Exclusive: Bono on "Spiderman", Mitt Romney, U2, Ireland, the undocumented, and more
U2 rocker gives Irish Voice an exclusive interview for 25th anniversary special
Our sister publication The Irish Voice celebrates its 25th anniversary this month and senior editor Debbie McGoldrick interviewed Ireland’s most famous citizen for the occasion.
How to describe Bono? Let us count the many ways.
A rock star with his three best mates in U2, the world’s most successful and popular band. A writer of unforgettable lyrics. A showman who commands a stage as large as a football field, but still manages to closely connect with the tens of thousands of adoring fans in the audience.
A devoted husband and father. A globe-trotting, deeply committed humanitarian. A Broadway star.
An intensely proud Irishman who’s ready, willing and able to fly the flag for his country.
It’s easy to think that Bono (52) has already conquered the world, and yet in so many respects he seems to only be getting started.
“Never take anything for granted,” the U2 front man told the Irish Voice during a recent, wide-ranging interview in New York.
It’s the first time that Bono has been interviewed in the pages of the Irish Voice. He’s a fan of the paper – “of course!” he says – and was happy to chat about anything and everything to mark our 25th anniversary.
“I’m really honored to be a part of this important voice, the Irish Voice, in this city, and I’m really glad I’m in New York celebrating that and doing the interview with you,” Bono said.
He’s the real deal, Bono. Warm, personable and thoughtful with his words, he’s lived a big life that he never dared to imagine while growing up as Paul Hewson in fairly ordinary circumstances in Dublin, the second son of a Catholic father and Protestant mother.
Though he’s one of the world’s most recognizable stars, with a countless number of fans and millions in the bank, thanks to U2’s success and his other financial interests, Bono’s not one for a celebrity existence drenched in gross excess.
You won’t see him stumbling out of nightclubs in the middle of the night and fighting with waiting paparazzi. And no one would think to question his utter devotion to his wife of nearly 30 years, Ali, and their four children.
Bono has skillfully used his fame, and all the attention that comes with it, to his advantage – or, more precisely, to promote his deeply held passion, advocating on behalf of the millions of Africans who are poor, sick and starving, trapped in a rich world that doesn’t seem to notice.
You’re a photographer looking for a shot of Bono? No problem – you’ll catch him at any number of events hosted by the advocacy groups he’s involved with, such as Product RED and ONE.
You want to talk to Bono about debt reduction for the African continent, or the ongoing AIDS crisis there and how citizens of the world can make a real difference? He wouldn’t be hard to nab on his way to some prominent politician’s office somewhere in the world, where he’ll spend time painstakingly outlining the steps that governments must take to eliminate poverty and disease.
Bono is the first to admit that nothing would be possible without his band mates – guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen.
To many Bono is the “leader” of U2 – not surprising, given his high profile – but when it comes time to make music he’s just one of four guys who still strive to climb to the next level, and are still determined to be not just good, but great.
During our interview Bono talked about many different things. But it’s appropriate to start with what U2 fans across the planet love him for most – the music.
What does Bono think when he looks back at himself back in the eighties? U2 could do no wrong, making classic albums like War and The Joshua Tree, and churning out hit after hit like “With Or Without You,” “Pride (In the Name of Love),” “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
Still, Bono has a slight beef.
“Well, as I was explaining on The Late Late Show (Bono was a guest on the Irish chat show on June 1 to mark its 50th anniversary), I have an erase button on the mullet hairdo,” he laughs.
“Many lay claim to the mullet. I’m trying to think of the guy who invented it.”
Though Bono may cringe at his old hairdo, everything else about U2’s rise can be looked back upon with pride. They’ve come a long way from four guys messing around with guitars and cover songs after school to one of the most important and influential bands in the world.
“Megalomania started at a very early age,” Bono jokes.
“But really, we had no reason for confidence because we were a fairly shambolic garage band, but we had a certain sound even when we were out of tune.
“And I think that gave us the sort of courage to pour our lives into it. It’s been amazing. It’s been a hell of a ride.”
U2 came together as teens back in 1978 while attending Mount Temple Comprehensive school in Dublin. Bono’s wife Ali, the former Alison Stewart, was also a student at the time; they began dating the same month as U2 formed.
Bands come and bands go; they fight and break up, and often they never make up. But U2 is different.
The relationships between the four members can naturally be testy at times, especially when they’re creating new music, but at its core U2 is glued together by an abiding respect and admiration. Simply put, Bono loves these guys, and clearly the feeling is mutual.
How have they managed to stay together longer than many marriages?
“Well, I don’t know who said it, maybe it was Neil Young, but to really, really know someone you need to know their memory,” Bono said.
“It helps if you know their memory, that’s for sure, and if you know the things that bond them. These are very deep relationships because we don’t just know where each other has come from, but we’ve also seen each other take shape and form.”
They’ve had their moments, Bono admits, “but in general people return to their basic values, and we share a lot of basic values.”
U2 has an incredible catalog of work that was built to last. Generations from now won’t remember a flash in the pan like Miley Cyrus, but U2, like the Beatles and Rolling Stones now, has surely earned its historical place.
Bono, though, isn’t completely sure of that.
“Well, you never know,” he says. “You hope that might be true, that if you can be really relevant in the moment, in the time that you’re in, that perhaps it give you a type of quality. But I don’t know because you can’t tell.
“I mean, there have been surprises over the years. In the 1970s, the music that people thought would be timeless for the period, a lot of it sounds like rubbish now. And the kind of music that we thought would be shallow and uninteresting and a bit bland has turned out to be incredible.
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