Saturday, February 28, 2009
As all parents of teenagers have at least once suffer, Mr Paul Hewson,a.k.a.Bono, does bore his teen kids.
"Apparently Bono overheard his eldest daughter call him "boring" during a dinner with superstar couple Beyonce and Jay-Z.
The singer, who has two daughters - Jordan, 19, and Memphis Eve, 17 - with wife Alison Hewson, admits he suffers the same fate as most parents.
And the teens' opinions became clear when he overheard Jordan talking about her dad while the family were entertaining celebrity guests at their holiday home in the south of France.
He says, "I went in to get some wine out of the fridge and I heard her talking to her friends, because she loves Jay-Z and Beyonce.
"I heard her saying, 'He's probably boring their a***s off talking about Africa '. And, actually, I think I was at the time."
And Bono concedes it's not the first time his antics have annoyed the youngsters, adding, "There was a funny moment on the last tour when there were formal objections by our kids to some of the music that was being played at the aftershow party."
U2 to play mini-concerts in the US
- U2 are going to play in the famous show "Good Morning America".
- In the morning of the 6th of March, U2 are going to play the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University in the Bronx. (not confirmed though)They will perform from the steps of Keating Hall;Only Fordham University students with ID will be admitted to the well-secured campus. However, GMA indicates members of the public may be able to attend the event they are hosting.
- U2 will be staying in the US to make three more special appearances from the 9th to the 11th of March. FMQB Productions and Interscope records are presenting a "radio extravaganza" called "U2 3 Nights Live" that will be broadcast via satellite on ABC Satellite Services and Westwood One. These three appearances will be:
- 9 March: live from Los Angeles, "An Inside Look At No Line On The Horizon", hosted by Shirley Manson, the lead singer of Garbage.
- 10 March: live from Chicago, "Radio Takeover" featuring a DJ set by U2 and again hosted by Shirley Manson.
- 11 March: live from Boston, U2 will play live and answer audience questions. Host is yet to be announced.
As I wrote before, hell of a time for our fave band!!! Go ahead, guys,NLOYH deserves it!!!
They also played "Vertigo" and "Beautiful Day"
Friday, February 27, 2009
The Irish Times has published an interview to Edge and Bono, apart from talking about NLOT (obvioulsy!!) they remember some good ol´times...
Bono and The Edge discuss their posh bass guitarist, insecurity and megalomania in U2, “dealing with” skinheads, why their music makes Bono wince, how the recession has affected them – and that controversial tax arrangement. BRIAN BOYD takes their confession
FROM THE study of Bono’s home in Killiney, you search in vain for a line on the horizon. “That’s where the album title comes from,” says Bono as he does a quick tidy-up behind me and frets over seating arrangements. “This study is where I do all my work – in the morning it’s the band stuff, in the afternoon it’s all the other stuff.”
He thinks he has a seating plan. “Ok, me and Edge will sit over here and you can sit over there. Wait, no, maybe it should be the other way around. What do you think?”
The other night he had been to a very late Christmas party. “Aren’t they weird? Almost Freudian. All this repressed stuff gets released. This guy, who I thought sort of liked me, came over to me and starting telling me what a fucker I was and how much he hated me, and how he had always hated me right from the very start.” The Edge arrives and says: “That’s no way for U2’s drummer to be talking to you.” The yin and yang of U2 look at each other and dissolve into laughter.
It’s a lived-in home, but with the kind of order that comes from having an employee or two on the premises. The study itself is small, an old-style library busy with books and magazines, not a mess but clearly a working space.It’s an environment where its owner and his mate are at ease discussing their early years.
ON BEING BROKE (NOT RECENTLY): “ADAM CLIMBED UP THE RAILINGS AND STARTING KNOCKING ON THE WINDOW OF THE BANK”
“When we were young and broke and didn’t even have our bus fare, Adam used to ride the buses for free,” says Bono. “When the conductor would ask him for his fare, he’d just say in his west Brit accent [adopts accent]: ‘Can I sign you a cheque?’.” They laugh like a drain. But Edge thinks he has a better Adam story.
“I swear this is true,” says the guitarist. “I was 16, Adam was 17. We were stuck out in Malahide without any bus fare. Adam says: ‘I know, let’s get a bank loan. That’s what banks are for.’ We went down to the Northern Bank in Malahide, but it was lunch hour and it was closed. Adam climbed up the railings and starting knocking on the window of the bank. The manager came to the window with a sandwich in his mouth. I saw the door opening and Adam going in. A few minutes later, he re-emerged and had managed to get a bank loan of £2.”
They both fizz with laughter. Pushed up against each other on a couch, Paul Hewson and Dave Evans are all belly laughs and“Do you remember the time when ...?”
The young, broke U2 who managed to get a few gigs in dingy Dublin venues regularly had their shows broken up by a skinhead gang of the time called The Black Catholics. “There was this gang called The Black Catholics in (late 1970s) Dublin,” says Bono. “They would try to break up our gigs. But I dealt with it. I knew which bus stop one of them got off at on his way home. I waited for him. It ended after that, that’s all I’ll say.”
The study goes quite for a moment. Until Bono adds “I remember one of them chasing after Adam once. Adam turned to the guy and in his posh voice offered him 50 pence if he would go away,” and they crack up again.
ON THE NEW ALBUM: “I’VE NEVER SUNG LIKE THAT BEFORE”
One-hundred-and-forty million album sales later, U2 still guard their position vigilantly. Once they worried about belligerent skinheads; now The Killers snipe at their heels. “U2 are still a point that need proving,” says Bono. They still worry, they say. New album, new danger.
It wasn’t looking good at first for No Line on the Horizon . The first sessions with noted producer Rick Rubin were scrapped. Then Bono had a rush of blood to the head: “Let’s all move to Morocco.”
“At this stage we didn’t even know if we working on the new U2 album,” he says. “We were just playing about with forms. We just played and played in Morocco.”
“We don’t get excited until we hear something we’ve never heard before,” says Edge. “If things sound too regular or normal or predictable we just can’t operate as a band. We needed a shake-up, so we had Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois [two of the album’s producers] contributing to the songwriting – the first time it’s gone outside the band. We’ve had a long, creative relationship with them both, but this gave that relationship a new lease of life ... We found those new sounds.”
There are folk stylings ( White As Snow ), chanting ( Unknown Caller ) and spoken word ( Cedars Of Lebanon ) on the new album, as well as what some critics have called Bono’s best ever vocal on the stand-out Moment Of Surrender – a seven-minute slow-burner that could be this album’s Bad or One . He registers a cracked and quavering delivery far removed from his usual declamatory ways.
“I’ve never sung like that before,” he says of the song. “This voice just came out in Morocco and it was a shock to me. Not so much the tonality of it, but the character of it. We’ve literally only got one take of that ... It must have been an afternoon after the night before vocal. I’m not smoking now, but on occasion, you know ... that’s a real wine and cigarettes voice.”
“Bono’s been very dedicated to getting that wine and cigarettes effect on his vocal,” says Edge. “He’s selfless like that. He does it for the band and at a great personal cost!”
ON THE UPCOMING TOUR: “WE WANT TO HAVE A SIGNIFICANT PERCENTAGE OF CHEAP TICKETS”
After the album, a two-to-three year Horizon world tour will follow, and this is now a huge part of the band’s creative work and business. If you had gone to see the band play on their Joshua Tree tour, the ticket price would have been less than the price of the album. In a radically restructured music industry, the ticket prices for the Horizon tour will be between 10 to 15 times the price of an album.
Recognising the importance of live performance in the modern music industry, two years ago U2 signed a reported £100 million 12-year deal with the world’s biggest concert promoter, Live Nation. This will be the first tour under that arrangement.
The nature of the Horizon tour remains a closely guarded secret. “We haven’t announced any of this yet, so I’m not sure you can use this, but I’ve been working on this engineering idea for the last seven to eight years,” says the singer.
“It’s all to do with how you can play outdoors without using a proscenium stage with a big bank of speakers on the left and right. Every outdoor show you’ve ever seen has that. So at the moment we’re just trying to get the design architecture right – and the financial architecture. If we can get away with what we want to do, it will mean more people in the venue, better sightlines and everyone will be closer to the action. We want to have a significant percentage of cheap tickets. In this climate you have to give better value.”
ON SONGWRITING: “WHEN I HEAR A U2 SONG I WINCE”
“When I hear a U2 song I wince,” says Bono. “I wince because of what I think is an unfinished lyric or a vocal moment I don’t like.
“Do you want to know what my most humiliating U2 moment is?” he asks. “It’s Where The Streets Have No Name . Edge had come up with this amazing 120-beats-per-minute music for it. I had some ideas for the lyrics. I was sleeping in a tent in northern Ethiopia at the time  and I scratched down some thoughts and they were: ‘I want to run, I want to hide, I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside’.
“I thought they were fairly inane, but in the studio Eno and Lanois thought they were perfect. I told them they were only sketches and I could do much better. But Eno is all about capturing the moment, so those words stayed. Now I have to sing them for the rest of my life. And it’s our most successful live song. That’s the U2 contradiction.”
ON THEIR TAX AFFAIRS: “WE PAY TAXES ALL OVER THE WORLD. WE ARE TOTALLY TAX COMPLIANT”
In 2006, U2 moved part of their business from Ireland to The Netherlands where the tax rate on royalty earnings is far lower than in this country. This followed an Irish Government decision to limit tax-free earnings for artists. Prior to this, all artistic earnings had been tax-free. Now artists would have to pay tax on earnings over €250,000.
Criticism rained down on the band, and on Bono in particular, from politicians, journalists and lobby groups.
“We haven’t commented on it,” says Bono.
“And we don’t comment on it for a very good reason,” adds The Edge, “and that’s because it’s our own private thing. We do business all over the world, we pay taxes all over the world and we are totally tax compliant.”
“We pay millions and millions of dollars in tax,” says Bono. “The thing that stung us was the accusation of hypocrisy for my work as an activist.
“I can understand how people outside the country wouldn’t understand how Ireland got to its prosperity, but everybody in Ireland knows that there are some very clever people in the Government and in the Revenue who created a financial architecture that prospered the entire nation – it was a way of attracting people to this country who wouldn’t normally do business here. And the financial services brought billions of dollars every year directly to the Exchequer.
