Every month we put a U2 fan in the spotlight. The fan of the month for July 2019 is user u2wanderer1. Read along for the interview we had with this U2 fan.
"Strangest item in the collection? [..] I have an inflight menu from a 2015 flight from Boston to New York that U2 were on. I have a bus advertisement for the "You're The Best Thing About Me" single that is six feet long"
Tell us something about yourself, who are you and what do you do for a living?
My name is Aaron J. Sams, I live in Halifax, NS in Canada. And although it is the 13th largest city in Canada, U2 have never played here. I'm a chemist and a chemical engineer by schooling, and my job sees me working with seaweed to make a whole range of products. I share a birthday with Bono. My Mom always suggested my love for U2 was written in the stars.
How did you become a fan of U2, tell us how it happened?
My first memory of "U2" was a friend playing "Under a Blood Red Sky" probably in early 1984. I had never heard a live album before, and loved hearing the crowd singing "40" at the end of the album, and I loved "New Year's Day". I was really just discovering music, and the next summer I remember sitting on my grandmothers couch watching Live Aid and really taking notice of U2. I went out shortly after Live Aid and bought "The Unforgettable Fire" and "Boy" on the same day. When "The Joshua Tree" came out I'd already bought most of their catalog and was a big fan.
Does anyone in your family or one of your friends like U2? If so, did they introduce you to U2, or did you "convert" them?
In high school there weren't many U2 fans around me. The band never really got as popular in the community where I grew up. When I went to university it was a different story. One of my closest friends while there showed up at the cafeteria wearing the same Depeche Mode shirt as me one day, and the same Rattle and Hum shirt as me another day. It was music that got us hanging out, but in that case we both started as U2 fans. Later he and I and a couple of other U2 fans lived together in one residence. "Zoo TV Live from Sydney" was on repeat on the lounge TV. I'm sure we converted a few people to loving U2. But we probably made a few people hate them as well. I know there was some eye rolling as we pulled out Zoo TV every single night.
You have a U2 website (http://U2Songs.com ) for a lifetime now (since 1995), many active forum members here on U2start weren't even born when you started U2wanderer/U2Songs.
If I'm not mistaken, its the oldest continually published U2 site on the internet, and I started it in April 1995 as a class project. Next year will be our 25th anniversary. It was started as a class project, but I've really enjoyed working on it all of these years. It does date back even further, I've been tracking the discography of the band since 1988, first on paper and I started work on a digital text file in 1991 when I first landed on the internet and first joined the Wire mailling list. I started with the discography stuff early on. It always interested me. And other than a short period where PopMart took over, the page has always had a focus on collectibles and U2's releases.
In which ways has reporting on U2 and managing a U2 website changed over those decades?
That's a difficult one. One thing that hasn't changed is that this is something I enjoy, and something I have fun with. The guys I work with on U2Songs aren't just U2 fans. They are close friends, and we do have a lot of fun with it. And that really helps. It isn't a job. And you really have to be having fun with it.
One thing that has changed is the rise of social media. I've seen some claims that it has replaced the need for websites, and that many now get their information from other sources such as Twitter, or Facebook. But I do think there's still a place out there for a well researched repository of information about U2 news, releases, and so on.
That is one thing that has changed from 25 years ago. My knowledge of the band has grown quite a bit. And I love that as the world gets smaller with all these social media connections, that its easier to dig and find the truth behind things that once were a mystery. Release dates for U2's singles were at one point lucky to be known beyond a date and year. But now you can go out and find chart information, release catalogs, entire scans of newspaper archives and other online sources of information that help fill in the blanks that were unavailable even a decade ago. It is also nice to have that community of websites that have formed over the years that are working together and sharing information and working together on things. That feeling of community, for me at least, has become even stronger in recent years.
You have shared rumours on the 2019 Joshua Tree tour for a long time until the tour was finally announced. Many fans owe you one for sharing all the dates and other relevant info in advance. How do you decide which rumours you share and how does the response of fans influence your reporting?
We're very cautious with rumours. People want an outlet to share information with fans, and we are happy to provide that at times. But we don't just publish everything we hear. We try to make sure we have information from multiple sources before we publish any rumour. We also tend to give more weight to sources that have previously shared correct information. At the end of the day we don't make any money off of the site, so driving traffic to visit isn't our desire. If we printed a bunch of garbage it might be popular at first, but eventually the rumours are either going to be true, or are going to be proven false. We'd rather be known as the ones who got it right, not the ones who got it first. So we do try to make sure anything we publish has some truth to it.
