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Mike Mills of R.E.M. coming to Maine for Record Store Day, April 19

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It's fitting that Mike Mills has plans to celebrate Record Store Day in Maine at Bull Moose in Scarborough on April 19. The former bassist for R.E.M. and co-writer of some of the band's most enduring songs makes a point to seek out the best music stores in most every town he visits. 

'I still go into Wuxtry Records in Athens,' Mills told me in a phone interview. R.E.M's Peter Buck was behind the counter at Wuxtry 35 years ago when Michael Stipe was a frequent customer. The store was a catalyst in the formation of one of rock's most influential bands. 'I've been to Mississippi Records in Portland, Oregon. I was in Amoeba in Los Angeles not long ago. I hit record stores whenever I can,' Mills said.   

Record Store Day, an annual celebration of indie record stores, started in Maine seven years ago with an idea from Chris Brown, head of marketing for nine Bull Moose stores in Maine and two in New Hampshire. The celebration has extended to more than 1,600 stores in 21 countries. 

On Record Store Day, music fans gather to snap up limited edition releases, take advantage of special offers and enjoy free in-store performances. The list of special releases can be found at www.RecordStoreDay.com.

In 1989, when Bull Moose opened their first store in Brunswick, a cassette of R.E.M.'s 'Fables of the Reconstruction' was their first sale.  

mike mills

You may have heard that R.E.M. is one of Maine's favorite bands. According to a 'music intelligence platform' called Echo Nest which analyzes data for music companies, they have an unusually high streaming rate in Maine. A recent study looked at which artists and bands have the most outsized local support compared with the rest of the country. For Maine, according to Business Insider, R.E.M. is tops.

Bull Moose in Scarborough will host an autograph signing with Mike Mills at their Scarborough store, 457 Payne Road, at 2 p.m. on April 19. On that day, the limited-edition Record Store Day release, 'R.E.M. Unplugged The Complete 1991 and 2001 Sessions' will become available for the first time. Mills will happily sign that set or any R.E.M.-related item with a limit of two autographs per customer to keep things moving.  

I spoke with Mike Mills on Friday, April 4, the day after he lit up the internet via Twitter by scooping the news of David Letterman's impending retirement from late-night television.  

'Dave just announced his retirement #2015  #muchlovedave,' the tweet read. Mills, along with former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, was a guest on Thursday's Letterman show, backing up friend Joseph Arthur on his version of Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wild Side.' Reaction to Mills beating Dave to the punch was met with a mix of support and controversy.  

Dow: So, have you sent out any interesting tweets lately?  

Mills: Ha ha. Yeah, I've had an interesting couple of days on Twitter. 

Dow: I was surprised that so many people were upset about that. With six hours between the taping of the show and the time it airs and with 300 people in the audience, it was going to leak. I'm glad it was you.    

Mills: Yeah, and Letterman's people were OK with it. They did an interview with me right after it happened and put it up on the CBS Timeline thing. The only people who are upset are the self-righteous trolls out there in 'Twitter-land' who feel like they know better. Most people were really supportive, including the people at Letterman. They're the only ones that really matter.  

Dow: R.E.M. played some amazing shows here over the years. Do you have fond memories of past Maine visits? 

Mills: Yes, I do.  A lot of them are at 'Three Dollar Deweys,' though (laughing). And I remember going to a party with a gentleman from Portland who is sadly no longer around. We sat around all night listening to Lenny Bruce records.  

Dow: I remember talking to you guys after a 1986 show in Portland. One of the topics was record stores and I recall Peter asking for directions to one of them. I got the impression that you were always seeking out record stores wherever you went.  

Mills: That's what we did. In whatever towns we would go to, we'd try to find the local record store and see what we wanted that we didn't have already. That was our passion. That was pretty much our life. It was all about music and we were happy to do it.    

mike mills

Dow: One of the big releases for Record Store Day is the four-record 'R.E.M. Unplugged: The Complete 1991 and 2001 Sessions.' For fans, those were magical shows. As you think back, how important were they for R.E.M.?

Mills: It's always, if not terrifying, certainly awareness-heightening to do things acoustically. You don't have that shield of volume and electricity. The other thing is, Peter, Bill, Michael and I were always very proud to say that we were good songwriters. If your songs can stand up to being stripped down and played acoustically, you know you've done something well. That's why it was kind of satisfying to do those shows because our music came across even in a very quiet, acoustic environment as well as loud noisy arenas.  

Dow: I really like both shows and the fact that they were so different from each other. On the first one, you guys hadn't played live for a while. 'Out of Time' had just come out, so you had some of those amazing new songs to work with. On the 2001 show, you had some of the new 'Reveal' songs which were great. For me, that's the most underrated R.E.M. album.  

