Everyone who’s heard Coldplay’s new album, X&Y, knows it’s a smash. Except for singer Chris Martin. “If it bombs, it bombs,” he says. “But I don’t mind. I’ll just be annoyed because everyone will say, ‘Well, we didn’t expect it to bomb!'” X&Y is the band’s first album in three years, the first since Martin married Gwyneth Paltrow and, with its catchy melodies and arena sing-alongs, a guaranteed blockbuster for the four lads from London. Sitting on a plush couch in a swank hotel suite in Manhattan, Martin, 28, seems overwhelmed by all the fuss. “We’re definitely good, but I don’t think you can say we’re that original,” he notes. “I regard us as being incredibly good plagiarists.”
Do your parents play any instruments?
My mom plays everything. She and my uncle Charlie are music geeks. But both of them came from an era where they could never consider doing it as a job. I just came across this song that Dylan covered called “Froggie Went A-Courtin’,” and I remembered walking along the lanes, sitting on my uncle’s shoulders, and he used to sing that song.
Can you think of a better singer than you whose name is Chris?
Definitely Chris Cornell. Who knew you were a fan? I’ve never been cool. I’ve never pretended to be cool. One of my brothers has always been cool. So when I was listening to, like, Paul Weller and the first album I really loved, A-ha’s Hunting High and Low, he was always listening to Soundgarden and Rage and Metallica. I just wasn’t allowed to listen to it. But I remember thinking, “God, that guy who sings ‘Outshined’ is pretty fucking brilliant.”
You’ve said you wrote the song “A Message” naked.
I did write it naked, yeah.
Didn’t your balls get cold on the piano bench?
I actually wrote it on a guitar, sitting on a sofa. And I made sure that all the right bits were warm. There were about five songs on the new record that came out of nowhere — it was like pulling them out of a hat. In the middle of the night I thought I was either going to be sick or go write that song. So the song just came up, then I went back to bed.
Hypothetically speaking, if Gwyneth dumped you, what’s the first record you’d throw on?
I wouldn’t put one on, I’d write one. Well, maybe Blood on the Tracks. Dylan’s in my big six, with Kraftwerk, Eno, U2, Radiohead and Bob Marley. Sigur Rós would be the seventh.
Have you ever smoked a joint and listened to a record?
I don’t care what anyone else does — if you wanna get up in the morning, drop an E and do some stem-cell research, that’s amazing. Personally, weed really does nothing for me.
Maybe you need better weed.
One time someone had some skunk, and I was really gonna make an effort to get stoned because I was sick of what everyone was saying about it. It didn’t do anything. Y’know, chocolate does things for me that it doesn’t do for anyone else.
What album have you listened to the most this year?
Arcade Fire’s Funeral. I absolutely love them. Sometimes it’s good to have someone coming up behind you as well as someone ahead. It’s fine to have my musical Mount Rushmore, but we’ve gotta be good because of upstarts like Arcade Fire. [Martin apologizes for projecting spittle.]
Speaking of spit, do you ever drool all over your piano?
I drool all over the place. We did this VHI Storytellers the other day. and I could feel there was a Grandpa Simpson bit of drool coming out. I was like, “I hope the camera’s on Jon [Buckland, the guitarist]” — because there’s nothing you can do. I just shake a lot. If you’re in Row A at a Coldplay show, you can really go away with a lot of DNA. You could literally re-create us.
What’s the story behind writing “The Scientist”?
On the second album I was thinking there was something missing. I was in this really dark room in Liverpool, and there was a piano so old and out of tune… . I really wanted to try and work out the George Harrison song “Isn’t It a Pity,” but] couldn’t. Then this song came out at once. I said, “Can you turn on the recorder?” The first time I sung it is what’s out there.
There’s a hidden track on X&Y, “Til Kingdom Come.” That’s so biblical of you.
“A Message” and “Til Kingdom Come” both come from having quite a religious upbringing. “A Message” is taken from a hymn we used to sing called “My Song Is Love Unknown,” and we’d say “kingdom come” every week in the Lord’s Prayer. One of the great things about being forced to go to church services is that we’d sing all these big songs. That’s partly why I’m obsessed with getting everyone to sing along at our shows. It makes me feel like I’m a part of something.
What’s your least favorite U2 song?
That’s like saying, “Who’s my least favorite supermodel.”
Do you ever confuse your bandmates Jon Buckland and Will Champion? They’re, like, twins.
These days we’re so close that we’re all starting to have the same length stubble, same color shoes and same trousers. I never confuse them, though, because Jon is a lot nicer to me than Will is.
You’ve called Jon your gay lover.
Definitely. But to be honest, I have a few.
Are any of them famous?
As much as I love talking about my famous relationships, I won’t tell you about my two-week affair with Usher.