Michael Stipe: You Ask The Questions

So, are you ever mistaken for John Malkovich? And do you want children?
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The Independent Online

Michael Stipe was born on 4 January, 1960 in Georgia. His father was in the US Army and he grew up in America and Germany. He formed REM in 1980 with Bill Berry, Peter Buck and Mike Mills, and released their seminal album Automatic for the People, in 1992. Hehas referred to himself as being a "queer artist" and has had relationships with men and women.

Michael Stipe was born on 4 January, 1960 in Georgia. His father was in the US Army and he grew up in America and Germany. He formed REM in 1980 with Bill Berry, Peter Buck and Mike Mills, and released their seminal album Automatic for the People, in 1992. Hehas referred to himself as being a "queer artist" and has had relationships with men and women.

It is well documented that you have little respect for the US President and his Republican predecessors. But, who was your favourite First Lady and why?
LIAM MCKAY, LONDON

I always liked Eleanor Roosevelt, she seemed very solid and very sure of herself.

I saw you perform recently in Cape Town. Did it concern you that there were no black people in the audience?
VANUNU CROSS, EAST PRAWLE, DEVON

I expected there would be more black people, and I was surprised. However, I was thrilled by what I saw there. The positive aspects of a society moving forward from something as crushing as apartheid, and the way they dealt with racism, was very open and upfront.

Douglas Coupland dedicated a story to you in Generation X. Why? Are you friends?
ANDY HEATH, WOKING

Doug and I met at Clinton's inauguration in 1992, and formed a fast friendship. He is one of the most important artists in my life outside of the inner circle of musicians and film producers I work with. I am fascinated with the future and Doug is the person I go to if I want to find out what is going to be happening in five years. He was brought on by Steven Spielberg to be a future consultant on Minority Report. He had to let the film-makers know what the future would be like in 50 years: it was an excellent film, making up for, AI, which was an abysmal piece of shit.

What can Live8 hope to achieve?
SASHA NIMULANANDA, SYDENHAM

I think it could get a dialogue started at kitchen tables across the world, and allow people to understand more what our governments are doing with our taxes. If there are better solutions to the way business is handled between more impoverished nations and richer nations then we should have a voice in that.

Do you think pop musicians should be able to influence political decisions? What if a boy band wanted to do it?
SIMON FORD, VIA E-MAIL

I think anyone should be able to raise a voice of dissent or support for their government. I pay taxes, I vote, and I understand that these are people we have put into positions of power to serve their constituency. If the government are creating or perpetuating policies the public do not agree with, then they should have a voice in that. It does not matter if you are a popstar, carpet layer, waiter, plumber or a bus driver, you should have a voice. Should popstars wield any heavier influence than anyone else? No. But we live in a time of celebrity, and there are good and bad things about it.

You took a long time to come out of the closet - do you think it's easier for gay artists now?
DAVID JOHNSON, VIA E-MAIL

I think it is. I wouldn't mind setting the record straight that I have been outed in the UK, as one writer said, more times than Frank Sinatra had to sing 'My Way'. The truth is, I have been out to my bandmates, my friends and family for years. It was more of a private issue for me in terms of the media. I came out publicly when I felt the time was right for.

It's 25 years since your first gig. How do you feel about performing now, and do you think you'll stick at it until you die?
ESTHER FLETCHER, VIA E-MAIL

It comes completely naturally to me. I have never had stage fright. I thought I was the biggest star in the world playing our third show to 35 people, because the energy was there between us and the audience. I am lucky that that has continued for 25 years. There is not much difference. In the context of REM, I am absolutely comfortable. Will I perform for life? I don't know.

Your drummer Bill Berry left to become a hay farmer. Have you ever been tempted to adopt the good life as well?
SUSAN REES, FALMOUTH

I am living the good life; but my version is different. I am happy for him, he is a happy farmer and retired musician. I go to see him on the farm.

Do you want to adopt children with your partner?
JOHN ELLIS, VIA E-MAIL

No, it has never crossed my mind.

Has anyone ever mistaken you for John Malkovich?
ROBERT STUART, WHIPPLE, CAMBRIDGE

I get mistaken for John Malkovich a lot, and Moby. People bring over a bottle of wine and present it at the table, so I don't know whether to tell them they have the wrong person or not.

Do you listen to any UK acts, and what do you like at the moment?
BEN COHEN, HAMPSTEAD, LONDON

I've heard the Zutons play, and am about to go and see Feeder. There are acts we have invited on this tour I admire greatly. I love Bloc Party, I love it that the Gang of Four have reformed and I'd love to see them perform.

Can you please confirm or deny that your haircut during the Green World Tour was deliberate?
WARREN GREENE, LONDON

The haircut was an amalgamation of every bad haircut from the Eighties put into one. I was cutting my own hair. No one sat me down or slapped me and said, "Michael, what are you thinking?" It was the most pathetic haircut of all time. Doug [Coupland] once told me that if you want to be remembered 100 years from now, you have to invent a haircut. The examples he used were Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol and James Dean. I think I am the first man to have shaved his head, because my hair was thinning and it was embarrassing. So I would like to lay claim to that haircut, if I may.

REM's single 'Wanderlust' is out on 11 July. The band play at Hyde Park on 9 July

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