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Old 03-20-2002, 03:14 AM   #1
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Great Bono Interview!! Check it out!

Hi all...
I wanted to share this great interview with bono with y'all..

PART I: (Its a long pull up a chair and enjoy!)

Matter of Life and Death - Part 1
Hot Press Annual 2002, December 01, 2001

At the end of an exciting, painful and earthshaking year, Bono reflects on the political and the personal -- from Drop the Debt, September 11, Afghanistan and Genoa to the death of his father Bob, the birth of his son John and the enduring friendship which underpins U2's music and career. Interview: Niall Stokes

"Niall Stokes -- this is your conscience speaking." The voice at the other end of the line has a distinctive rasp to it -- a lived-in quality that's suggestive of last night's indulgence, of smoke and strong whiskey and whatever you're havin' yourself -- and just a little bit more besides. But it's more than distinctive; it's got a familiarity that penetrates right away, the baroque, theatrical, playful introduction notwithstanding.

You know the voice as well as I do. It belongs to Bono, lead singer with the Irish rock band U2, and he's calling from the South of France, where the outfit are currently ensconced in coming-down mode, following the culmination of the final leg of their U.S. tour, promoting their global No. 1 album, the magnificent All That You Can't Leave Behind.

It's been a huge year for U2, battling their way back to pre-eminence in rock, and taking the Elevation tour across the U.S. and Europe to widespread acclaim -- racking up the sales and picking up gongs-a-go-go en route. But it's been an even bigger one for Bono. In June, there was the birth of his fourth child, John. In August, after a long and difficult illness, his father Bob died.

Throughout, he was involved in the Drop the Debt campaign -- a commitment that involved hard labour, significant achievements and rattling controversy in almost equal measure. And then there was Slane. And September 11th. It was a year that shook not just his world -- but ours.

Two days ago, we'd spoken for two hours, maybe a little more. In the meantime, some stuff that we discussed has been bothering Bono, and he wants to make sure that we get the record straight. As it happens, I've been prey to the same nagging feeling. We'd covered a lot of ground, but there were some things that had been left unasked -- and others that had been left unsaid. He wants to tell me about the church around the corner. I want to ask him about Mazar-I-Sharif. We agree to talk in an hour, by which time I should be at the Editor's desk, bug-mike at the ready, thoughts collected and red biro in hand.

He's good at this -- he has been for a long time. He's smart and charming and erudite. Ask almost anyone who has grilled him and they'll tell you -- he's one of the best interviewees in the business. He knows his stuff, hitting me with precise statistics on the % of GDP that is -- and that should be -- devoted to aid for developing countries. He knows where each of a dozen of the wealthiest nations, including Ireland, stands in relation to this. He quotes the most appalling figures in relation to the incidence of AIDS in Botswana, and you can feel the extent to which the studied indifference of the West in the face of this escalating catastrophe appalls him.

Careful and considered, mostly he weighs his words with great exactitude. There are times when you just have to let the conversation dangle while he finds the nuance that he wants to convey. "...Aaaaaah...inappropriate," he says at one point, having taken a full half-minute to get to the point, but when he says it, you know that it was exactly the shade he wanted to paint for you -- and for anyone else who might become privy to the exchange.

But he is also funny and exuberant -- especially where it comes to talking about U2's music. Right now, that is at the top of the agenda, once more. With the touring over, for the moment at least, the band have plunged straight back into recording. Their engineer Richard Rainey found a run-down, defunct club that he figured they'd get a good sound in -- and so it's proved.

"Do you remember a club in O'Connell Street called Slack Alice?" Bono asks. "Well, that's what this place is like! But we're getting some amazing sounds out of it -- real punk rock, some really great guitar sounds and some beautiful melodies. The band is so tight, coming straight off the tour. We've hit form. We're in, ostensibly, to write a ballad -- but we keep knockin' out these hard rock tunes."

They're working on a song for the upcoming Martin Scorsese movie, The Gangs of New York, about the Irish and the Italians in the Small-But-Growing Apple in the 19th century -- about the gangs that built the city, and how violent they were. "Very little is known about the origins of the city," Bono says. "But this is about how it was like Nairobi, back then."

U2 don't know how to do things by half -- they never did. And so they have gone way beyond the brief that they went into the studio with. "We've started our album," he confides. "We've got a tune called 'Electrical Storm,' that's going to blow your mind."

"Have you a chorus you can sing for me there?" I ask. There's laughter at the other end of the line. "No," he chuckles.

He knows that the tape is rolling.

NIALL STOKES: Tell me, what was the mood in the States through the last leg of the tour, since September 11th in particular?

BONO: Well, you know, music changes shape to fit the predicament that it finds itself in, often. And ours is no exception. Songs that meant one thing before September 11th, for most bands I think, meant another thing after September 11th. But oddly enough our music meant the same thing. It's just that the events brought the subject matter closer into focus. And a lot of the themes and the moods of All That You Can't Leave Behind seemed to just make more sense. I don't think they changed. The obvious stuff like "New York," or a song about depression like "Stuck in a Moment," "Kite" -- songs about letting go of people you don't want to let go of, all of that seemed to really connect.

You re-wrote the lyrics of New York?

Not much, but it went: "In New York freedom feels like too many choices/In New York I found some friends to drown out the other voices/Voices on the cellphone, voices from home/Are you OK, baby, don't stay in alone/New York, I love New York." And then it went: "In New York summers get hot/Well into the hundreds, you can't walk around the block/Without a change of clothing/Come September a lot can change/Summer's love turns to winter's rain/New York -- even New Jersey loves New York" (laughs), and that went down in the Garden. And then I went on: "In New York you can forget how to sit still/And you can forget how strong is the city's will." And then: "In New York I had a problem/Call it a mid-life crisis/That's not really a problem/Just too many choices/I hit an iceberg in my life/But you know I'm still afloat/I lost my balance/You lost your wife/In the queue for the lifeboat/You were putting the women and children first/I just had an unquenchable thirst for New York." So that was when the firemen and all were in the audience and that went off.