“What’s actually hypocritical is the idea that then you couldn’t use a financial services centre in Holland. The real question people need to ask about Ireland’s tax policy is: ‘Was the nation a net gain benefactor?’ and of course it was – hugely so. So there was no hypocrisy for me – we’re just part of a system that has benefited the nation greatly and that’s a system that will be closed down in time. Ireland will have to find other ways of being competitive and attractive.”
In a 2007 report entitled Death and Taxes: The True Toll of Tax Dodging , the development agency Christian Aid examined the impact of tax avoidance on the developing world and mentioned Bono as one of the people responsible. When a group such as Christian Aid (with whom Bono would have some common cause) criticise the move, that must hurt?
“It hurts when the criticism comes in internationally,” says Bono. “But I can’t speak up without betraying my relationship with the band – so you take the shit. People who don’t know our music – it’s very easy for them to take a position on us – they run with the stereotypes and caricature of us. People who know the music know that the music reveals the people, not the edifice around it. That’s why we’ve decided to draw a ring around our audience and ourselves. Outside that there’s no point trying to explain ourselves. Without the musical part it’s all irrelevant.”
ON DIGITAL MUSIC: “THE CD IS DYING. WHAT’S REPLACED IS IT THE DOWNLOAD AND THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME”
U2 are releasing this album on five different physical formats. There will be a standard CD edition, a vinyl edition, a “digi-pack”, “magazine” and box set, each one with different “extra content”. Not all the added content will be available online, and in this way they aim to push people back in the direction of the much-battered record shop.
“The experience of buying an album used to be part of the pleasure of the listening experience,” says Bono. “When I lived in Ballymun, I used to have to take two buses to school. One into town and another one out to Mount Temple in Clontarf. The first bus would leave me off on Marlborough Street and I remember the Golden Discs shop there and then going over to Pat Egan’s Sound Cellar.
“The CD is dying and what’s replaced it is the pure download and that’s not good enough for me. We’re hoping to change that.
“When people get hooked up digitally, we want to have a whole new bunch of material that you can play on your TV as the album plays. We have it a bit on this album with an Anton Corbjin film that plays on your screen as a visual accompaniment to the music. I got that idea when I was playing my iPod through my TV one day. The screen was blank and I thought there must be a way of filling it with content that relates to the music.”
The interview has lasted longer than expected, and some salad and salmon magically appear.
The pair know they’ll be praised, pilloried and parsed in unequal measures over the coming weeks. “The thing about U2 that nobody seems to get,” says Bono, “is that the very things people think about us, which is the megalomania and the immodesty, they’re so far from the truth. People don’t see that. We had will.i.am doing some work on the new album and he was shocked by the absence of ego. He said: ‘Your fans have bigger egos than you do.’
“Yes, the guy out front, the performer, has the ego. But people don’t see the other guy – it’s like a Wizard of Oz thing. And I know why people don’t see that. I know it’s because of my mouth.”
Bono on ...
HIS FAVOURITE U2 SONG
THE BEST EVER U2 TOUR
Pop is our finest hour. It’s better than Zoo TV aesthetically, and as an art project it is a clearer thought.
“There were huge tactical errors made by the music industry. I wasn’t going to get involved in the argument because I’m on enough soap boxes as it is. It was for younger bands to take on the fight but they were fooled into thinking it wasn’t hip, as they marched like lemmings off the cliff.
“What they did with the release of In Rainbows was a really noble gesture. It was a new way of building a relationship between a band and their audience.”
Edge on ...
“It’s like someone let off a stink bomb at a party. People didn’t want to deal with it while the party was going full swing, but now the music has stopped.”
“We’ve lost a fortune, but it’s all on paper ... We still have our jobs.”
“As for the U2 Tower and the Clarence refurbishment, we’ve had to look at all these things with a different eye, a much colder eye.”
“Brian Eno is our version of going to art school. From Unforgettable Fire onwards we have been using the studio as an instrument in itself and a lot of that comes from working with him.”
THE NEW ALBUM
“I wanted to stop people in the street and ask them what they thought of the new songs, because you’ve just no idea. What I do know is that you make your worst albums when you are over-confident.”
He's the ever-urbane architect of U2's prowling basslines and, courtesy of Achtung Baby's sleeve art, the only member of U2 whose "old chap" is in the public domain. But Adam Clayton also has a plausible explanation of No Line on the Horizon's tortured delivery and that's not all. Did Brian Eno really throw "the rattle out of the pram"? And what did Bono get Adam for Christmas? In the director's cut of an interview printed in this month's MOJO magazine, all will be revealed.
MOJO: It's never a smooth process, finishing off a U2 record, and this seems to have been no exception. Was there much chopping and changing down to the wire?
Adam: There was sort of an 11th hour scenario, because we got caught up on the running order towards the end, primarily because we'd all come to the conclusion that How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb had suffered by having a compromised running order, and we didn't want to make the same mistake this time around. So, we pulled "White As Snow" out of the "maybe" file, and that seemed to balance some of the up-tempo rock tunes. It gave the listener a break.
We had another track called "Every Breaking Wave" which, if we'd included it, would have made for a very long record. Anyway, we decided that song just hadn't reached its potential, so, we put it back in the cupboard for the next record (laughs)."
Before Christmas, I heard a track called "Winter." Has that become something else?
That was possibly going to be on the record and possibly part of a soundtrack for an upcoming movie and it didn't make the record but may still be part of that movie soundtrack. [NB since this interview "Winter" has been confirmed as part of Anton Corbijn's "visual accompaniment" to No Line on the Horizon, entitled Linear, included in the Deluxe package of the album.]
It sounds like you've got a lot of material. Could you release another album quite soon?
Well we could, and it's part of our plan to not leave it too long. Once the tour is up and running there would be no reason why we couldn't find a week and go into the studio and work on things. It sort of depends on Bono and Edge's commitments; they've got a Spiderman project in the works too (laughs).
So, Spiderman permitting, you could be working on the new album during the next tour?
It would be nice to continue working in the same way. Instead of doing this record in one solid bloc, we sort of did two-week sessions with Brian and Dan, as writing collaborators, and out of those sessions came a lot of really good raw material. But it wasn't until April of last year that we went into the studio and said, Look, no one gets out of here until it's finished.
The breaks meant we could come back to things. And, I think that helped everyone. I think it worked really well for Edge from a compositional point of view; he really got to look at how the album hung together and to see what was missing musically. I think it enabled Bono to complete and fully resolve some of the lyrics.
Originally we were looking at a deadline of last August but I think by taking a break instead of trying to push through we were able to come back to it and to pull in some new material. For instance, "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" came out of that period and "Every Breaking Wave" came out of that period, even though the last one didn't get onto the album. It just made for a really good record and I think, from Larry's and my own point of view, it gave us a chance to live with the material and to really have an influence on how it was finished.
So I think the breaks stopped us getting snow-blindness. I also think there was a fundamental shift in the band, in that the material became much more internalised. It wasn't striving to reach out to connect to people; it became much more about inviting people to come in and be part of the experience.
That's interesting. I would say the last two records broadly fell into the "striving to connect" category...
I think that was the end of a period. When we were coming through the '90s and we were playing a lot of big outdoor shows, we lost some connection with ourselves because it was about reaching out to those really big places and that was how we probably conceived a lot of that music. All That You Can't Leave Behind was the beginning of the shift back, as we knew we were playing relatively small places, but they were much more musical experiences. I think it took the last two records for the band to value what we had together, to value our DNA. I think this record capitalizes and makes the most of that experience.
Did Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno's writing credits make them try harder?
I don't know about try harder but I think they were happier! [laughs] I think they both bring a phenomenal commitment to a U2 project in very different ways. Danny really does stay in the trenches and is the last one to leave the building. Brian tends to be the first man in in the morning, working on things that will influence the attitude of people, get them thinking in creative and inspired ways.
Long, creative relationships are unusual in rock 'n' roll, but the mileage and the knowledge and the understanding from having been around with them for 20 years makes them a pleasure to work with. And they haven't really changed much. They're still questioning in the same way.
Who has the final say?
I think it is us. And it's probably swung more that way. We've moved into a way of working where Brian will commit to a two or a three-week period then he goes off and does his other projects. And the same would be true of Danny [Lanois]. But there'll be other periods when we're just on our own.
It does come down to us ultimately. It used to infuriate Brian to the point of throwing the rattle out of the pram. Now I think he observes it and I think he has a healthy respect for it. Towards the end of the record, when we were in Olympic [Studios, South West London], he had a commitment to finish the record I haven't seen in him for a long time. He was there and really fighting for the record. Like a true midwife would be.
How early on were you aware of what kind of album you were making?
I think there was a lot more clarity around this record and I can't explain why. It just felt like people knew what this record was. Again, from a very personal point of view, it was like that from the beginning. When we first got together and started to play together, the sound that happened, there was a richness to it. The sound seemed to be a product of the time it was being created in. It was very unusual. The complex, sort of North African feel that's a part of the record was there right from inception.
Did the environment in Morocco have a marked impact on the finished product?
I think there was a time when it was more dominant. Earlier on in the record there was a time when it was a bit more challenging and questioning in a cultural sense -- east and west and the war was a bit more central to the record. And then it seemed to shift again and it became the record that it is now. I think you're aware that something has happened in the world. The world has changed and this record doesn't actually stand up and tell you that because you should know it anyway -- but it acknowledges that things are different now and there's a different value system. I don't know if you've read The Road by Cormac McCarthy? That has a very interesting, brooding atmosphere about it, a sense that you know that something has happened but you're not quite sure what it is. I think this record has that quality.
Does Eno like bass?
[Laughs] He loves it if he's playing it!
Do you and Eno always see eye to eye musically?
We have a really healthy respect for each other. It's probably taken a little while to get to that point but quite often we'll be digging in the same hole. The great thing about Brian is that he acknowledges his limitations and I have learned to acknowledge mine. He'll sometimes take something I'm doing and I'll think, "Oh shit, he's playing my bass part again!" And I have to go and do something else. But the result is always better. And quite often it'll be the other way around: he'll say, "Why don't you play this?" Or he'll give me a part and then he'll figure out something else around it. It's very much a collaborative experience.
