R.E.M. bass player Mike Mills is coming to sign autographs in Scarborough on Saturday as part of Record Store Day.

In 2011 the band announced they were calling it quits. The news sent shock waves throughout their fan base, although break-up rumors had been floating around for years.

And so the fact that Mills is coming to Maine is nothing short of a musical miracle. Mills will autograph up to two items per person. Expect a sizable crowd for the event.

One of the most exciting releases of this year’s Record Store Day is “Unplugged: The Complete 1991 and 2001 Sessions.” It’s a limited edition, four-LP collection of both of R.E.M’s MTV “Unplugged” performances, including 11 songs that never aired. You’ll have to wait until May 20 before this is available on CD and digitally.

R.E.M. sold more than 85 million albums during their 31-year run. From college radio airplay to international stadium tours, the band’s legacy is unquestionable. Popular songs include “Fall On Me,” “The One I Love” and “Losing My Religion” and their catalog spans 15 studio albums. Members are singer Michael Stipe, bassist Mike Mills, guitarist Peter Buck and drummer Bill Berry. In 1997 Berry left the band but they continued as a trio, enlisting a few different drummers along the way. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

During a recent interview, Mills talked about the importance of Record Store Day and what he’s been up to since R.E.M.’s amicable split.


How is it that you’re coming to Maine?

They floated a few ideas of places for me to go and Maine is one of the most beautiful states in the union, so I figured why not go there?

Why did R.E.M. decide to release the “Unplugged” sessions?

Since we’re not making any new records, this is the time in which a band can look back and see what we’ve got and what people would like to have. We’re the only band to ever do two of them. So it seemed like to put it out on vinyl and make it appropriate for Record Store Day was a good match-up.

What are some of your favorite R.E.M. songs?

I really have always enjoyed “I Believe” and “Orange Crush.” I really like my bass lines in those and I like what I sing. They’re songs that I actively participate in, in ways that are very satisfying to me.


Going back to “Unplugged,” what are things that stand out for you when you think back to either of those performances?

One of the amazing things to me is the difference between one and the next. The first one is really stripped down, with Bill (Berry) on congas and then the second one is a little bit more of a production with drum kits and more people. But I really love the fact that we only repeated one song in both of those shows. Only “Losing My Religion” was done twice. It’s scary to get up there without the shield of volume and you know, your abilities – or lack thereof – are all right there for anyone to see, so it’s thrilling and exciting and terrifying, and if you can manage to pull it off it feels really good.

You’ve been working with musician Joseph Arthur and the band The Baseball Project. Is there anything else that’s cooking with you these days?

Yes, I have an occasional project called Big Star Third and it’s with Jody Stephens, the drummer from Big Star, Chris Stamey, Mitch Easter, Ken Stringfellow, myself and Charles Cleaver. We’re sort of the core musicians and then there are a bunch of different singers and we play Big Star’s “Third” album live and of course add a bunch of other Big Star songs too. Musicians have always known about Big Star’s “Third” record and it’s starting to get out a little more in the general consciousness now.

What do you miss about R.E.M.? Where’s your head at with it?

Myself, like the guys in the band, I think we’re all completely fine with it. I get together with those guys all the time. I just saw Peter and Michael in New York. We get to hang out pretty much whenever we want. I’m doing plenty of playing music that I like with people that I like, as is Peter. Michael is just having a great time doing sculpture and photography. Honestly, I don’t think we miss very much about it at all. When I think about gearing up for an 11-month massive tour, I’m really glad I don’t have to do that again.


Does it ever get old when you hear from fans and other musicians the influence you’ve had on them?

It’s great. Making music in a vacuum, we probably would have done that anyway, but it’s a lot more fun when you know people have heard it and enjoyed it. Musicians and fans, when they tell me it’s affected their lives I like that, too. When you put your heart and soul into something, it’s nice when you know that if affects people and they give you a little something back.

Tell me what are a couple of your lifelong favorite albums that you can always go back to?

Any of the Big Star records. “Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys, “Abba’s Greatest Hits,” “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye. Can’t go wrong with those.

What does Record Store Day mean to you?

Record Store Day to me kind of represents a triumph of the will. Independent store owners that just refuse to die and refuse to let the dictates of the marketplace tell them what to do. People that run those record stores do it because they love music and love talking to people about music and that’s definitely something I can relate to.

Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

[email protected]

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