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Bono found what he was looking for!

As a teenager I adored U2 (and I still do), so it was extra special to see that Bono got a copy of Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About yesterday from Stephen, when they were filming the annual Christmas Busk to raise funds for the Simon Community (who work tirelessly to aid those who are homeless).

If you told the teenage me, that my hero Bono would have my words in his hands, I would scarcely have believed you. But art moves in mysterious ways. Very proud today.

If you too (u2?) want a copy of the book, you can buy one here

POP

Pop by U2 just turned 23 years old. I remember the day the record came out and how the eclectic set of tracks were equal parts surprising, arresting and inspiring. Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree were always firm favourites, and still are, but this was such an eye opening, ambitious record that transported me to somewhere utterly magical and new. The band themselves later said it felt unfinished to them, as they were up against a time crunch with their touring deadline, but to me it has everything and has possibly become my favourite of them all (even if many other fans I know don’t hold it in high regard) It took weird turns, wasn’t afraid to fail, had vibrant arresting playful artwork, took lyrical and sonic leaps, and most of all had an authentic musical heart at it’s core that they always have had. Spinning the record tonight and I’m reminded of the magical possibility in all creativity and art. Take big chances. Try new things. Go to new places. And an audience will find you. Sometimes it takes 23 minutes, sometimes 23 years. And even if they don’t, that creative leap can lead to new ideas and avenues that continue to pop (pun intended) and echo long afterwards in ways you can’t imagine.

Extraordinary Love for U2

As a teen I adored U2. I still do. It seemed inconceivable to me that the most popular (and the best) band in the world were from Ireland. They had bravado, creativity that crackled, they were cheeky and funny. And most of all they wrote beautiful song after song. I still remember seeing them live in New York after 9/11 when most other bands cancelled shows, and they stood up and did what they do best and brought a room full of thousands together. Bono was a shaman and a healer that night, wrapping his arms around the world. It was unlike any live experience I have witnessed before or since. When others criticised them or Bono, I defended doubly. I loved their music so much. Like any band they have had their ups and downs, some of their albums wobbled a bit, but there were always the beautiful gems in there that were lyrically mesmerising and with melodies from another planet. The most recent pair of records have really connected with me again, and I had the joy of standing at the very front for their Dublin gigs a couple of years ago when they performed them live. They were having the craic and belting out tunes with pure joy. Four lads from Dublin playing great tunes in their hometown. This clip from The Tonight Show a few years ago came across my radar today and it is one of those lovely snapshots of them at their best – the song is simple and catchy, and starts small and intimate, then Bono, ever the frontman, getting the crowd going, and bringing in The Roots to make a supergroup for the night. I have many bands I adore, but U2 will always be my favourite band. Because they belong to a part of me that always brings me happiness.

don’t be afraid

On the wall before me. A blazing neon sign bearing the final words of poet Seamus Heaney – guiding my way on the dark walk home on this November evening.

Noli timere – “Don’t be afraid”

Although I think they might have spelled it wrong. They should have used a Latin spellcheck on this before they committed it to neon tubing. Or maybe that last letter is actually a really fancy ‘e’

Now I’m Googling the phrase to see what the correct spelling in Latin is. This feels a bit Monty Python all of a sudden, as I look through Latin declensions.

Noli timere , Nolle timere. Oh there is dispute on how it is spelled. The plot thickens.

And my mind drifts to a rumour I heard that the building that sign sits upon is Paul McGuinness’ house. The guy who famously managed U2 to mega-stardom. Perhaps he wasn’t a Latin scholar but a fan of Irish poetry (aren’t we all?). Or maybe he just likes neon (don’t we all?)

I wonder if he considered a U2 lyric instead like “In dreams begin responsibilities” Which Bono might well have borrowed from somewhere else. And that inspires me to stick on the album Pop, which is secretly one of my favourite U2 albums. Poetic and melodic and unusual. U2 at their best cheeky arty version of themselves.

And just like that , the time has passed and I am nearly home. Mind buzzing, many miles from ever being afraid.

It worked.

Thanks famous Seamus.Noli timere indeed

Angels of dublin – short film

Back in the late 90s, myself and my friend Jakob made some arty little short films together. With a shared interest in German filmmaker Wim Wenders (specifically the film Himmel Uber Berlin) and U2, we set out with a camera to film in the abandoned power plant in Poolbeg in Dublin. I then recorded a slightly pretentious poem that acted as the cacophony of voices the angels could hear. All mixed together with a blast of Zooropa by U2. The end result is actually a pretty nice little film that still looks and sounds good to me.

Portrayal of an Artist – Part 3 [Music Parody]

For the past two days I have been sharing the wacky album cover and music industry satire we created for the defunct website artlick.com (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here). This is the final instalment in that oddball collection. And if you thought some of the other albums were odd, you ain’t seen nothing yet. These go deep into really unusual abstract places, but are among my very favourites of the entire series.


Albums: Futurific;  Neon: The Futurific Remixes
Singles: Once in my past twice in your future; Greener Grass; Eliminate your last thought

 

One afternoon in 2001 we headed out around the financial district to take some suitably esoteric photos of me wearing a beanie hat and some Elvis sunglasses. I remember really loving this photoshoot. The result was the Futurific album which we decided was to appear on a new record label called Electric Son. I imagine this as somewhere between heavy beats driven electronica and jazz. We had been listening a lot to the band Red Snapper during the creation process for these, which I feel are a big influence on them.

