1995 October - Q Magazine
Sunday, July 30th, Milton Keynes
First Gig with R.E.M. Mr Stipe says hello "Hi, im micheal, I'm really glad you could do this. Im a very big fan." Wonder how many times I will run this through my brain after today. I've never believed in hero worship but I have to admit to myself that im fighting for breath. I've had moments in the last two years when time has completely curved and space became a hitchcock camera trick. At these moments, barriers seem to break in my head and I will never see anything in the same way again. And for days and days all I want to do is run around jumping into peoples earshot waving my hands up and down like bjork and pulling faces. This is one of those moments.
Monday July 31st, London
Video shoot for just. Its being directed by this guy called James Thrave. He just sent us this idea on an A4 piece of paper. It's about a character who collapses in the street and then all these captions appear on the screen as if the songs been translated. Apparently. But there are three days of shooting and We're only for one so its pretty much out of our hands. Thats cool. Go stand on film set Strut around like a peacock making faces. Not a pig in sight. Good therapy.
Tuesday, August 1st, Berlin
We're playing in this beautiful ampitheatre built as part of the 1936 Olympic Games for the boxing, I lie down in the sun. REM arrive. We say hello. I'm cool. This happens all the time. Bertis Downs there lawyer comes up and says, "hey man you got the stuff!" I have no idea what hes talking about. After the show REM have this record company thing in an old army barracks set on the hills. The enterance is lined with inflatable dinosaurs. They get awarded with all this specially commissioned bonkers discs. Just for being R.E.M., basically. They all pose and smile a bit and do the whole political bit and are extremely nice. I'm shocked. It seems you have to be nice to people forever. I may as well get used to my cracked smile now. Im just completely hyper in the presence of all this. Find myself gurgling like a baby who is being tickled. Kick an apple around the floodlt garden until I can string a sentence together again. Feel 50 feet tall. Shit Shit Shit, this is R.E.M. and they really like us. No I mean they REALLY like us, they're not just being nice. When someone you really admire gives you something you like that, your shoulders get a little lighter, you feel a little stronger, forever.
Wednesday, August 2nd, Berlin/Oslo
Realise that I havent seen nothing of Berlin except for the statue from Wim Wenders Wings of Desire. And I only glimpsed that from the van window. Even the gig was surrounded by trees. Typical. On the flight to oslo, Mike Mills shows me a note hes recieved from Bill Clinton offering sympathy for his recent stomach troubles. Both of us are too hung over to know quite what to make of it.
Thursday August 3rd, Oslo
See Kurt Cobains suicide letter on the back of someones t-shirt for the first time. Follow the girl around various shops trying to read it. Something about being moody. everybody here is blond and good looking. and all they wear is orange, my favourite colour. Im really proud of the way we played tonight . Theres a new song called Lucky and I think its the best we ever played it. The room has this immense sound and the words just bounce around. I get the shivers virtually all the way through the song and just grin like an idiot Watching REM tonight made me think how huge they are and how much they have gone through. Now, of course, Bill Clinton writes them letters and they play stadiums. Not that this is my definition of an idyllic future. Briefly consider how much longer RH can last. I still get days when I want to clock in all my zillions of utterly useless executice airmiles and fuck off forever to a shack on Kare Kare in New Zealand with its Alen Plant life, but then what? The REM machine is astounding. How is it possible to redress the balance in your head between all this stuff and being some guys with drums and guitars and a coupla mikes? I guess the answer is songs like strange currencies and or a brand new one called Undertow. Songs that would make me jam on the brakes in the middle of the motor ways and veer into a hard shoulder until they had finished. What else is there to life except for moments of honey like this? Listening to Finest Worksong makes me feel like im ten feet tall and can crush anything in my path. I play everyone a new song in the dressing room (which is a toilet) Its called No surprises please. Colin goes nuts. Afterwards I try not to get blind drunk but fail miserably. Go out dancing and locate my agressive streak on encoutering a couple of Nordic males who are flexing their impotence in Tracksuits. Dance it out to the Beastie Boys Root Down. Feel much better.
