Rattling and Humming: Is U2 Set to Shove Off of Island’s Shores?

Rolling Stone (1998-11-14)

Are U2 still looking for what they haven’t found…in a record label?

While the American office of Island Records was unable to comment, rumors have been flying that Irish superstars U2 are poised to leave their longtime home at Island Records for Interscope’s stable as soon as all the dust settles on the massive restructuring of Polygram and Universal music groups into the largest music company in the world. A Billboard Bulletin report published Friday morning (Nov. 13) quotes a senior PolyGram executive as saying the transfer has not been finalized, but that “it has essentially been agreed.” The Seagram Co., which owns both labels, began plans to integrate their myriad interests under one umbrella, called Universal Music, in hopes of saving the company hundreds of million of dollars. According to a report in the L.A. Times, “some of the nation’s best known record labels, including Motown, Geffen, A&M and Mercury are expected to undergo significant downsizing as Seagram attempts to transform itself into the largest and leanest music conglomerate in the world.” The reorganization will be under the aegis of some of the more powerful forces in the industry, including Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine and Def Jam Records’ Lyor Cohen. These changes could prove significant for U2, as Iovine produced the band’s Rattle and Hum and Under A Blood Red Sky, and still maintains a warm relationship with the band.” In fact, it was Iovine who reportedly approached U2’s lead singer, Bono, about appearing on the new album by Interscope gospel star Kirk Franklin.

“This has been talked about for some time,” revealed an industry source close to the eye of the storm. “The band has a great relationship with Jimmy, so it’s a natural evolution for U2.” Another source notes that the band feels it needs a stronger marketing and promotion campaign on its next studio album, and that Interscope can deliver that push better than Island.

Iovine is said to have warned his foot soldiers that they would be inundated by calls about this new alliance, but at press time Interscope would not make any comment if and when the transfer would take place.

A report out of London revealed that U2, who have been with the label started by Chris Blackwell since 1980, at one point had a stake in the company until it was acquired by Polygram.

No word whether this new alleged deal would include U2’s new dance imprint, Kitchen Records. U2 launched the label with a splashy soiree at the Kitchen

(the club owned by the band and located in the basement of their Clarence Hotel in Dublin) on Thursday night (Nov. 12). The label would be run by their long-time associate Reggie Manuel with spiritual guidance from U2
mixer and pal Howie B, who owns the Pussyfoot label in the U.K. According to a report in NME, U2 will not have much day-to-day contact with the running of the label. “Rather than us feeling that we’re going to change the world
of dance music, we’re happy just to let Reg do it. We’re going to listen to tapes and be involved, but really it’s his baby,” said the Edge.

Dublin techo maestro Rob Rowland’s Ground Zero disc will be the label’s first release. As for U2, they have been logging their own studio time with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois for a new studio album. Their U2:
Best Of 1980-1990 was released on Nov. 3, the first in a trilogy of “best of albums” that the band will release over the next two years as part of their reported $50 million deal with Island Records.

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