R.E.M. fans, Michael Stipe doesn’t have encouraging news when it comes to ever seeing the seminal rock band ever together again. In a new interview for New York public radio station WNYC, Stipe was clear about his take on the future — or lack thereof — for R.E.M.: “We will never reunite.”
WNYC’s “All of It with Alison Stewart” featured Stipe on its Sept. 21 episode, which happened to coincide with the 10th anniversary of R.E.M.’s breakup, on Sept. 21, 2011. Why not take the route so many bands of yore have chosen — from KISS to Pavement to Swedish House Mafia? Stipe told Stewart: “We decided when we split up that that would be really tacky and probably money grabbing, which might be the impetus for a lot of bands to get back together. We don’t really need that. And I’m really happy that we have the legacy of 32 years of work that we have from 1980 to 2011.”
Last year was the 40th anniversary of R.E.M.’s formation, while 2021 is the 30th anniversary of their acclaimed album “Out of Time,” and next month will see new rerelease of 1996’s “New Adventures in Hi-Fi.”
“Anniversaries mean a lot to me,” Stipe said. “It’s been ten years since R.E.M. called it a day, and that’s bittersweet of course for all of us. But I’m really proud as a band and as great friends that we decided to do what we did when we did it. It’s weird to me to think it’s been an entire decade since we called it a day.”
Stipe has been slowly releasing singles one at a time in recent years, including one with Aaron Dessner’s Big Red Machine, and he tells Stewart that he is eventually leading up to a new album. Although, “I don’t know what an album is in the year 2021 or 2022 is anymore,” he says. “But I’m actually in the studio now. I’m working on new material. I don’t feel the need at this point to really compete with the pop market. I just want to do what I do. So I’m not going to wait and drop everything at one time. I’m just going to release things as I record them and mix them.”
The musician said he’s donating the first year profit of all his singles to various charitable organizations.
Stipe, who was speaking from his home base in Athens, Ga., also has a third collection of photography that he has recently released, titled “Michael Stipe.” “Photography was my first love as a teenager,” he said. “I really have used photography throughout my life as a diary.”
Stipe was on the radio show to discuss the new tribute album “I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute To The Velvet Underground & Nico,” in which he covers “Sunday Morning,” which opens the album. Released September 24, the compilation also includes Iggy Pop, Sharon Van Etten, Matt Berninger and St. Vincent, among others.
“I’ll Be Your Mirror” was produced by the late Hal Willner, the “Saturday Night Live” sketch music producer since 1980. (Last year “SNL” played tribute to Willner, who died in April 2020 due to COVID-19 complications, by showing current and past cast members singing to Lou Reed’s song “Perfect Day.”) Stipe said Willner was instrumental in convincing him to participate in the album.
Added Stipe: “To me it’s really a tribute to Hal Willner, and his genius, and honoring the impact that he had in my life and a lot of other people’s lives.”