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Sneak Preview: The Story Behind Bon Iver and Kanye West’s Collaboration

'I think he liked that I had a similar emotional approach to music,' says Justin Vernon

June 3, 2011 5:25 PM ET
Kanye West & Justin Vernon perform at the Kanye West secret show at The Bowery Ballroom in New York City on Novenber 23, 2010
Kanye West & Justin Vernon perform at the Kanye West secret show at The Bowery Ballroom in New York City on Novenber 23, 2010
Walik Goshorn/Retna

Most musicians would jump at the chance to fly to Hawaii and help Kanye West cut his new record. Justin Vernon (a.k.a. Bon Iver) tells contributing editor Josh Eells in the next issue of Rolling Stone that he had a different response: "Can't you see if he wants to come here?" Today, he laughs at the fact that he asks West to travel to Wisconsin. "I don't know why I said that," he says. "It was kind of dickish."

Amazingly, West was up for traveling into Wisconsin from Hawaii – until a snowstorm canceled his flight. "He called the next day and said, 'Why don't you just come here? It's, like, nice.'"

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Vernon decided that recording with West in Hawaii might not be a bad idea after all, and before he knew it he was smoking weed with Rick Ross, eating breakfast with Nicki Minaj and playing basketball with West at the Y. "I think he liked that I had a similar emotional approach to music," says Vernon. "And that I used Auto-Tune as a kind of texture. It made sense." 

Why Bon Iver Had To Relearn Everything He Knows

For much more on Vernon – including info on his long-awaited new self-titled LP – check out the new issue of Rolling Stone, on stands and in the digital archive on June 10th. 

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

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Song Stories

“Vicious”

Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

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