Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Enough Rope-Andrew Denton Interview-3/14/2006-Australia

He goes by many names, 'Mr MacPhisto', 'The Fly', 'The Mirror Ball Man'. The White House has a new name - 'The Pest'. The world knows him simply as Bono.
ANDREW DENTON: Welcome to a very special edition of ENOUGH ROPE, Bono.
BONO: Thanks very much, thanks for having me.
ANDREW DENTON: Last week you had to announce the postponement of the 'Vertigo' tour, why was that?
BONO: Well I can't really get into the details of why. A family member was very ill and there was a lot of distress and angst and the good news is I think I can announce tonight we are coming back. Looks like November. That's a great relief to me. I didn't want to leave Australia without having that hammered down. We're about that much away from being able to give you the dates. Maybe tomorrow.
ANDREW DENTON: It's a big thing to postpone a tour like this, isn't it?
BONO: It's only happened once before and oddly enough it was in Sydney in Australia in the late '80s, we had to postpone three dates. It makes you feel ill. It's against everything. It's really - it's hard to describe how awful it feels. We've a very close relationship with our fan base thing. It's quite a thing the U2 thing. I'm amazed actually that people have been so kind to us on the websites and people really don't care. They just care is everything going to be OK. For those who have to travel and change travel arrangements we're really, really deeply sorry. Although the airlines have been really cool about all of this. So it looks good.
ANDREW DENTON: From your point of view of course this is the end of an almost year-long world tour and now you're going to have to crank it up in November hopefully.
BONO: It will be better.
BONO: Oh yeah, because it will be the only time we get a chance to play these songs for a long time. It will be extraordinary and the member of the band whose life has been turned upside down by this recent news, he will be on fire as opposed to having a cloud hanging over them. They'll be amazing shows.
ANDREW DENTON: On stage you've described it as sometimes it's like the sky splits open and God pours out. On a good night is it that good?
BONO: On a good night. Playing outdoors is an amazing thing if it goes off. Where else are you going to get 70,000 people to agree on anything? If it's shite, and it can be, I don't think there's a worse place to be in the world. You can't see the band. We have tried with the staging of our shows to always make it wherever you are in the house there's something special going on. I think we broke some ground there in the early '90s with the B stage which you see with the Rolling Stones or others using this multimedia stuff we did on Zoo TV and creating club gigs in the middle of stages like we do on the Vertigo tour.
ANDREW DENTON: Talking once to Ron Wood from the Rolling Stones, he said the funniest thing he had seen happen on stage was Keith Richards slipping on a frankfurter in Frankfurt.
BONO: That's very good.
ANDREW DENTON: It was, it made me laugh. Do funny things happen on stage with you guys?
BONO: I do remember we toured the world with a 40-foot lemon spaceship which was a fanciful idea in the mid '90s. We did have this mothership and it was always in a way meant to go wrong. We were hoping it would. There was a fantastic moment on the opening night as the spaceship opened and we descended from the spaceship down the stairs into very dense dry ice and smoke, where Edge couldn't find his effects pedal. I was down in the smoke with him and he was crawling around in the smoke looking for his fuzz box.
ANDREW DENTON: Difficult moment to recover from.
BONO: Very 'Spinal Tap'. That was part of the fun. It was to be outsized and outrageous and all the other outs.
ANDREW DENTON: Is it true that you actually got caught inside that device at one point?
BONO: Yeah, we had a kind of a lemon failure routine whereas if it got stuck an emergency thing would go out over the audience, 'Lemon failure, lemon breakdown', but there was a drinks cabinet in there, it wasn't too bad.
ANDREW DENTON: Can we talk about the politics of politics, this is the other half of your life which is your activism. You've met many world leaders. Which one do you think is most deserving of that title?
