Sign Up for FILTER Newsletters


10 Years of FILTER: Issue #3 Cover Story: Coldplay

By Gregg LaGambina on January 26, 2012


10 Years of FILTER: Issue #3 Cover Story: Coldplay

2012 marks FILTER Magazine‘s 10th Year in Print. To celebrate, we are looking back at some of our favorite magazine features, from July 2002’s Issue #1 all the way up to this coming November’s Issue #50.

Rather than explain to you what this cover story was all about and why Issue #3 was special, we decided to reach out to the photographer who shot the cover, and in this case, it was a little band called Coldplay's first ever U.S. magazine cover.

“Alan Sartirana, the co-publisher of FILTER, asked me to photograph Coldplay for the magazine’s cover as he used to attend my weekly Britpop club, Cafe Bleu in Los Angeles. It seemed appropriate I'm sure for us to work on this as I loved the music of our scene back then. The photos were taken at the Chateau Marmont where I had photographed Joe Strummer a couple years previous. I hadn't met the Coldplay guys yet, but I had recently done the music video for the band ASH's song "Envy." Chris Martin and Tim Wheeler of ASH were best mates back then, so it was nice to mention to Chris I had just done ASH’s new video. As soon as he knew this, we dropped into a common ground and some trust was created.

At the Chateau they had a book on people who had also done shoots there. Led Zeppelin had been photographed in the window facing the back patio. I asked the band if they were interested in recreating the photo when Johnny said 'I'm Jimmy Page!' They all picked their band member and jumped into position. I have no idea how the jumping thing came about, but Chris basically said he wasn't going to do it, then when I said 'OK, I guess if you can't jump…' he retracted and said 'I can jump!' So when I said, 'Well then, prove it...' the rest is history!” —Piper Ferguson

"Coldplay: At Home in the World" (Issue 3, November 2002)

I don’t think Chris Martin knows where he is. He and his band Coldplay are from England. Their music is on the radio, and radio waves, for lack of strict scientific knowledge, fly through the air. Coldplay is on the road a lot, so you can see the people who make this music in person, in the flesh. Things they’ve done have been digitally preserved on compact discs and are in countless bins for you to purchase and listen to. Sometimes one of Chris’ songs might even end up in your head, without the assistance of electricity, without even owning one of his recordings. Sometimes, Chris Martin is in your head and that’s a weird thing to think about, if you have the room to think about something else while Mr. Martin’s up in there tinkering about. And this happens a lot. His songs are catchy.

Rumors have had him dating Gwyneth Paltrow, which means he’s also in the tabloids. You can see him often on television, usually on a music video channel, mouthing the words to one of his own compositions. You can see him in magazines and listen to what he has to say in interviews. He’s on this page even. He’s on my mind as I write this and now he’s on yours.

There’s this idea that a physics teacher once shared with me: when a sound is made, it never really goes away. It may be inaudible, but the sound waves are really just being absorbed by physical objects and getting smaller and smaller without ever disappearing entirely. This teacher looked and dressed like he smoked marijuana, often. But if he’s right, that means Coldplay’s music is playing constantly, ad infinitum, for the rest of eternity, somewhere inside a countertop or maybe in a car bumper, just drifting through the objects that make up the world, forever. Coldplay is everywhere always.

While listening to A Rush of Blood to the Head (Capitol), this feels true. Much of the music is drenched in reverb; the vocals echo and the guitar strings chime so clearly, they mingle with the piano as if attached and played simultaneously. Listening to Coldplay is reminiscent of church, not necessarily because the music itself inspires a transcendent experience (neither does mass, by the way), but because it literally sounds like it was performed in a cathedral. Not in some contrived, dramatic Goth music kind of way—it just sounds expensive. Cathedrals were built with spires because architects didn’t want the building to end—they come to a point at the top and they disappear into the ether in an effort to mingle with heaven. So does this music, I think. During its best moments, it floats.

This may explain why Chris Martin is so concerned with place. Coldplay is a young band and if they’ve thrown an anchor overboard, it’s still floating and still finding it way down to the bottom. All over A Rush of Blood to the Head, Martin begs for maps of the world and maps of the heart, or any line that can delineate purpose or identity. “Look at earth from outer space, everyone must find their place,” are the very first words Martin sings on the album’s opener, “Politik.” It sets the tone for a record that is largely about finding and defining, or the complete lack of ever being able to find or define anything. He doesn’t know whether to look for his proper place, or ask to be put in it.

Speaking with Martin is a similar experience. He displays an odd combination of confidence and defensiveness. He’s defensive when the subject of politics arises, not because he doesn’t have genuine conviction, but because he can’t believe anyone would doubt his motivations to begin with. Currently, his place in the world is public. He is affecting people, for better or worse, and these people want answers about why they feel the way they feel about him and his music.

