Coldplay: A Band Powered By Chemistry Singer Chris Martin and drummer Will Champion discuss the band's sustained success, as well as its curiously named new album, Mylo Xyloto.
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Coldplay: Four Best Friends, Powered By Chemistry

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Coldplay: Four Best Friends, Powered By Chemistry

Coldplay: Four Best Friends, Powered By Chemistry

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In 2002, when the British rock band Coldplay were on tour with their second album "Rush of Blood to the Head," frontman Chris Martin said, I just want to make the best music of all time with my best friends. Well, over that time, Coldplay, with Jonny Buckland on guitar, Guy Berryman on bass and Will Champion on drums, it has become one of the biggest rock groups in history. Here's a track from their new album.


COLDPLAY: (Singing) I turn the music up, I got my records on. From underneath the rubble sing a rebel song. Don't want to see another generation drop. I'd rather be a comma than a full stop. Maybe I'm...

SIMON: That's "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall," from Coldplay's new album, "Mylo Xyloto." And Chris Martin and Will Champion join us in our studios in New York bureau. Thanks so much for being with us.

CHRIS MARTIN: Thank you for that...


MARTIN: ...extraordinarily over-the-top introduction.


MARTIN: Well, we would expect, you know, the president to walk in.

SIMON: Well, are those, nine and 10 years later, are those still your thoughts?

MARTIN: The friends bit is more true than ever because a band's only unique thing is its chemistry, especially if none of your prodigious players are particularly handsome, so you...


MARTIN: ...the one thing you have is your uniqueness, so we really hold on to that.

SIMON: With respect, I want to ask you about the title of this album, because the first time I saw it, "Mylo..."


SIMON: Xyloto.



MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: My instinctive reaction was that sounds like an ointment you use when you get a rash.


MARTIN: And in many countries it is.


MARTIN: What it is, is an attempt to have a completely fresh start from our history and from anyone else's recording history by coming up with a sort of two new words, as it were, which of course, for a while will seem a little pretentious or ridiculous. We were thinking about things like Google and Pepsi, which those were also words that made no sense for a while.

SIMON: I think you'd get sued if you tried to call it that.


MARTIN: See I'm saying we were just trying to be...

SIMON: Oh I see, when they were invented.


SIMON: I see.

MARTIN: So although it's silly, it's what it had to be. We now have to sort of apologize for it for a couple of months but then eventually it will just settle into being the name of that particular group of songs.

SIMON: Let's listen to another from your new album. And this is "Us Against The World."


COLDPLAY: (Singing) Oh morning come bursting, the clouds, amen. Lift off this blindfold, let me see again. And bring back the water, let your ships roll in. In my heart she left a hole.

MARTIN: We keep most of our troubles to ourselves as a band. But one of the group was having some difficulties and it's about trying to help your friend through the troubles of being in a rock band. But it's also like a basic love song. All of our songs are really love songs underneath somewhere.


COLDPLAY: (Singing) I drunken as a Daniel in a lion's den. And tonight I know it all has to begin again. So whatever you do, don't let go. And if we could float away. Fly up to the surface and just start again. And lift off before trouble, just erodes us in the rain. Just erodes us in the rain. Just erodes us, just erodes us in the rain.

SIMON: Do we get this right, Mr. Champion, that you only started playing drums when you met Chris and the rest of the guys?

CHAMPION: Pretty much. Yes. Certainly playing drums in earnest. Occasionally I would play a drum kit at school, so I occasionally sat behind that, but I play guitars and keyboards and things like that. And when my three friends were starting a band, they needed a drummer and my flatmate at the time had some drums in our house, and he was a very gifted drummer. And they came over to record the drums on some early demos, and when the time came to record them, my flatmate disappeared and went to the pub. So I volunteered my services to play on one song.

MARTIN: I mean it sort of sounds a little Hollywood but it was like ba-boom boom, ba-ba-doom. And it was like he's in.


CHAMPION: It was the most lazy and technically inept fill-in that I could have possibly managed.


CHAMPION: No, but it was, you know, like Chris says, going back to the early thing, it's not always about being a prodigious talent or being the must gifted, it's just about the chemistry. And I think that was something that happened at that moment.

SIMON: Let's listen to another song, if we could. This one, "Major Minus."


COLDPLAY: (Singing) Ooh oooh oooh. Ooh oooh oooh. Got one eye on the road and one on you. Ooh oooh oooh. Ooh oooh oooh. Got one eye on the road and one on you.

SIMON: Coldplay, "Major Minus" from the new album. Now was this song inspired by a Colin McCarthy book?

MARTIN: Yeah, "The Road," which Will told me to read. So, yes, is the answer.


CHAMPION: Fantastic book. The song kind of comes in the running order of the album and it's at a place where the threat needs to be established and so it's...

MARTIN: It's the bad guy...


MARTIN: ...of the record. Which is why Will does the lead vocals.


MARTIN: It's our first song with someone else on lead vocals and...

CHAMPION: We just kind of shared lead vocals, do you think?

MARTIN: Well, well, it is really...

CHAMPION: It's an amalgamation of mine and Chris's voices.

MARTIN: To make a strange and horrible beast.



COLDPLAY: (Singing) Ooh oooh oooh. Ooh oooh oooh. Got one eye on the road and one on you. Ooh oooh oooh. Ooh oooh oooh. Got one eye on the road and one on you. (unintelligible).

SIMON: You were so fabulously successful. Is there anything anybody, critic, commentator can say that pierces you?

MARTIN: There's not much they say that can't pierce us.


MARTIN: I mean we have feelings. I mean you're being very sweet but we're as successful as The Beatles or The Eagles or any of the other nature-based groups.


MARTIN: Sometimes we have criticism that is very constructive. Although it's painful at the time, most of the things that people have said about us negatively - some of them are true and you can work on, and the ones that you don't agree with, you don't work on.

CHAMPION: I think it polarizes you. It makes you either think it makes you examine your kind of insecurities and sometimes unearth something that you secretly feel yourself. Or it makes you totally resolved to disagree with that opinion, and it's like it reinforces your kind of self-belief. So I think it's inevitable, and in some ways can be useful.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the collaboration on this album with Rihanna. As a matter of fact, let's listen to a little bit of "Princess in China."


COLDPLAY BAND, FEATURING RIHANNA: (Singing) Once upon a time, remember that all we ever seem to do is fight, on and on and on and on and on. Once upon a time on the same side. Once upon a time on the same side and singin'. Now why did you have to go, have to go and throw the number one thing?

SIMON: Now Chris Martin, I read accounts that say that you were a little nervous and tongue-tied in approaching Rihanna about that.

MARTIN: I love Rihanna's voice so much. And she's intimidating. I mean girls in general are intimidating.


MARTIN: And if you add in sort of being a big pop star with an amazing voice, it makes it troubling so. But I wasn't so intimidated that eventually we didn't get in contact.


COLDPLAY: (Singing) You could have been the princess, I'd be a king. Could have had a castle and wore a ring. But, no-oooh, you let me go-oooh. You could have been the princess, I'd be a king. Could have had a castle and wore a ring. But, no-oooh, you let me go-oooh. So I'm ah, la la la la la la la la .

SIMON: What are collaborations like, Will?

CHAMPION: I think with the Rihanna thing, Chris wrote this song very much with her in mind. And we tried, you know, all kinds of different approaches to it and we kind of got it as good as we could in our studio. And then we put it in a box with a ribbon on and said – and gave it to her.

MARTIN: Well, first I went to see her in Los Angeles.

CHAMPION: Oh that's right.

MARTIN: And I'm very use to sitting on a piano and play Will or Johnny or Guy a new idea saying, what do you think? Shall we work on it? So I thought well, I better go and see Rihanna and play her this song on the piano. And I was so nervous about doing that. For some reason the smaller an audience gets the more intimidated you feel. It's harder to sort of put on that rock-starry persona. You know, when it's a big audience you just slip into performance mode and it's completely natural. But you would feel like an idiot if you did that in front of one or three people.

SIMON: Chris Martin and Will Champion, joining us here in New York. Their new album, "Mylo Xyloto."

CHAMPION: Very nice.

SIMON: Out next week.

MARTIN: Thank you, sir.


COLDPLAY: (Singing) Written in graffiti on a bridge in a park. Do you ever get the feeling that you're missing the mark? It's so cold, it's so cold. It's so cold, it's so cold. Written up in...

SIMON: You can hear more songs from Coldplay's new album at This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.


COLDPLAY: (Singing) It's so cold, it's so cold. See the arrow that they shot, trying to tear us apart. Fire from my belly and the beat from my heart...

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