BONO: Of a world leader? I've actually ended up with a lot more respect for politicians than I ever imagined. I mean, they work much harder than I thought I did and they're paid a lot less than I am. Some of them are awful characters and you can see all the trappings of power and why they're there, but most of them are just running to catch up with themselves. I've met so many that I kind of admire, and I know you spoke to Bill Clinton. He's an astonishing character. But one I've ended up thinking about a lot, I don't know why, is Mikhail Gorbachev. I got to know him, and it is the strangest kind of relationship to have with this man. We got on so well.I had a very preposterous moment happen to me where I had told him if he was in Dublin he should drop out. Sundays in our house is like a train station. People drop by. It's open house. We were sitting down at the kitchen table, I think it was our little boy John's birthday, there was a bunch of people around. There was a knock at the door and I had not told Ali that the president might be calling. So she just answers the door and there's Mikhail Gorbachev, once with his finger on the nuclear arsenal, standing with a four-foot teddy almost bigger than him. My wife, Ali, does a lot of work in Russia and Chernobyl and around so this was a really big moment. She was like, "Wow, please come in," and we sat down and drank a lot of whiskey together. He really opened himself up to me.
ANDREW DENTON: Who did you find?
BONO: I just found a really mesmeric man. I asked him about having his finger on all those powers and he said, "All my life I have thought about this and how stupid it was," I think it was called MAD - mutually assured destruction. He said, "I knew always that I would never, ever use that power". I asked him was he religious. He told me his parents were and that he had brought up with some Catholic influence in his life and then finally I said, "Do you believe in God?" He said, "No, but I believe in the universe." And it was just amazing - it was the way he said it, I knew he had thought long and hard about it. There was a lot of Irish whiskey involved too. It was more like (slurs) , "Do you believe in God?"
ANDREW DENTON: Being Russian he could probably drink you under the table?
BONO: I know he can.
ANDREW DENTON: You know what a deliberate construct it is to be a rock star, how much more of a construct do you have to have lead your country, to be a Gorbachev or a Bush?
BONO: I don't know. I just thought, there's this man who really personally dismantled the Berlin Wall and pulled back the Iron Curtain, and maybe the reason I think about Gorbachev a lot and his constructions is because as I grew up in the '70s and '80s in Europe, the Iron Curtain was always going to be there. There was never a thought that one day it wouldn't. And so I use that in my own mind to think about things that we accept as givens.
ANDREW DENTON: Did George Bush surprise you when you met him?
BONO: Yeah, yeah I liked him a lot more than I thought I would. All I'm thinking when I'm meeting him is how I'm going to explain to the band.
ANDREW DENTON: And how did you?
BONO: Well, he's very funny and that took me aback.
ANDREW DENTON: What's George Bush patter?
BONO: I thought he looked rather enviously at my glasses. So I slagged him off about his dress sense. But I rode in one of those ridiculously long motorcades once and he was waving to the people on the street and I said to him, "You're pretty popular around here aren't you then, Mr President?" He said, "Wasn't always so, when I first came to this town, people used to wave at me with one finger." So, he's funny.
ANDREW DENTON: How did you explain it to the band?
BONO: I'm still explaining it to the band.
ANDREW DENTON: How did you break the news?
BONO: The best way I can explain it is that over two initiatives George Bush has signed a cheque worth over 25 billion dollars for issues that I'm working on, which is really serious. 15 billion dollars on an AIDS initiative. Three years ago, four years ago, the idea that a conservative administration of the United States would pay 15 billion dollars to get anti-retro viral drugs to Africans was a preposterous idea. People laughed at me openly, Democrats and Republicans alike. He delivered for me, and Condoleezza Rice who is the person who worked that, she deserves a lot of respect for that. We've had disagreements too. I get agitated when the money isn't coming fast enough. Occasionally he'll tell me to turn it down. "I'm the President, let me finish my sentence. " Stuff like that.
ANDREW DENTON: What you share in common, of course, is faith.
BONO: Right.
ANDREW DENTON: You come from opposite ends of the world but you share faith. Is religion the way to get George Bush to listen?
BONO: He's not simplistic. People think there's a lot of fundamentalists running America. That is not true, that is a cliché. There is I think one fundamentalist in the Administration, that was John Ashcroft and he's gone. I think Bush is a Methodist. I think he has a very deep, yes, faith but he's not from what I can see a raving loony party member - we all know what they are.
ANDREW DENTON: The end of times people.
