Interview: Cathleen Falsani, Chicago Sun-Times Writer and Author of ‘The God Factor’

July 31, 2006

By Jake Olsen

Over the course of five years, Chicago Sun-Times‘ religion writer Cathleen Falsani interviewed 32 well-known people—among them intellectuals, artists, political pundits and rockers—for her book, "The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People." Subjects like Bono, Playboy founder and editor-in-chief Hugh Hefner and singer Annie Lennox all opened up to her questions about their individual faith and deeply held beliefs and doubts. got to return the favor, asking her about the difference between religion and spirituality, how 9/11 impacted our faith, and even the similarity between church and a good U2 concert.

How did the interview process change or challenge your faith?

It didn’t change it in terms of the quality of what I believe. I didn’t go from being an evangelical Christian to being a Buddhist or anything like that. It did by virtue of the intimacy of the conversations I had and the candor and the generosity of spirit that the folks in the book offered to me. Beyond that, each one of them said at least one thing that I’ve continued to ponder since our encounters that really enlivened my faith. Some of it was challenging. Some of it was perplexing. Some of it was heartening. But every one of them said something that I’ve continued to carry with me. One of the first things that I think about when I wake up is something that one of them said to me and so I think that it’s enlivened my faith, but hasn’t changed what my faith is. In my best moments, it’s changed how I live my faith as a believer.

Russell Simmons was an unlikely source, some people might think, for spiritual wisdom, but he said something I think about all the time. Actually I think he’s quoting Louis Farrakhan when he says, "If you’re going to be a Christian, be a practicing Christian. If you’re going to be a Muslim, be a practicing Muslim. If you’re going to be Jewish, be a practicing Jew." And that’s something that I think about all the time. If I say I’m something, what does that really mean? And I hope people read it and come away with a similar experience. The book starts with a quote from one of my professors from college, Arthur Holmes [Wheaton College Professor Emeritus of philosophy and author]. It says, "All truth is God’s truth," which is something I think I heard in my sophomore year in college and have always said I believed. But this process of interviewing the people for the book, of talking to lots of different kinds of people with many different kinds of experiences in a short period of time sort of focused that and made that more real to me in a much different way than it ever had been before. And now looking for what God’s trying to tell me no matter who it’s coming from is something that I think about all the time in my interactions with everyone.

In my best moments, I try and be very conscious of the fact that everyone, as I understand it, is a child of God and everyone, whether they believe on paper the things that I do or not, might have something that I can find out God needs to tell me that I couldn’t find from any other source. Someone asked me previously in an interview, what did I learn, how has it changed the way I look at life. I think I listen more carefully, or at least I try to, both to the people around me and look for that still, small voice that the Bible talks about. I think I’m, in my best moments, much more respectful of the transcendence that’s all around, the fact that all truth is God’s truth and I should be on the look out for it. For many years something also that I learned fairly early in college was from a book that I read for theology class called "The Go-Between God," talking about how God is the bridge between people and that God makes the space for us to connect in a way that we wouldn’t otherwise and that’s something I think about in a much more visceral way now than before I wrote the book.

I’m kind of picking up that that’s the challenge you have now is to be on the alert for the divine.

Right. Keep awake and be listening carefully. Literally and figuratively.

Were there any interviews that stood out to you?

There are certain people that you connect with, by virtue of your personality, your shared history or something. Some people, you just connect with and you have no idea why. There are some people that I felt a different kind of a connection with although I felt something with every person there, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the book. People often say, "What’s your favorite chapter?" and, you know, it depends on my mood, but the one that I say most consistently is John Mahoney, the actor ["Frasier," "Say Anything"]. And John is someone who I’ve sort of known—vaguely—as a very loose acquaintance for a number of years. I’ve gotten to be around him in social settings and he’s a very, very gracious, kind, lovely man, and that’s his reputation. So here’s somebody I knew a little. I had kind of went into the interview thinking I sort of knew his story: you know, Irish Catholic, man of a certain age … I figured I sort of knew a little bit. I always try and leave my preconceived notions behind, and I’m pretty good at it. So by the time I got into the little restaurant to have lunch with him I was sort of like, let’s see what we find out, but I had no idea what I was going to discover and how moving it was and how much faith is the center of his life and how he has a deep well of love and faith and peace and other things … joy and that’s where this kindness comes from that he’s got this reputation for being unfailingly kind.

I found out during the course of our conversation that that’s actually a very intentional practice for him. So I learned so much about someone that I thought I already knew and that’s one conversation that I think about all the time. It was beautiful. It was quite sacred. A lot of these encounters were really sacred … very intimate, and I didn’t have to pry, people wanted to tell me things. John was one of those people. I had this happen to me a number of times. We were kind of done and he actually left to go ostensibly to put coins in the parking meter and have a cigarette and came back and when he came back in he decided he wanted to tell me something. John’s intensely private and he had told me something that I certainly never would have known to ask about. And he just felt he wanted to. [Rock singer and musician] Melissa Etheridge did the same thing. I don’t ask a lot of questions during these interviews; I didn’t have to. This wasn’t like prying a clam open by any means, these folks knew I was coming. Some of them had weeks or months to prepare and many of them really had things that they wanted to get off their chest. They all stand out to me in different ways. But John’s the one I always come back to and, of course, Bono. He’s in a category by himself, the wee Irishman. There is a reason we start with him and end with Elie [Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize-winning author of "Night"]. If you read the introduction to my book, that’s fairly self-evident. That and the fact that I spent more time with him than most of these people and it was over time.

You mention in your introduction how listening to "October" in your friend’s basement set you on a path to find God "in the places some people say God isn’t supposed to be." Would it be fair to call the song an inspiration?

Well, I don’t know if it was the inspiration for the book, it certainly set me on a particular trajectory that I’m still on 30 years later, sort of an inspiration for the way I see the world. Probably everything I’ve done in life was fueled by the catalyst of that epiphany that I had listening to that song when I was 12. And it was something I didn’t realize until I started working on the book and I saw life come full circle, as they say. That’s something that’s not supposed to happen more than a couple times in life, and usually when you’re much older so I’m very careful not to step in front of buses. I’ve seen about 10 of these things come full circle. I’ve had a lot of clarity about all these disparate things in my life experiences and parts of my history that at first seemed eclectic and wacky before and now they made sense, and he’s one of them. And that moment is one of them.

Is that by design on your part?

No, I’m an idiot. I think it’s God, more and moreso. Something I started trying to do a few years ago and do even more consciously since the whole book experience is to get out my way, just get out my own way and try to let God do whatever God’s trying to do. I could not have designed the perfect mix of people in this book. I could not have made them say the things that they said. I could not have planned the experiences that I did. The happenstances of the connections that a lot the people in the book have to each other that I had no idea about when I asked them to talk to me. There’s too much intricacy and serendipity not to think that, maybe that was the spirit moving. I don’t think it’s me. I’m just trying to get out of my own way.

I’m reminded a little bit of CS Lewis [author of sci-fi and Christian-themed novels] in some of what you’re saying. It seems to be that he was kind of willful about letting the self die, which is one of the hardest things in the world to do. Are there any other authors, or would he be a legitimate influence?

Oh sure, CS Lewis, [priest and author] Henri Nouwen, [Pulitzer Prize-nominated author and lecturer] Frederick Buechner, [author and professor] Anne Lamott, who’s a goddess and a prophet and I hope to be one 10th of her when I grow up one day—but without the dreadlocks. Those are just off the top of my head.

You mentioned that it seemed kind of serendipitous about the folks that came in to be interviewed. How did you pick them? Were there any you wanted to get but that you couldn’t?

I mostly picked people that I thought were interesting, or I liked what they do, or I heard them say something once that I thought was intriguing. But about 85 to 90 percent of the people in the book I had no idea what their spiritual predilections might be or not be before I asked them. Obviously, somebody like [Toronto Raptors center] Hakeem Olajuwon, I asked because, 1) he’s interesting; and 2) he’s a Muslim. Somebody like Elie Wiesel, I mean, I knew he was Jewish. But I didn’t know the answer to the great question about his faith: Is it still there? Is it not? Did you ever come out of that? If so, why? How? There are people like John [Mahoney], who I thought I might know his history but I didn’t. [Journalist and author] Tom Robbins I asked based on a complete fallacy from something I had read online. Apart from the fact that he’s one of my favorite authors in the world, a lot of his books deal with spiritual issues in the most irreverent of ways. I didn’t know what Melissa Etheridge’s background was. I asked [director] David Lynch because I knew he was a transcendental meditator, that’s why I asked him. It was kind of counterintuitive to the idea of what you think of when you think of a transcendental meditator and then you have "Blue Velvet." How does that work?

Most of the other people, I just thought they were interesting and they had a certain quality about them of introspection. There was something about them that made you think there were some deep waters there. And also they had a certain quality of openness about them. If I felt that someone wasn’t being genuine, or if they were giving me stock answers, or more so if they were just full of it, that this wasn’t the real person, you know, they’re not in the book. But that didn’t happen very often at all.

Were you able to call them on that?

No. I could have, I certainly could have. This book was done intentionally in a non-combative, non-dialogical way. I told them when I approached them, "I’m not going to judge you. I’m not going to say whether what you believe is real, right or wrong or genuine or otherwise." That wasn’t my job. My job there was very intentionally to not call them on disconnects that I might have seen or something that I thought was wrong or something that was factually wrong or whatever. That wasn’t my job. That would have led to a very different kind of conversation where I think they would have been far less candid than they actually were. I just let them say what they really said they believed.

Did you often have to fight the urge to proselytize?

I always fight the urge to proselytize. I don’t think proselytizing is a particularly helpful means to an end, at least not in the ways people think it is. People ask me about evangelizing. We all evangelize, we just do it in different ways. But to just hand you a tract about Jesus and the New Testament is not the way I did it. If they found out later that I’m a Jesusy—which is a better, more unloaded word—and they thought, "Wow, she wasn’t judgmental or mean-spirited" or many of those other things they may think about when you think about evangelicals, my work here is done. I don’t try to proselytize or evangelize intentionally through anything I write. I like to think of my life, in my best moments—when I’m getting out my own way—does that. The best way to evangelize is by living well and by loving well. And I tried to be loving with all these people. That I think I accomplished.

Your interview with Hugh Hefner seemed to surprise both of you. Can you talk a little about that?

Like I said, I really try very hard to leave my preconceptions in the car, but when you drive up to the Playboy mansion and the guy comes down in his silk pajamas, it’s hard to leave all of that in the car. It’s impossible to leave all that in the car. I think Hef was expecting someone very different and he was expecting a very different conversation. He’s talked about religion over the years, mostly about its role in society and how un-helpful it can be. I wanted to talk to Hef about Hef. It wasn’t a bad conversation at the beginning. The first 10 minutes he was giving me very thoughtful answers, but there was sort of this tension in the air. Very subtle. He was incredibly gracious, very kind, was listening carefully. But there was just a veil between us. And it wasn’t until we found common ground, completely in a different place, that that veil kind of blew away and we had the kind of conversation that you saw in that chapter. Our common ground was movies. I asked him, "What’s the most spiritual film you think you’ve ever seen?" He kind of hemmed and hawed and said, "You know, I’m not really a big fan of DeMille and those big biblical epics." I interrupted him, which is something I normally don’t do and I said, "Can I tell you mine? It’s ‘Harold and Maude.’"

(Photo credit: (copyright) Paul Natkin, 2005)

His face just melted into a huge smile. I didn’t know when I said that, but Bud Cort, who played Harold, is a good friend of his and still comes to the mansion on a fairly regular basis. Ruth Gordon, who played Maude, and her husband, who was a director, were also very dear friends of his and that it’s one of his favorite films. He said, "Well, if that’s what you’re talking about when you say spiritual, that’s a whole other ballpark." And then it was a completely different conversation. I like to think that was that "Go-Between God" that I was talking about. When I do interviews, I try to be very present, I try not to think about the next question I’m going to ask. I try to be really listening to what the other person is saying, because that’s the most respectful thing to do, is to be fully present. In this case, I was doing the "help-me help-me help-me" prayer, because it just wasn’t going where I thought it should be going. I didn’t know how to do that. "Harold and Maude"? Who knew? It’s brilliant. It’s one of the most soul-raising movies I’ve ever seen. It’s wonderfully quirky and very ’70s. It’s fabulous.

Was there anything that surprised you about your interview with Bono?

Everything, in good ways. The first time, when I knew I was going to be talking to him and spending this time with him on the road, I was absolutely terrified. Not that I was worried about me, I was worried that he would be a jerk or something and that I would be crushed. I was so concerned that he wouldn’t be what everyone expects him to be in those good ways. Thank you Jesus, he was better in every way and more delightful and more loving and more generous of spirit and smarter and funnier and naughtier and more profound and more deeply faithful than I could have wished him to be, and it was wonderful spending time with him. Life changing for me in some ways, because he is a very challenging person to be around in terms what it really means to be a faithful follower of Christ. I think I say somewhere in the book that he makes me want to be better in lots of different ways, to do more. He’s just that kind of guy. He’s not like Yoda or anything. There’s a difference between my experience with Bono, who’s incredibly profound in his wonderfully profane way, and Elie Wiesel. There’s a difference there. Elie Wiesel is Yoda; Bono, not so much. They had equally transformative effects on my life and I am blessed deeply to know both of them, even as little as I do.

Forgive me for asking, but why did you select Elie Wiesel as the book end?

Because if there’s anybody in that book … anybody in my life … who has every reason not to believe, he does. It’s him. I wanted to start with grace—that’s Bono—and end with hope—that’s Elie. For the book and my life … on a good day.

Speaking of Grace, I really liked the short piece you did with [jazz vocalist] Kurt Elling. I noticed that 9/11 seemed to have a big impact.

