"Some people expect U2 to come on like a political band. . . . Other people see us as prophets. Some see us as pop stars. . . . And we're not any of those things. We're probably all of them. I don't know what we are."
Canadian audiences 'cooler': U2 bassist
September 19, 2009
U2 bassist Adam Clayton is the group's resident sophisticate.
Frontman Bono jokingly described him Wednesday night at the Rogers Centre, during the band's first show at the venue, as "Adam Clayton, the effortlessly stylish citizen of the world, and sexual predator -- the only man in U2 who uses face cream."
Clayton addressed some of those charges in an exclusive Canadian newspaper interview with Sun Media on Thursday night backstage at Rogers Centre. Clayton was funny, smart and charming.
Here's the best of what he had to say:
Sun Media: So, I have to ask, what kind of face cream do you use?
Clayton: As it happens, I don't use face cream. I'm very lucky. I have quite oily skin, which means that you don't need to moisturize that much. So he obviously just attributes me as using a lot face cream.
Sun Media: And what about the sexual predator reference?
Clayton: I wasn't sure about that one, no. It was the sexual predator and the knob twiddling (Bono's band introduction to guitarist The Edge as a knob twiddler) in the same paragraph, that I was a little worried about, but there you go.
Sun Media: Is there a reason for the order in which you guys walk out on stage every night - drummer Larry Mullen Jr, then you, The Edge and Bono?
Clayton: It's always been that sequence because Larry's has to get to his kit anyway and he has to get settled and put his earphones in and stuff. I've tried to go on after Edge but Edge is a really slow walker and I hate that. I want to get there. I want to check my stuff is working -- 1, 2, 3, let's go. So I kind of usually nip in front of him.
Sun Media: Do you find Canadian audiences are distinctive from other audiences?
Clayton: It's most notable if you happen to be in the U.S. for six or eight weeks and you really need a bit of sorbet and a bit of freshening up. You come up to Canada 'cause people, they're just that little bit cooler. And their musical taste, it's a little bit more rounded, it's a little bit more European. I think radio is still much better up here. I think the MuchMusic channel always plays much riskier, edgier stuff.
Sun Media: Do you spend much time in Canada?
Clayton: On the last tour, I spent a bit more time here. Myself and Larry used to nip up and spend time in the city 'cause it suited us to have days off up here. And I also have some very good friends here. I was going out with a girl from Toronto for a while so I kind of know (the city).
Sun Media: What do you think keeps you guys together after three decades?
Clayton: I acknowledge bands are inherently unstable concepts, they're not really built to last, but ours is made with different glue, I think. We made some decisions early on which is based on a version of democracy where everyone gets a vote. We pretty much split the income. And there's a code of loyalty, so for all those things we have stuck together and we've sort of got passed the point where, I'm not saying people couldn't decided to opt out, but we're past the point where any of those kind of emotional or musical differences can be an issue. (That's) because I think we all know within the band we can do far more than we could do individually. Everyone has a vested interested in the band going in a certain way, and those values are good values. And people want the band to be cool, they want the band to be great, and everyone's still growing.
Sun Media: So what's your band intro like?
Clayton: Bono, over a 30-year career, is probably the best there's ever been at this kind of thing. His understanding of all the geopolitical issues, and all the emotional stuff that he'll channel into a performance, and all the references he'll pull on, and where his lyrics come from -- I don't think anyone's been there before. And Edge is doing some amazing things with the guitar and with the technology and is a fantastic composer. And Larry's just the coolest drummer in the world. You wouldn't want to go to work with anyone else. And it's great work and you get to work outdoors as well.
Sun Media: Your accent sounds way more British than Irish, it seems.
Clayton: It's a combination. My parents were English. I moved to Ireland when I was six but I was in boarding schools in Ireland, so I never really knew what an Irish accent was until I joined the band with three other Irishmen.
Sun Media: And did you understand what they were saying?
Clayton: Not initially but I'm beginning to get the hang of it now (laughs).
Sun Media: Bono told me there is another album coming, with the working title, Songs of Ascent, the more ambient songs done with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, from the sessions for your latest album No Line on the Horizon?
Clayton: Some of it, I'm sure, is true, especially for Bono. And those are great aspirations. I'm a little bit more nuts and bolts and until there are 10 songs finished, mixed and on a shelf, then that's not definite for me. It takes us a long time. When Bono hears two notes together he hears a song complete. When anyone else hears two notes together, we hear a starting point.
Sun Media: Bono was also hopeful you guys would go back to the shelved Rick Rubin sessions, which began before the Eno-Lanois sessions.
Clayton: I'd like to. Part of the reason we didn't feel like pursuing them at the time was that they were too purist, they were too fundamental, and we tend to like our music a little bit more complex -- so I don't know at what point we'll want something as straight forward as that. Rick strips everything away. There's no real dressing. He doesn't like atmospherics and textures or any of that stuff. I think we all thought we could do something interesting together if we applied that sort of discipline, but in the end I think we realized that we like the textures and colours and tones.
© Sun Media, 2009.