BONO: It's not that. But I do think yeah, it's being away from me to explain myself to the conservative right, because I just won't let them away with it. The religiosity of the United States is hugely questioned by Europe - and for good reasons. Europeans know that they pay more per person to what the Americans refer to as "the least of these", the poorest of the poor. So you can't get away with this Baroque sort of biblical language and not follow through on it. I just won't let them follow through on it. I explain AIDS to these very intense religious people as the leprosy of our age. I challenge them on their faith. I didn't really have to go that route with Bush, although I did talk in and around that.
ANDREW DENTON: The US has many critics around the world, but you believe this is America's moment, don't you?
BONO: Meaning?
ANDREW DENTON: This is America's time, if America wanted to step up to the plate?
BONO: Yeah. I think it's all - I don't think it's about America. This is a real moment in time where it is possible, if we want to, to be the first generation that says no to extreme poverty. And by extreme poverty we mean stupid poverty, kids dying for lack of food in their belly in the 21st century, or 3000 Africans, mostly children, dying everyday from mosquito bite. That is ridiculous and history has a way of looking, as I said earlier, has a way of making things that looked acceptable once appear ridiculous now. This is that moment. Other ages they had, you could pull back apartheid or it was the fight for equality and civil rights in the United States that defined the '60s and '70s. This is our shot at greatness. Other ages had a chance to put a man on the moon. I spoke to Bush about that, and just said, "Look, that was a great demonstration of financial prowess and intellectual genius really, putting a man on the moon. We're not asking you to put a man on the moon here, Mr President. It will cost less to the bring mankind back to earth so to speak and be that generation. We want to have our beaches and our barbies. We want to go to our rock shows, and no-one has a greater life like a spoiled rock star like myself. But I can't really enjoy it the way I'd like to knowing that there's this haemorrhaging of human life which could be stopped and isn't being stopped.And I think, you know, in a way we shouldn't be blaming the politicians. Really, we have to give them permission to spend what is in the end our money. In Australia's case and in Europe, everywhere, we're asking for 0.7 per cent of GDP. That's what it will take to stop this. That's less than 1 per cent. I don't know an Australian that I've met in the last week that isn't up for that. It's 0.7. Now you're at 0.28 now and there's talk of increasing by 2010, I would say if you get to 0.5 by 2010 you could be very proud as a nation.There's a white paper coming I think on April 26, we're optimistic about that, but push and push and push. Because you may think, "Well, it's just Australia, Australia's one piece of the puzzle." Wrong, everyone looks at everywhere else. I know this. I've been in Gleneagles with Bob running around the golf course in the G8 meeting. Everyone wants to know what everyone else is doing. Even if the Australians weren't in Gleneagles, the Canadians are looking at the Australians.This is a critical moment. If you go to 0.5 by 2010 I think that's like 11 million people would have access to clean water, 18,000 deaths avoided to AIDS and TB. I mean, these are real lives, real numbers. What an opportunity to be able to do that. Look, everyone knows how I feel about Australia. But you have to give the politicians, whoever's in power, permission to do this.
ANDREW DENTON: Have you spoken to John Howard about this?
BONO: I haven't and I'd like to when we get back.
ANDREW DENTON: Will you have that opportunity, if he'll have you? Have you asked?
BONO: I haven't yet.
ANDREW DENTON: How is that set up? Your people meet his people and it happens?
BONO: Kind of like how we met.
ANDREW DENTON: That was in a bed, we can't talk about that.
BONO: That's right. You do get the feeling right in Australia that there's just - this is a new model. Something going on down here, a new society being dreamt up. And you're doing really well. It's an amazing - even just coming here having not played for years, you can see there's a prosperity, the way people walk. It's a confidence. With that, should be the opportunity to lead the world outside of this hemisphere, to actually just take some moral high ground. You can afford to now. I don't want to be a boring asshole
ANDREW DENTON: You say this to every country you visit.
BONO: The only other country I think has the chance in leadership in terms of creating a new model as Australia would be Canada. I would argue similarly with the Canadians.
ANDREW DENTON: You talk about Gleneagles, and that seemed like a great moment where there was a commitment to help the world's poorest nations, but six months on the World Bank and the IMF still hadn't actually cancelled any debt. You talked in December you were gutted that the World Trade Organisation hadn't taken the opportunity to create fairer trading conditions for the world's poorest nations. Can politicians be trusted?
