Every month we put an U2 fan in the spotlights, the fan of the month March 2010 is user noiseless. Noiseless is known for his great remasters, if you're a bootleg fan you should've spotted his username at least once. Read along for the interview we had with Johan/noiseless!
Tell us something about yourself, who are you and what do you do for a living?
I’m a 33 years old observer, amateur drummer, failed poet, seeker, collector of beautiful books, music and peculiar machines, in short just another lovely human being.
I grew up in a horrible little village, went to school in Utrecht, studied Dutch language & literature in Groningen, passed with credit in 2004, came blind drunk & flat broke back to Utrecht, became a proofreader at a newspaper, went to Den Haag, became self-employed, and finally ended up living in Haarlem being a newspaper editor.
It’s the funniest job I can imagine, not because I think newspapers are important but because it’s a weird business with weird people at weird times of the day. Moreover I work for a few literary publishers from time to time, which is less funny but more interesting because stories meant to last forever are more appealing to me than the newspaper stories, typically meant to last 24 hours or less.
How did you become a fan of U2, tell us how it happened?
I think it was 1989, I was a 12-year-old, when my older sister came home with Under a Blood Red Sky and I remember that as soon as I heard it, I was excited as I had never been before about music. I had never heard something like that – especially Gloria and The Electric Co struck me (still do, actually). Love at first sight, ladies and gentlemen. Of course I immediately dubbed the music onto a tape, listened to it again and again, then began to explore other U2 albums.
The local library happened to have a copy of the Unforgettable Fire documentary on VHS – I dubbed it and watched it over and over again (oh! memories! The video of Bad!). In the early nineties, when the first single of Achtung Baby was announced – nobody had a clue what to expect as there was no internet and there were no leaks – my excitement was more or less comparable with the first time kissing a girl and subsequent enjoyable stages in that department. I remember me sitting on the floor close to the TV when The Fly aired for the first time.
Some other random memories include some Zoo TV special and the full Sydney show that were aired on Dutch TV in December 1993 – I taped it, copied the music to a cassette tape that has been in my walkman for at least four years. I remember buying the Salomé: Axtung Beibi three disc set which was extremely expensive. And of course I remember the 1993 Zooropa show I attended in Rotterdam on Bono’s birthday. It’s too much to catch in words. The medal has its reverse though: I gradually lost a little interest after 2000. Oops there I said it.
If you could go back in time, which U2-era would you like to be in, and why?
Hard to decide. Early nineties I guess as Zoo TV was something that never happened before – and sadly never happened again. Zoo TV had it all: it was large, it was decadent, it was ironic, it was a brilliant, comprehensive concept, it was art. As the 14-year-old I was when Achtung Baby hit the stores and the 16-year-old I was when I attended the 1993 Rotterdam show, I was blown away but I took it for granted – only later I realized this was a really special U2 era as there was both self-mockery and a feeling of relevance, urge and excitement that together produced great, great art – for the last time, unfortunately. (I’m not impressed much by Popmart, being large and decadent but then it stops – conceptually it was just a larger-than-life empty barrel.)
But I really would like to have attended an Unforgettable Fire show too, as there is no beauty like an early live version of Bad – Bono being somewhat vulnerable, clumsy and shy, and on top of his vocal delivery.
Which album do you like best (audio quality wise) and why? Which one the worst?
The Unforgettable Fire is my favourite album in every way. It’s a perfect oneness of sounds and ideas, everything just perfectly fits together. The musical texture is of an incredible richness, the music is breathing, there’s room and space, width and depth, well need I say more? I also really like the early Lillywhite trilogy for its directness. Achtung Baby doesn’t sound as perfect as The Unforgettable Fire to me, but I adore the somewhat dark and gloomy, yet optimistic atmosphere in it so I don’t complain (in more than one way I consider UF and AB as twin albums, and it’s not a coincidence they both are my favourites).
Soundwise, I despise NLOTH as it is completely the opposite of what I like to listen to: it’s a muddy mess of layers. The album reminds me of a giant doughy bread. When I first heard the album I was shocked by the extremely fatiguing pounding pressure on the ears and actually I still am.
What drives you to improve recordings?
Partly dissatisfaction, partly it’s just pastime. At night, I listen a lot to music through headphones to spare the neighbours (and because listening through headphones is simply fun). But some typical bootleg flaws you hardly notice over a stereo set – for instance, one channel being louder than the other, or hiss, or phase problems – are quite annoying then. In addition, I like tinkering anyway, no matter what with, and I am cursed with a predisposition to maniacally indulging in any department, including constructive ones.
