Look at me eating my own words – a few weeks ago I was quite convinced that “Mine Smell Like Honey” was not a very good song. However, R.E.M. have just released the live video – another one from the batch of videos filmed at the Hansa Studio in Berlin last summer – and it turns out that this song actually rocks! (I still think that it was a poor choice for the first U.S. single though – the studio version is just not very radio-friendly.) You know, that’s the usual thing with R.E.M. – they are such a fantastic live band, that somehow their studio albums never really do them justice. In my humble opinion Scott Litt was really the only producer who could capture what R.E.M. are really about and make their albums sound lush and gorgeous, but not overproduced (or underproduced). Think of Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction, Lifes Rich Pageant, or Reveal, Around the Sun, Accelerate – so many brilliant songs, but they all sound 100 times better live than on the actual studio cuts.

Such a shame that R.E.M. have decided not to tour this year… at least let’s hope that sometime in the future they’ll release these live recordings from Berlin on a DVD. Anyway, here’s “Mike Smell Like Honey” in the band’s superb interpretation.

Next up, Kirsten has translated more song discussions from German Rolling Stone. This time, Michael Stipe and Mike Mills elaborate on “Discoverer” and “All The Best”:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


“Discoverer”

Mills: The song might link directly to “Accelerate” in so far as it has dirty, crashing guitars. We like to start with a rocker. Not always, but often. We knew from very early on that we wanted the album to start with it. This time, determining the song order was surprisingly easy.

Stipe: “Up” for example was too long, eleven, maybe twelve songs would have been sufficient. Back then, in the final stages of the recordings, we just weren’t on a level of communication on which we would have been able to discuss and change that, so it happened that way, and that was that. But this time we communicated on so many levels, Mike, Peter and me, that it was clear what would end up on the album and what would not. That was good. A couple of good songs didn’t make it, but whatever.


“All the Best”

Mills: Funnily enough, I don’t even know anymore where we recorded what one. Actually almost everything was recorded everywhere – in New Orleans, Berlin and Nashville. After Berlin we felt pretty confident of how we wanted the album to sound. However Michael still had to record quite a few vocals, including this one.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thanks, Kirsten! Finally,Billboard has a new interview with Mike Mills. Aside from the usual promo stuff, Mike says that their decision not to tour in 2011 might or might not hasten R.E.M.’s next album, especially since there’s a substantial number of songs and ideas still around that did not make it on Collapse Into Now. Now, this is something that we all wanted to hear: a) they do not intend to stop at album No. 15, and b) we might not have to wait for 3-4 years for the next record. thumbs up Oh and guess what, Mike says that the demos for Lifes Rich Pageant (about to be reissued this year as part of the special 25th anniversary edition) actually sound better that the finished record – which sort of supports what I have said above…


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10 Responses to ““Mine Smell Like Honey” Actually Doesn’t Stink!”

  1. Kirsten Says:

    Yup, couldn’t agree more, a great deal of their songs sound so much better live (I just say: Pretty Persuasion!! –> you mentioned that before, and greatly captured the vibrant “live spirit” of the song in your piano cover).

    However, in this new live version of Mine Smell Like Honey, I am sorely missing Mike’s wonderful vocal part just before Michael starts to sing “Dig a hole…”. Anyone else noticed that?

    More scans from German Rolling Stone (including Collapse Into Now review), plus scans from US Rolling Stone issue 1124 (article with interview with (well, more like quotes from) Peter and Mike and Mine Smell Like Honey single review)!
    http://www.megaupload.com/?d=4Z3C23MO

    BTW, I finally read the 12-page-special completely, and I have to say it’s damn interesting!
    It’d be awesome if you folks could hang on for a few more days until I’ve taken my exam, then I’ll provide you with a full translation of the interview!

    Two interesting points from the interview:

    —–ATTENTION: SPOILER—–
    - Michael is actually the one who doesn’t want to tour, that’s really why we don’t get a tour (*surprise surprise*…winking
    - Mike is pretty sure that he’ll do a solo album sometime (*my prayers were heard* big grin )

  2. Arek Says:

    yes Ivana, everything you’ve said it’s true about live version of REM songs, She Just wants to Be live and from Reveal? wow? Who will choose album version? Answer: nobody.
    Mine Smell isn’t great song in my opinion, but better than I thought wnen I first heard it.
    Producers: Scott Litt was the best. Pat McCarthy was poor, Jacknife is average. But I like the production of the albums from the ’80 (Murmur, Reckoning, Fables, Lifes)
    Touring: Michael was always the one to say: “no, we’re not going.
    Have a great weekend!

  3. Auctioneer Says:

    R.E.M. are like AC/DC in the sense that pretty much all their songs sound better when played live. “Radio Free Europe” was kinda tame on Murmur, but on the Hib-Tone version and live… wow! It was an experience not to be missed. happy Then again certain songs, e.g. “Can’t Get There From Here” had that awesome sax section among other elements, which would be hard to replicate on stage.

