U2 guitarist The Edge made a surprise appearance at a British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) graduation ceremony in Dublin last week.
The guitarist – AKA David Howell Evans – was the surprise guest speaker at the Dublin college’s second-ever ceremony of its kind last Thursday (November 3), which saw over a hundred students graduate from the BA (Hons) in Commercial Modern Music programme. BIMM’s alumni elsewhere include James Bay, George Ezra and Tom Odell.
Taking to the stage at the Tivoli Theatre, The Edge delivered a speech that drew on the wisdom he’d accumulated from his 35-year career in music, which included recalling how U2’s career got off to a rocky start.
“Our success came gradually, in fact, we almost got dropped after our second album ‘October’,” he said. “The reason we didn’t is rather telling. When we negotiated our first record deal with Island Records, one of the things we really fought for was artistic control… the label said if you want those controls, we can’t give you the standard advances because you increase the risk level for us. So they gave the bare minimum. We felt strongly about this, so we said fine, and we took low advances and all lived at home for the first few years of the band. Island Records decided to roll the dice with our third album, ‘War’ and it did well, so we were secure. So, by not costing the label big advances, we saved ourselves.”
The Edge also spoke about the opportunities that the graduates had been afforded by the BIMM, drawing on his band’s own experiences with music tuition at school.
“When [U2] were in school, we managed to benefit from the tuition of great music teachers. We maintain a strong belief in the idea of music education… BIMM Dublin is such a cool thing, and I’m delighted to be here and support what I think is incredibly useful and helpful for the rock ‘n’ roll scene in Dublin.”
The 55-year-old closed with some words on how success in music can be achieved.
“Success can be many different things, and everyone’s definition is going to be different,” The Edge said. “If you try too hard to please the world will lose interest. The best way to becoming commercially successful is to ignore the world and concentrate on the work.
“In the case of our band, we never sat down with a plan to take over the world; we just decided early on to dedicate our lives to the idea of U2. Whatever the result, and to us aged 17, U2 wasn’t the most important thing in our lives. It was the only important thing in our lives!”
“I’m sure I don’t deserve it,” he told Glamour of the honour. “But I’m grateful for this award as a chance to say the battle for gender equality can’t be won unless men lead it along with women. We’re largely responsible for the problem, so we have to be involved in the solutions.”