And that was something completely organic, that was something that came up in almost every conversation I had. That was a big thing for us as a people, as Americans, certainly, as a human race. That was a really jarring moment. It was like an asteroid hitting the planet, in a spiritual way. Everything was up for grabs after that. It was really traumatizing for everyone, not just the people who were there, and it continues to be. It changed the way we look at the world. We were attacked by people who said they were doing it in the name of God and that’s fucking frightening. I don’t care if you believe in a god or not. Maybe if you don’t it’s even more frightening because it makes the fanatics look even more fanatical. And so that made people think about spiritual things in a different ways. It led a lot of people to get their butts back in the pew, for a couple months anyway. But the more lingering effects, as I see it, having covered the God beat for 10 years, are these kinds of conversations that we’re having now that we didn’t have five years ago. I don’t think I could have done this book. I don’t think I could have gotten two-thirds of the people in the book to have these conversations five years ago, but that changed everything.

Do you think it was, at least on a spiritual perspective, a positive thing?

No. I don’t think God would employ horror and violence as a means to a good end, but it happened. There is a verse in scripture that says all things work together for good for them that love God. I don’t think God caused it or wanted it to happen. That’s not the God I know or understand, but the fact that we’re having this conversation in a different way, I think is a good thing. Did 9/11 need to happen for us to have it? I certainly hope not. But it did, so here we are. It’s not the only reason we’re having this conversation, but it’s a significant reason.

One thing I noticed, it seems so much that the really strict definitions by religion weren’t as common in your interviews.

They’re not as common in society, period, as I have experienced it over the last 10 years at least. The people in the book are certainly extraordinary people. This was not meant to be a reflection of what America is like today because these are not average people. That said, they are reflecting back to me what I see happening all around me as a journalist who covers this. There are people in there who will give themselves a label and they’re comfortable with that, as there are millions of people out there who will label themselves. Even the strictly religious people in the strictest sense of that word still have to make that their own in some way. Whether it’s [Chicago Cubs manager] Dusty Baker, who’s a Baptist—a label he applies to himself. But when he has cancer, he’ll go to a kahuna healer in Hawaii. That’s one more colorful example, but I know plenty of Catholics who call themselves Catholics, who are mass-goers and pray the rosary and call the Pope the Holy Father but they don’t believe everything that’s in that doctrine, but they are still "in the tent.’ I just think that’s more and more common. Strictly speaking, there are more people now than in 1970 who are willing to say they have no religious affiliation. I think it’s a jump between 5 and 10 percent. It’s still a very small portion of the population of the United States, but there are many more now than there were 30 years ago, but that’s not necessarily what I’m talking about.

I was curious as to whether you thought 9/11 had any impact on the fact that it seems people are less willing to call themselves fundamentally this or that.

Fundamentalist is like a naughty word.

It’s like the new "communist."

Someone once said fundamentalists are scarier to me than the Russians. Yeah, nobody wants to call themselves a fundamentalist, right? I don’t know if I had anyone in the book who would call themselves a fundamentalist. Fundamentalists have much more in common with each other than they do with the other people in their faith traditions. A Muslim fundamentalist and a Jewish fundamentalist and a Christian fundamentalist have way more in common with each other than they do with moderate Christians and secular Jews and Americanized Muslims.

There is something to the lesson we learned when the majority of the population learned the word Muslim on like September 12 and then we had to quickly learn that there’s a difference between the people who did what they did in the name of their God and they said in the name of Islam and the vast … vast, overwhelming, like 99.9 percent of the Muslims in the world. That taught us a lesson about labels. Just because you call something something doesn’t make it so, that labels aren’t terribly helpful. They’re usually fairly ill-fitting, I find. And they’re conversation enders. Melissa Etheridge said to me at one point, "Thank you so much for asking about this. People so rarely ask me about this and I like to talk about it, and when they do it’s like, ‘Are you religious?’ and I say, ‘No, I’m spiritual.’ And that’s the end of the conversation." What are you? I’m a Christian. Okay, What the hell does that mean? That’s nice. I know what I think it means, but what does it mean to you? Labels aren’t real helpful.

Now that you mention it, I remember you kept the "religion" word out of it and you focused more on spirituality. What, to you, is the difference?

Okay, I’ve got a great metaphor: The difference between religion and spirituality is akin to the difference between bourbon and whisky. Because all bourbon is whisky, but not all whisky is bourbon. And all religion is spirituality, but not all spirituality is religion. Get it?

I do. Your introduction ends with a coda that basically implies that you don’t think faith has changed much. What’s the commonality between say now and 10 years ago when you started?

I think faith is a thing. It’s like joy. It’s a thing unto itself that isn’t qualified by whatever else you put around it. Muslim faith. Christian faith, Zoroastrian faith. Vegan faith. Faith is just a thing. It doesn’t change. It’s a gift, as I understand it. It’s a spiritual gift. We live it and express it. And abandon it and embrace it in different ways. Faith itself doesn’t change. It is what it is. Religion changes. Spirituality changes. Dogma changes. Doctrine changes. But faith is always faith. Always has been, always will be.

How is it expressed differently now?

The quality of the conversation about faith has changed. Faith is just faith, like joy is just joy. Love … just love.

What is the one thing you would like your readers to take with you?

I think if people come away with a sense of urgency to listen better to the people around them, that would make me very happy, and if people would open their eyes and see that God is right there. If they get that from reading this, that would make me thrilled. Those are two things.

Is there something you could tell our readers that they don’t already know about Bono?

I was thinking about this. There are three things: He smells really good. Dolce & Gabbana for men, if I’m not mistaken. He is quite fond of corn-beef hash. And that ring he wears [on his pinky] was given to him by Larry, not Ali, and it’s a fish. I thought it was a griffin and told him as much and he was adamant, "No. It’s a fish. See?" . . . Bono’s forever losing things. This was a few years ago, so we could be on yet another incarnation of the ring, but at that point he’d lost it twice already. If I remember what B said correctly, the first time Larry gave it to him in yellow gold and he lost it and Larry had it remade in white gold and Bono lost that one, too, and now he’s on to platinum, I think. If memory serves, it looks kind of like a koi wrapped around itself.

Do you know the significance of the fish?

It’s a fish . . . I don’t know what the significance of it is.

Do you know much about the faith of the other members of U2?

No, I don’t know them. I’ve been around them but I’ve never had this conversation with them. Love to, but until I do, I’m not going to guess. When people guess they’re usually wrong. Lovely men all.

This is fanboyism talking. Were you at the Chicago show when they filmed it for the DVD?

Yes. They taped two or three nights and it was the last night of taping that was one of those magic shows . . . Adam is the one who’s talked about this, that when the Spirit’s in the room you can feel it. Well, the Spirit was in the room that night. It was amazing. It was an incredible show, which has a lot to do with the band and also has a lot to do with what’s happening in the house. It was one of those shows where it was like church … well, like how church is supposed to be. That was a good show.

Did you have any future plans or any other projects in the works?

