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Bill Berry Leaves R.E.M.

    My tribute to Bill and where to read all about it.

Another Side Of R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe In Haiku Year

    Singer, songwriter, director,photographer, activist... and now poet. Addicted To Noise Staff Writer Chris Nelson reports : When R.E.M. released New Adventures in Hi-Fi last year, they proved to the world that the band could record in on-the-fly settings just as well as in lengthy studio sessions. What most people don't know is that even as R.E.M. was creating the most spontaneous record of their career, singer Michael Stipe was taking part in a collective poetry project that was so highly structured as to sound like a school assignment from an English teacher gone mad.

    Stipe, of course, jumped right in.

    Haiku Year, to be published next spring by Soft Skull Press, is the book that documents the efforts of Stipe and a cadre of five friends, who in November 1995 decided to write one haiku poem a day for an entire year, to be distributed monthly among themselves. Though not all the participants met the project's rigid time and literary demands, the group nonetheless generated reams of work. Three hundred sixty-five of their three-line, 17-syllable poems will be collected in Haiku Year.

    "It was like receiving really condensed, month-long journals, in these really distinct little blocks," said Douglas Martin, a Georgia-based performance poet and friend of Stipe's who took part in the project. Other participants included Grant Lee Buffalo founder Grant Lee Phillips; actor and director Tom Gilroy; filmmaker Jim McKay (Girls' Town); and Rick Roth, who heads up Amnesty International's northeastern U.S. division.

    "There's some interesting social consciousness-type poems, especially from people like Stipe," said Sander Hicks, editor at Soft Skull, which has also published volumes by Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo and Retsin's Cynthia Nelson. "There's comments on everything, from 12-step programs to love and sex."

    "It was a good check on where everybody was that month in their life," Martin added. "You could tell what everybody was going through by what they were writing about. You see these moments of sensitivity of things you don't articulate in everyday life. You're like, wow, that's a beautiful, sensitive person that can perceive that and capture that moment."

    Hicks noted that while Haiku Year affords equal attention to all the writers involved, he understands that the focus of many readers will be on Stipe's contributions. "It's obvious that Michael Stipe is the best known. For me personally, I was most curious to read on paper what the Murmur-er says."

    According to the editor, several members of the group studied the Japanese literary structure, as well as the work of practitioners like Jack Kerouac, before beginning the Haiku Year. "And then they broke the rules and played with the form," said Hicks.

    Martin, the only participant who contributed a full year's worth of poems, said he assumed his task almost as a dare from instigators Gilroy and McKay. "I'm pretty much opposed to any sort of form poem, so that was the initial challenge, to force myself to write form poems. I wanted to prove to Jim and Tom that I could do it -- it was a challenge from them in every sense of the word."

    Hicks said Gilroy plans to focus the accompanying art for Haiku Year on materials that people encounter in everyday life, from matchbooks to firecracker wrappers to seed packets. Scheduled to hit bookstores in April, Haiku Year will be available in both a paperback edition as well as a hand-bound cloth edition limited to 100 copies. [Wed., Oct. 15, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]


    R.E.M. Prepares for Hi-Fi Follow-Up:

    While a release date is still a year away, a new album from R.E.M. is already in the planning stages. The Athens Banner-Herald reports that the band has tapped Pat McCarthy as producer of the new disc, bringing to a close its ten-year relationship with Scott Litt, who has overseen every R.E.M. album since 1987's Document. McCarthy is not a newcomer to the R.E.M. camp, having engineered the band's last two records, New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996) and Monster (1995). McCarthy has also worked with U2, Counting Crows, and the Wallflowers. "We went through a list of every living, breathing producer on earth and whittled it down to Pat," the band's attorney and de facto manager, Bertis Downs, told the paper.

    The parting with Litt is an amicable one, and can be viewed as the result of his heavy day-to-day involvement in Outpost Records, the Geffen-distributed label he launched last year. In a separate interview with the Banner-Herald, R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills said the band's work with the longtime collaborator had run its course, and that Litt had grown too busy. "Once you start a record company, you have to devote a lot of your time to it," commented Mills.