    And on another note, thank you Kirsten and Arek for enlightening me as to the reasons why we’re not getting to hear this wonderful set of new songs on tour. I am now officially in the huff with Michael Stipe. sad

    Yours truly,
    Auctioneer

  4. Arek Says:

    Scott McCoughey got a writing credit for the song “Oh My Heart”, it means that, for the first time in REM career, Collapse will be the first album with writing cridit: All songs: Buck, Mills, Stipe
    except: “Oh My Heart” by Buck, Mills, Stipe, McCoughey.
    Have you noticed that?
    Isn’t it “a big thing” this time, with this new album?
    Love to all of You!

  5. Kirsten Says:

    Yes, I read that Scott got a writing credit for Oh My Heart, and I think Bill (Rieflin, not Berry winking ) got one, too!
    This is an incredible novelty, as I think the band once said that they will never share writing credit with anyone else! surprise
    What made them change their minds?? thinking

    Oh, and I found another new Mike interview (we’re downright getting spoiled with Mike interviews lately, aren’t we? big grin). Again only in German… Well, that means more translation work for me, huh? big grin

    http://www.nzz.ch/nachrichten/kultur/pop_und_jazz/ich_versuche_weiterhin_gute_songs_zu_schreiben_1.9675306.html

  6. Auctioneer Says:

    Perhaps McCaughey and Rieflin had some input on the lyrics or instruments in a big way this time round. However, the mystery still remains… As the only drummer in the group, Rieflin must’ve been the one who wrote the drum intro to “Horse to Water”, so why wasn’t he credited for it? Hmm…

    I like the idea in the above interview of releasing new songs on a monthly basis through the Internet, like Nine Inch Nails does. Then again, there’s nothing quite like the old-fashioned medium of an album. How do you guys think R.E.M. should continue henceforth?

  7. Arek Says:

    I’ve just received Oh my Heart single and writing credits for the song NOLA 4/26/10, which is the B-side, is: Buck, Mills, Stipe, McCoughey, Rieflin. I think that song is a studio jam, and it is great, really.
    McCoughey also got credit for Airliner, it was a B-side to Supernatural Superserious.
    I don’t think Scott and Bill (not Berry)had some input on the lyrics, instrument imput is more obvious.
    Here in Poland we’re gonna have great week, starting from Monday. It will be a week with R.E.M. and Collapse into Now, on the Polish Radio Program 3.
    I’m going to have grat time soon.
    “All the Best” for You.

  8. Ivana Says:

    Scott McCaughey is a great songwriter, I love his work with YFF, Minus 5 and The Baseball Project. I’ve just received the new Baseball Project CD, and it’s brilliant! Every song is actually a little story about a real-life character or an event, and they’re written with so much wit and positive geekiness. happy Hope they’ll tour Europe this summer.

    Oh and I’m really glad that Scott and Bill got the credit for some songs. I think that the band’s insistence on the core trio being the sole songwriters had to do with their contract with Warners because, if I remember correctly, they own their publishing rights and they only lease songs to WB. I think I have Peter’s description of their 1996 contract somewhere in the Press Archive, but can’t find it now. In essence, even if Peter decided to put out a solo record, it would still count as an R.E.M. record, because it’s only important that at least one of them is involved! That’s why they didn’t have to renegotiate the contract when Bill Berry left. And that’s why they still count Bill Berry as a bandmember, although he hasn’t contributed any new material in 15 years, because he’s there in the contract. straight face

    Btw I only realised a few weeks ago that this year Scott will equal Bill Berry’s time with the band! Bill 1980-1997; Scott 1994-2011!

  9. Kirsten Says:

    New translation part done!!
    A huge thank you to Linda, who had a look at the text and was so kind as to make some corrections here and there to give it a smoother, more “english-sounding” syntax! happy

    ——————-

    “We can do everything – or nothing!”

    The future of R.E.M. is once again uncertain. There will be no tour to support the new album, but maybe one or another solo work. All options are open, so we talk about what matters now: the music.

