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Hot Press meets U2's Adam Clayton

In a rare interview, U2’s Adam Clayton discuses why battling his own demons has inspired him to help young people with mental health issues – and talks about the upcoming U2 album...

Stuart Clark, 25 Mar 2013

Heads don’t so much turn as spin Exorcist-style 360º as Adam Clayton walks into the Four Seasons Hotel. The Ballsbridge five-star is used to superstar guests – Metallica, Bon Jovi, Slash, Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz among them – but in terms of being recognised and revered in their hometown, U2 are in a different stratosphere to anyone else. Something that, as we’ll discuss later, brings with it its own set of pressures.

The last time we spotted Mr. C at Christmas, he had a near Afro, but today the hair is almost back to regulation U2 bassist length.

We’re here to discuss Adam’s patronage of Walk In My Shoes, April 12’s mental health day of action, but before getting dopwn to business, he’s willing to talk about the day job.

“We very much want to have a record out by the end of this year,” he informs me. “September, October, November; that kind of time. We’re working with Dangermouse who’s a smart guy. He’s on it; he’s excited. It’s a great team and feels very liberating at the moment – anything goes.

“We have an abundance of riches,” Adam continues. “We could make three or four different records and justify that to ourselves, but to make the best record you can, you have to steer away from the ones you can make easily. We’re really trying to get into territory that we’re not comfortable in. If that makes sense…”

It does. During their five-decade career, U2 have never made the same album twice and in Achtung Baby, Zooropa and Pop they have thrown some serious curveballs. I found it highly telling a few years ago when I asked Bono who the competition was, and instead of fellow Hall of Fame-ers like The Who and the Stones he said, “Arcade Fire, The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys.”

“Well, that’s the music we’re excited by,” Clayton avers. “You can still listen to Van Morrison, you can still listen to the Stones or whatever – but it’s different. I like to hear things being expressed in a new way. It’s like, if I was in a band coming up now I don’t think I’d be listening much to U2. You need something to kick against.”

So what’s been floating his musical boat of late?

“The Tribes album, Baby, is one I keep coming back to. I can’t wait to hear the latest Nick Cave record – there’s something a bit different and fresh about the single. The Vaccines have that garage-y Ramones thing going on, which I’m a sucker for. The Villagers album is great – Conor J. O’Brien is an incredibly talented guy. I made a bit of a connection today at the Walk In My Shoes launch with The Original Rudeboys – they have a lot of energy. A band I really like and got to see in London recently are The Maccabees. They sound quite tough on record, but live are a bit… not wimpy, sensitive!”

So that’s five new artists, plus old Nick, who’ll be hoping for a call when U2 take to the road next.

“Who knows?” he laughs. “Everyone always has their ears open. It’s like when Kings Of Leon were on their way up – I think we’d done Top Of The Pops with them and thought, ‘These guys would be perfect for the Vertigo tour'. Which they were. People think it’s us doing them a favour, but it’s the other way around. Nothing keeps you on your game like having a really hot band on before you!”

Is Adam still a massive reggae fan?

“It was a long time ago, when I used to like the reggae woodbines; my perspective changed a bit when I gave them up,” he smiles. “The songs are still great. If Bob Marley had been white he’d have been bigger than The Beatles. If you dissect how it works, rhythmically and everything, him and the Wailers were very on it. It’s not stoned or doped out or anything.”

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