Steve Averill - aka Steve Rapid - was once part of the legendary Dublin band The Radiators (from Space). They were the first punk outfit in the world to gain a top-20 single, and went on to make the critically acclaimed album Ghostown.
By then, Steve had left the band to focus on graphic design. He met Adam Clayton along the way, gave U2 their name, and has worked on their design - from album and single sleeves to t-shirts - ever since.
The Radiators (from Space) reformed last year as the Radiators (Plan 9), with Steve back on board - and now they are preparing to play Croke Park, Dublin, this Friday, June 24th, along with a band that would otherwise be known as the Hype.
More on Steve Averill's design, with and without U2 Four5One
More on The Radiators
Who decided to get the Radiators back together?
Well, we'd all kept in touch, and used to meet up at Christmas. Over the years, other people have suggested we reform, but we didn't ever just want to be a tribute band to ourselves.
Anyway, there was a gig in honour of Joe Strummer being held in Dublin and we thought, why not play a couple of songs? I spoke to the organisers and they were delighted. We did it, it felt good and we got a great reception. So we decided to take it one step further.
Philip Chevron, myself and Pete Holidai from the original band were joined by Cait O'Riordan (from the Pogues) on bass and Johnny Bonnie on drums. Cait turned out to be a huge Radiators fan. It was a fresh line-up, and made us feel we were doing something new and different.
And how's it been going? Are you still crazy after all these years?
It's been very good. We played two concerts last year - one in a place called the Village, with a bunch of Radiators fans who hadn't seen each other for years (they loved it); then we played the Oxygen festival in Dublin to about 5,000 people, which was interesting for us, because most of them hadn't seen us before and didn't know who we were, but enjoyed us nevertheless.
Since then, we've been writing new material, with the aim of recording an album which picks up where we left off. We wanted to bring the sound forward, not keep it exactly how it was all those years ago.
And are you pleased with the new material?
Yes. We recently recorded three brand new songs and re-recorded some of the early material, and are releasing an EP to coincide with the concert in Croke Park. And we're very pleased with the way they've turned out.
Are the old songs still alive and kicking?
They're sounding powerful. Someone said that one of them sounded like Green Day, which is a compliment, for a 25-year-old song.
Why did you leave the band first time around?
I left - during the making of the first album - mainly because I felt I was a more of a performer than a singer. I freely admit that I don't have a singing voice or musical talent, which was fine for the punk days, but not for the direction the band were heading in.
Also, my first son had just been born, and I didn't want to bring him to London and into a precarious lifestyle. So I decided to stay in Dublin and pursue my career as a graphic designer.
As it turned out, it proved to be a very good move: within six months I'd met Adam Clayton and we'd started talking about various bands and what was going on. That was when the relationship started with U2.
And in the end, the Radiators' loss was U2's gain..?
I have said it before, but it's true: without the Radiators, there wouldn't be a U2. When I say that, I don't mean that in an arrogant way, that they were totally influenced by the music; but if I hadn't been in the Radiators, Adam wouldn't have made the connection and come and seen me to talk to me about the band; and I wouldn't have come up with the name U2.
So there is truth in the statement that without one, there wouldn't have been the other.
Did you regret leaving the music behind?
It was a painful decision to have to make. And at the time I didn't know if there was a future in graphic design; I had loved making music and being part of a band, so it was very hard to leave.
But now I'm back with the band, and we're creating roles within the structure of the music so that everyone has a part to play.
It must have been quite an emotional moment, re-forming.
It was, especially because when we came to do that first gig, we didn't have a drummer - so my son played with us. It was very strange to come full circle...
What did punk and new wave do for the city and for Ireland?
It was very important. At the time, the feeling was that if you weren't of a certain musical calibre, you shouldn't be playing in a band. After our first gigs, we were more or less told to go away and learn to play before we came back.
To their credit, U2 in many ways created the rock-and-roll infrastructure in Dublin; up to that point, bands like the Boomtown Rats and Thin Lizzy would leave if they had an inkling of success. U2 were the first band to make a concerted effort to stay.
Was there much cross-fertilisation between those bands at the time?