    A blizzard is raging outside, and the heating in Michael Stipe’s New York apartment isn’t working properly. The singer is late for the interviews. He’s not much in the mood for talking at that. Actually these days he’s only doing it for cover stories, he freely admits right at the beginning, but for us he’s making an exception. However, he doesn’t expect gratitude. R.E.M. are not arrogant, they just know exactly what they want – and particularly: what they don’t want. That was already the case in 1980, when they wrote their first songs in Athens, Georgia, and it always stayed that way. You may or may not admire this stubborn attitude, in any case it stands out from today’s prevalent idea that stars have to be available for everything anytime.
    It was only recently that R.E.M. have conformed just a little bit to the zeitgeist: Half of their new 15th studio album “Collapse Into Now” has been available for listening already before the release on the 4th of March; the band have put a number of songs onto the Net in the form of videoclips complete with songtext.
    “We prefer to leak single [songs] ourselves rather than suddenly finding the complete album on the internet”, says bassist Mike Mills.
    The best case scenario, Stipe thinks, is that the anticipation thereby grows even more:
    “It wasn’t a concerted initiative, but these songs are certainly very diverse: a slow one, a sad one, an atmospherically very dense one, a Rock’n’Roll song. In fact, there’s something for everyone, so that everyone can say: That’s the R.E.M. I like! Then, when they listen to the whole album, they will still experience some surprises.”
    They recorded in New Orleans and Nashville, but also in Berlin (ROLLING STONE reported in October 2010), again with Jacknife Lee as producer. Curiously enough, the record label bosses in the USA, England and Germany couldn’t agree on a pre-release single, everywhere a different one was released. To the band, this isn’t so important –
    “as long as we don’t believe they’re making a mistake”, Mills says.
    They, themselves, can hardly recognize potential hits, that is what they have realized time and time again.
    “We are an album band who only coincidentally had several single hits. We have no idea how to write hits”.
    At the time of their biggest hits, in the early 90s, R.E.M. decided to turn down a lot of money and to not go on tour. They simply weren’t in the mood for it. And – fans have to be strong now! – this time they also prefer to stay home. Mike Mills puts on a sad face.
    “We won’t tour. It makes me sad, but the last tour was exhausting – 2008 was a very long year. At the moment we don’t want that. I love touring, and of course I would appreciate the money, but at this point in time it would not be the right thing for us [to do].”
    Such decisions, he adds, R.E.M. always make in a threesome: guitarist Peter Buck, Mills, Stipe. Of course they also talk with their manager and other confidants about it, but ultimately it comes down to the three. And this time, in particular, one wasn’t willing. Stipe has no problem with outing himself as the culprit:
    “We’ve only just toured. I just don’t want to. Of course we discussed it, but you have to listen to your instinct. We had a lot of fun in 2008, but at the moment I am concentrating on other things.”
    Stipe has initiated an inventive photo-website – confessionsofamichaelstipe.tumblr.com –on top of this he is planning to have a little art film made for each new song. With this he finds himself to be quite busy for now, he thinks.
    “Mind you, movies, not videos! The first one, for “Mine Smell Like Honey”, was shot in Berlin, in the stairwell of Hansa Studios. These are wonderful photographs from Dominic DeJoseph that then were cut together and so were brought to life, with a wonderful sense of humor. I have contacted several artists. People who I trust, who have the right instinct, the right eye [for things], the right heart. I let them do [as they like] and then I will see what comes out. Hopefully something wild and completely different. Exciting!”
    How the total work of art will be released, he yet has to discuss with his bandmates.
    You don’t have to worry about R.E.M., most probably. There have always been periods in which they kept distance from each other for a while, Mills thinks that this is only natural:
    “With us, it’s like in every family or every relationship or in every business: You have to consider where you stand, time after time. Because no matter how long you have known each other: chaos [random things] happens, and entropy is part of the game, and things [we] drift apart [from each other]. So you always have to find your way back and find the focus. We are three very different people, and we’re not permanently together. When we’re not working, we’re living very separate lives.”
    Thus Buck is already back home again in Seattle, while Mills and Stipe are giving interviews in New York. The guitarist is always working on various projects (The Minus 5, Tired Pony), aside from that he just joined the Decemberists on their new album. And soon we will possibly be hearing a little more from Mills outside of R.E.M. as well, as he tells in passing.
    “For me personally it’s always the most fun to record the background [vocal] and to work on it with Michael. I know that I have a great harmony voice, however I also know that it may not be interesting enough for a whole album. But one day we will find that out!”
    We will? On an [your] own album then?
    „Oh yes, I am quite sure. So far I’ve only worked on R.E.M. songs, but someday I will make a solo album.”
    And how does the future for R.E.M. look like? Mills doesn’t even pretend as if he knew. But it doesn’t worry him too much, either – the band has many opportunities.
    “We don’t make plans. For now, we have finished this album. Aside from that, our record contract expires. So we don’t know where we go from here. A strange situation. The music business as we knew it has died. We can do everything – or nothing! Found an own record label? That’s an option. Certainly, a labor-intensive one. We will see.”
    What remains for the time being, is the here-and-now. And that’s why the album’s title fits so perfectly with R.E.M. that even Stipe is excited about it:
    “Patti Smith suggested the line from “Blue” as the title. She crossed her arms and insisted on it. And because album titles are always the hardest part for R.E.M. anyway, we gladly took her advice.”
    That the most important time in life is always the present, has always been part of the band’s basic principles – “Collapse Into Now” may therefore also well be understood as a statement. R.E.M. have always told their songs from different perspectives, have never put themselves into the center stage. And yet all of their albums tell much about the band’s working methods and dynamics. A view on the dozen new songs and their history:

    [“Discoverer”................]

  10. Linda Says:

    My pleasure Kirstenbig grin

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