Exclusive: Bono on "Spiderman", Mitt Romney, U2, Ireland, the undocumented, and more
U2 rocker gives Irish Voice an exclusive interview for 25th anniversary special
“Look at Abba. That’s like folk music now. I love Abba. And I like disco music. I like all that stuff. Some of my friends look at me like I’m from outer space when I try to explain to them the genius of the Bee Gees.”
When asked about the current state of pop music, Bono feels there’s a place for everyone.
“I think that the world needs all music, and if you’ve got a great song on the radio your day is just better for it,” he says. “We need pop music. It’s a big thing in the world.
“Rock radio plays us, and every so often we’re on pop radio. We love to be on pop radio. Because, you know, when you’re walking down the street or getting out of a taxi and you hear songs coming out of a boutique or whatever, you can just feel the pulse of a city.
“I remember when Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’ was everywhere in New York, coming out of every possible place. It was the pulse of Manhattan. There are moments when that happens, and those are great moments.”
U2 is hardly through with making more of their own moments. Bono talks excitedly about recent studio work and a fruitful collaboration with Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse, half of the former duo Gnarls Barkley with Cee-Lo Green.
“You know, there might be life in the old dog yet!” Bono says.
“We’ve hit a vein. We’re working with this special soul, Brian Burton. He listens in a very different way.”The sound, Bono says, is hardly old school U2.
“There are things that have always been in our music but maybe not being accentuated. It’s really very, very different. It’s shocking how different it is.”Edge, Bono says, is on fire. “He’s unbelievable when he works. I feel very sorry for his family,” Bono laughs. Larry and Adam are also pumped.
“There’s a bass line coming up that you literally cannot believe. It’s just unbelievable. So yeah, it’s exciting.”But Bono isn’t putting a timeline on when the music will be finished, or even if it will see the light of day. If the band isn’t completely thrilled with the end result it will go nowhere.
“We can still spoil it, and you know, I could be wrong,” Bono says. “And if so then people will not hear from us because there would be no reason for us to be around.
“There’s no sense of entitlement with these men. They are absolutely, you know, as honest right now as they were when making our first album, Boy.
“They don’t expect there to be an audience for us every time we go and put an album out. We have to dig down very deep.”
THERE’S the music, and then there’s Bono the activist and humanitarian. His advocacy work is hardly a hobby or a break from the day job. Highlighting the dreadfulness of life in Africa for so many is very much his life’s passion. His African awakening has unfolded in many parts. There’s Bono the hands-on activist, visiting camps and orphanages and schools to see first hand what’s unfolding on the ground.
Then there’s Bono the political lobbyist, meeting leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations and urging them to do the right thing, to look at the African nightmare – poverty, AIDS, war -- not as something happening on another remote continent, but as a human atrocity that should never be allowed to occur in a world as wealthy as the one we live in. U2 has given Bono a platform to inform and educate millions of people who would otherwise never comprehend the ongoing African tragedy.
“I’m sure it’s insufferable to have me on my soapbox so I try not to take it out unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Bono said.
“It can be a bit of a bull’s wreck for a rock and roll singer. A rock and roll singer is about taking people to the other side, it’s about getting them to the next level, it’s about transporting them. It’s about all that stuff. “
And so, U2 has been at times weighted down by a lot of moral baggage – and those are my words – and I feel the band has been very patient with me about it. But the truth of it is that they share those same convictions.“You know, the first rule of a rock and roll band is not to be dull. And I think U2 is interesting. It’s certainly the most interesting band on the planet because there are so many dimensions to it.
“It’s interested in politics, matched by an interest in theology, and matched by an interest in commerce, matched by an interest in the things that change the world.
“It’s about the zeitgeist. And I hope that makes it fun for our fans. Some people look at me like, ‘What, you’re a singer in a band and you’re interested in technology? What’s that about?’“Or, ‘You’re a singer in a band and you have the time to lobby lawmakers in capital cities? What’s that about?“But that’s who I am. And that’s kind of who we are as a band.”
Bono’s activism – and that of many others, he’s quick to point out – is making a difference. But there’s a long way to go.“I look back . . . it’s years since the debt cancellation movement, Jubilee 2000. There are over 46 million children going to school who otherwise wouldn’t be,” he says.
“It’s been us, and working with others in a movement that we were a part of that brought that home. We were very educated by that experience and uplifted by it. Fighting for access to antiretroviral pills for people with AIDS who couldn’t afford it. That’s amazing. “And it’s all, by the way, part of who we are as a band. And I hope it adds to the music, and not takes away from it.
“We’re still a rock and roll band. We still want to make a lot of noise. We’re still a bunch of messers. There’s a lot of mischief in the band.”PRESIDENT Obama has impressed Bono. They’ve met on several occasions – U2 played at the ceremonies leading up to Obama’s inauguration in 2008 – but Bono doesn’t endorse political candidates per se. If they’ve got solid track records when it comes to African debt relief, and if they’re committed to spending money for things like AIDS prevention and poverty elimination, then Bono is on board no matter the political affiliation.
He worked well with President George W. Bush and counts a number of U.S. Democratic and Republican politicians as allies.President Obama has made a commitment to lift Africans out of poverty, Bono said. “And it’s interesting that his approach is in partnerships.
Lots of countries in Africa have ideas on how to get their agriculture more efficient, how to help farmers, so he has a very interesting angle on that.
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