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'What use would a rockstar be without a messianic complex?': Bono on his life and U2's success

The U2 frontman gave a wide-ranging interview on RTÉ this morning.

U2 FRONTMAN BONO has spoken about what drove him to become an international rockstar, wondering was it “normal”.

“What use would a rockstar be without a messianic complex?” He joked, when questioned on what motivated him.

“It’s just worth asking yourself where does that come from? Why do you need 25,000 people a night screaming I love you to feel like a normal person. That’s surely not normal.”

Speaking to RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor in a wide-ranging interview, the singer discussed his new memoir Surrender, his life growing up in Dublin, the untimely death of this mother, his relationships with his wife and his father, and the incredible success of U2.

Bono - whose real name is Paul Hewson – said he had discovered incredible insights into his own life while working on his memoir.

“The best bit of it was, it allowed me to spend some time quietly on my own,” he said.

Mother and father

In his memoir, Bono talks about the need to be “loved at scale” and how much of it comes from being ignored by his father when he was younger.

“There’s two ways to turn a grandstanding stadium singer out of a wee boy. You can tell them everything they do is worth hearing… or you can just ignore them, and that worked much better for me, it turned out,” he said.

“And he wasn’t really ignoring me, by the way,” Bono said later in the interview. “He was just being an Irish Da at the time, but an Irish Da with a lot on his mind, and his heart and his soul.”

The singer was referring to the fact that his father had had a son with another woman, a half brother neither he not his mother knew about. Bono found out in 2000, and said he immediately went to speak to his father.

He just kind… he took it very seriously. And I asked him, did he love my mother? And he said, Yes. And I said, How can that be? And he said it can. And I felt that was all I had the right to ask him. And he was very respectful. 

In general, Bono said he felt “very close to my father” as he wrote him in the book.

I wrote him in the book because I started to realise how difficult it was for him in that moment. And I just thought I wasn’t there for him really. And, you know, I wish I could have been.

Bono also spoke about his mother’s death, explaining how she died after fainting at his grandfather’s – her father’s – funeral.

“As my grandfather is being lowered into the ground, my mother faints, we think. But she had an aneurysm,” he said.

I remember the grief of that family and it made a mark on me for sure.

U2′s success

Bono also spoke about the runaway success he experienced with U2, and how hard the band worked. When questioned whether he had at time pushed the band too much, the singer said:

“Spare me whinging rockstars. It’s the gang. You describe Everest, then you climb it,” he said.

There’s an element of maybe lying to yourself. Because why did you think you can do that? I didn’t feel we were having anyone on. I really felt we had… something and I just wanted us to take it all the way. But I’m sure it got a bit tiring.

He also talked about his faith, and how he thought “faith has helped me not be destroyed by my own ego”.

Though he joked that it was “an open question for many, maybe from my missus, and my kids”.

On his relationship with his wife and children, he said the book was “a lovesong” to his wife, Ali Hewson.

“There’s a lot to discover still,” he said.

And I have to work at getting her attention, but there were times I know when she felt she didn’t have mine. And there were times when I was home and it didn’t feel like I was home. 

Michael Hutchence

Bono also spoke about his friendship with Michael Hutchence, the late singer of INXS who died by suicide in 1997. Bono said the singer “disappeared into this hole” before he died.

He spoke about how he and his wife Ali were asked to be the godparents to Tiger Lily, the child of Hutchence and Paula Yates, but they said no.

“Well, it was a mistake. We deeply regret that,” he said.

But there was a young child involved and we just didn’t want to feel whilst they were on this very self destructive path that we could just be there going yeah, everything’s fine. You know, wow. Yeah. Let’s be the godparents.

The future of U2

Bono also said U2 had plenty of music still left to release, hinting at a possible live show in Las Vegas next year.

I hope it’ll be ready,” he said.

“I can’t announce Vegas, you’d have to shoot me! But if it happens, I can promise you it won’t be like anything you’ve ever seen in Las Vegas or anywhere, ever.

It is the most extraordinary …. it’s grand madness by 100 and it will centre around Achtung Baby, which we feel we need to honour, but we also have to have some new songs out, don’t we. There’s no place yet big enough. For us to go, it has to be something that no-one’s ever gone [to] before.
Bono’s memoir Surrender was published at the beginning of the month.

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