The Edge interview: Memory Man
GW Tell me about “Vertigo.” How’d that one come about?
THE EDGE Ah, “Vertigo”! Now that’s a song that happened [snaps fingers] one, two, three.
GW Don’t you mean “unos, dos, tres, catorce”?
THE EDGE [laughs] Right! How could I forget? These are the important elements of songwriting—the correct way to count off. I wrote “Vertigo” during one of the first sessions I did to come up with ideas for the new album. I was playing along to some loops that Larry had made, and within minutes I laid down a scratch guitar part, and there it was—“Vertigo.”
THE EDGE You gotta savor those moments when riffs just appear—good riffs, obviously.
GW Do you stockpile riffs? What do you do with a killer riff that can’t seem to find a song?
THE EDGE Like you said, I stockpile them. I have loads of riffs. They’re great things to have because they’re going to become songs at one point. Some we have a go at, some we don’t. They all seem to have their time. You just have to wait for their time to come.
GW “Love and Peace…Or Else” is a pretty cool track. What are you doing to get that sound right before the solo? It almost sounds like you’re underwater.
THE EDGE The whole track is going through a filter, so it’s not just the guitar part. Yeah, the idea was one of rising to the surface. When it came time for the solo, though, I was careful not to be cliché. Playing a bluesy solo is loaded with clichés. I ended up using an acoustic guitar with a slide.
GW That’s an acoustic?
THE EDGE I swear to you. I tried playing it with an electric and it sounded so off-the-shelf. But miking up the acoustic really made the part stand out in a jarring way.
GW What kind of acoustic is it?
THE EDGE I believe it was an old J-200 Gibson. Very cool sound. I’m pretty proud of that.
GW Take this the right way, but your solo in “All Because of You” is pretty straightahead classic rock. Do you listen to that kind of music?
THE EDGE Nope. Well…the Kinks.
GW Let’s talk about some of your guitars. Back in the day you played a Gibson Explorer. What made you go with that one?
THE EDGE It was the only guitar I had! [laughs] You should’ve seen us in the studio when we recorded Boy. Steve Lillywhite was aghast when I took the Explorer out of the case. He just looked at me and said, “Uh, what else you got?” and I put my finger up and said, “I got one guitar and you’re looking at it.”
GW Did he bring in any other instruments?
THE EDGE We borrowed an acoustic… [thinks] We didn’t have any keyboards so we used a guitar tuner as a keyboard. During the opening of “Shadows and Tall Trees,” you can hear it—“doo-doo-doo-doo”—some amazing keyboard stuff there.
GW How did you come to buy the Explorer?
THE EDGE I was on a trip to New York and I went to a guitar shop. I didn’t go with the intention of buying an Explorer. A Rickenbacker six-string was what I was after. But when I picked up the Explorer it felt really, really good. I wasn’t expecting it, but the guitar seemed to talk to me. There are some songs in this, I said to myself.
GW Visually, the Explorer is a tricky guitar. How did you think you looked when you strapped it on?
THE EDGE I was a little nervous about that. When I went back to Dublin and took it out of the case in front of the band, I was thinking, How is this going to go over? It was so off people’s perceptions of what I might go for. There might have been one or two comments at first, but it clicked pretty quickly—the look, the sound. It felt natural.
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