Yes, but if I told you I’d have to shoot you. There’s more to come. Inshallah, as my Muslim friends would say … God willing.

One Person Making a Difference: Lies Rosema*

July 24, 2006

By Jennifer B. Kaufman

Meet Lies Rosema. She loves gymnastics, designing websites, and of course, U2. She recently graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she obtained a degree in business communications, with a minor in Third World development studies. Calvin College is a school fully enriched in the Christian tradition of justice, compassion and discipline and inspires its students to make this world a better place.
[Read more]

Interview: If You Can’t See Them, Be Them: U2 in Second Life*

July 17, 2006

By Roland Schulte

There exists a three-dimensional online world called Second Life, or SL for short. When I say world, I mean world, because it contains people, real estate, charities, stores, schools, churches, currency and everything else you can think of.

The whole idea of Second Life deserves an entirely separate explanation. To kick off this piece, however, we’ll focus on just one part: creating an online persona in Second Life.
You see, in Second Life, you get to be whoever you want to be. Sort of like when you were little, and imaginative.

So, if you were to join Second Life, who would you pick to be your online persona? Well, Bono, of course—the biggest rock star in the world. Then, naturally, you’d find the virtual Edge, Adam, Larry and complete the band. Then you’d find some stage designers, lighting technicians and security guards, perform some virtual concerts, and you’d create something called U2 in SL. caught up with DarkDharma Daguerre, an avatar (caricature) creator within SL who also happens to be one of the creators of U2 in SL. DarkDharma told more about the virtual concerts, the real-life interview with MTV and interesting spots in Second Life.

Many fans dream of being Bono, or Edge, or any rock star. Have you pulled
it off?

We think we’ve virtually pulled it off in grand style. We do it because we are passionate about U2 and their music, but most importantly, to further the issues we believe in and that the real band represents to a virtual world of 315,000 real people from all over the world. When we put on a concert, it’s really a big production with lots of elements involved. Production scripts are handed out; backdrops are synced to the set list. Band
rehearsals are scheduled. Every attention is paid to detail—the band’s costumes, sets—virtual Bono even has a virtual green Irish Falcon Gretsch guitar. In fact, the role player who runs the virtual Mr. B tells us that it’s a huge adrenaline rush being on stage and performing, much like he would imagine being on a real concert stage. Several of the U2inSL role players tell us they get stage jitters before performances, and it takes them hours to come down to earth afterwards—much like their real world counterparts. Before the virtual performances begin, the crowd is buzzing for the show to start. Like the electric crowds found at a real U2 concert, it really helps that the Second Life concert goers get into the role play and have a lot of fun.

Before we go much further, can you bring back ZooTV?

We bet you didn’t think the answer would be yes. We are thinking about bringing back different concert eras. We’ve also been asked about bringing back Red Rocks. Anything is definitely possible. Sets, equipment, avatars, etc., just need to be created to coincide with whatever tour era we would be replicating. Eventually, this may be done. Wouldn’t that be a blast?

Aside from your band, what is the most interesting thing you’ve encountered in SL? Most interesting place?

The most interesting thing in Second Life is that literally everything exists there that can be found in the real world, as well as anything else that can be imagined and not found in the real world. The possibilities are infinite, so it would be tough to pinpoint one other interesting thing. But here are a few interesting thoughts: In SL, people can marry, complete with the whole-nine-yards white-gown wedding, get pregnant and have families. They can also choose to be a furry animal, a dragon or whatever their imagination can dream up.

Are you concerned with legal backlash from U2? How did you get the audio
streams? What’s Second Life creator Linden Labs’ position on all of this?

Really, what we do is not much different than dressing up in a Halloween costume and pretending to be a favorite character. However, so people won’t be mislead and think we’re the real deal, at every concert and event, we prominently post a big sign with a disclaimer that reads, "U2inSL is a role-playing group that exists in support of the One Campaign, Make Poverty History, African Well Fund, Music Rising and others. No money is being made. We are not affiliated with the real U2. U2 is a registered trademark owned by U2. Bono is a registered trademark owned by Bono/Paul Hewson. All rights reserved. No infringement is intended."

We have been attempting to contact Principle Management since the beginning of our Second Life project in mid-2005 but apparently they are a tough organization from that to elicit a response in certain matters. We have phoned, faxed, e-mailed. We have spoken directly with people in their offices who have asked us to forward material—that we’ve done. We’re still waiting to get any sort of response from their organization. We think U2 would love what we do. We do it for no money; we don’t claim to be them, merely to be role playing them, and to support the urgent issues that the real world band supports. In fact, as part of Bono’s wishes for acceptance of the 2004 TED award, he stated, "I wish to tell people one billion times about One …" The TED organization went on to state that what is needed are, "Offers of creative help to adapt the message to different media.” We believe we are providing a form of "creative help" by adapting and spreading the word about One to a very different sort of digital media: a thriving 3-D metaverse with over 315,000 inhabitants.

Our concert streams are obtained online as torrent files. They are streams of actual concerts recorded at the events by fans such as ourselves. We do not sell or make any money from these files.

Linden Labs’ position on all of this so far has been positive as what we do provides a ton of quality content while, at the same time, raising awareness for the urgent issues that we and the real world band support. About six months ago, Linden Labs suggested to us that we should clarify and revise our disclaimer. We have done that so there will be no mistake about who or what we represent and to strongly point out that no infringement is intended. Our current disclaimer is included in every event listing and on every poster or public piece of information we put out so there can be no mistake about whom we are and our intentions.

How do you "perform" the concerts? Is the performer’s movement pre-programmed, or done "live"?

All avatars in Second Life use animations to move, from lifting an arm a certain way to holding a mic, etc., all moves involve animations. That being said, the U2inSL role players do perform "live" and have freewill to move about as they choose. Think of it the same as moving around in the real world except in order to lift an arm, which we do automatically in the real world, we need to click an animation to do so in Second Life. All the U2inSL role players have specialty animations for their characters that they run
randomly at any time to provide realistic moves to go along with the song or whatever is happening on the stream at the moment.

However, it’s not as easy as it may sound being on stage and running animations during a concert, as there are multi faceted things to focus on all happening at once. For instance, at any given moment during a concert, virtual Bono is quadruple-tasking, running several interacting animations (moving arms, bending down, opening mouth, walking about), while keeping an eye to the specific song and what’s involved, as well as utilizing whatever props (guitar, tambourine, etc.) and, at the same time, keeping track of making wardrobe changes (he makes about four to five wardrobe changes during a concert all done while he is performing and moving about).

What has been the reaction to U2inSL outside of SL?

When people understand what it is and what is involved, they have been amazed. When they don’t, they are like, "What’s that about?" Often we find when speaking about our endeavor to folks in our first lives, an example dialogue we may hear goes like this: "You mean you actually move around in there?" Us: "Yes, there are roads, trees, houses, mountains—a whole world." “You mean you can actually do things there?" Us: "Yes, you can do everything there."—and so it goes. Some of us have told our families about it, some have not. Some family members do watch alongside in real world our role players while they are performing virtually.

