All posts by The Mouth Magazine

LUKE HAINES AND PETER BUCK

PETER BUCK WAS THE GUITARIST FOR THE BIGGEST BAND IN THE WORLD – R.E.M. LUKE HAINES WAS THE GUITARIST FOR THE AUTEURS, WHICH WAS NOT THE BIGGEST BAND IN THE WORLD. THEY WERE PRETTY GOOD THOUGH – PETER BUCK WAS A FAN.

LUKE HAINES DOES PAINTINGS OF LOU REED. ONE DAY, PETER BUCK BOUGHT ONE OF LUKE HAINES’ LOU REED PAINTINGS. THEY HAD NEVER MET BEFORE BUT DECIDED THAT THE FATES HAD BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER AND THEY SHOULD WRITE SOME SONGS TOGETHER AND MAKE AN ALBUM. BEAT POETRY FOR SURVIVALISTS (OUT IN MARCH) IS THAT ALBUM.

IN THESE TWO NEW INTERVIEWS WITH THE MOUTH MAGAZINE, BUCK AND HAINES DISCUSS THE RECORD… WE BEGIN WITH A TRANSCRIPT OF A TELEPHONE CALL WITH PETER BUCK, AND FOLLOWING THAT IS A PODCAST FEATURING LUKE HAINES…

 

PETER! OBVIOUSLY THE NAME OF THE ALBUM SUGGESTS LUKE WAS THINKING ABOUT THE CHANGES HEADED OUR WAY OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF DECADES – ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, CLIMATE ETC… IS THAT STUFF YOU THINK ABOUT TOO?
Yeah, it is, a little. Luke and I, one time when we were e-mailing back and forth, we were talking about something like how Christians have been saying that the world’s going to end since 1,100AD. But it never ends. The world doesn’t end, y’know? The world continues. It just gets… a little cheaper and tawdrier. At least it does during my lifetime. I think maybe that’s kind of what’s going on with this record, that’s the undercurrent of it. Yeah, the world’s not ending. It’s now just full of b-level celebrities and… weird cannibal cults. Not that I would actually know of any weird cannibal cults, ha ha… But I’m sure there are some out there somewhere.

OVER HERE WE’VE GOT BREXIT, OVER THERE YOU’VE HAD TRUMP AND IMPEACHMENT, AND EVERYWHERE WE’VE GOT CLIMATE CHANGE… THE SHEER NOISE OF ALL OF THAT OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS – I THINK PEOPLE ARE GOING TO REACT BY LOCKING THEIR DOORS AND STAYING AT HOME IN ‘BLISSFUL IGNORANCE’. SO, IN THAT WAY, WE’RE HEADED FOR ‘A NEW 1980s’…
Yeah, I agree with you. There are movements and activism, but yeah. The middle is going to kind of retreat. It’s kind of unprecedented in America, what’s going on at the moment. Not the impeachment, ‘cos that’s happened a couple of times in the past. A couple of Presidents have been impeached before. What I mean is, in America we’ve never had someone like Trump before. America has never had a President like Trump. I mean, just the pure fact that you have a guy who gets up there who is so obviously a racist… is so obviously misogynist… A guy who is mentally ill. And actually a guy who is just not very smart. He looks exactly like Mussolini – except for the hair, of course – and he acts like him too. It’s a problem, obviously. But half the people in America seem to think this is a good thing. I really didn’t think there were that many stupid people in America. But there you go.

LUKE AND I DISCUSSED THAT THE PAIR OF YOU HAVE BOTH OPERATED WITHIN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY FOR QUITE A LONG TIME, BUT SEEMINGLY ALWAYS MORE-OR-LESS ON YOUR OWN TERMS. FOR YOU THAT CAN’T ALWAYS HAVE BEEN EASY, PARTICULARLY BECAUSE YOU WERE IN WHAT BECAME THE BIGGEST BAND IN THE WORLD, FOR A TIME. EVEN DURING YOUR YEARS IN R.E.M. YOU DID ALSO DO OTHER THINGS… YOU’VE HAD SEVERAL EXTRA-CURRICULAR MUSICAL ACTIVITIES… SO THOSE WERE A VALVE FOR YOU?
Yeah. In a way they definitely were… R.E.M. was such a great experience, but there was actually also a lot of bullshit around it once we got extremely successful. A lot. But I just, kind of, tuned it all out. I decided “you know what? I’m not gonna do all this stuff. I’m not going to go to the dinners, I’m not going to go to the parties”. So I didn’t go to the dinners or the parties and whatever else. It’s maybe somewhat of a cliche, but for me R.E.M. was about the music. That was the important thing.

