Interview: Doug Ellin, Creator of HBO’s ‘Entourage’

July 25, 2005


By Devlin Smith, Contributing Editor
2005.07

Doug Ellin may be one of the luckiest U2 fans around. Not only did he spend his April 6th birthday at the band’s Staples Center concert, he also got to film an episode of his critically-acclaimed television show "Entourage" there.

The Long Island native created the show about a young actor and his three buddies living in Hollywood based on actor Mark Wahlberg’s similar life story. "Mark Wahlberg has a group of friends that he lives out here with and he wanted to take a fictional look at them," Ellin explains about the show now in its second season on HBO.

The idea for the upcoming ninth episode, scheduled to debut on July 31st, came about inadvertently, according to Ellin. Originally, the episode was supposed the feature the four main characters of Vincent (Adrian Grenier), Eric (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Drama (Kevin Dillon) going to a baseball game but as filming coincided with both Ellin’s birthday and the Los Angeles U2 shows, the creator joked that maybe filming should take place at the concert instead.

Calls were placed to Universal Records who passed along the request to the band. The band, who like the show, agreed, as long as filming didn’t at all interrupt the concert experience of the fans filling the Staples Center on April 6th. "The band was very hypersensitive to make sure that we weren’t interfering with their fans that night," Ellin said. To accommodate that, cameras filming the actors in the ellipse were set up around the arena and not allowed on the floor.

Actual filming only took place during the first two songs, "Vertigo" and "City of Blinding Lights," freeing up cast and crew to enjoy the rest of the concert without having to worry about work. Everyone from the show was excited to be at the concert, particularly Irish-American cast members Connolly and Dillon, that it probably can’t be considered "work."

To make sure that filming would go a smoothly as possible, Ellin and members of the crew attended an Anaheim Pond show a few days before. At that show, as reported in a recent issue of People magazine, costar Jeremy Piven, who plays jubilantly aggressive agent Ari Gold, got to hang out backstage with Bono, a meeting that may be responsible for one of Ellin’s biggest birthday highlights.

"Right before the show we got a call that Bono would say something that I wrote to the guys from the stage," Ellin said. "It’s not much better than if Bono had said happy birthday to me himself."

The "Entourage" boys end up at the U2 concert because it’s Drama’s birthday and all he wants to do is see U2. Ari pulls some strings and gets the quartet into the ellipse. Though he and the aptly named Drama both celebrated their birthdays with U2, Ellin insists the similarities end there. "It was my birthday but how Drama would do it is not how I would do it," he said. "He’s going to concert carrying his Irish flag and stuff, I definitely wouldn’t do that.”

Ellin, who lists U2 and Bruce Springsteen as the only acts he must see live, did pretty much have the time of his life getting this episode made—he got to attend soundcheck, Bono said one of his lines from the stage and he won the ellipse lottery.

Originally, an ellipse pass was supposed to be set aside for Ellin so he could direct his actors but on the day of the show, there was no pass for him. He did, however, have his own GA ticket. Somewhat dejected about not being able to hang out with the actors in the floor’s inner sanctum, Ellin was shocked when his ticket was scanned and chosen a "winner."

All in all, Ellin calls the experience a "dream come true." Not only was he filming an episode of his show at the concert of his favorite band and in the ellipse, his wife was also there to witness the entire thing with a big smile on her face.

The episode, called "I Love U2," isn’t "Entourage’s" only U2-related moment. "All Because of You" has been used in the show’s advertisements this season, something else that can be credited to Ellin. "Again, that was me," said the creator, who went to his first U2 concert at around age 10 back in the "War" days.

While the commercials and the episode may be it for "Entourage" and U2 for a while, Ellin, who’s never met anyone from the band, still has much U2 in his future. He has tickets for U2′s Staples Center shows in November.

For more information on "Entourage," visit the official HBO site.

Many thanks to Doug Ellin, Diego Aldana, Tonya Owens and Dana Scroggins for their help with this article.

A Look at: Feeder*

July 18, 2005


By Kenneth J. MacLellan
2005.07

Any act taking its name from a goldfish should not expect to succeed in the realm of rock ‘n’ roll but one band has slipped through this net of certain failure—Feeder.

