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Tech TV - October 2001

On The Edge With U2
by By David Dayen, Joanna Lux

During the opening song on U2's 1983 live album, "Under a Blood Red Sky," Bono declares, "This is the Edge!" to introduce a searing solo by the U2 guitarist. Now everyone knows the Edge. A truly superb player, he has no problem bringing an arena to its feet with his slow-building, explosive style.

At Conseco Field House in Indianapolis, AudioFile found the Edge's guitar tech, Dallas Schoo, in his element: at the arena, pre-show time. He went over Edge's setup, pedal by pedal. Click on the video icon to watch extra footage of the interview not broadcast on TV. For more information on U2's gear, visit German fan site U2 Sound. To see "AudioFile's" photo albums of U2's amps, pedals and more from the show, click here.

TechTV: How many amps does the Edge use?

Schoo: On the Zoo TV and Pop tours, Edge had a total of eight combo amplifiers. On this tour they wanted to play on limited stage space, so the actual physical area is not enough to accommodate eight amps. He wanted to do a simpler guitar/signal path, but still get some big sounds. So this tour, he's running almost all his sounds through one or two amplifiers, playing them at a lower level and making the effects at a hotter level. He's quite happy with his sounds that he got from the album by doing it that way, so he's attempting to do that live. He's getting good sounds. He still uses his main old 1964 AC-30, as well as an '82 AC-30.

TechTV: What is the story about that amp getting kicked in?

Schoo: This amp used to belong to Bono, and when Bono's not real happy with his sounds, he used to take it out on his amps. He is a different man now. It has such a great old sound, that Edge thought since we're limiting his amplifiers to two or three, then let's use the best-sounding ones. So he took Bono's amp and talked Bono into using a different one. So that's where the tear came from. Edge isn't one, as you can see cosmetically, to want to update things. He likes to keep them old and vintage.

TechTV: What is the switching system?

Schoo: It's a Bob Bradshaw system, and Edge and I can both control this. We can control the amplifiers as well. We have a splitter for that. It's a really good system; it's been very reliable. In this band, there are four of them. With this band, he's usually the only guitarist. You can distinguish when he has a 12-string on, or when he's using this effect or that.

TechTV: Is a lot of this gear dedicated to particular eras of U2?

Schoo: This is true. It's a bit of a generalization, but most of these old pedals up here, the stomp boxes, Edge used for the old albums. "Joshua Tree" and "Boy" and stuff. He'll also decorate. He has the capability of having a blank canvas for each song. All in all, there is gear from some of the older eras. He always made his albums with Korg delays, before the higher-end TC's came out. He still makes the albums with the older Korg stuff. They have a warm sound that he prefers. But when we do the stage show, we have to rely on the newer TC delays.

TechTV: What are these stomp boxes?

Schoo: Predominantly distortion boxes. Different degrees, different characters. They're all used as part of presets, but on a certain night, if he feels like that distortion isn't what he wants, he can activate another one with his computer. [He uses a] Japanese distortion thing [that] came out of nowhere, I think Brian Eno, or Danny Lanois introduced him to it. He's using it loads, and it's the most offensive. Offensive seems to be the way to go with Edge. Even though there's all this noisy sound when he's not playing, he believes what's coming through when he is playing is worth it. He doesn't use noise gates, he wants the purity of the signal. And if there's one thing I've learned from this guitarist, it is how much it means to him, the integrity of his signal.

TechTV: And the tube screamer?

Schoo: That's another distortion box. It's a soft distortion he has it set for, but that is in probably 70 percent of his presets of the crunch songs. Not like "Where the Streets Have No Name," or the pure delay songs. But the big songs, "Beautiful Day" and "Fly."

TechTV: Give us a tour of the pedal board.

Schoo: These are the computer controllers for the system. And these are all enhancement pedals. This is a Dunlop wah-wah pedal. This is used for "Real Thing." This Whammy, it's just an octa-verse sweep. This was designed by one of the techs, Raab McCallister. This is a big sound for the song "Elevation." It's just broken ingredients that he put inside of a pedal. These here, Edge is able to tell the keyboard sound to come on by hitting green or red. Because there's only a few songs where Edge can't play and play guitar at the same time, so the keyboard sound will come out of offstage.

TechTV: What about his mix?

Schoo: He has a mix of the instruments that he wants in his monitor. A lot of it is his guitar, and the percussion, the drums. And Bono's vocals, to know where he's keying off of. When he's out running around the heart, or he's away from here, that's what he relies on. And it's what I rely on when he's playing his solos, when to move him on. That becomes kind of a personal thing. You can screw up in a way, like if I move him on out of his guitar solo before he's made his last note, made his last statement. But then you just do the best you can.

TechTV: How long have you been doing this?

Schoo: For 17 years I've been with him now. He's a real class guy to work for, too. It means a lot to him to get his sounds consistently, of course.