Since our February 2006 concerts, we have become more widely known on the web, as lots of blogs have picked up the beat on us. And, of course, the fact that we were recently featured on MTV has really raised the awareness bar quite a few notches.

They never sell Bono glasses at the real shows. Can you get them at your

Although with this project we strongly emphasize that we never sell anything—we do have a virtual swag booth where concert goers can pick up freebies such as One Campaign wristbands, flyers, U2inSL T-shirts, buttons, posters, etc. We haven’t yet made Bono glasses available but that’s a great idea, we’ll work on it.

Has your presence gained fans for U2, and/or support for the One
organization? Have you talked to the One organization?

Most definitely our presence in Second Life has gained fans not only for U2 and their music but also for the One Campaign, Make Poverty History, Music Rising, African Well Fund—all the causes that are featured at our virtual gigs and events. Because of our endeavor, we know of many inworld people who have actually gone on to attend their first real-world U2 concerts and become permanent new fans.

As we mentioned above, besides concerts, we hold One Campaign rallies that are extremely well attended. Last year at the start of this endeavor in SL, we specifically wrote to many of the heads of the One Campaign as well as all the organizations and fan sites of that we were aware to announce what we were doing in Second Life. Although we do go to great pains to clearly explain to the non-VR-aware person or organization what we do, generally, we’ve found it appears difficult to understand unless there is a certain awareness and knowledge of 3-D worlds.

Do you plan to authentically recreate U2 shows or mix in new ideas?

So far, for concerts, we’ve strived for authenticity as we are role-playing the real world guys. Part of the fun is seeing how well we can replicate things. The new ideas come in the form of whatever different elements are introduced in whatever concert stream we may be using at the time. For example, when U2inSL played in virtual Dublin, we used the June 25, 2005, Croke Park, Dublin stream. During that concert, a guy named Matt from Canada came on stage to play “Party Girl” with the band and we replicated that whole experience virtually.

New ideas have more come into play with the virtual One Campaign rally events. During these rallies, U2inSL performs several tunes, coupled with One Campaign podcast messages as well as photos of Bono’s recent African trip that the virtual Bono "narrates." This is all put together in our own way as a new idea on how to get the message across. At the event there are banners, awareness signs and many links to read more about and sign up to the One Campaign. It certainly makes for a unique experience and one that really motivates people to be aware of and lend their support to the urgent

U2inSL has its own lighting experts, PR people and security. How did
you find these folks?

Some of the players came with us from another virtual world called There. We came into Second Life some earlier, some later, in 2004. Others involved are good friends we have made in Second Life with various skills they lend to the production. Our techno lighting wiz, stage builder, stage manager, Demian Caldera, has been with us since our There days. He is in charge of the production setup and handles the backdrop scheme and spotlights during the concerts. Nyna Slate, our security head, and also great PR person, has honed her skills over the past year to now find herself to be a sought-after expert at inworld event security. On occasion now, she consults with other groups regarding such matters.

The idea of virtually recreating U2 started in There where we actually held the first virtual events as "U2 in There.” However, There was extremely limited as to creativity allowed and what we could accomplish, so when we emigrated to Second Life in 2004, the seed of the idea came with us and, eventually, re-blossomed. However, it wasn’t until about six months later, fall 2004, when we actually started to get the virtual U2 idea rolling once again. Things very slowly progressed from that time until June 2005 when we held our first U2inSL meet-and-greet. It takes a certain passionate dedication to pull off a project such as this.

What’s next for U2inSL?

We love U2 and we plan to keep on doing what we’re doing—role-playing concerts and One Campaign rallies in support of the real world band’s issues that we wholeheartedly embrace. One thing we strive for in our virtual performances is constant improvement in animations, performance, stage set, avatar appearance—everything about the production is always looking to be improved upon.

What we hope for is that the real band will get to know us and love what we do in support of the very important real world issues we put forth to the virtual world. And we’d love for the real Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry to someday get to know about their virtual personas and maybe decide to take them for a spin inworld. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate?

You can get more information about U2 in Second Life through here and here. Check out Second Life here.

Many thanks to DarkDharma Daguerre for taking time for this article.

Interview: Sal and Sorge, Authors of ‘U2itude’*

June 26, 2006

By Devlin Smith, contributing editor

Salvatore Petronella and Christopher Sorgie have been best friends since high school, bonded by a shared love of U2. Like most U2 fans, the friends often debated the merits of various U2 songs. What sets Petronella and Sorgie (better known as Sal and Sorge) apart is they created a system to determine what the best U2 songs are.

This five-category, "scientific" system is spelled out in the new book "U2itude: The Ultimate Handbook for U2 Fans." In it, Sal and Sorge methodically and objectively rate each U2 song, sometimes with surprising results. The pairs also created playlists and listed their own personal top 10s. recently spoke with the authors and found out about U2itude, the compass and getting the guys in U2 to rank their own songs.

How long have you been U2 fans?

Sal: I’ve been a U2 fan since high school. It’s kind of in the book, since 1983, as soon as I heard "New Year’s Day," that’s when I became a U2 fan.

Sorge: Sal and I met in high school kind of over and through U2. We both became fans around the same time and used to sing and hum U2 songs in a couple of classes we had together. It’s been a friendship ever since, really.

Sal: It was sorted of like I think one of us heard the other singing U2 and said, "Wait a minute, is that U2? You know who they are?" "Yeah, they’re your favorite band." "They’re your favorite band? They’re my favorite band." That’s how it all began.

Sorge: If you had a copy of our high school yearbook, you would see Sal was the "U" and I was the "2" in the group shot of the 600 of us in front of the school.

What do you think it was about U2′s music that drew you to it originally?

Sorge: The music just got inside my soul, just that when you heard "War" and you heard that drumbeat and this electrifying guitar and Bono’s voice, it was something new, something fresh, something exciting and it was, like we say, kind of like love at first listen. We just fell in love with it, at least I did.

What do you think has maintained that passion for the band?

Sorge: Every song, every album has kind of marked a point in my life. I can go back through my high school years to my college years to my working life, my marriage; U2 has been there every step of the way. My wife and I, our first dance was to "All I Want Is You," "Mysterious Ways" was playing in the hospital with my first daughter. They’ve been there, kind of like the soundtrack of our lives. It’s just been there every step of the way, through ups and downs, through tears, through joys, happy times, sad times. If there’s a mood you’re in, there’s a U2 song for it.

Sal: I think the key has also been what we mention in the book, it’s the staying power, that they continue to produce quality music and that’s what’s kept it going all these years. At some point they could have turned into a mediocre band and not given 100 percent and not made soul music but they continue to deliver and that’s what’s kept it alive for me, also.

Sal holds the U and Sorge holds the 2 in their senior class high school yearbook photo.

As you’re talking about going through the band in different steps of your life, do you feel connected to the guys individually because you were growing up around the same time they were growing up, going through all these things, getting married, having kids?