Feeder formed in 1992 when Grant Nicholas—vocalist, guitarist and owner of said goldfish—gave up his job as delivery man for a London recording studio to concentrate on bringing his own music to life. He called upon the services of drummer and old friend Jon Lee, with whom he had played in a succession of unsuccessful bands back in their native Wales. Lee joined Nicholas in London and after a series of ads and auditions, Japanese bassist Taka Hirose completed the line-up in 1995.

The first Feeder release came barely a year later, a mini-album called "Swim." To say it was out of step from the music scene at that time is an understatement. While the dregs of Britpop looted riffs from the dusty cupboards of Cream and The Kinks, these six tracks mixed the heavy, textured sounds of American alt-rock with melody.

Predictably, "Swim" and its full-length follow-up "Polythene" were largely ignored by radio and the trendier British music press. However, the British rock scene took the band to its heart and “Polythene” was awarded Album of the Year 1997 by the writers of Metal Hammer magazine.

Feeder was more than just an albums band, though, and the quality of early singles such as "Suffocate" and "High" hinted that Feeder would be "Top of the Pops" regulars before too long.

The release of 1999′s "Yesterday Went Too Soon" saw the band move close to the cusp of the mainstream. Artistically, it was a logical progression for Feeder, less derivative than "Polythene" but no less engaging. Reaction to the album was enthusiastic: it featured in numerous end-of-year best album polls, entered the album chart at No. 7 and spawned a trio of Top 40 hit singles in "Day In Day Out," "Insomnia," and "Yesterday Went Too Soon."

The band had worked hard to make this success happen, though, touring extensively. And after the festivals, the headline shows across Europe and the United States and the support slots with REM, Feeder rounded off the year in style by performing with the Super Furry Animals and Manic Street Preachers at the Dec 31st spectacular at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

By contrast, 2000 was a quiet year for Feeder, spent out of the limelight, recuperating and recording. It returned the following year to a changed musical climate, the Strokes and the White Stripes in vogue and conventional wisdom suggesting that any band not decked out in Converse and tight jeans might struggle, especially one still seeking to establish itself. But Feeder being Feeder, the band disproved conventions with "Echo Park," its first British Top Five album.

The album did place more emphasis on pop more than its predecessors but still rocked and few long-term fans were disappointed. The decision to refine its sound was a good one: lead single "Buck Rogers" was also a bona fide hit, indicating that Feeder’s fan base was swelling beyond the borders of the indie rock fraternity, while "Seven Days In The Sun" became an alternative summer anthem.

Feeder was one haircut away one being proper rock stars, something that the ever-humble Nicholas took in his stride, as a conversation with the BBC revealed, "I don’t really see myself as a rock star, but I suppose it’s better than not being a rock star."

They say that triumph and adversity should be treated equally. This is certainly true in Feeder’s case. Its reaction to the suicide of drummer Jon Lee in January 2002 was characteristically understated yet frank and compassionate. The remaining band members strove to ensure that the privacy of Lee’s family was respected, and that his passing was marked with dignity: he was not a tortured artist, they said, simply someone who could not escape the grip of depression, an illness that can afflict anyone in any walk of life.

Understandably, Lee’s death was met with great shock and sadness. A gregarious, gifted musician with a lust for life, he was loved by family, friends and fans alike. Tributes were plentiful and as well as posting numerous messages of support and sympathy, fans recorded an album’s worth of Feeder cover versions.

For a while it was unclear whether Feeder would continue but after consultation with Lee’s family, the band opted to go on and face down the darkness with grace and great music, like fellow Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers did after the disappearance of guitarist and lyricist Richey James. While Jon Lee could not be replaced, Feeder did require a drummer, and Mark Richardson, formerly of Skunk Anansie, filled the space behind the kit.

Although most of Feeder’s next album "Comfort in Sound" was written prior to Lee’s death, it was hard to disassociate the music from the circumstances in which it was recorded. The album was more rounded and assured than "Echo Park," the bristling punk-pop of "Buck Rogers" replaced with a brace of soaring anthems in "Come Back Around" and "Just the Way I’m Feeling," and delicate, reflective balladry. Though the title is an accurate reflection of the record’s content, at no point did it lapse into mawkish sentimentality. "Comfort in Sound" was well received by critics and fans alike, not out of sympathy, simply on merit.

