Love is Bigger: Rusty Egan Interview
Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2018-07-19)
Rusty Egan is a name that may be familiar to some. Egan was part of the New Wave movement in London in the 1980s, playing with a number of bands, DJing at influential clubs (including his own at Camden Palace), and operating a music store in London. He was a member of Visage when they recorded “Fade to Grey,” a song that Adam Clayton revealed in Bass Player Magazine he was trying to play when he came up with the bass parts for “New Year’s Day:” “That actually grew out of me trying to work out the chords to the Visage tune ‘Fade to Grey.’ It was a kind of Euro-disco dance hit, and somehow it turned into ‘New Year’s Day.’”
Fast forward to 2018, and Rusty Egan is now among the growing list of artists and DJs who have remixed U2’s “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way.” In fact, Egan’s mixes are being released today worldwide via digital storefronts and streaming services. Although there have been many promotional remixes of the song over the last few months, Egan’s remixes (with HP Hoeger) are among the relatively small number to see a commercial release.
The full EP at iTunes and other digital outlets contains three remixes:
- Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way (HP. Hoeger Rusty Egan From the Heart Mix)
- Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way (HP. Hoeger Rusty Egan Chill Mix)
- Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way (HP. Hoeger Rusty Egan Drift Away Mix)
All three tracks are 6:41 in length, and all will be available at midnight tonight in your country. These will be available to buy (iTunes and other digital store fronts) and to stream (Spotify and other streaming services) and they will be available worldwide, but only after midnight in your time zone, thus they will be available in New Zealand first, then Europe, then North America as the clock changes to midnight in each country. The files are accompanied with a cover that uses a white background, with Eli and Sian’s silhouettes filled with a setting sun. A fourth track, sent out for promotion last week, the “HP Hoeger & Rusty Egan From the Heart Radio Edit”, is not part of the commercially available tracks, and remains a promotional only mix, although the full length version is available in the EP.
Egan was able to answer some of our questions about his “Love is Bigger” remixes, his career in the music business, and his work with U2.
You’ve been in the music business for a number of years. I first remember running across your name with “Fade to Grey” by Visage, a band you formed with Steve Strange and Midge Ure, when it played on Video Hits here in Canada. Can you give us a bit of an idea how you got your start in the music business?
I was a drummer from the age of 14, playing Status Quo songs with Mark Wallis [engineer on a number of songs on The Joshua Tree] who was living on my street, and dating my younger sister. At 18, Mark got a job as a tape-op at Dick James’ recording studios, DJM. He got me a runner job at 17.
I passed my driving test and went for auditions for bands. I auditioned for The Clash, playing for them in the summer of 1976. I was going to all the gigs and clubs, and I was seriously looking for the right band, when Glen Matlock was pushed out of the Sex Pistols, and asked me to be in the Rich Kids. By 1978 we were in Scotland trying to convince Midge Ure to come to London. He did, and we were the Rich Kids.
I met Steve Strange, who convinced me to stay in my flat and to pay the rent. I thought, “Lets take over a small gay club in Soho on a Tuesday.” We took my record collection, and put Steve on the door, and we invited all our mates. It became a reoccurring thing, “Billy’s” was born, and tagged “Bowie Night” as I played more Bowie and Roxy Music. During the Rich Kids tours, I met many bands and after one album with Mick Ronson, Midge and I got a drum machine, a CR 78, and a Yamaha CS 80 synth, and started to write songs and music. I joined the Skids for a while, and Midge joined Thin Lizzy, so those ideas were put on hold for six months.
That was the start of Visage? U2’s Boy was released just a month before the first Visage album. What was the music scene like in those days? Did you have any thoughts about this band from Dublin?
Yes, Visage was recorded and finished by 1979, and we released “Tar”, the debut single, in November 1979 via Martin Rushent. The album followed in 1980.
The best of punk for me was Ultravox, John Foxx, Magazine, Simple Minds, Devo, Human League, Joy Division. All were in my record collection along with Iggy, the Banshees, the Cure, Psychedelic Furs, and Bauhaus. At that point no U2 had gotten to me. I liked “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” and “I Will Follow” but they did not really grab me until I heard “October” live at Red Rocks in 1983. I was totally blown away by it, and I paid Tyne Tees TV licencing fees to show it every night at Camden Palace. I was always in Island Records blagging music, and Virgin too as a member of The Skids. I got Simple Minds signed to Virgin later. As a Simple Minds fan I hung out at the Columbia Hotel, and I became friends with Larry — drummers talking — and Adam Clayton. Once I was hooked on the fact that they could sing, play, and the piano, that was it for me. “October” showed a side to U2 that was romantic, and I wanted that for my DJ sets. Adam did tell me at one point back then that “New Year’s Day” was born from “Fade to Grey” chords in a rehearsal.
