Can U2 be relevant in the current music scene? Can the band's upcoming album be as popular as U2's landmark albums of the past? Those are questions that are on not only the minds of U2 fans, but also on Bono's mind, too.
@U2 staff writer Scott Calhoun recently had the chance to pose those questions to Flood -- AKA, Mark Ellis -- who's been working in various capacities on U2 albums since The Joshua Tree. The interview, conducted recently in Flood's studio, was primarily focused on the 20-year anniversary of Zooropa, the album that Flood produced during a break in the Zoo TV Tour in 1993. We'll get the full interview posted later this week (you'll love it!) but, for now, we wanted to share this excerpt from the end of the conversation, when Scott asked Flood for his thoughts on U2's upcoming record and the band's bid to remain relevant.
Scott Calhoun: Do you think U2's next album has as good a chance at being as popular as their albums from back then?
Flood: Yeah, absolutely.
Have you heard anything from it?
No. Not a sausage. To my knowledge, they've only worked with Danger Mouse. I don't think any of the four usual suspects have been involved.
Do you think U2 can still make a new album that can connect with us as well as their older ones?
Yeah. I mean, my hope, knowing Danger Mouse's work, is that he will be making sure the songs stand up and that there's some sort of connection, which he does very well. I think he's really good at doing that. It doesn't matter if it's Gnarls Barkley or The Black Keys, you know, the songs touch a nerve. I, personally, have always questioned, since Bono's got into politics, whether that ability to reach inside himself and really put himself out there has been there as much as back then. But that's what I would hope would come out.
What do you think Bono means by his recent talk of being relevant, and that bit about can U2 still play the small rooms?
I think there's a lot of things at play. I think age is one thing. I think the older you get, it's quite difficult to talk about things that are going to relate to everybody in the same way. To talk about love to a 20-year old as to what's affecting you as a 50-year old is almost impossible. But, maybe, it's that things interest him in a different way and maybe the person he's moved into is quite a different person to the person he was then. And, in some respect U2 are very much a voice of that generation and now there's a new generation.
If you talk about it on a human level, what is there left to achieve? One tiny part of any one of those four people's lives most people never even get a chance to glimpse at, let alone have the whole package. So, to be able to sort of come back down to a place where you can appreciate and see things in the way everybody else does, I suspect that's what he means by relevancy.
So, to play a small club where people want to come and see you and be a part of that energy, and people want to come because this is one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands on a live stage that there has ever been ... but would people think that U2 could still be that same band in their 50s, or would they be perceived as, like, the Rolling Stones? I know that Bono always struggles with that, because he never wants to lose sight of that person who grew up and he was part of that small band where it's driven totally by emotion. There's no intellect. There's no money. There's nothing else. And I think for him, that's what he would still be holding onto, but obviously it becomes incredibly difficult.
UPDATE: The full Flood interview is now online.