Author Topic: The Edge on the Future of the Guitar  (Read 1208 times)

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Offline rattleandhum24

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The Edge on the Future of the Guitar
« on: January 04, 2010, 07:26:37 AM »
This article was written by our favorite music critic, Neil McCormick.  Enjoy!

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The Edge on the future of the guitar

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The documentary feature film ĎIt Might Get Loudí opens in the UK this Friday, January 8th , about a meeting between three iconic guitarists of different rock generations: the legendary Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, garage blues primitivist Jack White of The White Stripes and U2ís professorial effects master The Edge. My interview with Jimmy Page ran in the Telegraph last week but while researching it I spoke to The Edge, who called from LA just before Christmas. Here, for U2 and guitar fans, is that conversation in full, in which Edge discusses the past and future of the guitar, U2ís new album, why they might play new songs at Glastonbury, the fate of Spiderman and the Edgeís previously unremarked resemblance to a Hollywood sex symbol.

Its not often that you might find yourself on stage with some of the greatest guitarists in the world, so what did you learn from the experience?
What did I learn? Even though all guitar players are reaching for the ideal guitar tone, I was struck by how different they sounded, and in the hands of other people with different set of ears to put a sound together, its such a different result, and it just showed me how the instrument is so versatile. A trumpet sounds pretty much like a trumpet, and thatís true of a lot instruments, pianos sound like pianos, but thereís something about the guitar, the range of possibilities is much broader. And I really felt our differences influences and points of view were really contained within our sound and choice of sound and ways of playing.

Indeed, the way the different personalities express themselves through their instrument is something that comes across very clearly in the film. Yet while the individual journeys that bring you to that shared stage are fascinating, when you do all get together, thereís no great musical explosion, just a lot of tentative twiddling, really.
That was the other thing I learned: how useful drummers and bass players and singers are! Put three guitarist together in a room and what you get is lots of guitars. Also I was thinking about what would I play out of my stuff  for these guys, and I realised what I do isnít really designed to be heard solo. Its not like I sit down and write a guitar piece and that becomes a song. I actually rely on what Adam and Larry are doing to complete the picture. The Streets Have No Name doesnít make any sense out of context, it just becomes this very Philip Glass like set of motifs, and the meaning is really in the changes in the bass and drums. So that was actually a nice realisation, Iím one of those guitar players whoís really integrated into his band. Iím not like Jimmy or Jack, who can play solo guitar that would stand up on its own

Do you often play with other guitarists?
No, I try and avoid it at all costs. Jamming is really the most awful, excruciating experience for me, I really donít enjoy it. First of all, thatís not how I work as a guitar player. I compose using the instrument, I donít really sit down and play for the sake of playing stuff. So the idea of jamming Ė endless, directionless noodling around some nondescript chord progression Ė I really find very boring. Obviously a great song is fun to play, but U2 were never really in that phase of The Beatles in Hamburg or Van Morrison in showbands or Dylan in the folk clubs, of knowing and learning a big collection of classics. We never did that, and at the time we were forming as a band there really wasnít a large collection of songs that we felt like learning. It was actually a moment where the past was being thrown out the window, so its very much part of our DNA as a band not to be too reverential, as a general rule, and to try and look forward all the time. Invention being what we value most highly as opposed to emulation Ė which is what a lot of musicians feel is important, being able to play like the greats.

So what did meeting Jimmy Page mean to you, because at the time of U2ís origins, at the beginning of punk, Led Zeppelin and the so called dinosaur rock bands were almost seen as the enemy, something to be rebelled against.
Before meeting Jimmy, I listened back to some Zeppelin stuff and realise it has stood the test of time. It has the hallmark of timeless music, it hasnít dated, while so much from that era really did date and in fact has completely vanished. It was really dynamic, the visceral power of it was pretty thrilling still, and it brought me back to when I was 14 or 15. That was a nice realisation. And also meeting the man and realising we had so much in common, and actually we are kind of brothers in arms rather than antagonists in terms of musical philosophy.

So what did you find that you had in common?
I think what has come through, after all the dust has settled on the music of that era, is that everybody assumed that what was important was improvising and having a dexterity with the instrument, so that Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, the gunslingers of the time, were highly revered, but it turns out it was actually always about composition, always about idea and themes and stuff that you actually had to write. And that where I think Jimmy Page scored, is that his guitar playing was a lot more composed than any of the others of that era and much better for that. And although itís probably uncool to admit it Ė and I donít know if he would ever admit it Ė but even his solos were really well composed and thought out. I donít think he was just a guy who would sit down and play the first thing that came into his head, like a Gary Moore, Jeff Beck or Eric. I think he really had the chance to figure things out. Itís the discipline of the work. Its really sharp, really hard, not fuzzy. That was one of the realisations for me.