The thing that I love about Brian is that he gets so excited that he's got a group of people to play with. Because a lot of his time is spent on his own. I think that's probably why he can be a little impatient. By the time he's worked something up he just wants to get off it and on to something else.
Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am is credited on "I'll Go Crazy..." What does he contribute?
Will helped early on in the arranging of the demo ideas in the summer. Then when he came in we recut it and he helped us push it up the hill. The final version is a recut that we did late on when we'd kind of played it in a bit. But he's a lovely, inspiring man to be around.
The version I heard before Christmas is almost more over the top than the version on the record...
You're absolutely right. We did try and take some of the bells and whistles off it and bring it back down to earth. It doffs the cap towards Motown and it's great to hear the band do a song like that. Unashamedly it's a pop song and it's got a pretty good one-two [chuckles]"
Interesting to hear French horns on a U2 record. On at least two songs I think.
Yeah. They're a lovely mournful sound. Real brass is something that you don't hear very much and it is a fabulous sound. Those tunes inherently had those brass parts written into them. But we did find a great horn player who came in and embellished them.
It works especially well with the guitar solo on "Unknown Caller..."
And that is one of Edge's great guitar solos. Fabulous.
The internal chemistry of the band must shift over time and the process of making a record must be intense. Have you all come out the other side happy?
Erm...[laughs] I think people are more relaxed now. When you have the kind of success that we had early on it brings a kind of responsibility with it. For some of the band, that became a burden that we fought against and wrestled with. But now instead of thinking that the band is limiting we feel it is very free. And we can do things that we can't do as individuals.
Most of us daydream about being millionaires. Do you ever wonder what you'd do if you woke up and weren't a millionaire?
Primarily, I don't identify myself as a millionaire but I am grateful on a regular basis that I don't have to think about [money] too much. If things changed, I could live within my means. I'd probably find it difficult but it wouldn't be the end of the world.
There's a lot of talk about the concert business downsizing. Could U2 tour on anything other than a massive scale?
I think it can change, depending on our appetite for big tours or for long tours or the economics of it. But for the tour coming up, I think we want to take on the big places again. It feels right to play the songs in stadiums this time. But I don't know what songs we're going to play yet. We're about to go off and do some promo for TV and when we get back from that we'll be rehearsing for the tour.
What did Bono get you for Christmas?
[Laughs nervously] Actually, we don't do Christmas presents any more. It was negotiated a few years back. We tend to pass books around.
© MOJO, 2009.
The Irish mag and U2 have a long tradition together, since the early shows of the band to today.
The new issue is dedicated to the band and NLOTH...
In the new Hot Press, Olaf Tyaransen talks to Bono, Edge, Larry & Adam.
In four separate interviews, the band cover a wide range of issues, revealing their thoughts on the current state of the music scene, and giving us the low down on where the band are at, as they prepare for the international release of their eagerly-awaited new album.
Over 12 pages, the band share their thoughts on the current economic crisis, and criticism about their tax situation.
As The Edge says: "We’re living in Ireland, we’re paying tax in Ireland. We’re totally tax compliant and we always have been. Our business structures and arrangements are there because we operate in every country around the world. We play concerts all over the world, we work all over the world and we pay tax all over the world... in the end, I don’t think most people think that we’re squirreling money in tax havens. We’re not!"
But Larry admits that although the group aren't being hit in the same way by the economic downturn, they're still aware of the effects it's having on people: "[The recession] doesn’t particularly affect me the way it’s affecting other people. I’m a rich rock star. There’s a lot of people really hurting out there and I’m not in that position... There is a certain amount of discomfort. I haven’t felt that before... but I’m definitely feeling it now. There’s a different mood."
Meanwhile, Bono talks about taking on characters to write the songs on No Line On The Horizon: "I’d just kind of worn out my own biography or autobiography. The last two albums were very personal. And I’m not sure if I could bear it any more, let alone anyone else. The irony is, of course, as Oscar Wilde taught us, the mask reveals the man. So you end up in fancy dress revealing your true self. You end up in these very emotional places which you shouldn’t understand, but somehow do."
Plus, The Edge says that the new material is "as good as anything we’ve written", and speaks out on Radiohead's Honesty Box experiment ("I do not like the concept of giving music away free"); Bono and Larry on their political differences of opinion ("We’ve been disagreeing on everything except music for more than 30 years"); and Adam on the media's insatiable appetite for new about Bono ("I don’t know who reads it, but there’s gotta be a point where they say, ‘Okay, enough!’").
to read the whole interview:http://www.hotpress.com/news/5288549.html
The news about our overworking rock stars and the new album are now pouring...
- "HORIZON" ARRIVES. They were queuing up in Dublin last night to be first to get hold of the new record - scenes set to be repeated in other countries over the next few days.
And the early reviews suggest the five year wait since 'Bomb' in 2004, will have been worth it.
It combines two moments,' says Blender editor Joe Levy, 'the epic grandeur of The Joshua Tree and the experimental audio research of Achtung Baby and Zooropa. They're at a point where they can be the biggest band in the world and still be edgy, with a capital 'E' in this case. They haven't come out swinging this hard and reaching this high since Joshua. On the surface, it's classic U2. Put on the headphones, and you hear an album every bit as sonically ambitious as Achtung Baby."
- Tonight at the BBC: "BREATHE' AND 'BOOTS'...And now performing "Breathe", please welcome U2...'
The band were at BBC TV Centre in London today, recording two songs for the Jonathan Ross show which airs on BBC 1 tomorrow night. If 'Boots' went down well (a lot of fans in the 200-strong studio audience ) 'Breathe' took the roof off , and only the second time they've played it live.
Other guests on the show included the actors Clive Owen and Emily Blunt and the naturalist David Attenborough. But the showbiz threesome were soundly beaten in a University Challenge contest with 'The School of Rock' (guess who that was) for whom Edge got all three quiz questions immediately, not least because he was one of the answers. Earlier , there was a special performance of 'Boots' for Red Nose Day (http://www.rednoseday.com, which is coming up next month) Friday, by the way, also sees a Radio 1 'Live Lounge' with U2 broadcasting from the BBC Theatre at Broadcasting House on the Jo Whiley show.
And after the Jonathan Ross (BBC1 ) switch over to BBC 2 for an extended edition of The Culture Show at 11.30pm - all about you know who....
Jo Whiley briefly spoke to U2 backstage before their set. Amongst other questions, she asked Bono about Chris Martin of Coldplay; Bono called Martin both "a wanker" and "a great melodist". The band also talked a bit about recording the new album, that the last week or two of recording was chaotic. Jo asked for their favourite tracks on No Line On The Horizon. Larry's pick was Breathe, though he said it could change by tomorrow. Adam named Moment Of Surrender, Edge said Unknown Caller, and Bono also chose Breathe.
The band then took the stage. The setlist was:
1. Get On Your Boots
3. I Kissed A Girl (snippet) / Beautiful Day / Blackbird (snippet)
At the start of the set, Bono spoke about the appearance being a "great honour" and that he hoped they don't screw up. Unlike at recent TV appearances, there was no pre-recorded intro for Boots. Although its initial live renditions were shaky, the band now seem to be getting the hang of Boots and they performed a rocking, enthusiastic version today. It was followed by the first public concert performance of Magnificent.
After Magnificent, Jo Whiley asked the band about tour plans. Bono gave away little about the upcoming tour and said they aren't playing Glastonbury this year, though he mentioned that the band want to play the festival some day. She also asked about U2 playing a cover today; although the band intended to do one, they apparently ran out of rehearsal time. Nonetheless, Bono sarcastically sung a line of Katy Perry's I Kissed A Girl and asked the audience to imagine they are "a U2 cover band" before the band began Beautiful Day. It was followed by an energetic performance of Breathe to round out the set, ending with Bono holding a long note on "breeeeaaaathe".
photos BBC rooftop:http://twitpic.com/1q9am, http://twitpic.com/1q8rl
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Willie Williams,U2´s video director, stage and lighting designer wrote two entries in his road diaries on the Brit Awards and lunch in Paris.
Wednesday, 18th February 2009
London. Brit Awards, Earls Court.
"A little known aspect of big TV awards shows is the disproportionate amount of time spent hanging around in corridors. They actually build extra corridors especially for the event, to maximise the corridor-hanging opportunities. There's a simple reason - a regular gig comes with a huge quantity of rooms available for band dressing rooms, hospitality, offices, crew rooms, you name it. However, when 30 acts are sharing a venue with the massive production team required to stage one of these events, the available space shrinks to almost nothing. Consequently, the producers build an entire 'farm' of office-cubicle-like rooms backstage, which becomes a hive of temporary dressing rooms. U2 had two rooms; a lounge room and a smaller changing room. The rest of our touring party is welcome to use them too, but clearly there are long periods of time when we want to give the band some space. In the absence of anywhere else to go we end up� hanging in the corridor. The corridor-view does provide an interesting perspective, though. The overall ambience of the multi-corridored dressing room area is that of a very well attended 'festival of doors'. There are doors everywhere, accompanied by oversized signage indicating who might be slumped on a rented couch behind the potted palms within. We were opposite Duffy's room, then further down the corridor were Girls Aloud, with Kings of Leon round the corner, Pet Shop Boys a little further afield, and so on. It's busy too, as people come and go to the stage, to the make-up room, or catering, or the spiffed up port-a-loos. Sitting on the floor, laptop on knees, gets to be like a real life version of flipping through Hello! magazine. Coldplay pottering about, the girls from All Saints coming to visit, Kylie charming as ever. When James Corden and Matt Horne went by, both wearing red mini-dresses and thigh-length black vinyl boots I began to wonder quite where I was. U2 were on first which is always a bonus - a little like getting your homework done on Friday night so you have the rest of the weekend to play. It went well, looked good in the truck and Gavin Friday texted in to say he thought it came over well on the telly. We returned to the dressing room for a lower-case moment of celebration then relaxed into the rest of the evening. News came in of a five star album review from Rolling Stone ... we're only a week or so away from release."
Thursday, 19th February 2009
London/Paris/London. Recce for "Le Grand Journal" at Canal +, TV Studios.
"Steve from management, Jake our production manager and I rendezvoused at St. Pancras railway station at the unholy hour of 8am to get the train to Paris. For reasons which never became apparent, despite making the booking at one time, we were seated all three separately, Jake in an entirely different carriage, which had me pondering train travel as a metaphor for life. On arrival, we headed for the TV studios of the 'Canal +' station and found our way to the studio of "Le Grand Journal" culture show.
We were met by the producers, director and technicians from the show, all of whom were extremely helpful. We figured out how the stage layout would be placed and I ran through the few basic points which I have learned to offer up as a guide to what works when shooting U2 for live television. It's a simple approach, which allows a good deal of local interpretation, so most TV stations appreciate the direction.
We were in and out of there in under an hour. It seems like a long way to come for a brief meeting, but even in these days of cellphone videoconferencing, there's still nothing quite so useful as a look at the space and a face to face chat. Jake headed for Charles de Gaulle airport to head on to Berlin to load in our equipment for the Echo awards rehearsal tomorrow, whilst Steve and I headed back to the Gare du Nord where we just managed to miss the 14.30 train. The next one wasn't until 16.30pm so we were forced to retire to the highly acceptable Terminus du Nord restaurant for a splendid white tablecloth lunch.
Back in London I had an evening engagement to see 'Avenue Q' at the Noel Coward theatre on St. Martin's Lane. It's a musical featuring depraved muppets and a great deal of very adult humour. I've never been a great fan of anything involving puppetry, but despite being such strange concept it was pretty entertaining all the same."
An interesting and not always thought of aspect of the rock scene...not everything that glitters is glamour...but definitely interesting!!!
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Marvel.com has revealed the first details for the upcoming "Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark" Broadway show:
"Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark" opens on Thursday, February 18, 2010 at Broadway's Hilton Theatre, 213 West 42nd Street. And some lucky Broadway goers will get to see the show when preview performances begin Saturday, January 16, 2010."
"The musical follows the story of teenager Peter Parker, whose unremarkable life is turned upside-down—literally—when he's bitten by a genetically altered spider and wakes up the next morning clinging to his bedroom ceiling. This bullied science-geek—suddenly endowed with astonishing powers—soon learns, however, that with great power comes great responsibility as villains test not only his physical strength but also his strength of character."
The musical is directed by Across the Universe and Lion King director Julie Taymor and the music and lyrics of the songs are created by Bono and The Edge.
Monday, February 23, 2009
U2. com reports their coming week...
"After the Echo show in Berlin last night the band went out for dinner with Michael Mittermeier, film director Wim Wenders and musician Herbert Gronemeyer.
Today(22nd) the band arrived in Paris ahead of some French promotional work, including a live performance for Le Grand Journal on Canal Plus on Monday night.
They then head for London where there's lots going on in the next few days. First up Monday, when new tracks from the album will be aired on Jo Whiley's Radio 1 show (10am-12.45pm) and on Edith Bowman's show (1-4pm).
On Tuesday tune in to Zane Lowe (7pm) when his guests include Bono and Edge.
At 10pm BBC2's The Culture Show has a special focus on the new album - and later in the week, on Friday, there's an extended version of the show, with even more U2, starting at 11.30pm.
Friday also sees a special Radio 1 'Live Lounge' with U2 broadcasting from the BBC Theatre at Broadcasting House.
That same afternoon check out Chris Evans's drivetime show on Radio 2 - the band are in the studio with him.
And then finish the week with the TV again - they'll be performing two songs on the Jonathan Ross show which goes out on BBC1 at 10.30pm (That's just before the extended edition of The Culture Show (id we mention that ?) at 11.30pm - over on BBC2."
HEY,who said that the life of the rock stars is easy???
"Talk about raising the stakes. “If this isn't our best album, we're irrelevant,” Bono declared when asked about U2's new album, No Line on the Horizon, released on March 2. Anyone who has heard the current single, Get on Your Boots, surely won't need reminding how quickly such statements can repeat on you. Quite how such a dog's dinner of Dylan-esque free association and Bolan-esque electric boogie made it beyond the rehearsal room is anyone's guess.
But even before that point the drip-feed of information around No Line on the Horizon had been worrying. Sessions with Rick Rubin were abandoned early. The group made better progress with Brian Eno and Danny Lanois, the producers of U2's 1987 album The Joshua Tree, which prompted Universal to set a deadline for release for autumn 2008. And yet no amount of frantic finessing could ensure the album's arrival in shops by Christmas.
It's a relief, then, to report that on their 12th album U2 come out of the traps sounding like, well, their old selves. The title track captures a band powering along with the majestic velocity of a Sherman tank. You want it to last, and it does for a time. “I was born to sing for you,” intones Bono on the stunning Magnificent, a lyric that brings religious intensity to what, by anyone else, would be a mere love song.
What follows is less a disaster and more a loss of focus, brought about, you suspect, because this is really a compilation of highlights from several disparately spread sessions. That they spent 16 months retooling Stand up Comedy should have told them that this lolloping mid-paced rocker simply wasn't good enough – and certainly not with lines such as “Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady”. Trailed as the centrepiece of the album, Moment of Surrender is regarded by the band as the equal of One (1991). But Bono's impassioned testifying is left exposed by a meagre tune.
About three quarters in, however, it's a relief to report that you have heard all of the new album's low points. Adapted from a folk song, White as Snow is Bono's best vocal, depicting a war-torn landscape through eyes exiled by it.
No less potently, Cedars of Lebanon takes shape amid a sonic fug that mirrors the exhaustion of its war reporter narrator: “Child drinking dirty water from the riverbank/ Soldier brings oranges he got out from a tank.”
No Line on the Horizon isn't U2's best album. But irrelevant? When four members of a group click and the tape is running, irrelevant doesn't really come into it. And, over 54 minutes, there are enough of those moments to remind you that you write off U2 at your peril. Next time, though, Bono might want to use his powers of diplomacy to the benefit of his band. If you can get George Bush to sanction the largest response by a Western government to the Aids crisis then can't you convince your label to wait until you have really delivered your best album?
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Rolling Stone Magazine has given NLOTH 5 stars out of 5 and has considered it :"Their best album since Achtung Baby".David Fricke from RS says:
"I was born to sing for you/I didn't have a choice but to lift you up," Bono declares early on this album, in a song called "Magnificent." He does it in an oddly low register, a heated hush just above the shimmer of the Edge's guitar and the iron-horse roll of bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. Bono is soon up in thin air with those familiar rodeo yells, on his way to the chorus, which ends with him just singing the word "magnificent," repeating it with relish, stretching the syllables...
Bono knows he was born with a good weapon for making the right kind of trouble: the clean gleam and rocket's arc of that voice. "It was one dull morning/I woke the world with bawling," he boasted in "Out of Control," written by Bono on his 18th birthday and issued on U2's Irish debut EP...
He is still singing about singing, all over No Line on the Horizon, U2's first album in nearly five years and their best, in its textural exploration and tenacious melodic grip, since 1991's Achtung Baby.
It is a strange thing to sing on a record that more often reveals itself in tempered gestures, at a measured pace...
In "No Line on the Horizon," it is the combination of garage-organ drone, fat guitar distortion and Mullen's parade-ground drumming, the last so sharp and hard all the way through that it's difficult to tell how much is him and how much is looping (that is a compliment). ..
"We are people borne of sound/The songs are in our eyes/Gonna wear them like a crown," Bono crows, next to the Edge's fevered-staccato guitar, near the end of "Breathe" — a grateful description of what it's like to be in a great rock & roll band, specifically this one. Bono knows he was born with a voice. He also knows that without Mullen, Clayton and the Edge, he'd be just another big mouth..."
For the complete article: http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/album/26079033/review/26212378/no_line_on_the_horizon
According to U2.com...
"The band have been in Berlin today, rehearsing at the O2 World Arena ahead of Saturday's ECHO Awards.
It's great to be back in the city where they spent so much time recording 'Achtung Baby' in the early 1990's - and the feeling is mutual. The exterior of the venue is emblazoned with a gigantic illuminated greeting:'Berlin Welcomes U2'.
The ECHO Awards are broadcast on ARD TV at 8pm, Saturday evening."
Friday, February 20, 2009
The guys´new album will be premiere on "My Space". According to Ew.com:
"At 5 a.m. EST (2 a.m. PST) on Feb. 20, listeners can stream the entire album for free on U2's MySpace page (www.myspace.com/u2), meaning fans will be able to catch No Line on the Horizon well over a week before its official U.S release on March 3."
The magazine NME called U2 "The Superleague of Ordinary Gentlemen" (great title,BTW) in their february issue. Their caption reads...
"They sell out world stadiums,hang out with presidents,even save people´s lives,but when NME was invited into U2´s Dublin studio for three days two weeks ago,it was just four blokes making cups of tea and chatting..."
Finally (only for the day...I´m exhausted already and I just type...) ABC announces...
"International mega band U2 makes history March 6 when it performs on ABC's "Good Morning America," making its first-ever live performance on a morning show. The location of the unprecedented morning TV event has yet to be announced, but the group's performance coincides with the release of its highly anticipated new album, "No Line on the Horizon," which hits stores Tuesday March 3."
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The next issue of Rolling Stone considers NLOTH "their best since Achtung Baby".
The whole article will be released soon, so watch out for the comments of this prestigious mag!!!
And on the 24th the guys will be showing in BBC "The Culture Show" Lauren Laverne quiz Bono and Adam Clayton from U2 about the characteristics of different members of the band.
"It's good to be back...' said Bono, at the end of a full-throttle performance of 'Get On Your Boots' , opening up last night 2009 BRIT Awards in London. Definitely GOYB is a blast live!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A giggling (and perhaps a bit tipsy) interview...
Edge on Bono: "He´s messy but he´s my friend..."
Bono said he wanted “to be in Girls Aloud” to The Sun, and Adam quipped: “Which one?”
And to round off the night...off Bono went to play with Coldplay and The Killers at the War Child gig.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
U2.com reports that the band were in fine form yesterday and this morning during rehearsals for the BRIT Awards at London's Earls Court tonight.
U2 will kick off the biggest night in the UK music calendar with the new single, ‘Get On Your Boots’, released this week.
