R.E.M.'s phenomenal success "took away some of the pleasure" of being in the band, says guitarist Peter Buck

R.E.M. in 2008
(Image credit: Morena Brengola/Getty Images)

Former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck says that the phenomenal success the quartet enjoyed in the 1990s "took away some of the pleasure" of being in the band.

Speaking in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine about his time in the world-conquering Athens, Georgia group, who split on amicable terms in 2011, Buck says, "when it got really big, I don’t know if anyone really enjoys that."

"When the non-musical stuff became so intense, it took away some of the pleasure for me," he tells writer Rob Hughes. "It’s just the stuff where you kind of wake up and go: 'God, I don’t really want to have my picture taken today. And I don’t really want to pretend to be an actor in some video where I can’t act.'

"I loved playing Glastonbury and playing in front of lots of people and selling multiple millions of records," Buck continues, "but it was never the reason I did it. And when we got to the point where we decided that it was the end, it felt like a great shared experience. I wouldn’t change it, but I’m not gonna go back to it."

R.E.M. bowed out in September 2011, issuing a statement which read: "As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening."

Asked by Hughes whether, with the benefit of a decade's hindsight, he feels that R.E.M. disbanded at the right time, Buck says, "I think so."

"The last two records [2008's Accelerate and 2011's Collapse Into Now] were really strong," the guitarist continues. "But I just felt like no matter how good our last record was, it wasn’t really our time any more. And that’s fair, I understand that. And we were lucky. The last tour we did, we were still playing to huge amounts of people. We went to South America, which was like being The Beatles. So everyone felt like, yeah, this is a really good stopping point."

"I’m really grateful that I got to experience the heights that R.E.M. reached," Buck insists, "but when it was over I didn’t have a lot of interest in pursuing that type of largeness again. I don’t think it would be available to me anyway. But there are certainly ways that I could have extended that popularity – get a group with someone else famous, get a publicist, all that crap. I see these other bands, they’re older guys, and they’re trying to keep up. But all I really want to do is write songs, play them and record them."

You can read the full interview with Buck in the new issue of Classic Rock, which is on-sale now (opens in new tab).

Classic Rock 308 cover

(Image credit: Future)

All The Kids Are Super Bummed Out, Buck's new collaboration with ex-Auteurs leader Luke Haines, is out now. 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.