Monday, November 13, 2017

U2 win Global Icon Award at 2017 EMAs

U2, who have now been a formidable force in global music for over 40 years, were deserving winners of the night's award.

Bono and co. received a gushing introduction from actor and 30 Seconds To Mars frontman Jared Leto.

Leto described U2 as the inspiration behind his own band 30 Seconds To Mars, and thanked U2 for their music and "poetry" over the years.

Leto made particular mention of The Joshua Tree, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, as a source of inspiration for him.

U2 had previously performed live from Trafalgar Square in a specially arranged gig that was streamed direct to the main EMA Awards taking place in Wembley.


U2 picked up two awards Friday night at the Los40 Music Awards in Madrid. First was the Golden Music Award 2017, a sort of career achievement-type award that was announced earlier this year. The band later picked up a second award, as The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 won for Tour of the Year.
Bono and Adam both gave brief speeches while accepting each award. Bono spoke a bit in Spanish and gave special thanks to U2's Spanish audience. Adam praised U2's crew for the work they do while the band is on tour. They sat at a table with their manager, Guy Oseary, and longtime friend, actor Penelope Cruz.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Do you believe in Larry Mullen Jr?

"...On drums, the thunder and lighting of the band, Larry Mullen Jnr - and when he smiles the sun comes out..." Bono on Larry


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Bono on How U2's 'Songs of Experience' Evolved, Taking on Donald Trump

I've always believed in working across the aisle ... but there's a bully on the bully pulpit and silence is not an option," says the U2 frontman

You started this album three years ago when the world was a very different place. How did the chaos of Brexit, Trump and everything else shape the eventual course of the album? Would it have been a very different album had those things not happened?

On the latter part of the question, it's hard to quantify but I would say the emotional temperature is up about 25 percent.

You've spent the past few months playing The Joshua Tree on tour as you put the finishing touches on the album. Has the tour impacted how you thought about Songs of Experience? How?

In truth, there's a couple of reasons why we delayed Songs of Experience. One personal, one political. The world around us was certainly changing out of all recognition, we nearly lost the European Union, something that has helped keep the peace in our region for nearly 70 years. Globalization replaced with localization is somewhat understandable, but the return of hard right views is not to be tolerated. If Marie La Pen had been elected president of France, the whole idea of a European Union would have been vulnerable.
You've had the same sort of disaffection in the United States with the rise of a new kind of constituency, people on the both left and right who have lost faith in political process, the body politic, in political institutions. These sentiments are easily played and manipulated by the likes of Donald Trump. In a world where people feel bullied by their circumstance, sometimes people fall prey to a bully of their own. Lots of people around me, both conservative and liberal, feel that this is one of those defining moments in their life and in the storied life of their country. After the election, some people on the left were almost grieving I'd say and when I try to understand this, I realized there was a kind of mourning, a mourning for innocence that was lost.
For the first time in many years, maybe in our lifetime, the moral arc of the universe, as Dr. King used to call it, was not bending in the direction of fairness, equality and justice for all. The baseness of political debate, the jingoism, the atavistic fervor of Trump's verbiage reminded us that we were dreaming if we thought evolution applied to consciousness. Democracy is a blip in history and it requires a lot of focus and concentration to keep it intact.
"The Blackout," which started off its life about a more personal apocalypse, some events in my life that more than reminded me of my mortality but then segued into the political dystopia that we're heading towards now. "Dinosaur, wonders why it still walks the earth. A meteor promises it's not going to hurt" would have been a funny line about an aging rock star. It's a little less funny if we're talking about democracy and old certainties – like truth. The second verse "Statues fall, democracy is flat on its back, Jack. We had it all and what we had is not coming back, Zac. A big mouth says the people they don't want to be free for free. The blackout, is this an extinction event we see?" goes straight to the bigger picture of what's at stake in the world right now.
There's a song called "Get Out of Your Own Way" where I've tried to use some biting irony to reflect the anger out on the streets "Fight back, don't take it lying down you've got to bite back. The face of liberty is starting to crack, she had a plan until she got a smack in the mouth and it all went south like freedom. The slaves are looking for someone to lead 'em, the master's looking for someone to need him. The promised land is there for those who need it most and Lincoln's ghost says get out of your own way."