There are crazy people that chase limousines and it would be interesting if just once, some celebrity shouted, “Stop the car!” and when a fan caught up and was out of breath, the celebrity swung open the door, yanked the youngster inside and said, “What?” Is there an answer? Is there even a question? People just want to be near the things that inspire them, or the people they would prefer to be, and perhaps these questions and these answers from Chris Martin of Coldplay will put you closer to his place—a place he has yet to truly define, but is still willing to share. For now. By the time you read this, he’ll probably be someplace else.

Your music sounds like it’s made by someone who likes rain. What kind of weather makes you feel the most creative?
That’s a great question, man. Of course I love sunshine and everyone else does, I think. But I don’t think it makes you feel the most creative because you just want to go outside and look at girls. We certainly seem to work best in Liverpool, which is a town that is almost perennial rain. People always ask, “Why do your songs always sound sad?” I don’t know. I suppose it’s ‘cause we sort of do music cathartically. And when you’re feeling great and the sun’s shining, you want to go out and eat ice cream.

Was you childhood happy or sad? How much of an influence has your childhood had on your adulthood?
Um [sighs]. Oh man, my entire life has been unbelievably amazing, I think. Especially when I talk to other people. I think, “Fuckin’ ‘ell, my childhood was pretty idyllic.” Of course, like any kid, you go through weird things when you start growing and all. But it was pretty amazing in the countryside, you know? I didn’t really have a clue about anything that went on outside of our town. Until I went to London, I didn’t really know anything. I didn’t know who Aerosmith was, you know? [Laughs]

Can you pinpoint a time in your life that changed you the most dramatically?
Definitely. I think it was when my mum gave me a keyboard. I thought that was pretty cool. I was about nine or 10. It was the first time someone had given me a musical instrument that didn’t frighten me. There weren’t grades to learn or anything. You know what I mean? You’d just get on and do what you like and not worry about it. I’m from quite a middle-class background and the way you learn music, it’s all grades and examinations and shit—it’s just not quite liberating.

As you’ve become more famous, do you find yourself lying more often in an effort to maintain your privacy?
Privacy? No, not really. We check in under false names now in hotels, but I always find that slightly ridiculous. I always feel slightly embarrassed when I have to say to one of my friends, “I’m under a different name.” They say to me, “Oh, what a tosser!”

Has all this new attention become an isolating experience?
We can still go anywhere we like, you know? Pretty much. We’re not the sort of band where people attack us with knives. Anyone that recognizes us generally comes up and says, “I think you’re all right, your lot.”

It seems like your band has taken its increased popularity in stride. For the past few years it’s been in vogue to lament about fame. Is it possible that you’re actually enjoying it?
Yeah, man. I mean, fuckin’ ‘ell, we’re playing exactly the music we want to play in exactly the way we want to play it and lots of people are coming to watch it. That’s amazing. U2 said to us, “Don’t take fame too seriously, but just have fun with it.” That’s the right way to approach it, I think. Of course, fame is terrible nonsense. Things like The National Enquirer—it’s founded on terrible bollocks. But if you appreciate the fact that it’s just something to have fun with, then I reckon that’s better than worrying about it too much. Because certainly, we could be like, “Ah, fuckin’ ‘ell, I don’t know about this.” But, you know, it’s brilliant. How can you possibly complain about it? And also, we’re not that famous, really. We can go anywhere. We can go anywhere we’d like.

Characterize your relationship with your band mates? Are you genuine friends, or does your productivity derive from a healthy amount of conflict?
I don’t know. We go everywhere together, and do everything together. I suppose we’re best friends, but of course we fall out a bit, but not really. We’re better than we used to be.

While making A Rush of Blood to the Head, did you feel like people wanted you to fail?
No. no, no, no, not at all. That’s funny, because at first I did. And then I thought, “Yeah, but there’s loads more people that want us to succeed and want us to make an even better record.” That was a really encouraging thing. In fact, the big shift that happened for us last year is when we started focusing on the people that liked us rather than the people that didn’t. That made us much more confident and much more willing to try different things, even if we knew that some people wouldn’t like it. There’s lots of people that want us to get better.

Do you spend more time trying to prove things to yourself or to other people?
We’re constantly searching for new things and new songs. I got up a bit miserable this morning because this new song that we’re working on doesn’t sound very good. That pissed me off a bit. Like any band, though, I think you sort of feel like you’re conning everybody and so you want to get better.

When I first got the new record, I was thumbing through the liner notes and I have to admit that my first reaction was “Uh-oh” when I saw the page entitled “Politik” and the stuff about fair trade. I don’t necessarily have anything against this cause; it’s just that historically, when a band begins to use their position to support a cause other than the music itself, it becomes a bit dangerous. It’s riding that fine line between preaching and just professing a belief…
That’s not preaching at all, it’s advertising some websites. That’s fucking bollocks. I mean, look at all…[sighs]. That’s fucking bollocks, man! Look at everyone advertising Gap or Starbucks or whatever, and we’re just choosing to advertise a few websites about something that we believe in. We’re not preaching at all, we’re just fucking putting it in our album.

