R.E.M.'s Out of Time turns 25 years old this year. In celebration of that anniversary, the album is being re-released on Friday with the addition of demos, an acoustic live recording, and eight music videos. In anticipation of the release, Michael Stipe sat down for an interview with the New York Times. Here's what he had to say:
On the song Losing My Religion:
“For someone who had no real grand ambitions, to have a ‘song of the summer’ was possibly the greatest possible gift that I could receive.”
On deciding to include some demos in the re-release:
“I don’t want to hear every live recording or demo that Bob Dylan ever made. That’s not my thing...You’re seeing me really reaching, in some cases really over- or under-reaching, to try and find a melody, to work out a lyric to see if it’s working or not with the music; never to be heard. And here, 25 years later, we’re offering it to the public.”
Do you have favorite moments on the record that you enjoyed performing most?
"Performing is one thing, because I don’t have perfect pitch, so there’s anxiety, and I know where I always go flat, so that’s a problem. I know the songs you can just bark out and they’re always going to sound fun and exuberant, no matter how off-pitch you are. But listening, there are moments the hair on the back of my neck stands up and I get that kind of “Wow, something quite profound is happening there.” The “I need this” at the end of “Country Feedback” is about as raw as it gets."
How did “Losing My Religion” change your life?
"I remember the first time I walked up Fifth Avenue and suddenly everyone recognized me. I was ready for it — we’d been doing it for 11 years, and I was ready to step up, I think. I was pretty grounded at that point. What you want as a fantasy idea of what fame brings, versus what it actually brings, are two very different things. The reality is never quite as sexy. That said, I love my life, I enjoy being a public figure, and most everything that brings."
“Out of Time” opened up possibilities for what the “R.E.M. sound” could be.
"We were really stretching ourselves, trying really hard to push what we did. Looking back, it makes sense that the next record would be “Automatic for the People,” that it’d be a radically different step. And the next would be “Monster,” a record that nobody liked. But everyone expected another version of “Automatic” and we weren’t about to give them that. So in a way we shot ourselves in the foot. But it turns out, 20 years later, that’s not a bad record, “Monster.” And then we released my favorite album of our entire canon, which is “New Adventures in Hi-Fi.” It’s a band at our very peak. And then, of course, Bill [Berry, the group’s original drummer] left the band."
You’ve just begun singing again, for the first time in years. Have you at least stayed limber with karaoke?
"Depending how much beer has been had, I do a really great version of “Justify My Love,” usually involving everyone in the room. So I’ll rewrite it to fit the occasion. I think the last time was in Paris. Actually, “I want to kiss you in Paris,” that’s the first line, so you have to do “Justify My Love.”"