Interviews: R.E.M. Veterans But Not Legends, Says Mike Mills

By Jonathon Moran

Being labelled veterans sits fine with American rockers R.E.M. but being called legends doesn’t feel quite right.

The band, in Australia for the first time in 10 years, are one of the most successful groups of recent years with world-wide hits such as “Losing My Religion,” “Everybody Hurts,” “Man on the Moon” and “Shiny Happy People.”

“Veteran is not too far off the mark but I certainly don’t feel like a legend,” R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills said after kicking off the national tour in Brisbane last night.

“Any time you are lucky enough to stick around this long in the music business, you are going to acquire some sort of status. But you have to be very lucky to be successful in this business and even luckier to last this long.”

R.E.M. started their Australian tour at the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival in Byron Bay last weekend and, after Brisbane last night, will perform dates in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

The group got together in the early 1980s in the small US college town of Athens, Georgia.

Since then, guitarist Peter Buck, singer Michael Stipe, drummer Bill Berry and Mills, have sold more than 40 million albums worldwide.

That puts them on par with the likes of Irish rockers U2.

“People want to know if we have a plan but really ours is just to enjoy this for as long as possible,” Mills said.

“When we are not enjoying it anymore or when we think the music’s not good, then it will be time to quit but there is no deadline.”

R.E.M.’s latest offering, Around the Sun, marks the groups 13th album release.

He said the tour would include a mixture of old and new material.

“We have got a beautiful stage set up,” he said.

“As far as the set goes, we are doing five or six songs from the new record, five or six songs that we always play and the rest are just a mixture of older things.”

The set also includes another song, “I’m Gonna DJ,” which is yet to be recorded.

Mills added that he was already working on material for another album.

“Writing songs is something we tend to do all the time so we are always trying to come up with new good songs. So in that sense, our next album is already being worked on but after this tour we will take a little break and see where we stand.”

Originally published on 30 March 2005 by AAP General News (Australia)
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