Bands on Bands: John Booker (I Was Totally Destroying It) on U2's Achtung Baby

Achtung Baby

I Was Totally Destroying It drop their new album Vexations on Aug 21 via Greyday Records.  For those not already in the know,  this Durham, NC combo, which includes ex Sorry About Dresden (Saddle Creek) members and male/female co vocals deliver a heady work of dream-pop/punky power-pop.  The cherry on top of this piece of wax is that the record was co-produced by Joshua Cain (of Motion City Soundtrack) and Ed Ackerson (who also produced The Replacements and The Jayhawks among others).
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with vocalist/guitarist John Booker to discuss his favorite album while he prepares to unveil his band’s new jams (which are loosely inspired lyrically by Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series).  Accomplishing the impossible, here is what he told us about U2’s Achtung Baby…
What is your favorite album?
Anyone reading knows that this is basically an impossible question, but I’ll attempt to play along and pick just one: U2’s Achtung Baby.
Do you remember when you received or purchased the album?
It’s a little fuzzy, but I think I was given the tape by my parents roughly around when the album came out in late 1991.  It was probably a Christmas gift- I think I remember getting it and Nirvana’s Nevermind at the same time.  I was only 10 years old, but I was pretty obsessive about music already at that point.  I’ve purchased it a few times since then, too: I have a couple copies on CD, I found it on vinyl a few years ago, and I bought the new deluxe reissue edition last year, because I am nuts.
What is your favorite song on the album?
The opening track, “Zoo Station.”  It’s easily in my top five favorite opening tracks of all time.  Actually, I think the only other song that competes with it for the #1 slot is “Zooropa,” off their follow-up album of the same name.
What is it about the song that resonates with you?
Someone recently pointed out to me how each song on Achtung Baby has a brilliant, grabbing intro.  The person pointing this out wasn’t even a massive fan, but he couldn’t deny the creativity and (to use an over-used word) epic construction of those intros.  I think that’s a big part of it- it’s just sweeping, grandiose music- and “Zoo Station” in particular has a groove and attitude that just makes me feel like I’m staring in my own futuristic action film or something.  It’s everything- the writing, production (Eno/Lanois are magicians)- Bono has had some lyrical clunkers over the years, but in the early ‘90s he was on fire.
Have you ever covered a song from the album?
Yes- for a year or so, I Was Totally Destroying It had a U2 cover band alter ego.  We were approached by a popular Irish Pub in Raleigh, NC to put something together- it helped us grow a lot as musicians and it helped keep us afloat financially for a while there as well.  The money was nice, but honestly I would sing those songs for free!  We covered “Zoo Station,” “One,” “The Fly,” “Mysterious Ways,” and “Ultra Violet”- among 30 or so songs from other U2 albums.
What is it about the album that makes it stand out against the band’s other output?
I’m always weirded out by people who flat-out hate U2.  I think of the band as musical chameleons- like David Bowie or Neil Young, but maybe even moreso.  I can definitely understand not enjoying certain eras of their career, but the difference between their post-punk days, ambient music, straight-up pop/rock, and industrial/dance/shoegaze-inspired ‘90s output is profound.  Achtung Baby stands out dramatically against U2’s other work.  I love their other albums in different ways, some nearly as much, but this one just hit me in the right way at the right time.
Have you ever given a copy of this record to anyone?  What were the circumstances?
I don’t think I have- most of my friends either already get it, or are vehement in their hatred of U2.  They are such a divisive band.  I was, however, able to turn some of my younger bandmates on to the band in general when we started the cover project.  Rachel used to be a very casual fan, but now she’s almost as obsessed as me.
Which of the records that you’ve performed on is your favorite?
I’m going to take a wild guess that everyone says “the new album,” but for me it’s hands down, no question- the new album, Vexations.  I’m proud of a lot of the albums I’ve played on over the years, but this is the record I’ve always wanted to make- it’s most in tune with my influences and what I love about music.  All five of us walked out of the studio the day we finished tracking and said “This is the best album I’ve ever been a part of”- that was over a year ago and I still feel the same way.
What is your favorite song on the album and why?
Probably “Move So Slowly”- It’s a song that happened very spontaneously- the demo was actually just improvised layers I played in one take while trying to set up some new recording software.  A happy accident.  The final version is almost identical- I wanted to keep the improvised elements as intact as possible.  It’s just very close to the sound I heard in my head and the mood is exactly what I was going for.
(Sample some tracks by the band here: or