Obviously people are looking for solace or whatever -- but are they capable of enjoying themselves in the same way as before?

Well, I have a lot of friends in New York, who, let's say, have seen a lot of the world and might have dealt with some spectres in their time and these people didn't leave their apartment for two or three weeks -- which shocks me because these people are so unshockable. So it's very hard to describe to a European, but the American mindset has forever changed. It's like Mike Tyson getting knocked know, he can get up, he can go into training again, he can regain his title, but he'll never be the same again. A certain self-confidence has gone. They are penetrable. They were confident acting like an island. Now they're part of the world and the world is not such a friendly place. I mean a lot of Americans had no idea that there was this kind of anger out there, directed at them. I don't mean the cells of terror, more the people demonstrating in the streets in Indonesia and Pakistan. I think that really left them marked.

But is that going to change their sense of the role they should in the world? If you look at what's going on now in Afghanistan, you wouldn't interpret that as being the case.

Aside from the fact that the media has had very little access, and that's unnerving, I don't think historically the way this campaign has been waged against terror will be seen as anything other than a success in terms of the least loss of human life and a certain measuredness, which most of the world weren't expecting from the United States. And reading the New York Times report of the fall of Kabul and journalists walking around, there's hardly any civilian targets hit. That was kind of miraculous. Any civilian target hit is unacceptable. But I used to be a pacifist. I'm no longer a pacifist -- and not because I don't want to be, but because I can't live up to it in my own life. It's a source of deep sadness to me that I can't. If somebody was threatening my wife and my kids I would not turn the other cheek and it's patently clear to anyone living in New York or London or Los Angeles or Chicago that in a matter of months, and certainly years, whole corners of their cities were about to be taken out...whether it's chemicals or dirty nuclear devices, whatever they're calling them. So I don't see any alternative to what they've done.

Is that not a bit of a shift from where U2 have come in the past on issues like this?

Having bitten the arse of American foreign policy for the first ten years of my life in U2, I think you have to give them credit where credit is due.

Does that mean that what happened in Mazar-I-Sharif -- where U.S. agents and British agents were involved, alongside Northern Alliance troops, in a gun battle in which dozens of Taliban soldiers were shot with their hands tied behind their backs -- is OK?

Of course not. I think it's important to support the Americans in Afghanistan -- but without supporting any heinous acts that occur during the war, whether by accident or design. If there are grotesque acts of war contrary to the Geneva Convention, they should be investigated. But there's a lazy-mindedness about people sitting on the fence in this. It's actually not acceptable, especially people who are living across the road from Sellafield, which surely would be one of the prime targets had the conflict escalated. I think there's a certain emergency aspect to going after these people. So I'm not full of criticism for the way the Americans have behaved. I'm with them.

Is that not just a case of saying, "I'm with them because I'm one of them and I'm not with the other guys because I'm not of them?" What happened in New York was clearly an outrage on a scale that no one...

But it's not what happened even in New York, it's what was about to happen! We've been writing songs about suitcase bombs since 1983. I felt like...Martin Amis, you know, writes in Einstein's Monster about a certain sickness in the pit of his stomach as he put his child to bed at night and went to write on this subject, of what is available in the world's nuclear arsenal. And just even thinking about it and realising how close to the abyss we're all staring. And that was in the '80s, before such capabilities had slipped out from under any kind of formal policing and gone underground. I mean, these people have no regard for anything that you and I hold dear and sacred, least of all women. And these people were about to take hold of the capability to take out South County Dublin, if not the entire city. They'd never get the fucking Northside, mind you! (Laughs) We could withstand anything! But they'd get you lot!

People are driven to extremes because of what they perceive to be the injustices in their own position and, in relation to Palestine, the extent to which they are the victims of violence and oppression.

I don't think it is comparable. Everyone knew that there is deep and grave injustice in the Middle East, everybody knew that. But nobody knew that somebody might be prepared to take what could have been 50,000 lives, innocent civilian lives, as part of that conflict. In the Book of Terror that chapter had never even been written. No one in their wildest dreams, none of the architects of modern terrorism -- which is how to grab a hold of the headlines for a few days by sacrificing civilian lives -- no one had ever imagined that kind of scale.

Is this not just an inevitable response to the malign role the U.S. role has occupied in the region for years now?

I have a completely different set of opinions on how Afghanistan got to the state it was in, in the first place. I've a completely different set of opinions on how the United States and Russia left the country in ruins. I'm prepared to criticise there -- but I'm not prepared to criticise this campaign because I think they've actually done as well as can be expected. I'm amazed. I thought they would go in in a knee-jerk way and set off a much greater conflict, which surely was Osama bin Laden's intention. He wasn't expecting them to behave in a measured way. His real goal, surely, is nothing to do with America. He's trying to reclaim Islam from the moderates and follow the Shiite traditions, back to the Middle Ages. He was expecting America to overreact, and in that sense he was sacrificing Afghanistan, as well as the people of New York and Washington; he was expecting overwhelming force and actually he got a much more tactical game. That's my fucking rant on it.

What's your assessment of the role of religion in all of it? You could say that the three great religions have come from a place that's now effectively the cockpit of hate in the world.

Yes, you could.

But is that not genuinely the case?

