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.”

Contributor

Guardian music

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