Michael Stipe: Who would I say sorry to? Everyone I slept with before the age of 27

The REM frontman on smoking, Susan Sontag and how it feels to be in love

Born in Georgia, Michael Stipe, 60, became REMs frontman in 1980. The band became internationally famous in 1991 with the Grammy award-winning album Out Of Time. Last October, Stipe released his first solo song, Your Capricious Soul, with proceeds going to Extinction Rebellion; he has just released another, Drive To The Ocean, via his website. Stipe lives with his partner, Thomas Dozol, in New York and Berlin.


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When were you happiest?
Can I say: maybe tomorrow?

What is your greatest fear?

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My ego and selfishness.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Not recognising how brilliant I am.

Aside from a property, whats the most expensive thing youve bought?
A page from Jim Morrisons final notebook I bought it as a birthday gift for a friend.

What would your superpower be?
Global destroyer of weapons and rehabilitator of weapon-mongers. I would hum and chant them into peaceful existence.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My skin and my swayback.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
Harry Styles.

Which book changed your life?
On Photography, by Susan Sontag, which I read in my early 20s. I disagreed with part of it. It showed me that I could disagree with someone smarter than myself.


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What is your most unappealing habit?
It was smoking. Now its name-dropping.

What is your favourite smell?
Fresh tuberose.

What is your favourite word?

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Archaeologist, pop star, store cashier.

To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
Anyone I slept with before the age of 27, because I was a selfish, cold-ass bitch.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Art, absolutely.

What does love feel like?
Heady, dizzying, magical. Time stops.

What was the best kiss of your life?
Allen Ginsberg.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Walt Whitman and James Baldwin. Claude Cahun and Janet Flanner. Nijinsky and Nureyev. Joan Didion. Martin Luther King Jr. Marlon Brando and Wally Cox. Nina Simone and Etta James. Thom Yorke and Benedict Cumberbatch. Nikola Tesla. RW Fassbinder and Patrice Chreau. Gore Vidal and Liza Minnelli. Donald Glover and PJ Harvey. Barney Rosset and Jean Genet. Mike Nichols and Norman Lear. John Giorno and Brncui. And a partridge in a pear tree.

What is the closest youve come to death?
Scarlet fever, 1962. Hypothermia, 1974. Lightning strike, 1986.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A sustainable future for all. I could finally stop worrying.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Deciding what I wanted to do at 15 and, against all odds, doing it.

What has been your closest brush with the law?
Hiding a bong up my pants leg, age 17.


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How would you like to be remembered?
As kind, unafraid and boldly vulnerable and immensely talented, like, mega supernova level. And super hot. And tall. With great skin.

Tell us a joke
Whats brown and sticky?
A stick.

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