Pretty hot line up for the show: Girls Aloud, Coldplay, Kings of Leon and Duffy are on the bill while the Outstanding Contribution to Music Award goes to Pet Shop Boys.
(If you're in the UK, tune in to ITV at 8pm)
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
The Telegraph.UK has published an article by Neil Mc Cormick, journalist and personal friend of the band´s (he grew up with the band and went to the same school), and co-author of U2 by U2 and Killing Bono.
"The new U2 album, 'No Line On The Horizon' will be released on March 2nd. It is a great record, and greatness is what rock and roll and the world needs right now. From the grittily urgent yet ethereal title track all the way to the philosophically ruminative, spacey coda of 'Cedars Of Lebanon' it conjures an extraordinary journey through sound and ideas, a search for soul in a brutal, confusing world, all bound together in narcotic melody and space age pop songs.
"Let me in the sound" is a repeated lyrical motif (showing up in three songs, including current single 'Get On Your Boots'). The theme of the album is surrender, escaping everyday problems to lose (or perhaps find) yourself in the joy of the moment. For Bono, it clearly represents an escape from the politics of his role as a lobbyist and campaigner into the musical exultation of rock and roll, yet the very notion of escape remains political, if only with a small p. "Every day I have to find the courage to walk out into the street / With arms out, got a love you can't defeat" is the inspirational bridge in an epic, explosive rock anthem 'Breathe', that could be set in Gaza or at your own front door. Scattershot half-spoken verses fire images like news reports from the battleground of life ("16th of June, Chinese stocks are going up / And I'm coming down with some new Asian virus ... Doc says you're fine, or dying") til he is "running down the road like loose electricity", tension building in thundering drums and grungey two note guitar riff until it all lets loose in a soaring, anthemic chorus, as Bono tells us "I found grace inside a sound / I found grace, it's all that I found / And I can breathe".
The theme is even more explicit on 'Moment Of Surrender', a pulsing, dreamily gorgeous 7 minute weave of synths, silvery guitars, sub-bass, handclaps, Arabic strings and soulful ululating vocals, in which the narrator experiences a spiritual epiphany at the very prosaic setting of an ATM machine. It is a beautiful piece that provides the album's beating heart and shows how far U2 can drift from their stereotype as a stadium rock band into unknown territory while still making something that touches the universal.
Musically, these songs might be the two poles of an album that switches between overloaded rockers and hypnotic electro grooves: the U2 / Eno divide. 'No Line On The Horizon' was produced by the professorially brilliant Roxy Music synth magus Brian Eno with his rootsy, muso collaborator Daniel Lanois, the same team that has presided over U2's finest albums, Unforgettable Fire (1984), The Joshua Tree (1987), Achtung Baby (1991) and their latterday reclaiming of pop's high ground 'All That You Can't Leave Behind' (2000). The chief difference is that here they have been explicitly invited into the songwriting process, with 7 of the 12 tracks credited to both band and producers, and recorded with a six-piece line up featuring Eno on electronics and Lanois on acoustic and pedal steel guitar. It is these songs, in particular, which push U2 towards the invisible horizon of the title, at once more linear (they tend to be driven, with singular grooves, often pulsing along on particular sound effect or rhythmic repetitions) and lateral (they defy obvious song-structure, choruses drop rather than soar, Bono's rich, high voice subsumed into stacked harmonic chants). These tracks draw out of Bono a contemplative depth, so even the fantastically odd 'Unknown Caller' hits a vein of emotional truth, when the spaced out singer is cast adrift on the soundbites of computer and communications networks ('Password, you enter here, right now / You know your name so punch it in') yet seems to find himself talking to the inner voice of God ("Escape yourself, and gravity / Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak"). Words and music dovetail in surprising ways that send the senses spinning.
Left to their own compositional devices, U2 produce rock songs of high-wire adrenalin and in-your-face immediacy. It is almost a relief when they arrive like a troop surge in the middle of the album, reclaiming familiar territory with a burst of shock and awe. This is U2 on safe ground, ramming home the kind of smack bang crunch pop rock that they know radio programmers will fall at their feet for, yet there is almost too much melody and a surfeit of lyrical ideas. Current single 'Get On Your Boots' is the prime example, walloping along with two note punk rock energy, a low-slung heavy metal guitar riff, an expansively melodic psychedelic chorus and playful sloganeering lyrics in which Bono gets off the soap box to pay homage to the more prosaic pleasures of a beautiful woman in comically "sexy boots". Along with the Oasis on steroids singalong pop of 'I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight' and pop Zepplin-esque grooviness and shuffling beats of 'Stand Up Comedy', these songs are the albums most immediate and yet least resonant tracks. They are light relief from the more demanding adventures into new sonic terrain.
Bono's worst reflex as a lyric writer is sloganeering, partly because he is so good at it. On the three songs just mentioned, he piles catch-phrase upon soundbite to build up a thematic idea, often one that plays with his image. So in 'Stand Up Comedy' the diminutive rock star in stacked boots warns us to "stand up to rock stars / Napoleon is in high heels / Josephine be careful of small men with big ideas" and in 'I'll Go Crazy' he confesses (or complains) "there's a part of me in the chaos that's quiet / And there's a part of you that wants me to riot." It is all good fun but too often sounds like a series of t-shirt slogans rather than a song with a heart of its own. His phrasemaking is put to much better effect when it pared back so that the emotion of the song takes precedence, as on the strange, addictive title track, where he loses himself in the blur of a mysterious love, a person whose unknowability represents a kind of Godliness and who tells him "infinity is a great place to start."
On 'Breathe', U2 locate the emotional and philosophical heart in an out and out ball busting U2 anthem (which Eno, apparently, asserts to be "the most U2 song" they have ever recorded). It is matched, in this respect, by the quite wonderful 'Magnificent', in which the U2/Eno/Lanois combo conjure up an instantly recognisable U2 classic in a love song with the flag waving pop drive of 'New Year's Day'. These are songs that will fill their fans with joy, but it is in the album's more intimate, off beat adventures that U2 lock into something that forces listeners to sit up and take note of them anew. There is a busy-ness in terms of sonic tapestry, the meshing together of Edge's sci-fi guitars and Eno's synths providing an intricate, detailed soundscape that constantly tugs at the ears and mind, but the U2/Eno/Lanois songs hold the centre, slowly revealing themselves, demanding repeat listens. It certainly sounds like U2 (as do a lot of groups these days) but in its boldest moments is as fresh and ambitious as the work of first timers, not veterans 33 years on the road.
If it has a flaw, it may be in U2's inherent tendency to want to be all things to all people, so that in album of surrender, they can't quite let themselves go all the way. They still want to bat the ball out of the stadium everytime, and so instinctively counterbalance their desire to reach something otherwordly with the safe bets of crunchy rock hits. In that respect, it doesn't have the innocence or singularity of 'Unforgettable Fire' or 'Joshua Tree', nor does it quite affect the bold re-wiring of their sound that was 'Achtung Baby'. To me, it is probably the album 'Zooropa' was supposed to be, building on the sonic architecture of classic U2 and taking it into the pop stratosphere. But what a place for a band to be, in orbit around their own myth, making music that bounces off the inside of a listeners skull, charged with ideas and emotions, groovy enough to want to dance to, melodic enough to make you sing along, soulful enough to cherish, philosophical enough to inspire, and with so many killer tracks it might as well be a latterday greatest hits. It is, at the very least, an album to speak of in the same breath as their best and what other band of their longevity can boast of that?
Anyway that's my opinion. I can tell you what Bono thinks, because he has been texting me. He comes (as he explicitly says on 'Breathe') "from a long line of travelling salesmen" and he would probably sell his album door to door if he could. "Lifeforce, joy, innovation, emotional honesty, analogue not digital, home-made not pro-tooled, unique sonic landscape," are his buzzwords (although punctuation and spelling are mine). "I pinch myself every morning, evenings no longer a trial. Soul music for the frenzied, rock music for the still. The album we always wanted to make. Now we f*** off ..."
Not for a while yet, I suspect.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Midnight opening for U2 album launch
U2 fans are expected to begin queuing outside Irish music stores next week to be the first to get their hands on the band's long-awaited new album.
HMV said it was opening two outlets in Grafton Street, Dublin and Galway at midnight on Thursday, 26 February because of overwhelming interest in the world launch of 'No Line on the Horizon'.
It is the first studio release from the band in almost five years and goes on sale in Ireland three days before it hits UK shelves on 2 March.
HMV will be opening their Grafton Street, Dublin and Eyre Square, Galway stores at midnight on Thursday February 26 so that Irish fans can be among the first in the world to get a copy of the album.
“We’ve had an incredible amount of interest with a considerable number of pre-orders,” says HMV’s Gennaro Castaldo. “We advise fans to come down early to be in with a chance of receiving a U2 goody bag.”
With No Line On The Horizon not out elsewhere until early the following week, it’s expected that hundreds of hardcore U2 fans will be flying in to get a head start on their compatriots.
source: www.rte.ie/arts/2009/0218/u2.html // www.hotpress.com/news/5267245.html
Sunday, February 15, 2009
It is the middle of January this year and Bono is at home in Killiney, County Dublin, with an hour to spare before he heads into town for an afternoon of meetings. "Things are looking good," he says. "It's a beautiful, sunny, winter's day and Edna O'Brien has just been sent me her book on Lord Byron."
He has been up "from the early hours", his working day now devoted to juggling the demands of family, rock stardom and the ongoing campaign for African aid and debt relief. U2´s long-awaited new album, No Line on the Horizon, is finally finished. "It began and ended in a flash," he says. "The last 24 hours were just extraordinary. It was like Chinese calligraphy, where the monks take ages to mix the ink and then - bam! - it all happens in seconds."
Over the next hour, Bono will talk about what it means to be the world's biggest rock star and the world's most famous global campaigner, about music and faith and activism, and the tensions his high-profile tightrope walk has caused in the band. He will also talk about U2's new music, and the shift in his song-writing style away from the first person ("I'd just worn myself out as a subject matter").
