“I just didn’t want to.”
That’s how Michael Stipe explains the lack of vocals on his first original piece of music since R.E.M. disbanded, a collaboration with Now It’s Overhead frontman Andy LeMaster that’s meant to score footage from Tom Gilroy’s new film The Cold Lands.
“I tried to bring groove,” Stipe explained in an exclusive Salon interview. “And Andy is an excellent bass player, so we were able to do something like Tom Verlaine … He doesn’t want to fall into a clichéd blues riff. He’s working to avoid that. He doesn’t want to play jazz. Like Peter Buck would say, ‘You only play what’s absolutely necessary.’ And that takes every ounce of your energy as a musician.”
As for whether this means we can expect more solo material, Stipe — who’s mostly concentrated on making art in other mediums since the band’s 2011 split — insisted, “I wouldn’t call it a song. I’d call it a soundtrack or a musical piece. Yeah, of course it’s a big deal, but so is my friendship with Tom and so is The Cold Lands. It was something I wanted to do and I wanted to stretch and challenge myself a little bit. And I do love music.”