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U2 Interviews

Interview by TIME
© TIME, 3/10/97

Electro music, which supplements or replaces the guitar-driven riffs of regular rock with synthesized sounds, isn't new--R. and B. dance remixers have drawn on it for years. However, the form is bustling with activity these days. Electro visionaries such as Tricky, Goldie and Carl Craig are pushing its boundaries; youthful trip-hop bands such as the Sneaker Pimps and Morcheeba and the promising avant-dance group the Prodigy are giving what has largely been instrumental music a voice, fresh faces and heart; and rock vets like Eric Clapton (with his new band T.D.F.) and David Bowie are tapping into it for inspiration. Now, this week, U2 releases its electro-tinged CD Pop, which features drum-and-bass-driven songs like Mofo and dance-rock numbers like Discotheque. Pop is passionate, futuristic and completely engaging. Lead singer Bono, on the phone from Dublin, talked about his band's bold new direction.

TIME: Your new album isn't going to please everyone--some people are going to say you guys are just strip-mining underground music forms.

Bono: What I'd say is, "Fuck right off. We were doing dance remixes when you were still in short pants,you little assholes." When this bogus term alternative rock was being thrown at every '70s retro rehash folk group, we were challenging people to new sonic ideas. If some little snotty anarchist with an Apple Mac and an attitude thinks he invented dance music and the big rock group is coming into his territory, [that's] ridiculous.

TIME: Will electronic music be big?

Bono: Well, as soon as people start writing that, it kind of stops it in a way, because then you expect too much. It's been a long time since there's been a dance movement, particularly in the U.S. To have hard-core dance on white radio would be crazy. It would be good.

TIME: Pop is a danceable album. Why do you think that alternative rockers
typically have been drawn to mosh pits but afraid of dance floors?

Bono: It's a wasp thing. It really is. It's Anglo-Saxon. It's Teutonic. Crashing into each other is just not as evolved as real dancing. I mean as angry as people in hip-hop can get, even in gangsta rap, they still have hips. [Rock] has fallen behind.

TIME: Is rock dead or just resting?

Bono: A lot of what's called rock these days does seem like folk music. It does seem absurd that there are punk rockers in the late '90s rebelling against their parents with their parents' music. I can't quite get my head around that. It's "Dad, you suck--can I borrow your Sex Pistols album?" White-bread rock has, for me, lost its sense of adventure and seems very tired in comparison to hip-hop.

TIME: As usual with U2, there's religious imagery on Pop. Are you a churchgoer?

Bono: I am a believer. But I find it hard to be around religion. I was brought up in a mixed family--Protestant, Catholic--and I've seen what religion has done around here, and I'm just nervous of it. But there's one church that if I was living close by I'd definitely be in the congregation. [It's] in San Francisco--Glide Memorial. Rev. Cecil Williams there looks after the homeless, gays, straights; he marched with Martin Luther King, he's funny as hell--pardon the pun--and you can get an HIV test during the service. Now that's my kind of church.

TIME: Will the Prodigy open for you on your tour? They've got quite a buzz.

Bono: They're literally still making their record--maybe at the end of the tour we'll get back to them and see. Underworld [a British electro band] I would like to [have] for some of the European dates--they're really taking this DJ-culture thing to another plane.

TIME: Your tour is a big one; tickets cost between $38 and $53. Isn't that steep?

Bono: If you're going to play big places and you don't want people to be in the back of a muddy field, like they were in the '70s, you then have to try and do something special to make these events in the full sense of the word, and you've got to spend to do that. We want to make, as they say in Ireland, a show of ourselves. We're working round the clock to put it on, and we have 200 people on the road, or whatever it is. It's madness. And I'm not sure we could do it again.