"We’re all really happy with the way things are": why watching U2 reminded Mike Mills why R.E.M. will never reunite

R.E.M. in 1998
(Image credit: Patrik Andersson)

"I went to see U2 a few years ago, and they were so good. I was sitting there thinking, Man, I could be up there doing that. That would be so much fun."

R.E.M. fans can stop getting their hopes up now. In a new interview with rollingstone.com bassist Mike Mills recalls having a moment where the thought of being onstage again was exciting, but it wasn't very long at all before a cold splash of reality put the idea firmly out of his head again.

"I said, They’ll be doing it tomorrow night, and the night after that, and the week after that, and the week after that, and the month after that. I said, You know what? It’s actually OK.”

"We’ve all got our own things that we’re doing," adds Mills, "and I think we’re all really happy with the way things are.". 

Mills was speaking to Rolling Stone's Brian Hiatt to promote his former band's upcoming 25th anniversary edition of their 1998 album Up, set to emerge on Craft Recordings on November 10. The album was the first that R.E.M. recorded as a three-piece following drummer Bill Berry's decision to step down from the band, and it would go on to sell two million copies worldwide. 

Remaining members Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mills, recorded four more studio albums after Up, 2001's Reveal, 2004's Around The Sun, 2008's Accelerate and 2011's Collapse Into Now, before amicably going their separate ways.

"It was clear to all of us that there would never be a better time," Mills tells Rolling Stone. "The music industry had radically changed. Our relationship to it had changed. Our record contract was up. Our record company was very different. Did we want to make another record and put it out ourselves or sign another record contract? None of that was appealing to us. We said, Let’s do something that nobody’s done and shake hands and walk away as friends, and go do other things while we’re still young enough to do them."

"It’s like, Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful memory."

In a statement reflecting on Up, Michael Stipe notes, "The growing pains of becoming a three-piece were really evident throughout the entire making of the record, and it left three best friends very distant from each other as creative partners, but we managed to hold it together, and I believe a very good record came out of it."

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.