The Joshua Tree was the album that transformed U2 from being a big band into one of the most powerful and enduring forces in the history of rock music. On the 30th Anniversary of the release of the landmark album, OLAF TYARANSEN sets the scene, listens to some of the key players, and reflects on the extraordinary sonic magic that was conjured in a disused house in Rathfarnham, on the south side of Dublin, by a group of four Northsiders and their various musical accomplices…
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a full 30 years, but the calendar doesn’t lie. On March 23rd, 1987, six months after Garret FitzGerald’s government passed the National Lottery Act 1986, the Irish National Lottery began its gaming operations with the release of the very first scratchcards.
Two weeks before that, though, four scruffy-looking Dublin rock stars had already hit the jackpot.
U2 were already a big band with a global reputation, by the time they released their fifth studio album on March 9th, 1987, but it really was the one that, as Rolling Stone put it, transformed them “from heroes to superstars.” Six weeks after The Joshua Tree – produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois – hit the streets, the Irish fab foursome made the cover of Time magazine, described as “Rock’s Hottest Ticket. Even today, this would be a very big deal indeed. Back then, before the advent of social media, it was an historic landmark.
From a promotional perspective, with The Joshua Tree, just about every angle was covered. Island Records spent a then-record $100,000 on store displays alone, to advertise and promote the album. The label’s president Lou Maglia called the campaign, “the most complete merchandising effort ever assembled.” It was no idle boast.
Spurred into action by the confidence and commitment of the record company, many European and American record stores – festooned with giant posters of Anton Corbijn’s now iconic black and white photographs of the four stony-faced Northsiders in a Californian desert – opened at a minute after midnight, on the morning of the release date.
Clearly, it was worth any extra cost incurred in overtime. After all, this was the very first new release to be made available on compact disc, vinyl record and cassette tape on the same date. With that unique status propelling it, The Joshua Tree became the fastest-selling album in British history, selling over 300,000 copies in just two days. It went to No.1 with a bullet in Ireland, England, the US – and, ultimately, in more than 20 other countries.
Every aspect of the promotional campaign seemed to come good. The lead single ‘With Or Without You’ was released a week after the album, on March 16th. It went to No.1 in Ireland, the US and Canada. The second single, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ also topped the US and Irish charts. Curiously, these two tracks remain U2’s only American No.1 singles.
The Joshua Tree scooped two Grammy awards the following year. It has gone on to sell over 25 million copies worldwide, and a further surge is guaranteed with the band planning to tour the record this summer, 30 years on. It is still one of the world’s bestselling albums ever – and rising.
In tandem with Island Records, the band’s then manager Paul McGuinness could deservedly claim much of the credit for masterminding a campaign that was brilliantly put together. But he wasn’t right about everything. According to U2’s friend and artistic advisor Gavin Friday, he certainly wasn’t right about the hit potential of ‘With Or Without You’. Paul wasn’t the only one who was uncertain about the track. So out of love with it were the band themselves, at one stage, that they were considering ditching the song entirely. When Eno and Lanois declined to work any further on it, the track was rescued only because Gavin believed in it so passionately. He and Bono worked separately to see if they could inject something into it that would convince the others. Whatever rearrangements they fashioned were enough to bring everyone back on board. Edge played the ‘Infinite Guitar’ that had been sent to him by the inventor Michael Brooks over the track, and it gelled. It was a breakthrough moment, in more ways than one.
“Paul McGuinness didn’t want to release it as a single,” Friday told Hot Press editor Niall Stokes. “But I told Bono that it was a certain No 1. It was one of the biggest arguments I ever had with Paul, and in the end Bono sided with me. In fairness to Paul, he did come up to me afterwards and apologise. He said, ‘You were right’. And of course I was.” Sometimes it really is better to lose an argument.
EPIC AND CINEMATIC
Rewind. The seeds for what became an enduring music industry phenomenon had been planted in London’s Wembley Stadium around 20 months earlier, in the summer of 1985. Match-fit as they came towards the end of their lengthy tour in support of 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire, U2 stole the show at Live Aid on July 13th, 1985.
In front of the biggest television audience for a live music event ever, Bono, Edge, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton were introduced onstage by actor Jack Nicholson as “a group that’s never had any problem saying how they feel.” Over the course of an electrifying two-song, twelve-minute set, during which Bono broke all the rules by climbing down into the crowd, and choosing a girl from the audience to come onstage, they utterly transformed their career. Sales of The Unforgettable Fire immediately soared. It was literally like manna from heaven.
The late surge in sales of The Unforgettable Fire was doubly fortuitous. The biggest bonus was that the ringing of the cash registers meant they didn’t have to rush the follow-up. They could take their time fashioning The Joshua Tree.
It turned out that the timing was perfect. As the late, great Hot Press writer Bill Graham put it, U2 had been “surfing a wave” since their triumphant appearance at Live Aid: “Their Irish optimism, curiosity and adaptability gave them a special empathy with America… the chance for their breakthrough arrived just as their recording and songwriting skills reached maturity.”
After a gruelling 112 shows, U2’s Unforgettable Fire world tour ended just a fortnight after Live Aid. The rhythm section of Larry and Adam returned to Dublin to party and bask in their hard-won fame, but the guitarist and singer kept themselves busy in other ways. Edge went to work writing the soundtrack for Paul Mayerberg’s film, Captive, while the footloose did a bit of freelance roaming. Being out on the road in a rock’n’roll band over extended periods can cut you off from everyday reality. This was an opportunity to re-engage with life experiences, of a different kind.
In September 1985, wanting to witness the effects of famine firsthand in the wake of Live Aid, he and his wife Ali went on a humanitarian trip to Ethiopia. They spent about a month working at a World Vision camp in Ajibar, where they used songs to teach children about cleanliness and the benefits of eating healthily.
His experiences there provided much inspiration for the writing of the next U2 album. “Spending time in Africa and seeing people in the pits of poverty, I still saw a very strong spirit in the people, a richness of spirit I didn’t see when I came home,” he later reflected. “I saw the spoiled child of the Western world. I started thinking, ‘They may have a physical desert, but we’ve got the other kinds of deserts’. And that’s what attracted me to the desert as a symbol of some sort.”
Gradually, U2 were edging towards some kind of vision for what the album might be. Two early working titles for the work—in-progress were The Desert Songs and The Two Americas. The latter mostly referred to the extreme social divisions that exist in the United States. But after their African trip, Bono and Ali also travelled to Central America, under the auspices of Amnesty International, to observe and spend time in both El Salvador and Nicaragua. The singer’s experiences in that ‘other America’ would directly influence the writing of the incendiary ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’, a few months later, as well as the album’s concluding track ‘Mothers of the Disappeared’.
Although the heavily styled The Unforgettable Fire was largely considered their arty ‘European’ album, two of its songs were very much about the US (‘MLK’ and ‘Elvis Presley and America’). Clearly, the contradictions rife in the home of the brave and the land of the free had been playing on Bono’s mind for some time. By The Joshua Tree, these contradictions had become the heart of the matter.
In world politics, the 1980s were the apex of the Reagan/Thatcher era. In many respects, the unstable political climate was not so different from the one ushered in recently by the election Donald Trump as POTUSA. Back then, US foreign policy – supporting right-wing regimes and counter-revolutionaries across Central and South America in particular – was a constant source of concern that frequently tipped over into outrage. Certainly, Bono could have been talking about either US president when he told Hot Press, “I still believe in Americans. I think they’re a very open people. It’s their openness which leads them to trust a man as dangerous as Ronald Reagan. They want to believe he’s a good guy. They want to believe he’s in the cavalry, coming to rescue America’s reputation after the ‘70s. But he was only an actor. It was only a movie. I think the picture’s ended now and Americans are leaving the cinema a little down in the mouth.”
The album’s sound was epic and cinematic. That widescreen vision was central to its success. But the lyrics were equally important. With the intention of creating the aural equivalent of the Great American Novel, Bono had immersed himself in American literature, citing the likes of Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, Sam Shepard, Raymond Carver, Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer as major influences in interviews (See the "Trip Through Your Words" article, online today, for a full feature on the literary influences on The Joshua Tree).
Later on, in ‘The Fly’ – the opening track on Achtung Baby! – Bono might observe that ambition bites the nails of success. But here, the desire to create something truly great was just what the circumstances demanded.
UNIQUE SONIC PROPERTIES
In between his trips to Africa and Central America, Bono travelled to New York, to add his vocals to the Artists Against Apartheid Sun City record. While he was there, Peter Wolf of The J. Geils Band took him off to meet Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones. The legendary English rockers ended up having a serious influence on the young Dublin singer’s songwriting chops.
