Bono called in from Rolling Stone's offices in New York City. Adam Clayton took a break from his trip in the Himalayas. Larry Mullen and the Edge dialed in from separate locations in New York.
In celebration of their new album, The
Best of 1990-2000, U2
came together to answer questions from their fans all over the world as asked by
the BBC's Jo Whiley. The band discussed politics, dreams, responsibility, their
best concerts ever in the last 20 years, and the price of fame.
Bono even tried to imagine a life without music. "I wouldn't know what to do. It would be awful."
Hear the entire Q&A
JO WHILEY: We have tens of thousands of questions coming in from all over the world. The first one says, Dear Bono, Edge, Larry and Adam, I absolutely love "Electrical Storm," and was wondering if you could tell me what inspired the lyrics to this song.
BONO: It's hard. When I'm writing the lyrics to songs,
I try to put into words what the band are doing musically. You know, the
lyric tends to grow out of the melody, and the melody grows out of the
chords. The title "Electrical Storm" came to me as a sort of just a
suggestion about the nervous times that we live in, and post 9-11, and all that,
but actually it ended up being a song just about lovers trying to clear the air,
really. And I just left it
JW: This is from Jammal. He says: Hi, U2, I'm an African living in the UK, and I just want to let you know, I think you're the best band in the world. You have very big hearts for the underprivileged people around the world. My question is, what prompted you to start the fight against poverty? It's a bit of a big one, bit of a big question. Who wants to go with that one? Edge?
EDGE: Well, Bono should probably be answering it. But I think you could say that the band over the years have had a kind of interest in taking advantage of our situation. And I suppose the reason why we have gotten involved with these different issues, and been part of movements, is really a sense within the band that with the great success that we've had comes a great responsibility to do something, to give back something.
JW: Do you think every band who happens to become a success should have that kind of responsibility? Do you think enough bands actually realize that, recognize that, and get on with the job?
EDGE: Well, I don't think it's just related to the bands. I think it's relating to people who, like we, live incredibly privileged lives. And I think that there's great examples of people who do have those kinds of epiphanies, and decide to do amazing things. Somebody like Bill Gates, who I know gets a lot of bad press, but I mean the work that he has done over the last three or four years is absolutely astonishing.
BONO: No single person has done more than Bill Gates.
BONO: Yes, for the people in Africa, and the developing world. It's kind of extraordinary.
JW: A lot of people would be quite ignorant of that.
BONO: Yes. He is spending fortunes, billions and billions, on reserach and particularly on the immunization of children ... putting into practice these programs to immunize kids from malaria, all kinds of things. Yes, it's amazing.
And then there's just people on the street, just regular people, mothers who got involved in the Jubilee 2000 Campaign, and it wasn't student activists, people got out on the street in large numbers, just regular Joes, and I think that, in a way, they're the ones that the politicians are afraid of. They're not afraid of me, or the regular student activists. When people get on the streets whom they don't expect, like mothers, and say look, it's not acceptable that an accident of longitude and latitude can decide whether you're going to die of AIDS. If you lived in London or New York, you can live because you can get access to the drugs. But if you're in Africa, you can die because you don't. I don't think that's acceptable anymore, and people are getting out on the streets to say it.
JW: Okay. Bono, another one for you, this is
from Nikie Copus. Nikie is curious if you constantly talk to
BONO: That is a great question. I mean, I'm too busy ranting to get time to listen to myself. I wake up in the morning, I must say, I wake up in the morning with questions that I try to answer over the day, and that's as close as I get.
JW: Okay. Do you dream very much?
BONO: Yes, I do, and I tend to -- the most exciting dreams for me are the waking dreams, you know, the ones that you have when you're walking down the street, and you get a big idea in your head, and you figure out a way of trying to realize that idea. They're the best ones, I think. Again, some of the political work we've done over the while had felt like waking dreams. And you have to then make this abstract idea you've got ... to make it concrete. I really like that. I don't believe in wishful thinking. You know, "Imagine," that John Lennon song, it's my least favorite of his songs. And he's the man for me, but it's like I don't believe that imagining is enough. First, you have to imagine, but then you have to build it, and with concrete, and scaffolding, and the sort of unromantic aspect is to me now more interesting than it was, say, when I was younger, and I thought just having the dream was enough.
JW: Question here from Navid, we'll go with this one. I was wondering which of your many concerts that you've done over the past 22 years has been your favorite, for each of you then. Larry, do you want to go with your favorite gig ever?
LARRY MULLEN: I think that there have been a few moments that are really outstanding. The first time playing in Slane Castle, the first time playing in Croke Park with U2, and the first stadium in the U.S., and then it goes on. But, the one that probably stands out more than any other one is Sarajevo, we played there on the Pop tour. There's no doubt that that is an experience I will never forget for the rest of my life. And if I had to spend 20 years in the band just to play that show, and have done that, I think it would have been worthwhile.
JW: Is that the same for the other two, Edge?
EDGE: Yes, Sarajevo, I have to say, is hard to beat. We did the show at a time when most of the people who lived in Sarajevo were really trying to persuade themselves that the war was really over, and so for a long time afterwards we were told in Sarajevo they would refer to before and after the U2 concert, like it had become some kind of weird milestone, some sign that the war was really over. And even people who didn't really know what the band was about, or didn't know music, or had never heard of U2, there was something resonant about the fact that a concert had gone on at that moment in time. And every person we spoke to, all the U.N. troops, all the locals, everybody was just so delighted that this was possible. And it was only possible because of all the hundreds of people, both on our crew and people that work in the city itself, that really some of them put their lives on the line to make it happen.
BONO: They ran trains into Serbia and into Croatia, they put on a special train. The railroad lines had been down, and they were reopened for that, it's unbelievable, to get the three main [ethnic] groups there.
JW: Bono, is there another gig that means an awful lot to you, or meant an awful lot to you in your career?
BONO: Maybe Belfast, the Waterfront Hall, when we were
trying to help the campaign to pass the Good Friday Peace Agreement.
I think that was a great moment for us, again. It looked like it was a
potential pitfall, and we're from the South of Ireland, not from the North of
Ireland, and I think people in Belfast, that they were very generous to let a
southern band be on stage. We were on with Ash, who are an extraordinary
band. They're from that part of the country, and they had a real reason to
stand there. We had a reason, too, because everyone would benefit or
suffer if the peace agreement was to pass or not. But, it was a very, very
emotional moment. We brought the leaders of the Catholic community, and
the leaders of the Protestant out, and we asked the two politicians to do
something that would be almost impossible for a politician to agree to ... to
walk out on the stage and not say anything. This is about a photograph.
We're going to ask you to shake hands, in public, because they'd never done that
before. It was really a great moment.
Next page: Plans for the next album