What’s left to learn about U2 in 2014? Plenty, as it turns out – especially if you get a few days worth of intimate access to the band in three different countries. Here’s the best of what didn’t fit into the cover story, from the making of the new album to the secrets of Adam Clayton’s jewelry.
It’s not unimaginable that U2 could still be around when the band members are in their 70s.
“I don’t know – if we’re writing songs as good as these ones,” says Bono. “I mean, I saw Leonard Cohen play Dublin, and he said, “The last time I was out on the road, I was 60. Just a kid with a crazy dream!'” Adds Adam Clayton, “When you’re working up to 50, you think, ‘Oh, maybe there will be some time where we can kick back and it can be slower, and we can enjoy life a bit.’ And then when you kind of cross over the 50 mark, your thinking kind of goes, ‘Oh, why would you want to stop? This is actually the best bit. We’re really enjoying this, let’s keep going.’ And that’s kind of odd, but I guess there’s a reason why people like Paul McCartney and Elton John are still playing shows and making records.”
After spending years on Songs of Innocence, they recorded the acoustic version that’s on the deluxe edition in about a week.
For the band, it was a test of whether they’d met their goal for the album: writing songs that would work in the barest arrangements. “We had to go in and test the theory,” says Bono. “I saw the Edge with his head in his hands, and he said, ‘It’s taken us three years to finish this album, and you’re saying we have to do another album in a week?’ I said, ‘Edge, all the work over the last three years is going to mean that we can do it.” He just went ‘Ah!'” And he said, ‘We can do it in a week. Will we put it out? We don’t have to. Let’s just try.’ It got pretty frenetic at the end.”
The Edge doesn’t think rock is dead.
“I think it goes in cycles, honestly, and I think that we’ve just been through a particularly low cycle point for guitar-based music, and electronic dance music has been kind of the focus. But I think it’s about doing something fresh and novel, and the problem is that with a lot of guitar-based music, the songwriting has not been great, and it’s not particularly fresh, you know? I think the songwriting has been better in electronic dance music, weirdly enough. So inevitably I think people have drifted that direction. So I don’t fear for guitar-based music long-term, I just think we need some better songs out there. And I like my music to be a little bit more defiant. There’s not a lot of defiance right now. It’s gone very mild and meek. It’s nice to shake things up a little bit. Punk rock was not mild and meek, it was pretty in-your-face defiant.”
Songs of Innocence had some very different potential running orders.
Says Bono, “It used to start with ‘This Is Where You Can Reach Me,’ which was always supposed to be the first song, and then ‘Raised By Wolves.’ And the reason we changed … we put the songs first, is we thought, “Well, if we’re going to have 5,000,000 people perhaps check us out, a really long intro is probably not a good idea. Let’s put the songs first, like on The Joshua Tree.”
Bono loves the band Future Islands.
“Have you seen them?” he asks. “That song, ‘Seasons?’ A miracle, that is.”