Mills: I'm glad you said that. I happen to agree with you. I think 'Reveal' is our most underrated record. I think if we had put that out earlier in our career, people would have liked it a lot more. It was fun to play those songs. We wanted to make it (the 2001 show) completely different. If we were going to do another 'Unplugged,' we wanted to repeat as few songs as possible. We only repeated one, which I'm pretty proud of.    

Dow: Tell me about your involvement with The Baseball Project. Do any of your songs appear on the new CD? (This 'super group' of baseball lovers is composed of Mills, Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, Steve Winn and Linda Pitmon. As their name implies, the group writes and records songs about America's favorite pastime. Their third album, '3rd' was released on March 25).   

Mills: I do have one song on the new CD. It's called 'To the Veteran's Committee.' I'm stating my case for Dale Murphy to be in the Hall of Fame. That's my first actual recording with The Baseball Project, but I have toured with them a lot and we'll probably be out for about six weeks later this summer. I've been with them for most of their live shows. I was sort of a pinch hitter that's now been brought up to the major leagues. 

Dow: Have you heard 'The Duckworth Lewis Method?'  

Mills: You know, somebody just told me about them the other day.  

Dow: They're really great. They have two records of beautifully crafted pop songs all about cricket. I'm clueless about cricket but the songs are fantastic. They're an Irish group Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy and Thomas Walsh of Pugwash. I think you'd really like it.  

Mills: I'm sure I would. If it's something that's in your blood something you've grown up with, it's pretty easy to find the history and the human element of that sort of thing.  

Dow: What have you been listening to for new music?  

Mills: As far as new bands I'm probably a little behind, but I like Tame Impala. I like Real Estate. Joseph Arthur's stuff is amazing. I've been listening to Peter Buck's solo records and they're fantastic. There's plenty out there to find in your local record store.  

Dow: It was great to see you and Peter together again on David Letterman with Joseph Arthur. That was a beautiful version of 'Walk on the Wild Side.'  

Mills: Thank you. That's all Joe. Really, Peter and I were there for support. I think Joseph Arthur is one of the most talented musicians in the musical world right now. I'm always happy to play with him. 

mike mills

(On May 13, Arthur will release 'Lou: The Songs of Lou Reed' featuring dramatically rearranged versions of classic Reed songs. Last year, Mills toured with Joseph Arthur, Bill Dobrow and Bobby Bare, Jr. as Joseph Arthur and The New Professionals.)

Dow: On R.E.M.'s 2011 career-spanning set 'Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage,' we have three beautiful new R.E.M. songs among your last moments together in the studio. I had heard that you recorded several others for consideration. Do you think we might get to hear those someday?  

Mills: I don't know if we had any other new ones completed. There are almost always songs on every record that get left behind. Someday, if we ever do the 'Absolute Complete Everything We've Ever Done' box set, I think all of that stuff will turn up. If we should ever decide to undertake (laughs) that particular effort.

Dow: As a fan, it would be sweet to one day see a box set version of 'Dead Letter Office' full of unreleased nuggets.

Mills: It would represent a lot of digging, which might be fun, or it might just be insane. If Peter and I ever feel like combing through the vaults, we might just do that someday. I know there's a lot of stuff sitting around in there, but how much of it is complete and worth seeing the light of day, we'll have to find out. 

Dow: Since R.E.M formed 34 years ago, everything in the music industry has changed. I know this may be impossible to definitively answer, but if you guys were starting out today, do you think you would make it?  

Mills: I think if we were starting over as 20- or 22-year olds, sure. I think we'd make some great music. One of the great things about starting the way we did is that we were allowed to grow and mature as a band and as human beings without the harsh spotlight of full reality on you all the time. Bands don't have that luxury today. I think we'd probably do fine, but it would certainly be different.  

Dow: One of my favorite R.E.M. songs is one of yours called 'At My Most Beautiful.' The first time I heard it, it sounded to me almost like an homage to The Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds' album. Is there a connection there?  

Mills: You're absolutely correct. 'Pet Sounds' is one of my favorite albums of all time. When I wrote that piano part, I realized that it sounded like something that Brian Wilson might have done. So I said, 'Let's not run away from that, let's run toward that.' When we recorded it, I said, 'I'm going to put some Beach Boys-type harmonies on it.' Peter is also a huge Brian Wilson fan, so it sort of became our acknowledgement of Brian's influence on us.

Dow: Will we ever see a Mike Mills solo album? Please say yes. 

Mills: (laughing) I do not know that you will ever see a Mike Mills solo record. Right now, I'm just really enjoying collaborating with different people that I know usually on their records or on other projects like The Baseball Project. I'm sure someday I'll get around to doing it. Of course, I'll have my friends playing on it, so I don't know how different it will be, but we'll see.     

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.7 (Bangor/Belfast), 104.3 (Augusta/Waterville) and 107.7 (Bar Harbor)

    

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 April 2014 19:11

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