Transcripts: Interview With Mike Mills

Steve Nelson: Zone 105, good morning. Brian Oak and Steve Nelson joined on the line right now by R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills. Mike, good morning, how ya doing?
Mike Mills: I’m great. How are you?

Nelson: Doing great. Now you and the rest of your band R.E.M. are coming back to town August 21 and ticket go on sale here tomorrow Saturday morning. Where you calling us from this morning? Athens?
Mills: I’m in Athens, Georgia.

Nelson: All right, you got a little downtime here before the tour kicks off later this summer. What do you do with your down time? What do you like to do?
Mills: Oh lord, any number of things… I just got back from visiting my parents yesterday – that’s one of those real rock star things I like to do. [laughs] You know just whatever comes to mind. Here in the springtime I like to get out and walk around in it. I don’t know if it’s gotten there for you guys though.

Brian Oak: It’s close enough for us to call it spring. So we’re happy now you guys are going out on tour for the first time in about four years. How do you feel about heading back out?
Mills: Oh I’m completely psyched. You know like I’ve told people before that’s the reason I’m in band is so I can play live. I miss it when I don’t do it.

Oak: I know you are starting the European tour in June, have you sat down with the other two guys and planned out what you are going to do or…?
Mills: Oh, you mean song wise?

Oak: Song wise or concept wise or any of that stuff.
Mills: You know, we’ve got some ideas. It’s gonna be a little bit simpler in terms of visual effects. I don’t think we are gonna have big film this year. Musically we are going to concentrate I think mostly on the last two records. But we’ll have a couple brand new things and we’ll certainly be dipping into the catalog and playin’ stuff maybe one night a week, different kind of old songs.

Nelson: So how do you pick out what songs you are going to play each night? What older songs you are going to play?
Mills: We make a different set list every night and ah you know one night we might play “Cuyahoga” and the next night we might play “Pretty Persuasion” and the next night it might be “Driver 8″. It’s just any, whatever one of those old songs we feel like throwing in that night.

Nelson: Now Mike, on the last time around you kind of got a reputation as a snappy dresser. You were wearing the flashy white suit with the glitter and the different colored sequins. Can we expect more of the same when you come back to town?
Mills: Absolutely. I’ve ordered a new batch from Manuel in Nashville and I am very excited. I haven’t seen then all yet but they are going to be beautiful.

Oak: So you just order them site unseen?
Mills: Well here’s what I do: I go up and look at his place and I usually pick out a couple of designs he’s got already done, and he finishes those off for me, and then I tell him to go ahead and make some up cause I trust him. He’s really good with that stuff, so I let him have his way.

Oak: Are you wearing one of those suits now?
Mills: [laughs] No, they weigh about 50 lbs. You don’t really want to be walking around in them.

Oak: Oh wow, so you’re sorta like a knight in shining armor type thing.
Mills: Well, you know, if you stuck me with a spear it would go right through ‘em, but they are heavy nonetheless.

Nelson: Mike, I understand you are a little bit of a college basketball fan.
Mills: Yeah, I guess that’s gettin around, isn’t it.

Nelson: Now this is a story you only told once but everybodys picked up on it. And this happens a lot: do you get tired of telling the same story over and over and over again.
Mills: Sometimes, yeah. Ya know, it depends on how compelling a statement I make. I guess, if you do something… ya know, I beat a thousand people… they’re right, it is a kind of big deal, but it is also a lot of luck. But ya know, it’s pretty cool people like to talk about it.

Nelson: And for people who don’t know the story already, you correctly predicted all four teams in the final four for the local newspaper down there in Athens.
Mills: Yeah, out of 1100 people, we had eight that picked the final four; then I won it on the tie-breaker which was getting seven of the final eight.

Oak: And the one you missed was Gonzaga. I don’t know how you missed that.
Mills: Yeah, I didn’t see that one comin’, I don’t know why.

Oak: Now let me ask you this: in out pool here at the station I am actually in a position to win if Michigan state beats Duke; do I have a chance?
Mills: Ohhh ummm… let’s put it this way: I don’t have the Spartans winning it in my pool.

Oak: Ooookay.
Mills: That’s the best I can tell you.

Oak: Well I guess I’ll hang it up then… what can I do, I’ll try it again next year.
Mills: It’s not over yet – that’s why they play the game.

Oak: That’s why they play the game very good. You’ve got a future in sports commentary or something.
Mills: I’m afraid so… you know if this one ever goes in the basket I’ve got another one.

Nelson: All right Mike, now more of a personal question here. We had a person who won tickets yesterday here on Zone 105 who is a big fan of yours and wanted to ask or wanted us to ask you about your soul patch, you know that little patch of fuzz. Right there underneath your lower lip.
Mills: You know it’s kind of like my buddy. It’s been there so long, I don’t have to look at my face in the mirror, I can just look at the soul patch and say good morning. [laughs]

Oak: Does it talk back yet?
Mills: I hope not. If it does I’m in trouble.

Oak: It’s asking to be the new fourth member and that’s a problem.
Mills: Then I’ll know I need some help.

Oak: When we first talked to you guys, when the new CD came out, you told us you weren’t planning on touring. What kind of changed your minds?
Mills: Well, we were going to do some live shows – we just weren’t ready. Since Bill had left the band, we were still letting the dust settle and trying to figure out what kind of three-piece band we were. And we weren’t ready to put ourselves through that, you know, without being a little bit more settled into our new existence. So once we did some shows in the fall with the guys that are playing with us – with Ken Stringfellow and Joey Waronker and Scott McCaughey – it felt so good and we had so much fun that we said: okay, we can do this. Let’s just do a fairly small tour, one that won’t drive us completely insane, and keep it manageable.

Nelson: Even though you are facing the challenges of recently becoming a trio, you are still moving on to new projects – like, you guys are scoring a new film, right?
Mills: Well, it looks like it. If the lawyers can dot the I’s and cross the t’s we are going to score the new Jim Carrey movie directed by Milos Forman called Man On The Moon, of course named after our song. They are going to use our song in it and it looks like Peter and I are going to get to do the music for it.

Oak: So does that mean it’s not going to sound like R.E.M. music, it’s going to be the big swooping violins and orchestra? Or how’s it going to turn out you think?
Mills: It depends on what we see when we look at the movie. You don’t want to have too much in your head before you see the film cause that’s what’s going to determine it. I get the feeling it’s not going to be a whole a lot of swooping violins… I’ve seen a little bit of the movie and think it’s going to be a little bit more guitar oriented.

Oak: Now the rumor we’ve been hearing is Jim Carrey…Oscar. What do you think?
Mills: Well, I’ve only seen about 30 seconds of the movie but I’ll tell you this. I met Jim when he was in character, I talked to him a little while, and he’s pretty much has got Andy down. I mean it’s uncanny how much he looks and sounds like him.

Nelson: All right. Well you guys are coming back to town August 21 performing at Midway Stadium and needless to say tickets are going to be hard to come by. Do you have any advice for people who really want to get into the show?
Mills: [laughs] Um well I hate to be cliche, but you have to get there early. I’d like to think that they are going to go fast but who knows maybe it will be a little bit more civilized than that.

Nelson: Well another way you can win tickets of course: Zone 105 is giving them away before you buy them. We are giving away another pair later this morning. Mike Mills, bass player from R.E.M. Thanks for joining us this morning.
Mills: Excellent, well.

The interview was conducted on 26 March 1999 by Zone 105 (radio)
Source: R.E.M. Central
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