Q FEBRUARY 2007 - by Tom Doyle


Egg-head producer. Architect of "The U2 Sound".

You've been less a producer, more of a mentor to U2, haven't you?

Yes, I think so. It's harder for them to surprise each other than it is for me, an outsider, to come in and pull out a few new tricks. On the first record we did, The Unforgettable Fire, we knew we were going somewhere pretty different. They were very reluctant to settle for anything less than absolutely brilliant.

On The Joshua Tree you helped them create a more cinematic sound...

I didn't want it to sound like a band. I'm never very happy when I get the picture of four people playing instruments in my head. I want those sounds to be located within a sonic world. I want a film. That was my thought, to expand the music into a bigger picture.

You famously tried to stage an accident to erase the master-tape of Where The Streets Have No Name and were caught by an engineer. Why?

It was a ridiculous saga, that song. With the making of The Joshua Tree, I estimate that forty percent of the time was spent on that one song. It became a weird obsession. I kept on saying, "Why don't we just start again?" So I thought, "Well, if the tape got lost or damaged, we'd have to start again..."

You walked in on those difficult Berlin sessions for Achtung Baby in 1991 and helped heal the creative rift in the band. Did you ever think U2 would split?

I've always thought they have complete, total loyalty to each other. If it had even come to that, there would be no band rather than a split band.

All That You Can't Leave Behind sounded less Eno-influenced than the other albums...

What I provided were not songs, but... very provocative starting points. Dan [Lanois, co-producer] and I got into a habit of getting into the studio first thing in the morning, so that when they walked in, there was already something happening.

There were rumours you'd fallen out with U2...

We didn't really fall out, but I was quite upset when All That You Can't Leave Behind came out and on the credits it said under each song, "Music by U2", without mentioning that I'd made a contribution. I wasn't asking for more money. But credits, man, it doesn't cost you anything. But anyway that was all a long time ago and I've forgotten about it now.

Will you work together again?

I'm sure we will at some time, yeah.

Ultimately, why do you think they've survived?

They're determined to make it work. They set out with very ambitious ideas and actually follow through on them. They help each other. They're a real family and it's a lovely thing to see and to be part of.

Any advice for future U2 producers?

Get a deadline before you start!

...And don't get in a car with Bono.

I said in my diary ['96's A Year (With Swollen Appendices)] - it's only people who believe in an afterlife who drive like that. Atheists make much better drivers.

Weird Science: A Brief History Of Brian Eno And U2

1984 Inspired by his work with Talking Heads, U2 enlist Brian Eno to produce their fourth studio album, The Unforgettable Fire.

1987 Their collaboration continues with atmospheric set The Joshua Tree, partly recorded in Adam Clayton's future manor house in Rathfarnham.

1991 The producer flies to Berlin to oversee fraught sessions for Achtung Baby. Eno said of the album's creation: "It was good if a song took you on a journey or made you think your hi-fi was broken."

1993 Recorded in a gap during the Zoo TV tour, Zooropa includes the Talking Heads-influenced Lemon.

1995 Eno and U2 release Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1, appearing in Modena, Italy with Luciano Pavarotti at a benefit for Bosnian children.

1997 U2 release Pop, destined to become the band's least-favourite album, having ditched Eno in favour of dance producers Howie B and Steve Osborne.

2000 The less obviously Eno-influenced All That You Can't Leave Behind is released. Relations cool following a dispute over song-writing credits.