As a general rule, anything involving cowboys, karate, robots and/or unicorns is going to be pretty awesome.
So when Muse got director Joseph Kahn's video treatment for their song "Knights of Cydonia" — the first single off July's Black Holes & Revelations (see "Muse Hope Fans Aren't Too Shocked By 'Genre-Morphing' New LP") — they had to be pretty pumped. After all, it managed to include all of the above, and even threw in some motorcycles, lasers, hot stunts and screaming falcons just for good measure.
"Actually, when we first got his treatment and were reading it, the first thing we were thinking was, 'Well, this is going to cost, like, $2 million to make, and we don't have that much money!' " bassist Christ Wolstenholme laughed. "But Joseph promised he would do it for much less than that. And he was really excited about it. So we just sort of went for it and took a risk. And honestly, the fact that we didn't have to be in it much was sort of the tipping point."
Muse decided to put their faith in Kahn — best known for his eye-popping clips for Britney Spears and Eminem — and production began in late June. Shot over five days (three in Romania, one in London and one in Red Rocks, California), the "Knights" video features the band as holograms and boasts over-the-top "acting" from certifiably B-list talent like British actor Russ Bain as the lead cowboy, Richard Brake (Joe Chill in "Batman Begins") as the antagonist and Cassandra Bell as the love interest.
The clip takes a page from spaghetti Westerns, which were known for their fluid, violent and minimalist cinematography; Ennio Morricone music; and Clint Eastwood. Couple that with gratuitous nods to "Battlestar Galactica" and 1973's sci-fi Western "Westworld," plus subtle references to films like "Logan's Run," "Star Wars" and "Planet of the Apes," and the "Knights" video is truly a sight to behold. And strangely — or perhaps fittingly — it also perfectly complements the song it accompanies.
"When we wrote 'Knights,' we were listening to a lot of Morricone and stuff like Dick Dale, surf stuff like that. Plus lots of fairly ridiculous '70s stuff too," Wolstenholme said. "When we started it, we decided to be quite open going into it. We knew we wanted to do something different."
And boy, did they. Perhaps the best thing about the "Knights" video (and the song) is the fact that it's not really clear if Muse are being completely serious. While they swear they are, it's difficult to believe them. After all, there aren't a lot of bands that would choose a six-minute space-rock epic as their first U.S. single, and even fewer would decide to accompany it with an equally ridiculous video.
But Muse don't seem concerned with all that, and neither do their fans (YouTube reaction to the clip includes, "This is the most amazing music video ever made" and "everything a guy wants: karate, cowboy, sex, poker ... unicorn, motocross"). In fact, they're quick to call the "Knights" video the best thing they've ever done — but for different reasons than you might think.
"It's actually the first decent video we've ever made," Wolstenholme said. "And it's good because you can take us out of it and it still works."