Across the line"); $metadescr = ("bla"); include("../../header.php"); opentable(); ?>

U2 Interviews

Across the line U2 interview
© BBC Northern Ireland

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

BONO: You've just 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 great thing but, for heaven's sake, don't own a fish farm if you are 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've got to keep yourself going. You've got to be selfish. Our efforts to reinvent ourselves as it is called is nothing other than our musical curiosity in action.

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 their third album so give them a chance. In the '80s it was a crime to be in a big band in England. You know, you were knee-capped for wanted 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.

How do you feel about the controversy about the Landsdown Road gigs? 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.

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 embarrassing. 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 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 is does matter to U2. I'm proud of our country and I think in the last ten years, Ireland has really gotten exciting - not just 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.

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

BONO: I am sure it was 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

Perhaps it's good that the controversy happened because you've actually stuck to your guns and, by taking the case to the Supreme Court, hopefully forced a change. Otherwise, what's 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, 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 that it was going to 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.

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!

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 b******s, is that you don't do anything you don't want to. That's probably what makes 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 are trying to do when we put our set list together is to 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' after 'Mofo'. But it worked! I think, they sit very well together.

After all it was exactly the same band. We had the same aspirations, the same ideas. In a way we were as out of kilter then with what was going on as we are now. We've always been the way we are. Megalomania set in a very early age with us! Even when we were playing small rooms in places like Manchester. For us it felt like the centre of the earth.

We don't have any guest musicians or anything. We've never had anyone else in our band. (Thinks) Well we did actually, once. We had Edges's brother, Dick, for a while when we were 15 or 16.

But it wasn't U2 then, was it Edge? We were called The Hype. Dick was a very fine guitar player ... maybe that's why we got rid of him! Speak up, The Edge (laughs).

EDGE: That was it (laughs).

Were you any good as The Hype?

BONO (pensively): We're still a bit erratic but we were very erratic then. The wedding band from hell, maybe. We could never play anyone else's tunes. That's why we started writing our own!

Do you feel a nostalgia for the past at all, either personally or professionally?

BONO: Did you say nostalgia? Very dangerous word, nostalgia, because I find it amazing that with three years to go to the next millennium, people are still so caught up in the '60s, so caught up in the past. If there's one thing U2 are not it's nostalgic.

The late William Boroughs said that you have to cut up the past to find the future. That's what hip -hop music and sampling is all about: you don't steal from it, you don't just take it wholesale. That would be nostalgia and that's dangerous.

We have this guy called Walt who designs our underwear. He designs everything we wear actually. He's a brilliant bloke; he's from Belgium ... but don't hold that against him. Anyway, he designs all the clobber we wear on stage. Adam wears his underwear. It says on the front: 'Kiss the future'. And on the back it says: 'F*** the past'. And that's our motto.

But in our personal lives, it's different. 'Cos we still hang out with the people we did at the start ... We hang out with new friends too, but Dublin is a retreat and we go back there and I think we probably are nostalgic in that sense.

ADAM: I sometimes get teary-eyed when I see a Ford Transit on the M1!

I understand that the PopMart tour marks the 20th anniversary of your association with your soundman, Joe O'Herlihy.

ADAM: I'm alarmed to hear that Joe's been working with us for 20 years. He's a very important part of the U2 team because if we having a good gig and Joe's not having a good gig then we all suffer. But I'm glad that he's out there. He's a part of the journey that we been on for the past 20 years. You wouldn't want to leave it to a new boy.

BONO: We've been in this band since we were about 15 or 16 and we met Joe in Cork and he a beard and he convinced us that therefore he was much older than us. I thought he was old enough to be my dad! But he was only a few years older and he's been with us all the way.

He's the soul of the band. Howie B's been out DJing and also as a producer on 'Pop' and he's been working with Joe and they've been riding the board a lot more and making the sound more dynamic.

I've seen the 'PopMart' tour twice and I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought your New York show was a blinder and then in Gothenburg, it was even better. Did the negative publicity that greeted the early shows affect you in any way?

BONO: We had a bit of bad press in the UK for the Las Vegas show. A load of people came over and they thought we hadn't got our act together and that we were a big band and so they gave us a clip around the ear. I have no problem with that.

It was reviewed very favourably everywhere else in the world. The New York Times gave it a great review. When you get close to home, the knives get sharper. But you have to roll with the punches.

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

BONO: The funny thing about that is that they rang me. That's actually the truth. But the way it came 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 want to. What happened was we didn't have as much time to get our shit together as we'd have liked.

We'd just taken possession of a whole pile of cosmic junk, including a 150ft drive-in movie screen and a 40ft 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 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.

Do you think the negative publicity was directed at you because you are now seen as an Establishment band?

BONO: That's the logic, right? But it's an old-fashioned logic. That thinking ruined British music for 10 years and it destroyed a lot of great bands; bands that we grew up alongside, really cool bands - Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths, The Clash ... who were all kicked so hard by the press that eventually they gave in.

We didn't give in. And we've been press darlings here and there. What goes around comes around. I'm amazed 'Pop' - the album - was reviewed so well. When I saw the reviews, I turned to the others and said 'well, they're gonna sharpen the knives for the tour, then'.

So I think that when we try to do something like 'PopMart' maybe we could do with a little bit of encouragement. They should say 'here's a great band who aren't crap, who haven't taken the money and ran, who are actually trying to kick rock 'n' roll into the next century'.

When journalists become nerdy and picky, you want to say 'F*** Off and grow up. If we're crap tell us we're crap'. But we are not crap. We not fish farmers. This is not a part time endeavour. Music is our life. And we f****** good at it.

But I don't wanna bash the media,'cos I do think that one of the reasons why UK music is so good is partly to do with the music press. In the '90s there should be a more upbeat positive attitude. If something is good, say it.

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't be interested in it anymore? 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 some 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 onto the next.

That's a good quote. Ash supported your Irish gigs. What do you think of 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 playing with us. But I'd like to point out they‘re not just there because they are Irish: they're there because they're a great pop group.

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

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

You're never tempted to take anything for nerves?

BONO: You don't need to take drugs if you're in this band, I'll tell you that! To be honest with you,today I woke up about 7 in the morning - which wasn't the plan cos I only got to bed about 5 - and I thought that's very bad news for tonight. And that's when the fear began.

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 40ft lemon and all!

But sometimes it feels like you're on the moon and it is a very trippy experience. If a gig is great you can be high for 24 hours after it. You should try this - it's great!

So how do you unwind after the show?

BONO: I ask myself that question every night: 'what am I going to do tonight to climb down?' Some nights you don't bother, you just surf on it. That's what we did last night. But tonight, I'm not going to. Tonight I'm going to go to bed, cover my head, go to sleep and not get up till Monday.

There's a bit everything thrown into the PopMart show. You're up running around the big stage one minute and the next you're on a small stage 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.

U2 Interviews overview