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"At first I thought musicians, artists, novelists, painters should not be in the same company. Now I think we need each other. It was painters, poets, that gave us a sense of who we were. Politicians shut us out at their peril." — Bono

I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night (Part 2)

Q magazine
"I fell asleep in one of those tents!" groans Bono, looking like death microwaved, at the crack of 3 p.m. "Then I woke up in my room with a raging thirst and I came out here looking for water. I was asking a guy for water for 15 minutes, but he couldn't understand." He lifts his Fly shades, revealing eyes that would make any snake proud, before delivering the punchline. "Turned out he was the swimming pool attendant. Water is his life."

The croaked word at poolside is of a 9 a.m. party finish. Dreadful stories of projectile vomiting and disgraced crew members and folk sleeping in the unlikeliest of positions abound. Edge lies on a sun-lounger moaning softly. He is wearing star-spangled shorts, sunglasses and his Tibetan goatherd hat. There's an interview to undergo in a moment and he is conserving what little energy he has.

"A very good night was had by all," giggles Adam, weaving unsteadily across the lawn in an open shirt and a red shin-length sarong (regrettable fashion item of this season formerly called "a wraparound skirt"). Adam has just got up. Well, it is only four in the afternoon. He takes a seat, complaining of that uncomfortable post-drinking sensation where there's Mahler in your head and mutiny in your stomach. Edge, having risen, is frowning to maintain his regular gentle intensity. Earlier in the day, someone in the organization had pointed out that "Edge is slowly turning into Eno." He certainly shares a propensity to dryly analyze what most minds discard. Ask him if he's been listening to much dance music recently and he replies, "I think you have to become very careful when you talk about dance music now. It's become a series of clichés. Of course, music should have rhythm, and on that level, I think an education in rhythm has definitely occurred in the last 10 years, but I don't think we'd ever imagine that our records would make a lot of sense when placed next to specifically constructed dance records."

In contrast, having got "exquisitely wasted," Adam is pinballing -- in that manner unique to the prize-winningly hungover -- between abstract profundity and drooling delirium. As Edge does his furrow-browed best to make sense of the questions, Adam busies himself with a kill-or-cure toasted egg-and-asparagus sandwich, making amusingly crumby interjections.

Q: What's the relationship between Zooropa and Achtung Baby?

EDGE: I think we were still surfing on the wave of creative energy from Achtung Baby and the Zoo TV tour when we were making Zooropa. It was the same burst of inspiration. When we were working on Achtung Baby, we were looking to discover new sonic terrain and on this record that was already established, so we were more confident of what we were doing.

Eno came in for a month and, if this is true, spent one visit hanging up different fabrics on the walls.

ADAM: (Laughs) Brian's very atmosphere-conscious. It has to be inspiring. He gets bored easily and if he doesn't feel that the room, the sounds or what had he had for lunch, is inspiring, he freaks out. He hates onions. Onions really fuck his head up.

On initial listenings to Zooropa, it sounds as though Eno's musical contribution was greater this time around.

EDGE: Brian came in for two-week periods and during that time we were running two studios. We'd have the second studio set and just give Brian a song and say, "See if you can give this a different spin." He would readjust the balance or put on some keyboards. So there are a couple of songs where Brian's personality is very definitely there.

There have been several comparisons to David Bowie's Low.

EDGE: It's funny, because a few times we bumped into Bowie, musically speaking, and we very consciously had to pull back. He's a big influence, along with Lou Reed and Iggy Pop.

ADAM: They claimed so many sounds and atmospheres in those periods that it's hard not to bump into them occasionally.

EDGE: I hear a lot of Kraftwerk on this album.

ADAM: I suppose we're talking about quintessential European music and those were the people who defined that sound.

EDGE: We've never had a problem with influences, although we have this very strong rule that if we like a song we've written because it reminds us of someone else, then we'll get rid of it. If we like it anyway and it always happens to remind us of someone, then we'll keep it. I think that's quite a fundamental difference. I remember on the original versions of "Real Thing" on Achtung Baby, we realized that it didn't sound like us, it sounded like Marc Bolan. It's hard to hear that now because we pared it down to its essences and rebuilt it. But we've never been shy about influences -- everybody borrows from everyone else.

And, in turn, you've been borrowed from.

EDGE: Sure, and I don't mind people borrowing ideas, as long as they're not just re-hashing and creating pastiches. That just reduces and debases your work. You're not expanding the idea, you're just caricaturing someone else's idea. That has happened to us.

ADAM: A Flock of Haircuts!

One reaction to the bass playing on Zooropa was, "Thank Christ, Adam's put the spliff down and he's using both hands again."

ADAM: (Laughs) I was sitting on top of the tracks this time and embellishing rather than the standard U2 song situation where I'm really pushing the song along and responsible for maintaining the rhythm and chord structure. There was less responsibility on my part. And most of it was done in one take, or at most a morning.

Whereas Achtung Baby was confused and sad in mood, Zooropa has a feeling of disconnection, of being unable to relate to anything. Is this the case?

EDGE: For us at the moment, because the album happened so fast, I don't have a perspective on some of that stuff. I'm still getting to know the record as well. Often, you don't begin to see the themes that run through the whole record until some time afterwards, because often they're not even conscious.

