The Best Live Act win­ners re­flect on the power of art and the aw­ful­ness of Trump.

For U2’s gui­tarist and bassist, the year has been one of cul­tural en­light­en­ment, sport­ing en­deav­our and tak­ing them­selves out of their com­fort zones. In the back­ground, though, they’ve been whit­tling their new songs down to a lean, mean 18… IN­TER­VIEW: MAT

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De­spite spending most of 2016 in the studio work­ing on their 14th al­bum, U2 have en­joyed a land­mark year. On 25 Septem­ber, they turned 40. The pass­ing of four decades since Bono, Edge, Adam Clay­ton and Larry Mullen, Jr first set up in­stru­ments in the kitchen of the drum­mer’s par­ents’ semi in Ar­tane, Dublin, hasn’t prompted much cel­e­bra­tion, though. “We’re no­to­ri­ous for segue­ing as quickly as pos­si­ble from one event to the next and not look­ing back,” says Edge. “We’re all very proud that we’re still here as a band and we still love each other but… we’d rather think about what’s next.” “Although the fact we were ac­tu­ally in Ve­gas on the day was an irony that wasn’t lost on any of us,” adds Clay­ton. They’ll hap­pily peer back into the last 12 months, though. It’s here that mem­o­ries of “Looney Tunes” elec­tions, tied-and­bound artists and the Welsh na­tional foot­ball team linger…


Edge: “A record called 99.9% by [ Mon­tre­al­raised DJ/pro­ducer] Kay­tranada has just blown me away this year. It’s so in­no­va­tive… so African. It’s hip-hop but it’s jazz, it’s so many things. Kanye’s The Life Of Pablo has been played a lot in our house too and Le­mon­ade by Bey­oncé was also a bit mind-blow­ing. It was en­cour­ag­ing to see, with the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment, mu­sic be­come po­lit­i­cally rel­e­vant again. It felt like mu­sic had be­come dor­mant po­lit­i­cally over the last few years and tech­nol­ogy had taken over. Take the Arab Spring move­ment: it was a tech­nol­ogy move­ment, it wasn’t mu­sic. If you take the top

50 on any mu­sic-stream­ing ser­vice there’s some beau­ti­fully made pop mu­sic but noth­ing with any ambition beyond just oc­cu­py­ing the air­waves – apart from Kanye and Bey­oncé. I’d like to see more like that, and within rock’n’roll, too. It’s not been a golden age for gui­tars re­cently but I don’t think they’re done. It’ll just take some fuck­ing great songs with some in­no­va­tion.”


Adam Clay­ton: “The Bruce Spring­steen book [ Born To Run] is phe­nom­e­nal. It’s a great cul­tural book that, in a strange way, tells you about Amer­ica – the parts of his story about what being an

Amer­i­can means and what Amer­ica means. It’s an in­ter­est­ing jour­ney told very, very elo­quently. Then, of course, you butt that up against the Amer­i­can elec­tion, which was just Looney Tunes. It was an in­ter­est­ing elec­tion be­cause both char­ac­ters are prob­lem­atic – I un­der­stand that – but I think there was one can­di­date who clearly un­der­stands how to run a coun­try and one can­di­date who doesn’t know how to tell the truth. To any­one who’s po­lit­i­cally savvy, the lies, mis­truths and ma­nip­u­la­tions that Don­ald Trump is in­volved in are just so ob­vi­ous. It’s a ter­ri­ble com­par­i­son to make but when you re­late what he’s promis­ing, say­ing and declar­ing to any other bad man in pol­i­tics – whether it’s a Mus­solini or a Hitler or any despot – they did ex­actly the same thing. There’s a large pro­por­tion of the elec­torate that has very lit­tle po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence but is pre­pared to be­lieve these char­ac­ters. And that’s what’s shock­ing: not that they’re not be­liev­able but that there are peo­ple who be­lieve them.”


E: “The Welsh per­for­mance at Euro 2016 was in­cred­i­ble [ Edge is from a Welsh fam­ily]. Over the years, the Wales team has of­ten been built around one star player. With Gareth Bale, you didn’t re­ally know how that was go­ing to work out. We saw a real team though. He in­spired everyone and was in­stru­men­tal in so many of their great mo­ments, but of­ten in a sup­port­ing role. That it was so suc­cess­ful [ Wales reached the semi-fi­nals of the tour­na­ment] was a les­son to any­one that it’s about the team win­ning and not about the most able in­di­vid­ual being to the front at all times. It’s sometimes about the weak­est mem­ber of the team get­ting the biggest amount of help. That was very in­spir­ing.”


