Coldplay's 2000 debut album Parachutes -- featuring their breakout hit "Yellow" -- garnered them various awards and made them internationally famous, but they were determined for their story not to end there. Eager to beat the sophomore slump, the British rockers recorded a batch of songs earlier this year as soon as they finished touring. Two months into a mixing session in Liverpool, Coldplay realized that something wasn't quite right. That hunch led to a songwriting spurt that yielded the epic guitar rockers -- and the gorgeous piano ballad "The Scientist" -- that make up the band's appropriately named new album A Rush of Blood to the Head. So does Rush live up to the expectations set by Parachutes? Frontman Chris Martin has no idea.
The debut record blew up in a big way. What was that experience like for you?
For a while it amused me and I couldn't understand it, and then that was overcome by the fact that I live for being in Coldplay. I would be upset if it didn't blow up. It's two polar opposites inside our heads because on one hand, we think, "Shit, all these people are listening to us," and on the other hand we think, "Why aren't more people listening to us?" Especially when we came to America last summer for a few months -- that was so cool for us because everybody started to enjoy the fact that people were buying the record, and it gave us amazing freedom on our new record to do exactly what we wanted.
How did you guys deal with some of the criticism you got for the last record, for instance the comments of people like [Creation Records founder] Alan McGee, who called you "bedwetters"?
We get praised and criticized in pretty much equal measure. For every person that likes us there's probably ten people that hate us, but only one of them is brave enough to say it. For a while that really frightened us but then we watched [the documentary When We Were Kings] where Mohammad Ali trains for the George Foreman fight by getting hit in the face repeatedly, and that's the way we try to deal with criticism now. We just try take it on the cheek and get on with it.
How do you feel you've progressed as a band since Parachutes?
That's a tough question because somebody might listen to it and think we've regressed, that we've gotten worse. The only common thread between the two records is that we've been obsessed with the idea of melody and emotion and making a song as passionate as possible. I really hate trying to analyze our own records. To me, it's like being asked to mark your own examination papers. I'm not very good at it. And however hard I try, it's always going to be biased one way or another. Some days I wake up and I think, "Shit, we're better than the Beatles," and the next day I wake up and think, "Oh dear!" It's a very strange time when you're waiting for a record to come out because you don't know what anyone's going to think of it. In a sense, our job is a bit like fishing: We can do our best to get all the equipment but you just never know whether there are going to be fish there. And it's the same with songs. When you get a big song, it's just mad because you don't feel you can take any credit for it.
What did you feel was wrong with the initial recording sessions for the album?
To us, it sounded OK, but it was just sounding a bit like a band who had loads of money and could afford to make any expensive record, and it didn't really have any passion or soul. And that's what we wanted to get, so we moved out of London and went to a tiny studio in Liverpool with basic equipment. You have to rely on the tunes and the emotions, rather than the heavy technology. There's a song on the record called "The Scientist," which arrived from nowhere and we don't know where it came from, except I know we'd been listening to George Harrison in the weeks before that. And when that song came out, it gave us this amazing freedom and we thought maybe we can allow some new songs to come along. We don't have to stick to our plan. We can let the songs take over. That was the real turning point. I, like lots of people, have the capacity to overanalyze things that are going well and hence destroy them, and that's what it's about. It was written because my friend had just broken up with his girlfriend, and I'm always having disasters with girls, and it was just about me and him always messing it up, just by trying to complicate things too much.
I heard Ian McCulloch dropped by the studio in Liverpool.
He was around a bit. It was really nice and we sort of became friends with him, because he's from Liverpool obviously, and we used to see him in the studio occasionally. He wasn't there telling us what to do, but it was nice to have him around sometimes as a voicing board. We took loads and loads from the [Echo and the] Bunnymen certainly in terms of being inspired, so you know, we'd already stolen all his ideas.
You recently went to Haiti and the Dominican Republic on behalf of Oxfam. How did you get involved with that?
We were asked to get involved with this Web site called www.maketradefair.com, which is basically an online community that will hopefully grow enough to put pressure on politicians to address some of the issues of world trade. At the moment it's grossly unbalanced in favor of Britain and America. I went to Haiti, just to see what happens when people aren't paid enough for their goods or when they're forced to work for hardly anything for big clothes manufacturers or food manufacturers, and it's the most disgusting exploitation on such a massive level by big companies and by the trade laws themselves. All this open market stuff is just frightening because the smaller and poorer countries just get squashed with really cheap imports and stuff. My job is just to promote the Web site. The reason we got involved is that we kept getting asked to do commercials and advertisements, and we just didn't want to do any of them because everybody sells out. You look at the new Austin Powers movie and it's just sort of product placement, and that stuff makes us really angry. We really wanted to advertise something that we actually cared about -- and we do care about issues of trade -- so we're prepared to risk looking stupid to talk about it.
Coldplay tour dates:
9/4: Seattle, Paramount Theater
9/6: Berkeley, CA, Greek
9/7: Las Vegas, The Joint
9/9: San Diego, CA, Open Air Theater
9/10: Los Angeles, Greek Theater
9/14: Atlanta, Masquerade
9/16: Baltimore, MD, Pier Six Concert Pavilion
9/17: Boston, Fleet Boston Pavilion
9/19: Wantagh, NY, Jones Beach Amphitheater
9/21: Toronto, Ontario, Air Canada Center
9/24: Chicago, UIC Pavilion