Peter Buck Details R.E.M.’s Breakup And Current Status

Ever since R.E.M. called it quits in 2011, guitarist Peter Buck has kept busy. He’s produced albums, played with bands like the Minus 5 and the Baseball Project, and released three vinyl-only solo albums, the most recent of which is last year’s Warzone Earth. He’s also put together Todos Santos, his own annual music festival in Mexico. But he hasn’t done a whole lot of interviews. So the new Rolling Stone sit-down between Buck and David Fricke is an interesting one.

Basically, Buck was and is completely disgusted with the entire music industry, and that’s part of what led to R.E.M.’s retirement. Here’s how he recounts the breakup:

We were in Bergen, Norway [in 2008]. I really like Bergen. I wanted to see the town. I had four hours off. Instead, we had a three-hour band meeting. I was really pissed off. We were talking about adding some shows to the tour. It was a lot of money, but I didn’t want to go. I won’t say where it was. I looked at them and said, “If this is our last tour, I don’t want to end with two half-full shows in a state you couldn’t pay me to set foot in.” And they went, “OK.”

The last show — we were in Mexico City. We’re like the Beatles there. It was great for us. And I went, “This is kind of sad.” And Michael [Stipe] goes, “Yeah, a little. We’re probably never going to play these songs again.” And I went, “You might be right.”

But we were doing the last record, [2011’s] Collapse Into Now. We hadn’t made an announcement or anything. We got together, and Michael said, “I think you guys will understand. I need to be away from this for a long time.” And I said, “How about forever?” Michael looked at Mike [Mills], and Mike said, “Sounds right to me.” That’s how it was decided…

Technically, the band broke up. 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?

In the interview, Buck also talks a bit about how he feels completely disconnected from the music business these days and how he’s fine doing his own thing in the shadow of it. Regarding the current state of rock he says:

I was talking to Colin Meloy [of the Decemberists]. He was going, “Boy, you guys got out at the right time. The festivals are horrible now. They all have that fucking dance tent. You get these kids who are totally tripping, walking through and yelling during your set, and then there’s that thumping all night long.”

Fricke also mentions that Buck has a new band called Filthy Friends with Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker. The whole interview is worth a read; check it out here. And according to Pitchfork’s recent oral history of R.E.M.’s Out Of Time, there’s a reissue of that album coming out this fall, and it will feature bonus tracks.