Friday August 4th, Oslo/Stockholm
I buy a toy helicopter with "ambulance" and Emergency service" on it. When I see it in the airport it reverberates in my head and I just had to have it. The show is fine. I get hugged a few times by people who have come to see just us. A journalist here apparently believes its his mission in life to tell everyone how ugly I am, but thats OK, at least it beats being called suicidal. After the show I play the role of pop star with bigger popstar. I have been deliberatly avoiding Mr Stipe because I didnt want to make a fool of myself. Or get mistaken for a stalker. But tonight we end up playing with Kinder toys and talking about when he met Patti Smith so I feel much better about it all. Go out till morning. Do cartwheels and Elvis impersonations
Saturday August 5th, Stockholm/Sicilly
Stuck at Stockholm airport I find airport lounges traumatic and extremely lonely. Try to use the time constructively writing letters to fans (I carry this dejected satchel full of them round) reading a book on the situationiste international and the Paris Riots of 1968 (I am proud of my pretentions) and the tibetan book of living and dying by Soygal Kinpoche. R.E.M. have taken the stones Private jets, now THATS cool.
Sunday August 6th, Sicily
Spend the whole morning displaying my lilywhite body and Red Hair to gawping sicilian populace. The show is at a sports stadium. Utter Chaos permeates every corner of the proceedings. I soak up the burning Mediterranian Sun and wait for the first murmurs from Mount Etna. Briefly wonder how you say, "fuck me silly but don't tell your brothers"in Italian. One minute before stage time we find oueselves stuck in traffic. Micheal Stipe tells me to "breathe, breathe" like im having a baby while hundreds of police stand round and do nothing. Police walk in and out of our dressing room all night to use the toilet. And theres no vodka. I have to make do and during REM's set, I lie in a haze backstage staring at a star- my star- which comes out when things are bad.
Monday August 7th, Sicily/Tel Aviv
5:30am, leave hotel for airport. 9am Fly to Rome. Wait around for three hours. Sober up. Pass out. Read in a magazine that its now 6 months since Richey Manic dissapeared. 1pm, Get on Plane. Then told to get off plane as there is a three hour delay. Throw up in toilet. 4pm. arrive in Tel Aviv. An Hour at passport control Drive to stadium for photo shoot and two radio interviews. Shaky, cannot focus.
Tuesday August 8th, Tel Aviv
This is where Creep first broke. Way before America. That was well over two years ago. Fond memories flood back of being mobbed for the first time. Do a press conference. Usual stuff. I always feel like a politican. "Do you think you have changed as a human being since you were last here?" Yes. I no longer feel human Head off to main radio station which is run by the army youth. After the age of 18, everyone has to join, boys for three years, girls for two. There is a sign stipulating regulation haircuts. Play some acoustic stuff with Jonny which makes the day seem worthwhile. Afterwards I haggle with a mad old woman in Jaffa flea market over a huge floppy hat and duffle coat. In the end I buy them both. Perfect for temperatures of 110 F. Meal in the evening with REM One of the most embarrasing moments of my life occurs when a girl comes up on the restaurant and ask for my autograph and not Mr Stipes. I hide my face in a napkin for 5 minutes. Then the hubble-bubble machine arrives, Its supposed to help digestion. But it just makes me feel weird.
Wednesday August 9th, Tel Aviv
The Hubble-Bubble machine is still giving me all sorts of pains. Go to the beach and a heartbreakingly beautiful Jewish woman comes up in a swimsuit and asks if I'm Thom Yorke. Given the shorts I'm wearing I consider denying everything. She looks me up and down and I feel reduced to the size of the sand. I weakly reply, Yes, and watch her dissapear, curiosity satisfied. Feel even stranger than when I woke so scurry back to the hotel fearing sunstroke. Despite fears of possible boiled head, however, I feel reluctant to wear my Jewish orthodox hat purchase of yesterday especially at the beach. It IS sunstroke! I now feel like a very sick old man. I meet Mr Stipe who gives me and jonny what he describes as an organic pick-me-up. Its not speed he says. Hes pissed off because some papparazzi guy has been following around and photographing his every move. Backstage at the gig it seems like all the friends and families of everyone who works there have turned up. The security guard demands autographs from everyone who passes. A long legged blonde asks me wether I know the band. She appears to be angry that none of REM have offered to sleep with her. I cant think of an answer and walk off. Suddenly, during the show, Micheals stuff starts kicking in. I feel fabulous. I feel like I've been plugged straight into the mains. Then, as I walk off at the end, I realise that I can hardly move and wonder in mild panic what Ive done to myself. The whole world appears to be going in slow motion. The rest of the evening is hell and I can't bring myself to do anything but moan. The last thing I remember is Jonny saying he's off to the Lebanon in a jeep. OK, I say.