Sal: I think we’re all on our own spiritual journey and I feel, at some level, a kind of connectedness to Bono. I know that’s kind of crazy but what I’ve noticed is, for example, for a while I was very much into Charles Bukowski’s poetry and some of the films of Wim Wenders, at the same time or later on I noticed that U2 was making references to Charles Bukowski on the "Pop" album and I just thought, wow, this is really interesting because we’ve never met but somehow I’m reading the same thing that Bono’s reading and I’m being influenced by the same artists that he’s reading. That’s just one of those strange things, connectedness that I’ve kind of discovered. I hadn’t thought about how their lives had been kind of, I guess they did get married around the same time, before us, but I hadn’t really thought of that.

Where did you guys come up with the term U2itude?

Sal: I think I was probably driving home from work, or in the shower. I guess U2itude just means to me, it’s kind of the attitude, it’s really hard to explain. From a writing standpoint it just clicked, it was one of those epiphanies.

Sorge: It’s a play on attitude but when we said it, it was like, "That’s it, that’s what this book is about." It’s kind of neat, it’s kind of fun, the book has an attitude, has a certain attitude about it.

How did you guys get the idea to get together, sit down and write a U2 book?

Sal: I guess from a couple of different levels. It’s always been my dream to be a published author and one thing about me when I write, I usually listen to music while I’m writing. One night my wife had noticed it and said, "How do you do it? How do you write and concentrate with music in headphones in your ear?" I had always known that music moved me and I would listen, sometimes if I was working on a piece I would listen to the same song over and over. Then I thought, "This is the music that I’m listening to, why not write about the music that inspires me the most?" That’s kind of where the idea came to me.

Sorge: To be very specific, Sal and I always, being friends, we never could agree on what our favorite U2 song was. The book was really a way for us to settle our debate. So we said, "What are the top 10 U2 songs?" You have "I Will Follow," "I Still Haven’t Found," all these great songs but there needed to be some criteria, some, what we called, scientific rating system to determine once and for all what are the best U2 songs. We got together one night and said it’s about the music and it’s about the energy and then there’s a message, the lyrics, then this kind of intangible that pulls it all together, which we called U2itude. If you rated every song on those five criteria, you would then have some objective measurement to say, you know what, this song has it all—it’s a perfect five on music, a perfect five on energy, and across the board. Thus we came up with this ranking system and, like we say, the compass does not lie. If you really sit down and put this to the test, you sit down and you judge the songs on these five criteria, you do, we feel, come up with somewhat of an objective measurement of what the best U2 songs are.

It’s helped us in some ways. We still debate it because we’re not claiming to be right, it’s our opinion, but you do it, you sit down with a pen and pencil and rank them. We think most people will rank them kind of similarly but if they don’t, that’s OK. It’s how it relates to you and your life and your personal experiences.

Sal: That’s why we included our own personal favorites lists, too, because we’re not claiming to be right. We show that even though "Bad," for example, we rated as the No. 1 U2 song of all time, it doesn’t show up on our personal favorite lists. That doesn’t mean that we don’t love the song but it’s not my personal favorite but according to our system, and the compass doesn’t lie, that is the best U2 song of all time. That’s why we give space for people to score along as well because your best song might be something else but we thought it was a really fun way for people to listen with a new ear. How many listen to just the music or tap into just the energy of each song?

How long did it take you, after creating this system, to go through and score each song?

Sorge: We started writing after "All That You Can’t Leave Behind." It’s not like we sat down every night and did it. If added up the total hours, I wonder how many hours that would be Sal?

Sal: We wrote it in between raising our kids and going on with our lives, we didn’t sit down and block out a month of time. It’s been since right after "All That You Can’t Leave Behind" came out when we started writing it, until now.

Sorge: If you compressed the time, it took us a year to write the book, over a five-year period.

How long would you spend on each individual song?

Sorge: Some songs we’d have to play two or three or four times. First you listen and you listen to the music and, "What’s the lyrics? What’s he saying? What’s the message of the song?"

Sal: That was one of the hardest things but we had a blast doing that. We would debate back and forth on almost every single song, I don’t think we ever agreed totally. And then we would really analyze it and say, "OK, let’s listen to the lyrics," or, "Why do you score it a five, Chris? Why am I scoring it a four?" and then we would zone in on those areas and then we’d say, "Yeah, you’re right, it’s a four or five on music or lyrics."

Sorge: We scored them individually and then debated them.

Sal: That’s how we went about it. We scored each album. We would say, "By Tuesday we have to score ‘The Joshua Tree’" and then we’d come together and we’d go over the songs. And we went rating by rating, too, we didn’t go by total score, so we went line by line. "You came up with a 20, I came up with a 20, but how did you get to a 20?" That was a blast.

Sorge: We agreed as much as we disagreed, I think.

What did your wives and children and family and friends think about all this time that you were pouring into analyzing all of these U2 songs, creating this system and everything?

Sorge: Everyone, and we know a lot of U2 fans, both diehards and nuts like us and other more casual fans, everybody has responded very favorably to this idea. Our friends and family couldn’t wait to get their hands on the book. We’ve shared with them bits and pieces over the time and they’ve said, "’I Will Follow,’ how can that not be a top 10 song?" Total support from my wife, I’m sure Sal will say the same, and everybody’s been, "What a cool idea, I think I would love that book. I would buy that for a U2 fan. I know U2 fans who would love that book." We’re excited about the reaction that we’ve gotten.

Sal: It has been support and I think another key part of that has been the passion that Chris and I have always brought to U2. We mentioned in the book, when people think of us, they think of U2, it’s been going on for 20-plus years. That just made it a perfect fit, too. Like, "Yeah, you guys should be writing a book about U2."

As you were going through and rating, what was the most surprising final score that you came up with? Like a song that rated way higher or way lower than you originally thought it would.

Sorge: I think what will be surprising to reader, we come back to this "I Will Follow" example. "I Will Follow," we have it in the book as the No. 1 U2 anthem of all time, I don’t think anybody would ever argue with that, but our score from "I Will Follow" was a four, three, three, five, five—four on music, it’s great music but the lyrics and the message, this was early U2, Bono wasn’t at his best vocally and he hadn’t matured as a writer. So while those threes are good scores, the total score is a 20, which ranks it No. 36 out of 50, there are 35 better songs than "I Will Follow" but you cannot deny that "I Will Follow" is one of the all-time most popular U2 songs. I think that’s the one where people say, "Where’s ‘I Will Follow’ on your list?" It’s not in the top 10, I’m sorry, but the compass doesn’t lie.

Sal: We even went back to it, after our high school reunion we said maybe Larry is right, our friend Larry, a U2 fan, and we looked at it again but we tried to stay true to the compass and we tried to stay true to this method of scoring and we tried to keep our emotions out of it in order to really come up with this objective list of the best songs.

Sorge: Does it get a five for U2itude? Absolutely. Does it get a five for energy? Absolutely. It’s a great song, a 20 is a great score by this system, it’s a solid number.

Were there any moments or pet songs that you just, you knew that it was coming out to maybe be a three in one area?

