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Michael Stipe Once Demanded to Donald Trump’s Face That He “Shut Up”

Michael Stipe on Late Show With Stephen Colbert, January 30, 2020
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and guest Michael Stipe during Thursday's January 30, 2020 show. Photo: Scott Kowalchyk/CBS ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Donald Trump was not one of the shiny happy people after a previous run-in with Michael Stipe, according to the former R.E.M. frontman. Stipe, who recently released a photography book titled Our Interference Times as well two solo singles, made the revelation during his visit to Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Thursday, January 30.

The topic of the president came up when Colbert mentioned that the “Orange Clown” (per R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, was continuing to use the band’s music despite their objections.

“It’s a licensing problem and there’s nothing we can do except respectfully request they not use [our music],” the musician told the comedian. “We take the high road, my former band and I.”

The discussion reminded Stipe of a show he attended in the late ’90s to support his friend Patti Smith, who was performing at a benefit at Joe’s Pub, a tiny New York City venue. According to the singer, he and a friend were seated at a VIP table. Shortly after the show started, “this businessman, this big, loud guy came in with a date” and sat next to Stipe and his pal.

“He was talking to her, and he kept talking to her through the performance,” Stipe griped. “Joe’s Pub is a very small room and people were turning around. It was very disruptive and rude, frankly.”

The former R.E.M. frontman said that when Smith came on stage, she was clearly nervous as she started her first song, and that this large fella was talking loudly during her performance.

“I was like, [turns around and glares in disbelief] ‘Excuse me, that’s my friend, and you have to stop talking.  You can’t talk … stop!  What are you doing?! Shut up!’ I said, ‘shut up!'” Stipe  recalled. “The guy got up and left. … And do you know who that guy was? Donald J. Trump.”

Colbert’s audience, who are rarely fans of the president, laughed and cheered at the revelation.

Stipe also discussed his new songs, his first musical endeavors since R.E.M.’s  breakup in 2011. “Your Capricious Soul” dropped October 5, and “Drive to the Ocean” on January 4, his 60th birthday.

“I was encouraged by the group Extinction Rebellion, who had a big worldwide event in October,” he explained to Colbert. “I  had  these songs  I recorded and I composed for the first time, and I was excited to get back into music. It’s like scratching an itch or breathing; it feels good and natural and right. And I love my voice. I decided to release that first single and give all the proceeds to Extinction Rebellion, all  of my proceeds for the first year.”

Stipe previously announced that proceeds from “Drive to the Ocean” will also go to fight climate crisis. Pathway to Paris, an advocacy group for the Paris Accord, will benefit from the money raised by his second solo single.

Both songs are available via his website,