I think the roots of the present conflict are clearly the lack of conflict resolution in the area of the Middle East and the abject poverty of Africa. I didn't say that, the President of the World Bank said it on September 13th. He said it on CNN. He was pulled off faster than -- you could actually see the hook coming out! But it's the truth. And aside from the way this present thing has been conducted, if you want to get into the real issues, they're the real issues -- conflict resolution. The squalor of Palestinian lives that has been their forced condition for so long. But in the wider sense, the lack of commitment to the developing world and their sense of abandonment. And when you have nothing, and you have no hope, you're easy prey to the likes of Al Quaida.

There's a Hunter Thompson line -- "Entire civilisations have been done in by vengeful monsters claiming a special relationship with God." Isn't that what's going on here?

Entire civilisations have been done in by vengeful monsters full stop! What about the Soviet empire? What about what's gone on in China? That's how human beings are, whether they claim a close relationship with God or not. I would say that religion is often the obstacle in the way of God. In fact I'd go further and say that religion is often what you'd get when God has left the building, like Elvis. One of my favourite descriptions of God is that the Spirit moves like a wind, no one knows where it comes from or where it goes to. I think the Spirit of God in essence, has more akin to the anarchist than it has to cold religion.

And yet you haven't abandoned formal religion?

While I do think religion is often an obstacle to God, I do also find comfort in it on occasions -- whether it's a mass around the corner from where we live, or a Protestant Gospel Hall I might find on the road.

So God has no part in our downfall?

I've never believed that this is God's world anyway. I always thought that this was our world, and that we are the ones to hold to account, not religion. There's enough food to go around, but it's too expensive. We could turn every desert into fertile land, but we don't. It is human beings that need to be held to account, not God. When it comes down to Christianity, we're left with something that was made pretty simple, in order so we couldn't fuck it up -- but we still fucked it up. I love the bit when Christ asked for his greatest hits and he says, "OK, love God, and love your neighbours as yourself." Christianity is not complicated, that's what it is. And love is at the centre of it. God is love. And Islam is perverted as much as Christianity and Judaism, and I'd say all three religions blow smoke up God's nose most of the time.

You could say that all religions spring from the same basic impulse, but actually in practice they are very sharply in conflict.

Christianity is built around the concept of respect, not just respect for the people you disagree with, but love. There ought not to be any aggression in Christianity towards others. The whole point of Christ's teachings was to love your enemy. I presume that includes people you disagree with, not just your enemy. And I think the heart of the Koran is respect for difference. And though there is an intense celebration of difference in the Talmud, there's still tolerance preached, and neighbourliness as I understand it. Abraham is the father of all of these three families, and that's an interesting study. The best book I've ever read on the Middle East is called The Blood of Abraham, and it's written by Jimmy Carter, who was a real expert on the subject. It is deeply disturbing to see what can happen out of a family row. It is shocking. But they are the worst kind. You see it a local level, after funerals, or at weddings. Family fights are the most bitter.

You touched on the Drop the Debt campaign; what's happening there now?

I think post-September 11th, it has become ever more crucial that this relationship between the developed world and the developing world which has been so wrong for so long is put right. It is the least we can do at the start of the 21st century for ourselves, and for those people who are most affected. But it's also the only fitting memorial to the lives that were lost on September 11th. That some light could be drawn from such a black period in history, that it might shake us up, and wake us up, to what's going on in the world. I'm speaking to politicians every week, if not every day, every second day, in either letter or on the phone, arguing the point that a historic initiative on Africa would be something worthy of those people who lost their lives.

What are you looking for precisely?

There's a plan, which we're calling the New African Initiative. It's a demand for a new deal. It's a demand for trade and access, because an even bigger scandal than the debt issue, is the trade issue. These people are not allowed to sell their groundnuts. Some of the poorest countries in the world are not allowed to sell to us in Europe and America -- the great purveyors of free trade don't like it both ways sometimes. That's noxious. So that's been part of it. There's also an increase in aid needed. So Drop the Debt is across three levels -- further debt cancellation, deeper foreign aid and wider trade agreements.

Was there any concern on your part that you ended up on the wrong side of the police lines in Genoa?

I think I stumbled into a photograph that was regrettable and shows my lack of political nous, but I was also outside the red zone, and a lot of the people marching were Drop the Debt campaigners, we were marching with them. But as part of the negotiation you have to meet the leaders. There are people who prefer only to make the argument, and not attempt to resolve it. Those people are called cranks. I'm not one of them. Our job is to try and interface when we can. If a Tony Blair or a Gerhard Schroeder would take a meeting with us, of course we're going to say yes. It would be ignorant as well as dumb tactically not to.

Either yourself or Bob Geldof was quoted at the time condemning the violence, and it seemed to be the violence on the street and not the violence of the police?

Both were completely out of order. The police deserve more criticism because they're supposed to be controlled. There were factions in the crowd that have no interest in the developing world or a lot of the issues that they're throwing rocks at, and those people put the lives and well-being of the majority of peaceful demonstrators at risk. There are some people who are disturbing the peace in mindful ways, and civil disobedience has a noble history. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about neo-fascist groups, who want to see blood spilt -- that's a different thing to civil disobedience.

In a context where you are negotiation at that kind of level, do you have to effectively stay on the right side of politicians -- for example, of the Bush administration?

I think I have to be myself, and I have to be true to myself. I could never be a politician because I think I'm too selfish, and I think I like to have fun: the right to be irresponsible is a right I hold dear. I think most people who I'm dealing with accept that the way I look, dress or act, doesn't take away from the rigours of the arguments I'm making. There are amusing incidents like Paul Volcker, who was the Alan Greenspan of his day, arrived at Madison Square Gardens, a giant of American economics literally and metaphorically -- he's six foot seven -- and who had been a great opponent of debt cancellation, but he came with us. He was sharing a dressing room briefly with the Fun Lovin' Criminals and later, in a speech, he remarked that he'd been to a U2 show, how great work was being done -- and there were some colourful smells coming from the dressing room. I don't smoke but I thought that was funny.

