The first time I really got excited by guitars was when I was about 12. At the time, I wasn’t really into heavy music at all. I was into the sort of stuff my dad plays – Dick Dale type stuff, Simon & Garfunkel. But then I saw a video of Jimi Hendrix performing his famous set at the Monterey Pop Festival. More than the songs, what changed my life was the freedom, the expression that he brought to the performance. There was a sense of wild, reckless danger, capped when he famously smashed his guitar at the end, then set it on fire.
After that I started trying to play the acoustic guitar. To me, Hendrix is not necessarily about melodies or chords, its about the energy he brings to it, the way that his whole psychedelic, crazy, slightly drugged-up personality bleeds through in what he’s playing. He’s got so much mastery of his instrument that you forget he’s playing an instrument at all.
He was a pioneer in using the studio itself as an instrument – wringing out unusual sounds until the environment was another extension of his own creativity. We actually worked in Electric Ladyland Studios for part of [Muse’s fourth album] ‘Black Holes & Revelations’. The design of the place is really unusual: they haven’t changed it since Hendrix built it, but it still seems very futuristic.
Not in a retro-futristic kind of way either – it actually makes you think of the future. It was interesting because when people think of Hendrix, they tend to think of someone quite earthy and bluesy, they don’t really think of outer space and 2001.
He was one of the first guys to build his own studio, partly because the bills from his previous album had been so astronomical on account of his intense perfectionism: ‘Gypsy Eyes’, for instance, was re-recorded 43 times before he found the right take. I can relate to that sort of perfectionism. I can’t imagine what sorts of impossible sounds he’d be capable of wringing out of a modern studio setup. Guess we’ll never know.