I just…
It fucked me up the other day—this guy went on our website apparently and was like, “Oh fuck, they’ve gone all political and I don’t like them anymore.” Just grow up, you know what I mean? We’re just saying something that we believe in. We’re not preaching. Bands get more shit for doing that than for doing advertising for fucking huge, multi-national corporations. No one has a go at Iggy Pop for advertising Virgin “upper class” Airways. And that’s [sighs and pauses]… Ah man, I don’t even want to get into that because I’m immensely proud of the fact that that’s in our album.

As someone with a social conscience, do you feel like America often acts like the bully on the playground and makes everyone else play by its rules?

You do?
Yeah, but I mean, luckily there could be worse bullies. George Bush is probably clinically insane, but it’s not like Colonel Khadaffi is in charge of America, or something. Well, not quite [laughs]. I’d rather have America as the dominant power of the world than Libya. It is frightening being from another country, when you hear George Bush giving these speeches where he seems to ignore the fact that anyone else exists outside of America, on any sort of human level. We’re just allies or enemies.

You’re still very young and you probably feel like you have an unlimited well of things to draw from creatively. Do you ever have fears that’s you’ll end up like Mick Jagger and lose your relevance because you’ll live in a bubble of rock stardom for most of your life?
I always worry about that. I don’t think we’ve got an unlimited well at all. There’s only so many times you can sing about girls not liking you, or upsetting someone. That’s why I think someone like Springsteen is amazing, ‘cause he can write stories and I think that’s an amazing skill—him and Tom Waits and Bob Dylan. And I can’t do that. We can’t do that.

You don’t consider yourself to be a storyteller?
No. Every time I try and write like that, it sounds like a bad Harry Potter imitation. No one wants to hear songs about young wizards [laughs].

Didn’t the band Yes make a career out of that sort of thing?
Exactly, no one wants to hear songs about young wizards [laughs].

What is your primary motivation for making music?
It’s just everything. I can’t explain it, but it’s just everything. Apart from family and relationships, it’s just it. It’s just it for me. I can’t imagine not having it. I mean, when someone says to me, “I’m not really into music,” to me, that’s just saying, “I’m not really into breathing.” I bet that sounds terribly, well, that does sound fucking ridiculous, but…

I know someone who doesn’t like to read, doesn’t like films and never listens to music. I always wonder what she does…
She aches.

Exactly. The favorable attention towards your band and your music has been increasing at such a rate that it must end up feeling tentative. It must give rise to this feeling of wanting to destroy it before someone else does. I think that’s why a lot of young bands turn to drugs or alcohol. What is your relationship to self-destruction?
I can’t stop eating this stuff called Cracker Jacks. Have you ever had it?

Seriously. Honestly, I can’t stop. [Pauses] I don’t know. We always liked the idea of doing two albums and then calling it a day. Then we have some new tunes an then we’re thinking, “Well, maybe we’ll try three.” I don’t know, man. These are tough questions. I’m getting the feeling that you don’t really like us.

No, no, that’s not true. I actually think you’re a really good songwriter. I guess I just don’t feel like asking you what “Coldplay” means. Maybe I caught you on a bad day.
You couldn’t have caught me on a better day. We’re playing the most amazing places—these outdoor theaters—and I’m buzzing about 24 hours a day. We’re playing better than ever and we all look all right—none of us are fat. Everything’s cool.

I once spent an entire summer evening lying under the stars—and heavily under the influence—in Joshua Tree National Park, listening to Parachutes over and over again, mostly because I couldn’t stand up. But also because it was a beautiful thing to listen to out there in the middle of everything and nowhere. I get a psychosomatic hangover just from listening to that record now.
Oh, wicked. That’s a good story. That sounds like the sort of thing our manager would do [laughs].

So, I’m sorry if I got under your skin a bit…
No, no, it’s okay. The thing about putting those things in our album—I’m proud of that. We’re not preaching at all. Celebrities always use their position to advertise things, so why shouldn’t we? We’re not selling a product. It’s something we believe in.

Some people react viciously to that kind of stuff.
Well, those people are cunts.

As far as using your position to advertise something, I think it was U2 who once said they’d only let Harley Davidson or Guinness sponsor them because those are the only two products they’d be happy to help promote.
Yeah, right. We might have talks with Cracker Jacks, but apart from that, we’re closed [laughs]. F

Issue #1 (July 2002) Getting To Know: Bright Eyes, Doves, Balligomingo, South and Breakestra
Issue #1 (July 2002) Cover Story: On the Dark Side of the Moon with Weezer
Issue #2 (September 2002) Getting To Know: Haven, Interpol, Division of Laura Lee, Jazzanova and The Cato Salsa Experience
Issue #2 (September 2002) Cover Story: Looking Back in Wonder: Björk Takes a Pause
Issue #3 (November/December 2002) Getting To Know: Röyksopp, Thievery Corporation, Clinic, Hot Hot Heat + The Pattern, Ikara Colt and The Music

This article is from FILTER Issue 3