Many of your albums were made with either a single producer or the team of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. Why have you moved towards working with so many different producers on single albums?

Since The Joshua Tree, I don't think we've done an album with less than four producers. Though Flood is not credited as a producer on The Joshua Tree, his input was extraordinary. Achtung Baby, he was credited as a producer along with Eno, Lanois and [Steve] Lillywhite. Four producers seems to be the way for us, one for each member of the band. By the way, that's a joke. I think actually there's five on this one.

When we spoke a few months ago, you were critical of the production on 'Songs of Innocence,' saying it lacked "coherence," "should have been more raw" and that some of the songs worked better live. What did you do this time to make sure that didn't happen again?

Thomas Friedman in his book Thank You For Being Late speaks of how machines when they're put on pause cease productivity, but humans when they're put on pause begin a different kind of productivity. The pause on our album gave us a chance to play our songs live in the studio, strip them down to their bare essentials without any studio trickery to see what we really had. That was a great gift to the album even though in some cases we didn't want to run with the live feel, we learnt so much about the songs and that helped with cohesiveness.

On The Tonight Show you added lyrics to "Bullet the Blue Sky" that were unambiguously about Trump. Is that a sign you're going to become (even more) vocal about the dangers he poses to the world?

It is a little bit of a departure as I've always believed in working across the aisle as an anti-poverty activist but this isn't a matter of right or left. There's a bully on the bully pulpit and silence is not an option.

You've talked about how you want U2 to create joy in these insane times. Can you elaborate on that?

Unlike happiness, joy is one of the hardest human emotions to contrive for an artist but it is the mark of my favorite artists whether that be the Beatles, Prince, Beethoven, Oasis. It is life force itself. And I think something to do with the spilling over of gratitude for just being alive. Indeed as I think of it, Beethoven has his "Ode to Joy." The Supremes singing "Stop in the Name of Love" to me is one of the great anti-war songs. Although think it's about a lover's betrayal, the highness of the melody, the simplicity of the statement could be Ramones, could be Coldplay but I don't think there's anything more defiant than joy in difficult times. And the essence of romance is defiance. This is where rock & roll came in, this is what makes us useful. We must resist surrendering to melancholy for only the most special moments. That's a long way to say check our new single out, "You're the Best Thing About Me," it's kind of like punk Supremes.

What are the common themes that tie the songs on Songs of Experience together?

I try not to talk about William Blake too much because it sounds pretentious quoting such a literary giant but it was his great idea I pinched to compare the person we become through experience to the person who set out on the journey. If you're talking about innocence, you've probably already lost it but I do believe at the far end of experience, it's possible to recover it with wisdom. I'm not saying I have much of that but what little I have, I wanted to cram into these songs. I know U2 go into every album like it's their last one but even more this time I wanted the people around me that I loved to know exactly how I felt. So a lot of the songs are kind of letters, letters to Ali, letters to my sons and daughters, actually our sons and daughters.

There's a song called "The Showman" which is a letter to our audience, it's kind of about performers and how you shouldn't trust them too much. It's about me, haha. There's a funny line, well, I think it's funny anyway, "I lie for a living, I love to let on but you make it true when you sing along.?

It's like a Fifties Beatles-in-Hamburg type tune. There's a letter to America called "American Soul," Kendrick Lamar used a bit of this for "XXX" on his new album. And one that I didn't realize until too late that I was writing to myself, "It's the Little Things Give You Away." In all of these advice type songs, you are of course preaching what you need to hear. In that sense, they're all written to the singer. One other piece on Blake, I don't know if I'm explaining too much here but the best songs for me are often arguments with yourself or arguments with some other version of yourself. Even singing our song "One," which was half fiction, I've had this ongoing fight. In "Little Things," innocence challenges experience: "I saw you on the stairs, you didn't notice I was there, that's cause you were busy talking at me, not to me. You were high above the storm, a hurricane being born but this freedom just might cost you your liberty."