BONO: On the debt stuff we are getting there. It's astonishing. I don't allow myself sometimes to stop, or ourselves to think about these things. But there'll certainly be about in this present round we'll get to about 50 countries who will have a complete brand new start out of this initiative. And that is really incredible and I've seen what that money can go. Like in Uganda nearly three times the amount of children are going to school. That's what that means . 'Cause debt cancelling is kind of an un-sexy concept. It's hard to describe, but that's what it means. So they're coming through on that. On the AIDS front as I told you, there's movement. Now we're still losing the war on AIDS, but there has been breakthroughs.
ANDREW DENTON: The easy dismissal of you and Bob Geldof and others is that you're celebrity activists or whatever it is. I don't think a lot of people understand the hard yards you've had to do to learn your subject and to sell the argument. Can you give us an insight into those early days when you had to study and then you had to work Capitol Hill and the corridors of power?
BONO: Well I hate losing - its probably venal or something, but I hate losing. That's why I'm attracted to people who win. Right now we're working on an AIDS emergency thing in the commercials. We're getting Nike, Armani and American Express involved. These are people who are winners, they're better than I am at getting the public's attention. But to answer your question, the first fence we could fall at was just not knowing the subject. So I enrolled in Harvard University essentially albeit physically enrolled under a professor there called Geoffery Sachs and I went to him.I wanted to know before we took on this fight that we could win it, that it was possible to win. He took me through the numbers and that was helpful. I went to visit a lot of conservative economists because I wanted to know the downside of the argument. I then went to visit the Council of Foreign Relations in New York. There was a man there called Les Gelp. It had a dramatic atmosphere because he'd lost his voice. And he said, "I'm going to give you the names of 46 people who can stop you. I hope you have some time on your hands." And he gave me the names of bankers, I mean media barons, and I pretty much worked through the list from Nelson Rockefeller to Robert Ruben, who was the Treasury Secretary in the United States, to Paul Volcker the legendary Reaganomics head of the Fed. I just went to everyone. Of course they'd have meetings with me out of curiosity.
ANDREW DENTON: They've seen the guy walk in in the glasses, the rock star. I assume they're not planning to give you a huge amount of time.
BONO: No. Paul Volcker this is the guy now, cold war warrior, old trickle down economy, all the things I hate. He doesn't know how he feels about me. He says to me - giant, six foot four inches, talks like the Penguin out of Batman. "So, where are you from?" I said "Ireland". "Do you fish?" And I go, "No, I don't fish." He says, "You stick to fishing". I hated this idea. I hated it in '68. I hated it in '72. I hated it. I hate it now. What's new? I said, "Well, people are looking for a really good idea for the millennium, and maybe this might be the hook we can hang it on. That's the difference. And he sat down and we got into the numbers.He took to me. Actually the first meeting he didn't, though I nobbled his PA to get some Japanese names on my way out and he kind of caught me and he quite liked that. This man really helped in the background and ended up at a U2 show. You can't imagine Paul Volcker, chairman of the Federal Reserve, and we put him in the dressing room with the fun-loving criminals by mistake. Let me say there was a smoky atmosphere. He went to make a speech at the World Bank or something the next day where he said - and he tells the story - I went in there and I could smell something. And I want you all to know today, I inhaled.
ANDREW DENTON: I wonder if the fun-loving criminals...
BONO: These are probably not stories for your audience, but you'll enjoy them at least. There were hundreds of them. Jesse Helms, the old Cold Warrior who, as I was leaving his office - and he was almost in tears at the end of the meeting asking could he give me a blessing, a formal blessing, as in the Jewish - it was a big thing. He got up and he - this is somebody Edge really tried to stop getting into the venue when he eventually came to a U2 show because he had personally dismantled the national endowment for the arts and Edge has married into a very American arts family. He was furious. But he came after the show, he said, "It was amazing, hands in the air, they were blowing like a field of corn." We've had the most preposterous and extraordinary people turn up as a result of this work.
