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This was posted earlier. Part 2 is now posted below.
Originally Posted by bonocomet
From U2.com. Subscriber exclusive, so here it is for everyone else.
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Twelve Months In Music
TWELVE MONTHS IN MUSIC
'The most interesting things will end up being those that have a certain duality, a certain internal argument going on within them which is certainly what’s happening with Bon Iver, with Florence and the Machine and with The Black Keys.'
From the emergence of Foster the People to the departure of REM, from 'Fallen Empires' to 'England Shakes', the past 12 months have seen some remarkable new bands take the stage and some striking releases from established acts.
As the year turned Bono and Edge called in to U2.com to reflect on some of the music they've loved in the past twelve months... and wonder at what the next year holds.
(In the comments below, tell us which of the bands they mention you're already into... or which other acts made it a great year in music for you).
What acts or albums left their mark in the past 12 months ?
EDGE: I think the Bon Iver record will be remembered for a while, with it's combination of the new folk thing and a level of experimental production that sets it apart. Very compelling and powerful but also very innovative. The Florence and the Machine record, Ceremonial, is also in that category.
There’s a Scandinavian band called I Break Horses and I really like their record ‘Hearts’. It has hints of Cocteau Twins and of Sigur Ros but while it’s cinematic and organic it also has an electronica feeling… quite fresh.
Then, for great writing, there’s Foster The People. Compositionally this is so powerful, and thematically strong, with hooks and ideas which are clear and to the point. I’m enjoying that new record (‘El Camino’) just out from The Black Keys and another band, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, have an album called Up From Below, which is a sort of mad circus of a record, full of life, vitality and fun. It’s like you’re entering a carnival, the smells and tastes and sounds that are wrapped up in that record.
Sounds like you feel it was a good year for music?
EDGE: A great year. Things are moving in several different directions at the same time. There’s no unified cultural movement that everything refers to but several different trains of thought which are all very interesting. The most interesting things will end up being those that have a certain duality, a certain internal argument going on within them which is certainly what’s happening with Bon Iver, with Florence and the Machine and with The Black Keys.
BONO:… yes, The Black Keys, much more interesting than The White Keys.
EDGE:… stay with The Black Keys and you can’t go wrong. As any piano player will tell you, it’s almost impossible to play a bum note if you’re on the black keys.
BONO… and the same for the band.
EDGE: There’s also another Irish singer I’ve been getting into lately, James Vincent McMorrow...
BONO: Oh yes, ‘If I had a Boat’, what a song…
EDGE: His version of Stevie Winwood’s ‘Higher Love’ is really beautiful and he might even be from Malahide…
BONO:.. sure nothing good comes out of Malahide…
EDGE:… as I was about to say!
BONO: Actually, I think Edge is also big on M83
BONO: ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’ was an important album but the one before that I loved too, ‘Saturdays = Youth’, that one really got to me.
I have to say, not just sticking with an Irish theme, but I think ‘Fallen Empires’ by Snow Patrol is an extraordinary album and for very subtle reasons. It’s a strange concoction of club culture and ecstatic rock. I find it very funny with some great lyrics and then it has all this organic, almost folksy energy but at a frenetic, speedy level… that’s been blowing my mind. Then the Coldplay album ‘Mylo Xyloto’ is great, they keep getting better.
For me Gavin Friday’s ‘Catholic’ is an amazing record, one of the albums of the year, and his song ‘Lord I’m Coming’ is my song of the year. It opens and closes the film ‘This Must Be The Place’ which premiered at Cannes and stars Sean Penn, Frances McDormand and Eve Hewson.
Of the acts that are less well known I think that Burst Apart by The Antlers is astonishing and Edge has already mentioned Ed Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros – ‘Desert Song’ is ridiculously good. Bloodless Coup by Bell X 1 is fantastic and, of course, Foster The People – ‘Torches’ - joy as an act of defiance. It’s kind of psychedelic pop music but in the face of the times we’re living in, I find the bouncy, big grooves just a real tonic.
A host of wonderful female singer-songwriters were getting recognition this year, from Adele and PJ Harvey to Laura Marling and, sadly, the late Amy Winehouse.
BONO: When we were making No Line On The Horizon I met up with Polly Harvey and we were talking about poetry written by soldiers and people experiencing wartime and we were reading the same books. Her album ‘England Shakes’ is a very powerful piece of work and she has some very interesting people coming up behind here too like Lana Del Ray. Adele, of course, is stunning but the loss of Amy Winehouse is tragic, that could really make you depressed about the future if you think about it too much.
When Florence and the Machine took the U2360 stage, she used it like no-one else, what a performer. She was running around the circumference of it and just owning it, a remarkable creature and a very challenging album. Another one I’ve been appreciating which really sustains is ‘50 Words For Snow’ by Kate Bush.
EDGE: And we shouldn’t forget that Lisa Hannigan album (‘Passenger’), which is also pretty special.
Do you see particular themes emerging in music at the moment?
BONO: Something really exciting is that finally the rock band is melting into clubland and experimenting with sounds that are not normally deemed authentic for the rock band - synthesizers, experimental sounds - which you can hear in an album like that by The Temper Trap. That’s exciting, a new hybrid. But it remains ridiculous that black music and white music are still in separate genres - let’s hope in 2012 that kind of false division falls away.
Talking of which, what about Watch The Throne?
BONO: We should have mentioned that because when Jay-Z was on the road with us in Australia, Kanye was with him, working on that album. I remember they were high as kites on their music and words and Jay-Z was so confident they were doing something that was very special. That turned out to be right.
Like the PJ Harvey record, but in a completely different way, it was a record that captured the zeitgeist.
BONO: Yes, one in the UK, one in the US, and I wonder what will come out of this depression, recession, economic horror show we’re going through, I wonder how artists will respond to that. In the ‘70’s the recession gave us punk rock and The Clash and The Sex Pistols: bleak years of high oil prices, recession and unemployment, then you had this angry music which also had such a life-force and that life-force kick started our band
Sometimes forces outside the arts and culture, like an economic crisis, can ignite great music.
EDGE: I think they can, they can fill the vaccum and it’ll be interesting to see if the new folk will become more mainstream. For example, look at the big albums in the UK over the last year and the beautifully crafted, golden talent of Adele is there but standing aside from this is this other movement - this intimate music, hand-made in real-time - like Mumford And Sons, Noah and the Whale, Laura Marling and Bon Iver. It’ll be interesting to see if that starts to seep into the mainstream because in the face of this upheaval, where people feel disenfranchised, as if they’re not able to control their own destiny, things that are more homespun, tangible and sound more real can be more reassuring.
BONO: You might be right on that Edge, that perhaps in a noisy, driven, neon-lit media world this intimacy is where the conversation is, which would be quite radical.
You mentioned the Lisa Hannigan record and I’ve heard her play a couple of times this year, and it’s been amazing. On Christmas Eve, I was with Glen Hansard and a bunch of Irish bards and minstrels performing on Grafton Street in Dublin, singing for the homeless of our city. Afterwards we went back to this room and there was an extraordinary session where I heard rawness of talent that I haven’t heard for a while: Damien Rice singing from a special and sacred place, and Mundy and Glen Hansard and Liam O'Maonlai, singing in Irish, and Declan O’Rourke with a remarkable song called Galileo. It was just the passing of the guitar from one to another, ten minstrels in the room. I wasn’t sure if I fitted in that club but I liked being there.
I played a couple of songs acoustically but earlier in the year both Edge and I played at the memorial to Steve Jobs and also at the Hollywood Bowl for the Bill Clinton Foundation. It’s quite something hearing our own songs, like Sunday Bloody Sunday or A Man and Woman, so stripped down and I think it showed us some clues for the future.
We’re working on three albums at the moment and we haven’t decided what order we’re going to put them out but ‘The Songs of Ascent’ have the kind of beautiful intimacy that we’re speaking of now. They fit into this moment, the mode of some of these artists that I was hanging out with on Christmas Eve.
We shouldn’t leave music in 2011 without mention of the end of REM, your fellow travellers for more than thirty years…
EDGE: That really came out of the blue. We were with Michael a week before and he wasn’t giving any hints, which is great because he wanted their fans to hear it first, but I’m still thinking to myself that maybe in a few years time they’ll do some stuff together! What’s the point in breaking up except to be back together again! I’m being selfish I suppose, I would love to see them doing some more work together.
BONO: Those three new songs of theirs are part of the great soundtrack of 2011. One of them, ‘Hallelujah’, is just breathtaking and then there is ‘We All Go Back To Where We Belong’, which for me, again, is one of the great songs of the year…
This article is tagged to:
Bono, Edge, Subscriber Exclusives
And part 2
'I’ll never forget walking out to David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ each night and into our own space station … and then taking off! '
Part II of our exclusive interview with Bono and Edge, where they talk about how the landscape of music is changing, drop some hints about what's happening in the studio, look back in wonder at U2360° and reflect on finally playing at Glastonbury. ( Add your comments below the story.)
2011 also saw the passing of Steve Jobs, not a musician but someone who helped transform music for everyone.
EDGE: What was wonderful about what Steve achieved was that in a time when other media, from video games to YouTube, were starting to draw all your time and attention, the arrival of iTunes and the iPod meant your computer became your music library. It was ubiquitous, music was everywhere again. It was so important that music didn’t just become a ‘60’s, ‘70’s, ‘80’s thing which might have come to an end as an important cultural force in the ‘90’s. Today music is as healthy as ever - it’s really just the economics that have taken a hammering and we’re hopeful that will be corrected at some point.
BONO: And Apple will continue to be a guiding light because of the reverence at the heart of what they do. The reverence for design, to make things of beauty in an age where that is rare, and the reverence for music, like the reverence for The Beatles you see when you look at their home page. That will stay with them.
I think we’ll see a whole revolution in artwork, photography and lyrics as albums metamorphose into apps. The experience of listening to music will become a looking experience as well as a listening one, as it was in the ‘70’s with gatefold sleeves except that now the gatefold sleeve will be digital on your ipad or plasma screen. I’m excited about the future but saddened that Steve will not be around to see it.
Are the changes in the digital landscape of music, from iTunes to Spotify and Facebook, informing the way the band are thinking about upcoming releases?
EDGE: There’s a lot of pressure to start thinking in terms of just one song because that’s the trend. Even on the big records people tend to just buy the one song. It’s a throw back to the period before the LP when everything was the 45. We’ve been kind of holding out against that because we love the album as a format, it’s what we grew up with, so for us it will still be album thinking for the next little while.
BONO: But they better be good, we aren’t going to put one out unless we think every song on it is vital.
EDGE: And we’re greedy! We want to have impact on many levels. We want the impact of a collection of songs that people go away and live with, which get under their skin, but we also want the impact of a 45, the great single that reaches places and people that a long player wouldn’t.
We’ve been talking about PJ Harvey’s ‘England Shakes’ as one of the most important records of the year which shows that it’s still possible to make great albums, to allow the songs to go out there and fight for their own place in the culture. The ultimate of course is to have an album of tunes that are so compelling that they not only fit into what people are liking but actually change what people are liking – that’s our ambition.
Recent U2 studio albums have come roughly every four years… any clues on when the next one might arrive?
BONO: We don’t know yet but we’ve got three albums we’re working on. Our good friend Chris Martin says, ‘Well, why can’t you put the three of them together and put them out now?’ He makes a lot of sense but that’s just not how we work! I’d like to think that if things continue to go as well as they have with Brian Burton - aka Danger Mouse – then we’re going to shock some people with the new sounds and songs we’ve got.
A few months on, have you had a chance to stand back and reflect on the U2360 phenomenon?
EDGE: It was an amazing experience from beginning to end. I still remember the moment I first saw this stage we were going to be playing on, it was jaw-dropping to see it standing in the stadium in Barcelona. It also turned out to be a dream to work with because the sound in the stadiums was always way better than we’d been able to achieve in the past. We managed to do something different with presenting a band live and that’s a great feeling.
BONO: I also remember that opening night and even when things were falling off the stage and falling off the musicians, songs smashing on the ground right in front of us, mistakes everywhere, I just couldn’t get the smile off my face. I knew it worked! We put our audience at the centre of the show, that’s what happened in 360, they were the production. After a while this mega-structure disappeared, we were left as four musicians in this gigantic crowd with waves and waves of emotions spiralling around us and inside us. I’ll never forget walking out to David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ each night and into our own space station … and then taking off! I don’t know how we’re gonna top that, we’ll have to go indoors I think, do something smaller.
I’d like people to understand – and I think they do – that most of the cash that came through the tills was spent on the production and on the people that gave it to us but we still came away so spoiled and over-rewarded. But I’ve heard conversations with fans of other bands and they say ‘I went to see this other band and of course they didn’t need any of those tricks, they didn’t need any of those lights or any of that production stuff...' But the ticket was the same price I try to tell them…
People understand the team and technology and passion that went into putting up and pulling down that tour every night, and the U2 crew really shone like they never shone before. But those seven million people who came to the shows, they really are who we work for and as I say - and I mean it every time – they’ve given us this incredible life. At a moment when a lot of people are not having a great time because of this economic climate, here we are given this incredible, successful tour. We have to thank people.
And the band finally got to play Glastonbury?
BONO: On a day off on a North American tour which is mental! But that was an audience that really let us in when the whole place was looking like it was going to get washed away. People were very generous to us… even those protesting. I admire people who get organised and are agitators although in this case I’m not sure they understood the issues that were involved: you know there was a thing going around that U2 are in a tax haven, which of course we’re not. One of the centrepieces of the Irish economy is our tax competitiveness and Irish people are fighting to keep it that way, so no thinking Irish person would deny an Irish company the very thing we offer international companies but you know people don’t look into it that deeply.
Glastonbury wasn’t a normal U2 show, it was much more gritty and edgy and the stage was like an ice rink so I couldn’t really move around. But it was a statement of intent on our part, that we still want to meet a new audience and we don’t mind going into a muddy field in the rain to find them. We want to keep things fresh for our old audience by finding newer ones. The one-hour BBC special of our set is something we’re very proud of.
How long does it take to re-enter earth’s orbit after two years on the space station ?
EDGE: No idea! Only our friends and families could tell you that. I thought I was absolutely normal the minute I got home but everyone else around me might have a different story…
BONO: When Edge got into the beekeeping, then I thought he was going to be fine!
Some wonderful bands have toured with you over the years and sometimes the younger ones will mention the ‘U2 chat’. What’s your advice for bands starting out now ?
EDGE: What we would have been about early on as a band was trying to crack performing live and then trying to attract a record deal. Now people release their own records, so there’s not the same emphasis on the record label as before, it’s a whole different world. But in the end it’s the songs that will be here long after we’re gone.
BONO: One song. Jimmy Iovine said a genius thing to me once: ‘People want to go straight to the ‘70’s when they haven’t gone through the ‘60’s.’ In the ‘60’s there was incredible songwriting craft at work - The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Hollies… - with such a focus on the song. So in the ‘70’s, when the hard rock and punk rock bands came along, they were informed by the discipline of the great songs. But if you forget about the '60's and start at the '70’s you lose that dimension. So my advice would be that one song can change your world, one song can change the world.
Away from music, this was a notable year in history…
BONO: A momentous year, the millennium really began in 2011 in Tahrir Square. The power model of the past was inverted, that was the pyramid with the power at the point and the people at the base. That’s been turned upside down, ironically, in the land of the pyramids. Now the most powerful thing is the base and the top has to listen or be made irrelevant. That connectivity between people that social media makes possible has been the driver in this: in the information age it’s very hard to hide if you’re a despot or dictator trying to trick your people. Everything is in the open, transparency is the word in the year of the activist.
And activism and social change are always close to the heart of U2, most recently with the (RED) Zone on U2360. How did it work out?
EDGE: Yes, at the beginning of the tour we decided for the first time to get involved in the secondary ticket market with the (RED) Zone tickets. We allowed a small selection of tickets each night to be auctioned off with profits going to the (RED) Campaign. In the end that generated $12m for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It’s something we’re very proud of.
BONO: We are - and that money will support vital health systems in developing countries. It’ll keep many people alive.