Bass Player : Part 1 - Adam Clayton Interview - U2 France

Bass Player : Part 1 - Adam Clayton Interview

samedi 11 novembre 2000

Source : Bass Player

Thanks to Jamie for the following.

From Bass Player :

Reluctant Rock Star - Part 1

How U2’s Adam Clayton Learned to Play — And Conquer the World Onstageby Gregory Isola

Somewhere between Bono (the world’s biggest rock star), The Edge(the world’s coolest rock guitarist), and Larry Mullen Jr. (the world’sbaddest rock drummer) stands U2 bassist Adam Clayton. "I just keepthe bottom end moving," shrugs the affable 40-year-old. "I’m right ona good day, but there are so many great cats out there. Really I’m justglad to be in the club."

The release of All That You Can’t Leave Behind marks two decadesthat U2 has been in the bona fide rock star club. But while othertop-drawer rockers learned to play in bedrooms and dank bars — beforefriends and forgivable fans — Clayton’s evolution as a player took placeon the world’s biggest stages. Of course, superstardom was never thepoint. The three Dublin schoolboys who answered Mullen’s ad forbandmates really just wanted to see what it was like to stand onstageand bash out three-minute songs — and they were terrible. That is, untilthey started writing their own songs. "Even up through our first few recordswe got by on very little, at least musically," Clayton grimaces. "But wewere always able to make something of it, just in the way we playedtogether."

U2 created an unprecedented blend of stark, post-punk instrumentaltextures, spiritual lyrics, and over-the-top bombast that resulted in some ofthe most majestic rock music of the 1980s and ’90s. Along the way, Claytonwent from struggling to hold together simple eighth-note grooves toincorporating bass influences from Motown to reggae into his ever-evolvingstyle. As elemental riffs like "With or Without You" and "New Year’s Day"gave way to the Jamerson-style bounce of "Angel of Harlem" and "SweetestThing," Clayton quietly became one of rock’s reigning bass heroes —whether he knows it or not.

BP : Many see 1983’s War as a breakthrough for U2. You in particularbecame a distinct musical voice.

AC : On the early records, it was really just a case of Edge and Larry strugglingto keep the whole thing together. We were all surviving on minimal technique,and the formula in those early days was 4/4 bass over a relatively complex beatfrom Larry, with Edge doing his arpeggios over the top. But by the time we gotto War, the songs were more structured, and the bass sound was featured more.Also, I suppose by then I could actually play things in time — and in tune — so Iwas able to be a bit more melodic.

BP : New Year’s Day remains your most famous riff.

AC : That actually grew out of me trying to work out the chords to the Visage tune"Fade to Grey." It was a kind of Euro-disco dance hit, and somehow it turned into"New Year’s Day."

BP : What else were you listening to during those formative years ?

AC : I was drawn to things I thought were either sexy or aggressive — or both. Ireally liked the violence of what Jean Jacques Burnel was doing on the first coupleof Stranglers records. He had this mighty sound of his own, but it was also mixedwith their keyboard player’s Hammond organ bass for a very interesting effect.And there was Bruce Foxton of the Jam and Joy Division’s Peter Hook, and of coursePaul Simonon of The Clash. His playing was more sexy than violent, plus it was abit more dubby, which I wasn’t fully tuned into at the time.

Later on I got in to the classic Bob Marley records with Aston Barrett. I always likedthe position the bass took on those records, as opposed to the position the bass isusually given. Same with John Entwistle — he plays remarkable stuff that can behard to follow, but I love that he refuses to be put in the background.

BP : Is it true you were U2’s musical leader in the beginning, back in the late 70s ?

AC : Perhaps — but that’s only because punk rock had just happened, so it wasn’treally important that you knew how to play so long as you had some equipment [laughs].I’d simply decided I was going to be a musician, so I got this Ibanez copy of a GibsonEB-3 and a Marshall head, and I guess those crucial ingredients made the othersfigure I knew a bit more about music. I did know a thing or two about my equipment,but I certainly didn’t know anything about playing.

BP : What were the band’s goals in those days ?

AC : The ambition was just to end the song together ! We had these interminablerehearsals where we would never actually get to the end of the song. But we alsowanted to be part of what we felt was going on. In terms of musical values, it wasa time of throwing off the idea that people who played guitars in bands were theserock gods who were to be obeyed and saluted. We got off on the idea that youcould play a three-minute song with a few basic chords as fast as you possiblecould, and that was a good enough reason to be onstage. It meant that you hada life right now — that you didn’t have to spend three years in your bedroom tryingto figure out how to play "Stairway to Heaven."

BP : Your playing got a lot groovier later on, starting with 1988’s Rattle and Hum.

AC : That may have been me getting lucky in a way. It’s always depended onthe tune with us, so as our songwriting became more developed and there werebetter chord progressions, I found I would fall into more interesting things. I wouldn’tliterally know where I was headed when I started out, but Larry’s drums have alwaystold me what to play, and then the chords tell me where to go. Because of this, myparts are very much created as the song is evolving.

BP : Does the whole band compose this way ?

AC : We do write in an unconventional way, I suppose. If we try to arrange a songthat’s already been worked out on acoustic guitar, it’s hard for us. But if we startwith a few bits and then work around each other to develop the song, we seem togo to more interesting places. "Bullet the Blue Sky" is a great example ; it’s reallyjust one musical moment, extended in time. Larry started playing that beat, andI started to play across it — as opposed to with it — while Edge was playingsomething else entirely. Bono said, "Whatever you guys are doing, don’t stop !"So we kept playing, and he improvised that melody. "Please" [Pop] was anotherhappy accident. One of our producers, Howie B., was playing a record in the studio,and I started to play a bass part over the recording. It created these strange groovesand keys, and my line really began to work only after Howie stopped the record.

(Continued)

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