ANDREW DENTON: I don't know whether most rock bands would think you've done the right thing having Paul Volcker and Jesse Helms as groupies. Most are looking for the attractive brunette.
BONO: Well, we are too. Maybe they are too. Maybe that's why they're coming.
ANDREW DENTON: You're a persuasive advocate and you know how quickly the media spotlight moves from one issue to another. How do you make debt relief and fairer trade rules the default position for world governments if someone like you isn't there to scream and shout?
BONO: Yeah, well, as we were saying earlier celebrity is at an oppressive level and it's a pretty ridiculous thing if we're honest, but it is currency and I want to spend mine well. We're good at - we have a spotlight on us, might as well use it. But actually, I think what's happened with myself and Bob is a little different. We have managed to - like those cartoons I see on children's television - shape change and we've managed to get both sides of the barricade. I mean, it's much more glamorous to be on a barricade with a handkerchief over your nose and a Molotov cocktail. That sells albums. Having a bowler hat and a brief case and being in the back rooms of power whispering your arguments is not so sexy, but it is really effective. But I think it's only effective when there's people at the barricades too.So you really need a movement. Our access comes from our celebrity, but our power comes from the movement that we do not command, but certainly represent. They are to politicians, they're the swing vote. They're aged 18 to 36. They know your name, they know your number and everything about you, because they're terrified of you. You haven't decided at that age where you're going to vote. We're access to you is the way politicians see it. I say when I'm in the United States, I say, "We've two million people now signed onto the one campaign to make poverty history. We will have five million by the next election", and that's I think a conservative estimate. We will have five million, which is bigger than the National Rifle Association. Do you know how much money they spend a year the NRA on 300 million dollars a year is spent protecting that position. Now we won't have 300 million dollars a year, but we will have sportsmen, hip-hop stars, writers, TV presenters who'll give their time for nothing. What I'm saying is we're getting to some force measure there.
ANDREW DENTON: You mention them and talk about the currency of celebrity. We live in an age where Sharon Stone is on an official visit to the Middle East and Michael Douglas is a UN peace messenger. Is that currency being devalued? The currency of celebrity?
BONO: Could it be? Let it be. What I'm saying is we're about to move, myself and Bob and others are moving away from the need to live off this ridiculous thing called celebrity. We're actually starting to get access because we represent a lot of people. That's a different kind of power.
ANDREW DENTON: Criticism made of what you and Bob have done, not what you've done but the way people perceive it, they go to the event, the revolution is just a T-shirt Billy Bragg has said. They think something has been done, but still the hard work goes on in the back rooms. You talk about signing up three million people or five million people to the one movement. Ultimately though, are people good at writing cheques but not necessarily cashing them?
BONO: Politicians love to write cheques and it is hard to get them to cash them. But again I answer you the same. It's about the movement. The movement are there. They're much more important than people like me. And they're made up of all kinds of people. We've got - it's a big tent is what Bill Clinton said to me. "That is a big tent. You've got rock stars, soccer mums, religious folks." Actually, in some ways the politicians are much more scared of the soccer mums and the religious folks than they are the student activists and the rock stars, but when we all start hanging out together, they're terrified and that's probably the single idea that we brought to the table, was let's not divide countries in half along party lines. This was always the subject of the left. It's no longer that and that's something I'm proud of. We're working across party lines and that's where our power comes and that's the way we'll get them to cash the cheques.If Australia decides that 0.7 is the decent thing to do - less than one per cent and it wants to lead the world and actually meet the world on these terms, if you decide it, the politicians at the next election will agree with you.
ANDREW DENTON: You're charm personified, who have you met that you couldn't crack?
