on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2021 9 Aug

Michael Stipe wants to make mistakes

von: ijb Filed under: Blog | TB | Comments off

In the early days—and I’m talking about up to “Document,” the first seven years of the band—I saw mystery as a crucial element of seduction. Of creating a desirous image—I don’t even know if that’s a word. Mystery was an important part of it. “Willful obscurity” is the term that was used against me, or the band. But there was a useful obscurity that disappeared around “Document.” And I think, actually, politics is what pulled us away from that. Also, I honed my chops as a lyricist. I wasn’t just reading words that sounded good and that felt emotional and important, which is what “Murmur” is. Don’t try to make sense of it—it’s as obscure as anything by Sigur Rós or Cocteau Twins. But I did have, or I discovered, a knack for words, and then I worked and worked to make it as good as it could be.

[…] “Fables” became like putting together a storybook of characters, pulling from real life but creating these fictive—is that a word?—narratives. It goes from real life to fantastic. I went through a very dark period during “Fables.” A year and a half—really hard. And I came out of that dark period with incredible clarity. Which found its way into “I Believe,” and into “These Days,” really important songs to me. I think they’re beautiful songs. I don’t think they’re the best thing I ever did, but, for me, those songs defined a new way of planting my feet on the ground, folding my arms across my chest, and saying, I am here, I’m not fucking going anywhere, and I’m going to do the best I can. And then I had purpose. I think that was realized and cauterized in “Document.” And it was seven fucking years of Reagan-Bush, at that point, and aids, and a country even more divided and separated—we had no idea how it would become, but, at that time, it was as dire and infuriating as it had ever gotten. But that helped to galvanize an attitude that pushed things out of the idea of mystery, out of the idea of willful obscurity, into the idea of, I want clarity, I want people to know what I’m saying.

And, also, I realized somewhere along the way that, with my voice, I could sing almost anything, and I could make people cry. My singing voice is very powerful. Just the sound of it. And I don’t want to put shit out there that doesn’t have some underlying meaning. If someone’s searching for meaning, they’re gonna find it. And it’s there. And that’s willful—the desire to communicate.

[…] For me, an R.E.M. song was a little like a door opening into culture. A world of references.

Someone who doesn’t listen, and doesn’t care, should be able to sing along to it, if it’s got good riffs—not riffs. . . . What are they called? Hooks. In the car, or when you’re washing the dishes.


(from The New Yorker, August 8)


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