THE GUITAR MAN - AUG 2005 - U2. COM
Guitar Man’ - courtesy of U2.com
August 23, 2005
Louisville, Kentucky (originally)
now Boulder, Colorado
Title on the Road
The Edge’s Guitar Technician
Stringing eighteen guitars on every show day, maintaining all Edge’s guitars, Edge allowing me
to sometimes search and find many of his and Adam’s vintage rare guitar/bass purchases. Setting up the guitar system
on stage, playing with Sammy and Stuart for the line-check and when Joe O’Herlihy does the sound check before the band
arrive. Tuning and exchanging guitars on stage during the show.
First Time I saw U2
When I joined
them in 1985 - I had never seen them before I started working with them. It was the second leg of The Joshua Tree Tour in
the US, a stadium somewhere, maybe Kansas City. At the time I had been on tour in Los Angeles with the band Mister Mister,
and I’d just come off the road with YES. But I was in a recording studio in The Village in New York when Daniel Lanois,
who was upstairs working on a Robbie Robertson recording, came down with Robbie’s guitar and asked if I would repair
it. When I took it back up, he played it and liked it and he mentioned that he had a mate who was looking for a new guitar
tech. It turned out the mate was The Edge, who rang me from Ireland and said he would like to meet as he was looking for someone
to work with him on The Joshua Tree tour. That was twenty years ago!
How I Ended up Working With U2
talking with The Edge, the band flew me over to Dublin to meet them at The Factory, their recording studio. I hadn’t
even thought of telling the group that I was then working with that I might be quitting but now I was interviewed by all four
members of U2 and Paul McGuinness. It was very freaky!
I had never been interrogated by a whole band like this before.
They asked me questions for like a couple of hours and then I got to watch them rehearse and I loved it. Man, they were really
good – and I didn't have any of their albums either.
I had to fly back to the US the next morning but Dennis Sheehan
rang me in The Blooms Hotel and said Edge wanted me to stay on. It was a big decision for me so I called Bill Graham. He was
then a San Francisco Area promoter, a friend of mine and the manager of the band I was touring with, Lanyard Skynyrd. I respected
him and asked him what I should do. I asked a couple of other friends too – ringing them from my hotel room. They all
said, ‘Drop everything. Whatever you are doing, it doesn't matter: if U2 are asking you to stay, you have to stay.’
And that's how it all began.
Working with U2 compared to other touring bands
A hundred-fold more
intense, so much more responsibility, so many guitars and total flattery. Edge’s trust in me and his relationship with
me, it’s so much more called upon than any other band I have ever worked with. With anyone else I care for the guitars,
tune the guitars, take them up on stage and leave them to the musician but with Edge it is all that and also about creating
sounds with him and my documenting all of his creativity..and quickly. It is about knowing, from the vast U2 library of U2
songs, what guitar Edge needs for which songs, what sounds he needs to create at what point in the show – what guitar
to give to Edge when he looks at me from the stage.
This band can play songs in 3 different pitches and one has to
know - and quickly - what song U2 plays in which pitch and have that pitch-dedicated guitar ready.
And in the studio
on the latest record that was the greatest thing I had ever done – Bono or sometimes Edge or the producer would say,..‘Have
you got any ideas for guitar sounds that would reflect the spirit of this track ?’ That was flattering you know! Sometimes
it would be shite what I did, but sometimes it would work!
I wouldn’t miss any opportunity to work with Edge for
the world. He is a class guy.
I carry a total of 46 Edge selected guitars on the VERTIGO
tour with 35 prepared for each show. Edge for the most part on this tour plays between 15 to18 different ones but every guitar
also has a spare in case of problems and all these have to be ready to be put into the show. They are all high end vintage
guitars and when I bring vintage appreciators to see them, their jaws drop.
Favorite memory of life on the
road with U2
It’s not so funny but on tours where I have had a problem with Edge’s department during
a show and Bono suddenly starts saying over the microphone, ‘Dallas, sort Edge out can you?’ And Edge and I look
at each other as if to say, ‘Yeah, Bono you don’t have to tell everyone here - we are fixing it - just give us
a second!’ But that’s Bono’s way and I have to deal with that sometimes!’