BONO: Robert Ruben was very hard, the genius Finance Minister under Clinton, the first one before Larry Summers. He was against debt cancellation because he was a student of Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury Secretary of the United States, who when pressured not to repay debt to England, to the Empire, because they had just broken free of it, he said, "No, no, we'll pay them everything we're owed and establish credit worthiness that way."He was hard, but he also helped me when he left office. There's a thing we're about to get involved in it's just starting to announce it which I could talk to you about for two seconds. It's called the Red Campaign. It's for the AIDS emergency. It's for people who are involved in commerce and fashion, people who maybe they're - it's not about putting on your marching boots and going to Gleneagles but it's about getting AIDS drugs to Africans who need it. Robert Ruben was sitting in a meeting just like this with me. And he said, "You know I didn't run with the debt cancellation thing, but you got your way there, congratulations. Your real problem is the United States, Europe, whenever else, people don't understand one, the nature of the problem and two, they don't understand that the problem can be solved. In order for you to achieve your end you're going to need to go after this like a major, major corporation would go after its advertising and marketing. Like a cigarette company would."So we had then, they've got access to multimillions of dollars which we don't have. So I then cooked up this idea of a Red campaign, just to get into the marketing budgets of major corporations, so we signed on Amex, there's a red card. Every time you use this red American Express card - there's red phones, you'll be even more sick of me at the end of the year. But hopefully you won't be sick of this Red campaign. And that came from Robert Ruben.
ANDREW DENTON: You talk about AIDS, something that you're very strong about. You said that one of the most significant meetings in your life was with Pope John Paul II and the Vatican's policy on condoms of course has been one of the reasons AIDS has been allowed to spread. Did you talk with him about that?
BONO: No, we went to meet with Pope John Paul on debt forgiveness, which they were very good at. The language in Pope John Paul's communiqué on debt was really amazing. Incendiary stuff, actually. But it was interesting, an Irish person a lot of people have strong feelings about the Pope and Ireland, for and against, particularly women because of his attitude towards condoms. Of course in Africa condoms are a necessity.But the truth of it is I have learnt a respect for conservatives that I wasn't expecting to have. Don't ask them, don't ask nuns to give out condoms. Let's get other people to give out the condoms. They can do something else. The sort of the basis of - the agreed-upon basis for assistance to the AIDS emergency in Africa is ABC - abstinence, be faithful, condoms. Everyone knows that, including the nuns. They just don't do the C bit.My friends on the left get very upset, and are right to, when that language is enforced, and so in the United States you had Brazil saying to President Bush we don't want your money because of language on prostitution and condoms. But I said to President Bush, "I did some research before I met you and I have discovered that the largest purchaser of condoms on the planet earth is the United States Government. He looked at me and said, "Don't tell anyone that." 'Cause actually it's OK, nuns don't have to give out condoms. Somebody else can do it.
ANDREW DENTON: As a man of faith, when you look at Africa, what's your concept of a working God?
BONO: Look on the God thing I have to be really careful because I'm not a very good advertisement and so I don't want to sit there and say, "I'm a man of faith," Yes, I am, I just can't. I recently read in one of St Paul's letters where it describes all of the fruits of the spirit, and I had none of them.
ANDREW DENTON: You fulfil a Christian ideal.
BONO: No, I don't think so. All the commandments I've broken and the ones I haven't I've probably wanted to. But that said, I do have a faith and it is challenged on a daily basis by what I see in Africa. Yes, and yet more than that I have a sense that really people are the problem. We're the problem, really. God gets a lot of bad press. The tsunami was very eloquent in a way, the response. There's a natural disaster, this awful misnomer, Mother Nature, it's just dreadful. But in Africa you have an avoidable catastrophe of tsunami proportions every week. So we have the technology, we have the resources, we have the resources if we have the will.So I've gone through my shouting at God, I've gone through my angry phase but I finally end up looking at my own indolence and fighting with it, an indifference. Because I have it, too. And I feel that I'm not alone in this. I feel there's a generation of people. I kind of realised this isn't something we can really blame God for. This is about us, really. So that's where I am on it.
ANDREW DENTON: Of course your long-time friend and collaborator Bob Geldof, what kind of a man is he in your life?
