Their seventh album made them superstars. But the fame cost REM a band member and, nearly, their friendships. In a rare interview, five years after splitting, they discuss legacy, Trump and why they’re still sorry for Shiny Happy People
Michael Stipe stops in mid-sentence. Something is bothering him. “I’m gonna fix your collar,” he says. “It’s gonna drive me crazy. I wouldn’t think of anything but your collar for the rest of my life.” He stands up, walks around the table from his side to mine, and – as every fibre of my being screams, “Do not touch me. I am British. I am repressed. I do not like complete strangers invading my space” – he stands behind me and carefully rearranges my collar until it is to his satisfaction.
There’s a certain irony. It’s me invading Stipe’s space, for one thing. The former REM singer is, as he puts it, “insanely shy” – he eschews eye contact for much of our conversation, and much of his face is now hidden behind a beard of ZZ Top proportions – and interviews in the latter years of REM often portrayed an antsy man, niggling with his interlocutors, ill at ease with something. He’s here today on a hot October afternoon, back at REM HQ in Athens, Georgia, to talk about the 25th anniversary of the album Out of Time, the one with Losing My Religion on, the one that sold 18m copies and made them famous around the world. And he seems a lot happier than he did in those final REM interviews before they disbanded in 2011. In fact, he’s a delight.
This article was originally posted here