I finally managed to watch Michael Stipe’s interview on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton from Monday. He was surprisingly personable! The only bit I didn’t like was Denton’s introduction, where he went on and on about how REM didn’t seem like the stereotypical rock gods, like with the groupies and the doing drugs, and that it was so refreshing that they didn’t have any embarrassing scandals… to which everyone watching mentally thought in unison: “Except for that time Peter Buck went psycho on a flight to England.” But anyhoo, my personal highlights:

  • Denton asked about the blue stripe, to which Stipe replied, “I don’t think when people go to a concert they want to see the same person they could see walking down the street. It’s just theatrics.” I was totally expecting him to say something much more vague and cosmic and stupid.
  • Michael is really sentimental and spends every Christmas with his family. That just seemed like such a nice, normal thing. What a good Southern boy!
  • When discussing the way the media can totally misrepresent things you do/say, Stipe mentioned that he was reading an Aussie tabloid story on “Celeb Fatties” on the plane. (Must’ve been NW, as that’s currently on the cover.) He said that of all the people shown, only one was actually fat and the rest were just caught at a bad angle. The fat one was Courtney Love, who he says has put on some pounds since she’s gotten clean and sober. He said she’s doing well and he seemed really happy for her. Denton asked what she’d think about being included in the “Celeb Fatties.” Stipe laughed. “Oh, she’d love it!”
  • Denton mentioned that last year REM did the “Vote for Change” tour with several other bands. “What were you hoping to accomplish?” Stipe hesitated for a second, as if pondering the ridiculousness of such an obvious question. “We wanted George Bush the f**k out of the White House, and to vote John Kerry in.” Everyone applauded.
  • At one point, Denton mentioned that the band’s been dedicating “Strange Currencies” to Michael Hutchence in all the Australian shows, and then he brought up River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain. He was trying to ask Michael why they all seemed to burn out under the weight of fame, but why hadn’t he? Michael basically said he’d never really thought about that and that it was hard for him to talk about. And then thankfully Denton changed the subject, because it seemed to really depress Michael.
  • Apparently Stipe collects random crap like matchbooks and sugar packets and he’s always threatening to put a big scrapbook together. So at the end of the interview, Denton offered him a choice between a few different “Australian” items to remember us by: a cricketer’s cup (as in, the thing that protects his crotch), a crushed VB can, and an actual living funnelweb spider in a plastic terrarium. Michael seemed a bit freaked out by the spider at first, but eventually decided to be brave and pick up the box. “So is this one deadly poisonous?” Yep. “If I opened the lid, it would actually kill me dead?” Yep. “I bet some insurance guy is having a heart attack right about now.” He went with a matchbook.

Note: I totally paraphrased Michael’s statements because I’m too lazy to transcribe from the video.