Bono later jokingly referred to the meeting as “the Night of the Long Knives.” In a Manhattan studio, Mick and Keith were casually jamming through some old blues standards for their personal entertainment and they inquired if Bono had any songs or party-pieces of his own. He didn’t. Without Edge, Larry or Adam to assist, he suddenly felt musically naked, embarrassed almost. He went back to his hotel bedroom for a sleepless night, writing the ghostly and chilling ‘Silver And Gold’ in some seizure of spontaneous creative combustion.
The experience hastened a serious reassessment of his art. To the young punk-inspired groups of U2’s generation, the blues had generally meant long-haired bar bands, filling up the Dublin dates they hungered for. Now, Bono knew that U2 had inherited a skewed tradition. Already interested in gospel, he realised finally that he would have to check out the blues. Those new insights and the prodding of friends like T-Bone Burnett and newly arrived Dublin resident, Mike Scott of The Waterboys, hardened his and the other members’ convictions about the inadequacies of U2’s previous approach to songwriting.
“We had experimented a lot in the making of The Unforgettable Fire,” Edge later recalled. “We had done quite revolutionary things like ‘Elvis Presley and America’ and ‘4th of July’. So we felt, going into The Joshua Tree, that maybe options were not a good thing, that limitations might be positive. And so we decided to work within the limitations of the song as a starting point.” Instinctively, the band wanted the record to be less atmospheric and impressionistic. In Edge’s words, they wanted to make it more focused and concise.
Having first worked with them on the dreamscape that was The Unforgettable Fire, U2 again chose to enlist Brian Eno and his sorcerer’s assistant, Daniel Lanois, to help craft their new musical direction. Larry Mullen, for one, was particularly happy about this: he knew the pair had a great respect for percussionists.
With the production team in place, the next question was where the album would be made. The first three U2 albums (Boy, October and War) had all been recorded at Windmill Lane Studios, located in a narrow street by the River Liffey in Dublin’s (then) dilapidated docklands. For The Unforgettable Fire they had taken the unusual decision to work in Slane Castle, the ancestral pile of Lord Henry Mountcharles, located thirty miles north of Dublin, where the Slane Festival takes place. Slane, however, was a once-off, and there seemed to be little enthusiasm for returning to Windmill Lane; the band, and Bono in particular, had often expressed a distaste for the ‘sterile’ environment of recording studios.
Instead, they elected to record in Danesmoate, a two-story-over-basement Georgian mansion in Rathfarnham, on the southside of the city, in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains. The house, a local landmark, was originally known as Glen Southwell, after the family who once lived there. According to historical records, it was originally laid out with rustic follies, a viewing tower, and it even had a small stream flowing through the grounds. Curiously, the first recorded evidence of anyone living there is in 1787 – exactly 200 years before The Joshua Tree was released – when it was occupied by a certain Capt. William Southwell.
Danesmoate was familiar territory for at least one band member – the house was adjacent to St Columba’s College, Adam Clayton’s alma mater. So impressed was he with the house during the recording sessions that he later bought it for use as his own home, and he has since carried out extensive restoration work to what is a beautiful listed building. But there were happy endings to this saga long before that…
For Daniel Lanois, Danesmoate offered the perfect location for getting down to some serious work. “It was a really nice set-up,” he later told Hot Press writer Colm O’Hare. “It has this large living room/drawing room, whatever you want to call it – a big rectangular room with a tall ceiling and wooden floors. It was loud, but it was really good loud, real dense, very musical.
“In my opinion it was the most rock and roll room of the lot,” he added. “The castle [Slane] was a fun idea and everything, but it was a massive place. Danesmoate sounded better than the castle. I think it was the best place of all the experiments we tried, ‘cause we’ve always tried different sorts of locations [to record].”
What impressed Lanois most about the 200-year-old building was its unique sonic properties, particularly when it came to, what he described as ‘the low mid-range’.
“The low mid-range is where the music lives,” he explained. “In my opinion The Joshua Tree is a great rock and roll record, partly because of the beauty of the low mid-range of that room.”
INCREDIBLY BAD YEAR
Sessions began in earnest in early August 1986, with the usual U2 protracted working method, of a combination of sifting through tapes, re-visiting soundcheck jams, and trawling through Bono’s overflowing lyric book – as well as launching into live jamming sessions.
