Every month we put a U2 fan in the spotlights, the fan of the month March of 2021 is user neilgohil. Read along for the interview we had with this U2 fan.
"We knew all the words to the songs and people around us were shocked to see us singing our hearts out as we were only kids!"
Tell us something about yourself, who are you and what do you do for a living?
Hello! My name is Neil and I’m 20 years old, I actually turn 21 on 8th March. I live in London. I’m a student in my final year of University studying Computer Science. I hope everyone is keeping safe and well in these current times.
How did you become a fan of U2, tell us how it happened?
I’ve been a U2 fan for as long as I can remember! My Dad used to play ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ to me when I was a baby, and I remember jumping up and down to the Elevation live from Boston DVD. I became a fan through my Dad and his brother (my Uncle), who became big fans from their Live Aid performance. So I grew up listening to U2 a lot! I first saw U2 live when I was only 4 and since then my Dad, Uncle and I have been to many shows together, which has been great fun. I’m glad that they passed on their passion for U2 and their taste in music onto me.
Your first U2 show was a special one, U2’s Top Of The Pops performance in London in 2004 in front of 200 people in the BBC car park, with the live debuts of Vertigo, All Because Of You and City Of Blinding Lights. How did that happen and how do you look back on that day?
To be honest, I don’t remember that much as I was only 4 haha! But I do remember being very excited to see them live for the first time. I went with my sister (who is also a fan) my cousin, my Dad and my Uncle. We got in as we had a connection with someone who worked at the BBC at the time. I’m told my sister and I were on my Dad and Uncle’s shoulders so that we could see the band. We knew all the words to the songs and people around us were shocked to see us singing our hearts out as we were only kids! Wish I could’ve remembered more but I know we left on a high note!
You’ve seen U2 a lot of times since, mostly in London, how have they evolved over all these years?
What I love about their live shows is that they haven’t surrendered to becoming a heritage act and haven’t done a greatest hits show. They still tour with their latest material and incorporate a lot from the new album into their show. Even when they were doing The Joshua Tree tours recently they made it feel relevant and that they were touring with it for the first time. Over the years I feel they are more thorough when constructing setlists and narratives. They use the songs to tell a story which they kind of did before but I don’t think to the extent they did on the most recent tours. I don’t think I know of another artist that focuses this much on the production and the choreography. They try to shrink the venue they’re performing at and make sure no one has a bad seat. They’ve become less of a spontaneous live act over the years, which I don’t mind but a little rotation would be nice!
You like to play guitar in your spare time, covering U2 songs such as Pride and Streets. Was it difficult to learn to play U2 on guitar?
Ever since I can remember, I was always trying to mimic the Edge and Larry and I would just aspire to be able to play like them. When I was a few years old, I had a little toy guitar, and I used to pretend I had a drum kit, haha! I would use cushions and knitting needles as drumsticks! I soon realised that wasn’t going to work, so when I grew a little older I took guitar and drumming lessons at my school. But if I’m honest I never followed the book and I have always tried to play and pick up sounds by ear.
When it comes to U2 songs, I just learn by watching and listening to lots of live performances to pick up Edge’s sound and technique. My effects pedal is quite old but I still spend ages editing presets on my effects pedal to get the closest sound I can.
I believe that if you have a passion for something and work hard at it, then anything is possible. Things stop becoming so difficult when you are passionate about it.
What does your U2 collection look like? What kind of stuff do you have and how is it organised?
Well - it’s not small let’s put it that way! Over the years, my Dad and I have collected a ton of cool stuff like t-shirts, posters, tour programmes, subscribers gifts etc. We have some real gems like the U2 iPod and the inflatable lemon! But one of my favourite things to do is listen to vinyl. I’m pretty old school but I love the whole package with vinyl, the large album artwork, the inserts, dropping the needle in the groove, it’s the best listening experience there is! For my 18th birthday I was lucky enough to get my own turntable and I have set it up in my bedroom. I have my own U2 vinyl collection as well including some of the record store day vinyls and the All That You Can’t Leave Behind box set which I love. I have it all organised in chronological order.
When you’re forced to leave to a deserted island and you can take only one U2 album with you, which would it be?
That’s a tough one. The Joshua Tree and All That You Can’t Leave Behind come close but my favourite album of all time is Achtung Baby. I love everything about that album. The artwork remains my favourite and the songs are some of the best they’ve written. It’s a proper rock and roll album with a perfect balance of tones and I don’t think any song on the tracklist is weak or filler. The production is incredible and I think it’s their best produced album. ‘One’ is simply amazing, in my top 5 songs easily and I love hearing it live. It’s such a powerful song and holds a special place in my heart. The Fly is an absolute rocker. That song is pure rock and roll with bags of attitude. They made the right choice for it being the lead single. I could go on for ages talking about how each song is amazing! I would’ve loved to have been around at that time to experience the album when it came out and to see ZOO TV of course! I’m happy that I got to see quite a few of the songs revisited for the Experience + Innocence tour.
What are your hopes or expectations of U2’s next album?
I hope that what Bono has said about the new album is true. Whether it’s ‘Songs of Ascent’ or a proper rock and roll album I don’t mind, but a rock and roll album would be great! To be honest I just want as much new material from them as possible! They’re in their 60s now and I hope they don’t carry on into their 70s and become a heritage act. As much as I’d love to see an Achtung Baby/ZOO TV anniversary tour, I wouldn’t want that to get in the way of any new material. I’d also like to see Eno and Lanois take the helm of producers again. I love their work on previous albums and would be great to see them produce another. We’ll just have to wait and see!
How different is U2 compared to other artists that you like?
While I love listening to U2, I also spend a lot of time listening to some of my other favourite artists like The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin and more. U2 are so different as their music has covered so many different genres and they haven’t been afraid to move away from what is expected of them, like with No Line On The Horizon. Another reason U2 are so different is because of Bono and his lyrics. I feel he has become more confident as a songwriter over the years and has come up with some amazing lyrics throughout their career. I have a lot of respect for him and for what he has done through his political work and activism. The band create unique soundscapes and focus on a lot of grown up themes with real depth and emotion. They make music that people can relate to as their music draws from life experiences.
What are your hobbies and interests away from U2, musical or otherwise?
I record U2 instrumental covers in my spare time, I wish I could sing to complete them! I spend a lot of time recreating the backing tracks and mixing them on my laptop. Aside from U2, I love long distance walking, meeting up with friends at the pub (can’t wait to do that post Covid!) and photography. I also love and keep up to date with technology hence taking the Computer Science degree!
Thanks for this interview neilgohil!
Note: Our crew members randomly pick fans of the month, you can't sign up for it.
Great interview Neil And I agree with Matt, your Bad cover was superb. The RIGHT amount of drive, and still keeping it clean and pristine. Your blackie Strat isn't half ugly either! And the Horses excerpt was great too, so much shimmer and space in that guitar sound, I love it. Drop by the U2 & Guitar Gear: Q & A thread sometime