Mullen founded U2 in the fall of 1976 by placing a now famous notice on the Mount Temple Comprehensive School bulletin board, saying something to the effect of "drummer seeks musicians to form band." 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. Just before they won a Limerick, Ireland talent contest, they changed their name again, for the final time, to U2, formally done at a farewell concert for Dik Evans, becoming the 4-piece band they are today.
Growing up, Larry considered his life to be "pretty normal for a while." However, Larry's oldest sister, Mary, died in 1973. Five years later, his mother, Maureen, died in a road traffic accident in November 1978. He says in U2 by U2, "In some ways, both events defined the kind of person I've become. My mother's death certainly catapulted me in the band's direction."
Larry left school in 1978 after passing his Intermediate Certificate exams. Larry said he was offered an opportunity to complete his Leaving Certificate exams, but chose not to as the economy was not doing very well at the time and jobs were difficult to find. While the band was still trying to score a record deal in 1978, Larry worked at Seiscom Delta in the purchasing department for a year. Had he stayed at Seiscom, his career path would have been computer programming for Seiscom's geology department.
In the early days of U2, Larry had to miss some gigs and photo shoots because of the job at Seiscom. For the photo sessions he could not make, friend-of-the-band Derek "Guggi" Rowen stepped in as he resembled Larry to a degree. For the gigs, Larry arranged a stand-in named Eugene from a north Dublin rock band called Stryder. When Larry became injured on the job, running over his toe with his motorbike, Eric Briggs filled in for him on the drums. Bono says in U2 by U2 that there was a period of time where the other three band members almost kicked Larry out of the band because they were not sure how serious he was. Ironically, during the band's first recording session, a CBS record executive suggested that Larry needed to be fired because of his inability to keep tempo.
Also during the early days, Bono spoke to Larry about a local Christian-based fellowship group. Prior to that, Larry grew up with a traditional Catholic background, even serving as an altar boy in church. Larry, Bono and Edge attended the Bible studies with some of their friends from Lypton Village and became friendly with members of the Shalom Christian group. When Larry, Bono, and Edge were told that they should give up rock-and-roll a few years later, they chose to leave the Christian group, instead. Larry said about Shalom in U2 by U2, "The idea was to create a Christian community, where people would live and work under strict Christian standards, When you're young and impressionable it all sounds ideal. But there was something terribly wrong with the concept. It was a bit like the bigger the commitment you made, the closer you were to heaven. It was a really screwed-up view of the world and nothing to do with what I now understand a Christian faith to be. There was huge pressure to follow that path and what made it even stranger was that rather than it coming from the church leaders, it was coming from our friends. I learned a lot though and I also gained a faith I didn't have before, and that's still with me."
As U2 grew more popular, Mullen added the "Junior" suffix to his name to stop confusion with his father (also Larry Mullen), who was receiving large tax bills meant for his son. Mullen is unmarried, but has lived with his girlfriend Ann Acheson for more than 30 years. They have three children, Aaron Elvis (born 1995), Ava (born 1998), and Ezra (born 2001).
He is known to be the "brakes of the band", and prefers to let the other band members take the spotlight at interviews. Mullen has also played synthesiser or keyboards on several songs, including "United Colours" from 1995's Original Soundtracks 1, an album that Mullen has always disliked. Mullen loves Harley Davidson motorcycles and is a big fan of Elvis Presley. He currently lives in the Howth suburb of Dublin.
After forming U2, Mullen’s drumming style and techniques began to evolve. In the early days of the band, 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. His drumming became more integrated into the song structures. Mullen's experience as a teenager in the Artane Boys Band now known as the Artane Band, heavily contributed to the martial beat featured in many of U2's songs, helping to evoke military imagery.
Mullen typically makes heavy use of the floor tom with his right hand, often resulting in a 'tribal' rhythmic style much in evidence on certain U2 records, such as The Unforgettable Fire.
Larry has had back pain over the years, as well, as a result of an injury in 1987 while on The Joshua Tree tour. Bill Flanagan says in his book, Until the End of the World: "Bono says Larry tried different doctors without success until he went to a German who brought in a holistic healer who started giving Larry shots of bull's blood. That did the trick! Larry's Irish doctor refuses to accept it - he looks at X-rays of Larry's crooked spine and says it's impossible, but Larry feels fine. He flies to Germany for shots of bull's blood regularly." Three weeks after his first son's birth in 1995, Larry required back surgery to sort the injury out. Larry returned to the studio three weeks after surgery for the Pop recording sessions, thus complicating the healing process.
Recording was originally delayed due to the 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 The Edge's interest in dance and hip-hop music, and, given his weakness after the operation, he finally gave in to The Edge and continued to use 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.
Mullen has worked on many solo projects in his career, including collaborations with Maria McKee, Nanci Griffith, and U2 producer Daniel Lanois. Mullen played drums on many of the songs on the 1995 Emmylou Harris album Wrecking Ball. Mullen, along with bandmate Adam Clayton, recorded the soundtrack to the 1996 movie remake 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. Mullen worked with producer Daniel Lanois on his album Acadie. Mullen and Clayton also 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 the song "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 provided 'marimba and inspiration' on Underworld's song Boy, Boy, Boy from their 2007 album Oblivion with Bells.
Larry Uses 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 Birch Custom Absolute Nouveau drums: (Since the Elevation tour. Previously he used Yamaha's Maple Custom drums in the same sizes). NOTE: 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
◦ Pro-mark 5A Japanese oak drumsticks.
Also occasionally uses other various percussion instruments, including LP cowbells.
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.