Extracting new material from the band wasn’t always easy, according to Brian Eno, discussing the album on the Classic Albums TV special. “There were quite a few things in the bag, and that’s exactly where they were,” he recalled. “I remember everyone used to walk in with these enormous bags of cassette tapes, especially Edge, who somehow or other had managed to connect his to a black hole located somewhere around Dublin. Because once tapes were in that bag, they never reappeared.”
Hard at work on the album, and struggling to reinvent their sound, U2 kept a relatively low profile during 1986. The first hint that fans were given of the nascent new direction came in January of that year, when they appeared on the RTÉ show TV Gaga, which was hosted by Hot Press journalist Liam Mackey (now soccer correspondent with the Examiner) and musician and actor Maria Doyle Kennedy – best known now for her starring role in Orphan Black.
A lot of U2 fans were knocked for six by what they saw. It wasn’t quite an image-change on a David Bowie-esque scale, but – put it this way – Bono was wearing a red bandana, hadn’t shaved and was drawling in what sounded suspiciously like an American accent. It was all a very far cry from their more clean-cut incarnation of yore.
U2 played three songs during that TV Gaga appearance, including ‘Trip Through Your Wires’, the first genuine public taste of the as-yet-untitled new album. No one was sure what to make of it. On this showing, the thought that U2 might be headed down a cul-de-sac at high speed couldn’t be fully discounted.
The band further divided opinion when they performed at Self Aid – a sort of a ‘jobs aid’ benefit to counter unemployment, held in the RDS, Dublin on May 17th. Was the gig a good idea? Should they have done it?
For reasons that remain unclear, in advance of the gig, they were singled out for what seemed like highly personalised criticism. The attacks weren’t really about the songs, or the music; they were about U2’s newfound success. You could argue, indeed, that the uniquely Irish phenomenon of U2 begrudgery – which continues to this day – really started then. Either way, it fed into their performance at the RDS, which was darker and angrier than anything they had done before, including a raw and incendiary reworking of Bob Dylan’s ‘Maggie’s Farm’ – which had to be interpreted as a gut-twisting excoriation of the economic devastation caused by the British Prime Minister, Maggie Thatcher.
“There was a very interesting reaction afterwards,” Bono told Hot Press editor Niall Stokes. “The people who believe in U2 are very ordinary people, working-class people. The only flak we get for being in a privileged position is from the middle-class. I felt: how can I write a song about being unemployed when I am fully employed, how can I stand on stage at an unemployed benefit when I know U2 are not short of cash?
“But one guy came up to me afterwards and said: ‘I’m really pissed off about what you said on stage’. And I said what do you mean? And he said: ‘You said you don’t know what it’s like to be unemployed. We didn’t want to hear that - because we know you know what it’s like, even if you don’t’. It was amazing, the last thing I expected to hear. And then I heard all these stories about people singing ‘Maggie’s Farm’ on the dole queue on the Monday morning, which I found funny. I don’t know whether they were slagging us off or just enjoying the song.”
The month after Self Aid, alongside Sting, Lou Reed, Bryan Adams and other acts, U2 participated in A Conspiracy of Hope, a short six-date tour of the US, organised on behalf of Amnesty International. The purpose of the tour was not to raise funds, but to increase awareness of human rights and of Amnesty’s work on its 25th anniversary – and thereby to inspire a new generation to get involved in the global campaign to free prisoners of conscience. Needless to say, these Amnesty concerns would resurface in the lyrics of many of the new songs – most especially on the moving album closer ‘Mothers of the Disappeared’.
There was a personal tragedy, too, when Bono’s PA, the personable New Zealand Maori, Greg Carroll, to whose memory the anthemic ‘One Tree Hill’ is dedicated, died in a motor-bike accident when he crashed Bono’s Harley into an unlighted car in July.
His shock death had a profound effect on the band. So too did that of Thin Lizzy’s Philip Lynott, who had died in January 1986. His passing must have filtered into the drug-themed ‘Running To Stand Still’, The Joshua Tree’s sequel to ‘Bad’. But it also underscored a growing sense, felt within the band, that the old certainties were crumbling. No matter what you chose to believe, the spectre of doubt had to be acknowledged. Human affairs were inescapably bleak in a way that much of U2’s early work had been designed to counter. There are some arguments you simply can’t win.
Bono was clearly upset about Lynott’s death. As he confessed to Niall Stokes, he had bumped into Philip on numerous occasions out in Howth, where they both lived. They had exchanged promises that they’d have dinner in one house or the other. But it was too late now. The grim reaper had intervened. Philip was dead.
