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Michael Stipe: Collapse Into Now

As the American rock legends R.E.M. return with their 15th album, we chat to the charismatic front man about Peaches, creating films for each of the 12 songs and what's actually collapsing around us

Having played together for 30 years, the Rapid Eye Movement band has done it all. Several times over. But Michael Stipe and band colleagues Mike Mills and Peter Buck still has the energy and motivation, it seems, to come back for more. This is evident when listening to their latest studio album, 'Collapse Into Now' - their 15th release together! With such a long history as a unit, and having accomplished any potential rock stardom aspirations ages ago, the band is today in the fortunate position of being able to experiment with sounds and collaborations without risking the loss of fans or record deals.

'Collapse Into Now' is a good example of just that; it features 12 songs (many of which features guest singers like Peaches, Eddie Vedder and Patti Smith) that has all been given a film treatment by a very select group of creatives. For example, Brit artist Sam Taylor-Wood has directed a clip featuring boyfriend Aaron Johnson for the R.E.M's song Überlin. Except for talking to Stipe about the album, we also offer you a chance to pose your own questions straight to the singer himself through a live chat on Dazed Digital today at 1pm UK time, just after we premiere one of the 12 exclusive films. Follow us on Twitter for more details and prepare to join the conversation!

Dazed Digital: What three words would you use to describe the sound of the album?
Michael Stipe:
Present, chaotic and discovering.

DD: Tell us about the title... What are we collapsing into and why now?
Michael Stipe:
 'Collapse into now' is based on an understanding that certain ideas, attitudes, sometimes convenient but unrealistic or old-fashioned frameworks from the 20th century haven't quite yet shaken off, as we enter into the second decade of this century; other ideas have rocketed forward. And so it is time now, in the absolute present, to re-think and re-imagine what this century could offer us all. The children of the 21st century are here, they may well make it into the 22nd century. Thus, collapse [let go of, give in to, create and destroy] the now, the present, the moment. Everyone is waiting for you, and no one is waiting for you. This is your life, and your moment. Seize it. That's what the title, and one of the major themes of the album, is about. 

DD: This is your 15th album - how does this compare to your first do you think?
Michael Stipe:
 It feels full circle!

DD: What's the single most important thing you've learnt since as a person since starting out in the music business?
Michael Stipe: 
When it comes to the work, listen to yourself over anyone else. Take business advise, but don't let it overwhelm the work.   

DD: You've worked with a long list of collaborators which is not 'very R.E.M.' - Why is that?
Michael Stipe:
 There were voices that needed to be heard, and Mike, Peter and I thought that these collaborators could give voice to, and elevate, what we were trying to accomplish with these songs. These are our friends; they have beautiful voices and talents, and they're there for us to work with. Why the hell not?  

DD: How did Peaches end up on the list?
Michael Stipe:
 We've known each other almost 10 years, I'm a huge fan, and we were hanging out a good bit in Berlin. I needed a counterpoint voice and she brought it.  

Do you have a favourite song on collapse into now?
Michael Stipe:
 Today it's the songs 'Überlin' and the song 'Every Day Is Yours To Win'.  

DD: There's 12 songs and each song is illustrated by a film - how did that concept evolve?
Michael Stipe:
 It is an attempt to re-contextualize the album; to use existing technology and methods of distribution to present a collection of songs that, viewed or heard together, create a whole; taken apart, they are individual pop songs, but together, a body of work. That was the idea behind the films.  

DD: Are they like 'normal' music videos?
Michael Stipe:
 Not in the slightest!

DD: What's next on R.E.M's agenda?
Michael Stipe:
 I can't wait to hear peoples reactions to these songs and films. A lot of work went into this project and these songs, and now they will belong to the world. That's an exciting moment in time for us. I relish releasing new work and the feeling of relief and excitement that floods the system. It's like baptism.

'Collapse Into Now' is out today. Dazed Digital will host a worldwide film premiere on Thursday 10th March at 1.00pm GMT. This will be immediately followed by an exclusive live chat with Michael Stipe during which you get the chance to speak in real time with the REM's leader on Dazed Digital. Get your questions ready! 

Click HERE to live chat with Michael Stipe