VIDEO: “Fade to Grey” by Visage
Did you ever think back then you’d spend 40 years in the music industry? Did you think U2 would?
Yes, all I ever knew was making music. I did take a good part of 40 years avoiding the music biz though. In 1987 I was robbed of my studios, my labels, and company. My daughter was born and I was losing my home. I was close to U2 and they saw what happened to me in 1987. I was in debt and they helped me out as much as they could, but I fell apart and I was in fact homeless by 1990. I was damaged, and I avoided the music world for a number of years, but watched U2 in awe. By 1995 I was ready to sort my life out, and I lived a new, clean-living life as a father of three more boys, doing what I could to survive until I started to DJ again in the late 1990s. U2 invited me to Dublin in 1988 and offered me a job as a token of their love and support during the early days, but I was too damaged to be able to do much. I am eternally grateful for that, it was a life saver at the time.
Had you worked with U2 on anything before?
No, I was just a fan, and I loved them. As a Londoner my respect was increased by their love of Ireland. They lived in Ireland, not London or LA when they could have. They had childhood sweethearts. They made me proud, as did Phil Lynott and Van Morrison, to be Irish. London would ruin them, and they stayed in Ireland, investing in Ireland, opening hotels, clubs, whatever they did they supported Ireland.
You’ve told us you have always been a big fan of U2’s work, and you feature them regularly in your mixes. Do you have a favorite album? Song?
Obviously, as a fan it’s not one song. I love the lyrics and the reasons behind them. At gigs, I see the audience feels what I felt. “Gloria” gets me every time Bono sings “If I had anything anything at all I would give it to you.” “Bad” blew me away. “With or Without You” was the anthem for me. “Early morning, April 4, a shot rings out in a Memphis sky” — WOW!! That blew me away. They are a band who had it all for me. But Edge on piano and guitars, and then bringing in Eno, my hero from Bowie / Roxy Music, and all his work with everyone…I loved. They made the album of my dreams. The Joshua Tree with songs and powerful lyrics, was just heaven. Then in later years, “One” with Mary J. Blige and “Beautiful Day” with the drum machine — I loved it. They have never done anything either musically or visually that disappoints, in fact they astound me. That Joshua Tree 30th anniversary show at Teddington (London) was unreal. Anton Corbijn…BLISS.
You worked with the Skids on their second album, and also played with them live for a time, so you have to be familiar with “The Saints are Coming.” What do you think of U2’s cover of that song that they performed with Green Day?
Yes, I played that song on the tour in 1979, leaving The Skids live on the Old Grey Whistle test and announcing Visage and into the 80s. I saw the Skids minus me and Stuart (RIP) this summer and the songs still stand up today. That song is a powerful Scottish anthem now. Green Day I see as a kid’s version of a punk band, I just don’t get them. I would have rather heard Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters with U2, now that would be amazing…
You attended the show that U2 did at Trafalgar Square, and a number of others over the years. What’s it like watching them now having known them all this time?
I humbly ask for tickets and they always treat me well. I am amazed. I went to so many shows in the 80s. Watched them on TV in the 90s with Paul Oakenfold rising as a DJ I thought I should have been, had my meltdown not shut me away. The Zoo TV tour woke me up. I just loved the way they grabbed technology and I wanted to go see them again. I asked for a ticket and met the band again, and it was like “Rusty, wow, you look great how have you been?” It was exactly as we had left off. Such a wonderful team who treated me so well. My self esteem was on the floor but they raised me up. Bono has always hugged me and no matter how I felt I could see he knew a hug was all that was needed, no words.
If you had a chance to remix any U2 song ever, what one would you want to do?
“October.” Or the Wide Awake in America version of “Bad.”
How did your involvement on this release of “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” come about?
I listened to the album and I thought they had written some amazing songs that would be perfect for synths. After seeing the show in Teddington in 2017, I thought why not, just ask if I could remix something. I had no idea they already had loads of mixes of “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” — I just felt that I really could do something wonderful. I hope I was right.
You worked on this remix with HP Hoeger, who you’ve worked with on remixes for other artists as well. How do you split up the mixing work?
HP and I met in Ibiza. He was DJing and so was I, and we both loved each other’s work. I played him a few artists I loved and wanted to remix. He responded and said, “I love them as well, lets do it!” He came to my studio, and we started on Kid Moxie, A Cult With No Name, and a few ideas I had that I was writing. I made my album, and HP said “Let’s remix Midge Ure’s ‘Glorious’.” He did a mix that blew me away, so I suggested we remix the whole album. So we made Welcome to the Beach, it’s coming out at the end of August / September.