There was that line from Damon Albarn, going back a bit, that you were wrecking his buzz. Does that kind of cynicism rankle?

Well, he's apologised for that. We've argued that one out, and I'm sure we'll argue a lot more out. I accept that with these occasions, like the Brits, and pouring cold water into Damon's warm beer, can irritate, but that was the beginning of a campaign, that ended up ridding the world of a hundred billion dollars of debt, and we were deeply serious. Muhammed Ali had come in and the kind of cynicism that that was met with could have, if we had less resolve, derailed us. If you're not going to contribute to the struggle, at least don't get in the way of it, is all I would say.

I know you're not looking for people's appreciation or praise, but do you feel that your efforts in relation to this whole thing are under-appreciated, say in Ireland?

Look, in Ireland, as Bill Graham was always reminding me, it's a problem of scale. U2 are most popular when they keep their heads down, and that's what we try to do most of the time. Even I would have been angry at myself around the time of Slane. Jaysus, how interesting can four people be? Somebody said to me a while back, "You won the World Cup, and then you did it again, and now you're doing it again. We love music, we love football, you won the World Cup." But we didn't really. It is not a good analogy, and we're writers and musicians, and celebrity is an oppressive thing in these times. Ireland is the only country where we are celebrities. We fly below the radar pretty much everywhere else. And that would be our desire for Ireland. We would just like to get on with our lives.

Both Kevin Myers and Vincent Browne, in the Irish Times have poured scorn on your efforts in relation to Drop the Debt.

Something like Slane comes up and you're in the news and people want to have a go, and honestly I don't blame them. It's absolutely fine. But I'm sure that both Kevin Myers and Vincent Browne know that they're being naughty boys. You just have to do the research: even a cursory glance at our schedule would show that I'm not just turning up for the photograph. There's a lot of hard work involved; it's taking a lot of my time and energy away from my family, and I hope it ends soon. I would like not to be in this position, and I appreciate how absurd it is. To have a wealthy pop star in the corridors of power talking about poor people, I understand what that looks like, and I don't like it either. And I think they're just stirring it up, saying, "look, fuck off." I see my picture in the paper and I feel the same sometimes. "Fuck off!" But the ball kind of fell at my feet, and the goal looked kind of open. So I just had to run with it.

Did you see John Waters' comment "U2 are too old and bored with each other to say or do anything of relevance anymore"?

File under the same thing...I love John but it's not us who's lost contact with the music. And I don't think we've ever been as close as a band. Perhaps he just doesn't like the album. With bands, if they make an album you don't like, it's all over. Whereas if your favourite director makes a movie you don't like, you wait for the next one. It's a strange thing. Sean Penn said to me once, on a night out when I was a bit depressed about PopMart in America, and we were sitting there in a hotel room and he said, "You know, they just didn't like the movie." And I realised it's not that they don't like you, they just didn't like this movie!

Slane was obviously a huge moment in different ways. So three months on how do you recall the week of the show?

Whatever it was, it wasn't a concert. It was some sort of sociological event, a sort of gathering of the tribe. But from our point of view, it was like a big wedding, with aunties and uncles, fights in the corner, tears at every turn, too much drink taken, and after that then it became a wake. A wedding, and a wake. I was just holding on for dear life.

Did you think of cancelling, knowing the advanced stage of your father's illness?

I held on to those songs because they were getting me through it, and singing them kept me together. All the keening and wailing you could ever need are in some of those U2 songs. I was ridding myself of a lot of anguish and despair, on a nightly basis. I was certainly doing the right thing by me. I don't know if I was doing the right thing by everybody else. We're probably a better rock 'n' roll band than the one that turned up at Slane, especially the first night because that was a different thing. That was more opera, and I'm just left with an incredible sense of being carried by the crowd. I feel it was a very special day for anyone who was there, especially for the band. But it wasn't just about the music.

There must have been moments when you felt close to succumbing emotionally?

But it had been happening anyway. We were on tour in the U.K. and I was taking a small plane after each concert -- straight off the stage, straight to Dublin, to his bedside, and to his silence, with the crowd still ringing in my ears. These were really difficult times for him and I wanted to be there. My brother Norman covered for me incredibly, and I was reminded that he was really my big brother. He was in control, knew what to do, and I was his passenger. But I did the night shifts. And also some of my dad's brothers and this family called the Lloyds, which he kinda lived with. It was very bizarre. I was disappointed in a way that I couldn't have the conversations with him that I would like to. He was too sick. He had Parkinson's Diseases, so he was whispering a lot of the time. Occasionally, clear as a bell, he would get it out. I remember the nurses saying -- "Great, Bob. Visitors, Bob." He goes, "Yeah, great, great when they leave." All his energy was directed into humour. That was how he kept his dignity. My one prayer was he would keep his dignity. He was a very dignified man, a charming man. But I didn't get that prayer. 'Cause cancer is a cruel and slow process that finally just takes away all dignity, in the last stages, despite the advances in medicine, and the palliative nursing. It was a little epiphany. You know, birth is a messy business too, for mother and child, and I've started to wonder if maybe dignity isn't so important after all. Maybe it's a human construct -- people put it beside things like righteousness and courage, but I don't think it is. I think humility might be much more important to face your maker, and dignity might be a next door neighbour to pride, or worse, to vanity.

Did he find waiting hard, knowing what was coming?

He got irritated at one point. His last words were "Are you all fucking mad?" which is wild. He woke me up in the middle of the night. I went to him and he was whispering. I got the nurse. We both had our ears to his mouth. And then (laughs) as clear as a bell, "Are you all fucking mad?" I jumped. I'm looking for a smile, but he had no smile. He said, "Look, this is a prison. I wanna go home." And he did.

If you twist and turn away
If you tear yourself in two again
If I could, yes I would
If I could, I would
Let it go

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Old 03-20-2002, 03:17 AM   #2
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Here's PART 2!...

Matter of Life and Death - Part 2
Hot Press Annual 2002, December 01, 2001

Did you feel closer to him in the end?

I drew him. I have loads of drawings, which I'm glad of. I did all the kind of things he wouldn't let me do when his defences were up. I read to him Shakespeare, Shelley, this new translation I have of the Bible, Eugene Peterson's. He'd run you out of the room for that (laughs). He himself was an autodidact and at an early age, in his 20s, he'd read all the classics, and was a great tenor, a great musician, and opera filled our house. Yesterday, in Ireland, the papers had this thing that I was very angry with him, for not having encouraged me to do the things that he deeply regretted he hadn't done himself. The rage I referred to in the article was the rage I felt as a musician, in compromising the melodies I woke up with. With chord structures that I think could be so much better, had I an education in music. I do have a certain frustration in me, and there is anger in me, but it's not at him, it's at myself, that I haven't managed to overcome that.

Did you bring "Kite" to his attention or was he aware of it?

No. There's an odd one. I have this verse about taking the kids up on Killiney Hill with a kite. Then I realised, I went back in my head, and I remembered being in Rush or Skerries, one incident where exactly the same thing happened. We used to have a caravan, and I sort of felt the goodbye aspect of the song was not from me to him, but from him to me. That's the thing about songwriting -- you're the last to know what you're on about.

Are you still smoking?

No. Recently on a fairly big night, I found my hand wandering into somebody's bag whilst I was talking. I had no idea that my hand was going into somebody else's bag (laughs). And, with some dexterity, taking a cigarette out.

You should have taken money while you were at it.

I was amazed, and lighting the cigarette, before I knew. But you know about that old story: smoking may damage health but your children will kill you.

Are you aware that you're giving a bad example?

It's dumb to smoke, and it really changed my voice, and I lost the high register, and I lost the ability to fly as a singer. I had a lot of complications with my voice anyway. The doctor told me I couldn't smoke.

What age is your eldest now?

Jordan's twelve. Elijah is two and a half and it broke my heart the other day when I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, and he said he wanted a plane, and I said why, and he said, "cause Daddy lives on one." I thought: I'd better get home. I really better get home.

What does Jordan think about your man calling the cars after her?

I think she may be even faster than Eddie (laughs). I can't keep up with her. I took the kids on tour with me for a week. They often come out with Ali, but this time I took them on my own, when I went touring on the West Coast. And we had a real laugh. Ali found it difficult to get them to bed after that 'cause they were keeping rock 'n' roll hours.

At twelve, there are all sorts of new challenges coming up.

They've got a good sense of themselves. I think they've got their mother's security. They can take on whatever, they've got the stuff. I don't think they're spoilt brats. I'm the spoilt brat.

You had your fourth child this year. Do you think now that you're a better father than you were ten years ago?

Yeah, probably. Certainly the shock of it is less after a few tries. I get to spend two weeks with them every few months. I take them on the school run. When I'm around I'm really around. I probably spend more time with my kids than most. And Ali likes that space that it gives her when I am on the road. There's still a sense of mystery about her that even I can't crack. And she likes it that way. The pressures of this kind of life are not what they might be with a less secure woman or house.

Do you ever stop and think that the rock game means little or nothing compared to the life and death issues that you're actually dealing with in the songs?

One of the things that September 11th did was upend celebrity and upend the notion of what is important. So some of the issues of All That You Can't Leave Behind became very important, but singers and their vicissitudes, not so. I like that. I think we should remember that. The band has such things in a good perspective. They know that the aberration of the 21st century, where you get paid a lot of money for what in the Middle Ages you would just be given your supper. I've been saying for many years now, nurses, firemen and doctors are the ones that we need to look after, not spoil us rotten pop stars. We do bring something to the party. It's not life and death, but maybe it's inspiration to live and a place to crash when life doesn't work out right. That's what music brought to me anyway.

As regards U2, there is a joy in the music that allows us to take up the big issues and go through them. There's a sense of wonder in the music, there's a sense of faith and of possibilities and I think it has...I'd like to think it has inspired some people to get organised, to become more active in their political lives. But even if it's just in the moment, if it's a melody that lifts somebody's head up for a minute on a building site, it's worth it to me. Music and politics shouldn't be enemies, especially in Ireland; surely that's a sign of an evolved society where there's discussion between culture and government?

The Frames and David Kitt were voted 1 and 2 in our critics Albums of the Year -- have you heard them?

No. I'd like to. Doing political work, I've missed out on what's going on in Ireland. I always make a point of saying to any of the Irish talents coming through, if there's anything I can do for you I will. I've said it to the Devlins -- their album has a real mood to it. I've said it to Ronan. I've said it to the Corrs -- they're mates. But I haven't said it to the Frames, and I should.

How did you feel when "It's a Beautiful Day" [sic] was chosen as the theme tune for the Premiership?

(Lots of laughs) I just thought there's one row somebody won't have to have with Larry. Larry polices -- and that's the operative word -- the use of our music in film and TV; it's his department. That would be the easiest negotiation anyone has ever had to do.

Do you have any advice for Alex Ferguson about his current refusal to talk to the media?

Go to Celtic!

Do you think he's making a bollox of it?

That's a trick question. What does it say in the Psalm? How the Pot says to the Potter, why hast thou made me thus? (Loads more laughs)

There were times, I'm sure, during the PopMart tour, with the huge production that you took on the road, when you were looking out at the crowd and thinking, great, I'm actually paying for the privilege of singing to people tonight?

