With additional reporting by Tamar Anitai
"I always thought about when you ask people at the end of their life what their message is for future generations," singer Michael Stipe told MTV News about the group's legendary three-decade run as the kings of alternative rock. "Stay hungry is a little bit there, but I would say stay curious. A lot of the reason that we were able to do all the things we did and to be successful doing it... had to do with a curiosity."
What they were able to do is collected on a new 6-DVD box set retrospective called REMTV, which compiles two "MTV Unplugged" shows, concerts between 1995 and 2008, a "VH1 Storytellers," performances from MTV award shows, their 2007 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, a new documentary, plus tons of bonus features.
The "R.E.M. by MTV" feature-length documentary tells the story of the growth of the Athens, Georgia-bred band alongside the rise of MTV as a cultural force in the 1980s and how the two were integral to each other's success. The Alexander Young-directed film will premiere Saturday night (October 22) on Palladia and VH1 at 9 p.m. EST.
"'Stay curious' seems like a pretty good thing to take away from this documentary," said Stipe, who also recalled his late grandmother's sage advice to "remember everything."
During their storied career, one of the things R.E.M. always remembered to do was to speak out for the causes they supported, from animal rights to voter registration, feminist and human rights and the environment. So, when Stipe, 54, looks around now, he's definitely proud of how some new artists have taken up the mantle.
Stipe said he and his fellow band members -- guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and former drummer Bill Berry -- had the opportunity to spend a lot of time overseas during their global tours and that distance from their home country helped them gain a new perspective on what was going on politically during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush years.
"These were dark times for this country and politically laws were being changed, policies were being implemented that we are still struggling under," he said. "To be a pop star and to be political was not altogether a bad thing."
As for who is carrying that torch now, Stipe pointed to Lady Gaga as an example of a pop star who is using her voice for good, speaking out against bullying and promoting marriage equality at every turn. "I actually thought Gaga was someone who captured a zeitgeist and pushed a very progressive acceptance of sexuality in the 21st century forward in a really cool way."