"Pushing the Senses," Feeder’s current album, is a continuation of the themes and styles of its predecessor. Melody and emotion again take precedent over riffs and effects. Lyrically, the death of Jon Lee is never broached explicitly, but its specter is evident, most notably on the single "Tumble and Fall," "Pain on Pain" and the title track. But despite reflecting on the past and hard times, Feeder’s fifth LP also looks to the future, and does so positively.

This outlook, and its quality of song, has helped cement Feeder’s position as one of Britain’s most cherished bands and make it an ideal choice to support U2 this summer.

When asked about these dates with U2, Nicholas told Interference.com, "U2 have been an inspiration over the years and it’s an honour to be sharing the same stage." If it continues to endure, evolve and improve, and survive against the tides of fashion and misfortune, it won’t be long before the next generation of bands say the same of Feeder.

For more information on Feeder, visit http://www.feederweb.com.

Review: ‘On the Record’ … by Guy Oseary*

July 18, 2005


By Devlin Smith, Contributing Editor
2005.07

"So you want to be a rock ‘n’ roll star?" went the old Byrds song. The band’s advice: get a loud guitar, some tight pants and you’ll be on your way. Of course, actually making it in the rock business, whether on stage or behind the scenes, takes a little more than that.

As a teenager, Guy Oseary, chairman of Maverick Records, wanted to know how to break into the music business. He read books to get the answers but found that most of them didn’t give him the answers he was seeking. Now, after getting the success and making the connections, Oseary has written his own book for all the kids like him who want to know how to get their own big break.

"On the Record: Over 150 of the Most Talented People in Music Share the Secrets of Their Success" features Q&As with a variety of the best known and most successful artists, producers, songwriters, managers, label executives, attorneys, and television and film people working in music today. Included among this impressive lot are Bono, Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, producers Daniel Lanois and Nellee Hooper, and U2 manager Paul McGuinness.

Each participant answered the same 12 questions, hoping to give fans and aspiring rock legends an inside look on what it takes to shake up the music business. The questions are:

*Did you have a mentor or someone who inspired you? If so, what have you learned from that person?
*What was your very first job in the music industry, and how did you get it?
*What was your first big break? The first great thing that ever happened to you…
*What elements of your job make you want to go to work every day?
*What qualities most helped you get to where you are today?
*If you knew everything at the beginning of your career that you know now, what would you have done differently?
*What is your greatest lesson learned?
*What are some of your favorite albums?
*Did you have any posters on your bedroom walls as a kid? Of whom?
*What are some great shows you’ve seen?
*What are some of your favorite songs?
*List up to 10 things that could be helpful to someone breaking into the business.

The majority of this project’s participants were incredibly forthright and upfront in answering these questions, talking with great passion and honesty about the profession they’re in and the mistakes they’ve made. The advice many of them have is to manage the balance between art and commerce, both having to peacefully coexist in order for someone to truly exceed in business. That, according to Bono, is one of the great lessons Paul McGuinness imparted to the young U2. "Another thing Paul McGuinness hardwired into your thinking was a sense of taking responsibility for the commerce as well as the art," Bono said. "If you value your gift, you should know how to bodyguard it."

Perhaps the greatest lesson offered by the luminaries in this book, though, can best be summed up by the lyrics of another great ’60s song—"All You Need is Love." As cliché as it sounds, all the truly successful people featured in this book have love—love for their craft, love for their genre, love for their audience and love for the people they work with. "The problem is everyone is in such a hurry and the business of music takes over from the music itself," Blackwell said. "But if you really love the music, if you really enjoy the music, then patience is not a problem to have, because you’re enjoying the whole process of what is happening; you’re not in a big hurry to get on to the next thing."

Whether you want to be an artist, a manager, a record producer, work in A&R or direct music videos, it seems that to make it in the music business, love really is all you need.

U2 for Neophytes, Part Two*

July 11, 2005

By Teresa Rivas
2005.07

While some critics wished Bono a speedy recovery from adolescence after the band’s debut and sophomoric albums, 1983′s "War" soon made clear the fact that despite (or perhaps because of) all their youthful hubris, U2′s members could excel at their craft. The first album to be hailed by critics as a masterpiece, its success proved vatic of their crisp and unrelenting sound that would resonate throughout the decade. Live excerpts from three shows during the War Tour led to the release of "Under a Blood Red Sky" in the fall. Many fans speculate that U2 creates albums in trilogies—"Boy," "October" and "War" being the first trifecta. The band’s next album, "The Unforgettable Fire" would begin the "American trilogy" along with "The Joshua Tree" and "Rattle and Hum." This is why many people believe that "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" will not be the band’s last album because the new millennium is lacking a third work.

