I don’t remember my dreams too often, which is why it caught me off guard when I awoke one morning a few weeks ago with it still lingering. I opened my eyes, looked at my wife and said, “I’ve been hanging with Bono all night.” Dreams are weird, even more so when they’re premonitions.
Fast forward a few days to a phone call I got from my friend at Interscope Records. “Do you want to go to Chicago to see U2?” Wow. Yes. Awesome. “Cool. One thing though. I need you to fly in the morning of the show, but not leave until late the next day.” Oh? “I thought you might like to interview them.”
Once I swallowed the knot in my throat and after a half dozen are-you-seriouses, I ran into my boss’ office to tell her, trying to wipe the tears away. That may sound a little much to some of you, especially those who are severely anti-U2, but consider that on one level, an interview is just an interview. A taped conversation for us obsessives. On another level, this is basically what I had been working toward for so long. Not discounting the time earlier this year that I spoke on the phone with Paul McCartney, this was really the championship game. It would be in-person. And with a strict guideline.
“You’ll only get 10 minutes.” Now, if I were working for a mainstream magazine, 10 minutes would be fine, but for what I do, you’re really just getting started at that point. The best stuff usually comes right after 10 minutes. This, and a hundred other thoughts ran through my head for the next week. Do I keep the subject matter to current projects or center in on a lost artifact from that past? Or maybe not talk about music at all and go for politics? I mean, you want to smoke weed with Willie and you want to talk Third World debt with U2.
Also, how do I bring up how I feel about their new record?
Yes, my “review” of “Songs of Innocence” can be found in these very back pages of LEO Weekly, and considering the vetting process I had to go through once I was offered the interview, I assumed that either the band and/or the label had read it (they had). And, while I had no responsibility to air my grievances to them, I wanted to. But, you know, delicately. Not because of some odd fear, but out of respect. This is one of my all-time favorite bands, and by no means is a fan required to love every note an artist puts out. With only 10 minutes, I’d need to find a way to lay it in the interview that made sense with all of the other ideas and questions, a way that would work in context.
Eventually, the day of the interview came. I had been pacing the hotel floor for a few hours, making sure my equipment worked, rechecking my notes and trying not to consider re-writes. This wasn’t a moment to doubt myself, but to actually believe in the work I had put in. I didn’t need a home run by any stretch, but at least a solid double. This was the big game after all. Know your strengths and try not to puke on The Edge.
A lot happened in the 36 hours I was in Chicago. I talked with Bono for a while during soundcheck, and for the god-like superstar that he is, my impression was a very humble musician who was very grateful for any support. You could also tell just how hard all four of those guys had worked to get where they are, an inspiration for anyone open to it, and something that was in the back of my mind when I finally sat down to talk with them. No matter that my equipment failed within a minute of starting. It was an interesting test thrown into the mix, and maybe the reason I came out with the sense of accomplishment that I did. I hit my double. No more, but no less. All of the hard work paid off, compacted into those 10 short minutes. And that kid sitting in his bedroom listening to “Zooropa” all of those years ago, well, aren’t we always out to impress that part of us?
Anyone interested in reading/hearing the interview can do so at wfpk.org. •
Kyle Meredith is the music director of WFPK and host of the nationally syndicated “The Weekly Feed.” Hunting bears was never his strong point.