We both worked around the clock for two weeks to make “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way.” We are now working on “Summer of Love” but we have no idea if U2 will want the mixes. We love it so much, we just are doing it. HP is in Croatia on a beach FaceTiming me for ideas. I told him to look out to the sea and capture the wonder of this amazing world, this amazing summer of 2018, and the power of love. The unforgettable fire in our hearts will win this crazy time. Bono cares so much, so deep, yet knows it’s too much for one band, one man, but united, who knows, love will unite.
How did you start the whole remix process?
The stems arrived and we started making the Chilled Remix first. Then I made a more band-like example, and a more ambient version, and sent them to the band. The band responded “Yes, we are loving this,” so I got in contact with HP, and we spent two weeks of not getting it right. Then the band said they had liked the demo I had sent. I sent that to HP, and BOOM, we had it done. Now they all are perfect. The “Summer of Love” mix I played at my DJ sets in Ibiza and the Isle of Wight Festival, and people have been sending me messages asking where they can get it, so that’s a great sign. I hope the band does release it. And I can’t wait for people to hear our mixes of “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” today.
The mixes really bring out Bono’s vocal to the forefront, especially the “Drift Away Mix,” and are a nice break from the dancier remixes we’ve been hearing from this campaign. Were you requested to do something different? Or was the direction you took your own?
The direction was totally on our own. I hadn’t heard any mixes from this album, only the “Summer of Love” remix by Tilt and Danny Stubbs who had done a great job keeping the song and the band, and yet keeping it punchy. Paul Oakenfold has been a great friend to me over the years, and often hooks up with me in Ibiza or London. I think we just knew what to do with these songs, and I hope we did it. I adore the songs. I cannot make the usual DJ type mixes, in fact I have to admit most I don’t really like. There are amazing mixes out there of artists, that I include in my mixes and shows, so I always say ignore the horrors and talk about the diamonds.
Did U2 have any input into the remixes or did they leave you to complete things the way you wanted?
Yes, we had to wait and be given feedback — requests for the drums from this mix, or the guitars, or the vocal delays you had in the 1st mix, etc. We did it all together. I loved it as we knew we were on the right road. When it was finally accepted, Bono sent a nice message ending with, “Your Irishness is presenting, watch out.” Wonderful to know my Irishness is in those mixes.
You’ve included the line of dialog that opens the “Love is Bigger” video at the start and the end of the mixes, why did you bring that in?
As a man who lived in the 70s and shared a flat with gays, I think the homophobia and bullying in the UK are a sickening subject and need to be exposed. Just for being different or not being “normal.” It hit me, I started the Blitz Club for them. The misfits, the odd, the weird, the sexually unsure or unaware. I love the line, but I wanted to slow it down, so what was said is made clear. I wanted to make it part of the message at the front and again at the end. I think it works.
AUDIO: HP Hoeger and Rusty Egan’s remix of “Summer of Love” features at 03:00 in the “Welcome to the Beach” Mix.
You mentioned the “Summer of Love” remix you did, also with HP Hoeger. Which song did you work on first? Do you know if there are any plans to release your version of “Summer of Love”?
Yes, we did that first and only one mix of “Summer of Love.” We then started other ideas but we were told it would not be the next record, and that we should try “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way”. Now, we are working on more mixes of “Summer of Love” as we absolutely love it. I think this summer 2018 with the football, the weather, and the insanity of the political situation is a year we will remember as a year where love will win out in the end. The feeling of love for The World Cup at the Isle of Wight Festival was wonderful, and I dropped “Summer of Love” in a field with the sun setting — it was a glorious moment. I hope they love our mixes.
You’ve said you were really touched by U2’s new album — what about this album has caught your attention?
The first song I wanted to work on was “Love Is All We Have Left.” It was such a powerful opening song, and that voice effect, with no drums or guitars, it was perfect for me. Love the use of little drum loops, and the strings on “The Little Things.” In fact, I have done “Welcome to the Beach,” a chilled beach version of my “Welcome to the Dancefloor,” and I would love to do something like Songs of Experience (for Airports!). Do the whole album with blissed-out synths and ambiance. Sort of like the Easy All Stars “Radiodread” project which reinvents OK Computer.
What are some of the other projects you are working on?
I use Mixcloud for my mixes, and do weekly radio shows. Rustyegan.net will link you to everything.
More information about these releases can be found in our discography entry for the singles, and for the promotional releases. The “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” remixes have propelled the single into the #2 spot in the Dance Club Charts on Billboard. Hopefully this additional push will help the song reach #1 this week on this chart. These mixes by Egan and Hoeger will be available after midnight tonight in your country. (Release date, July 20, 2018).