“Demos are like sausages and laws – you don’t really want to see how they’re made.”
Cohan Chew

14:36 18th November 2016

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R.E.M's Michael Stipe and Mike Mills held a live Q&A for the 25th anniversary reissue of Out Of Time at London's Borderline.

25 years ago R.E.M performed at the Borderline under the name Bingo Handjob. Today, Michael Stipe and Mike Mills return to the Borderline to discuss the reissue of their 1991 classic Out Of Time.

The Q&A opened with a topical chat about the US election result. Neither of the R.E.M members seemed to embrace the new President-elect, with Mills saying, “I truly fear for our country for the next four years but maybe it will be a galvanising event that makes people realise that inaction can be the cause of great evil.”

Stipe added, “clearly it was a protest vote against the establishment and the other candidate, Hilary Clinton represented very well the establishment. Rather than people voting for a racist, xenophobic agenda, an intolerant agenda, I think they were just trying to smash the machine.”

On creating Out Of Time, Mills explained that the band purposely took a departure away from their established R.E.M sound because they knew they wouldn’t be touring the album. “One of the rules we had when we started writing songs for the record was ‘there will be no more R.E.M songs’… If it sounds like an R.E.M song that could have been on any of the last two or three R.E.M records, we tossed it.”

Stipe cites the Gulf War and drastic changes in the US as influences on the album. “We were at the advent of computer technology. This was the last album I wrote on a typewriter,” Stipe said, “we were at war and no one knew where it would go but clearly what had happened politically in the US was about to changes. As artists, we were simply responding to that with this record so what we get are all these songs a that are so all over the map.”

Mills went on to explain how Out Of Time got its name, “the record company said if you don’t give us a title today, it’s not going to have a title, so we were literally out of time. When we threw that phrase out there, it seemed to fit not only this record and everything we’ve ever done.”

The R.E.M boys described the album as “transformative” and ultimately life changing as Stipe started getting recognised on the streets in New York. Mills recalled being in a hotel bar in Israel when ‘Losing My Religion’ came on, “Everybody rushed to the dance floor, I was like you can’t even dance to that. But it was the one they all responded to and that is when you know you have crossed a line.”

Discussing the demos that are featured on the 25th anniversary reissue, Stipe said he was “horrified” listening to them for the first time in 25 years whilst Mills said, “demos stay hidden for a reason. They’re like sausages and laws – you don’t really want to see how they’re made.” However, Mills also added, “at this point in our career we’re pretty comfortable with the final results. I don’t think these are going to change anybody’s mind about what kind of band we are. It’s also nice to give back. As a fan, I’d be curious about it.”

R.E.M also discussed the band’s infamous ‘Shiny Happy People’, which Stipe described as a “ridiculous song” that is “really fun to sing”. “I’m a little embarrassed by it,” Stipe admitted, “if people associate us and our 30 years of music with that song and if that’s their way into R.E.M, I don’t think it completely represents us”.

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

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