For many fans, 1984’s "The Unforgettable Fire" features the band they began to identify. "Pride (In the Name of Love)," a song honoring Martin Luther King Jr. (Bono did not hear the news until the day after the assassination, April 4) moved beyond simple, blind fury to a more hopeful, though no less angry, political plateau. It was this U2, decrying the loss of innocent life and the power of change, that solidified its identity as conscientious advocates of the ’80s, whose enthusiasm was matched only by its outrage.

But it was not just wide-eyed idealism that made up "UF," the influx of heroin to Dublin left its broken legacy for the band to see, and, as on "War" before it and "The Joshua Tree" to follow, drug use and its desperate effects found the basis for some of the songs.

Band Aid would follow the next year, complete with Bono scaling the stage trusses and his white flag. It is the year he and his high school sweetheart and wife of three years, Ali Hewson, spent time as aid workers in Ethiopia, giving him a sense of purpose in the world deeper than music—Bono the crusader was born.

Then in 1987, everything changed. "The Joshua Tree" was born and spread its inexorable roots into rock music everywhere, and U2′s legend was sealed. In the span of four explosive beginning tracks, Bono learned how to run, how to stare sultrily into the camera, the best hand in poker, and fans found what they were looking for. This was the year the band appeared on the cover of Time magazine, that they recorded the video for "Where the Streets Have No Name" on top of a Los Angeles liquor store, that the UK saw its fastest selling album in history. The world would never be the same.

U2 had gotten the job of biggest band in the world, but it is a dangerous place. A San Francisco band released an album called "U2," which masqueraded as legitimate album but was in fact a remix of "Where the Streets Have No Name," spliced with clips from a conversation Bono had with Casey Kasem that the band claimed showed U2′s willingness to be a corporate band. A man in the United States murdered an actress and claimed that he was inspired by "Exit," a song about a psychotic losing control. (Not that U2 is a band to back down, the opening track to their next album is a cover of "Helter Skelter," the song Charles Manson "stole from the Beatles," claiming it gave him instructions to kill.)

U2′s exploration of American culture and rhythm inspired "JT" but can more expressly felt in "Rattle and Hum," a soulful collection of raspy live tracks and experimental blues. The Edge would have his first solo track, "Van Diemen’s Land" (he shared lead vocals with Bono on "War’s" "Seconds") and Bono would channel the spirit of both John Lennon and Bon Dylan. In "God Part II" he tried to capture the heart and contradiction of the late Beatles songsmith, and succeeded so convincingly that when he actually met Yoko Ono she complimented him on doing a good cover of Lennon’s song. Bono took it as a compliment, but was grateful she didn’t want royalties. "Love Rescue Me" is a song that Bob Dylan delivered in one of Bono’s dreams. Bleary-eyed, he jotted down the seminal lyrics to the tune in the middle of the night. Serendipitously, Bono was invited to visit the legendary singer later that day and, as proof that dreams can come true, he wound up finishing the song with the man who brought it to him.

There was the tour, the plaudits and the inevitable pressure to make their next album even better. In the week leading up to New Year’s Eve, 1989, U2 played three final shows in Dublin. On the last night, Bono made his infamous speech in which he said, "This is just the end of something for U2. And that’s what we’re playing these concerts, and we’re throwing a party for ourselves and you. It’s no big deal, it’s just, we have to go away and dream it all up again." Thus began a spate of rumors that U2 was breaking up.

U2 had always reinvented itself after every album, but never so dramatically as between "Rattle and Hum" and "Achtung Baby." With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the band decided to spend the first bleak winter months of 1990 recording in the German capital. When they first arrived, Bono spotted a parade, and the band joined the crowd, marching exuberantly through the newly reunited city with what seemed to be an oddly subdued crowd. It turns out they had picked the one sober procession in town—defiant old communists, protesting together for one last time the fall of the Iron Curtain. It was an omen of things to come.

