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The Coldplay guide to: Viva la Vida

2008-06-23 08:01
1. Life in Technicolour
CHRIS: We wanted to start with (a) the best ring-tone of all time and (b) I didn’t want to sing for a few minutes just so that people who didn’t like us could enjoy it for a while, see what I mean? It comes out of insecurity but also confidence. It’s that great dichotomy that we’re very good at, which is feeling like we’re the best band in the world but also feeling that we haven’t done anything good yet. So that’s all encapsulated, the whole of our life is encapsulated in that two minutes of music and that riff is, I’ll say it myself, a good ringtone.

JONNY: I’ve certainly got it on my phone. (Laughter)

2. Cemeteries of London
CHRIS: “Cemeteries of London” – that’s inspired by those Marvel comics, those dark blue and grey stories about ghosts and creatures and it was inspired by trying to work out whether people really used to burn and drown witches in the olden days and so we did this research about witch drowning and that’s where that song came out of although the lines about drowning witches never, I don’t think they even made it, did they? No. They didn’t make it. It’s our attempt at Thriller really. (Laughter)

CHRIS: Well, Lost is the cornerstone of the album really. There’s always a song on our albums which is the cornerstone around which everything else gets written and that one is it for me, not necessarily for all of us, but for me that’s the most important in terms of, without that we wouldn’t have got all the others. Yeah, we wrote it in a sound-check after we listened to that Blur song, “Sing”, and then Will, no I think Phil, our secret fifth member, said to Will, or someone said to Will, "Have you tried programming drums?" or something, and he said, "No, I can"t really be bothered," and then we came in the next day and he’d done this beat. It was the best beat ever and he was like, "Oh…" He pretends not to be excited about it but he is, deep down.

4. 42
JONNY: Well, we’d been trying for about two years now to record a song that didn’t have any choruses, that didn’t really have any verses, was just, you know, one section and another section and into a different section and “Forty-two” was the first time we were able to do it successfully.

CHRIS: Although every previous attempt was called “Forty-two”. (Laughter) That’s about the ninth “Forty-two”. It’s our attempt at Bohemian Rhapsody, Paranoid Android, all those songs that we love that go A,B,C,D,E,F,G in structure. I’m talking structure here, kids. (Laughter) It’s very complicated.

5. Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love
CHRIS: “Lovers in Japan” – it’s a great divider, that song, because it’s quite light but it’s really important to the whole balance of everything. It’s just about elopement and, you know, running away with someone, you know, just trying to be free. See, I think a lot of the record is about trying to break away from other people’s power or influence. Lyrically, that’s what it seems like to me, just about escaping from the norm and that song is really about that.

JONNY: Reign of Love we recorded live all together. The original one went on for sort of twenty minutes. We were so into the moment. We cut it down a fair bit. I’m not sure anyone else would have been quite as into it as we were for twenty minutes but it’s quite a fresh sounding song.

6. Yes
WILL: I think one of the best things about this record is that Chris has really, I think, deliberately tried to, not expand his vocal range, he’s capable of singing in all areas, but you know he’s really tried to pitch songs at things that are quite challenging for him, which I think is really brave. He has, you know, a very recognisable voice, and a lot of our previous songs are pitched at that breaking point between the full voice and the falsetto voice. I think the lowest note he’s ever sung and the highest note he’s ever sung are on this record, which sounds like a slightly flippant fact but especially in "Yes", it’s just a totally different sound for us, and it’s very rare that he sings that low and I think it gives it so much, it makes it kind of jump out of the album for me because it’s so unfamiliar and it’s very subdued and very kind of sultry but it’s kind of exciting because of that.

7. Viva la Vida
CHRIS: Maybe it was after seeing The Scarlet Pimpernel or something, I can’t remember, but there's the idea of a king who has really messed up. It doesn’t take an idiot to work out who this might be, but there’s a lot of people who are leaders for a while and then towards the end of it they realise, "Oh, I didn’t do such great things," and everyone’s kind of storming the palace. So that song’s about that last ten minutes when all the revolutionaries are banging on the door. What might be going through your head, you know. Whenever I think about that song I think about great big doors being banged on.

8. Violet Hill
CHRIS: And it’s our first attempt at a protest song, all these kind of things. I’m always angry so I probably am angry in it. That’s about working for someone you don’t like at all, a carnival of idiots, and it’s another song about wanting to escape it and so it says, "If you love me, let me know," you know, like, "If you love me, let’s get out of here," but then it could be the carnival of idiots saying, "If you love me, let me know," who knows what it’s about? I don’t. It just came out like that.

9. Strawberry Swing
CHRIS: "Strawberry Swing" is the beginning of the end of the album and it’s the beginning of the "everything is okay" part, so we like it because it’s very warm. When all the noise about how much we’ve changed or how much we’re experimenting and how much this and how much we sound like this person, when all that is over in about three months, then it’ll just be left with which songs people are going to like and I think Strawberry Swing will be a lot of people’s favourite song.

10. Death and all his Friends
CHRIS: Yeah, like I said, the last few songs are just, all the positives come at the end and the overwhelming message of the album is in that last bit of "Death and All His Friends", it’s like a rallying call to acknowledge all the struggles we have and people have and to say and then to say, "Well, we’ll just get on with it then."

WILL: You know, there’s a quiet bit at the beginning, where it is just Chris and Jonny on a piano and a guitar and singing. It originally was called "School", I think, and it was an intro to another song called "Rainy Day" in the same key. It was a really lovely beginning to a song and we thought we’d try squeezing them together and it actually ended up really working, but it was in two sections, not quite from start to finish. We’re not really capable of playing songs from start to finish.

- Courtesy of EMI
Ever wondered what it would be like to listen to Coldplay while chatting to Chris Martin and the band? This is your chance. Hear their thoughts on Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends in our track-by-track guide.


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