No Line on the Horizon is U2's 12th studio album. It sees the world's biggest band challenging themselves - and their audience's expectations - in a way that they have not done since the 90s' experimentation of Achtung Baby and Zooropa. It was, though, a difficult and protracted birth, and I was a witness to its gestation. In the original plan, hatched almost two years ago in a casual conversation with Bono, I had been invited to Fez to track the making of the new album, stage by stage, from inception to completion. So it was that, what seems like an eternity ago, I boarded a plane to Morocco.
Fez, Morocco, June 2007
Bono, guitarist The Edge, drummer Larry Mullen and bassist Adam Clayton are gathered, with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois in the ancient North African walled city to start recording a handful of new songs. Their "studio" is the enclosed courtyard of a riad on the edge of the medina. Moroccan carpets have been spread across the stone floor, ornate pillars and spreading palms tower over the amplifiers and sound desks, and, from time to time, small birds dart overhead, startled by the constant bursts of rough and ready music.
The mood matches the makeshift setting: a batch of new songs, tentative, half-formed, sketchy, are elaborated on or set aside for future reference. Eno, who has assumed the role of musical director, shouts out tempo changes, instructions, suggestions. "The chords sound a little too vanilla," he says of one laid-back, swampy groove. Bono, who has a couch all to himself, concurs. "We need to find that nightclub-in-Tripoli feel," he shouts back, swaying to the beat, "then move it on down to Bamako." The vibe is one of unhurried creativity, the six musicians - Eno on keyboards, Lanois on guitar and pedal steel - stretching out and enjoying themselves. It feels like the beginning of a new adventure.
"What's happening down here is beyond reason," Bono had enthused, when the idea of me shadowing them had first been broached. "Spirits are hovering. We're chasing the Joujouka drummers and different structures for pop."
The legendary Joujouka drummers drew both Brian Jones and William Burroughs to Fez in the late 60s, but this time around, other guiding spirits were also at work. Every night, as darkness fell, the haunting voices of devotional Sufi singers would rise up and drift across the rooftops, their song-prayers lasting for hours at a time. "There was definitely something in the air down there," Bono will tell me later. "And we picked up on it."
Could he describe what that something was exactly?
"Not without sounding pretentious," he says, laughing. "I mean, a lot of people have gone there, searching. There's a bit of the Mighty Boosh about it. Out in the desert, looking for the new sound. Have you seen that episode where they are out in the desert looking for the new sound? They find Chris De Burgh and he's been out looking for the new sound for 10 years [laughs]. It's probably no more profound than that."
Eighteen months later, though, sitting at a table in his home studio in Notting Hill, Brian Eno, a man not given to exaggeration, will describe a song that "was hatched almost fully formed in a breathtaking few hours" in Fez as "the most amazing studio experience I've ever had". Which is saying something. That song is called Moment of Surrender, a thing of complex rhythmic beauty and cumulative power, that, as Bono will later point out, occupies the same place on No Line on the Horizon as One did on Achtung Baby. That is to say, it is the emotional centrepiece of a big, overloaded, creatively risky record. "Apart from some editing and the addition of the short cello piece that introduces it," says Eno, "the song appears on the album exactly as it was the first and only time we played it."
Later, too, Larry Mullen, who in the past has been less than enthused by U2's more experimental work - he all but disowned the ambient album Original Soundtracks 1, released as Passengers, back in 1995 - will tell me that "the work we did in Fez was the most joyous and liberating part of the whole album process. It was what I had always imagined being in U2 would be about: just playing music for the joy of it with no real end in sight. It was chaotic at times but even the chaos was creative. You can lose sight of that sometimes with all the other stuff that now comes with being in U2."
(Later Bono will say of Morocco: "What surprised me was that Larry went with it. I was waiting for the eyes to roll. But they didn't. I mean, most of the time, it's hard enough to get Larry to come over to the south side of Dublin.")
On the second day I spend in Fez, I catch a dramatic glimpse of "all the other stuff that now comes with being in U2". In the afternoon, Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and the 41st richest man in the world, drops in on rehearsals. And he brings his band with him; four middle-aged guys in sailing gear and baseball hats. A couple of them even strap on guitars, and, for a brief moment, it looks like they might sit in on a U2 rehearsal. Then, after an impromptu burst of bar-room rock, they depart, grinning like teenagers.
That evening, Allen and his buddies reappear at a dinner that Bono is hosting on the hotel balcony for Queen Rania of Jordan, who, the following afternoon, will also drop in on a U2 rehearsal. "The elegant Jordanian Royal", as she is referred to in the tabloids, sits on a couch, looking, well, elegant and regal, while Bono sings one of the quieter songs the group have been working on. It's a long way from bottom of the bill at McGonagles and the last bus home to Ballymun Avenue, that's all I can say.
Both Queen Rania and Paul Allen are major players in the world of high-end global philanthropy, which is one of several rarefied socio-political networks that Bono now inhabits as part of his other gig: the world's most well-known campaigner for African debt relief. There were moments in Fez, though, when it was difficult to tell which one was now his day job.
After dinner, I chat with Mullen over a few cold beers. "There is a danger," he says, when I mention how strange it was to witness Bono's two worlds colliding in such a spectacular fashion, "that people start to perceive U2 as a part of the Bono show. Now, I admire and support everything he does," he continues, "but that is categorically not the case."
When U2's sojourn in Fez ends a few weeks later, Bono jets off to a Ted [Technology Entertainment Design] conference in Tanzania, while the rest of the band head back home to Dublin.
U2 have now been together for 33 years now, an eternity in pop terms. For the past 22 years, since their fifth album, The Joshua Tree, pitched them into the ether of global rock stardom, they have been the biggest rock group in the world.
In their time at the top, the band have seen several generations of contenders to their throne come and go, including the Clash, the Smiths, Nirvana, the Stone Roses and Blur. For a moment, it looked like REM, then Radiohead might steal their thunder, or even Oasis. As if... Maybe the Kings of Leon or the Killers may yet step up to the challenge, but let's just wait and see. Thus far, love them or hate them, U2 have been unassailable. No other rock band has lasted longer, nor made such consistently good, and often challenging, rock music, nor staged such epic and technologically cutting edge shows.
What is most intriguing - and, to their detractors, infuriating - about U2 is that they succeeded by ignoring, indeed breaking, most of the unwritten rules of rock stardom. They didn't - with the exception of the pre-rehab Adam Clayton - do sex or drugs and, as their critics pointed out, neither did they really do rock'n'roll. They were not rebellious, nor angst-ridden, nor did they trade on adolescent alienation or anger. Instead, they did joy. And spiritual joy, to boot. This made them unfashionable in Britain, the irony capital of the world, where sincerity, especially sincerity tinged with spirituality, is seen, at best, as uncool, at worst as downright embarrassing.
"One of the reason's for U2's longevity," says Brian Eno, "is that they are not in music for entirely selfish reasons. I don't want to make them appear as evangelists, which, of course, they were seen as by some sections of the music media in the early 80s, but I do believe that they really think that what they do serves some greater purpose than simply filling their bank accounts."
Initially, I had little time for U2, their songs, their haircuts, their Christianity. My epiphany occurred when I was sent to Rome by the NME in the summer of 1987 to interview Bono after the first gig of their European tour - The Joshua Tree tour. Put simply, it was a revelation: a rock group whose music made sense in a stadium, whose songs retained - and inspired - a kind of communal intimacy in a crowd of 60,000 people. And, boy, did Bono work that crowd. He was one part rock star, one part showbiz trouper, one part preacher man. In America, where cool is not such a reductive currency, U2 were embraced with open arms. The rest, as they say, is history.
By Achtung Baby, as Bono famously put it, they "discovered that irony was not the enemy of soul". The Zoo TV extravaganza was, and remains, the most technically innovative - touring rock show of recent times. And anyone who still thinks U2 don't have a sense of humour obviously missed the Pop Mart tour, where they emerged nightly out of a giant lemon dressed like some postmodern version of the Village People.
This is the version of U2 that I prefer, the one that challenges our preconceptions of U2. It has not been around for a while, but now it has popped out of the closet again on (most of) No Line on the Horizon, which is a world away from the two traditional sounding, good-but-not great albums that preceded it. They seem to me, at times, to be the last of something: the last rock band that insists rock music has some greater meaning at a time when the form seems dogged by a lack of cultural resonance.
Hanover Quay Studios, Dublin, June, 2008
For the past year, the group have been working in fits and starts in New York, the south of France and Dublin. Steve Lillywhite is now on board as a co-producer alongside Eno and Lanois. When I arrive, he and Lanois each are working on separate versions of a song called Sexy Boots, the title of which, after much discussion, will be changed to Get Your Boots On. It will subsequently become the first single: a Zeppelin riff welded to a bubblegum pop melody; surprising, sexy, sinuous. Later, Bono will play me three other almost finished songs: Unknown Caller, No Line on the Horizon and Chromium Chords, which will later be re-titled Fez - Being Born. The songs, on first hearing, sound dense and elusive. You can hear Lanois and Eno's presence on all of them. I try to take them in as Bono talks - and sometimes sings - me though them.The album has developed, he says, into a kind of "fractured journey, a physical journey from Paris to Tripoli via Cadiz, but also an emotional and psychological journey". It sounds, I say, like a concept album. "Don't even mention those words," he says.
That evening, as we sit down for dinner, more songs are played on the sound system: Magnificent, the most U2-sounding song, epic and soaring; Cedars of Lebanon, a more intimate song delivered in a half-spoken style; Breathe, which sounds like a page torn out of the Dylan-on-amphetamine songbook ("Nine o nine, St John Divine on the line, my pulse is fine, but I'm running down the road like loose electricity"). He seems fired up on the possibilities of where this album is going.
As Moment of Surrender starts, he jumps up and sings along to the hallucinatory lyrics. "I was speeding on the subway/ Through the stations of the cross/ Every eye looking every other way/ Counting down till the pain would stop." A spiritual epiphany? A junkie's final fall from grace?
Before I can ask, Bono has returned to the table, his laptop open, and is reciting what sounds like a Beat poem. It namechecks Keats and Shelley, St Augustus, a neon Jesus and "the gods of Apollo and Zeus", and there's a line about "tourists with bad breath" and "campaigners against bad debt". There's reams of this stuff, surreal, freeform verse that makes a certain kind of Ginsbergian sense. It does not make it on to the album, but may surface in future live shows if the spirit moves him.