In the studio things were falling apart. Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton were wary of the new musical directions their bandmates were spouting—about the latest technodance revolutions and hip hop beats. The schism almost drove them apart as Bono’s ragged voice struggled to fill the fragmented riffs. With no work coming to fruition and a mounting pile of discarded ideas the band’s dissemination seemed eminent. Until "One." The song fell together almost magically, all the music falling in sync, saving the band from the brink of disaster. As the multiple videos for the song suggest, it can be interpreted as a frank portrait of a troubled couple or an older generation dealing with the new perils that face their children. Yet the real and immediate meaning for the band was the crucible they had successfully endured, if just barely. The underlying current throughout the album is the story of a man straying from home, giving into temptations of the flesh, the ambivalent limbo where guilt meets egotism and the downward spiral of shame and accusation that is the consequence of infidelity. It is the story of relationships, hedonistic and bleak, that constitute the enduring backbone of the band.

The result was a new U2, a band that didn’t resemble the four Irish boys of the previous decade in any way. Bono defined "AB" as, "the sound of four men cutting down the Joshua Tree," he will say this about almost every subsequent album as well. Not wanting to be typecast as the holier than thou, white flag waving crusaders, U2 embraced the contradictions (and the lifestyle) inherent in rock and roll and exploited in on a level never before known. And it spawned the ZooTV tour—the band’s biggest world tour to date, taking them across the globe from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, bringing television, flashing propaganda and video confessionals. He transformed into three of his most famous characters—The Fly, Mr. MacPhisto (a debauched Vegas lounge singer never seen in North America) and the Mirrorball Man (a parody of televangelists seen in limited engagements) —during the tour. Clayton dated, and proposed to, supermodel Naomi Campbell, Bono met Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton on the campaign trail, MacPhisto pushed children out of the way in St. Peter’s square on his way to get a blessing from the Pope. And in what was perhaps the most monumental decision in rock history, Bono put on a pair of sunglasses for the first time.

Taking the winter off from the mammoth ZooTV tour, the band found itself back in the studio. Edge’s first marriage was on the rocks and the creative high the tour created was energy they felt they couldn’t waste. At first everyone laughed at the thought that they could record a new album in the middle of a behemoth world tour, but that is how "Zooropa" was born. The tracks carried them further into their world of indulgence and sensuality. MacPhisto made his video debut in "Lemon," but the song’s title has deeper roots than the glib sheen of frivolity. Bono was informed of the existence of an old home video of his parents and when he watched it he was transfixed by the sight of his mother on screen, years after her death. The color of her clothing was lemon. Edge had his second crack at lead vocals with "Numb." Music icon Johnny Cash brought Bono’s words to life in "The Wander" and the Third Reich-ish sounding beginning to "Daddy’s Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car" is actually from a collection called "Lenin’s Favorite Songs," produced by the Soviet state-owned Melodia.

Although the ’90s may not seem as productive as the former decade, in fact U2 was still hard at work. Longer tours and creative estuaries like "Passengers" and soundtrack collaborations (think “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me” from "Batman Forever") kept the band busy after the ZooTV tour ended. In 1996 rumors began to circulate that U2 was working on a "dance album" infused with trip-hop beats and techno influences. In March 1997 the band unleashed their biggest satire yet, "Pop." Again the band worked full throttle, the song "Last Night on Earth" derives its mood from the fever pitch in the studios where production took place, there were people working who hadn’t been to bed in a week. Eventually Bono bought a speedboat to carry tracks between the two studios more quickly.

Parodying the consumer culture on which the band in part thrived yet scorned, they chose a Kmart store to introduce the album because, as Edge said, where better to sell yourself to America than at a Kmart? But in the spirit of the 90s U2 didn’t just hide behind their decadence, they embraced it. The five-legged PopMart tour visited every continent but Antarctica and required the construction of a huge stage, complete with the signature 100-foot yellow Pop arch (a dromedary version of McDonald’s golden arches), pixel board video screen spanning the length of the stage and fluorescent 20-foot olive spiked high on a huge toothpick. If anyone knows how to make an entrance it’s U2, who arrived each evening in a 40-foot mirror ball lemon, which Clayton dubbed the transportation of the future—"fits three adults and a child!" Bono moved from mullet to Mohawk before shaving his head completely, Clayton wore a "PopTart" shirt throughout the tour and Edge’s initial dabblings with a Bedazzler in the beginning of the decade clearly morphed into a full-blown addiction. The real MacPhisto of course did not renege on his deal with Mullen, who of course looked the same as their first meeting 21 years earlier.

