07 October 2004
Sandstorm in Spain. Vertigo Shoot Part II
... more of the inside track on the making of the Vertigo video, plus how Edge knows what the weather is like and Bono on where the new single came from.
'We are very happy and very relieved,' explains Martin Fougerol, one of the two directors on the video shoot for 'Vertigo'. 'It is beautiful weather but the last five days have been very grey or even raining, today it is amazing.'
Mid-afternoon on day one of a two-day video shoot on a remote spit of land in the Delta de L'Ebre, on the Spanish coast. Fougerol is looking back at the rushes from a helicopter which has just made seven or eight turns over the band, diving in and lurching up, while they performed on the huge beach surface of the remote river basin.
'One idea we had was to do the shoot in Nevada where they tested the atomic bomb,' says Fougerol. 'But hopefully this will look pretty much like it anyway.'
A few hours later and directorial spirits are dampened with the return of the grey sky and the first heavy drops of rain. Larry, Adam, Bono and Edge retreat to a small tent between takes.
Edge is looking at his handheld computer to check on the weather forecast.
'Apparently it's raining now! ' he says.
'Yes,' says Adam, with a grin. 'Have you looked outside Edge?'
No need, the band are summoned back to their performance area at the centre of a huge circular target marked in granite on the beach floor. Rain or no rain, a camera has now been attached to a huge crane, which swoops menacingly over the target as the band perform 'Vertigo' again.
'Making videos can seem to take forever,' says Adam, characteristically phlegmatic. 'But it's all part of the deal. It's the way you say you are back as a band - and still relevant.'
By early evening, as lightning forks across the bowl of the sky, the producer decides it is too risky to carry on and calls 'Cut' for the day.
Early morning day two and the weather has turned comical - a relentless windstorm throwing sand into every eye and camera. Fougerol and his co-director Alex Courtes are aiming to evoke a distinctly post-nuclear feel in their execution of "Vertigo" and the local micro-climate is certainly working with them. Not easy for filming though.
'We've had the rain and we've had the snow... ' says Bono.
'...and we're trying to have some sunshine and we've failed,' interjects Larry, with a laugh. 'We came to a beach in Spain and we had a sandstorm and it's freezing!'
Members of the production crew have cleared the circular target of sand and dug a huge moat around the outer perimeter, offering some protection once filming begins. The band, meanwhile, sandstorm or not, plays on, cameras rolling.
This time a quad-bike is burning up the perimeter of the target area, a brave cameraman harnessed to its front, lense firmly fixed on Edge. Then Larry. Then Adam... take after take.
'The hardest thing to do when you've been around a few years is to surprise people,' explains Bono, recalling U2 videos of the past. 'We've made all kinds of videos over the years with, er, uneven results. High-concept, story, abstract... but we've never done a video that has a graphic arts background which is where Alex and Martin come from. '
The band met Courtes and Fougerol in France during the summer, having come across earlier work like The White Stripes' video for "Seven Nation Army". Their graphic treatment for "Vertigo", the appeal of a clean, direct execution, grabbed the band's interest. In keeping with the musical and lyrical atmosphere of the song, the directors want to evoke 'the state of paranoia into which we have been plunged today.'
'It's against clutter,' adds Bono. 'There seems to be so much clutter everywhere. Turn on music television there's big cluttered sets, people walking round with clutter around their necks, great cluttered award shows... so this is our attempt to empty the frame and make a very graphic arts based video.'
With the wind now picking up again, there is a slightly longer break in filming and all four members of the band have decamped to a handy Mercedes with the editor of U2.Com and a tape recorder. Naturally much of what follows we must leave - tantalisingly - until a little nearer the album release... but hey, there's no harm in a little vignette between singer and guitarist on how they first experienced "Vertigo".
Bono: 'It started out life as a song called "Native Son" and it sounded great if a little earnest and a little predictable from us. Then we were having some fun with this riff that Edge had up his sleeve from a year previous - when he was calling it "Full Metal Jacket" - we were just playing around with it and that's when it turned into "Vertigo", almost beat poetry, light verse and then this huge chorus...'
Edge: 'Even at the beginning it was always something that we were going to hold onto. If a rock song comes along we hold onto it. We are a rock band that rarely rocks very hard - because most of the time when you go in that direction it is a hard music to be original in, it is so overdone, so cliched.'
Bono: 'We rock hard in our subject matter, we rock hard emotionally, but Edge, as you know, Edge is a bit of a sissy, he doesn't like to turn it up to eleven very often, he doesn't want to break his nails...'
Edge (laughing): 'That may be the case Bono, but who came up with the riff? The thing about "Vertigo" is that it's original in a form that's hard to be original in... and this felt like a time to write a song that was all about the pure visceral energy that rock n roll has always had...'
More about the making of the "Vertigo" video soon. The video is set for release in mid-October. Expect to find it on U2.Com soon.