don't you tell me how i feel.

Stipe making sense by Steele
August 30, 2011, 6:28 am
Filed under: nerdy shit, Shit I love

A dear friend and former colleague recently drew my attention to this story about my main man Michael Stipe in Interview magazine. Thank you, Hans!

This is one of the most revealing interviews with Stipe in many, many years, which makes it crack to an R.E.M. nerd like me. Stipe, you see, is a man of mystery – he’s often described as shy, even neurotic,  yet I get the sense that deep down he doesn’t really give a fuck what people think. He’s prone to making odd, sometimes intensely emotional statements to the press, but has never seemed concerned about how he might be coming across. He’s the ultimate “I am who I am” rock star, except that he seems like he has days when he feels like he can fly, and days when he is as wrought with self-doubt as any of us. Most of his songs hinge on that sweet, wistful spot between melancholy and hope – or, in his own words, “I’ve never written a song that’s hopeless. I’m crazily optimistic. I crazily see the good in people. I crazily see the way out of a terrible situation…If there are two warring factions in my life, I want them to agree to disagree at the very least. I want them to come together. I want peace. When I write, I tend toward melancholy, and the few times I’ve tried pure joy in music, it doesn’t really work that well. (Ed. note: Cough “Shiny Happy People” cough) The joy can be through catharsis. I think that’s what I do well, and observation.”

I have been reading about Michael Stipe for 20 years now (again, nerd alert), and I learned several new things in this interview. For instance: In the early 1980s, when he was on tour, he was bulimic for a while! No, not because he thought he was fat. He was a vegetarian and all there ever was to eat was fast food. He also felt trapped by the tour: “It was like that thing that happens in prison. People can’t control anything in their environment so they start manipulating their bodies with tattoos and pumping up.”

Stipe also relates a heartbreaking story from Kurt Cobain’s final days, in which he tried to get Cobain out of his shell by flying him to Miami so the two could collaborate in the studio. Despite sending a ticket and a driver, Cobain wouldn’t leave the house or answer the phone. “I was doing what I thought was the best thing to do at the time,” Stipe said. “And, you know, frankly I’m not great with heroin addicts.”

The interview is worth it solely for the final anecdote, involving an Iggy Pop-esque response to an angry crowd at a show in the early 1908s. Hint: it involves the dropping of pants.


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