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Bassically Speaking

Coldplay bassist Guy Berryman talks about the new album, Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, working with Brian Eno and writing under hypnosis

Rolling Stone IN Jun 10, 2008
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This album marks a new beginning for the band, the coming of Coldplay version 2.0, according to some people.

I think we really see the first three records as being a series. It was very important for us on this record to reinvent ourselves a little bit and to try things new. As I mentioned before, just to keep it fresh and interesting for us and for people that might like to listen to the new album. It does feel quite fresh at the moment. We’re all just really looking forward to design a new, entirely new live show and just getting out and playing live now. That’s our new goal. We finished the record, now we’re doing some interviews and in a few weeks time we’ll start playing in America. I think we’ll be on the road for probably 12 to 18 months so we’re really just preparing ourselves for that.

This album sounds like an album album, not made to be downloaded in parts or as ringtones. Do you fly the flag for “old-fashioned” albums?

Absolutely. It should be short enough that you can listen to it in one sitting without having to choose songs. You should be able to put it on and listen to it to the end. But it should also be dynamic so it takes you to loud points and quiet points. It was very important to us. Will always says that an album should be no longer than the side of one cassette tape. When I was young you would put two albums on one cassette and they’d both fit perfectly. I always hated the ones where you had to turn it over and just get a little bit of the end on the other side. I suppose we’re quite traditionalists in that sense.

You recorded bits of the album in Barcelona. Did that partly inspire the title of the album?

Actually the title of the album came when we were in South America and we were introduced to Frida Kahlo’s work. Chris saw a painting of hers which is called ”˜Viva La Vida.’ More than anything we were very inspired by all the colours in South America and by that I don’t just mean the colours, I mean the hundreds of different influences that were all around. That gave us the idea to really make this record as colourful as possible. We’ve got some African rhythms, and we’ve got some Spanish rhythms, Asian instruments, all these kind of different things which just make a real mixed bag of sounds.

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How are you gonna reproduce that on stage?

That’s a good question. I don’t quite know, we’re in the process of working that out. We’re always quite clever when it comes to things like that. We try to play as much as possible but obviously sometimes you can’t have everything played live, for instance the strings on ”˜Viva La Vida.’ We’re not quite sure how we’re gonna play that song live because it’s so relying on those strings. We’re in the process of working that out.

You were touring in South America last year?

It was January of 2006 I believe. We’d never really been there before. We just absolutely loved it, firstly the climate. Coming from the UK in the wintertime, it was very nice to be somewhere warm. Also the people were amazing. It was just a whole new experience for us.

In Barcelona you just recorded backing vocals in churches?

We’d been working with Brian for quite a long time here in our studio. We were very keen that we all do some group singing for some of the songs so we decided we need a big echo-y space for that. So we thought a church or a chapel might be the best place to go. We decided to go to Barcelona just to add another colour to the record.

Who played those other instruments you were talking about. In ”˜Life in Technicolor’ for example?

That’s a zither, which is a Chinese instrument. Chris played that.

What about ”˜Yes’?

That has a very Arabic string violin part. Again that was played by our friend Dav, who’s just a very talented violin player. I’m not sure if he wrote that Arabic line but he played it brilliantly.

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”˜Strawberry Swing’?

I think there’s a very African kind of drum part. That’s interesting because that was a loop that Will recorded a long time ago in a soundcheck before we played a show once. A lot of these parts and little sounds on the record, the ideas came to us on the last tour. Because we always record our soundchecks, we always try and write in soundchecks. Sometimes Chris might say, “Do you remember this tiny little segment that happened, this idea?” And then we go through all these old tapes and find it. On that particular song we just recorded in some of the drums and made it into a loop and it ended up being on the final song. We’re happy to pluck things from all over the place.

All these little bits of world music, that’s something you were carrying in you for a while?

I think so. But it’s important to us to use these influences but to make sure it never sounds like world music. You can use them sparingly and I think they’re much more effective that way actually, rather than just having a straight African song or a straight Indian song. I like just injecting small elements of that into what we’ve done.

All those ambient bits at the beginning of songs and at the ends of songs, that’s Brian’s influence?

Possibly. Brian’s very good at generating very strange noises that when you listen to them on their own you think, “Oh my God, what is that? That’s not gonna work.” And then what’s amazing is when you mix it into the song, it just really jumps out. It just has a magic to it. So he’s very good at doing things like that. There are small things at the beginning of songs and small pieces at the end of songs and that’s just to add little finer detail into everything. They’re just like badges. If you’ve got a jacket that you really like, you just sew a few badges onto it and it just makes it a little bit cooler.

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