Around midnight, taxis are called, and I head for the Shelbourne Hotel for a late drink with Daniel Lanois. He looks tired. "It's taking longer than we thought," he says, sipping on a beer and a brandy chaser. "They always go the extra mile. They're intense people. I'm intense myself."
Lanois is an old-school rock'n'roller who has worked with Dylan and the Neville Brothers, and who likes to keep things loose and atmospheric. He appears laid-back, but is anything but. I tell him something that Bono had said about him earlier - "Danny's attitude is, 'It's going to be a great album or somebody is going to die.'" He laughs and raises his glass. "That about covers it, Sean. I ain't here for the money, man. None of us are. It ain't about a salary, it's about making a fucking great U2 record."
Has that been difficult this time around?
"Kind of, but, then again, U2 albums have always been difficult."
A few months later, in September 2008, it is announced that the release date of the new U2 album has been put back from November to March. One nagging question hovers unanswered over the postponement: is Bono's other life as a campaigner and activist leaving him too little time to give himself fully to U2?
"When Bono's there, he's there," The Edge tells me later. "He still gives huge amounts of his time and energy, but his life is undoubtedly different now." Larry Mullen concurs. "I can tell you categorically that all the other stuff is not affecting his work. He has boxes of lyrics, great lyrics."
Have his absences impinged on the making of this album?
"Well , when you are four guys working together and one of them is away a lot, you miss that chemistry, and you miss his input. But there's no sour grapes there. We get on with it. We work, you know, U2 works."
Later, I ask Bono the same question. How does he find the time for U2 these days? He takes a deep breath.
"When I'm with U2 doing U2 work, they have me 100% or we would not be here now and we certainly would not have made an album like this one. Look, my day is long. My creative life is over at midday. But, you know, I get up very early. Plus, I don't go out and set fire to myself on a regular basis. I still do it on the odd Friday night, but not the way I used to. I give my time to my family, my band, and my interest in the wider world. It all seems to be fuel for me. My engine seems to be working better these days."At a time when celebrity is a degraded currency, Bono has turned his fame into the ultimate calling card for his activism. It has helped opened doors from the Vatican to the White House, helped ensure unprecedented amounts of aid and debt relief for Africa, helped save and transform countless lives that would have been lost for want of retroviral drugs, and it has led to unlikely alliances, maybe even enduring friendships, with Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton, but also with George Bush, Tony Blair and Nicolas Sarkozy.
In all of this, Bono has not only rewritten the rules of rock stardom, but willed himself into a place where no other rock star has gone before. It has been a high-profile tightrope walk that has earned him much praise and much negative criticism, even scorn. "There are probably more annoying things than being hectored to about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat," thundered the travel writer Paul Theroux in a very public broadside a few years back, "but I can't think of one at the moment."
I ask Bono if he can understand why a lot of people, myself included, not to mention his drummer, found his perceived closeness to Blair and Bush hard to take? He sighs.
"I can understand that, for sure, but the results speak for themselves. I can take it on the nose from everybody, including my own band, but by the time he leaves the White House, George Bush will have trebled aid to Africa. We are into him for $50bn."
SOH So, is it part of the deal that you then don't criticise him about anything else he has done - the war in Iraq, say, or Guantanamo? Morally, that's quite a tricky trade-off.
Bono "No, it's more that I don't make a song and dance about my criticism. Everyone in the White House knows where I stood on the war. In the run up and when it was just about to happen, I had many conversations where I expressed my feelings. But I felt I had to focus on this one thing which was, don't make a deal on extreme poverty. Make it truly colourless politically. It was the power of one clear idea. And it succeeded. And it was very, very difficult, and there was a lot of hand-holding, hours and hours, weeks and weeks, meeting after meeting after meeting, trying to get people not to play politics with the world's poor. And for me to alienate people who, to be fair to them, were often sending their sons to Iraq I just felt, I don't want to be shouting my mouth off about this war when really I have a chance, along with other people, of achieving for the first time broad political consensus on this one hugely important single issue of Africa and aid."
He reaches for his drink and shakes his head.
"But you're right, you're right, you're right...I mean, you know me, and you know how difficult it is for me to shut up about anything."
SOH What intrigues me, though, is this tricky place you are in, which is quite unprecedented in pop star terms. You have used your celebrity to go into the world of political activism, but also the world of corporate wealth and the super-rich, and all in the cause of fighting poverty. It's a tricky place for a rock'n'roller to be.
Bono "I know, I know. It's dangerous. And it worries Larry, and it worries the whole band, if truth be told. But, you know, here's the thing - they thought, all of them, Larry, Edge, Adam, that my campaigning would sink the ship."
SOH The U2 ship?
Bono "Yeah! They thought that the rotten tomatoes world rain down and people would not be able to hack it. That was before they started throwing them themselves [laughs]. They thought, one, that it would distract me. And more than that... They were just not into it at all.
SOH All three of them were against it?
Bono "Oh, I think so. I mean, Edge pleaded with me right at the start not to meet Bush. Five or six years ago. They all did."
SOH Initially, Bush wasn't so keen on meeting you, either. So how long did it take you to get a meeting with him?
Bono "It took a while. He just did not want to meet me at first."
SOH How much difference does your faith make in these situations - your Christian faith?
Bono "A big difference. I mean, I had been a serious scourge of the religious right, and particularly the evangelicals, for their inaction on Africa. And, to be fair to them, after taking a serious beating they did get up and do something, and that gave Bush cover on his right flank."
SOH Did you ever get into theological debate with Bush?
Bono "Oh yeah! I wouldn't talk about it, but yeah."
SOH OK, I have to ask you this one. Did you ever pray with him?
Bono "Whoaah! (He reaches for his drink.) But I didn't inhale [laughs]. Look, I would always use the scriptures to argue my corner. There are 2,103 verses of scripture pertaining to dealing with the poor. That helps, and it also helps to know that.
"Boy, did my days of Bible study come in handy! And, by the way, it's an offence to me that religious people can close their eyes to this stuff. It's just really not allowed."
SOH From where I'm sitting, though, a lot of the people that you are bargaining with, and who are undoubtedly helping save lives in Africa, have also, by their actions elsewhere, shown a blatant disregard for human life on a grand scale. Surely, that, too, is their legacy?
Bono "Look, it's appalling and shocking and not ever excusable, the waste of human life. But on our issues, all I can say to you is that there are 29 million children in Africa who were not going to school and who now are. That's just in seven years. Now, that's not an excuse for a wrong-headed adventure. It's not an excuse. But I don't believe Tony Blair is evil. I know him enough to know that he is a sincere and serious person who would in any unserious way make those decisions and, though I disagreed with those decisions at the time, I think it's really simplistic to think that he is anyone's poodle."
SOH So, hand on heart, when you are dealing with these political heavyweights, do you ever think you are being played?
Bono "I don't care if I get the results. You have to judge me only by the results. If there were no results and you saw a picture of me hanging out with George Bush or Tony Blair or whoever, that would be a different matter. But if you see a picture of me and Bush and two years later you hear people saying 'How on earth did a conservative administration start the largest response to the Aids emergency yet?' I understand why people threw tomatoes at me at the time but even the worst critics have stopped."
SOH There must be moments in all this when you stop and think, this is too surreal. What the hell am I doing here?
Bono "All the time. I mean, there's me and Bob [Geldof] at the G8, and there's the Japanese and their plane is parked over here, and Air Force One is parked over there, and there's the French, the Italians, the Russians, the leaders and a tight coterie of advisers. And then there's fucking Bill and Ben the Flower Pot Men who've somehow been let in. And Bush is going, 'Hey, Bono!' And there's Sarkozy and Merkel, who has given us the keys too because she's heard from Tony Blair that we were the right people to let in. Will we see the likes of it again? I don't know. It still feels mad to me, how that even happened."
London, early December, 2008
The album now has a title, No Line on the Horizon, which is beginning to sound like a self-fulfilling prophecy. "This is definitely the last week of recording," says Adam Clayton, who is wandering the studio corridor when I arrive, espresso in hand. "But then again, last week was definitely the last week of recording, and the week before that."
Downstairs, in a room adjacent to the big wood-panelled studio in which the Rolling Stones recorded Sympathy For the Devil, Bono, The Edge and Lillywhite are working on a single verse of a song called Stand Up Comedy. They have been working on the verse for hours, the song for 16 months - since Fez, in fact, when it was called For Your Love - but something is still not right. Lillywhite, a man possessed of seemingly endless reserves of effervescence, is hunched over a vast mixing desk, doing whatever it is producers do with sound levels, textures, equalisers.
"OK, let's try it one more time," he says, spinning around on his chair and signalling to Bono, who stands up and reaches for a cordless microphone. Lillywhite flicks a switch on the console and a thunderous guitar riff explodes out of the studio speakers. "Stand up, step out on the wire..." howls Bono, his face contorted with passion or, perhaps, pure frustration.
Lillywhite cuts the music and, within seconds, replays the take. Bono shakes his head as the playback blasts out of the speakers. "Annoying Bono just reared his head on that one," he says, reaching for a bottle of water. The other two crack up laughing. "He was definitely hovering," says The Edge.
Something gives in the room, an indefinable, but palpable, diminishing of tension. Still chuckling, Lillywhite re-cues the backing track, and Bono stands up to give it all he's got one more time again. It sounds like he has nailed it. "That was magic, Bono. We're done!" says Lillywhite, looking relieved beyond measure. He replays the take. Bono looks at The Edge. There is a long moment's silence. "I'm not sure," says The Edge, quietly. "I'm not sure. It sounds fine but it doesn't feel right."
When I pop upstairs to grab a coffee a few hours later, they are still working on the same verse.
"It can be frustrating at times when they sometimes take a song and work it into the ground, then work it back to life again," Brian Eno will tell me later. "That's what happened with Stand Up Comedy. I was thinking the other day that Edge has probably heard that song more times than even the most dedicated U2 fan ever will."