You Doing During the Show ?
Some nights there are between 18 different guitars within 23 songs. My responsibility
is to have them all tuned and cleaned and ready to go. It is challenging because if you do the math there is only a certain
amount of time in the show day and each instrument requires 20 to 30 minutes to prepare. Some of the ‘more challenging’
moments are when – if Bono calls an audible (a song that he wants U2 to perform that has not been selected in that particular
night’s show song list) I don’t know if Adam and Stewart (Adam’s guitar tech) have got the same understanding
of the pitch of the song as me nor what bass Adam has selected to play for that song. Stewart and I talk a lot so we get it
right but if I handed Edge a guitar and it was tuned differently that could be embarrassing!
In the show I have a microphone
to talk to ‘Monitor World’ so that when Edge tells me cues – less guitar, more drums, whatever – I
call to Monitor World with the instruction – and I keep a mix in my ear so I can sometimes tell them before Edge tells
During a show I am up and down those five steps from my position under the stage position and onto the stage 47
times – and that’s just for guitar changes. It’s more when he has a lead caught or other things come up
but all this up and onstage and down and offstage keeps me in shape. Maybe as well as my swimming ? This position is not one
for an idle guitar roadie!
I know quite a few guitar technicians in the world and when they come to one of our U2 shows
and see exactly what I do in The Edge department, they cannot believe what is required. – there is so much going on.
Take the vintage guitars for example, they are hard to tune and they react to the weather and one might have gone out of tune
but you have it in your hand and you know it is being used in the next song! You have to calm yourself down because you are
still giving Edge sounds with your feet -- and yet you have also to retune a guitar. Then he might yell across with some instruction
for the mix and that takes me over to another bit of Edge World under the stage here.
In The Studio
the last two years, during the making of the ‘HTDAAB’ record, I lived in Dublin because they wanted me involved
and it was one of the best experiences of my career ever. In the past Edge would get me in to do some guitar overdubs but
this time it was during the recording, getting involved in how to present the sounds in the best way. I was in the studio
every day, working with Adam, Bono and Edge and their instrument technicians, getting guitar sounds for the album which is
the first time I have been involved with the band on this level.
Best Thing About Touring
all the different venues you get to visit and all the different twists you have to give to the guitar sound for that venue.
I love all the different cities and the aquatic centers – swimming is my thing!
Worst Thing About Touring
being alone without my wife for long periods of time and also the amount of sleep – it’s sleep deprivation for
everyone on the road. This U2 production is just massive!
Support Act Most Looking Forward to
Also Worked With
Pearl Jam, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney,
James Taylor and long ago…..Manassas, been guitar tech for the most part for all of them.
For me it’s at the end when Edge hands me the last guitar and gives me a wink or a nod that means
he and I have had a good two and a half hours with all our guitar exchanges and guitar sounds being successful. The other
thing is trying to meet some fans throughout the day, to talk with them, because they want to talk about Edge or guitars or
systems. I really enjoy that. Not a lot of time on this tour though with so many guitars and all.
The Killers, the new Ry Cooder album, The Clash’s Greatest Hits.
U2 to Play
God Part II. Edge knows this, I’m always telling him. Also Light My Way.
It would be if I lost Edge’s guitar signal in the system because there are just so many
places to begin the trouble-shooting. Edge relies so much on vintage bits that you can’t just put another bit up there,
another amp up there He has a plan to work to for every sound he creates.
Whose job on tour would you most
like (and why?)
If I’m going to tour with U2 this is the job: looking after Edge and his guitars is one
of the biggest parts of the show and being up there all night, with the 4 of them, helping to get the right Edge guitar sounds
is something I really love.
I say a prayer every night on the steps here, leading
up on to the stage, Every night when the show starts, a prayer that we will have a good show, that the fans will get to hear
all Edge’s stuff. I dedicate every show to” Geneva”, my mum, who passed away last year during the recording.