SO WHEN R.E.M. ACTUALLY ENDED IT CAME AS A RELIEF, IN A WAY? YOU NO LONGER HAD TO ‘ACTIVELY IGNORE’ ALL OF THAT KIND OF PERIPHERAL STUFF?
Well, yeah, in a way. When the band ended I thought “this gives me an opportunity”, and that opportunity was I could just make records. Write songs. I could just do that. I could do what I want. Make records and write songs. There wasn’t the need to have all of this associated stuff. Also, I’m actually really happy sort of being back where I started – which is playing shows to a couple hundred people a night in a small club. As long as the work’s good. That’s the thing. That’s the only thing. As long as the work’s good…

IT’S REFRESHING TO HEAR YOU SAY THAT…
Well, I mean, I don’t think it could ever be the same again anyway. Nobody on the planet is really selling records anymore are they Honestly? I think BEAT POETRY FOR SURVIVALISTS could have sold about ten-percent of what Neil Young sells, y’know? So if he sells about a-hundred-and-fifty-thousand, then that’s fifteen thousand. That’s a lot, and it’d be fair. I mean, he’s been around for a lot longer. But nobody is selling records these days. At all.

JUST TO ‘PUT IT TO BED’ A LITTLE BIT IN TERMS OF R.E.M… LAST YEAR THERE WAS A REALLY SATISFYING REISSUE OF MONSTER. THERE WERE REISSUES OF OTHER ALBUMS PRECEDING IT, AND I DON’T DOUBT THERE WILL BE FURTHER REISSUES TO COME… YOU STRIKE ME AS ‘THE LEAST INTERESTED’ MEMBER OF THE BAND IN THAT STUFF. YOU DON’T APPEAR TO BE INCLINED TO LOOK BACK, PARTICULARLY, OR CELEBRATE…
I think, actually, we’re all pretty much in the same place with it, to be perfectly honest with you. But Michael [Stipe] and Mike [Mills] are more willing to do the sort of leg work and promotional activity that comes with putting out those reissues. Last year, for MONSTER, they were over in England, and travelling all around Europe, talking about the record. They were going round together doing lots of interviews about MONSTER… I was texting them and going “thanks for doing that” – ‘cos it would have fucking killed me. It would. I just don’t have any interest in doing that, y’know?

SO DO YOU HAVE ANY INVOLVEMENT?
We’re all involved in the reissues at some level, whatever that might be. But in terms of promotion? I’ll sit at home and do a couple phone interviews or something like that, if I have to, and it doesn’t affect me so much. But I just don’t want to spend several weeks of my life travelling round the world and being mired in the past to that sort of level. But Michael and Mike are able to get on with that. They’re much more equipped to deal with it. I mean, in truth, the members of R.E.M., we don’t ever sit around and talk about ‘the good old days’ or anything if we see each other. We’re all now doing other things we’re looking forward with… The thing is, with R.E.M. it used to be that my time was booked up three years in advance. But now, I’m basically booked about six months in advance… So, in case you were asking, I’m kind of free around July, ha ha…

HA HA… ONE OF THE MOST APPEALING ASPECTS OF YOUR WORK OUTSIDE R.E.M. WAS THAT IT WASN’T PREDICTABLE. YOU’VE WORKED WITH BILLY BRAGG, EELS, ROBYN HITCHCOCK, WARREN ZEVON, ROBERT FRIPP… MANY MANY MORE… I COULD IMAGINE YOU WORKING WITH ANYONE AND BRINGING SOMETHING VALUABLE AND INTERESTING TO THE TABLE, TO BE HONEST… I GUESS AFTER R.E.M. ANYTHING WAS ON THE TABLE FOR YOU… AND YOU COULD GO IN ANY DIRECTION YOU WANTED…
Yeah, definitely… I’ve done everything from these kind of weird cinematic jazz soundscapes to Delta blues with an actual Delta blues player… y’know, not a white guy. I’ve done punk rock, I’ve done folk music… It’s all just ‘stuff I like’… I think when I’m directed by myself, the style of what I’m doing doesn’t matter. If I write something that’s kind of a ragtime song or total noise or whatever, it doesn’t really matter. That’s just ‘what I do’, y’know?

