"When we were traveling outside of the country, this was during the Reagan years, and we suddenly in Europe were representative of America. And people were saying, you know, we're there to play a show, a completely unknown band, and people are like, 'What the f--- are you people thinking? What are you doing over there?'" he recalled. "And so we had to, in a way, kind of politicize ourselves and educate ourselves about who we are to the rest of the world and who we are to ourselves."
Stipe also penned an op-ed for The Guardian today (Sept. 17) that expressed his discontent with how the leaders of his Georgia home state and R.E.M.'s homebase handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, a Donald Trump acolyte, was slow to order safety measures and quick to lift them, even limiting individual cities’ abilities to create a stronger framework than his recommendations," he wrote.
Stipe outlined some recommendations for the state's leadership "that have kept similar communities elsewhere at a much lower risk," including keeping bars and other close-quarters spaces limited to outdoor seating, limiting the size of everyday gatherings, having no fans in the stadiums if college football season resumes, and improving COVID-19 testing capacity and turnaround time for results.
"From REM's modest start at the 40 Watt Club in Athens to the triumph of the main stage at Glastonbury, I have spent most evenings of my adult life in the company of thousands, or tens of thousands, reveling in a shared celebration of life. 2020 is the time, however, that we must find a different and more intimate source of warmth and revelry, rather than assembled masses," Stipe penned. "The safety we create this fall and winter will make all those gatherings and events in future years more meaningful when this pandemic is behind us, having been shared by our friends and loved ones emerging with their health and lives intact."
He ended his op-ed by listing prominent musical acts from Georgia, such as James Brown, The B-52’s, Jessye Norman and Childish Gambino, and making the point that their home and legacies "deserve a stronger level of support than this state and its key institutions have provided thus far."
Watch Stipe's segment on Seth Meyers below.