The problem is, once you recognize flaws, you’ll find they tend to distract from the actual music. For instance, I have happily listened for years to the Salomé tapes until I learned about phase inversion. Once I learned what phase inversion is and how it tortures the ears, I noticed these Salomé discs were a classic example of it and from that moment I felt annoyed when listening to those discs. So, I fixed it. Funny thing is that most people, I guess, wouldn’t have a clue what a phase problem is, therefore if they hear phase inverted music they wouldn’t recognize the problem and wouldn’t be annoyed by it (or they would be annoyed but puzzled about the cause) – but once it’s fixed everyone will hear the sound was dramatically improved and far more natural.
A somewhat more familiar thing might be equalization. Sometimes for example in a track one particular bass note is excessively present and starts whining or booming – once I notice it, it starts to distract me massively. So I always try to locate such frequencies and try to achieve a result without certain frequencies jumping out.
Where do you most prefer to listen to U2?
Live in a small venue. But as I can’t expect to experience this one day, most albums or bootlegs in any place with a nice stereo set or decent headphones are fine with me.
What's your favorite remaster? Which one did you enjoy the most?
Assuming you mean my own remasters: it would be both Salomé and East Rutherford ’92. Salomé is an easy choice as it just sounds good and the music itself is something special to me – it’s loaded with memories of me being just a kid and really passionate about this music. East Rutherford might be surprising as it’s a matrix that isn’t perfect in any way. It’s rough, it’s quite sloppy at spots, it might be a tough listen for average listeners. (Thank God there are no average listeners reading this forum.) Anyway, it’s just because of the roughness I like this show so much: the roughness and the brutal dynamics, especially on the low end. It’s like Adam playing next to you in your living room if you turn up the volume. I do not know of any other U2 show with Adam coming through this unprocessed, pumping and vividly. If you have a decent pair of speakers, I insist you listen to at least the first 30 minutes at ear-splitting volume and I promise you’ll remember it for days – your neighbours will, too.
Which member of the band would you most like to share a pint with?
Adam Clayton. To me he seems by far the most pleasant and interesting guy in the band. Maybe it’s because his past of being some kind of black sheep – the one more interested in all kinds of rock & roll frivolities and the one not being religious and therefore an outsider in a way. I have a soft spot for outsiders. Unfortunately he’s a teetotaller so let’s forget about it.
What does your U2 collection look like? What kind of stuff do you have and how is it organised?
I’m afraid I don’t have a U2 collection except for the common releases, I used to buy singles too until they stopped releasing B-sides and I have the by now superfluous Salomé discs. It is not organized as nothing in my house is organized in any way. Oh, I do own several U2 books, somewhere, and a few pretty nice original press photographs stolen out of the filing cabinets of the newspaper I work for.
What are your hobbies and interests away from U2, musical or otherwise?
Hobbies include being late everytime everywhere, playing drums, walking through empty streets at night, attending live shows (especially in small venues), drinking black coffee or red wine depending on the time of day, considering new hobbies, going to work because my work is pretty much a hobby, women especially when they’re susceptible and/or pretty, and a billion other rather uninteresting things that keep me awake because I hate sleeping. Main activity though is writing a novel which I hope to finish by the end of this year. So, don’t expect me to share much this year and if I do, it would be a very bad sign!
Thanks for this interview noiseless!
Note: Our crew members randomly pick fans of the month, you can't sign up for it.
what a fantastic read, I'm sitting here wanting more can't you come up with 10 additional questions? you have my undiverted attention
seriously, I really liked the way you described why you do remasters, and I never knew there's such a thing as phase inversion. I wouldn't have a clue how to notice it, but it sounds interesting.
You seem like a fun guy, so very much deserved Fan of the Month
great read ...i don´t know what it is with sisters but your story looks like mine .....
It all begon with Under a blood red sky for me ...
I sneak out my room to get the tape and listen to it i was 11 at that time back in 1983 ,,,
The electric co and party girl are my favorites
I'm a new member to U2START.com and I like everything so far... noisless you made me smile. Heres something you might find Interesting, I ve just downloaded this show in Chicago, (where I'm from). The First three tracks are recorded badly with static and a loud kinda buzz,but the rest is just electric with the crowd singing louder than ever every word.Bono and the boys are in top performance mode.!.. now, I have about two hundred shows,and this one ranks up there near the top as far as my tastes go. I thought you might like to hear a show I went to, It's"" "1984 Chicago Arragon Ballroom""", (which is pretty small) Dude its AWESOME.. like I said, first three tracks... not so good ... Killer Show. My gift to you. peace, Blackflash
"They were sort of half-written, so that the odd line here or there really did make sense, then came whole sections that were just 'Bongolese', as we came to call it."
- The Edge on Bono's song writing on U2's early tunes
did you know
The song 'New York' originally had a final verse about Frank Sinatra which was edited out in the final cut.