SO HOW DOES THAT WORK IN COLLABORATION?
Well, ideally I work with people who are inspiring to me. And hopefully we’re in tune enough that they kind of pick up on what I do and go with it as well. And, y’know, importantly, every different person I work with I learn something from. I’ve learnt from everyone. And I’ve been doing this a long long time, but I think I’m still learning. In fact I know I am. I know I’m still learning. So, in terms of this record with Luke, I learned stuff. It doesn’t sound like anything else I’ve ever done…

I WONDERED ABOUT YOU AND LUKE – WHETHER IT WAS A CASE OF ‘SIMILARS ATTRACT’ IN A WAY? ‘COS, AS WE SAID BEFORE, YOU HAVE BOTH ‘DONE YOUR OWN THING’… 
Well, initially I heard The Auteurs in about 1994, I think. That was when their record came out? I really loved the records and I loved them as a band. I just immediately recognised that Luke was a classically great songwriter. And I liked the fact that he then just kind of threw The Auteurs away and went somewhere else. The Baader-Meinhof record is one of my favourite records by anyone, actually. So, then Luke and I got corresponding, it was about his artwork actually. I was buying a piece of his art…

A LOU REED PAINTING?
Yeah, that’s right. Lou Reed. But he painted himself in instead of Lou… which I thought was kind of cheeky, ha ha, and I really liked… But, anyway, then he says “we should make a record” and I thought “great, yeah”. So I said I’d send him some of whatever I’d been working on at that moment. Obviously there was the possibility he wouldn’t have liked it, wouldn’t have liked what I was doing.

DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST THING YOU SENT HIM?
Yeah, it was the piece that became ROCK ‘N’ ROLL AMBULANCE… It doesn’t have a really super-defined structure. I mean, it’s got a lot of chord changes and key changes and it’s really hard to… y’know… pick out what’s ‘part A’ from ‘part B’… But Luke came right back with something, and from there we just kept on sending stuff, and eventually we had a record. But you know what? We’d never actually met in person until the record was mastered!

YOU HAD A NIGHT OUT…
Yeah, I was playing in London with Filthy Friends, so I got in touch with Luke and said “I’m gonna be in England, come by” and he came down to the gig. I had to sign a million things afterwards, which is how we pay for the hotel rooms, by selling merchandise. After that we just went to a pub with friends and sat and talked. That was it.

HOW WAS IT, MEETING FOR THE FIRST TIME?
It was really interesting, actually. Obviously Luke is a very smart guy, which I like. And obviously he’s kind of a misanthrope too, which I also really like. So it was just a really nice conversation. It seemed like “well, this is something real and so this is a real record”, y’know? And I guess we’ll get to spend a lot more time together when we go on tour.

YEAH, A HANDFUL OF DATES IN APRIL…
Yeah, it’s about five or six shows I think. They’re all within a drive of London, so every night I’m staying in the same motel, or hotel or whatever it is, and going from there. We’re playing at the 100 Club and we’re playing at Oxted and Hebden Bridge and in Glasgow… I’m kind of hoping we can maybe do something in America in the fall, if there’s any interest. But for now we said we’ll just try it to try it… and see what happens. Also, we’ve now written some new songs, which we’ll have in the set by the time I get back over there for the tour…

DOES THAT MEAN THERE MIGHT BE ANOTHER HAINES / BUCK ALBUM?
Yeah, we’re going to do another record. We’re writing songs… But there are other things going on for me, too. I’m still playing with Filthy Friends. And I also play with Scott McCaughey from The Minus Five. I’m also working on some things with some people that, I guess, I’m not supposed to talk about yet. But I don’t know, actually. I’m sure more things will start falling into place later this year, too. But, yeah, Luke and I are writing more songs.

AGAIN, WE’RE BACK TO WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT THAT BEING THE ONLY IMPORTANT THING…
Yeah, absolutely. I just write songs. Maybe I’m just too stupid to quit, or something? But that’s what I’ve been doing since I was fourteen years old. I assume I’ll be doing it until the end of my life, or until the ability to do it just goes away. So I’m actually just trying to squeeze in as much as I possibly can before I die or rock ‘n’ roll dies. Or both!

 

Order BEAT POETRY FOR SURVIVALISTS here