AC: “I saw a won­der­ful show [ River Of Fun­da­ment] at MOCA in LA by the artist Matthew Bar­ney. He was with Björk for a while and their break-up pro­duced that ab­so­lutely great record for her [ 2015’ s Vul­ni­cura]. I think it’s his enor­mous ambition that ap­peals to me most. There’s a se­ries of works he did called ‘Draw­ing Re­straint’. He was re­stricted in some way – he was tied up or his head had limited move­ment – and it was about the ef­fort he had to make to make a mark on the paper. He re­alises that cre­at­ing art takes a cer­tain amount of ef­fort and you’ve got to find a way to get through your nat­u­ral re­sis­tance to make that mark. It made me think dif­fer­ently about the

“Wales at Euro 2016 was a les­son to any­one that it’s about the team win­ning and not about the most able in­di­vid­ual being to the front at all times.” Edge

“it took me 15 sec­onds to say yes to play­ing the sis­tine chapel. then i re­alised, ‘oh shit, i don’t do solo shows.’” Edge

en­ergy it takes and how dis­ci­plined you have to be – how, to an ex­tent, you have to be in train­ing to be cre­ative. You can’t do it from a void. I find it eas­ier to get to arts shows than gigs these days, prob­a­bly be­cause they’re in the af­ter­noon.”


E: “We were re­hears­ing in Bur­bank in Septem­ber and who walked in? Macca. He was in the next room pre­par­ing for his Desert Trip shows. We played him a cou­ple of tunes and then he gave us a pri­vate per­for­mance of Day Trip­per. Come on! In terms of being close to the flame, that’s about as good as it gets! He’s the one we all mea­sure our songs against and we’re very honoured by his en­thu­si­asm for what we do. Grow­ing up, watch­ing A Hard Day’s Night ev­ery Christ­mas was the only rock’n’roll avail­able. It re­ally did in­spire me to pick up a gui­tar and get into mu­sic. I don’t know how he’s been able to main­tain it, but his voice is im­mac­u­late and he’s singing in the same key as he was in the early days. It’s re­mark­able and in­spir­ing that he’s still play­ing these songs. The songs are the thing. It re­in­forces ev­ery­thing we’ve been feel­ing over the last few al­bums: the most im­por­tant thing is that your tunes and lyrics are bulletproof. His are more bulletproof than any­thing, ever.”


AC: “I in­ter­viewed Wil­liam Eg­gle­ston, the amazing, pi­o­neer­ing colour pho­tog­ra­pher for a magazine fea­ture. Along­side his pho­tog­ra­phy, he’s in­ter­est­ing be­cause he’s a real mu­sic guy, he’s a self-taught pi­anist, loves clas­si­cal mu­sic, and he’s got a mu­si­cian’s heart. He can’t hear bass any more, though [ Eg­gle­ston is 77]. It’s very, very tragic be­cause he be­lieves hear­ing bass is very ther­a­peu­tic and an es­sen­tial part of life. Fun­nily enough, it may be some­thing that all bass play­ers are des­tined to­wards. I now have ear dam­age, not too bad, but I’m los­ing fre­quen­cies.”


E: “I was go­ing to Cel­lu­lar Hori­zons [ a cel­lu­lar ther­apy con­fer­ence at the Vat­i­can in April] any­way be­cause I’m fas­ci­nated with cut­ting-edge medicine and sci­en­tific break­throughs. I’m part of the An­gio­gen­e­sis Foun­da­tion, which is ded­i­cated to break­throughs in medicine. When they said, ‘Would you mind play­ing in the Sis­tine Chapel?’ I thought se­ri­ously hard for at least 15 sec­onds. Then I re­alised, ‘Oh shit, I don’t do solo shows!’ It’s al­ways good to be out of the com­fort zone, though, and I was very happy with the show [ he per­formed Leonard Co­hen’s If It Be Your Will and U2’s Walk On, Or­di­nary Love and Yah­weh]. I ac­tu­ally had seven singers with me from Mu­sic Gen­er­a­tion, an ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme in Ire­land that’s giv­ing ac­cess to mu­sic tu­ition to 26,000 kids who wouldn’t oth­er­wise have it. It was just a jaw-drop­ping mo­ment for them to be in this build­ing. I was to­tally blown away by the acous­tics, I had to change ev­ery­thing at the last minute and slow things down to take ac­count of the un­be­liev­able re­verb time. It felt like one note lasted sev­eral min­utes.”

For for­ward-fac­ing U2, at­ten­tion now re­turns to fin­ish­ing the al­bum. They started with 50 songs, whit­tling them down to 18. Los­ing more is prov­ing tricky. “Larry wants to keep the ones with the best drum beats, Adam wants the ones with the best bass parts. For Bono it’s about the lyrics,” ex­plains Edge. Af­ter 40 years, he’s con­fi­dent they’ll reach a con­sen­sus. “Of course,” he says, “we all know it’ll be the ones with the best gui­tar parts.”

Play­ing pol­i­tics: U2 mock US pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump at a gig in Las Ve­gas, Septem­ber 2016.

He shoots, he scores: Wales at Euro 2016 (Gareth Bale, pic­tured) im­pressed Edge; (be­low) Happy Birthday to us! U2 ‘cel­e­brate’ 40 years in the game.

“Swap­sies?” Edge is greeted by Ir­ish Bishop Paul Tighe, ahead of his solo gig at the Vat­i­can, April 2016.

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