    As for the recording schedule of R.E.M.'s next album, speculation has preproduction beginning as early as October or November, with formal sessions commencing in late January or early February. There are rumors circulating in Seattle that Scott McCaughey, who toured with the band in 1995 and plays on New Adventures, will take part in the recordings again at the invitation of Peter Buck. The R.E.M. guitarist may also bring along at least one other musician from Tuatara, the loose-knit jazz collective that includes Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin, Critters Buggin' saxophonist Skerik, and Luna bassist Justin Harwood.


    R.E.M. Signs Cool Film Deal

    R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills has signed a deal to compose the score for the upcoming film A Cool, Dry Place, and his band has agreed to write and record one new song for the film's soundtrack. This is the first time the Grammy-winning group has attempted to write original material for a feature film, although their work has been prominently featured on several film soundtracks, including 1991's Until the End of the World. The 20th Century Fox film A Cool, Dry Place, which is currently shooting in London, stars Vince Vaughn, Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy), Monica Potter (Con Air), and Devon Sawa (Wild America). Vaughn, the star of Swingers and The Lost World, plays a rising young attorney whose wife (Potter) runs off, leaving him to raise his young son alone. After losing his job trying to balance the demands of career and fatherhood, he moves to rural Kansas, where he finds romance with a local woman (Adams). Problems arise when his wife comes back to claim their son. The film is based on the novel Dance Real Slow by Michael Grant Jaffe. Mills apparently expressed interest in scoring the film after reading the book.

Come Together: America Salutes The Beatles Various Artists

    Boasting stars from R.E.M. and Soul Asylum powering through the Fab Four's scruffier tunes, the "Backbeat" soundtrack was the rare "tribute" disc that clicked. "Come Together" doesn't. Given the Beatles' fondness for Carl Perkins, assembling country luminaries to pay homage makes sense -- it's just that producer Jerry Crutchfield lays the gloss on so thick that any country grit gets dusted. Tanya Tucker, John Berry and Billy Dean make MOR mush of the ballads. Little Texas, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson sanitize the rockers. Randy Travis' "Nowhere Man" manages a kind of dolorous appeal, and Delbert McClinton's bluesy "Come Together" charms. The rest is Lennon-McCartney Lite.

    -- PAUL EVANS (RS 709)

Sweet Relief II -- Gravity Of The Situation: The Songs Of Vic Chesnutt Various Artists

    How to put this delicately: It took some time, but the folks at the musicians' health-care fund Sweet Relief have actually found a worthy singer/songwriter in need who has an even less commercial voice than Victoria Williams.

    He's Vic Chesnutt, a wheelchair-bound Georgia native whose grand songs of loyalty and betrayal have long been worshiped by scores of better-known talents. Chesnutt's songs are the focus of "Sweet Relief II" - the follow-up to the 1993 album that celebrated Williams' songwriting and brought Williams, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, much-needed funds to cover her medical expenses.

    A side effect of the first "Sweet Relief," which featured Williams covers by artists including Pearl Jam, Lou Reed, Matthew Sweet and the Jayhawks, was that it nudged Williams into the mainstream and created new career opportunities for her. That's now an important part of Sweet Relief's game plan. Chesnutt, who became paralyzed from the waist down after an auto accident when he was a teenager, has released four highly praised but commercially ignored albums. But after years of obscurity, he's getting to hear what some of the rock world's most respected - and polished - voices do with his catalog. His meandering, homemade-acoustic material has been blown up to larger-than-life proportions here by, among others, R.E.M., Garbage, Hootie and the Blowfish (stop snickering), Live, Smashing Pumpkins and Indigo Girls.

    The result is the kind of tribute usually reserved for dead icons. No matter how far these simple songs are stretched, the blood-and-guts emotion remains. As they approach his tales of honor, morality and greed, the artists sound as though they've measured the distance between their own best songs and Chesnutt's - and are a little humbled, maybe even a bit scared. With good reason. Chesnutt's work is more than the sum of its parts. He remains largely unnoticed partially because of the unkempt way he sings. At the same time, his songs are compelling precisely because of the way he sings.

    On his own records - "Little" (1990), "West of Rome" (1992), "Drunk" (1993) and "Is the Actor Happy?" (1995) - Chesnutt is a kind of anti-vocalist. "I'm just pushing the paint around," he mopes on the "Happy?" track "Sad Peter Pan." And, indeed, Chesnutt mewls as much as he sings, in a voice that is small and plain and perpetually startled. Then there are Chesnutt's loopy, elliptical lyrics, loaded with the ephemeral stuff most writers leave in their journals. "Bricks are dirty, lakes are dead/The family dog is mad/Baby brother's science beakers are all broken/Now the yard peacocks are all sad," he sings in "Free of Hope." Sometimes it's hard to find the universal nugget buried in that kind of rubble, but the search is always rewarding.

    R.E.M.'s version of Chesnutt's "Sponge" sets the musical tone for "Sweet Relief II." The band's hard electric sound severs all ties to Chesnutt's usual folkie conventions, while the lean, uncluttered production forces his haunted lines to the surface. Michael Stipe - a longtime supporter who worked with Chesnutt on "Little" and "West of Rome" - emulates Chesnutt's detached vocal delivery, cultivating tension with the spaces between the words. As Peter Buck's guitar wails and curls around a single sustained note, Stipe strikes a perfect apocalyptic stance, aware of but unmoved by impending doom.

    The other stars on the album approach Chesnutt's work with similar respect. Indigo Girls capture the hymnlike quality of "Free of Hope" and expand it with a dissonant cornet that reinforces the song's message of quiet despair. In easily their most compelling recording since "Grave Dancers Union," Soul Asylum transform "When I Ran Off and Left Her" into an elegiac, tightly focused rock ballad. Smashing Pumpkins join with Chicago noise boys Red Red Meat to paint a tremolo-filled portrait of "Sad Peter Pan." Alas, Red Red Meat vocalist Tim Rutili gets to sing a line tailor-made for Billy Corgan:"I'm a reluctant rebel/I just want to be Aaron Neville."

    Both Sparklehorse, who cover "West of Rome," and Joe Henry, who recruits sister-in-law Madonna for a duet on "Guilty by Association," mimic Chesnutt's whimsical phrasing and offbeat pronunciations to give their selections authenticity. And it took Chesnutt's woeful lyrics to inspire Darius Rucker to stop blubbering and actually enunciate; the Hootie singer's track with Nanci Griffith, an upbeat rendition of "Gravity of the Situation," is a rousing success that finds the Blowfish pulling off a credible imitation of the Band.

    The album ends with "God Is Good," a new collaboration between Chesnutt and Victoria Williams. It's a simple folk song built on the ideas that underpin Chesnutt's best writing - faith, stoicism and honor. But the performance is slightly out of place among the other artists' radical rearrangements of his songs. After hearing bands like R.E.M., the Pumpkins and Garbage transform the poignant, personal stuff of Chesnutt's life into loud, triumphant, extroverted music, it's tough to go back to the campfire.

    -- TOM MOON (RS741)

Sweet 75 - DGC

    Krist Novoselic was clearly anxious to not repeat himself. He waited three years to form a post-Nirvana band, and then for a collaborator he chose Yva Las Vegas, a Seattle street singer known for her Venezuelan folk songs. Still, Kurt Cobain’s ghost inevitably hovers over Sweet 75 (a name borrowed from the poet Theodore Roethke): When Las Vegas and Novoselic try to get angstily anthemic ("Lay Me Down" and "Take Another Stab"), she trips over those large Converses lashed around her feet.

    Big rock songs with bruise-violet lyrics account for the majority of the tracks on Sweet 75. Las Vegas doesn’t have Cobain’s gift for memorable melodies or clever rhymes, and her voice is monotonous in its Janis Joplin-esque urgency. She does make a claim for her own fame on a few tracks. "Dogs" offers a humorous portrait of being stuck in a car with a pompous boyfriend -- "All the things that come out of your mouth are instructions for me to follow" -- but the band and producer Paul Fox have a guilty relationship with hooks: They know they need them, but they seem afraid to hang anything as meaningful as a statement on one. On "Dogs," the chorus is destroyed by a too-bright horn section. Tellingly, the catchiest song on the album is a novelty number, the country wanna-be "Ode to Dolly."

    Novoselic plays electric 12-string guitar as well as bass, but the sound is basic airplay-hungry alt rock. The two Latin songs, as well as the horns on a couple of tracks, show Novoselic trying to break out of that ghetto. But with the exception of the lovely “Cantos de Pilon” (featuring R.E.M.’s Peter Buck on mandolin), these are tourists’ versions of cultural exchange -- a grunge gringo blessing us with his multiculturalism. (RS 769)


TUATARA Crocodile Cafe, Seattle, May 1, 1997

    More akin to a well-orchestrated three-ring circus than a traditional rock show, the Seattle supergroup Tuatara opened its 14-city tour Thursday night with a spirited performance that showed a hard-driving side of the band absent from its debut album, "Breaking the Ethers." Playing for nearly three hours, Tuatara kept its giddy momentum through endless instrument swapping and stints backing Mark Eitzel and Minus Five frontman Scott McCaughey.

    Augmenting its exotica-heavy sound with Mike Stone from Mad Season, Tuatara -- which consists of Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees, Mad Season), Justin Harwood (Luna) and Skerik (Critters Buggin) -- opened with a half hour of dusky worldbeat-jazz. The combo clicked from the get-go, and it had the crowd whooping it up for particularly enthralling instrumental flourishes -- pounding, Grateful Dead-like percussion passages, wild vibe solos and Skerik's eruptions of Coltrane/Sanders-tinged sax bursts. And the instrumentation was just as inventive as the playing: Martin, Stone, and Skerik swapped places at the marimba, vibraphone and steel drums, while Harwood alternated between upright and electric bass. Buck even took to the vibes on a new, as-yet-untitled song -- albeit rather tentatively.

    As easily as they swung full-throttle into a lush sound that recalled an imaginary soundtrack to a Fellini film, Tuatura shifted into creating a polished backdrop for Eitzel, who came onstage and performed almost all of "West," his recent project with Buck. Looking rather dapper in his signature hat, Eitzel was at his acerbic best. He introduced "Helium," which was stunning in a bleak fashion, saying "You know, the Cardigans are doing a cover of this song."

    Next up was McCaughey, whose new Minus 5 release, "The Lonesome Death of Buck McCoy," was also co-written with Buck. Clad in dark glasses and a Smugglers T-shirt, McCaughey gleefully scooted about the instrument-crammed stage like a hyper child at a talent show.

    Tuatara's final instrumental saw Buck riding his wah-wah pedal as the band built up momentum, finally spiraling out of control into peals of cacophonous thunder. McCaughey called it, appropriately, a "Barnburner" -- as good a title as any for the evening's entertainment. And not a bad way to open a tour that plays with listeners' expectations of clashing genres and "rock" musicians.


Michael Stipe and Vic Chesnutt Duet

    The End of Violence Soundtrack, with the track by Chesnutt and Stipe was released today, Tuesday September 9th. The track, Injured Bird was written and performed by Chesnutt and Stipe. The two co-produced the track, along with John Keane. The song is very countryish sounding to me. Chesnutt sings the lead vocals with Stipe on back-up.


    Album Due In Early December On V2 Records

    The music industry will share their love and admiration for the late Princess Diana with a star- studded tribute album to the "People's Princess" and benefit concerts. Plans were announced Monday (Sept. 8) by Richard Branson, best known for running Virgin Records, who will release the album on his new BMG-distributed V2 label by Christmas. According to a spokesperson at V2, they're shooting for an early December street date.

    So far, the tentative track listing includes the new version of Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," which he debuted during Princess Di's televised funeral; R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts"; Phil Collins, "Since I Lost You"; Annie Lennox, "Angel" and "Ave Maria"; Peter Gabriel, "Your Eyes"; Seal, "Prayer for the Dying"; Eric Clapton, "Tears in Heaven"; and Paul McCartney, "Little Willow."

    However, a spokesperson at V2 Records says that not every artist and song is confirmed, but an official list of the songs and artists is due within the next day. And, contrary to published reports, Sting, Madonna, and Sheryl Crow are not confirmed to appear on the album, according to each of their spokespersons. Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You," and songs from The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Bryan Adams are also said to be on the album; however, these artists weren't confirmed at press time either.

    As for the benefit concerts, the shows are slated for August 1998, simultaneoulsy in New York and Paris. Proceeds from the concerts and album will go to the Princess Diana of Wales Memorial Fund. The artists appearing at the concerts will also be announced shortly.

Michael Stipe and Patti Smith Duet

    from (Addicted To Noise - Music News for the World, Wednesday August 27, 1997.)

    Patti Smith's new album "Peace & Noise" features 10 songs, including "Last Call" a duet with Stipe. The song focuses on the Heaven's Gate cult that committed suicide en masse earlier this year. The album is due out September 30.

R.E.M. changes Producers

    Athens Banner Herald, Thursday, 28 August 1997

    R.E.M. Has Producer For Next Album by Rich Copley

    R.E.M. has selected a producer for its next album, slated to be recorded in early 1998.

    Bertis Downs, the Athens band's attorney, confirmed Thursday morning that Pat McCarthy will be turning the knobs on the new disc. It will be the first time since R.E.M.'s 1987 commercial breakthrough, "Document," that it has now worked with producer Scott Litt.

    "We went through a list of every living, breathing producer on earth and whittled it down to Pat," Downs said.

    McCarthy worked as an engineer on R.E.M.'s last two albums, "Monster" (1994) and "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" (1996). He has also served as an engineer for the Counting Crows, the Wallflowers and he has worked with U2.

    "(Litt) thinks its great that we're using Pat since he brought him on board," Downs said.

    In a June interview with the Athens Banner-Herald, R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills explained that the band's work with Litt, "had sort of run its course.

    "He's got his record company to work with now," Mills said, referring to Litt's Outpost Records. "Once you start a record company, you bave to devote a lot of your time to it."

    Like all of the Litt efforts, the new album will be a co-production by R.E.M. and the producer.

    "The producer provides an atmosphere and tone and marshals concensus among the guys,"Dows said. "He served a primary shaper of the sound of the record."

    R.E.M. has been on vacation since "New Adventures" come out last September. During that time, Downs said band members have been independently writing and working on songs.

    Pre-production work, he said, will take place around the end of the year. He added that the possibility of a concert tour has been discussed, but no plans have been made.

REM - In The Attic CD to be released by EMI

    By Wall of Sound: 9/13/97: Believe it or not, a new R.E.M. album will be in a record store near you in a matter of weeks. EMI, celebrating its hundredth birthday, has decided to release limited-edition albums of R.E.M., The Beach Boys, David Bowie, Blondie, and others. The special editions will be available for six months, starting October 7. EMI acquired R.E.M.'s back catalog from the now-defunct IRS label, and the new album, In the Attic, will include fifteen tracks consisting of demos, B-sides, live takes, and other rarities, as well as the previously unreleased "Tired of Singing Trouble." David Bowie recently cut a deal with EMI for his back catalog, netting the Thin White Duke a considerable chunk of change on an annual basis.

    Track List for R.E.M.'s In the Attic:

      1. Finest Worksong (other mix)
      2. Driver 8 (live B-side)
      3. Gardening at Night (alternate take)
      4. Swan Song H (Athens Inside/Out soundtrack)
      5. Disturbance at the Heron House (live B-side)
      6. Maps and Legend (live B-side)
      7. Tired of Singing Trouble (previously unreleased)
      8. Just a Touch (alternate take)
      9. Toys in the Attic (B-side)
      10. Dream (Athens Inside/Out soundtrack)
      11. The One I Love (live B-side)
      12. Crazy (b-side)
      13. Can't Get There From Here (radio edit)
      14. Last Date (B-side)
      15. Time After Time (live B-side)

Ray Gun Magazine

    Some photos (with promises of more to come) taken by Michael Stipe for the August Issue, are now available  at   Murmurs.Com   - our thanks to Ethan once again for being on top of things !

Tuatara in Central Park

    This was TRULY a mind boggling experience for me !! First of all, it was the first time i had heard  TUATARA , they are simply wonderful...i suggest you run right out and get their CD. BREAKING THE ETHERS. Secondly, I was most fortunate to meet some pretty amazing (and famous) people. you JUST GOTTA SEE THIS TO BELEIVE IT !!!

Pictures from the Tibetan Freedom Festival

    Here are some pictures that were available from the Sonic Net site, or screen captured by fans during the cybercast. I was fortunate enough to be the first row. I did not take photos, but the girl next to me did and I will *hopefully* have them soon to be scanned , and put here for your enjoyment !