'The Guitar Man'
Louisville, Kentucky (originally) now Boulder, Colorado
Title on the Road
The Edge's Guitar Technician
Day to Day Role
Stringing eighteen guitars on every show day, maintaining all Edge's guitars, Edge allowing me to sometimes search and find many of his and Adam's vintage rare guitar/bass purchases. Setting up the guitar system on stage, playing with Sammy and Stuart for the line-check and when Joe O'Herlihy does the sound check before the band arrive. Tuning and exchanging guitars on stage during the show.
First Time I saw U2
When I joined them in 1985 - I had never seen them before I started working with them. It was the second leg of The Joshua Tree Tour in the US, a stadium somewhere, maybe Kansas City. At the time I had been on tour in Los Angeles with the band Mister Mister, and I'd just come off the road with YES. But I was in a recording studio in The Village in New York when Daniel Lanois, who was upstairs working on a Robbie Robertson recording, came down with Robbie's guitar and asked if I would repair it. When I took it back up, he played it and liked it and he mentioned that he had a mate who was looking for a new guitar tech. It turned out the mate was The Edge, who rang me from Ireland and said he would like to meet as he was looking for someone to work with him on The Joshua Tree tour. That was twenty years ago!
How I Ended up Working With U2
After talking with The Edge, the band flew me over to Dublin to meet them at The Factory, their recording studio. I hadn't even thought of telling the group that I was then working with that I might be quitting but now I was interviewed by all four members of U2 and Paul McGuinness. It was very freaky!
I had never been interrogated by a whole band like this before. They asked me questions for like a couple of hours and then I got to watch them rehearse and I loved it. Man, they were really good - and I didn't have any of their albums either.
I had to fly back to the US the next morning but Dennis Sheehan rang me in The Blooms Hotel and said Edge wanted me to stay on. It was a big decision for me so I called Bill Graham. He was then a San Francisco Area promoter, a friend of mine and the manager of the band I was touring with, Lanyard Skynyrd. I respected him and asked him what I should do. I asked a couple of other friends too - ringing them from my hotel room. They all said, 'Drop everything. Whatever you are doing, it doesn't matter: if U2 are asking you to stay, you have to stay.' And that's how it all began.
Working with U2 compared to other touring bands
A hundred-fold more intense, so much more responsibility, so many guitars and total flattery. Edge's trust in me and his relationship with me, it's so much more called upon than any other band I have ever worked with. With anyone else I care for the guitars, tune the guitars, take them up on stage and leave them to the musician but with Edge it is all that and also about creating sounds with him and my documenting all of his creativity..and quickly. It is about knowing, from the vast U2 library of U2 songs, what guitar Edge needs for which songs, what sounds he needs to create at what point in the show - what guitar to give to Edge when he looks at me from the stage.
This band can play songs in 3 different pitches and one has to know - and quickly - what song U2 plays in which pitch and have that pitch-dedicated guitar ready.
And in the studio on the latest record that was the greatest thing I had ever done - Bono or sometimes Edge or the producer would say,..'Have you got any ideas for guitar sounds that would reflect the spirit of this track ?' That was flattering you know! Sometimes it would be shite what I did, but sometimes it would work!
I wouldn't miss any opportunity to work with Edge for the world. He is a class guy.
I carry a total of 46 Edge selected guitars on the VERTIGO tour with 35 prepared for each show. Edge for the most part on this tour plays between 15 to18 different ones but every guitar also has a spare in case of problems and all these have to be ready to be put into the show. They are all high end vintage guitars and when I bring vintage appreciators to see them, their jaws drop.
Favorite memory of life on the road with U2
It's not so funny but on tours where I have had a problem with Edge's department during a show and Bono suddenly starts saying over the microphone, 'Dallas, sort Edge out can you?' And Edge and I look at each other as if to say, 'Yeah, Bono you don't have to tell everyone here - we are fixing it - just give us a second!' But that's Bono's way and I have to deal with that sometimes!'
What Are You Doing During the Show ?
Some nights there are between 18 different guitars within 23 songs. My responsibility is to have them all tuned and cleaned and ready to go. It is challenging because if you do the math there is only a certain amount of time in the show day and each instrument requires 20 to 30 minutes to prepare. Some of the 'more challenging' moments are when - if Bono calls an audible (a song that he wants U2 to perform that has not been selected in that particular night's show song list) I don't know if Adam and Stewart (Adam's guitar tech) have got the same understanding of the pitch of the song as me nor what bass Adam has selected to play for that song. Stewart and I talk a lot so we get it right but if I handed Edge a guitar and it was tuned differently that could be embarrassing!
In the show I have a microphone to talk to 'Monitor World' so that when Edge tells me cues - less guitar, more drums, whatever - I call to Monitor World with the instruction - and I keep a mix in my ear so I can sometimes tell them before Edge tells me.
During a show I am up and down those five steps from my position under the stage position and onto the stage 47 times - and that's just for guitar changes. It's more when he has a lead caught or other things come up but all this up and onstage and down and offstage keeps me in shape. Maybe as well as my swimming ? This position is not one for an idle guitar roadie!
I know quite a few guitar technicians in the world and when they come to one of our U2 shows and see exactly what I do in The Edge department, they cannot believe what is required. - there is so much going on. Take the vintage guitars for example, they are hard to tune and they react to the weather and one might have gone out of tune but you have it in your hand and you know it is being used in the next song! You have to calm yourself down because you are still giving Edge sounds with your feet -- and yet you have also to retune a guitar. Then he might yell across with some instruction for the mix and that takes me over to another bit of Edge World under the stage here.
In The Studio
In the last two years, during the making of the 'HTDAAB' record, I lived in Dublin because they wanted me involved and it was one of the best experiences of my career ever. In the past Edge would get me in to do some guitar overdubs but this time it was during the recording, getting involved in how to present the sounds in the best way. I was in the studio every day, working with Adam, Bono and Edge and their instrument technicians, getting guitar sounds for the album which is the first time I have been involved with the band on this level.
Best Thing About Touring
In general all the different venues you get to visit and all the different twists you have to give to the guitar sound for that venue. I love all the different cities and the aquatic centers - swimming is my thing!
Worst Thing About Touring
It's being alone without my wife for long periods of time and also the amount of sleep - it's sleep deprivation for everyone on the road. This U2 production is just massive!
Support Act Most Looking Forward to
Also Worked With
Pearl Jam, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, James Taylor and long ago.....Manassas, been guitar tech for the most part for all of them.
Highlight of the Show
For me it's at the end when Edge hands me the last guitar and gives me a wink or a nod that means he and I have had a good two and a half hours with all our guitar exchanges and guitar sounds being successful. The other thing is trying to meet some fans throughout the day, to talk with them, because they want to talk about Edge or guitars or systems. I really enjoy that. Not a lot of time on this tour though with so many guitars and all.
Currently listening to
The Killers, the new Ry Cooder album, The Clash's Greatest Hits.
Would Love U2 to Play
God Part II. Edge knows this, I'm always telling him. Also Light My Way.
Worst (Touring) Nightmare
It would be if I lost Edge's guitar signal in the system because there are just so many places to begin the trouble-shooting. Edge relies so much on vintage bits that you can't just put another bit up there, another amp up there He has a plan to work to for every sound he creates.
Whose job on tour would you most like (and why?)
If I'm going to tour with U2 this is the job: looking after Edge and his guitars is one of the biggest parts of the show and being up there all night, with the 4 of them, helping to get the right Edge guitar sounds is something I really love.
I say a prayer every night on the steps here, leading up on to the stage, Every night when the show starts, a prayer that we will have a good show, that the fans will get to hear all Edge's stuff. I dedicate every show to" Geneva", my mum, who passed away last year during the recording.