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Peter Buck Talks About R.E.M.’s Breakup in New Interview

It was kind of anti-climactic, but there's information buried in there nonetheless

Peter Buck, former guitarist for R.E.M., has described the quintessential ’80s college radio rockers’ 2011 breakup in a new interview with Rolling Stone. Writer and longtime R.E.M. correspondent David Fricke met with Buck in January, at the site of one of the guitarist’s current projects, the Todos Santos Music Festival in Todos Santos, Mexico.

As Buck describes it, the split was a long time coming, beginning when he objected to adding shows in flyover states during R.E.M.’s final tour in 2008. “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,” the guitarist recalls saying at the time. Buck goes on to describes how the 2008 tour led to the three original members’ eventual decision to call it quits in 2011:

The last show — we were in Mexico City [in 2008]. 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.

Later in the interview, Buck sums the band’s legacy thus: “There are a couple of records that aren’t great. But there’s a couple of Bob Dylan records that aren’t great.”

Despite an expressed distaste for the music industry, Buck has kept busy since the end of R.E.M. He released his second solo record last fall, performed at his Todos Santos festival, and according to the interview, has been playing with Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker in a band called Filthy Friends. Read the full piece at Rolling Stone, and revisit SPIN’s 1991 cover story on R.E.M.