If you were to listen to a collection of the best selling singles of the last year, the guitar is almost noticeable by its absence. When it comes to pop music, its all about synths and electronically treated sound, so even where  there is a guitar, its not necessarily recognisable, or the featured instrument. What do you think is the future of the guitar?
I donít think itís in jeopardy. It seems pretty bright. Thereís always somebody on the horizon who seems to be really able to make the instrument their own, and find ways to use it that havenít been heard before. The biggest band in America right now, in terms of profile and records is The Kings Of Leon, and before them it was The Killers, so there seems to be still a huge interest in guitar music. Iím looking forward to the next Arcade Fire album, and I think Nick Zinner from Yeah Yeah Yeahs is a guitar player whoís really done some interesting things. Ok, the electronica movement seems to be very much in vogue at the moment, probably MGMT kick started that, then youíve got Justice and the Bloody Beetroots and all that hard dance stuff, but the guitar is managing to hold on, its one of the essential ingredients in contemporary music, like drums. Them Crooked Vultures is also quite cool. Iím not sure itís on the level of classic but itís a very interesting guitar record.

Itís been a strange year for U2. You had the biggest tour in the world and sold about four million of your album No Line On The Horizon, but it never really caught fire the way other U2 albums have. Indeed, its perceived as a flop.
Yeah, there is that smell in the air. We allowed ourselves to think about having a big hit record when in fact itís a very interesting record but itís quite a dark record, itís not really radio friendly. Even ĎGet On Your Bootsí, which is high octane, its not  a slam dunk of a hit song. I think everyone just got caught up in the plan as opposed to sitting back and thinking about the record weíd made. But I feel OK about it. Often U2 are accused of being more successful than we deserve, in this case I think this record is less successful than it deserved. I think its got some of the best songs weíve ever written. ĎMoments Of Surrenderí is right up there, and ĎUnknown Callerí.

What about the new album, the long rumoured ĎSongs Of Ascentí, which is supposed to be based around more low key material from the Horizon sessions.
Well thatís what Iím working on this week, actually. Iím songwriting. In fact, I wrote something this morning just before getting on the phone with you, it sounds great. So on that level weíre pushing forward, weíre not taking it easy, but we wonít really know til the new year what weíll be able to achieve. Thereís a certain sort of practical window of opportunity to release the record that we are operating within. If the material isnít ready for the early new year weíll probably have to put it on hold. But Iím looking forward to the idea of playing some of the songs live before theyíre released. That would be my consolation prize if we donít get the album done. Weíve never done it, weíve always talked to all of our producers about the idea, but I think it would give the tour a little frisson which I  think it needs. If you have two or three new songs no oneís heard before thrown in from time to time, I think that would be very exciting, for us as well, to try them and see how they get on

So we can expect to hear new U2 songs at Glastonbury.
Glastonbury is going to be fun. Iíve never been.

I think Adam is the only member of U2 whose been to Glastonbury. He went with the Waterboys in the Eighties.
Weíre busy men! Weíre often actually doing U2 tours when Glastonbury is on, or working on a project, so its not so strange that weíve not been. But what is interesting is the way people talk about it, its got this semi-religious aspect. Bono and I were talking about our last record, one of the sub plots is pilgrimage, and in some ways thatís exactly what Glastonbury is. So weíre going to make our pilgrimage.

And what about Spiderman, the musical you have been working on with Bono, which seems to have run into a few funding problems?
Itís in this hiatus and were just waiting for word on the fundraising to get the production back on track. All the songs are pretty much written, weíve got a bunch of lyrics to finish off, but all the music is pretty much there, and its all sounding really convincing. Itís a great script, great director, great choreographer. It will happen.

So 2010 is shaping up to be another busy year for U2
And theyíre shooting the film of your book (Killing Bono). Thatís great news. I was talking to the director about who should play me, and I think we agreed on Brad Pitt



Offline EdgeFest [Zenmaster360]

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Re: The Edge on the Future of the Guitar
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2010, 09:39:33 AM »
!

Thank you!!!

Comments later... but still LOL @ the Brad Pitt comment!  :D

And...

"Jamming is really the most awful, excruciating experience for me, I really donít enjoy it. First of all, thatís not how I work as a guitar player. I compose using the instrument, I donít really sit down and play for the sake of playing stuff. So the idea of jamming Ė endless, directionless noodling around some nondescript chord progression Ė I really find very boring."

<3  YES!

Offline ayajedi

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Re: The Edge on the Future of the Guitar
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2010, 12:04:05 PM »
very, very interesting interview. I got a bit more insight into how e works and how U2 works. Thanks for the link

Offline RunningtoStandstill (The League of Extraordinary BonoPeople)

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Re: The Edge on the Future of the Guitar
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2010, 08:40:56 PM »
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!

Thank you!!!

Comments later... but still LOL @ the Brad Pitt comment!  :D

And...

"Jamming is really the most awful, excruciating experience for me, I really donít enjoy it. First of all, thatís not how I work as a guitar player. I compose using the instrument, I donít really sit down and play for the sake of playing stuff. So the idea of jamming Ė endless, directionless noodling around some nondescript chord progression Ė I really find very boring."

<3  YES!

which is why Edge is, for me, one of the greatest guitarists.  cause he did something DIFFERENT with the instrument.