Sorge: There are songs that we fought over. Two classics are "Walk On" and "The Fly."

Sal: I think those two were the key ones that we really, I was real passionate about "The Fly" and Chris was real passionate about "Walk On." Both of us probably over-scored them originally and then we just went back and forth on them and I think sometimes we tried to sell each other on our ideas and then, in the end, on "The Fly" in particularly, we finally decided that, you know what, this really is a perfect score, you can’t deny. If we stay true to the compass, it gets a five on every category. Those are the two that stuck out, I think.

It was great reading this book and it felt like coming in on a conversation that any group of U2 fans would have sitting together before a show, after a show. As you’re trying to have this scientific scoring method, it’s really hard to take out all the personal moments, especially with a group like U2. Was that coming into your minds at all, like, "This is the song that they played at my prom or my wedding," or, "Remember that road trip we took," or anything like that? How did you keep yourselves from being clouded by your personal connections to the songs?

Sal: I think we made a real conscious effort to do that and that’s why we’re careful to explain in the book [that] we’re not claiming to be right about the songs. We used the studio versions, that was a key to our ratings also because, as you know, U2 is the live experience it’s almost like a religious experience. A song like "Gloria," for example, maybe would score higher if you used a live version of it but we stayed true to the compass and to this rating system in order to force ourselves not to let our emotions affect the scoring and that’s why we included our personal favorite lists.

Sorge: That’s exactly right. That’s why when you read our top 10 lists there’s only one that’s common between the two of us, "Where the Streets Have No Name." Hands down the song that, for me, when they play that live, the Garden is rocking and the crowd is going nutso—how can that not be U2′s No. 1 song? That’s the song for me live. That’s why we felt so passionate about including our top 10 lists and writing something special about those songs for each one of us.

Sal: Everyone is going to score it differently, every fan will score their songs differently and that’s why, again, this is according to our rating and that’s why we give you space to score along. We had a ball doing this, even just sitting around after the book was done, we sat around in my living room with our wives and we were going over the different songs, the top 10 best, the top 10 worst, and it was just so much fun, just kind of laughing about the process and how each one of us would score it. We just think U2 fans will enjoy the experience.

Now that the book is finished and you’ve seen it in print, are there any scores that you wish you could take back?

Sorge: No, I don’t think so.

Sal: I don’t think so either. We deliberated over every song. I think what happened is the book started to take on its own life. The other side of that is the scores will probably change over time. If we go back and rescore the songs in five years, well, who knows where we’ll be in our lives and how a song might take on a different meaning over time?

The friends celebrate the publication of "U2itude."

How difficult was it to choose your own personal top 10 lists?

Sal: That’s how the book started because that has been the hardest thing for us all along is deciding on your top 10 favorites. It’s almost an impossible thing to do. That’s really genesis of the book is coming up with own top 10 favorite U2 lists.

Sorge: I think we both were able to get the 25 songs but what’s the order of the 25 songs? How do you get it from 25 to 15? Then, as Sal says in the book, it becomes the need factor—which songs do you need—and that’s ultimately how we decided the ones that made our lists. It’s like, "I have to have this song. I can’t go on with my life without having that song."

In the book you also talk about how now that you do have children that you’re raising them up on U2. How important is it for you to have your children know U2, appreciate the band, be fans?

Sorge: I don’t know if important is the right word. We’re excited for them to be excited about the band, they are. When a U2 song comes on in the car, they know and they listen. "Turn it up, Dad." It’s so cool. Or to be at a family party, "Julia, go request ‘Mysterious Ways’ so we can dance. This is the song you were born to, this is our song." My dream is one day when she gets married that she’ll select "Sweetest Thing" or "Mysterious Ways" as our father-daughter dance. It’s those kinds of continuing progressions that I know I look forward to. U2 will always be there. The kids, mine are seven, five and three, and they’re U2 fans.

Sal: As Chris said, it’s not as important but it would great. I hope that my kids enjoy the band as much as I do. I think the key is that our passion is contagious. It’s hard being in a house with Sal Petronella and not liking U2. I’m not forcing it on my kids but I think my passion for the band is just contagious because I love this stuff.

Sorge: It’s like my kids are also Mets fans and Sal’s kids are Yankees fans and those things will never change either.

Sal: That we force on them, that’s different.

Now you have your website up explaining this whole idea of "U2itude." Have you started getting feedback from people who have rated the songs themselves based on your system?

Sorge: Yes, quite a few people enter in their top 10 songs and rank their albums and some people provide their comments. There’s no list that’s alike and there are some songs that show up that you wouldn’t expect, some that aren’t even on the top 50 list that other people feel are their favorite songs and that’s the fun of it. Someone ranked "Lemon," "I love ‘Lemon,’" there was a time when I liked "Lemon." We rank it kind of low but there’s a guy out there who had it on his top 10 list.

Talking about songs that you ranked low and disagreements and such, I was kind of surprised at "Miami" being the worst song. Before you came up with this, what was your feeling for "Miami"?

Sal: I guess I felt that the song was kind of weak. The line "Miami/My Mammy," my goodness, what are we doing here guys? Did I know that that would end up being the lowest scoring song? No. I don’t think we knew how any of this would turn out.

Sorge: It wasn’t predetermined but I know there are a few songs that you put that album on and skip, I can’t even listen to that song. We did it the other day, we sat down and listened to the whole song and it was like, "My God, yes, it is the worst song, there’s no doubt about it."

That’s how I feel about "Sweetest Thing."

Sal: This is what we love; we love to hear U2 fans say that. I love to hear U2 fans say, "I totally disagree with you." That’s what’s so fun about this, that’s why "U2itude" has its own life because, absolutely, you love it, that’s fine, we’re not going to argue with you. We keep saying over and over, the compass doesn’t lie, if you score them, you’ll come up with your own score. We’re not claiming to be experts, we didn’t analyze the music, we just went on pure passion for the band and pure reaction on the criteria that we created.

When I went to see U2 in November, my brother and I were eating with some friends of ours, talking about what songs we did and didn’t want to hear and it was that same thing. Someone would say, "I want them to play this." "Oh, not that one, I’d love for them to play this." "That one? You like that one?" No one will ever agree but it was just so fun because it’s like you’re discovering something totally different about a person when you learn that their favorite song is "Lemon."

Sal: My dream is to have people getting together and having little U2itude parties in their house and having a ball with this book just for that reason.

Have you done that, gotten people together to have those kinds of discussions?

Sorge: It’s on the plan. We haven’t done it yet but we’re thinking about doing one at a bookstore.

Sal: For our book launch party we want to have this whole fun scoring session.

Have you passed along the book to Principle Management or the band?

Sorge: There are a number of outlets. We have like three or four different ways where we’re a couple of degrees away from Bono.

Sal: We got to be one degree away from Bono, we think. We did get the manuscript before the book was published in the hands of someone within the inner circle who said, "I think Bono will love this. Have you given it to Bono?" And we said, "We really haven’t had the opportunity." "Why don’t you give it to me? I’ll give it Bono."