BONO: Well he occupies a position really that no other occupies, because he lit the torch paper for me, and not just political activism in the sense of what is achievable, but in so many ways how a singer can change shape into different areas of taking care of business as Elvis used to have that thing, taking care of business. I think he probably thinks his creative life is in one corner and then he has all this other stuff that he does. He's really wrong. What Bob needs to know is his life is the creative life. It's not just the music. He has made his whole life the work. The way he is in that family - we were talking about the Pope earlier - I just remember standing there with the Pope and I'd swapped my glasses for a pair of rosary beads which I'm wearing now. The crooked cross, Michelangelo designed it. I had my rosary that the Pope had given me. "That's really great." Bob's there, "Can I have another three, I've got four kids." He really is remarkable.People say it's good cop, bad cop but actually both of us are very tough, it's by whatever means necessary. I think we're both into ultimate fighting. The only difference is that I accept the rules of ultimate fighting, which is you can't poke someone in the eye or bite them, and Bob doesn't. I have seen him try to bite prime ministers and I've had to call him off Tony Blair. Literally spital coming out, invective coming out, and Tony reaching over to me saying, "I believe you've a greatest hits coming", just to get a break from Geldof.
ANDREW DENTON: Do you have a secret signal with Bob if he goes over, just a sort of a...
BONO: There is no off with him at all. I think he is the poet of - he's a poet of expletives at the very least, but of the lingua franca as he calls it. He is our greatest poet. If media and music is the lingua franca, as he calls it, then he is our greatest poet.
ANDREW DENTON: A man you love?
BONO: I love him.
ANDREW DENTON: You were asked recently why you never took off the glasses and you said, "It would give too much away." The eyes are the window to the soul, Bono, what is it that you don't want us to know?
BONO: Oh, there's a lot.
BONO: There's many reasons for the glasses, posing I'm sure right up there, privacy, and other more medical. I do like having one step of a remove, actually. I don't think when I'm singing I hold anything back and I don't think when I'm writing I hold anything back. But I think I'm allowed to hold something back in this kind of a set-up. As honest a man as you are and as honest as I'm trying to be, there is a natural insincerity in the set-up and I'm trying to be much better at it. But just one step removed.
ANDREW DENTON: It's a good answer. When Bruce Springsteen inducted you into the Hall of Fame last year he marvelled at the fact the band had been together 25 years and what he called the ticking time bomb that's at the centre of every band that you'd harnessed it that it hadn't exploded. When the four of you are in the room together trying to make the next thing happen, what stops the bomb going off?
BONO: We have this huge desire amongst us, the four of us, to not be crap. I think that's really it. Because we have this amazing life. We really have got an incredible life. The deal is - we feel it's like a deal with us and our audience. They don't mind us having, being able to take a break wherever we want, renting some fancy house on the harbour at Sydney. Have all of that, where you send your kids to school. Have a great life, just don't be crap. That's kind of the deal. We always think when we go in to make an album, "Is this going to be the one we're going to be crap?" Suddenly there's three crap albums in a row. Two crap albums and you're out. That's our vibe.
ANDREW DENTON: As the biggest rock band in the world with extraordinary shows and have you ever asked yourselves, "Are we turning into wankers?"
BONO: I didn't have to ask the questions. At any given moment one of us is being a wanker, and it's usually probably me.
ANDREW DENTON: Didn't you say you got into the back of your own car?
BONO: Yeah, coming home from tour it's like re-entering earth's atmosphere and yes, on occasions I have tried to pay at my local restaurant with a room key that's a month old or stepped into the back of my own car which is really sad. I used to think when I was a kid, "We'll never change," what a stupid idea. You should change. As much as you fight off being a rock star. It's just like, run with it. I'm kind of amazed we're getting away with it. I don't think we were sort of designed to be rock stars. If you look at us as people we're not really, we're just not that kind of people and yet we are I suppose rock stars which I find bizarre.
ANDREW DENTON: If you want to lend it, I'm happy to take it over.
BONO: No, I think you've got a slightly different thing coming. You've got the revolution around the corner kind of vibe.
ANDREW DENTON: You walk a fine line between politics and showbiz. It's not always easy. The 'Zoo' tour in '93 when you used to take live broadcasts from the besieged cities of Sarajevo. A woman said, "I wonder what you're going to do for Sarajevo, I don't think you'll do anything at all."
BONO: She said worse than that. She said, "You know we're going to die" and she said, "really the best thing would be that you hurry it up." It was a remarkable thing. There was really no proper response to the siege of Sarajevo for a long time. We were there just using what we had to give access to these people to tell their stories and sometimes it was very hard to continue a rock show after that, yes. And I know it really offended a lot of people.