Songs - and characters - still survive from Dublin, but the album's narrative arc has since been jettisoned, along with two other songs, Winter and Every Breaking Wave, in the last few frantic days of recording. We will have to wait a while longer for the great U2 concept album. "It was painful to me in a way to let go off the original idea," Bono says, "but by then, I was getting harassed on all sides by everybody. The thing is," he says, grinning, "we came up out of punk rock. We were never going to make a concept album. We were never going to do the prog rock thing and let the plot get in the way of the songs."
It will be interesting to see how No Line on the Horizon, which announces its otherness in its minimal sleeve - one of Hiroshi Sugimoto's zen photographs of a grey sky merging into a grey sea - will be received by the group's traditional fanbase, that huge global constitution for whom U2 will always mean big, stirring songs borne on thudding rhythms and chiming guitars. Instead, they will find a big, dense multilayered album that is the sound of a band reinventing itself once more.
Six weeks later, I enjoy two final conversations with Bono, the first in the corner of the sedate bar of the Merrion Hotel in central Dublin. Remarkably, after the dogged months of studio toil, he looks fit and healthy, trimmer than of late and, when the shades eventually come off, bright-eyed. The buzz of excitement that had spread though the establishment on his arrival has subsided but a waiter hovers in attendance, bearing drinks, then snacks, then, just to be on the safe side, soft drinks.
SOH You said back in Fez, "This record is about the world, and the desire to get out of it, to escape it." Can you elaborate on that?
Bono "Did I say that [laughs]? Were we talking about the notion of peripheral vision, which, I think, is central to the understanding of this album."
SOH I'm not sure but go on.
Bono "Well, first up, it's a very personal album. These are very personal stories even though they are written in character and, in a way, they couldn't be further from my own politics. But, in the sense of the peripheral vision, there's a world out there. As the old blues song goes, a world gone wrong. You can feel it just at the edges - the war in Iraq, the dark clouds on the horizon. But there is also a deliberate shutting out of that in order to focus on more personal epiphanies."
SOH Why did you choose to do that?
Bono "I think because I'm so very much out in the world most of the time, whether the world of commerce, of politics, of activism, whatever. So I have learned to really value the interior life of being an artist and a writer and being in U2. It's become a very private and special place, the time when I'm working with the band. The songs have become more intimate. I wanted to get to an intimate and inner place. I want to get away from subject and subject matter into pure exchange. Not even conversation. Often, it's just like grunts or outbursts. When I think of Moment of Surrender, it's just there! Or Breathe [starts singing] '16th of June, nine o five, doorbell rings...' You're right there in the middle of this outburst. For somebody who spends a lot of time in the exterior word, this album is very much about the interior world."
SOH OK, I'm going to throw some lyrics at you.
Bono "Fire away."
SOH These are from I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight: "Every generation has a chance to change the world/ Pity the nation that won't listen to you, boys and girls."
Bono "Well, that is building up to the next line, 'The sweetest melody is the one we haven't heard.' That's just a nice thought. The solution to the problems we find ourselves in will have to be found by the new generation but often the new ideas just aren't listened to. That lyric is meant to be playful, by the way, not earnest in any way. There's a lot of mischief on this record.
SOH Was that one written with an eye on Obama coming into power?
Bono "Of course! The amount of U2 fans who supported him! The young U2 fanbase were really active in the campaign. Though the One campaigners are from every political colour, an enormous amount of them were also campaigning for Obama."
As we speak, the Obama inauguration is just a week away, and, in a few days, U2 will fly out to Washington to help kickstart the celebrations.
SOH Do you think that Obama's team is equal to the challenge: intellectually big enough to take these huge problems and tackle them on a conceptual level?
Bono "I do. And in a way that has not even been written about."
SOH You know this or you're projecting?
Bono "I know. We're already beginning the conversations."
SOH So you're hopeful? Even as the world freefalls into global financial meltdown...
Bono "Yes. Totally. It's a scary and an amazing time. Look, the world is waking up again. Not to get too grandiose on your ass, but there are shifts that always happen after a major crisis. So, after the First World War, the League of Nations; after the Second World War, the United Nations. The IMF, the World Bank, all came about after periods of crisis. And after 9/11, the Iraq dabacle, and the market meltdown of the last year, I think this is the moment when actually everything is up for grabs. It's like Bob Dylan says on Brownsville Girl [he breaks into a Dylan impersonation]: 'If there's an original idea out there right now, I could use it [laughs].' And there are original ideas out there, that's the thing."
SOH OK, on I'll Go Crazy...., you also sing, "The right to be ridiculous is something I hold dear."
Bono [Laughs] "That's me, That's not an in-character song. I mean it in the literal sense [laughs]. It's actually very important. One of the things I think we've been good at is not letting people put us in any kind of pious light. That happened to us for a while in the 80s and we never want to go back there. I'm always shocked that people are so shocked when they discover the silliness that is an everyday occurrence with U2. It's the final blow to people who can't stand us. That we seem to be having a better time than everyone else as well. It's like, it's not enough not to have broken up, to have made some hopefully inspiring music over the years, but also to be having a lot of fun. The mischief is part of our story and it isn't represented or read about. That's one of the reasons that people do a double take when they see me staggering out of a pub in Dublin at 4am. It can't be Bono, can it? Nah."
SOH So it irks you that people don't seem to get that side of you?
Bono "It takes the sexiness away from you, for a start. And the aliveness."
The conversation spirals off into illuminating territory, touching once again on the Christian faith that is the key determinant of both his music and his activism. It is a subject he does not often talk about, he says, because it inevitably gets reduced or trivialised, and "it leaves you open to being accused of being a hypocrite, especially if you are of the hopeless variety, which I am. I haven't broken all the commandments," he adds, laughing, "but I've wanted to."
He says that a lot of people he most admires are non-believers. Bill Gates. Warren Buffett. "People who are prepared to spend their entire life's fortune trying to make the lives of people they don't know a lot better. These people are more Christian than the Christians. Zealotry and certainty are worrying for me. Love keeps religion from zealotry."
SOH So without love, it becomes another kind of fixed ideology?
Bono "Yeah, that's right! Anyway, there's loads of pops in there about zealotry, religious and otherwise, and you're the only person who's picked up on this in the lyrics. I mean, 'Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady.' Come on?"
SOH That's a pop at the militant atheists.
Bono "And at myself. I mean, I have a bit of it, myself. I have a bit of the helping God across the road like a little old lady."
SOH Not as much as you used to...
Bono [Laughs] "No, but I do have a bit of it. People like myself, all activists, can be guilty of thinking that, because these are matters of life and death, we have an excuse to be fanatics. You have to know when you stop. At least, I do. That's why a lot of anti-poverty campaigners are so annoying. [laughs]. Me included. That's why people see me and they go, 'That fucking Bono, get him outta my face.'"
The following week, Bono and I have one final conversation, and I ask about the album's last lines: "Choose you enemies carefully, 'cause they will define you/ Make then interesting, because in some ways they will mind you/ They're not there in the beginning, but when your story ends/ Gonna last longer with you than your friends."
Bono "Yeah. Yeah. They're are going to be closer than your friends. They are going to shape you."
SOH Are you singing from experience here?
Bono "In a way, I guess. I think one of the things that has set our band apart is the fact that we chose interesting enemies. We didn't choose the obvious enemies - The Man, the establishment. We didn't buy into that. Our credo was: no them, there's only us. Think about it. Every other band was us and them. The Clash, our great heroes. Then U2 arrived and it was no them, only us.
"What that means is that we picked enemies that were more internal - our own hypocrisy. The main obstacle in the way of our band we always saw as ourselves and our limitations. We never blamed the record company. We never blamed the radio [laughs]. You never heard that from us in 25 years. It was always, can we be better? Can we make the song better, the show? What you're really dealing with then are the obstacles to realising your own potential. They are nearly always of a psychological, if not a spiritual, nature. The spectres that hold you back, they were our enemies. It was always, 'You're supposed to be in a rock'n'roll band. You're supposed to be rebellious, but you don't rebel against the obvious.' And we'd go, 'No, we don't. That's the point.'"
SOH In that way, your success ran counter to the course of rock'n'roll. You sang of the joy as opposed to the angst.
Bono "Yeah. I mean, the mark of succeeding for us is.... erm, let me try and get this right because it's important. Joy, for me, is the spilling over of a life well-lived."
"But to get back to the last lines of the record. We were talking about peripheral vision at the start of this conversation. That's the theme of the record. And, in one sense, it's a very tough-minded theme, even, some have said, bleak, but I don't think so."
SOH So, hang on, can you pinpoint that theme, break it down for me?
Bono "It's like, well, you think of the heartache of the invasion of Iraq, or the heartache of taking on heroin, which we've known from friends who have taken that drug, and you think of the wasted energy in a life that comes from just taking on the wrong fight. It could be with your lover. There it was and you blew it. You just didn't know what you had. That's why I love the opening of the album - No Line on the Horizon. There's no end in sight. It's infinity, it's optimistic. [sings] 'I know a girl who's like the sea.' The sea and the sky become the same colour and you lose the horizon line as it disappears into infinity. Infinity is a great place to start.
"You know, it's like that thing that people said about U2, that most bands start off writing about girls and end up writing about God, but we started off writing about God and ended up writing about girls. But we found the God in the girls, that would be my retort."
SOH OK. I need to process all this stuff.
Bono "Anyway, that image is very optimistic - no line on the horizon, whether about a band, a girl, the future. Life itself. It's like I say, the future needs a big kiss."
The future is another question for another interview. How long can U2 stay meaningful? Where will rock's greatest adventure end? For now, there is enough material left over from the sessions for an album that, Bono says, will be released before the end of the year. It will be "a more meditative album on the theme of pilgrimage". Despite the slog, he retains his sense of humour.
SOH The funniest line on the album may be on Stand Up Comedy: "Beware of small men with big ideas." Are you referring to yourself?
Bono "Yeah! For sure. That is the funniest line. Of course. It's saying, stand up to rock stars. That's about choosing your enemies, too. What are you gonna stand up for and what are you gonna stand up against? I love the notion of standing up to rock stars. Because they are a bunch of fucking megalomaniacs [laughs]. If you don't laugh at the end of that line, there's no hope. When I wrote it, I burst out laughing."Sean O'Hagan,The Observer
to see the vid:http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/video/2009/feb/08/u2-album-new-line-on-the-horizon