Larry Mullen, Jr.

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Posted on Thu, 02/06/2014 - 3:37pm
by John MacMillan

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Laurence Joseph "Larry" Mullen, Jr. (born 31 October 1961) is an Irish musician and the drummer for the Irish rock band U2. One of the four original founders of U2, he would relate that he described the band as "'The Larry Mullen Band' for about ten minutes, then Bono walked in and blew any chance I had of being in charge."

Some of his most famous contributions to the U2 catalog include ""40"," "Zoo Station," and "Mysterious Ways." He has worked on numerous side projects during his career, including a collaboration with Michael Stipe and Mike Mills of R.E.M. to form Automatic Baby in 1993 and working with bandmate Adam Clayton on the re-recording of the theme to Mission: Impossible, in 1996. He has been awarded, both as part of U2 and in his own right, 22 Grammy awards.


Early life

Mullen, the middle child and only son of Laurence Joseph Mullen and Maureen (née Gaffney) Mullen, was born 31 October 1961 in Artane, Dublin, Ireland, and lived there, on Rosemount Avenue, until his twenties. His father was a civil servant and his mother a homemaker. He has an elder sister, Cecilia, and had a younger sister, Mary (died 1973).

He attended the School of Music in Chatham Row to learn piano at the age of eight and, then, began drumming in 1971, at the age of 9, under the instruction of Irish drummer Joe Bonnie. After Joe's death, Bonnie's daughter, Monica, took over from him. But Mullen gave up the lessons and started playing by himself. His mother died in a car accident in 1976.

Before founding U2, Mullen was involved for three weeks, on the suggestion of his father, in a Dublin marching band called the Artane Boys Band (now known as the Artane Band), contributing to the martial beats common in Mullen's work, such as "Sunday Bloody Sunday". Mullen lost interest again and left the band after they asked him to cut his shoulder-length hair.

He saved money and his father helped him out to buy a drum kit made by a Japanese toy company, which was for sale by a friend of his sister Cecilia. He set up the kit in his bedroom and his parents gave him certain times to practice. Then his father got him into the Post Office Workers Band, which played orchestral melodies with percussion, along with marching band standards. He attended Scoil Colmcille, Marlborough Street, Dublin. He took the exams for Chanel College and St. Paul's, two Catholic schools his father wanted his son to attend. After Mary, the youngest of the three Mullen siblings, died in 1973 (aged 9), Larry Mullen Sr. gave up the idea of pushing his son into those schools and sent his son to Mount Temple Comprehensive School, the first interdenominational school in Ireland.

Musical career

Mullen's father suggested that he place a notice on the Mount Temple Comprehensive School bulletin board, saying something to the effect of "drummer seeks musicians to form band." U2 was founded on 25 September 1976 in Mullen's kitchen in Artane.

The band, originally consisting of Mullen, Paul "Bono" Hewson, David "The Edge" Evans, his brother Dik Evans, Adam Clayton, and Mullen's friends Ivan McCormick and Peter Martin, was originally known as the "Larry Mullen Band", but the name quickly changed to "Feedback", as that was one of the few musical terms they knew. Soon after the band formed, McCormick and Martin left and the band, by then known as "The Hype", was a 5-piece band. Just before they won a talent contest in Limerick, Ireland, they changed their name again, for the final time, to U2 at a farewell concert for Dik Evans, becoming the 4-piece band they are today.

Mullen left school in 1978, having taken his Intermediate Certificate exams. The school offered him the chance to complete his Leaving Certificate exams. He and his sister Cecelia worked for an American company in Dublin, involved in oil exploration off the coast of Ireland. Mullen worked there for a year in the purchasing department, with the prospect of becoming a computer programmer in their geology section.

Style and techniques

In the early days of U2, his contributions to the band were often limited to fills and drum rolls, but he became more involved in the writing of the songs later, particularly in conjunction with Adam Clayton, his partner in the rhythm section, with whom he has collaborated on solo projects. When the band was first being signed to CBS Records, they refused to sign the band unless Mullen was fired. He was not, and as a result, his drumming became more integrated into the song structures. His experiences in the Artane Boys Band reportedly heavily contributed to the martial beat featured in many of U2's songs, helping to evoke military imagery.

During the recording of the album Pop in 1996, Mullen suffered from severe back problems. Recording was delayed due to surgery. When he left the hospital, he arrived back in the studio to find the rest of the band experimenting more than ever with electronic drum machines, something driven largely by guitarist The Edge's interest in dance and hip-hop music, and, given his weakness after the operation, he relented, allowing The Edge to continue using drum machines, which contributed heavily to the album's electronic feel.

Mullen has had tendinitis problems throughout his career. As a means to reduce inflammation and pain, he began to use specially designed Pro-Mark drumsticks. He uses Yamaha drums and Paiste cymbals. He was placed at # 21 in Stylus Magazine's list of the 50 Greatest Rock Drummers. Although he occasionally plays keyboards and synthesiser in concerts, Mullen rarely sings during performances. He contributed backing vocals to the songs "Numb", "Get On Your Boots", "Moment of Surrender", "Elevation", "Miracle Drug", "Love and Peace or Else", "Unknown Caller", "Zoo Station" (only during Zoo TV Tour) and others. He occasionally performed a cover version of "Dirty Old Town" on the Zoo TV Tour. During live performances of "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight", Mullen walks around the stage, contributing to the song with a large djembe strapped around his waist.