And even when we do decide to publish something it usually gets discussed among the staff. When the release date for the album was shared with us months before it was announced elsewhere, we went in circles for days about what was the appropriate way to share that with our readers, and how we could have a bit of fun with it.
Occasionally things change, and things don't happen as planned. But I think our track record has been pretty good on the items we have shared over the years. And I do have to give a shout out to those who bring information our way, it is always appreciated, by us, and by our readers.
You are known to have quite the U2 collection. Can you describe us your collection a bit and highlight some of the most rare or strangest collectibles you have?
I have been collecting almost as long as I've been listening to the band. "Where the Streets Have No Name" was one of the first singles where I collected it in multiple formats. What do I collect? These days I try to buy one copy of every single and album, in every format, from every country where there is a unique release. It's a little easier these days as they don't make as many copies worldwide. And slowly over time I go back and fill in the older parts of the collection.
Strangest item in the collection? I never know what is strange. I do love my copy of "Red Hill Mining Town" with a mispressing of Leslie Cheung's “Hot Summer" on one side. I have an inflight menu from a 2015 flight from Boston to New York that U2 were on. I have a bus advertisement for the "You're The Best Thing About Me" single that is six feet long. I have an alarm clock that looks like a bomb done to promote "How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb." I have a full set of all four 8-Track tapes produced for Columbia Records club in the 80s. I have U2 T-Shirt mock ups which were used to go to chain stores in the 1990s to try to sell the store on purchasing a T-shirt design to sell storewide.
Let's say you are forced to leave to a deserted island and you can only take one U2 album with you. Which one would it be and why?
I have three favourite albums, "The Unforgettable Fire," "Zooropa," and "No Line on the Horizon," and on any day you could get a different answer to this question, but it would probably always be one of the three. But today? "No Line on the Horizon." The album is a beautiful album, and its the U2 album I turn to to listen to more than any other. And there's a strong feeling of joy I get from that album. So if I have to be stuck on a desert island, it best be with something that makes me happy.
What are your plans and expectations for the 2019 Joshua Tree tour?
I remember standing in Mexico City in 2017, and thinking that it was going to be my last show on The Joshua Tree tour. That it might be the last time I was going to hear "Running to Stand Still" live for a good long time, and that I might not hear it again. (It's my favourite U2 song.) Since then we've had a bunch of shows without any of the songs, and that's only reminded me how good they are. Really looking forward to seeing them again. I'm going to go and see this tour and really enjoy these songs. And it is U2, they always manage to surprise, so really looking forward to that.
As for my plans? I'm heading to Tokyo. I've always wanted to see the band in Tokyo. The shows the band have done there always seem special. And a good friend of mine from university, also a U2 fan, lives there, so I'm hoping to spend some time with him and his family as well. And although there are other shows close by while I am in Asia, I do use the U2 tours as an opportunity to play tourist and see some lovely cities around the world, so I'm spending my entire time in Japan, and really looking forward to that.
How different is U2 compared to other artists that you like?
I got pretty lucky with the bands and artists I fell in love with in the 80s. Many of them are still going strong. And some have come close over the years. That website I built in 1995 was almost a Depeche Mode one, and I have contributed to some Depeche Mode discography sites over the years. (Depmod.com) But that feeling of seeing them live isn't the same - U2 always seems special, where with other acts I feel pretty content having seen just one or two shows. It is hard to explain. I go, and I enjoy the concerts from other artists every few years, but that's enough. Where U2 is more of an event, and I can't get enough. It certainly helps that over the years of doing U2 live shows I've developed a number of close friends who are also part of that community, so seeing U2 isn't just about seeing the band anymore, it's an opportunity to connect with the tribe.
A few younger bands have captured that live feeling for me as well. Bloc Party with their original line up became a band I followed around quite a bit. And Arcade Fire is just an amazing show to watch and rarely disappoint. I've followed both bands around outside of the country. When I couldn't afford to go to Australia to see U2 in 2010, I was happily able to follow Arcade Fire around the UK for a few weeks. Amazing shows.
What are your hobbies and interests away from U2, musical or otherwise?
Growing up I was surrounded by talented people. My grandfather taught me to draw at an early age, and from that grew a lifetime love of comic books, graphic design, and I dabble a bit in painting and sketching. A lot of the graphics we use at U2Songs are things that give me an outlet to work on things in that arena that I enjoy. The artwork that the band has surrounded themselves with, especially the work of Averill and McGrath has inspired me over the years. Beyond that I'm a travel junkie, really enjoy seeing the world, and looking forward where those travels take me next.
Photo by Paul Lunn
Thanks for this interview u2wanderer1!
Note: Our crew members choose the fan of the month, you can't sign up for it.