Okay, so we’re probably not going to win the battle with the sunglasses, but "All That You Can’t Leave Behind," released in 2000, was hailed as U2′s triumphant return to their roots after their wanderings in the ’90s. But it was not an easy task. By this time another well-known Bono had emerged—the political advocate and AIDS activist hanging around with bemused world leaders and sporting dictator-chic attire in Africa. Working to end Third World debt and increase the availability of lifesaving drugs to poorer nations and being the spokesman for Jubilee 2000 kept Bono away from his creative projects for quite some time. When he did find time to work he was also busy with the screenplay and production of the "Million Dollar Hotel" movie. U2 had performed across from the real Million Dollar Hotel in 1987 and the concept for the movie came to Bono in a dream. He worked closely in the production and does a cameo in the film. The song "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" featured on the soundtrack was also available in UK editions of ATYCLB. The words were written by Salman Rushdie, the author of a book by the same name, who gave them to Bono and asked him to set them to music. The other members of the band grumbled openly that he was stretching himself too thin, but in 2000 U2 successfully reapplied for the job of biggest band in the world.

And what return to U2 past would be complete without some criticism of Irish violence? The song "Peace on Earth" chronicles the loss of innocent life in the Omagh bombings that ruptured the peace process in 1998. The mother who never saw the color in her son’s eyes referred to in the song is a true story of a woman who said she never noticed how green her son’s eyes were until she saw him lying still at the cemetery. Bono also had a personal tragedy to deal with—his father’s cancer began to visibly deteriorate him. The song “Kite” is his own ambivalence about fatherhood, his dad’s and his own. The title is a metaphor inspired by a day Bono spent at the beach with his two daughters in a failed attempt to bond around his erratic schedule by flying a kite. Bob Hewson died just a few days before U2′s performance at Slane Castle Ireland in September 2001 during the Elevation Tour, and Bono dedicated the night’s emotional performance to his father.

Four years would pass before whisperings of a new album, rumors that it would be released only digitally through iTunes or that it might be scrapped after Edge left an early mixed version of the new work unattended during a photo shoot in France. But with the special edition U2 iPod (and tempting "complete" box set) impromptu free concert roving around New York City and the infectious energy of "Vertigo" there are few who will say it was not worth the wait.

And that brings us to the present. It’s not easy compressing so much history into less than 4,000 words, so for the hungry fan there’s so much more to know. Remember, all of this is yours.

Information for this article was taken from @U2, Interference.com, U2.com, U2FAQ.com, "Bono: His Life, Music and Passions," "Into the Heart: The Stories Behind Every U2 Song," "U2: At the End of the World," "U2: The Ultimate Encyclopedia," NME, The Oregonian and Rolling Stone.

Tribute Band Interview: U2UK*

July 11, 2005

By Gerrard Hartland
2005.07

U2 has always been regarded as having a special relationship with its audience. When the crowd reaches out, Bono reaches back. When Larry Mullen Jr. blasts the first dew drum rolls of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" with thumping intensity, the crowd will bounce in unison. When it comes to tribute bands, U2UK is the closest thing you can get to this sort of intimacy if you’re one of the unlucky ones not possessing a ticket for the much sought after Vertigo Tour.

U2UK, like its idols, places emphasis on the power of the live show with a full-throttle performance that encompasses all the passion and intimacy that made the Elevation Tour so uplifting. "Elevation" acts as an explosive opener but it’s some of the older tracks that should be mentioned—"Desire" is taken into the crowd and playing with a circle of onlookers just like its counterpart during the Elevation Tour while "Where the Streets Have No Name" is the perfect demonstration of U2UK’s attention to detail. Perfectly embodying U2′s own epic feel, U2UK created its own little tempest recently within the Royal Hotel in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, with a show worthy of the best live band on the planet.

If you want to avoid paying outrageous prices scalpers on eBay are inflicting on U2 fans, U2UK acts as the perfect substitute.

At the Royal Hotel gig, Interference.com spoke with Simon Pellecchia who assumes the role of The Edge on stage. Here’s what he had to say about U2UK (which also features Paul Collyer as Bono, Adrian Aslam as Adam Clayton and Simon Jemmett as Larry Mullen Jr.).