At the end of the song, experience breaks down and admits his deepest fears, having been called out on it by his younger, braver, bolder self. That same conversation also opens the album with a song called" Love Is All We Have Left." My favorite opening line to a U2 album: "There's nothing to stop this being the best day ever." In the second verse, innocence admonishes experience: "Now you're at the other end of the telescope, seven billion stars in her eyes, so many stars so many ways of seeing, hey, this is no time not to be alive." It's a chilling moment – in the chorus I was pretending to be Frank Sinatra singing on the moon, a sci-fi torch song "love, love is all we have left, a baby cries on the doorstep, love is all we have left."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bono at Forbes


To celebrate Forbes’ centennial,  the mag amassed an A-to-Z encyclopedia of ideas from 100 entrepreneurs, visionaries and prophets of capitalism—the greatest ever collection of business essayists and greatest ever portrait portfolio in business history, among them : Bono.



Purpose-Driven Rock Star: Lead Singer, U2; Cofounder, One, (Red), Elevation Partners, Rise Fund

"Capitalism is not immoral, but it is amoral. And it requires our instruction. It's a wild beast that needs to be tamed, a better servant than master."

That's my philosophy with (RED), which partners with corporations to direct profits to fighting HIV/AIDS. The idea really came about after meeting with former Treasury secretary Bob Rubin, where he said, "You have to tell Americans the scale of the problem and what they can do about it. And you have to go about that like Nike does: They spend $50 million on ad campaigns." And I said, "Well, where are we going to get that kind of money?" And he said, "You're clever. You'll figure it out."

And we did. I realized that going to big companies and trying to break into their more modest philanthropy funds was a huge missed opportunity. It was their robust marketing and publicity budgets that we needed. Think of the creative minds in those departments -- the messaging is the most important thing in keeping an issue "hot," making it relevant. Fighting HIV is very difficult. Activists often demonize the corporate world. It's easy to do, but I think it's just foolishness to not recognize the creativity that you can unlock in the corporate world, together with the entertainment world. (RED) has so far generated nearly $500 million for the fight against AIDS, but the heat (RED) companies have created has also helped pressure governments to do their part -- and that's where the big money is, with donor governments spending $87.5 billion on HIV/AIDS since 2002. That's the reason we all do this!

Some of the most selfish people I've met are artists -- I'm one of them -- and some of the most selfless people I've ever met are in business, people like Warren Buffett. So, I've never had that clichéd view of commerce and culture being different. I always remember Björk saying to me that her songs, she feels, are like carpentry. Like her friends in Iceland, one of them designs a chair. Is that more beautiful or useful than a song? Well, it depends on the chair. Or the song. I've always seen what I do as an activist, as an artist, as an investor, as coming from the same place.

Great melodies have a lot in common with great ideas. They're instantly memorable. There's a certain inevitability. There's a sort of beautiful arc. Whether it's a song or business or a solution to a problem facing the world's poor, I see what I do as the same thing. I look for the topline melody, a clear thought. Now, my friends -- and sometimes my bandmates and sometimes my family -- would see this as multiple personality disorder. But for me, it's all the same thing.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Edge on U2's 'Songs of Experience,' Bono's 'Brush With Mortality'

U2 guitarist the Edge explains how a major scare in Bono's life caused big changes to the band's new LP 'Songs of Experience.' Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

By Andy Green
The past three years have tested U2 in different ways, from the fierce backlash they received for gifting 2014's Songs of Innocence to every iTunes user to Bono's devastating bicycle accident, which left him with several fractured bones and a shattered left arm. But those setbacks didn't compare to another crisis Bono faced last year. "He had a brush with mortality," says the Edge, choosing his words carefully (the band won't go into detail on the matter). "He definitely had a serious moment, which caused him to reflect on a lot of things."

The episode caused the band to rethink Songs of Experience, a companion to Songs of Innocence that they had already been working on for more than two years. The resulting LP features less of the slick production that defined Innocence, in favor of a more classic formula: propulsive guitar rockers and ballads that look inward. "I wanted the people around me that I loved to know exactly how I felt," says Bono. "So a lot of the songs are kind of letters – letters to [my wife] Ali, letters to my sons and daughters."

