With the election just around the corner, we sat down with Sir Bob Geldof to discuss the big issues we are all facing right now.
Bob Geldof talked to us about gang violence, the Pope’s fake Gucci shoes and why Tony Blair was one of the best Prime Ministers we’ve ever had.
Get ready for a very frank and honest interview. He also has one of the most wicked senses of humour I have ever experienced!
What effect do you think music has nowadays, or what could it do to change things? Do you think music and politics mesh well together now?
That’s a really good question because I don’t think that they do. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones determined the culture, and television and film and everything stemmed from them. They were ahead of the game. That no longer exists. I can’t see Adele and Ed Sheeran doing the same thing. Although they are intensely skilled songwriters, that gig isn’t necessarily about songwriting. The Who had absolutely stripped down, simple songs and they were brilliant and drove ideas. Sheeran is a great songwriter, Adele is a great songwriter. You may or may not like their music, but that’s not the issue. They are simply nice tunes.
But the function of rock n’ roll no longer has that vital communicative experience. It has been transcended by social media.
But at the same time social media is a culdersack. People vent into cyberspace, and they think they’ve done something. They’re outraged, they vent and get 1,000 likes and think f*cking aye. But all it is is cyber-w*nking.
Why aren’t you on social media?
I don’t do any of that stuff. I have an old Nokia [takes it out of his blazer pocket]. Look how beautiful it is, how tactile. It’s good not to be assailed with things. Social media has no value for me, I couldn’t give a f*ck about apps. I don’t want to communicate with people I have no interest in. This thing does texts and phone calls. It’s black and white. It also has Snake. What more could you want?
However the main thing is that I go to weird places in the world a lot. I get off the plane in some shit hole, and expect someone there with a red carpet and a car – that guy is never there, trust me. Everyone I’m with will be straight on their iPhone, their Samsung, their f*cking Blackberry and they won’t work. Then this Nokia will have five bars of signal, and will last five days without a recharge.
My girls, when they were growing up, would experience gangs. Often the gangs would come along and say “hand me your phone”. This happened once or twice so I made them start taking these older phones. Then when the gangs stopped them and they handed over these the gangs would be saying “oh for f*ck sake”. So that’s another great virtue! It protected them.
What do you think about social media and the effect it’s having on us?
I think social media is really interesting, it’s not that I don’t like it. It’s fascinating and primitive – but the problem is that it has nothing to do with what it means. Technology is rapidly advancing beyond imagination, but yet we still use it for trivia. It seems that the world is getting increasingly serious, we all feel that. As the world gets more serious, social media becomes more trivial.
It has now become a political tool with is very serious. We have the fake news phenomenon, we have a president who understands this instinctively. It’s not because he’s brilliant – he’s not – it’s that he understand instinctively that technology is here to help communicate directly with the populus.
Once you communicate en-mass, the economy changes. With a new economy, there must be new politics. The economy crashed in 2008 because there were no politics to harness that. There still isn’t, so we’ve reverted back to a simplistic mode of leadership. Technology is going to get so advanced that we don’t even understand it’s calculations – and that’s getting close. What do we do with that? Instagram, Snapchat – all these little things signify something bigger than just a picture of a cute cat. It’s constant communication. For me, that brings us down to authority watching you. We know that Donald Trump is watching you when you microwave your porridge these days. It’s all possible. Is that difficult to comprehend? Yes, it’s unacceptable. Politically this is a really important issue.
Over the years you had been privileged in that you have got to spend time with all these world leaders and…
That’s not privilege, meeting world leaders is a pain in the arse [laughs!]. Well things change so rapidly. How dated do the Obama years seem now? You forget that Tony Blair took 750,000 children out of poverty. That’s extraordinary. You forget that it was Blair who stopped the carnage in Kosovo. You forget that Blair, and I saw this stuff, stopped carnage unimaginable in Sierra Leone. He got Charles Taylor to the War Crimes Court. You forget all this stuff.
No matter what they say, Blair stopped the killing of 3,200 in Ireland. He stopped it just by having the intellectual with and the patience to sit down with these monsters on each side and just take them through year after year. He persuaded the British people that this was the way to go. It was far worse than Al-Qaeda and Isis. He did all that and you forget it because of the great cardinal catastrophe that was the mistake of Iraq. Nonetheless, he did it. People do decent things, but they end up being remembered for some mistake.
How do you come across to the leaders that you meet, do you think?
I sit with these people and the 16-year-old Mod boy comes out in me. But it’s good to go in and not be impressed. I don’t like the politicians who just try and schmooze you for the photograph for their constituency. I like the ones who use their power and say “no I’m not going to do that”. Talking with Angela Merkel is really good. She’s a very nice person and you could easily go and have tea with her. You wouldn’t have a laugh, I’ve got to say (!), but she’s a nice person and she is very direct. I say “but Chancellor, three times you’ve made a speech…” and she says “Bob I don’t need to be quoted”. Bono thinks she’s just great.
What did you think of the Pope when you met him?
We actually went to see the Pope and I was like “the f*cking Pope, yeah right, f*cking hell” and Bono was already in sort of Pope Land. He was right, you know, and I was wrong. It was Pope John Paul II and the doors opened and I could see this bent, pained man. He was in extreme pain and his cardinals, his sort of aids, were all round him. I could see that as the doors flew opened he pushed them aside. I mean it could have been theatre, but I think it was pride. He hobbled forward, and got up on this chair and sat trembling, in great pain.
I felt stupid for me pre-attitude. Although I couldn’t help noticing his cheap shoes, that we a Polish Gucci. I was nudging Bono and whispering, “look at his shoes” and Bono was saying ‘shut up Bob, this is the Pope”. So that was quite funny.
I’ve met George Bush too, I travelled through Africa with him on a plane. I like the man. If he was here now you’d be roaring laughing, he’s a great story teller. The trouble is when you confuse yourself with the importance of these people. These are very powerful people, whether spiritually or politically, and you’re there for a purpose. Bush asked me to go with him to Africa to share my knowledge of the place. He’s not a stupid man, but you and I would agree that he should never have been president. He, more than any other President, has done the most for Africa. Even more than Obama and Clinton. It’s about realising these leaders’ positions in the grander plan.
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