Thursday, June 30, 2005

U2 in USA Today

There's a longish article about U2 in USA Today. Here's some of it:

"I wince a little at the term 'veteran band,' because we're releasing records as popular and as creatively alive as anything we've ever done," says bassist Adam Clayton, 45. "We still get videos played on MTV. Rolling Stone, which tends to put half-naked ladies on its cover, had a very successful issue with U2 on the cover. (Related story: U2 leads the pack in concert tickets) "These things are not the industry norms. These things make people scratch their heads. It's humbling to be in that position." [He certainly sounds humbled. -jh]

"We are still hungry," says drummer Larry Mullen Jr., 43. "We want the cake, the cream on it, cherries and jam and anything else you have. This is not about playing for our original audience. We are nothing like the Grateful Dead. It's about finding a new audience without disenfranchising the old one."

"We were proud to be inducted [to the rock and roll hall of fame], but our focus is not on the past," says guitarist Edge, who turns 44 in August. "It's an honor, but it's slightly off-kilter at this moment. We're not ready to sit back and reminisce about the golden years. We're determined to still be making great music in this millennium."

Chris Martin of Coldplay, the biggest of many acts shaped by U2, says the band is a career model. "I don't know how they do it," he says. "Just the solidarity of the gang of U2 is really inspiring. There are great lessons there. So many bands I've loved have tripped. They sacked the drummer or did some crazy bad commercial or turned against their audience."

"Early on, we decided to work as a democracy, and we use our votes very wisely," Mullen says. "It's a very transparent process, and it can be brutal, but we get the best out of everyone that way. We made a commitment to each other, to making music that we believe in. Today, it's about ego for a lot of bands: 'I wrote this part' or 'I want a bigger dressing room,' the most childish things you've heard in your life, never musical differences."

Uncharted waters don't necessarily portend rough seas, says Bono, who isn't in a panic over the industry's youth obsession. "It would not surprise me if this album, depending on which songs catch fire, or our next album will be by far our most popular," he says, noting that many of pop's best sellers are adult-oriented. "The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Shania Twain. They made records for people ignored by the music business, which spends 80% of its marketing budget on 15- to 25-year-olds. We have an enormous audience potentially, if we're up to the task."

"If you're interested in pop culture and what's going on, the music just naturally will be relevant," Bono says. "We still make music for virgins.

"I'm always trying to bring myself back to that moment when Bob Dylan and John Lennon woke me up. I'm delighted MTV is taking a risk. They're saying, 'We think U2 can still communicate with our audience.' Even 14-year-olds don't want a diet of candy all the time."

Should its clout and stature start to slide, U2 won't stick around as a comeback cliché, thank you. Says Mullen: "We will put the bullet in our own head before anyone else does."
That's not very Advanced of Mr. Mullen, but I like how frankly U2 talk about building and keeping an audience. Most bands say, "We just want to make music, and we don't mind if a lot of people don't want to buy our records." For most, that is a complete lie, of course, so it's nice to hear U2 tell the truth. This is nothing new for them, of course, but it's still nice.

No comments: