Peter Buck talks about what he doesn’t like, buying music, and THAT other band he was in

Peter Buck (Credit: Isaac Hecker)
Peter Buck (Credit: Isaac Hecker)

Although ex-R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck doesn’t do interviews these days, he sat down with Salon Magazine to discuss his current project, the terrific new Tired Pony album, “The Ghost of the Mountain” featuring Buck and Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol. Ans Hey! R.E.M. questions were asked.

Some people thought it was exclusionary when you made the first solo album vinyl only. Sounds like the second one will be as well. What’s your thinking there?

Well, when R.E.M. went the way of all flesh — it was all amicable and we decided and we agreed 100 percent, but it left me thinking, well, I’ve been dissatisfied for a few years with what has gone on. So what don’t I like? And I sat down and made a list of things I like and a list of things I don’t like. The things I don’t like had nothing to do with music — it was all the other stuff. The business part of it, and you know, the interviews. I’ve only done five in the last five years. I don’t promote my own stuff with interviews because I don’t need to. But for years I’ve been saying I hate the way CDs sound, and on top of that I don’t like records that are made on Pro-Tools, even though that makes it easier. So I went all the way to the other side. I’ve been lucky enough where I don’t have to make a living making records. So I can do it exactly the way I want to — and if that’s seen as exclusionary, that’s OK, but you know, you can order the records.

Why is that experience of buying the music so important to you?

I download stuff, legally and also illegally — most of the illegal stuff I download, it’s not available, like live tapes or out-of-print records — but I still buy records all the time. But honestly, when I download a record, do I really care about it as much as if I’ve gone somewhere and actually walked a mile? So if you want my record you either have to write away to order it or you have to drive or walk somewhere to pick it up. I mean there’s less than 6,000. I’m not going to sell a million records. But I’m doing exactly what I want and I enjoy it.

I still feel like we’re all in this together. I like the idea that whatever little things I’m involved in, it’s all about putting people together. You know, I’ve been famous. It was fun. I liked it, and I was rich — and I liked that, too, but that’s not why you do it. All the things that surrounded R.E.M. — we had people who worked for us for 20 years. I can’t tell you how many people met at our shows and married and had kids. All of that, you’re making community connections. The charities we gave to, we used to have the tables in front at the shows, kids would join Greenpeace or Amnesty — all things that were non-controversial but important. I like that. In America, there was a generation of kids that were connected through us. I think you can’t ask for anything more.

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