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U2 Interviews

Dazed and Confused (part II: Bono)
May 1997

Dazed & Confused: Do you think you're quite a physical person?

Bono: I just feel that way. It's like that when we are playing. I do feel that I don't want to be on stage sometimes, and that's why I used to end up off it most of the time. A director once said to me the thing that marks some performers and actors from others is you can sense that they could get down off that screen and be on your lap, in your face and in your car. Or have you by the hair, and I felt that was the thing about me.

D&C: But fame usually has the reverse effect. It makes people avoid contact: It could be that the more you give, the more people take. The less you give, the more they want?

Bono: I think in a way that's inverse vanity. I think that if you see yourself as that valuable, then maybe you want to find some security for that. I've never felt that way.

D&C: Do you have a number of different personalities that you slip into?

Bono: I'm very aware of having no control over who I wake up as. I wish I did. I do seem to wake up in a very different state of mind each day, and it does feel like a roll of the dice.

D&C: How did you wake up today? [pause]

Bono: Good. I woke up feeling good today. It's spring, and the sunshine lifts you up. I got a chance to read a book, I got a chance to get out for a walk, and I was OK. Earlier, the last few months, I've been waking up too early. It didn't matter when I went to bed at four or five, I'd wake up at seven thirty.

D&C: Do you dream in the early morning?

Bono: I had a dream about being in a hangar above the Liffey. I was up in the rafters, and the Liffey was drained, so there was no water to break the fall, and I'm afraid of heights, I've been afraid of heights for a long time, and as a kid I was always walking railway bridges to try and get over it. It's vertigo.

D&C: Did you end up falling, or did you wake up before you fell?

Bono: No, I woke up.

D&C: So, you've never died in a dream?

Bono: No, I've come really close but I'm not afraid of death; in fact in those dreams, that's the thing that seems to still me.

D&C: Do you like the idea of getting older, then?

Bono: I do like it. I think when I'm 60, I'll finally be cool: my old man's very cool.

D&C: There's a lot to be said for getting older

Bono: Yes. I like the people who survive. Some people look up to dead people: I don't, I look up to the ones who are still alive. And I'd hate to, as Chrissie Hynde says, die stupid.

D&C: You live out a fantasy lifestyle that a lot of people aspire to. What personal ambitions do you still fantasise [sic] about?

Bono: Simplicity. This is the thing I've got in my mind at the moment. I guess I used to think that I could do anything, and I wanted to do everything, write a book, make a film, be in a band, have a family, brush my teeth three times a day, whatever, but I don't want to do a lot of things any more., I actually want to make a genius record. I want to write great songs and sing them well. You know, I've never really thought about my singing. I never thought about it, it's the thing we did when we finally finished the song. Usually the song takes up most of the time, getting the melodies and the structure, and then the words are the last thing, they're written quite quickly and then as soon as they're finished I have to sing the thing.

D&C: How does it work, being in U2 and having a family?
[Bono has two daughters Eve, three, and Jordan, five, and has been married to Ali for 14 years]

Bono: I have the family I always wanted; it gives me the freedom to do all the other things I always wanted. I've always been a bit of traveller and slept on other people's floors, and I think, in truth, if I hadn't found the family I have I would be much more selfish. I'm one of these people that needs a reason to come home, and I have one. I'm just very curious about what's round the corner, what's down the street, the wanderlust is there in me. That's in me in everything, it's musical curiosity, it's everything, it's intellectual curiosity, it's flirtation everything.

D&C: Are you quite flirtatious with women?

Bono: I think I'm quite respectful to women, I always have great respect for women. I've never been a 'lad', in that sense.

D&C: Do you ever laugh at yourself?

Bono: Enough people do that for me. There's plenty of material.

D&C: When was the last time you felt embarrassed?
Bono: I'm embarrassed about my guitar playing, I really want to be able to play the guitar.

"Fucking hell, what's that?" A sound like machine-gun fire ricochets through the cool evening air. A barrage of explosions takes us by surprise, halting the interview. A pair of searchlights oscillates high above the river Liffey, and a police siren wails in the distance. "Have you said your prayers?" Bono asks, half jokingly. "It's OK, you're safe with me. I'm just about to set up the Republic of Bono. My troops have moved into O'Connell Street."

