REM’s break-up, announced in September, wasn’t a snap decision. The band had been talking about it during its 2008 tour, Michael Stipe tells Salon in a lengthy sit-down. “The decision came about quite organically, like most things in REM,” he says. By the end of that tour—which became their last—“we all kind of knew that these were most likely going to be our last shows. It was already, for us, bittersweet and weird and hard.” He says the thought of not performing live again is “actually painful to think about,” but the band didn’t want to leave things open-ended because the members needed “closure” in order to move forward with new projects.
Why not do a farewell tour? “The idea of doing some kind of victory lap … just felt—and still feels—like it would have been completely mercenary and exploitative and impossible,” Stipe says. Not to mention emotional for the band: “I could not perform ‘Everybody Hurts’ for the last time in London with 30,000 people in the room or 80,000 people on the field knowing full well it was the last time we were going to do it. I just couldn’t. I would collapse.” The entire interview—in which Stipe also muses over why Collapse Into Now is the perfect final album, and discusses the upcoming career-spanning collection—is worth a read. (Read more R.E.M. stories.)