February 26, 2003 Wednesday
Bono and The Edge, U2, talk about "The Hands That Built America" from "Gangs
of New York" which has been nominated for an Oscar
MATT LAUER, co-host:
U2 is considered to be one of the greatest rock bands in the world. In the last 24 years, the guys from Ireland have sold more than 115 million albums and have won 14 Grammy Awards. Well, last month the band picked up a Golden
Globe award for "The Hands That Built America." It's their song from the film "The Gangs of New York." And now they can add Oscar nominees to their growing list of accolades.
Bono and The Edge, good morning. Good to have you here, guys.
THE EDGE: (U2): Good to be here, Matt.
LAUER: How big a deal is this? I mean, you guys have written songs for movies before. You've done a lot of things. But Oscar nomination, is that a big deal?
BONO: (U2): Yes, for a couple boys from the north side of Dublin, it doesn't get much bigger, really. I mean, you feel like you're breaking into somebody else's house and robbing their furniture, a little bit, because it's not our
world, Hollywood. But we're going to go out there and trash the place.
LAUER: Good for you. Wreck the joint. It seems strange, if you listen to the nominees, you've got Eminem, you've got U2, you've got Paul Simon, very different kinds of music. So when you deal with a category, if you deal with an awards show like this, is it a little bit like comparing apples and oranges?
THE EDGE: I think it's about the context of the songs in the movies, you know. If--if you look at it in that sense, it's not about what kind of a song it is, it's--it's like how does it resonate in the context of the film that it was written for. And that was one of the real challenges for us
writing "The Hands That Built America" was we're dealing with a period piece set in New York in the, I believe, the 19th century. So how do you write a song and--and--and arrange a song that kind of can--can work in that context
but still speak today?
BONO: I mean, there's a lot of songs stuck in films, a lot of pop songs, rock songs, hip-hop, but it's best when a song grows out of the characters and the story as Edge said. I mean, it is tricky working with Scorsese. He said, you know, 'Could you write a song starts in 1861 and ends in 2002?' Yeah, sure.
LAUER: Yeah. How much time do we have?
BONO: But we do--you know, we--we--we--we went at it old school with a respect for those people, like score almost. It was like a song as--as score.
LAUER: Well, you've--you've said in the past that the really good songs kind of write you, you don't write them. So this is a very different process. You're--you're commissioned to write a song.
THE EDGE: Yeah.
LAUER: Is it as easy? I mean, it doesn't just come out of you, does it?
BONO: The story of Irish immigrants coming to New York is something that we have more than a feel for. I mean, we are them, in a sense, years and years later. And--but i--it's a very powerful story. These--the blacks and the Irish were the only two races that came to America not out of choice. Irish people were starving, famine, the potato famine in--in Ireland, and they came off those boats, you know, grass still in their mouths from, you know, trying to keep alive. And they were mean, and they were rough. And as far as having the big ideas and wanting to join the--the police and the pri--priests of this city, they were also thugs. So we wanted to get that across, that this great country, this great city had at the root of it this compromises that you find in, you know, in now, in say, in the developing world.
LAUER: Let me read you some names of people who've won this award, OK?
Barbra Streisand, Isaac Hayes, Andrew...
THE EDGE: Wow.
LAUER: ...Lloyd Webber, Irving Berlin.
LAUER: U2 in that group. Must sound pretty good.
BONO: Well, I don't know...
THE EDGE: It sure does.
BONO: ... if--if--if we win, but it is just--it's a hell of an honor being there, and--whether we win or we don't. And we're there for Martin Scorsese. This has got to be his year.
THE EDGE: Yeah.
BONO: And if it isn't, we know some Irish gangs here. You know what I'm saying?
LAUER: You'll talk to somebody?
BONO: We going to know--we know where the academy park their car, OK?
LAUER: Twenty-five years in the business, guys. Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame's going to induct you. You young enough or are you old enough...
THE EDGE: We're trying...
LAUER: ...to be in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame?
THE EDGE: We're trying to forget about that. You know, it doesn't feel--about 10 years premature. You got to understand, we started very young, so, you know, really we should be about 10 years older than we are to be in this position, because we started so young. So...
BONO: Edge was 15 when--when--I was 16. I'm--I'm bigger than him.
LAUER: Well, it's a great honor. I--this is always weird to say with a minute left, but I do want to mention something with you, Bono, because you've done a lot to fight AIDS in Africa. President Bush in the State of the Union address comes out and says, 'We're going to--we're going to go
with $15 billion for that cause, to fight AIDS in Africa.' What was your reaction when you heard it?
BONO: I was jumping up and down. The president deserves a lot of credit for that. He really stuck his neck out. He was right, it's important the people know at this time what America is for as well as what America's against, so that was a great moment. And we were on the TODAY show talking to Katie, she helped us when we went on our tour in the Midwest to break the ground for that initiative. So...
LAUER: Spread the message here in the States.
BONO: Yeah, so you helped here on the TODAY show.
BONO: Thank you.
LAUER: ...it's our pleasure. I know you guys are going to perform for us in a little while. It's good to have you here.
THE EDGE: Thanks for having us.
LAUER: Good luck...
BONO: Thanks, Matt.
LAUER: ...at the Oscars.
THE EDGE: Thanks, Matt.
LAUER: A pleasure. Thanks.
We're back right after this.