Michael Stipe Talks St. Louis Punk and Playing Shows Here in Interview Magazine
The current issue of Interview Magazine has Christopher Bollen interviewing R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, and their conversation leads them to a couple interesting tidbits about St. Louis. Stipe, as you may be aware, graduated from high school in Collinsville. He tells Bollen about those days, his rabid Columbia House subscription addiction and listening to Patti Smith's Horses on repeat all night while eating cherries. Then he goes into driving across the river to St. Louis to seek out the punk scene. Key excerpts, below.
Bollen: If you were in East St. Louis, were you able to start a band, or was this a dream deferred?
Stipe: I had to get a driver's license and drive to St. Louis to find the punk-rock scene that was happening there. And there was a punk-rock scene. It was sweet. It was real. It was like everywhere else in the county. It was a handful of people who were feeling the same pull, and, of course, it was like the Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer . Just the freaks, the fags, the fat girls, the unbelievable eccentrics . . . They were all drawn to the music, the fringe that was happening in faraway places and trying to recreate it innocently, beautifully where they were. It's like making capes out of beach towels and pretending to fly.
Bollen: How did you get from East St. Louis to Athens, Georgia?
Stipe: I joined a band in St. Louis and we did two shows. Then my parents decided to move to Georgia to be close to their family. The last thing I wanted to do was move to this cowpoke, hippie town in rural Georgia. I stayed behind and went to college at the University of Illinois at Edwardsville and lived with a punk-rock band in a place called Granite City. We ate spaghetti and butter because we couldn't afford anything else, and we fucked around a lot. Then I ran out of money and I followed my parents to Athens....