Red Hill Mining Band: An Interview with the Brass Band

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2017-02-27)

U2 have recently announced they will be remixing “Red Hill Mining Town” as part of The Joshua Tree 2017 tour. As part of a recent interview with MOJO Magazine, the magazine revealed these plans for the new single:

Which explains why, for a brand new mix of “Red Hill Mining Town” helmed by Steve Lillywhite and earmarked for an upcoming release, Bono has gone back to the master and re-recorded his vocal. “We’ve also brought out the colliery brass band which was recorded at the time,” says the singer. “You can’t hear it in the original mix.”

Steve Lillywhite spoke further about the new version of “Red Hill Mining Town” recently on Twitter: “Regarding the new version of #RedHillMiningTown…Bono resung verses in Dublin and I remixed in Jakarta. Its not EDM, sorry…” (EDM being a reference to electronic dance music.)

“Red Hill Mining Town” was started as a song as early as the sessions the band organized in 1985 for The Joshua Tree. The song was inspired by the National Union of Mineworker’s 1984 strike in England, which was due to the National Coal Board choosing to close uneconomic mines. The strike at its height involved over 142,000 mine workers, and the strike lasted from March 6, 1984 until March 3, 1985. A music video for the song was filmed in early 1987 by Neil Jordan, on a set representing a coal mine, but the video remained unreleased until 2007. The song was once considered for a single, but the band chose to go with other songs instead, and indeed, “Red Hill Mining Town” is the one song that the band has not yet played live in concert.

That brass band featured in the original recording of the song was the Arklow Shipping Silver Band. The brass band had grown out of the Arklow Youth Club and a choir associated with the Arklow Youth Club. The band itself formed in 1968, and began entering into competition in 1972. The band has recorded numerous albums, and since September 2002 have been sponsored by Arklow Shipping Ltd., and the band is now known as the Arklow Shipping Silver Band, but when the album was recorded they were known as the Arklow Silver Band, and are credited that way on the liner notes. The band has a website at, and is based in Arklow, to the south of Dublin.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin Fitzgerald, a member of the band who plays tenor horn in the band. He also takes care of the website, Kevin is the longest serving member of the band and celebrates his 50 years with them next year. Kevin was present at the recordings of the Arklow Shipping Silver Band for “Red Hill Mining Town” and was willing to share some of his memories with us today. The interview follows a look at the Arklow Shipping Silver Band provided by Kevin circa the time frame that they would have recorded their music for The Joshua Tree.

What can you tell us about the recording of “Red Hill Mining Town”?

KF: We recorded the backing track for “Red Hill Mining Town” in Windmill Studios, in Dublin, over two days. For the recording the brass band music was arranged and conducted by Paul Barrett.

Do you remember when the recording took place?

KF: It must have been sometime in 1986, although I can’t be 100%

Was the song actually called “Red Hill Mining Town” at the time?

KF: The working title of the piece at the time was called “The Eejit.” The working title, “The Eejit” means a stupid person in Ireland, but I don’t know who came up with the name.

Were members of U2 involved in the recording session at the time?

KF: We met Bono, The Edge and Larry Mullen during the recording. The U2 guys dropped in during the recording and did not play.

What else can you tell us about the session?

KF: It was hard work but a great experience. There were 2 or 3 rehearsals beforehand and then the session was spread over two days with the lower instruments having to record it all twice for balance purposes.

Were any of the other producers around for the session?

KF: I think Brian Eno and Steve Lillywhite were there but I couldn’t be sure.

Were you aware the band was planning on remixing “Red Hill Mining Town” for the upcoming Joshua Tree 2017 tour? Steve Lillywhite says the new mix will bring out the Arklow Shipping Silver Band in the mix.

KF: I was not aware of this until you contacted us! We were not very prominent on the original recording unfortunately.

Have you followed U2 since the recording of “Red Hill Mining Town”?

KF: I have been following them over the years but have not seen them live. I think they had a great management team behind them and this helped them to get get where they are today.

The latest rumours suggest that the single may be debuted on the Chris Evans show in March, with Evans claiming on air on February 24 that Bono will be hand delivering new material in March. The thirtieth anniversary of the original release of The Joshua Tree is March 9, 2017. Evans unfortunately may not be the best source to trust however, as on December 22, he announced “U2 have a new album, it’s finished and it’s ready to go…they completed it in New York about 4 weeks ago.” As we know know, the album is not finished at this stage, with Adam claiming that it’s 85% of the way to completion more recently.

Although there has been no official announcement of a physical release for “Red Hill Mining Town” we will be keeping our eyes on the announcements for Record Store Day 2017 which falls on April 22, 2017 this year. Typically in the past singles have been delivered to radio about a month in advance of their availability as a physical single.

A big thank you to Kevin Fitzgerald for taking time to speak with us, and for other members of the Arklow Shipping Silver Band for taking the time out of their schedules as well.

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