As with all popular records, you’re nothing if you don’t have a dance-y remix version of your album. So we went to Times Square one night and captured some remarkable photos in front of the neon lit NYPD outpost there to assemble the makings of this sister album to Futurific.

The singles all followed a similar theme to the Futurific album cover but are lent an added air of poignancy given the events of 9/11 a few weeks later. They now stand as a strange document of that time

The most eerie and unusual one of them all was this single, which we named before the terrorist attacks, but now seem strangely prescient given the subsequent events that unfolded. Another curious element here was the naming of Clune (David Gray’s longtime collaborator and drummer at the time) as a collaborator on the tracks. I was a huge David Gray fan, and we had been to see the band perform many times during this period. We had a huge affection for the charismatic drummer Clune in the band, so we added him in as an unlikely collaborator on these.

The Greener Grass single cover is probably the coolest of them all and might well have deserved an album of its own.

We shot so many great images of the Twin Towers, so we designed a funky foldout CD type inlay to accompany the standard album covers. These are really nicely designed I think and the glorious lines of the towers are so photogenic in these. Masterful work by Dave on the design.


Albums: The Rambler Trilogy – The Rambler; The Return of the Real; Committed to Mediocrity
Singles: Slang; The Myth of Everything; Intermission

This is where we went super oddball and arty, and the results are both beautiful and slightly unnerving. It began with a photoshoot in our old office, where we were packing up to move to downtown Manhattan. So there were loads of empty office spaces, brimming cardboard boxes and a wealth of orange packing labels. Naturally enough I decided to stick them to my head to create a makeshift hat of sorts, and off we went. Given the rather unusual atmosphere and ambience of the photos, we took the album art even further out there as we manipulated the images. We also decided to put this out on yet another record label that we called And Recordings, which somehow felt suitably indie. Additionally, I quite liked the idea that the word “and” is a conjunction and it was somehow connecting radically different phases of the artist’s career

We imagined that the recording artist would forgo his usual name (Kalle Ryan- yes, I find it odd talking about myself in the third person too) and simply become a character called The Rambler and this would be a suite of three concept albums that told a trilogy story from his experimental point of view. Ultimately the idea was a series of records based around language. And if you look closely, the table of ideas has resurfaced as one of the tracks on the first album

Again for this one, we decided to a gatefold centre with a slightly unusual look and feel

The singles all followed in the same mad spirit. There’s something almost Kubrickian about them. Empty spaces. Weird characters.

I love the deliberately computer generated blockiness and cut-n-paste vibe of many of them. Seems fitting for something so artificial and contrived.

This one really looks like some kind of otherworldly painting. For some reason it harkens imagery from the Wim Wenders film Until The End of the World, which I was really taken with at the time. I remember going to see Wim Wenders do a Q&A at a legendary 4 hour version of that very movie around this time ( and it was the only print in existence of the movie) so some of that must have filtered into the influences on this one.


Album: Eventuality of Nothing

I think this one was imagined as an instrumental album along the lines of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. Dave was also a huge fan of Vangelis and I think some of that was fuel for inspiration too. The record label was again different for this one, Lösch Audio, which seemed to fit with the experiemntal soundtrack vibe. If thie artist was to fully realise his wild ambitions then of course he would release an epic lush instrumental soundtrack


Album: I was just getting into that (b-sides & rarities)
Single: Toasting Paint

Any good artist worth their salt must release a B-sides and unreleased demos record (or his contractual obligation will ensure that the record label releases it). But his artist had to obviously go even bigger and release a double album of demos, and an entire record of cover versions. This is very much a Thin Raft album and the choices of acoustic guitar  cover versions ranged from the possible (Bob Dylan) to impossible (Public Enemy).

Fun fact, this photoshoot was done on the same day as Dr Livingstone I Presume, but we didnt use it till much later. There is also a shoutout my friend Corrie Leane (who created the artwork for the Footsteps in Chalkdust album) who is named as co-songwriter on a few tracks. And all of those particular tracks are references or in jokes between us, although my foggy memory can’t really recall the exact reference points any more.


Album: Midnight at Donington

The metal album.🤘At the time on MTV we were often treated to heavy metal concerts from Castle Donington. So, in my mind that was a connection forged between a place and a genre of music. Which meant that we decided we needed a heavy metal record to capture the artist’s evolving musical development and genre defying proficiency. I think it may have also been inspired in part by Ryan Adams, an artist I adore, who had put out a trash metal record under a different moniker at the time called The Finger.

I think we imagined an epic Stairway to Heaven type track as the closer, and for that we felt we needed to ground it in metal royalty with Kirk Hammett (Metallica) as a guest guitarist on the track. The record label naturally enough had to be suited to the genre, so it came out on Darrk Source, which sounds like something a user on Reddit would call themselves these days.


Album: Zoocoustic

Long before the mighty Ryan Adams made it popular to do a superb cover version of an entire album (have a listen to his Taylor Swift reworking of 1989 – sounds like Bruce Springsteen and The Smiths singing pop songs), I cooked up this acoustic, unplugged tribute to the seminal Zooropa album by U2. A band and an album I adore to this day.The guitar is my Takamine that I still own to this day, and the Zooropa artwork and layour is poached from the original album. I always wondered what this album might actually sound like if it were recorded this way. Over to you Bono…


And that, my friends, is that. Hope you enjoyed this odyssey through my fictional musical back catalogue (Go back and read Part 1 here and Part 2 here). I have a pile of sketches in a notebook of album titles and concepts that we never got around to creating, so I will post those at a later date.