Ultimately, Bono described 1986 as “an incredibly bad year” for him – and that was reflected in the lyrics on The Joshua Tree, songs in which an element of tragedy, bordering on despair, began to surface. His marriage to Ali was apparently under strain, in part due to the album’s long gestation period. The media criticism following Self Aid had stung him badly. And the deaths of Lynott and Carroll had shaken the entire band. On the surface, things might have seemed to be going extraordinarily well. But deep down, there were demons on the loose. “That’s why the desert attracted me as an image,” Bono said. “That year was really a desert for us.”
Just prior to the release of The Joshua Tree, Bono was stricken with panic. He was so paranoid about the artistic calbre of the completed album, and so uncertain that U2 had made the right calls musically, that he actually contemplated calling the production plant to order a halt to the manufacturing of the record. Maybe he in his heart he knew that it was all too far gone to change anything – but he had to quell those particular demons of doubt. He let the presses roll.
Just as well. U2’s time was now. Upon its release, on one level at least, the band found what they were looking for. Reviews for The Joshua Tree were almost universally positive. Some were ecstatic – a response that was, in U2’s case, unprecedented. In Hot Press, Bill Graham waxed even more lyrical than usual in his extended review. “One thing is absolutely clear,” he summarised. “U2 can no longer be patronised with faint and glib praise. They must be taken very seriously indeed after this re-valuation of rock.” (The full Bill Graham review is also posted online).
Steve Lillywhite, who mixed the album, is under no illusions as to what made it work for a mainstream audience. “I think what made The Joshua Tree the big seller that it was, was the fact that they had the radio songs, the hits – and it was all stuff that they could play live,” he reasoned.
Daniel Lanois’ reputation also soared, in the wake of his production triumph on The Joshua Tree. By now considered one of the most important producers to have emerged in the 1980s, he went on to midwife hugely acclaimed albums for Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, The Neville Brothers and many more. He has maintained his connection with U2, subsequently working on All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.
Asked in 2007 by Hot Press’s Colm O’Hare how he felt about The Joshua Tree over twenty years later, he offered a special kind of perspective. “Well, I’ve been hurt more on other records than I was on that record,” he reflected. “You know, where you actually take a kicking – as I did when I made Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind. I certainly felt that, at every stage of The Joshua Tree, there were no major personal disappointments. I like the sound of the early U2 records that we made. It’s the sound of commitment.”
In terms of understanding the powerful, enduring appeal of the record, he was emphatic in defending the values with which the recording was imbued.
“Modern day record production – because people have access to so many sounds – has kind of fallen into the hands of stylists,” he stated. “‘Let’s have that little beat and this little texture’ and you come up with them in, like, minutes – ‘that should work with this, that’ll be nice here and let’s hang that over there’. And it makes a very nice first impression, like, ‘Jeez, we didn’t have to do any work and we’ve got that big, symphonic U2 sound that they got in the 1980s’. But what you don’t get is that ramp-up of dedication to get to that place.
“It’d be like if you buy a barren piece of property and you push a button and end up with a full orchard. Consequently, you end up with instant gratification, but you may not have a connection with it, it might actually not belong to you, at all. You can employ a stylist for a photo-shoot – but I don’t think you should employ one for the making of a record.
“Those U2 records, they have big ramp-ups,” he concluded. “They’re filled with philosophies. And we got to those places because we believed in an idea – and not because we liked someone else’s idea.”
Thirty years on from its release, The Joshua Tree still stands the test of time. Yet for all of its American themes, the album was still very much the work of four Irishmen.
“The Joshua Tree is not Irish in any of the obvious senses,” Bono later reflected. “In a much more mysterious way, it is very Irish. The ache, the melancholy is uniquely Irish.”
Four years later, when they released Achtung Baby! in 1991, the singer laughingly commented that their new album was “the sound of four men chopping The Joshua Tree down.”
But that’s another story, for another time, another place. Right now, it is right that we should celebrate U2’s first masterpiece – and listen to it again with open hearts. The band wouldn’t have wanted this, of course, but 30 years on, it feels newly relevant, and horribly of the moment, in a world that has tilted ominously back to the 1980s.
