HE'S THE EVER-URBANE architect of U2's prowling basslines and, courtesy of Achtung Baby's sleeve art, the only member of U2 whose "old chap" is in the public domain. But Adam Clayton also has a plausible explanation of No Line On The Horizon's tortured delivery and that's not all. Did Brian Eno really throw "the rattle out of the pram"? And what did Bono get Adam for Christmas? In the director's cut of an interview printed in this month's MOJO magazine, all will be revealed... Your host: Keith Cameron.
It's never a smooth process, finishing off a U2 record, and this seems to have been no exception. Was there much chopping and changing down to the wire?
There was sort of an 11th hour scenario, because we got caught up on the running order towards the end, primarily because we'd all come to the conclusion that How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb had suffered by having a compromised running order, and we didn't want to make the same mistake this time around. So, we pulled White As Snow out of the 'maybe' file, and that seemed to balance some of the up-tempo rock tunes. It gave the listener a break.
We had another track called Every Breaking Wave which, if we'd included it, would have made for a very long record. Anyway, we decided that song just hadn't reached its potential, so, we put it back in the cupboard for the next record (laughs)."
Before Christmas, I heard a track called Winter. Has that become something else?
That was possibly going to be on the record and possibly part of a soundtrack for an upcoming movie and it didn't make the record but may still be part of that movie soundtrack. [NB since this interview Winter has been confirmed as part of Anton Corbijn's 'visual accompaniment' to No Line On The Horizon, entitled Linear, included in the Deluxe package of the album]
It sounds like you've got a lot of material. Could you release another album quite soon?
Well we could, and it's part of our plan to not leave it too long. Once the tour is up and running there would be no reason why we couldn't find a week and go into the studio and work on things. It sort of depends on Bono and Edge's commitments; they've got a Spiderman project in the works too (laughs).
So, Spiderman permitting, you could be working on the new album during the next tour?
It would be nice to continue working in the same way. Instead of doing this record in one solid bloc, we sort of did two-week sessions with Brian and Dan, as writing collaborators, and out of those sessions came a lot of really good raw material. But it wasn't until April of last year that we went into the studio and said, Look, no one gets out of here until it's finished.
The breaks meant we could come back to things. And, I think that helped everyone. I think it worked really well for Edge from a compositional point of view; he really got to look at how the album hung together and to see what was missing musically. I think it enabled Bono to complete and fully resolve some of the lyrics.
Originally we were looking at a deadline of last August but I think by taking a break instead of trying to push through we were able to come back to it and to pull in some new material. For instance, I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight came out of that period and Every Breaking Wave came out of that period, even though the last one didn't get onto the album. It just made for a really good record and I think, from Larry's and my own point of view, it gave us a chance to live with the material and to really have an influence on how it was finished.
So I think the breaks stopped us getting snow-blindness. I also think there was a fundamental shift in the band, in that the material became much more internalised. It wasn't striving to reach out to connect to people; it became much more about inviting people to come in and be part of the experience.
That's interesting. I would say the last two records broadly fell into the 'striving to connect' category...
I think that was the end of a period. When we were coming through the '90s and we were playing a lot of big outdoor shows, we lost some connection with ourselves because it was about reaching out to those really big places and that was how we probably conceived a lot of that music. All That You Can't Leave Behind was the beginning of the shift back, as we knew we were playing relatively small places, but they were much more musical experiences. I think it took the last two records for the band to value what we had together, to value our DNA. I think this record capitalizes and makes the most of that experience.
Did Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno's writing credits make them try harder?
I don't know about try harder but I think they were happier! [laughs] I think they both bring a phenomenal commitment to a U2 project in very different ways. Danny really does stay in the trenches and is the last one to leave the building. Brian tends to be the first man in in the morning, working on things that will influence the attitude of people, get them thinking in creative and inspired ways.
Long, creative relationships are unusual in rock'n'roll, but the mileage and the knowledge and the understanding from having been around with them for 20 years makes them a pleasure to work with. And they haven't really changed much. They're still questioning in the same way.
Who has the final say?
I think it is us. And it's probably swung more that way. We've moved into a way of working where Brian will commit to a two or a three-week period then he goes off and does his other projects. And the same would be true of Danny [Lanois]. But there'll be other periods when we're just on our own.
It does come down to us ultimately. It used to infuriate Brian to the point of throwing the rattle out of the pram. Now I think he observes it and I think he has a healthy respect for it. Towards the end of the record, when we were in Olympic [Studios, South West London], he had a commitment to finish the record I haven't seen in him for a long time. He was there and really fighting for the record. Like a true midwife would be.