Michael Stipe Shares First New Music Since R.E.M. Breakup

Evocative new instrumental accompanies footage from new film 'The Cold Lands'

June 4, 2014 11:30 AM ET
Michael Stipe
Michael Stipe
Michael Zorn/FilmMagic

Michael Stipe has shared his first new music since R.E.M.'s 2011 breakup, but the singer's iconic voice is nowhere to be found on the track. The three-minute instrumental, premiering at Salon as bonus footage from frequent collaborator Tom Gilroy's latest film The Cold Lands, blends cold synthesizers and propulsive drums into an evocative textural drift. 

Readers' Poll: The 10 Best R.E.M. Songs

Stipe tells Salon that he felt pressure working on his first post-R.E.M. music, but not singing on the track made the process easier. It also helped that he was working with "one of (his) favorite songwriters," producer Andy LeMaster, who recorded the track and played bass.

"I know I work well with other people — to have someone to bounce something off of works for me, and I don’t actually write music," Stipe says. "I wrote melodies and I tend to write along to other people’s music. That’s what I’ve done most of my career as a musician. . . I went to Andy knowing that if I painted myself into a corner, he’d pull me out — and also that he’d be more than a neutral engineer/collaborator to work with. We work really well together. This is, in fact, the first thing that I’ve done musically since R.E.M disbanded. So, of course, I wanted it to be for something that meant a lot to me. That was important."

Though Stipe says he "can't play an instrument to save (his) life," he was able to lay down both keyboards and electronic drums, aiming to "stretch and challenge (himself)" as a musician. Inspiration came from an unlikely source: Television frontman Tom Verlaine.

"My interpretation of Tom Verlaine and how he plays to other people’s work or creates parts is that he doesn’t want to fall into a clichéd blues riff," he says. "He’s working to avoid that. He doesn’t want to play jazz. Like Peter Buck would say, ‘You only play what’s absolutely necessary.’ And that takes every ounce of your energy as a musician. You’re a musician, you’re a player; you know what you’re doing. You could play along — but sometimes it’s not essential to the thing moving forward."

This may be Stipe's first musical adventure since leaving R.E.M., but he's still stayed in the public eye. Earlier this year, he helped induct Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a moving induction speech. Meanwhile, back in May, his former band issued a massive slew of rarities and studio album sets.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »