Coldplay playing it cool

By Stephen Jones Time of article published Oct 7, 2011

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When Chris Martin hinted the last Coldplay album might just be exactly that – their last – producer Brian Eno had other ideas.

Guitarist Jonny Buckland explains: “Brian’s a very inspiratio-nal character. He wrote us a letter actually after we finished the last album saying, ‘That was good, but I think we can go further, we can do more,’ and so, in a way, he got the ball rolling for, for this, you know?”

Drummer Will Champion adds: “Chris always has a knack of saying that this could be our last album, but at the time, after we’ve just finished an album, it genuinely does feel like there’s nothing left in the tank – there’s no more ideas, so the idea of recording another record is terrifying.”

It’s to Eno’s credit that he has eked more mileage from the Coldplay juggernaut as Mylo Xyloto, the band’s fifth studio album, is arguably their most exciting, best flowing and enthralling listen since 2002’s A Rush of Blood to the Head. Threatening more potentially classic Coldplay hit singles than its prede-cessor, 2008’s Viva La Vida And Death to all His Friends, it is not only likely to confirm their position as one of the world’s biggest bands, but potentially better its nine million worldwide sales.

Chatting at their Bakery Studio in Hampstead – having just finalised the tracklisting over lunch – the band appear relaxed although admittedly nervous about how the world would respond to what began life as a “quiet acoustic record”.

At one point it was intended to be a soundtrack to a “Yellow Submarine -style” animated film (abandoned because it would take five years to make) but now sees life as a progressive synth-infused pop “concept album” that still rocks. Buckland’s guitar is arguably more prominent than on previous outings.

Bassist Guy Berryman explains: “It was going to be a kind of a soundtrack album to a film we were writing which had a story through it and we got quite far down the line with designing characters and then we abandoned that idea and moved into a different direction, retaining elements of the acoustic album and from the soundtrack album with us.

“So what we’ve ended up with is an album that we arrived at in quite an unusual sort of way, so it’s kind of a hotchpotch of all those different phases.”

Frontman Chris Martin – who recently revealed to Music Week how the Rihanna collaboration on future single Princess of China came about – doesn’t baulk at the idea of describ-ing Mylo Xyloto as a concept album; indeed against a climate of downloading individual tracks he says they deliberately set out to make a body of work which fans would want to listen to in its entirety.

Martin adds: “I think if you wanted to use that word (concept) you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s about people who are lost in a big scary environment and find each other as a form of getting through it.

“It’s a love story basically. But it hasn’t got many dragons or mountains which I think is what people associate concept albums with.

“But we really felt like the album is so under threat as a format that we should really make an effort to really tie it all together.

“And even if they don’t want to own it, it all makes sense as one thing, should anyone be interested in that. So if you want to find a narrative through it you can, which is something that we just enjoyed doing.”

Production was entrusted to their established team Markus Dravs, Daniel Green, Rik Simpson and Eno who is credited with “enoxification and additional composition”. Former manager Phil Harvey – the band’s unofficial “fifth member” – is in a crucial creative director role. Berryman adds: “There were elements that were the same, but it feels like a completely different page.” Indeed, recording sessions have not just included time experimenting at The Bakery – Buckland says: “We can spend weeks on end with Brian doing songs based on campanology or, you know, barber shop” – and their other nearby, larger studio The Beehive, but also while on tour in Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo where they completed the album.

Champion adds: “It was crucial really because we could see that the deadline was getting closer and closer and those hours that we had in those studios around the world were really priceless.”

Parlophone (part of the EMI label group) president Miles Leonard, the band’s A&R man, agrees the band have made a benchmark album.

“This has been a long while in the making, but the band came off a huge touring schedule straight into writing and playing around with songs. And that’s where Brian comes in and deconstructs songs and rebuilds them again, then someone like Markus comes in and takes charge and gets behind the desk and delivers that rock sound,” he explains.

Meticulous planning meetings between the label and management for a minimum 18-month campaign – taking the band to yet uncharted territories including right here in South Africa, Eastern Europe, South East Asia and China – have occurred weekly since February. Leonard stresses despite having 50 million albums under their belt nothing with Coldplay is taken for granted.

He explains: “We see it as an advantage, not disadvantage, to have more music out there. Nowadays people need to hear more than one single to be convinced to purchase a record.”

Although it is likely to be the album purchase of 2011 for which many will need the least convincing. – Music Week

Coldplay – A Pop Approach

AGAINST a backdrop of declining sales for rock bands, Coldplay manager Dave Holmes risked a “pop approach” to release two singles – Every Teardrop is a Waterfall (June 3) and Paradise (September 12) - ahead of their new album on October 24 in an unusual set-up.

He explains: “When I know we have enough songs for the album I start thinking about the ideal time for release and in this case I had a non-traditional approach which I thought about, taking a really long set-up.

“We decided on a single out in June – no talking about the album during an “around the world buzz gig tour” if you will – as they test-drive the new material. I said, ‘Let’s just let the music do the talking.’

“I wanted to be grass-roots. I said to them, ‘You have to be out there wearing two hats as you tour and finish the record.’ But people these days have such a short attention span – I see rock acts put out one single and then one album and then it disappears and then in pop they take two singles... I suppose they have to persuade people to buy the album. But by taking that couple of songs approach you feel engaged, and there’s not a lot of that going on with rock records at the moment.”

While Holmes – now entering his 11th year of managing the band – agrees that his sense of excitement around Mylo Xyloto is reminiscent of that prior to Rush of Blood to the Head, his ambition with this record is not just to sell more albums.

“I do think this will do better than the last, I would like it to do better, but it’s not just about sales, but having more songs which stand the test of time... it would be great to walk away from this campaign with more songs in their repertoire.”

As for the meaning of Mylo Xyloto (pronounced My-low Zy-lotoe), band leader Chris Martin offers: “It means whatever you want it to mean.

“(To me) it means a freedom of expression and you can think up new words if you want to... there’s still things that you can invent and words beginning with X are few and far between, so we thought we might try and add one.”

WIN! WIN! WIN!

Tonight, in conjunction with Total Exposure, is offering three lucky readers the opportunity to win a hamper comprising all the band’s previous albums to date, as well as a copy of their latest offering, Mylo Xyloto.

To enter, SMS your name, city and contact details to [email protected] totalexposure.co.za

Winners will be notified.

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