More explosions follow: a sound like the Devil's drum'n'bass rumbles through Dublin's narrow streets. It must be fireworks, but why are there no burning multicoloured patterns lighting up the sky?

"Let's investigate," says Bono in a comic accent, part Sherlock Holmes, part Hong Kong Fooey. Faster than the human eye, he's out of the comfortable room at the top of Factory rehearsal studios and into the main rehearsal area. A handful of U2's technicians are calmly winding down after an overamplified afternoon's rehearsal. They inform their boss that the sound of the revolution is indeed being made by fireworks; there's a party at The Point to celebrate the launch of a mobile phone network. It's a surreal interlude to our laid back interview. Bono and I continue the conversation from where we left off, the sound of rebel fireworks going strong.

D&C: I've found the media impression of you very different from how you are.

Bono: It's true, stereotypes are like those tabloid press stories. Once they are out you can't get them back: that's it. What I'm amazed with is how powerful the media can be. I could be as sick as a dog and have the shakes with red eyes and a monthful of problems, and be talking to somebody and they write this story of me as this monster. It's amazing that they believe more what they read than what they actually see.

D&C: Is there a part of you that's a party animal?

Bono: Yeah.

D&C: The wanderlust in you?

Bono: There are periods when I don't want to go to bed, and then I go through periods when I don't want to go out at all. It's great when that happens with either one of them. I think the thing is to own up to the fact that you are a lot of things and try and resolve that. They are not enemies are they, these different sides to yourself, there are just those great times.

D&C: You have the ability to exorcise them because you have the luxury of your position.

Bono: That's it! Exactly that, and I feel it's almost like it would be a waste to be given this chance.

D&C: I wanted to ask you about drugs: It's not something that I've read you talk about.

Bono: Just say Noel. [laughing]

D&C: If you want the good gear just say Noel. [laughter] Did you ever go through a period

Bono: It's not my thing. I'm not really into it, but I feel for people who are. I tried to bring up the debate and talk about the facts and it got distorted on me and I was tabloided into 'I think drugs are great' and I don't, actually. I think drugs are lazy, but I don't knock that. Drink is lazy, cigarettes are lazy. That's the thing. The thing about drugs and me is that, as a person, the
sort of drugs I need are probably the sort of drugs to turn me down, not up

D&C: They're available

Bono: [laughing] Thanks. I'll get a prescription The colours are very bright for me, the sounds are very loud, and I'm just quite sharp, so it's not my thing, but I do think somebody's going to have to take it on, because I totally respect some people who are into experimenting with drugs and I think there's a real hypocrisy on the subject. That said, there's nothing more decadent than some pop star talking about how much drugs he does and how he gets his blood changed. I remember when I was growing up in Dublin on the north side here and people looked up to people who took drugs and a lot of those people couldn't afford to get their blood changed, and ended up very dead, and some of these were people I knew. It's not so easy as 'yes' or 'no'. That's my last word on the subject.

D&C: If I didn't know you were Bono what could you tell me that only the real Bono would know?

Bono: It's the nose; no one has a nose like this. I'm sure if someone came along and told you they were the real Bono, they would be much taller, much smarter and much more cool.

D&C: Do you have to sell a part of your soul in order to be as successful as you are in making music?

Bono: I can answer you that honestly and I can say no. I don't doubt that people have, because if you have no morality, in some ways you become more powerful, and I think that must be true. It makes it harder for you if you don't want to. But we've never had to, and we've had this incredible will for that not to happen, but I guess in some small way I think you must be less somewhere if you're more somewhere else.

D&C: There must be personal sacrifices that you have to make in order to attain success.

Bono: I suppose there must be, but I don't see it, but that would certainly make sense. We were lucky: there was always a sense of independence about U2, and Island records were helpful in that our manager was a great bodyguard. When I use the word 'morality', it's a very po-faced to word to even bring into the conversation, but I guess that's what you meant, that you might sell out your ideals?

D&C: Yes.

Bono: Well no, in that sense, definitely not. We said it to the lingerie department of K-Mart. We are still the same band we always were: we just learnt not to look like we has such high ideals.

D&C: Who's the most ironic out of the four of you?

Bono: Edge

D&C: Who gets wound up most easily?

Bono: I'm the most likely to say what I'm thinking and lose it. But Larry is thewhat can I say about Larry..he started the group and polices it in an interesting way and Adam is the conscience in an odd way.