Do you hold your breath when U2 announces a new album, new direction?

When U2 announced a new album it was fantastic and also daunting—there was so much hype and the fans were going crazy. It’s great to see the album doing so well; I do think that this album has brought a whole new set of fans, too. We speak to loads of people at the gigs and get a different reaction from them all; some of them love it, some of them not so much. For me, I think its great, but am still in love with the older material, "I Will Follow,” "New Year’s Day," etc. It was daunting for me because, as the guitarist, my first thought is: Am I going to be able to play it? Can I get the sounds? The Edge is a master at the old effects board so trying to recreate this is a really hard job. What I do, though, is try to recreate the live sound as I think [that's] where U2 is best.

The thing I love about U2 is the way each album has a persona all its own, together with a stage show all its own, too. We, as a band, try to recreate some of the lighting effects used and, hopefully, next year will have some visuals, too, if we can afford it.

Which songs always give you a rush playing live? Do you have any preferences for U2′s different eras?

[My] most favorite era was the "Joshua Tree"/"Achtung Baby" era, the songs are so good and U2 was at its best. Playing live, the best and favorite song for me and the band at the moment is "Bullet the Blue Sky." Paul gets out the torch and it’s pitch black and he starts yelling about the EU, etc. Absolutely eerie.

Do you feel like you have to get into character before a show? Is there any ritual you go through before getting on stage?

For our band, like U2, it’s all about getting involved with the audience and getting the audience involved, too. We sometimes play on stages where you’re too far from the crowd and it’s really hard to make that connection, but we also play places where the crowd is on top of you. Those are the best gigs, Paul [Collyer] and I often go out into the middle of the crowd for "Stay." Before the show, we’re usually really busy but we do take time to prepare, mainly with each other, particularly me and "Bono." We have to have that connection on stage and it has to be real.

What can a fan expect from your show? Are you confident with the majority of U2′s back catalog in case of a request?

Most of the places we play usually ask for the hits but we do play some album material, too. Since the last time we were interviewed for Interference.com we’ve changed drummers [because] our last drummer had to return to university. Our new drummer is great but as he has only just joined we haven’t quite rehearsed all of the catalog yet but in the coming weeks we’re in some serious rehearsals as we’re penned to play two shows in July in Amsterdam at the Heineken Concert Hall [July 15th and 16th], with around 4,000 capacity. The shows will be [when] the real U2 is in Amsterdam playing in the stadium. Hopefully we might get to meet them.

What’s the best atmosphere you’ve ever experienced, when you simply felt like it was Edge, Bono, Adam and Larry on stage?

The best atmosphere we’ve had has got to be last year when we played at the Ahoy Stadium in Rotterdam in front of 6,000 people. There were some other tribute band on that night, too. We took the stage and it was amazing, I felt like we were U2 on the stage and the venue was like you see on the DVDs of U2. Then to have 6,000 people singing "Pride (In the Name of Love)" back to you was out of this world. Never had a feeling like it, absolutely amazing. We must have been blessed; there were angels in the house that night.

Why U2? What is it about the band that interests you and makes you want to get up on stage?

Why U2? Well, I have played guitar for about seven years now and in all of [those] years I’ve played with quite a few bands but, to me, nothing has come close to the feeling you get when playing a U2 track. Each track has meaning, each note The Edge plays has its own voice. I can’t imagine playing any other band’s music; it doesn’t have the same feel. Like the say, if you’re going to cover anyone, cover the best.

We’ve been playing live now for about three years and I can tell you there is no better job in the world. To see the smiles on people’s faces, to hear the comments, you just feel elated. The excitement is still there today as it was when we first started, and more. We’re looking forward to introducing new material, bigger sets, better lighting and so on.

Are any of you going to see U2 on tour this summer?

Yeah, we’re all going to see the new tour, some in Manchester and some in Cardiff and also when we’re in Amsterdam we might try to see them there, too. We’ve all been to see them before at PopMart, Elevation, ZooTV. Wish I’d been to see them at the start, too, but I’ve got the DVDs, bootlegs, etc. so I can get some great ideas for our tracks.

For more information on U2UK, visit http://www.u2ukshow.com.

Next Page »