“I want to run, I want to hide,” Bono sings on the opening track, ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’. In 2017, as never before, there is no hiding place. It is time to take up the megaphones again…
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Best known for her starring role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Carrie Fisher is currently in intensive care in a hospital in Los Angeles.Read More
The Tulla Céili Band were one of the forerunners of the trad revival, who gigged all over Ireland as well as internationally with great success. Now they are the subject of a documentary by director, John O'DonnellRead More
The acclaimed Irish rockers Bell X1 met Olaf Tyaransen in October to talk about international success and new album Arms, the "most difficult that we've ever made."Read More
Pixie Geldof talked with Olaf Tyaransen back in November about her love for Ireland, her unlikely music influences, and the pros and cons of being from a famous family.Read More
The Followill family had some curveballs in store for interviewer Olaf Tyaransen during a highly charged interview back in October.Read More
Well, not in the manner intended anyway. The recent report from Forensic Science Ireland on the adulteration of the most widely used illicit drugs on this island makes for depressing, but mostly predictable reading.Read More
Former model Pixie Geldof is about to release her debut album, the Tony Hoffer-produced I’m Yours. She talks about her love of Ireland, her unlikely country music influences, meeting Courtney Love, recording in LA with Beck’s father, and the pros and cons of being from a famous family. Interview: Olaf Tyaransen Photos: Kathrin BaumbachRead More
Larry Love of Brixton-based outfit Alabama 3 on playing outlaw funerals, recording the audiobook of Howard Marks’ final memoir, Ronan Keating’s polyps, and their three new studio albums.Read More
Paul Butler of acclaimed Waterford outfit Propeller Palms on smalltown jealousies, musical ambitions, the logistics of managing an eight-piece band, and their long-awaited second album, Old Dog, New Tricks.Read More
Excellent comeback from pop icon.Read More
Acclaimed Irish rockers Bell XI discuss meeting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, attempting to replicate their huge Irish success internationally, and the challenges of creating their latest masterwork, Arms. “This record has been the most difficult that we’ve made,” they tell Olaf Tyaransen.Read More
Wild World is out now on Virgin. Bastille play the SSE Arena, Belfast on November 9 and 3Arena, Dublin (10).Read More
Hip-hop inspired album from nashville pioneersRead More
Meet the band defiantly pushing against the grain of indie and folk bands in Ireland…Read More
It’s been six years since Irish urban troubadour Jinx Lennon put out his last studio effort. He’s now set to simultaneously release two new albums – and is still sounding as angry and acerbic as ever.Read More
The award-winning radio musical, based on John Millington Synge’s Playboy of the Western World, has now been adapted for theatre – and premieres in Galway tonight.Read More
Impressive debut from model-turned-singerRead More
One of Galway's great characters, Mark Kennedy, died last week. But there was far more to the man – and his history – than even those who knew, and loved, him might have been aware. He gave a rare interview to Hot Press’ Olaf Tyaransen in the recent past – at least in part with an eye to posterity.Read More
Pop maverick presses 'reboot' with sometimes compelling results.Read More
An actor, writer and journalist, Mark Kennedy was a larger than life figure, who made Galway a better and more interesting place. By Olaf TyaransenRead More
In advance of the release of Kings Of Leon seventh studio album, Walls, Matthew and Nathan Followill discuss living in Nashville, record company pressures, working with producer Markus Dravs, the US presidential race, Caleb’s meltdown in Dallas, and fighting over a girl in a Dublin bar.Read More
Divine Comedy frontman Neil Hannon on the band’s superb comeback album, Foreverland, living a life of domestic bliss in the Kildare countryside, and his encounter with the late David Bowie.Read More
Owner of three hugely popular Galway restaurants – including the Michelin-starred Aniar – JP McMahon has become one of the country’s most controversial chefs. He discusses Twitter spats, falling out with his head chef and best friend Enda McEvoy, the stresses of maintaining a successful business – and why so many chefs fall prey to sex, drink and drugs.Read More
Acclaimed American novelist Jay McInerney on early literary success, the influence of James Joyce, being a member of the eighties brat-pack, hanging with Mick Jagger in Manhattan, and his latest novel Bright Precious Days.Read More
‘Operation Thor’ was the name given to a major Garda operation in Carlow and Kilkenny last Thursday. But with a staggering 210 police officers involved, and just €34,000 worth of drugs seized in the sting, was it even a remotely good use of time, resources and public money? Report: Olaf Tyaransen (pictured right with RTE's Dan Hegarty)Read More
