By Chyrisse Tabone
Rock At Night had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Peace, the lead singer of the remarkable U2 cover band, U2Baby.
Band Members: Richard Peace (Bono), Simon Peace (the Edge), Jon Couling (Larry), Jordan Brown (Adam)
Looking for a fun time on St. Patrick’s Day. U2baby is playing on March 17th at O’Neills in St Albans in the UK
Richard: Hello Chyrisse, its a pleasure to talk to you from sunny, ok well not so sunny England!
Rock At Night: I listened to some of your videos online and the band really sounds like U2! Have you been a long-time fan of the band?
Richard: Oh yes… since I was a teenager in the 80s. I used to sing in my bedroom to cassette tapes of the band! Aside from Elvis and Bing Crosby it was pretty much my passion. I had an old monitor speaker and plugged in a cheap mic that I had – always trying to emulate THAT voice… that emotion… I saw Live Aid and their performance and decided then I wanted to be the lead singer in a band… although without a mullet!
Rock At Night: Yeah, we laugh about the mullet today but they were hot back then. Are you a fan that collects memorabilia of the band?
Richard: Well, not so much memorabilia – although in the past I have owned white label records that unfortunately I had to sell. One in particular I sold for £125. It was the King Biscuit Flower Hour from Boston – a very rare vinyl record indeed. In a way I wish I still had it.. In terms of collectibles we are now really trying to collect items that enhance our ability to pull off the look and the feel of the band. For instance I have had several original Valen Atlas Mic Stands – I just bought two from the 60s – Bono refuses to go on stage without his so we kind of have to follow suit or it just doesn’t look right. Simon, my brother does the Edge… he has invested a massive amount of time in researching the kit the Edge uses… he’s even constructed his own effects units so in a way he’s treading the same path as the Edge… So not memorabilia but kit that is as close as we can get on a budget!
Rock At Night: How did the cover band evolve? When was the band formed and are all the of members total U2 freaks too?
Richard: Well, I have wanted to do this since my bedroom days. About 10 years ago I formed a duo with a friend. We were called act2baby (a play on Achtung Baby with a lovely U2 in the middle of the logo formed from the T and the 2…) but it never sounded right and I think we only did one gig. Then about 3 years ago my brother got made redundant from a job and started to learn to play the U2 guitar parts… as I mentioned he built his own effects to emulate a specific pre-amp that the Edge uses.. he even sold some to others! So we started doing the duo, did a few festivals and got such great feedback we thought lets do it!! Thing was it sounded empty with backing tracks for drums and bass. We just were not feeling the energy of U2… not feeling it… that was key. We had to FEEL like we were delivering not only the sound of the band, but the FEEL of the band… and that needed drums and bass. The two guys we found are just amazing. I am not sure they started like me and my brother as U2 freaks but they certainly are now! Jon, our drummer is really nailing the drum parts as he becomes more and more familiar with Larry’s style. It’s a big challenge! Jordan, who is a bass producer is also amazing – he’s able to hear what is missing in our backing tracks and come up with wild ideas to capture the sound. Only last month we were using cans of sugar and an open bottle to add some rhythm to “Mysterious Ways”- there is never a dull moment in a tribute band!
Rock At Night: OK. Tell me. Where did you get those glasses? <laugh>
Richard: Which ones? My own, or the Bono ones… my own are from Italy and funnily enough like the Bono ones I got them from eBay – its amazing for tracking down gear. I now have about 4 different pairs including Black Flys, Bvulgari, Romeo Gigli and some proper bug eye “the Fly” sunglasses – which is the song we are learning next.
Rock At Night: It sounds like you have quite a collection now! You really look like Bono and have his mannerisms down. What kind of preparation does it take to pull this off before a gig? Let me guess. You sit in front of the mirror and practice <laugh>.
Richard: Lots and lots of preparation. But we feel we are still only at the beginning. The full band has only been in existence for a short time. For my part its a case of singing along to live U2 gigs with the computer in front of me to watch what he does and how he moves…. but for me it is all about feeling… I don’t want this to sound like I’m completely obsessed with it but I feel their music so deeply that when I perform my body does what it does… If it looks like Bono great! I’m just trying to hit the notes and put the emotion in that I hear from Bono. I watched videos of how Bono comes up with lyrics and in some it is almost like he is channeling the melody and adding the words later. I try to remember that when performing… feel it first and hopefully then I can establish the connection that results in something that approximates him…
Rock At Night: What about the sound? How did you figure out the equipment to use? I mean, the band has the sound down note by note!
Richard: Ah – well this is the “secret sauce” and I’m not really sure how much I should say. There are some incredible U2 tributes across the world, in fact we know a few of them. We do share quite a bit of information with each other but some things are just best kept to ourselves! In a nutshell we study what the Edge uses and then look to see what we can do on our extremely limited budget. There are certain things you can’t do without such as a Vox AC30 amplifier which makes all the difference. We combine that with various digital solutions to create the sound. Vocally we use delays timed to the songs. Everything is triggered centrally and we play to click in our in-ear monitors with cues that keep us on track. This is exactly what U2 do – have a listen to CLICK HERE and you will see what we have recreated in our setup. In fact on some of our rehearsal videos you will hear these cues on the speakers… Edge 2,3 4! We do use backing tracks for things like keyboards and strings, but the guitar, drums, bass and lead vocal is all live. We record backing vocals just because at the moment we don’t have enough channels on our mixer to do them live! Ultimately Simon will do those live as well. Sometimes people don’t believe we are playing live but I can assure you the main guitar, vocals, drums and bass is all 100% live. I wouldn’t bother doing it otherwise.
Rock At Night: Has Bono and the band ever heard you before? What do you think they’d think?
Richard: Ha ha ha – I doubt it very much… But I would love one day to know that they had! I think they are very supportive of tribute bands. They even had one come up on stage once – there is a video on YouTube. I think that was an all girl band from memory. Also in the 90s for Even Better Than the Real Thing – they formed their own lookalike tribute band and so I think in general they are pretty happy that they are getting this sort of flattery. I have heard some truly amazing tributes out there. I would love to meet the band one day but I guess that is pretty unlikely. If I did I’d just like to say “thanks for being a part of my life… you don’t know what an impact you’ve had and how many low moments you’ve got me through” – being able to be in a tribute to your favourite band is just icing on the cake.
Rock At Night: So what kind of music did you listen to growing up? When did you start singing and have you been in other bands?
Richard: I kind of mentioned at the start. Elvis and Bing Crosby were my favourites… then I got into the likes of Ultravox, Simple Minds and U2 in the 80s. I started singing back then and have been in covers bands for the last 30 years really. I’ve done everything from small pubs, to pretty big stages at holiday camps and festivals.
Rock At Night: Who is your audience at the shows and why do you think U2 has been around for so many years?
Richard: Our target market is really festivals. I think this goes down best at those kind of events. U2 is kind of a hot and cold thing. You either love them or loathe them. So to play at a pub or club you are probably going to find half the audience don’t like it. We reserve those for special tribute nights rather than week in week out. So the audience is generally either people who love U2 and can’t get to the real thing, or people at a festival who just love live music. I’ve even had people come up to me after a gig and say – I always hated U2 but you changed my mind today… I love that 🙂 We also recently played theatres and I think that will be the other good place for this, specific tribute nights at theatres.
I think they have been around for so long because they change… they re-invent themselves to stay relevant. For us that means we have 40 years or so of material – that’s a big bonus for a tribute band… and everyone knows the songs… Our 90 minute set is PACKED with hits… they’ve all been high in the charts at some point. Even if you don’t like them you can’t deny their track record.
Rock At Night: Is there a particular favorite song that really moves you?
Richard: There are too many… If I picked the one’s that I am in danger of actually cracking up during a performance then they would be “Stay (Faraway, So Close),” “One,” and “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own).”
Rock At Night: Do you have any upcoming gigs you’d like people to know about? I bet you are in demand during St. Patrick’s Day events!
Richard: Yes – actually we are at O’Neills in St Albans in the UK this Tuesday 17th March – if you are in the vicinity get down their early as it’s gonna be busy! We are on at 9pm.
Rock At Night: Out of curiosity, do you perform any acoustic or “unplugged” U2 shows?
Richard: Not in isolation but a number of the tracks during the gig are delivered like that… I am currently working on a version of “Every Breaking Wave” (from the new album) that will be done like that.
Rock At Night: Is there anything you’d like people to know about you and the band?
Richard: Just that we are in this because we LOVE the music of U2. We know we will never be U2, but we love their music… and we are proud to play their music… We just want people everywhere to be able to hear these songs live. Anything else is a bonus.