U2’s Last Word on ‘Innocence’ iTunes Release
“Our drug of choice at the moment is songwriting, and trying to take U2’s to the next level”
What have you learned about the digital era – particularly the value people now put on music. And the way they listen to it and care for it – from the iTunes release and now this survey? How will they affect the way you release new music in the future?
The Edge: We’re in the dawn of it. The thing it’s easy to forget when you live in modern times is that they’re modern for about another 30 seconds. . .more so than ever. In a few years we’ll look back on this time like we look back on VCRs and rotary phones. When the radio arrived, everyone thought that was the end of sheet music. I think music has become devalued and disposable in the commercial world – but not to music lovers or the people who make it, and not all big tech either. Apple – and U2 – fight hard for artists to be paid. In the future, technology has to be a better servant of music, and not its slave master. We can take advantage of the benefits of technology, and we do, but it’s also beholden on those of us who have been so well rewarded by music to figure out a way to preserve the ability for artists to create and thrive.
The results suggest that Songs of Innocence has had a quiet staying power. Were you surprised by that, given the blowback that followed the iTunes giveaway? Specifically the fact that many people did not delete the album and, in fact, came back to it after the furor died down?
Bono: It sounds boring, but our drug of choice at the moment is songwriting, and trying to take U2’s to the next level. I know craft can be a dangerous thing. . .but we have been a bit prone to relying on the magic in the room when we play together. A special guitar part, a strong thought or mood. But as you get older you get harder on yourself, looking for eternal melodies, searching for a coherence to the lyric. . .There’s a nagging question in your head, which demands an answer you have to find in a song. Why would somebody else be bothered to listen? Leonard Cohen calls it “the tower of song.” Which suggests removal from the street, from the life of being a passer-by yourself. These songs took a while, but I know they have staying power. I’m still holding on to some of them quite tightly myself.
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