ANDREW DENTON: I think Larry said did he not, if he had to be in the band 20 years just to play that gig, it would have been worth it?
BONO: That was astonishing. Again you probably won't run on TV, but sitting in the President's apartment which was in a block of flats with a bicycle parked outside. We took our shoes off, we went in to meet this war-time president who was a scholar. He told us the story of the burning library, one of the great libraries of civilisation was in Sarajevo with ancient Islamic, Jewish, Christian books. It was deliberately targeted by the usurpers and the people in the siege. They burned down this library. He told us this amazing story. For days, even a week later, after this bombing, words from these sacred manuscripts were falling still through the sky. People walking around Sarajevo with these priceless words falling on them like rain. Amazing story.
ANDREW DENTON: That's fantastic.
BONO: Yeah. A symbol of tolerance. Sarajevo the reason they wanted to break the spirit is in a way pertinent to what's going on today because this was a city where all the different ethnic groups lived together quite well. That's why they tried to break it. It was a symbol of co-existence.
ANDREW DENTON: You front the biggest band in the world. You're heavily involved in global politics and activism. Major responsibilities, where do you find time to be a meaningful parent?
BONO: I have - we're very gypsy-like our family. And my kids travel so well. In fact, this last year of touring we've never been as close as a family. We got a tutor for the oldest kids. Their school work went up. They've gone home and the headmaster said they're school work has gone up. They love the adventure of being on the road. I see professional people and people who work in factories who have to get up very early at seven in the morning, leave the house and come home at 9 o'clock at night. They're the people who have the most difficult times to get time with their family. I'm lucky. I'm at home in the morning, I'm on the phone, the kids are there. I really do have a great life in that sense. Now I think mostly Ali has organised this. I wouldn't want to take too much credit for it. But I have an amazing family life and it's elastic and it's a little hectic and a little chaotic, but it's full of laughter and full of - they're great kids.
ANDREW DENTON: You've been as a band 25 years, you've been through all the rites of passage together, marriage, births of children, deaths of parents. Without wishing to go into exactly what's happening now, one of the band members is in pain, how are you there to help each other?
BONO: Our music does come out of community. It's a very tight community and so if one of us is going through it, we're all going through it. He will be out the other side of it. They will be out the other side of it. And God willing it will be a very positive outcome and we work through it. We've all been through different ups and downs and you've got to give yourself freedom within a band to get out of each other's way as well as to get in somebody's face at the right time. Sometimes you have to know when not to. This is one of those moments.
ANDREW DENTON: I'd like to close with a quote from one of your favourite poets. Brendan Kennelly, "If you want to serve the age, betray it," what does that mean to you?
BONO: Well, he is an extraordinary poet. The book of Judas is an amazing epic poem. There is these amazing Jewish sheep herders standing in front of a pharaoh. He says, "You say you're equal to me." Yes, that's what it says in the book . Eventually they're accepted as equal, but not women, or not blacks. And it's a pain in the arse, equality, but right now where we're at with it. is if we believed that these people's lives were equal in value to ours, we would not be letting them die like this. This is not an argument for giving money to corrupt leadership or redecorating presidential palaces. Let's be tough, and vigorous and demanding of our aid. But let's increase it and let's be that generation that can say to our kids, "We stopped that".And just another one on the Jewish thing while I'm there. I met this incredible man in the United States Congress Tom Lantos and he was a survivor of concentration camps and he told me that years later it wasn't the mistreatment in the camps and the brutality that used to haunt him, but the thing that haunted him were the blank stares of the faces as they were being loaded onto the trains. And I knew this is a very heavy thing to bring up. I don't bring it up this lightly, but is there some analogy here. He said, "Oh no, it's worse than that, because we know where these trains are going. We are letting children die for lack of medicines you can get in any corner shop." And so I asked him could I use this analogy and he said "Yes", and that's what our generation has got to do. We've got to go down and lie across the tracks.
ANDREW DENTON: It's easy to talk, great to sing, but I really respect the fact you give time. Bono, thank you.
BONO: Thank you.


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