The day after U2 played a show at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Edge called up Rolling Stone to talk about the long road to Songs of Experience and look ahead to next year's arena tour in support of the album. (We also conducted an extensive email interview with Bono that will be going up shortly.)

I see you guys debuted "You're the Best Thing About Me" last night. How did that go?
I wouldn't say it was the best we'll ever play it, but it was good. We hadn't played there recently and the crowd was really into it. I think it was one of the better shows.

You started Songs of Experience in 2014, and some of the shows go back even before that. The world has changed so much since then. How did those external factors change the focus and scope of the album?Mostly what we wanted to do was sit back and see how we felt about it coming out into a world that had taken a big lurch in a different direction. We weren't assuming we'd have to start again and, in fact, we didn't need to. The changes that occurred were predominantly lyrical, and in some cases they were quite subtle. A couple of songs subtly shifted to just sort of emphasize one aspect or better express what we were feeling and the ideas we wanted to put into it. But from a musical point of view, what happened with this delay, which was kind of amazing and great, is that we had all of the songs figured out and most of them recorded to the extent that they were releasable towards September of last year. But a year ago we were kind of feeling that we wanted to explore other production approaches and other ways the songs could be arranged and performed. We felt the band chemistry wasn't as represented as we thought it maybe ought to be.
So in the fall of last year we went back into a room as a band, initially without Bono and then he joined us for a couple of days at the end of the period, and we just played the songs. We played them with half an eye and ear to how they might be performed in a live concert setting. Part of the reason for doing that is that we always went through this kind of routine where we'd record own album, put it out and and then we'd start rearranging the songs live. Then our producers would show up halfway through the tour and they'd be like, "Oh, shit, man, that tune is sounding so cool now. I really wish we'd had that arrangement on the album." Steve Lillywhite used to say, "You guys should finish the album, go on tour with it, learn it, understand the songs fully, and then go back in the studio and re-record it in a week."
We didn't quite do that. We didn't get to perform in front of an audience, but by going back to the rehearsal space and then actually going back to the studio to re-record some of the songs we were able to find a synthesis of the raw band performances and some of the stuff we had created before. We'd sort of import keyboard performances and little ideas we liked from pervious versions and find a way to put them in. It became kind of the best of the band chemistry mixed in with the best of the 21st-century production technology. It's given it a more interesting aesthetic.
I spoke to Bono a couple of months ago and he said he felt thatSongs of Innocence lacked a coherence to the production and should have been more raw.There's this dichotomy to production standards these days where the music listener is used to really precise and simple, stripped-down arrangements so the inaccuracies of a band playing in a room where everything bleeds into everything else is not what's happening. It sounds, dare I say it, old-fashioned. We love when that works for us and we love that feel of people playing in a room, when it sounds fresh. But I think we're also wary of the fact that that sound is associated with 20, 30 years ago. We need to make sure, as we always have done, that we are part of a current conversation that's going in music culture in terms of production, songwriting, melodic structure, all the things that keep the culture moving forward.
What we don't want to be is caught in what I describe as a cultural oxbow lake where others are moving forward and you're still faithfully doing what you've always done, but now you're anachronistic and part of a historical form rather than what's actually pushing the boundaries forward, the flow of where it's going. We'll usually try to have our cake and eat it. We want it both: the hallmarks of the classic band, which is becoming more and more rare, but we also don't want to be perceived, and we don't want to be, a veteran act out of touch with the culture. It's a dance. It's a balance. If we allowed the album to be one extreme or another it would be wrong. It's finding that balance between what we do as a band naturally and then what we can still do in the studio. And the studio is still a songwriting tool for us and the production process is still a songwriting process as well as a production process.