Mullen is said to have a preternatural sense of rhythm. Brian Eno recounted that while working with Mullen on a U2 album, Mullen kept insisting that the click track was off and lagging behind the tracks that had already been recorded. Eno adjusted it, thinking that he was just humoring Mullen, but later found that Mullen was right and the click track had indeed been off by six milliseconds.

Mullen switches between the traditional cross-sticking playing style & the open handed style, which is why one of his 16" floor toms is on the left. For the song With Or Without You, he rides the left side floor tom with his left hand leading.

Solo projects

Mullen has worked on many solo projects in his career, including collaborations with Maria McKee, Nanci Griffith, and U2 producer Daniel Lanois. In 1990, Mullen co-wrote and arranged an official Republic of Ireland national football team song `Put 'Em Under Pressure' for the World Cup. He played drums on many of the songs on the 1995 album, Wrecking Ball.

Mullen and Adam Clayton recorded the soundtrack to the 1996 movie of Mission: Impossible, including the theme song, whose time signature was changed from the original 5/4 time signature to an easier and more danceable 4/4 time signature. The "Theme from Mission: Impossible" reached #8 on the U.S. Billboard chart, and was nominated for a Grammy award in the "Best Pop Instrumental Performance" category. He worked with producer Daniel Lanois on his album Acadie.

Mullen and Clayton collaborated with Mike Mills and Michael Stipe from R.E.M. to form the one-performance group Automatic Baby, solely for the purpose of performing "One" for Bill Clinton's inauguration at MTV's 1993 inaugural ball. The group's name refers to the titles of both bands' latest albums, Achtung Baby and Automatic for the People. He performed on Underworld's song "Boy, Boy, Boy" from their 2007 album, Oblivion with Bells.

Acting career

Mullen's film debut was in a film by Phil Joanou called Entropy where he played himself alongside bandmate Bono. He played a thief in Man on the Train, which starred Donald Sutherland. Filmed in Orangeville, Ontario, Canada, Man on the Train was released in 2011. The following year, it was announced that Mullen would appear in his second film, A Thousand Times Goodnight, starring Juliette Binoche. On 3 September 2013 the film won Special Grand Prix of the Jury at Montreal World Film Festival.

Personal life

Mullen has never been married, but has lived with his girlfriend Ann Acheson for more than 30 years. They met in their first year in Mount Temple. They have three children. He is a first cousin of Irish actor Conor Mullen. As U2 became increasingly successful, Mullen had to add the suffix "Junior" to his name so as to disambiguate himself from his own father, who was receiving large tax bills meant for his son. In 1995 Mullen had surgery on his back because he had been carrying an injury since The Joshua Tree tour. He and Clayton own places near Bono and Edge in the South of France to make the work easier.

He prefers to let the other band members take the spotlight at interviews. He has played synthesiser or keyboards on several songs, including "United Colours" from 1995's Original Soundtracks 1, an album that Mullen has always disliked. In the 1980s, The Prunes gave him the nickname of The Jam Jar.

Kit configuration

  • Paiste Signature cymbals:
    • 16" power crash
    • 17" power crash
    • 18" power crash
    • 18" full crash
    • 22" power ride
    • 14" heavy hi-hat/sound-edge hi-hat.
  • Yamaha Phoenix (PHX) in Silver Spakle.s: (Since the Elevation tour. Previously he used Yamaha's Maple Custom and Birch Custom Nouveau drums in the same sizes).
  • On the video of Get On Your Boots, Larry uses a Yamaha Oak Custom, with the same sizes as the Birch Custom
    • 14"x10" rack tom
    • 16"x16" floor toms x2 (one left of the hi-hat, one right of the snare drum for the Vertigo tour). For previous tours, he used an 18"x16" floor tom to the left of the hats.
    • 14"x7" Brady Sheoak Block — primary snare drum on the Vertigo tour. For ZooTV and Elevation tours, he used a 12"x7" Sheoak block snare. For Popmart, a 14"x6.5" Jarrah block primarily. Depending on the gig, he sometimes used a 14"x6.5" Jarrah ply snare instead of the block snare.
    • 24"x16" kick drum. 22"x16" Kick on the b-stage during ZooTV only; he has not used a different kick drum on any tours since then.
    • Pro-mark 5A Japanese oak drumsticks.


Mullen and U2 have won more than 60 awards, including 22 Grammy awards. At the Grammy awards, the band has won "Best Rock Duo or Group with Vocal" 7 times, "Album of the Year" twice, "Record of the Year" twice, "Song of the Year" twice, and "Best Rock Album" twice.




Birth Name

Laurence Joseph Mullen, Jr.


Drums, percussion, vocals, synthesiser



Years active


Date Born

Tuesday, October 31, 1961

City Born

Artane, Dublin, Ireland



Associated with



Larry Mullen, Jr. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia : taken from -,_Jr.