I already posted it in the belgian/dutch thread, but because it was a interesting interview and it would be a pity that it could be only read by dutch speaking fans, I've translated it into english. (My english isn't perfect so don't mind the faults )
Enjoy, and feel free to share with other fans!
You probably have heard it already: The Irish rock band U2 is celebrating the 30th anniversary of it’s iconib album “The Joshua Tree”. Bono & co will play the full album live during a stadium tour and they will play their final concert on 1st August in our own “King Baudoin” Stadium. Party! How that party will look like, is for a significant part determined by the belgian Stefaan “Smasher” Desmedt, U2’s video director. Together with the band he’s staying in LA for the moment where the show is being prepared in the greatest secrecy.
Are the preparations going as wished?
For the moment they do. Within two weeks there is a creative meeting with the band and then I will present my video plans for the show. I can’t tell much about it, but it will be “rawer” and more basic as the 360 Tour.
How did your adventure with U2 started?
It was in ’93. With my graduation “Electronics” I started at a little company in Torhout that had developed a unique technology. Somehow, U2 did heard about that technology. I still remember that I was on winter holidays and was enjoying the snow, when I got a phone call “You need to come back, U is coming to watch!!”
What was your first achievement for U2?
When I was 22 I started as video assistant for the Zoo TV Tour. My first official meeting with the band and crew was in a zeppelin wharehouse in Carlington. The stage was set up in there, and there ware about hundreds of people and there also was catering, could you imagine? Really impressive for someone who had been installing televisions in clubs a year before.
U2 always have been a pioneer when it comes to stage and video art, how did you saw them evolving?
For Zoo TV whe ware with about 211 big projectors on the road, all prototypes from “Barco”. In 93 you needed a lot of budget and work to do some small changes in a video clip, nowadays you only need a regular laptop.
The Popmart Tour had a gigantic LED-screen, 18x50meters, with visuals by Roy Lichtenstein, costumes by Walter Van Beirendonck and a huge disco ball with a lemon shape. For my personally, this tour wasn’t the most challenging one on technical side, but visually it was one of the strongest.
The Elevation Tour in 2001 was really back to basics: only 4 camera’s, 4 screens and a heart-shaped stage. The fans really appreciated this tour.
For the Vertigo Tour we worked with a central curtains of light, with 189 chains with more than 12 000 LED-lights that were be used both for lights as visuals. Hours, days and months we have been worked to bring this to a good end. It isn’t unusual with U2: a repetition last about 6-8 weeks, that is as long as full tour lengths of other bands (haha).
But the highlight for my was the most recent I&E Tour from 2015. While the band was still recording the album, I was already involved in the story by which I had the chance to adjust the visuals and set-up of the show completely with the music. It was an fantastic privilege! Highlights here where the catwalk and the video “cage” which divided the floor in two parts and on which we could project visuals about the younger years of the band. For me, the story was perfect.
You are almost working 25 years for U2, did the collaboration get stronger during the years?
Sure, during the years the trust did get stronger, that’s a fact, although I still have to prove myself every show. Standards are very high for U2. Even if I only think about having a coffee for a couple of minutes, there definitely will be a request to test something new. It never stops for these guys. Also in personal ways things get stronger and closer with the guys. For my 40Th birthday Bono sang “Happy Birthday” to me during a 360-show. In Belgium, it is some kind of “tradition” to put a lot of doors in front of the house when somebody turns 40, so Bono made disassemble one of the doors in my house, and made travel the door to Helsinki so every member of the band and crew could sign it. But, the thing that was the most emotional for me, was the fact that Bono dedicated a song to my mother when she died last year. I will never forget that…
That's an interesting read. I didn't know Stefaan was so young when he joined U2 for the first time! It must have been a thrill for him to actually grow up working with the biggest band in the world. Lucky guy