It's crass to talk about money and it's especially insensitive to people who don't have it. This tour makes a lot more sense on a financial level, and there is a point where it is mad to pay to play. We have made money on other tours, but we've also paid out money. We spent two million quid playing Australia, for instance. And playing the Middle East. It cost us to get PopMart there. It would cost you a fortune to get to Sarajevo, etc. But you know -- we're loaded! (Laughs) What's the problem? If you can't be fanciful about your art, then you're really betraying the people who have given you your freedom in the first place. Financially there's a deal that goes down, unspoken, unsaid, but very simple: you don't have to worry about your medical bills, your mortgage or when you're going to go on your holidays. But in return, just don't be dull. And don't bend over. Be true to who you are and what you do and run with it, and run amuck with it, and I think we've always done that. As annoying as we can be. At least we're not dull.

There was a suggestion, that building up to this tour, there were guys in the band saying, "Fuck off Bono, I'm not going out again, to lose a shitload of money with a production that fucking kills us." Did Larry put his foot down?

If you're going to play outdoors, it's just going to be more expensive, especially if you want to do something more innovative. We enjoyed Slane this year and that made us think, gosh, maybe you could play outdoors without being one part Pink Floyd. We did on the Joshua Tree tour, after all. The road takes the most out of Larry and myself in terms of physical effort. But Larry wasn't responsible for that. One thing Larry was responsible for was whispering in my ear, at the end of Pop -- it might have been the last day of recording -- "Why don't we actually make a pop record next time?" (Laughs) And indeed we have, essentially. It's very tightly constructed to the ideas of pop music. But if you play indoors you've [got] to play more times a week, with less chance of seeing your family. If you play outdoors you play three times a week, so your family can actually come on the road and see you, and not feel like a piece of luggage. It's swings and roundabouts. The touring operation this time was very, very tight. People like Steve Iredale and Joe O'Herlihy really shone, and the background crew, and Principle Management were at their best. We had an end of tour party in Atlanta. It was very emotional. The truck drivers, the steel riggers, coming up and saying, "This is the greatest tour I've ever been on." It had a spirit about it.

What was the source of that?

The group itself is very, very close at the moment, and I think for U2 to work, that must be so. Unlike say the Kinks or Oasis, groups that actually feed off a certain sibling rivalry, that kind of energy. We need to be able to look each other in the eye. I think in the '90s, we became a little too independent of each other -- there was still the same respect, but as you grow older you can lose the malleability to fit around somebody. Every time, in this group's life, someone's gonna be a bollox. You have to give him enough room, and then when they go too far, take them out of that. Notice how I used the word "them" there (laughs)? I have to say there were far less arseholes on the road this time than I've seen maybe ever before.

Talking about All That You Can't Leave Behind, Daniel Lanois felt very strongly, comparing it to Pop, that you had made the mistake previously of not paying sufficient respect to the people that you were working with, and that you needed to surround yourselves with people capable of making soulful music.

But no one's more soulful than Flood. Flood has a drum machine for a pulse, a heart that's made of music, and Howie's the same. Pop could have been a masterpiece. The songs are extraordinary. We just wore ourselves out and didn't quite finish them. But I'm still very proud of it as a piece of work. You make a record with Daniel Lanois, one of two things is gonna happen -- you are going to make a great record, or somebody is going to die. Either him or you. So it's a real commitment, to make a record with him. If you make a record with Brian Eno, it's gonna be making a record in the other sense of the word. It's not going to be commonplace. It's gonna have to be full of original ideas, or someone's gonna die -- but it's not gonna be him (laughs). He'll be out the back door.

Did you have any reaction to David Blunkett's decision, in the U.K., not to charge people for possession of cannabis?

Sounds smart. I don't know enough about it to comment, but I could never figure out the hierarchy of sins -- or pleasures, I should say. I could never figure out how one was supposed to be worse or better than the other. It's like alcohol or cigarettes. I think smoking weed probably gives you cancer as well, a lot slower. Like all pleasures you have to not abuse them.

Should we go whole hog now and decriminalise the fucking thing?

I would think so. Again I'm not really informed on all the issues, so I wouldn't want to make any pronouncement. I guess the thorny issue is substances that are addictive and people who are prone to them. It's difficult to make something freely available that makes someone a slave, like cigarettes, but they do. It's hard to know. The devil's revenge on extraordinary things is to make them ordinary by doing them too much. That's what access can do to people. Make the extraordinary commonplace.

Any New Year's resolutions?

I haven't thought about it, but I will, because I love that moment. I always take it seriously. We always make prayers at that moment. The kids are around and we have fireworks, we tie our prayers to the rockets and send them off. I love to be in the snow. Sometimes to be in Killiney Bay at midnight if I'm in Dublin, and have an ice cold shot of vodka afterwards. Then you become a firework (laughs). I haven't got this year's resolutions worked out, but I will have. I think I know what it will be. Just at a public level, not to let the opportunity of recent calamities pass. The way that they have brought into sharp focus the ills of this world: if we keep the concentration, we might actually be able to muster support, and to do something about them.

Have you read Salman Rushdie's latest book?

I haven't read Fear and I'm dying to. Paul (McGuinness) has and really liked it.

Did you have any fear about the fact that you were close to Salman, when he stayed in your gaff?

I didn't appreciate the Sunday Independent reminding people of the fact constantly. I think the issue of freedom of speech is very close to the heart of any person who loves rock 'n' roll. It was a moment where you had to stand up and be counted, in whatever small way, so we did. I like Salman very much, but he didn't stay as much as people suggested. There were supposed to be helicopters flying in and out of our bedroom windows. I don't take my own security as seriously as others would. But I take my family's very seriously. We have 24-hour security, and usually when people see the rocket launchers they move on (laughs).

Do you ever ask yourself: what am I gonna be doing when I'm 60?