Yes and no. Thin Lizzy and Skid Row had their own particular community; the Boomtown Rats and U2 had another. There was quite a healthy number of bands, but not a huge amount of cross-fertilisation.
When we started the Radiators, we deliberately set out to foster as much of a community network as possible; we brought the Undertones down from Derry to play their first gig in Dublin, for example, supporting us. There was goodwill, but also rivalry. When we signed a record deal before we'd even played a gig there was a lot of jealousy.
Are you surprised that some of the figures from that time have lasted so long?
No. The group of people who came through were very determined, and their energy was very striking. Bob Geldof and Bono knew what they wanted to do. They had a very strong determination to succeed.
Did you stay in contact with the Radiators once they'd gone to London?
I went with them as their tour manager just for the first few gigs. When they'd come back to Dublin we'd talk about their second album, and the cover and things.
But that second album, Ghostown, didn't succeed in the way they hoped it would; they reached a dead end, and it was very hard for them to carry on.
And yet that album received such critical acclaim...
It did. Even Bono had it in his top-10 when he wrote a piece for the NME about his favourite albums in the 1980s. It was an Irish album about the Irish experience; even since it was re-released three weeks ago, it's been getting some very good reviews.
Could it be reclaimed for another generation?
I think, to a degree, it could. People are hearing it for the first time and wondering what it's all about. Obviously it was recorded in a particular era and has a particular sound. But what we're trying to do now, particularly live, is to bring old and new songs together and create the sound for a new era.
How did the U2 support come about?
Initially I mentioned to Paul McGuinness that we'd be interested in playing. Bono had told me they were considering an all-Irish support line-up. I gave Paul a copy of our EP and left it with him. We only heard two months ago that we were on the bill.
When we supported Thin Lizzy at Dalymount Park in 1977 we played to around 8-10,000 people. It was one of the first major outdoor festivals ever to be held in Dublin - with the Rats, Graham Parker, Fairport Convention... This time around, there's a sell out crowd of 80,000 at Croke Park. We're the first on, so perhaps we'll be playing to about 40,000. But it's still a lot of people.
At the start, did you think U2 had what it takes?
It's funny. You quite often work with a young band who tell you they're going to be the best band in the world. But you don't often work with a band that does become the best in the world.
They always had something about them that made you think they'd succeed. The band with these four people is so strong; you can't see it working without all four.
Aside from donating the name, did you have any other direct influence on U2?
Without false modesty, yes: I probably did have some influence. In the early days, I would point them in the direction of certain music, and things they didn't know a huge amount about. On a compilation they did for Mojo, they included tracks by Suicide and Pere Ubu. The first time Bono heard of Suicide was when I gave him a live tape of one of their gigs. I also gave him some tapes of Pere Ubu, when they were starting out.
I wouldn't say I had a direct influence on the way they played music; but perhaps on the way they think about it. And to this day, if I'm working on an album cover for them, they'll play me tracks and ask what I think of the direction, so... it's an influence, but not a direct one.
What are you most proud of, creatively, in terms of the graphic design you've done for U2?
I always say that the next album sleeve is the most exciting, because you're carrying on a lineage and in a sense you've created an identity. When you're working with a band, you need an inherent idea of where they've come from, and where they're going.
The War album was a real high point - it won an award in Music Week for best album cover. It's great to get recognition not just in Ireland but in the wider world. And it's not just that the covers are OK and done by a mate - they've stood the test of time in the international marketplace, and that's something I've been very proud of.
U2 seem to be good at sustaining these working relationships...
Yes, they do. However, the band has said on occasions that they reserve the right to go elsewhere if what we're doing isn't right. And on occasions they asked for alternative designs from other companies.
So we don't rest on our laurels - we don't think 'We've got the U2 account and we're never going to lose it.' We have to excite them every time we work together. They're the biggest band in the world, and you've got to be on your toes all the time and create the kind of work that matches the music they're making. I find that exciting.
And you'll be squeezing in a few more rehearsals before Croke Park?
We're in rehearsals all weekend and all next weekend. We'll be working very hard before the gig! And we're hoping to finish our album in August.