Anybody who is in a band knows how difficult it can be to hold it together. Rare indeed are groups that stay together for decades with no line-up changes, temporary or otherwise. U2 is one of those rare bands. The acclaimed Irish band–who will be performing for the first time in the Philippines on Dec 11, 2019 at the Philippine Arena – has pushed many artistic and socio-political boundaries AND sold millions of records.
And it all began, literally, in Larry Mullen Jr’s kitchen in 1976. He started as a drummer in a Dublin marching band called the Artane Boys Band, and eventually put up a notice seeking other musicians. Singer Paul “Bono” Hewson, guitarist David “The Edge” Evans, and bassist Adam Clayton were among those who answered the call. Initially, they were called the Larry Mullen Band and included Evan’s brother Dik and two other friends. By the time they renamed themselves U2, the line-up settled into the quartet that has remained to this day.
While U2’s unique sound is largely attributed to The Edge’s by-now often imitated delayed and effected guitar, Mullen’s powerful drumming shares equal credit. His martial drumming on tracks like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “I Will Follow” defined the early U2 sound and reflected his marching band snare drum chops. U2 ex-manager Paul McGuiness described him in the Pop Mart Behind-the-scenes DVD as “really, the engine of U2.” Mullen is as unique a voice on the drum kit as The Edge is on guitar, or at least was: their idiosyncratic approaches have become part of each instrument’s lexicon.
If loyalty is a defining ingredient in the U2 MO, then Mullen’s relationship with Yamaha is a fine example: Mullen has been playing Yamaha drums for 35 years, nearly as long as he’s been with U2. Yamaha feted Mullen with a Yamaha Lifetime Achievement Award and while he jokingly thought he was receiving a motorcycle and self-deprecatingly referred to himself as “the cheapest alternative because they couldn’t get Phil Collins and Neil Peart,” Mullen does own up to his uniqueness as a drummer. Watch the video below as Mullen shares U2’s early beginnings and his supposedly underdeveloped bass drum technique which lead to alternate approaches to achieve the sound he was hearing in his head.
Yamaha musical instruments are available and distributed by Lyric.
(Cover image based on an original photo from Modern Drummer Magazine)