greg kot interview with bono

“But if a show is a little off, and there’s a hole, that’s the one song we can guarantee that God will walk through the room as soon as we play it.”

So, once again a musician doesn’t like what a Chicago rock writer wrote about their performance, and calls them up and leaves a voicemail which results in the two sitting down for a conversation.

When I heard about this incident last night, the first thing I said was, “What is it with rock writers in Chicago that rock stars keep calling them up to yell at them?”

And then I realized it was because Chicago is one of the few towns left that has intelligent, erudite rock and roll writers on the payroll of the daily papers (and yes, I include DeRogatis in this mix. While I think sometimes he is overly cranky and too predictable, he is still smart, articulate and passionate about what he does).

But this time it was Greg Kot’s turn to sit down with Bono, and the result is an interview that is one of the greatest rock and roll interviews of the last 10 years.

It’s the first interview for longer than I care to remember that made me think, that made me question my own assumptions about the music and the artist, where the writer doing the interview did not back down BUT YET also conceded points — or had his own mind changed as he was speaking to the artist. It was a dialogue, it was an actual intelligent conversation.

I also typed “and wasn’t clouded by editorial concerns” but I don’t know that to be true, you know – I don’t know if U2’s record company advertises in the Chicago Tribune or if Kot’s editor’s care if they do or don’t. What I know is that I don’t feel like that was a factor in the direction of the conversation, and I can’t think of many publications where that consideration isn’t in the back of my mind as I read it. (I mean, even on one of the tiny websites I write for, I am getting more and more concerned because more and more writers on it get all psyched when a band’s official web site linked to their article or they get a nice note from the artist thanking them for their review.)

Kot wasn’t trying to be Bono’s new best friend, or have Bono like him (again, I don’t know, all I do know is that the questions made me feel like that wasn’t a concern) which is another big pet peeve with interviews today; so many writers are afraid of pissing off the musician or the publicist or the record company and having their access cut off (either to that band or to other artists they represent). Bono says, “We need from writers some rage, and we need spleen, but we also need the pursuit of truth.”

This has not been an easy year to be a U2 fan; I have struggled hard with my own relationship with the band — truth is that I have for years, since the first time they played Madison Square Garden (I didn’t go; I turned up my nose at seeing any band I loved in a space that big). For some reason I feel like I want to give up on them, or I want an excuse to be able to; I don’t want to have to pay $160 to see them or feel like shit when I can’t or won’t spend that sum of money. (And even in this interview, Bono calling “Vertigo” a “three-minute punk rock song” is enough to make me see red.)

But this interview made me change my mind about more than a few things, made me rethink my position on others, and also had me consider viewpoints that would never even have entered my mind. If nothing else, Bono wins me over for his accurate characterization of the indie rock ghetto, and he takes on the question about commercialization of songs with what at least feels like candor and frankness (which is more than I can say for Townshend, who always comes across being angry and defensive about it). There are some mind-blowing quotes, some statements that are utterly legendary. I was going to quote some here, but then I realized that if I took them out of context, they could lose impact when you read the article, and also what was incredible to me might not be the same to others.

So you’ll just have to read it yourself. Even if you truly don’t like U2, this is mandatory reading if you care about rock and roll at all. And it’s ensured that I will head for MSG when they come back through here in the fall.