Michael Stipe Reads Vedic Scripture, Buys Dog Food in Bulk, and Has Great Taste in Shelves
R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe answered a series of vaguely impersonal questions about everything from his worst habits to his taste in art in a new interview with The New York Times’ style magazine, T. Most of the prompts in the magazine’s Artist’s Questionnaire—the contents of which remain static from interviewee to interviewee—have to do with the subject’s internal creative life: “How many hours of creative work do you think you do in a day?”; “When you start a new piece, where do you begin?”; “What’s the last thing that made you cry?”
Stipe feels like an ideal candidate for the questionnaire in that his artistic practice is interdisciplinary and amorphous, so the broadness of the questions doesn’t feel inappropriate. His most recent project, a photography book called Our Interference Times: A Visual Record, co-authored with Douglas Coupland, is described on the publisher’s site as tackling “the tug of war between pixels and halftone, between past memory and new memory, and their vagaries of representation.” We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.
Here are five interesting things gleaned from Stipe’s interview.
He needs his sleep.
Stipe says he sleeps “six hours typically, usually from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m.,” and adds that sleep accounts for a portion of his “creative work”:
I go somewhere really different from here, and it’s consistent, and it’s not scary, and that’s good. It’s the future, but it’s not frightening.
I mean, what do you call creative? Because a lot of creation is work—it’s the mundane. But within the mundane, you find those moments that are mistakes, or you find something that was misheard, something that was misread or misinterpreted, or just a bad print. And from that, I find grace and God. That’s where I find holiness is—usually in the mistakes.
He attends to his dog.
Asked about what he buys in bulk, Stipe replied, “dog food, water and socks.” Nothing more is said about dogs in the T interview, but ARTnews has the goods: Stipe’s dog is a mini pinscher-poodle mix named Filou. “She has a great demeanor and is calming but also demanding when she wants something,” he observed.
He has Andy Warhol’s Polaroid camera.
“I have his Big Shot,” revealed Stipe. “There was a shot in it, by the way. I have what might be Warhol’s last work.” Needless to say, he did not reveal the contents of that last Polaroid.
He likes Years and Years.
Stipe had a measured response to the question of what he’s currently bingeing: “I’m watching Years and Years.” Good call. Revisit our take on the HBO drama’s savvy politics on our list of the 30 most important TV shows of the 2010s.
He’s into Vedic texts.
As for what Stipe is currently reading: “John Giorno’s biography and Patti Smith’s new book [Year of the Monkey]. And I just started the Upanishads [a collection of Hindu scriptures included in the Vedas] last week.”
He has great taste in shelves.
The interview’s accompanying photography depicts these incredible gold shelves by designer Milo Baughman, which Stipe apparently uses to store a collection of equally beautiful objects. They’re the centerpiece of his Lower Manhattan studio.