REM guitarist Peter Buck explains why group split

Bandmates were tired of the music business, not of playing songs, and never really broke up five years ago – but don’t expect any more records soon

By the time REM split, their guitarist Peter Buck has said, he had come to hate everything about the music business. In a new interview with Rolling Stone about the band’s decision to stop recording and touring in September 2011, Buck said he had compiled a five-page list of the things he could no longer bear about being in the band. It contained, he said, “everything except writing songs, playing songs and recording them. It was the money, the politics, having to meet new people 24 hours a day, not being in charge of my own decisions.”

Buck said the decision to end the band came during the making of the 2011 album Collapse Into Now, when Michael Stipe told his Buck and bassist Mike Mills: “I need to be away from this for a long time.”

“And I said, ‘How about forever?’” Buck said in Rolling Stone. “Michael looked at Mike, and Mike said, ‘Sounds right to me.’ That’s how it was decided.”

In an interview with the Guardian, shortly after the band announced their split, Stipe refused to discuss whose idea it had been. “That’s not important, I don’t think,” he said. “It’s nobody’s business.”

In some ways, Buck said, REM remain active. “Technically, the band broke up,” he said. “But we didn’t really. We’re just not making records or touring. We own a publishing company. We own the masters to our Warner Bros records. We own buildings. We own a warehouse with tapes and stuff that I haven’t even seen. Why go to a warehouse?”

Watch a video of Wolves, Lower from REM’s debut EP

He also warned fans not to expect a series of posthumous REM albums featuring unreleased tracks. “We could probably put out an album of stuff that we thought was too mediocre to be on the original records,” he says. “Why would we do that? Michael generally didn’t finish songs if he didn’t like them. It wasn’t like we had 20 songs to choose from for every album. We’d have 14, and 12 would make the record. The other two might be B-sides. If we hadn’t put out all the B-sides stuff already, we’d have a nice two-CD set of pretty good songs. But I don’t think about it much.”


Guardian music

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
REM's Peter Buck working on solo album
The guitarist is recording his solo debut, according to REM collaborator Scott McCaughey. And he may even sing …

Sean Michaels

15, Mar, 2012 @10:04 AM

Article image
REM's Peter Buck to release first solo album
Untitled record, due out in vinyl-only run of 2,000 copies, was written while former REM musician was laid up with a serious injury and unable to play guitar

Sean Michaels

02, Oct, 2012 @11:58 AM

REM's Peter Buck has his stolen guitar returned

It's been a triumph for the music police as Buck is reunited with his beloved Rickenbacker. Or perhaps the band's 'generous reward' had more to do with it

Sean Michaels

26, Sep, 2008 @8:51 AM

Article image
REM are the latest victims of instrument theft

The rock'n'roll cat burglars strike again. This time, Peter Buck's guitar has gone walkies. Send for Interpol! (the police that is, not the band)

Sean Michaels

11, Sep, 2008 @9:18 AM

Article image
Sleeve Notes: REM call it a day

Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills called it quits, but Queen are soldiering on … with a little help from some stand-ins

Adam Boult

23, Sep, 2011 @11:56 AM

Article image
REM won't tour Collapse Into Now
Guitarist Peter Buck says band have no plans to take their new album on the road, claiming their last tour was exhausting

Sean Michaels

09, Mar, 2011 @10:59 AM

Article image
Filthy Friends: Emerald Valley review – indie supergroup is familiar yet bracing
Featuring Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney and Peter Buck of REM, this second album is engaged and abrasive, even if the lyrics sometimes overdo it

Michael Hann

03, May, 2019 @8:30 AM

Pop review: REM, Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham

Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham
Back in business - despite the empty seats says Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

31, Aug, 2008 @11:01 PM

Article image
REM plan to release rare singles for charity
Planned box set to feature fanclub-only Christmas songs including collaborations with Radiohead and Neil Young

Sean Michaels

13, Aug, 2013 @10:09 AM

Pick of the week: Rock and pop

Hayseed Dixie | Hercules And Love Affair | Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick | Moseley Folk Festival | REM

29, Aug, 2008 @11:07 PM