaving as a rock star should.

We don't want our rock stars to be like Chris Martin. You see, Martin is a very nice bloke. He's friendly, considerate and earnest. He cracks jokes about his own weaknesses and insecurities. He looks after his 6ft2 beanpole of a body by eating well, jogging, doing an hour's yoga every day. He doesn't smoke, eat meat, or drink alcohol or coffee. He gets on well with his parents. He cares deeply about his wife and kids. He donates time and money to Oxfam and Amnesty International.


It doesn't seem to have fully sunk in that he's the leader of the band declared "the world's biggest selling recording act" at last year's World Music Awards; the winners of "Best rock album" and "Song of the year" (for "Viva la Vida") at the recent Grammy Awards.

At 31, Martin is a multimillionaire, with sales of more than 30 million albums and a Hollywood actress for a missus. This man can afford to get a bit of a swagger on, but he steadfastly refuses. Yes, he has the odd half-hearted tantrum, storms out of the occasional radio interview, but for the most part, Martin brings to mind a goofy, slightly nervous varsity student.


"To be honest, I still feel like we're just starting out," he says in a calm, quiet voice with just a hint of his native Devon accent. "Every day I wake up and I think, OK, today we've got to really prove ourselves. We've got to justify where we are. I always feel like my dad's gonna burst through my bedroom door at any moment and wake me up to go back to my real job."


But Martin's real job is this: making mainstream rock music that tugs at the heartstrings of the masses. He does this very well. On every album, from 2000 debut Parachutes to last year's Viva La Vida, you'll find a handful of extravagantly mopey ballads that quiver and sigh and bring a tear to your eye, with the kinds of lyrics Hallmark might reject as hopelessly trite.


Listen to Coldplay's most successful pop songs "Yellow", "Clocks", "In your Place", "God Put a Smile upon Your Face", "Fix You" and you will discern a recipe from which the band seldom deviates. Many of these songs start gently, with just Martin and his softly weeping piano, then there's some sort of dramatic melodic updraft designed to impress in a big stadium, then there's a slightly noisier bit in which guitarist Jonny Buckland recycles a few reverb-heavy U2 riffs, and then there's a bit where everything drops away to leave nothing but Martin's spectacular voice and the piano free-falling through space. At this point a lump rises in your throat, and you think, "Damn you, Coldplay! You got me again!"


THE ELDEST of five children born to an accountant father and music teacher mother, Martin formed Coldplay with fellow University of London students Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman and Will Champion in 1997. After signing to Parlophone in 1999, they were hailed as "the next Travis", which seems hilarious now, given that Travis have always been so inconsequential and ordinary, and Coldplay are now the biggest band in the world that's not U2 or the Rolling Stones. As if to cement Coldplay's ascent to the big time, Martin married Paltrow in 2003. By 2005, Coldplay was such a ruthlessly efficient record-selling machine that their parent record company, EMI, suffered a whopping 15% drop in its share price when it was announced the band's third album X&Y was delayed.


Not everyone's a fan, of course. In June last year, British rock critic James Delingpole wrote a famous piece entitled "Are Coldplay the Worst Thing that's Happened to Rock Music?" He concluded that they were. Delingpole lambasted Coldplay for welding together the likeable bits of far better bands and inspiring a whole generation of "anaemic simperers" to torture us with their sentimental ballads.


Martin chuckles away amiably when I mention his band's many detractors.


"Well, we're like Vegemite in many respects. A lot of people like us, but many more people don't. Now, I'd like to convince everyone that our particular brand of Vegemite is brilliant, but it's never gonna happen, so you just live with the idea that some people will always hate that taste. There's no point taking it personally. Not even Barack Obama has 100% approval, and he's our great hero of the age, so I certainly don't expect the whole world to love Coldplay.


"I think it's a good thing for people to be able to let out their annoyance. That's just freedom of speech. Besides, if everyone liked us then it wouldn't mean anything to like us. For example, I love Sherlock Holmes books. A lot of other people think they're crap, but I'm a fan. These books are special to me, so if you don't like 'em, you can all f--k off."


Blimey! Martin is such a polite bloke that hearing him swear is incongruous and alarming. But he's on a roll, warming up to the subject of all those Coldplay refuseniks who claim that his band is far too angsty and glum.


"The people who say that aren't listening, really, because even our saddest songs have a glimmer of light. When I'm writing something in the middle of the night, I always want to feel like there's a reason to get up the next day, which is why 99% of our songs throw you some sort of life jacket at the end. That's for me, as much as anyone. I don't want to feel depressed at the end of a song. I want to feel optimistic."


ONE OF the last real holidays Martin had before becoming a father was in New Zealand in 2003, when Paltrow was here playing the lead in Christine Jeffs' Sylvia Plath biopic, Sylvia. He hasn't been here since, and says he is hugely looking forward to playing in Auckland.


"Last time I was hangin' out down in Dunedin for a while, while my partner was making a film, and I had such a brilliant time there, man. It was utterly perfect. You don't need me to tell you how beautiful your country is, but coming in from outside, I really loved the look and feel of the place. Dunedin was cold, I remember, and we ate incredible pizza in front of a great surf break. We just watched the people surfing. I was in paradise, man."


Even in paradise, there are irritations. Martin recalls being chased around by photographers, but is typically reasonable about it.


"It wasn't so bad, really. People complain that it's hard to have a personal life once you're successful, but really, Coldplay is what gave me my personal life. Most of my friends, and my new family, I've met through this band. To me, this band is the thing from which everything else has sprung. I've been given so much, that I wouldn't complain about a single thing."


* Coldplay perform their "Viva la Vida" tour at Auckland's Vector Arena on March 18 and 19.



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"Having a family has both improved me and made me more grumpy and impatient," he says. "It really turned up the contrast in my life. The good bits are better and the bad bits are worse. When your child is crying or hurt, it's the worst feeling in the world, and when they're in great spirits, you can be almost overwhelmed with joy.



aaaaaaww.How cute.Nice article!Tough I wish they would mention the others more.

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Uh, did no one else notice this?


Listen to Coldplay's most successful pop songs "Yellow", "Clocks", "In your Place"


:lol: But still, good interview :nice: It was funny how the writer was shocked when Chris cursed, seeing as he curses all the time! :P

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don't need kids to care about the future


That was a great interview (despite the Jonny comment). Just want to mention that while I'm sure parenthood is uniquely transformative, one doesn't need to have kids in order to care deeply about what we're leaving for the next generation. ;)

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one should almost never say/write the first thing that comes to mind. and I'm sure this is no exception. aarrrrrgggghhh! can't stand it. have to! apologies in advance:


"you don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do?..." *^_^*


okay, enough of "sa"-me! enjoyed reading this article very much, thank you for posting!

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