ONE CURVE TOO FAR THERE'S NO ONE IN MY CAR JUST ME AND THE FRIESIAN COW

Bono calls me late one night from his car. He's manoeuvring a roundabout, talking into a mobile phone, fiddling with the tape recorder. He's trying to play me a remix of U2's cover of The Beatles' "Happiness Is A Warm Gun", which they recorded for the next Robert Altman film. He pulls over as a police car approaches

Bono: Hang on. I think it's going in the wrong direction...how do I get it to turn over?...Aah, I wish I could tell you, it'll be worth it in the end...ah, for fucks sake, it's reversing again! Have you ever played the tape hopping game where it's like guess which direction it's going? That's where I'm at.

D&C: You shouldn't have such a flash system in your car.

Bono: That's the truth. I'm a lo-fi guy! SO, ANYWAY! How are the kids?

D&C: I haven't got any

Bono: I'm joking. Planted any trees recently?

D&C: I don't get invited to do shit like that.

Bono: Handed back your OBE? [pause] Just talk amongst yourselves! [both laugh] I'll tell you what might be good. We've got this version of 'Pop Muzic' you know the M track? It's at the start of this tape.

D&C: Is that gonna be for the gig?

Bono: Yeah.

D&C: How come you've not put your back catalogue into Muzak?

Bono: I'd love to, I really would.

D&C: Some of your songs would make great easy listening.

Bono: A cocktail version of 'With or Without You' would be high on my list. I'd love to get into the lift business. OK, we have lift off. Now, this is a little bit of pop music. Oh! I know what I can do, if I put the phone back into its holder, that might work

[music plays]

Bono: [singing over the music] Pop music! London, New York, Paris, Munich. Everybody's talking about Pop Music! Everybody's talking about Pop music! As Frank Sinatra would say, that will shake up the citizens!

D&C: Do you remember when Lennon died? Do you remember where you were?

Bono: Yeah, we were in Buffalo just outside of New York and then I think we were playing in Toronto the next night and it was pretty bleak. I remember they made a big fuss, and rightly so, about John Lennon's death. But I also remember being in Los Angeles when Miles Davis died and, you know, they didn't make such a fuss and that pissed me off. From a black music point of view he was like John Lennon. It's funny how it goes. And it was a very shit restaurant. They were playing jazz and they weren't playing Miles Davis and I thought, 'What are you doing?', I said, 'Do you have a Miles Davis tape?'. This waiter, he was French, he said: 'I have a Miles Davis tape but it is at home,' and I said, 'You know he died today?', and I actually gave him the taxi fare to go home and get it

D&C: I wanted to ask you about the Million Dollar Hotel script. Is Wim Wenders directing it?

Bono: Yeah, yeah. I mean we're set to do it this year. It's like you get the financing looking good and then you get little problems that derail the thing. I guess that it's a lot of money for people to put up and Wim always wants final cutsand that's what he deserves. The Million Dollar Hotel's metamorphosed into the Billion Dollar Hotel that's what it's called now.

D&C: That's hilarious. I read somewhere that Abel Ferrara was talking to you about acting.

Bono: I love Abel Ferrara. I think he's like this terrorist in Hollywood. He wanted Miami for his new film.

D&C: The Blackout film?

Bono: Yeah.

D&C: Is there a part of you that wants to be an actor?

Bono: I don't really want to be an actor, but I want to get out of the first person. All our songs are in the first person. It's a holiday being somebody else.

D&C: A chance to work out somebody else's neuroses for a change.

Bono: Yeah, instead of your own maybe if somebody came along that I could really get into, that might be something to do. But at the moment I'm really into what we're doing in U2. But it is nice to have people around who might give you that opportunity.

D&C: I'm surprised you haven't done something already.

Bono: There's been lots of offers, but nothing I felt I could do where I wouldn't be just a token. It's a bit of a clich mind you we've done all the other ones.

D&C: How is your allergy?

Bono: Forget the allergy it's not drinking the wine that's the hard thing. I mean isn't that classic, you know wine and it's cure, aspirin, are both banned. I've got gin and vodka and, you know, it's not like I'm a complete lushI can sort it out.

D&C: No one's pointing any fingers, Bono! [laughter]

Bono: [laughing] Just in case! You know what they say a paranoid is a person in full possession of the facts.

Dazed and Confused part III

U2 Interviews overview


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