I think I'll finally be cool. I've never wanted to be cool. I always thought that, as a band, we were hot, almost like Latin, or the way the Celts were hot. It's OK to be cool when you're 60, it's OK to be bad tempered, and -- as Gavin Friday says -- chase children across the road with a stick. I'm looking forward to making music and writing from that perspective. Most of my heroes are older men -- they always have been, from Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Brendan Kenneally to Seamus Heaney: I've always had that respect. If you're a novelist, people say you shouldn't start writing till you're 40.

But will you still be doing it at 60?

I don't know how you approach that, or whether we'll be around as a band. We operate a two crap records and you're out principle. I don't think we've made a crap record yet. We've made a few difficult records, but not crap ones!

Have you seen it in your mind's eye, U2 as four guys, up on stage, at the age of 60?

Gosh. A terrifying thought. Standing there with deep lines. Turn around and there's Larry Mullen, still looking 14. A lot of what's going on in this tour, is that people are looking at a set of relationships that have lasted longer than most marriages, and most business relationships. And friendship is, after a number of years, a defiant thing. Every day that's added to a relationship makes it stronger and more courageous. There's an essay by Jean Cocteau about friendship where he suggests that friendship is higher than love, although less passionate, and certainly less romantic, but it has in its very ordinariness a strength that more passionate relationships haven't. It's a very powerful thing. We both know that, if there's one of U2 in the room, or two of us in the room, or three, we have our individual weight. But when there's four of us in the room it changes the molecules a little bit. That's the gang. Add Sheila and Paul and you have a whole corporation (laughs).

One final question, which I really have to ask. Are we gonna win the fucking World Cup?

Well, we're gonna get through to the quarterfinals. That's exciting. It's a young team. What U2 and Irish soccer squad have in common is that we both work best as underdogs. When people expect too much, we invariably let them down. I think it's great that they've got through.

So what about a theme song?
Well, I've an idea. I was talking to Elvis Costello, and you should too, trying to get him to do a version of "Tokyo Storm Warning."

Are you thinking of going to Japan?

You'd have to. It's tricky with the family. I've got a couple of trips to Africa to do. They've been so good to me. Ali is such an independent spirit, and these kids are so generous, but I couldn't go on my own with the lads, I'd have to bring them -- but that might be tricky, seeing as they are not as keen on the game! Part of the thrill of next year will be spending time with them.




Craig Armstrong: As If To Nothing
This is his follow-up to The Space Between Us. It's not out till February but it's a really good album. Evan Dando sings a song called "Wake Up in New York," written before September 11th -- it's deep melancholia, but he sings like an angel on it.

Ryan Adams: Gold
Tracks like "La Cienega," "Wild Flowers" and "When the Stars Go Blue" are classics.

The Strokes
This has a sort of '79 feel to it. I think they could amount to something.

The White Stripes: White Blood Cells
They've got something going -- you can really feel it here.

Bob Dylan: Love and Theft
Kept me going through the year because it made me laugh. It's just a classic.

The Charlatans: Wonderland
I have to mention this because it's really great.

Peaches: "Rock Show"
A single, this was the biggest blast of the year.


I've been reading a lot of treaties and economic textbooks, which is sad. But there were some good things that I got around to reading this year:

At the risk of sounding even more like God at Christmas I would have to recommend this translation of The New Testament and The Books of Wisdom by Eugene Peterson. And he's a poet as well as scholar. It's just incredible stuff.

The last novel I read was JP Leroy's The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things. I met JP -- he came to one of our shows and I spent time with him. It's black, very bleak.

When I was in Los Angeles I was reading a book by James Ellroy, of The Black Dahlia fame. It's an amazing story. He became a crime writer because his mother was murdered, and through writing fiction he got to know a lot of cops and detectives, and at one point he decided to try and investigate, through the people he knew in the police, his own mother's murder. It's called My Dark Places, and it's an unbelievable book. While it's about the search for the killers, it's also a search for himself.

Finally, it might sound a little bit pretentious, but one of the books I enjoyed most this year was actually published in 1992. It's Ted Hughes' book about Shakespeare, called Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being. It's an extraordinary book.


I never knew what year a movie was released in, but the two that spring to mind that I saw this year are:

Memento (Directed by Christopher Nolan)

Chopper (Directed by Andrew Dominic)



Niall Stokes: Can you tell me about the role of Chopper in the birth of John?

That was Ali's idea. I just got back from Chicago and everything was...she had a very cool aura about her as usual, not particularly bothered. The worry then started that I'd actually have to go back before the baby was born. So she suggested a scary movie and Chopper is a film made by a friend of ours. Ali doesn't like violent movies. In fact she often becomes violent at them. She bit me once during Scarface. She literally bit my shoulder and I had to leave! When we go to the movies together we don't always agree on what one. But she was up for it this time. So we put on Chopper and halfway through it she did disappear. And I went upstairs and I found her sitting on the bed with white warpaint on and I thought, "This is a bit much." But in fact she'd put a facepack on and I said, "Are you OK?" and she said, "No, it's started now," and I said, "Well, the movie worked then." And I said, "What do we do now?" and she said, "Look, it's going to be hours and hours, you should get some sleep." So I went to bed for an hour or so at about 2 in the morning. So at about four o'clock she woke me up, calm as usual, and said, "I think it's time to go." So I got out of bed and got everything organised and fired up the car and she came down and got in and we were driving along to the hospital, Mount Carmel, and she just quietly turned and said, "I think we should start breaking the lights now." Now Ali is very Protestant. She has a great respect for the law (laughs). So I put my foot on the pedal and 20 minutes after we arrived in the hospital she gave birth.

It's a fantastic moment, the first sight of a new kid, isn't it?
He looked like somebody familiar. He looked like a doorman I know in a London club! He immediately had a hard head, shaped like a bullet. He did look like a thug and that is why we called him John, as in "alright John"!