Have the themes from Achtung Baby crystallized yet?

EDGE: Yeah. (Laughs sadly) I'm not sure I want to talk about it though. Talk to Bono.

I already have. He suggested, in a roundabout way, that I speak to you.

ADAM: Nicely deflected, Bono!

The longer you lived with Achtung Baby, the bleaker it got.

EDGE: It's a very, very dark piece of work. There's a sense of desperation and resignation and all sorts of worrying tones in between. I think Zooropa is a little less freaked out, a little happier.

How do you cope with translating personal problems into songs, which seemed, in essence, what you were doing on Achtung Baby?

EDGE: I'm not sure anyone ever says, "I'd like to do a song about this problem I'm having." You don't necessarily write every song about yourself. You write songs because you're interested in the form and you end up in there somewhere along the road. But if people imagined that all our songs were autobiographical, they would have a very strange impression of what we were like.

Do Bono's lyrics still affect you emotionally?

EDGE: Sometimes they're just so right. There's a line in "Red Hill Mining Town" that starts "The night comes like a hunter..." That gives me chills every time I hear it. And I still don't know what it means.

Has the adoption of "One" as an anthem for causes surprised you? Were you always aware of the song's potential power?

EDGE: At the instant we were recording it, I got a strong sense of its power. In fact, it was a very important moment for me in Berlin because it was only then that I thought, "OK, this is going to work." We'd had a very difficult time up until then.

ADAM: I still don't think it's as good as "Stairway to Heaven." (Laughs) No, it was an amazing moment.

What happens when one of those moments arrives?

ADAM: We all burst into tears, hug each other...

EDGE: It's the reason you're in a band when whatever it is descends on you and you end up with something truly affecting. "One" is an incredibly moving piece and I still get very moved each time I play it. It just hits straight into the heart.

ADAM: Those moments happen from time to time. It happened on the first gig we ever did in the school hall in Mount Temple and it was like, "Yes, we can be a band!" And people talk about that moment at Live Aid. It certainly passed me by at the time but I've seen it back and I've understood why it suddenly connected with a lot of people.

What's your take on Macphisto?

EDGE: It's an extension of the Mirrorball Man, telly evangelist, second-hand care salesman character that Bono developed on the indoor tour. It's like that but...weirder.

It's a less comedic creation than people seem to think at first, isn't it?

EDGE: We didn't like it being comedic. We wanted it to be threatening and a bit frightening. Sad even.

Has the psychology between the four members of U2 changed in recent years?

EDGE: I think we're less uptight these days.

ADAM: Definitely.

You spend more time in each other's company than most families do. How does that affect you?

ADAM: We're just very hard to get to know (laughs. The original thing that drew us together in the Dublin suburbs in the mid-'70s was the fact that there was nowhere you could go for the sort of information you wanted. There was no scene, or club, no magazine to read. So what brought the band together was asking questions. As the band has become more successful and achieved more, you find that the people who still know the most about what you do are the other three guys in the band. Now you could say, "That's terribly sad, they're cut off in their own world," but it really is the most exciting combination of people for any member of the band. Because we're all out there together trying to find out what's going on.

EDGE: It's a very unusual thing to be in a band like this. It's like being in a street gang. And it's all very well being in a street gang when you're 16, but it's bloody weird when you're 32.

ANOTHER NAPE-TICKLING, rule-breaking, hangover-dismissing gig is successfully negotiated to the vociferous delight of the sundried Italians. Highlights include a superb acoustic "I Will Follow," Bono's touching solo rendition of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," an American proposing to his girl via the Video Confessional (she later accepts) and Macphisto failing to get through to the Pope. And now, Lord forgive us, another party.

Larry foolishly slaps down the pool gauntlet once again; Edge gets cornered by someone big in U.S. radio and has to get quietly sozzled in order to cope; and Adam has instigated a splinter group party outside his room. Bono is nowhere to be seen. After an hour or so, he shows up looking quite distraught.

What's wrong?

"Oh, nothing."

"You look upset."

"Yes, I am upset. I'm very upset." The turquoise eyes are wild and wet and the small sickle-shaped scar on his chin is livid. He wears the same expression of anguish that flashed across his face when he told me, "When I was growing up, I was constantly told I was shit. I was forbidden to dream." He's been talking to the Sarajevo film crew about the conditions there and it has affected him very deeply. For an hour he recounts stories of a subterranean disco where they play U2 records to drown out the sound of the shelling, of an art exhibition that continued despite a full-scale attack, of neighbors machine-gunning each other, of mothers being raped, of murder passing into the realm of the justifiable. It's desperate.

"What can I do?" asks Bono. "I've got to do something." And for that moment you can see Zooropa, Zoo TV and all its attendant smartarse irony and arch humor receding as his conscience -- that worthy old thing he's been trying to deny just recently -- bursts into flame once again. His jaw muscles bunch and he focuses on the floor like a kid to stop from crying, like Axl Rose listening to "One." He repeats it quietly like a mantra. "I've got to do something."

© Q magazine, 1993. All Rights Reserved.