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U2 Interviews

Dazed and Confused (part III: The Edge)
May 1997

Dazed & Confused: So, Edge, did the whole concept for Pop begin with that moustache?

The Edge: Ha Ha! No, y'know, it was the shoes. It's always the shoes, I find. I think they're very important. Once you get the shoes right I find that the rest soon falls very quickly into place

D&C: But was there ever a point where you all sat down and said, right, we're going to make an album that looks and sounds like this?

Edge: No, the title came to us very late in the recording. What happened was that it finally dawned on us that we were making a very contemporary record, one that was influenced by a lot of music that was happening around us, and that was the first time that's ever happened to us. We didn't really go in there with that in mind, it just happened. But we did want to make a vital record, one with a kind of energy. It would have been easy for us to write an album with 12 ballads on it, because we write them very easily. But we really wanted to make an up record. With us it's not a question of deciding what to do and painstakingly carrying it out, it's more of having a vague idea what to do and just doing whatever turns us on and what blows our minds and then afterwards trying to figure out quite what we've got

D&C: I know 'Pop' has only been out a couple of weeks but have you had the time to start regretting anything about it yet?

Edge: Yeah. I'd love to remix 'Last Night On Earth' to be honest, because that was mixed in about half an hour on the final morning before we had to take the tapes to New York, and we were still working on the lyric the day before. Bono and I were singing it to each other at 4am and it was mixed by 6am and everyone was completely wasted, so I think there's probably a better mix of it in there somewhere. I mean, the first thing we actually finished was 'Discotheque' and I think in a weird way that was why we released it as a single. But it's not really representative. If I had the chance to sit back for a couple of weeks I think I'd have remixed that too made it a bit more empty. It's a bit full on, y'know which is what I love about it, it's got vitality, and a great lyric, and a great tune I'd just have made it sound a little less dense.

D&C: It's been a long while since a 'proper' U2 studio album. Were you determined not make some sort of artistic statement with Pop?

Edge: Well, we were aware that this was a U2 record that wasn't an experimental record. It was a case of, 'Right, this is gonna define where we're gonna be for the next few years,' which was something we didn't have to face with Zooropa or Passengers. With Zooropa we felt we could be less careful and take more chances than we had for a long while. That was what was different this time around, because it's the first serious U2 record since Achtung Baby. We were aware of that but we tried not to think about itIf we did we could have started to get really paranoid. The thing is, we missed our first deadline for completing the album and that's never happened to us before. Achtung Baby took nine months in the studio and three months demo-ing and Joshua Tree was the same, but it wasn't like that this time, and there was a moment where we thought 'God, what if we don't finish in time for an early '97 release and have to cancel the tour?' Things were looking bad for a while there but, y'know, that was just a moment.

D&C: Did your cookery lessons help ease the strain of recording?

Edge: Ha Ha! That was a joke! That is just the funniest thing. What happened was that Flood and Howie B. came back from an interview with Spin magazine and they said that they'd had a great time, laying it on really thick and telling the interviewer that I took cookery lessons during the recording, and when the magazine came out it turned out that she'd taken them completely at face value which was bizarre.

D&C: Do you feel very conscious of having returned to a commercial market after two albums, where the only restrictions you had were self-imposed?

Edge: A little. Passengers was a record where we could try something different, where we didn't have to worry about what we did. The idea then was to give Brian (Eno) the compliment of making a record his way, after years of us using him to make a record our way. We wanted it to be a joint record. We were big fans of the record he made with Harold Budd and we wanted to achieve the same sort of vibe.Plus here was an opportunity where we didn't even have to write songs. And I'm a great fan of songs but it was like, well, if a few turn up along the way then great, and 'Miss Sarajevo' did turn up out of an improvisation, and we realised it could become a great song, but it all happened very naturally. And having that luxury was quite a relief after Achtung Baby and, in retrospect after Pop, where you really are sweating blood to get the songs to sound the way you want them to. It does get tense, toothe joy of Passengers was that it was fun to the end: we were just having a laugh.

D&C: Quite a contrast with Pop, then?

Edge: Yeah, Pop is a very disciplined record. The song structures and arrangements are really classic: it's just the sounds and the mixes that sound odd, and I think that combination is what great pop music is all about. All my favourite records are like that: you just can't tell how they're put together. 'Strawberry Fields Forever' for example, it's one of my all-time favourites, but it sounds so bizarre, even though it's such a classic song. That's what interests me, that feeling you get when you don't know where to begin in finding out where a song came from

D&C: Some people see your visual illusions as being less beguiling is the way you look from album to album as much of a device?

Edge: Y'know, it's hard to know how people react to what we look like at a certain given moment. But y'know. We try to look okay and make some decent videos [laughs]

D&C: How do you look back on the deadly earnest U2 of the '80s these days?

Edge: I think we're just better at being a group now. I don't think we've changed that much over the years. The themes of the songs on the new record are the same, they're just not so in your face, they're a bit more subtle. Before I think people loved the music for its rawness and its sincerity and its naivete, but more recently I think they like it because we're getting better at disguising it.. [laughs] But sometimes I think, 'Fuck, y'know, let's tell it like it is.' When I listen to those old records sometimes I think, we were so in your face with it, and I respect that. But at the same time I also think, I don't want to do that again.

D&C: Why, do you think, as a group, you were so hard on yourselves?

Edge: Well coming out of Dublin, y'know, at the time there was nothing there, only a couple of bands had ever managed to make it out of there at all. That made us a bit defensive, and a bit tense, and a bit intense. Now it's like we just don't care so much, y'know? [laughs]

D&C: By the sound of it, 'Pop-Mart' is going to be a pretty OTT affair

Edge: We see it (the tour) as an opportunity to do something that's never been done before. In terms of stadium shows, at least. I think that if you can't think of an original way of doing them then you shouldn't do them at all, to be honest. They're pretty strange events and I've been to a few that really haven't been that interesting. But I've been to see The Stones and it worked, and when someone pulls it off, then this kind of show can be pretty far out. The same goes with us: if it all works then, y'know, it could be amazing. And if it fails it'll be a heroic failure, and if it does go wrong, it won't be for lack of effort it'll be a spectacular failure!

D&C: How will you approach the old songs?

Edge: We're trying to think of new ways to do them, different ways. We're almost gonna approach them as if we were doing them as cover versions.

D&C: Do you feel, once the tour gets rolling, you'll become your alter-ego? Do you adopt a different personality as the tour gets nearer?

Edge: No, I always desperately try to avoid that. It's hard when there's 600 fans outside the hotel or the venue, then you can't speak to people properly, but when you get one-to-one with them you can always have a conversation. I'd hate to be seen by anyone as being on some kind of pedestal.

D&C: You've pretty much written the blueprint on rock star fame. Is there anyone left out there who still calls you Dave?

Edge: [laughs] No! Not even my mum at this point: we just call her Mrs. Edge.

Dazed and Confused part IV

U2 Interviews overview