I guess that balance is why you brought in so many different producers for this album.Yeah. I mean, they don't necessarily all work on every song. We ending up bringing in Steve Lillywhite, who we just had this wonderful relationship with in terms of getting in the room and working out arrangements and the minutiae of drum parts and guitar parts. Steve is just a wonderful facilitator for all of us go kind of get into ideas and refine our thing. We've also got Jacknife Lee, who we have worked with for many years. He's got this fascination with hip-hop production and he also works with guitar bands, so he has a foot in a couple of different camps.
Then you have Andy Barlow. He's a full on electronica and synthesizer producer that's not really used to bands or guitars, but he's amazing in other ways. Ryan Tedder is an amazing collaborator and his melodic sense is just so strong. When we're around Ryan these songs get better and better. The choruses get better. The hooks get better. The arrangements get more lean and more focused. And then Jolyon Thomas is a great state-of-the-art rock & roll producer in that he gets and loves bands. He gets and loves guitars, but at the same time what is the right guitar sound so you don't come across like you aren't right up to the minute. There are subtle things sometimes, just the difference between a White Stripes guitar sound and a Led Zeppelin guitar sound. In some ways it's a subtle thing, but in other ways they are worlds apart.
Is Steve your closer? Do you bring him in at the end to see it all out?Hmmm ... Yes and no. I think in this instance, it was more for the organic side of the record. He came in to work on that. At times, we had almost rival versions. We'd have a song like "The Blackout" where we almost had two versions of it. There would be a more organic version and then in a studio upstairs we had another version that was slightly more 21st century, slight more stripped down. We put the album together on a case-by-case basis. "Well, this one can be a little more organic because that one is a bit more processed and disciplined sonically." You probably noticed that the version of "You're the Best Thing About Me" that we released is quite different than the one we are playing live, and the final mix is like six weeks away.
How do you guys pick between songs? What is the process?The process is that we slowly sort of start to put the cornerstone songs in place and then we fill in around them and get clues about the overall identity of the record. For me, one of the breakthrough tune was "The Lights in Front of Me," which is now called "The Lights of Home." We had very rock & roll verses in it that sounded really great, but it was a little retro. We kind of knew it was in the running because we just loved it so much, and then Jacknife did a more stripped-down arrangement. The drums were sort of an open question, so Larry went in and played drums, so it had the discipline of a very contemporary production, but then with this amazing, very beautifully played human drum part on top of it. I think because it was recorded on its own it can kind of occupy the sound spectrum that it does. It still sounds really modern, but it almost sounds like it has a hip-hop influence or rather an R&B influence than a rock one. Anyway, those small little clues sometimes make you go, "OK, wow, that's the synthesis we're trying to achieve here."
In the case of "You're the Best Thing About Me," we were really excited about the mix we had six weeks ago. Then we started talking about how we were going to play it live and I went back to some early demos and found this one that had done at a point when we were experimenting with different arrangement ideas. It was an experiment we hadn't pursued and I thought, "This would be a good approach if we play it live," which we did on the Jimmy Fallon show. It's a fleshed-out approach with some new guitars.
Then Bono came into the studio to listen to it and was like, "OK, something is happening here. It's a better song now. I can't explain why, but I'm feeling something off this." So we kind of went off in a panic with us working furiously with two days to go before we had to turn the single in and get it to everybody for their consideration. We ended up agreeing that the simplicity, the rawness of it offers a counterbalance to the lyric and melody, which is very classic. It's a love song and it kind of takes it in a more convincing way. Somehow the song seems better - and it was totally last minute

