(03-02-2004) The interview: Bill Carter -- HotPress.com * - U2 Feedback

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Old 03-02-2004, 11:16 AM   #1
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(03-02-2004) The interview: Bill Carter -- HotPress.com *

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The interview: Bill Carter

Following the sudden death of his girlfriend in the early í90s, traumatised US writer Bill Carter took off for the unlikely destination of war-torn Sarajevo. Whilst there, he established a series of satellite link-ups with U2ís Zooropa tour, which still rank among the most divisive and controversial moments of the bandís career. Despite the subsequent media fallout, an unconsummated affair with an indian supermodel, and several brushes with death, Bill Carter has lived to tell his extraordinary tale.

Itís been held that there are only seven original stories, most of them cogged from the Greek: basic templates that have provided endless variations from Homer to Hemingway. To this lineage we can add Bill Carterís book "Fools Rush In," a revisiting of the myth in which Orpheus descends into Hades to be with the soul of his beloved Eurydice.

Carter, sitting opposite me in the lunchtime hum of Dublinís Morrison hotel, hasnít heard this one, which only makes the classical allusions in his story all the more powerful for their lack of contrivance. As a fledgling 20-something film-maker, the Californian spent several seasons in the hell that was the siege of Sarajevo in the mid-90s, chasing the ghost of a girl through the sniper-strafed streets and bombed out buildings, witnessing the worst atrocities of the Bosnian conflict: rape, killing, maiming and starvation.

Sarajevo was the last stop in a grief-stricken global drift that started when Carterís girlfriend Corrina died in a car accident a couple of years previously. Having vague aspirations towards making a documentary of the war in the Balkans, he hooked up with a bunch of merry pranksters called The Serious Road Trip, a non-affiliated team of clown-nosed multinational guerrilla philanthropists making food drops and bringing a dose of colour and comic relief in their convoy of garishly painted vehicles.

On hearing that U2 had been proselytising about the notion of a united Europe on their Zooropa tour, Carter resolved to blag his way backstage and secure an interview with Bono at the Verona date, with the intention of broadcasting the material over the starved and shell-pounded Sarajevo TV network. From that meeting came the notion of a series of satellite link-ups from the city, broadcast over the big screens at the U2 concerts, giving voice to individuals trying to survive circumstances that were nothing less than apocalyptic.

It was a risky artistic move for U2, and one for which they were roundly castigated in the mainstream and music press. The sight of war-ravaged survivors delivering their testimony in the middle of a rock íní roll show made for an uneasy intrusion of atrocity upon entertainment. For the bandís detractors it was as if, having remade themselves as arch-ironists, U2 were again regressing to their old pulpit-thumping ways.

But theirs was merely an aesthetic gamble. For Carter, whose nerves were shot from constant shelling and sniper fire, and for whom the matter of food, water and sleep was rather more paramount than credibility, the risk was somewhat more immediate. But following that series of satellite link-ups, U2 offered to fund the editing of Carterís documentary footage, which subsequently became the award winning short Miss Sarajevo. Since then, he has carved out a respectable reputation as a photographer and film-maker, working with artists such as Emmylou Harris, Giant Sand, Calexico and Grandaddy, and also as a journalist, filing stories for Spin and Gear.

Which brings us back to Fools Rush In, his powerful account of the time spent in Sarajevo, a journey out of grief and back to life in a war zone, culminating in U2ís Sarajevo concert in 1997. On the cover blurb, Bono calls it ďDanteís Inferno for the MTV generationĒ, which gives fair indication of the scale and potency of his story.

Thereís no art to find the spleenís construction in the face. In person, Bill Carter is smaller and slighter than one might expect, although at times one still gets flashes of a thousand-yard-stare and suspects that if a waiter dropped a plate heíd be under the table in a second.

Dublin is a psycho-geographic hot point for Bill Carter. In the summer of 93, U2 flew the malnourished, frayed and filthy American in for the Zooropa homecoming shows. Surreal was not the word. Carter, who 24 hours previously had been dodging bullets every time he crossed the street, found himself staying in a plush hotel and rubbing shoulders with supermodels in the backstage area.

Carter remembers being interviewed by Bill Graham for hotpress at the time, the only journalist who bothered to investigate the real story behind the Sarajevo link-ups.

-- Hot Press

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