Phil Docherty - Bono's Guitar Technician
Dublin (originally from Glasgow)
Title on the Road
Bono's Guitar Technician.
Day to Day Role
Looking after all of Bono's technical requirements on stage - as well as all the instruments he uses: guitars, harmonicas, tambourines, anything he needs to use in the show. I also liase with the different departments that look after him on stage, such as monitors, etc.
First Time I saw U2
In America around about 1982 - I was blown away by them. They were one of the most exciting bands I had seen up to that point. I was on tour with 'A Flock of Seagulls' at the time. I didn't want to go to the U2 show - I thought they were some religious reggae band from Dublin. I was dragged kicking and screaming from my hotel room on a day off. I never regretted it.
Ended up Working With U2
I haven't been working with them for that long. Although I'd been approached before, basically I've spent about the last 18 years working with Sting. In that time I've also worked with other acts - everything from The Cranberries to Jane's Addiction, but that has always been filling in between Sting tours. Sting always tended to be on the road at the same time as U2 so the opportunity never really arose until recently when we were coming to the end of a two and half year tour with Sting.
Also Worked With
As far back as 1976 I was tour manager of The Damned for a couple of years. Then there has been Fisher Z, Madness, Nazareth, the legendary Hank Marvin, Toyah, Spandau Ballet, Billy Ocean, Paul Brady, The Spice Girls, The Police, East 17, Terence Trent Darby, The Corrs, The Waterboys, Johnny Thunders - the list is endless. When I started I was a 'Jack-of-all Trades' but I always had a great affinity with guitars. I think it must have been the difference the guitar had made to my life. Growing up in the east end of Glasgow it all seemed a bit grainy and rainy and then along came guitars and they were shiny and bright and then there was the Beatles and Sgt Peppers and that coloured everything.
Those first guitars for me, they were from another planet, Stratocasters and Candy Apple Reds. I play myself - badly - but I found my niche in life was to look after them.
U2 compared to other touring bands
The whole experience is bigger than anything else. I've been very fortunate, I've done a lot of stuff with so many great bands but to actually work on a headline tour as big as this is something special. And yet it also feels really comfortable. I love to see 80,000 people out there singing along to every word. When we were in Glasgow (my home town) it was an emotional night, the whole thing, and to see the crowd respond in such a way was amazing.
Favourite memory of life on the road with U2
A bit too early to say but certainly 'Streets With No Name' in Glasgow was really 'lump in the throat' time for me.
Best And Worst Thing About Touring
Touring has become my life, I've been doing this for thirty years and I love the camaraderie, working with people who feel the same way and who are as passionate about the job as I am. The down side is the separation from family and home. However this business has given me a great life.
I never forget that I'm from the east end of Glagow and yet I've been to every corner of the world and done things I could only have dreamt about as a schoolboy in Moss End. This wasn't supposed to happen to me - and I put it all down to the vision of a red and white Stratocaster in the window of a pawnbrokers shop on a rainy night in 1965!
Support Act Most Looking Forward to
On a tour this size you get to see some great support bands. The Thrills, Snow Patrol and The Killers have been fantastic. There have been some big surprises also like Star Sailor and Paddy Casey - all good stuff! I'm looking forward to seeing what the summer shows bring. Of course the U2 Backline Band are always amazing - and they do let me play when its not too complicated i.e. no more than 2 chords -the third one is still proving to be elusive!
During the Show
I'm watching Bono completely - 110%. And I'm waiting for guitar changes and cues that I have to perform, different little things during the show. We're developing a bit of a sign language, and as I listen to the same in-ear monitors that Bono does, I'm always aware of what's going on. If he pulls in a new song then we're ready for that. For all of the guys who work backline, 95% of the job is taking care of all eventualities so that you don't have to panic if there is a sudden change of direction.
His main ones are Gretch Falcons which Gretch are making specially for him. They have been sprayed a special shade of green and are known as The Irish Falcon. They have vintage pick-ups and accessories and need a lot of tender loving care but used in conjunction with a Vox AC 30 (also vintage stock) they have a really classic sound.
Highlight of the Show
I must have the best seat in the house. The whole show is a highlight. I get excited right at the start of the show when I hear Arcade Fire and I move into a different gear. I'm a huge Formula One Racing fan and I think that opening moment is like when you are sitting in the car waiting for the lights to go green - you have a knot in your stomach - and then suddenly you are off! After that it's all a whirlwind ride and you only finally slow down after the last song - though it may take couple of hours to land and come back to normal.
You have moments like in 'Streets...' when you look out and you see everyone leaping up and down. You can see the magic and you realize that it is amazing how many people they touch. It is much more than just a pop or rock show and it is great to be part of it.
Currently listening to
It's pretty eclectic my taste. I've just bought the new Rory Gallagher album, I listen to a lot of Miles Davis and I'm starting to explore more jazz - which is worrying me - must be a reflection of my age. I listen to classical music and I've just been listening to the Jonathan Butler Trio, to Ben Harper...
Would Love U2 to Play
I love 'Gloria' because it reminds me of a very carefree time touring America and I think that song kept me awake as I drove a van back and forth across America with A Flock of Seagulls.
Worst (Touring) Nightmare
It would be a compete systems break down. I remember working for Joan Armatrading when all the electricity failed. She pulled out an acoustic guitar and sat on the end of the stage, asked the audience to come forward and got the venue to open the skylights and doors to let light in. She entertained 3000 people - Brilliant!
Whose job on tour would you most like ?
Right now I love my job and can't imagine doing any other.
'Everything else is just waiting'
(A Steve McQueen quote - he was referring to motor racing - for me it's the show!)