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Ways to handle stardom: U2

What would Bono do? Lessons in leadership and activism from the world's most successful band.
By Michael J. Fanuele


U2 wraps up each show of its current world tour with stunning portraits of the most consequential women in history, or as Bono defiantly says, “herstory.” Flashing in 7.6k resolution on the largest high-def screen the world has ever seen are the faces of Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks and Hillary Clinton. These are some of the nearly hundred women to whom Bono pays tribute, calling them “women who stood up or sat down for their rights, who insisted and persisted, who light the way.”
This is classic fare for U2, a band that has always brought some church revival to its rock ’n’ roll, preaching while playing. AIDS, poverty, political violence — these are the scourges against which U2 rallies its fans. And if you’ve been to this service, you know how rousing it can be.
When I first saw U2 perform a decade ago, Bono asked us each to work for justice from the “bridges of Selma to the peaks of Kilimanjaro” as every African nation’s flag unfurled in the arena and The Edge plucked the first bars of the band’s next anthem. At that moment, I enlisted — though I had no idea what I would actually do. I could write a check to Amnesty International. I could embrace the nearest stranger. I felt compelled to do something, anything. I was moved. At that moment, with those people, I believed we could make the world a better place.
U2 isn’t only a circus of soft feelings, however. Its members have actually accomplished a great deal of good, raising awareness and money (by some estimates half a billion dollars) for myriad charitable organizations. They’ve used their celebrity to lobby governments, to direct the world’s attention to Africa, ravaged by disease, war and poverty. Bono is the only rock star ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, a nomination he received three times. Even President George W. Bush couldn’t resist Bono’s entreaties. The two worked together to bring record levels of foreign aid to Africa. “Bono floored me,” Bush said, “with his knowledge, his energy and his faith.” That’s Bono: flooring world leaders and mobilizing their people.
So how does Bono do it? What is the magic of this supernatural shaman? What spirit does he wield that possesses populations and politicians, not only helping hearts blossom, but changing the very behavior of communities and governments?
Well, it’s inspiration — and no band does it better than U2. In fact, U2 provides lessons in inspiration for all who aspire to move a crowd, from political leaders and corporate executives to teachers and coaches and parents. How do they do it? How does U2 move masses? In addition to the raw power of some irresistible tunes, U2 employs three “notes of inspiration” that sway audiences:
• First, U2 sets grand ambitions. Its members didn’t want to be a rock band. They wanted to be the greatest rock band in the world, and when they achieved that status, they wanted to be something even bigger: to be an instrument for social justice. They want to end the transmission of HIV from mothers to babies. They want to eliminate malaria. They want to eradicate racism and stamp out gender inequality. These are not modest goals; in fact, they’re slightly preposterous. But perhaps it’s the very audacity of these ambitions that inspires conviction. It’s hard to generate an emotional response when talking to the sensible parts of a person. Al Gore had a plan to reduce carbon emissions. He lost. Barack Obama promised to lower the very tides of the oceans. He won. People are moved to do big things, and so as leaders, don’t fear the grand and the audacious and the slightly ridiculous. These are the goals that stretch our imaginations.
• Next, U2 is obsessed with action. Pray. Dance. Sing. Donate. Buy. Write. Protest. U2 is a band of verbs. Like Nike, its first priority is what it wants people to do, not what it wants people to believe. It’s a lesson behavioral psychologists have been practicing for decades: change behavior and beliefs follow; the reverse is too difficult. Religions have known this even longer, encouraging fasting and tithing and missionary work. As Bono himself said, “God doesn’t want prayers; he wants alms.” Leaders should learn from this: Don’t waste your time trying to get your team to buy into your agenda or understand your vision; instead, be dead-clear about what you want them to do. According to Daniel McGinn in his book “Psyched Up: How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed,” this “direction giving” language is every bit as motivating as the grander, gauzier stuff.
• Finally, U2 inspires because it is authentic. A leader can’t hope to move an audience if that audience sniffs a phony. As a band that grew up through the Troubles, hearing bombs explode on Dublin streets and losing friends to sectarian violence, U2 has the moral permission to preach, as it did in Paris as the first performers after the terrorist attack at the Bataclan. “We’re a life cult,” Bono said that week, making it clear the band was coming back to the city as the anti-ISIS. It was coming to do the hard work of healing a community, turning fear and hate into courage and love.
Bono is a creation, of course, a rock ’n’ roll avatar constructed by a teenage Paul Hewson. And yet, “he” is so comfortable in his Bono skin, self-possessed and certain, sunglasses always on. Leaders can learn from that confident expression of character. Know yourself, for sure, but express yourself as a one-of-a-kind entity, a character with passions and quirks all your own. In that display of particular personality comes the authenticity necessary for inspiration.
Ambition. Action. Authenticity. These are the critical elements of inspiration that U2 manifests so powerfully. They’re on glorious display when Bono enters an arena, but they can be displayed by each of us, every day, in the conference rooms and classrooms where the hard work of building a better world gets done. As Bono remarked, “You put on the leather pants and the pants start telling you what to do.”

Michael J. Fanuele is a marketing consultant who most recently served as chief creative officer at General Mills. He’s writing a book about inspiration.