Did you fight over the name?

No, because John also has other connotations in the family. A man called Jack is a kind of hero of mine, and there's other people I know. And he's my favourite apostle as well. He was the one who was more poetic of that lot. He was a very interesting guy.



Niall Stokes: George Harrison's death must have resonated in a particular way for you, given the circumstances and the illness.

Yeah, he didn't like U2 very much. We were great fans of his and I do think that he brought a dimension to the band that gave depth to the consummate pop writing that it couldn't have had without him. His taking on the taboo of religion also made an impression on me as a teenager. I used to think if rock 'n' roll means anything, it means liberation. It means freedom to express yourself sexually, politically, and of course, spiritually. But very few people do. And he was one of the first before Dylan, before Marvin Gaye and Marley. Although I hear he was very bad-tempered. Calling him the quiet Beatle -- I think it might have been more true to say he was the grumpy Beatle (laughs).

Well there was a few grumpy fuckers there. Lennon could certainly be grumpy.

I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and Yoko has this exhibition on John's life as a writer and an artist. It's like an exhibition of a living artist. It's one of the best things you could ever see. And it has handwritten songs of his abandonment, his mother and all this stuff. But it was downstairs I got the real insight because in the Beatles exhibition, in amongst all the paraphernalia, I found two postcards from John to Julian -- they were open postcards, not in envelopes -- and one of them had John's phone number on it. And he'd written "Dear Julian, Sorry I haven't spoken to you in the last six months. If you need me, here's my address." And it turned everything around for me and I just realised I'm going to have to watch out for this. Here's a guy writing about his own abandonment two floors up -- and writing about his own psychotic reaction to childhood while he's repeating it on his own. I met Julian and I mentioned that to him and he just stared at me and said, "That's not a conversation you want to start with me if you're a Beatles fan."



Bono: I do think that photograph was offensive and I think it's a fair cop to take it on the nose for it. I think I told you what happened. Blair was late for his meeting with Putin because myself and Geldof had him in a headlock and we just wouldn't let him go and eventually word came down from his aides and they said, "You can bring them along, I'd like to meet these people." So we went up with them and he walked up and put his arms around me and said in Russian, "Now it's time to start work on the Russian debt," and I laughed. Who wouldn't laugh?

I remember an amusing incident with Charles Haughey of the same order when we opened a rehearsal room in the City Centre. We built these rehearsal rooms for bands and Paul McGuinness asked Charlie would he open it. And a screaming match developed between the band and Paul because there was an election coming up, and we felt this would look too comfortable. So there was a Four Stooges moment where I said, "OK, whatever we do, if the Taoiseach arrives, the press will naturally look for a photograph of the two of us and we shouldn't have that on the eve of an election." I said, "Edge, you do it or Adam, you do it." So they all agreed and then, when we got to the City Centre, there were crowds and people around and anyway they pissed off to the bar for a drink and I was standing surrounded by people and I looked around and the great man had arrived and was walking with his hand outstretched. So I said, "There's no way out of this" and I shook his hand but I kept my face out.

I was as cross-looking as possible (laughs), just so it didn't look too matey! And he said, "I believe you've just had a little girl," and I went, "yes," and kind of nodded. And he cracked a few jokes and I wanted to laugh but I kept it together right up to the moment when he says, "Where are you off to?" and I said, "Australia." He said, "There's a fella out there I know, his name is Bob Hawke" -- he was Prime Minister there, and he's in the Guinness Book of Records for drinking the quickest yard of beer. And Charlie says, "If you bump into him, say hello." And I just nodded. And then he put his hand up to his mouth and leaned over and said, "Let me put it this way, he'd drink you under the fucking table." And I laughed. He's very funny and charming, Charlie. But there it was on the front page of the Irish Times the next day: Bono and Charlie -- mates.

So how far do you go? I'm not there to make judgements on people's political lives. I'm there representing various NGOs and a very large grassroots movement. And that's my primary concern -- to get their message across. Not how uncool or how inappropriate. But I know it annoyed people.

Hot Press, 2001.

If you twist and turn away
If you tear yourself in two again
If I could, yes I would
If I could, I would
Let it go

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Old 03-20-2002, 04:55 AM   #3
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Wow, that's a fantastic interview! Not too many rock stars could really talk at length (or at all) on some of the subjects Bono covers here.

The part that caught my interest most was when he was talking about friendship:

And friendship is, after a number of years, a defiant thing. Every day that's added to a relationship makes it stronger and more courageous. There's an essay by Jean Cocteau about friendship where he suggests that friendship is higher than love, although less passionate, and certainly less romantic, but it has in its very ordinariness a strength that more passionate relationships haven't. It's a very powerful thing.
I really like that. And I'd have to agree.
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Old 03-20-2002, 09:59 AM   #4
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I've been waiting to see this interview. Thankyou!!! It was a great read.
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Old 03-20-2002, 10:40 AM   #5
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I am one who is always by Bono's oppinions... However, something in the interview struck me as an error. bono said that bin laden is trying to reclaim Islam and shi'ite traditions.. I'm not totally sure of what he meant by this, however, i am a Shia Muslim, and I do know that bin laden is def. not trying to reclaim Shia traditions... The Taliban has actually gone on killing raides towards Shias....... In addition, the Shi'ite tradition believe in the 12 Imams, which Bin laden does not follow....... In addition, I don't think it was politically correct for Bono to use Shiite and Middle ages tradition in comparison towards eachother. Can someone clearify this statement for me, maybe i misunderstood it.

However, In general I really liked his views.
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Old 03-20-2002, 11:14 AM   #6
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Thank you for posting these! They were wonderful interviews.

LMAO @ Ali biting him during the movie!

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