Sorge: We don’t know if any of the band members have seen the book but we have, on three different occasions, with people who are connected, closely associated through various means, have tried to give them the manuscript, and we’ll continue to try to do that. One of our dreams, honestly, is to meet them. If the book results in us sitting down and having a Guinness with Bono and The Edge and Larry and Adam and talking about their lists and our book, boy.

Sal: That would be really cool if we could get them to score their songs, their top 10. What’s Adam Clayton’s top 10 favorite U2 songs?

What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

Sal: A couple of things. The main thing is we hope to be able to donate some money to the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria]. If the book really takes off and we’re able to make a really significant contribution, that’s the big goal. Another goal is to meet the band, that’s something we’d like to accomplish. I’d like to check that off on our life’s checklist, "Yeah, met U2."

Sorge: Just to provide a tool, a source for people to continue to debate and discuss the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band, hands down, U2. Here’s another way to talk about the band. We haven’t mentioned it yet but we put together these playlists, which include songs that don’t immediately come to mind, songs for the beach, songs for a road trip, songs for drinking a Guinness. Sometimes you go for "The Joshua Tree" because that’s a great album but there are some great songs on some of the other albums that people sometimes forget about. When you go through those playlists it’s like, "Oh yeah, ‘Exit,’ great song for a guys’ night out. Let’s crank it up and have some fun with it."

It ended up that the No. 1 album based on this system was "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb." Was that any kind of surprise for you guys?

Sorge: Yeah, I think that was, that an album surpassed the almighty "Joshua Tree." I even got a comment like that yesterday from a friend who got the book and said, "Chris, I don’t know that I agree that ‘How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb’ is better than ‘The Joshua Tree." It’s basically a tie, the scoring is so close and time will tell if it will have the staying power that The Joshua Tree" has. It wasn’t predetermined, it was by the system, by the numbers.

Sal: We really looked at that closely. We went painstakingly over the numbers over and over again to see are we over-scoring, and it just worked out that way.

For more information on "U2itude: The Ultimate Handbook for U2 Fans," visit

Many thanks to Salvatore Petronella and Christopher Sorgie!

Wim Wenders: When Bono Comes Knocking*

May 1, 2006

By Matthew Anderson

Ed. Note: In light of the release of "Don’t Come Knocking," was lucky enough to get two interviews with director Wim Wenders. The first was conducted via e-mail by Contributing Editor Devlin Smith, and focuses on the relationship between music and film. The second, appearing below and conducted in person by staff writer Matt Anderson, discusses the new film as well as the title track Bono and Edge created for it.

"Don’t Come Knocking" reunites German director Wim Wenders with actor and screenwriter Sam Shepard more than 20 years after their collaboration on "Paris, Texas" won Wenders the Palme d’Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival.

This time, their story focuses on Howard Spence, a man who’s made a career out of starring in Westerns and avoiding reality. While on the set of his latest cowboy epic, "Phantom of the West," Howard (played by Shepard) decides it’s time to take off, in the middle of shooting the movie, and confront some things that have been bugging him.

His first stop is to visit his mother (played by screen legend Eva Marie Saint), who clues him in about the child he had with a woman in Butte, Montana, many years ago. Paging through his mom’s photo albums and scrapbooks, Howard comes to realize what a confused, manic life he’s led in Hollywood. Money, fame, babes, drugs, assaults, accidents; his has been the perfect life for tabloid fodder.

From there, Howard heads north to Butte to finally clear the air and hone in on his responsibilities.

"Don’t Come Knocking," which refers to a sign in Howard’s on-set trailer, finds Wenders in fine form, once again exploring the rugged, vast, empty terrain of the American West.

In addition to his reunion with Shepard, Wenders once again got the opportunity to work with Bono. Theirs is a collaboration that includes Wenders directing Bono’s screenplay for "The Million Dollar Hotel," as well as U2 supplying musical contributions on Wenders’ movies "Until the End of the World," "Far Away, So Close," and "The End of Violence." Wenders also directed U2′s music video for "Night and Day" from the "Red Hot and Blue" AIDS benefit CD.

Wenders likes to leave room for serendipity and spontaneity while making his movies. This time around, Bono contributed to both of those elements as Wenders related the following story to me about U2′s front man coming through with a song for his friend—a duet with Andrea Corr—at the 11th hour:

"Bono had seen the film in a rough cut, had liked it a lot and—I had not asked him, I knew how busy the man was—had sort of volunteered on his own, ‘Maybe I could write a title song’ because he loved the movie.

So there was this vague hope that maybe eventually we’d have a title song. We finished editing the movie and T-Bone [Burnett] recorded the entire score and soundtrack and everything. We put some other music at the back to just hold the place of our title song, but we never got a title song.

The film was finished, we went to Cannes, we didn’t have a title song. We showed it in Cannes without the U2 song, we had one of T-Bone’s songs at the end and not a title song, so it was just holding the place.

U2 were doing the Vertigo Tour, Bono was involved with Live 8, The One Campaign; if you wanted to reach him he was either talking to Bush in Washington, to Blair in London, to Chirac. I mean, it seemed ridiculous to believe he was going to write a song, let alone record it.

So finally, it came to making the first prints—and they were for Germany and France because the film came out in late August, early September. The producer finally said, ‘Come on, this is a pipe dream. We’re never going to get a U2 song. We have to make prints, we have to make press screenings, we have to start being serious and working.’

So we told the lab, from next Monday on we’re going to make prints. The Friday before, Friday night I got an e-mail with a very long attachment—from Bono. I open it and it was the song, but it was just Bono’s voice and Andrea’s voice and there was a temp track underneath it Edge had done on the computer because they just didn’t have time to record all of it, to polish it.

(Photo credit: Matt Anderson)

So there I was, I had the title song but it was incomplete. So I passed the whole thing on to T-Bone, I was in Berlin, I sent that long attachment to T-Bone with a mail saying, ‘By Monday we need it finished.’ And T-Bone called me, said, ‘Are you nuts? This is Saturday morning here. How do you want me to arrange it, get the musicians, record the music, mix it, and have it back by Monday?’

I said, ‘It’s our only choice.’ Either by Monday we’re going to have the U2 song in—the Bono song, it’s not a U2 song, it’s a Bono song—or not, because it’s our deadline, we have to strike prints."

That Saturday night, T-Bone got his band back together, recreated Edge’s arrangement, recorded the musicians, mixed their track on Sunday, and Monday morning, when Wenders got back in the studio, he had the complete song.

As Wenders summed it up, "It was as narrow as it can get."

The end result of that nail-biting finish is an immaculate little number, a subtle, seductive song more along the lines of "Slow Dancing" or "Falling at Your Feet" than the band’s rockers like "Mysterious Ways." It’s also reminiscent of another Bono/Corr duet, their cover of Ryan Adams’ "When the Stars Go Blue."

It’s a remarkable accomplishment made all the more so by the torrent of activity during which the song was created.

« Previous PageNext Page »