Excerpts from HOT PRESS magazine interview with Bono

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Excerpts from HOT PRESS magazine interview with Bono (August 1997)

By Mike Edgar in Sweden


ME: It's fantastic that you're coming to play Belfast as well as Dublin. Do you feel a special affinity with the North?

Bono: It's funny 'cos as a band, we're a mixed-up bunch of kids. We come from all traditions. I think we represent the whole of Ireland, in that sense, North and South. I think when we play the North, it will be extraordinary and I hope that both communities will take us to their heart because we feel a part of both communities.

ME: You're interested in the Tibetan situation and you've done a lot of work for War Child and all the rest of it but when you look at Northern Ireland, do you despair at the situation to a degree where you can be interested any more? Or do you take an active interest in it?

Bono: Of course, we take an interest in it! But I would hate to be the boring rock n'roll pain in the arse who shoots his mouth off about subjects he doesn't know anything about. I understand that these situations are complex. People in the South don't fully understand the situation up North. I am conscious of that. So I won't shoot my mouth off about it! I'm just really excited about the ceasefire and I think there's people on both sides... ..from what little I know....who want to make a difference. I'm sure there's an old guard on both sides that are sticking their feet in but they're part of the last century -we're onto the next.

ME: That's a good quote. Ash are, of course, playing support for the U2 gigs in Ireland. Do you like them?

Bono: I'm a real fan of theirs. I don't know what they think of our group but I'm a fan of theirs. There's some really smart songwriting going on in that band. I'm proud that they're playing with us. But I'd like to point out that they're not just there because they're Irish; they're there because they're a great pop group.

ME: How do you feel about the controversy about the Landsdowne Road gigs in Dublin? It must have been a very frustrating experience?

Larry: Yeah. I think different people in the band had a different reaction to it. I found it kind of strange and funny at the same time. Obviously, we wanted to play but if it hadn't happened we would have found some alternative. But we're happy that it's now on ....

Bono: It's mad. Three posh individuals holding up 80,000 rock fans. People in Europe were laughing up their jumpers at us. And so whereas Larry may have found it funny, I found the episode a little embarassing. I thought the court case sent out a very odd message to the world. But, you know, fair enough. I'm really happy that it all worked out in the end. We were very excited when we heard the good news that we'd got the go-ahead. It was a very good day. We played for two-and-a-half hours in the rain in Leipzig, in the former East Germany. It was a brilliant gig, one of the best ones. The point is that it does matter to U2. I'm proud of our country and I think that in the last 10 years, Ireland has really gotten exciting - not just in Dublin, but throughout the island. I'm proud that when people think of Ireland, they think about music, literature, film-makers ... They don't think about banks, about boring things.

ME: It seems bizarre that just three people might be able to stop so many thousands of people from having fun.

Bono: I'm sure it will be a pain in the arse for those three sweethearts having to put up with us. But we have stadiums for sport. And music only occupies a few days in the year in these places. These stadiums have to serve the whole community. And to me music people are as important as sports people.

ME: Perhaps it's good that the controversy happened because you're actually stuck to your guns and, by taking the case to the Supreme Court in Ireland, hopefully forced a change. Otherwise, what is it going to be like if some other top band wants to visit Ireland and the kids are denied again?

Bono: I hope so. I really hope so. Because Irish audiences are amazing. Whoever you're talking to - Oasis, George Michael - they always mention that. And it would be terrible if they felt it was gonna be too much trouble getting planning permission. Why do you need planning permission to put on a gig? I want planning permission to mow your lawn, missus! But I'm delighted it went our way. It's great to play your home town.

ME: After a few years away from treading the boards of the world's stadiums, were you chomping at the bit to get back to it or did you feel nervous anticipation?

Adam: Nervous anticipation (laughs). But we felt both, really. It's great to be back on those stages - but it is a strange thing to be doing it!

ME: Do you ever get sick of playing the old hits? Bono: The great thing about being spoilt rotten and having success at an early age and all that bollocks, is that you don't do anything you don't want to do. That's probably what make us SUCH a pain in the arse but I can tell you this, we would not be playing `Pride (In the Name of Love)' if we didn't want to play it. What we're trying to do when we put our set list together is tell a story, if you like, and `Pride' is part of our story. I'm really proud of those songs. It was a real test to play `I Will Follow'.

ME: Throughout your career, you've constantly reinvented yourself, redefining the very concept U2 is.

Bono: You've got to keep yourself interested, right? Because what happened to all those rock dinosaurs of the 1970s was that they got loaded, they got their fancy cars and they started owning fish farms in Wales! This is a problem. Living in Wales is a gret thing but, for heaven's sake, don't own a fish farm if you're in a band! They started to chill out and get it together in the country and they started repeating themselves and eventually by giving the people what they thought they wanted, the people eventually decided they didn't want it anymore. That's always a problem. So you have got to keep yourself going. You've got to be selfish. Our effort to reinvent ourselves, as it is called, is nothing other than our musical curiosity in action.

ME: Some people think that Oasis should take a leaf out of your book and experiment a little more.

Bono: Noel Gallagher has just as much musical curiosity as us but you have to remember that Oasis are only on thier third album, so give 'em a chance! In the 80's, it was a crime to be in a big band in England. You know, you were knee-capped for wanting to be in a big band. Thank God, in the 90s,people are more optimistic. All that old cynicism is gone and they want Oasis to succeed. But sometimes I think people expect too much of Oasis. Let them go at their own pace.

ME: A lot was made of the episode where you rang NME to defend the PopMart tour against the paper's criticisms.

Bono: The funny thing about that is they rang me. That's actually the truth. But the way it comes out is that I rang them. I was actually happy to answer some of the criticisms because the truth of the matter is that in Los Angeles, when we started out on this tour, we were a bit ropey. What can I tell you? It's our band, we can be crap if we ant to. What happened was we didn't have as much time to get our shit togetther as we'd have liked. We'd just taken possession of a whole pile of cosmic junk, including a 150 foot drive-in movie screen and a 40 foot lemon and all that kind of thing. It was all a bit much really. But I didn't care because it's not a Broadway show and I just thought `It's OK, we've always been a bit crap at the start of our tours'. That's part of the fun of it. We're not overly slick. Some journalists came over and got into the spirit of it and could see the potential of PopMart. But some people thought `They're a big band. They're charging in. They should be better than this'. And they gave us a bit of a kicking. So I defended myself with a speech from the dock.

ME: Are you nervous before going on stage to thousands of people?

The Edge: We get worried. And then blind panic sets in and stays with you until you actually set foot on the stage and then you just get completely intoxicated by the reception of your audience and your fine.

ME: You're never tempted to take anything for nerves?

Bono: You don't need to do drugs if you're in this band, I'll tell you that! To be honest with you, I woke up about seven in the morning - which wasn't the plan 'cos I only got to bed about five - and I thought that's very bad news for tonight. And that's when the fear began. I spent the whole day trying to get back to sleep. I watched some Swedish documentary about mental hospitals - they've some strange telly over here! I was actually terrified. Sometimes I feel so sick, I want to vomit ... it gets that bad. But then sometimes you walk out and it feels like you're at home in your living room. A funky living room, mind you: a 40 foot lemon and all!

ME: There's a bit of everything thrown into the PopMart show. You're up running around the big stage one minute and the next, you're ona small stage together doing an acoustic vibe, then you're back all huddled together like a wedding band. It's a cocktail, isn't it?

Bono: It's a heady cocktail! We're still the wedding band from hell; we're the Kelly Family from outer space! Over the last 15 years, we've done some good things and we've done some bad things. But this show is all about the good things.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on August 1, 1997 9:49 PM.

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