Internationally renowned American tattooist Scott Campbell on his early years in Louisiana, tattooing Heath Ledger and Courtney Love, and his work on Hennessy Very Special Limited Edition.Read More
James Vincent McMorrow's new album is one of the most anticipated Irish releases f the year, but the singer admits fraught emotions are never far from the surface. He discusses anxiety, stage fright, the dark side of social media and giving up the drink.Read More
Wallis Bird’s last album – 2014’s Architect – largely celebrated the talented Wexford singer’s relocation from Brixton to Berlin. Things have obviously worked out for her in Germany. As the title of this fifth album suggests, she’s very much at home there.Read More
Ahead of their Electric Picnic performance, co-vocalist and guitarist Tom Fleming of the Wild Beasts tells Olaf Tyaransen about their fifth album, Boy King, modern masculinity, and why their testosterone-fuelled new songs are actually a lot more sensitive than they appear.Read More
The Voyeur’s Motel By Gay TaleseRead More
Irish rocker's unashamedly retro debutRead More
IRISH STAR DELIVERS HER BEST ALBUM YETRead More
Connor Habib is a gay porn star with a difference – an ex-creative writing teacher who enjoys discussing Irish literature and cultural theory. Oh, and he loves his job.Read More
Ahead of Suede’s Galway Arts Festival headliner, Brett Anderson, reflects on fatherhood, ageing, mortality, his first-ever meeting with David Bowie, and why he’ll never write his autobiography.Read More
Having made a complete cult of himself for the past decade, Kurt Vile is starting to enjoy the same mainstream success as his former employers, The War On Drugs.Read More
With his third album, The Wild Swan, just released on Gingerbread Man Records, Ulsterman Foy Vance talks about his friendship with Ed Sheeran, recording in Nashville, having Elton John as his executive producer, and the possibility of getting Noam Chomsky to appear in a music video.Read More
Conor O’Brien tells Olaf Tyaransen about his surprise at winning a second Ivor Novello award, the challenges of playing festival shows, and trying to figure out where his next album will take him.Read More
With the release of Garbage’s sixth studio album, Strange Little Birds, Scottish singer Shirley Manson talks about love, romance, break-ups, the pressures of life on the road, and the trials and tribulations of running your own record label.Read More
Tony Parsons latest thriller, The Hanging Club, features a group of vigilante executioners, dishing out a very modern style of justice. The former NME gunslinger turned controversial Sun columnist talks about ISIS, David Bowie – and why he’s in favour of the return of capital punishment.Read More
QUALITY SUBURBAN SOUNDS FROM SEATTLE ROCKERSRead More
In advance of his new show, The Aluminum Negro, acclaimed American stand-up REGINALD D. HUNTER waxes lyrical about Gerry Adams’ controversial tweet, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and why he considers Ireland to be a safe environment for his comedy. Interview: OLAF TYARANSENRead More
Indie superstar Alex Turner explains to Olaf Tyaransen why he felt compelled to return to TLSP, his mega-successful side project with Miles Kane.Read More
Olaf Tyransen gives his verdict on the second day of festivities at Forbidden Fruit 2016Read More
Mike McCormack is easily one of Ireland’s most accomplished contemporary writers but, with just two short story collections and three novels in his 20-year career, he’s far from being the most prolific – or the richest!Read More
Olaf Tyaransen offers his review of Mick McCormack's Solar Bones.Read More
From New York to Jakarta, Disclosure have conquered all before them. Sam Smith, Lorde and The Weeknd are all on the agenda as Olaf Tyaransen talks to one half of the brotherly duo, Guy Lawrence.Read More
With their 20th anniversary looming, Stereophonics are in the form of their lives. Ahead of a much anticipated Dublin show, frontman Kelly Jones talks music, life and the shadow of terrorismRead More
Before saying goodbye to your correspondent, Dexys frontman Kevin Rowland discusses Irish roots, Indian escapes and his pampered London lifestyle (not).Read More
Indie darlings September Girls are back with a new collection of shimmering instant classics. They talk to us about balancing art with commerce and how their new album was inspired by the dark side of social media.Read More
With the release of their tenth and final album, You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To, celebrated Portland alt-country outfit Richmond Fontaine are finally calling it a day. Frontman Willy Vlautin talks about their 23-year career, his new band The Delines and his forthcoming novel.Read More
All Saints were one of the biggest bands of the late ‘90s – until they split up in 2001 following a row about who would wear what at a photo shoot. Now they are back – older, wiser and just as sexy as ever – with a hot new album.Read More
Olaf Tyaransen pays tribute to his old smoking buddie, Howard Marks, who succumbed last week to bowel cancer.Read More