R.E.M. Say Next Album Already In The Works

Superstar folk-rock band started penning new songs right after completing most recent record.

MILAN, Italy -- R.E.M.'s 11th album, Up, was released just last month, but the members of the band say they're already working on material that could be the basis of a new record.

"If we should go into a studio tomorrow, I'd have all the music I needed," guitarist Peter Buck said recently.

The Athens, Ga.-bred folk-rockers were in town to perform an invitation-only performance at the Propaganda club, followed by an appearance at the MTV Europe Music Awards. On the morning after their full-throttle, two-hour, 18-song club show, singer Michael Stipe, Buck and bassist/keyboardist Mike Mills held an informal press conference in the lounge of the Principe Hotel.

Moving among three tables of journalists, they revealed that, right after completing Up, they began creating new songs.

"I recorded 10-12 songs, and I have another 8-10 in my head," Buck said. "I write a huge amount of stuff, and then I throw away the ones that are not really good. And then, I look at what I've got and say, 'Hey, this is an interesting idea. Maybe we can take this idea and put it over here.'

"There are 10-14 that I wouldn't want to be on an R.E.M. record," he continued, "but at least five are really interesting, sonically -- very strange [or] kind-of spooky."

Buck, who revealed that he has more than 20,000 records and "a lot of guitars" at home, said he also has plans to continue his work outside the band. "When I work with other people, I take my sensibility along," said the guitarist, who was dressed in a black jacket, white shirt and sunglasses. "But everything I learn, I take back into R.E.M."

Mills confirmed the band's prolific nature, explaining that it is well on its way to another album.

"For me, writing a song is an everyday occurrence," he said. "When I see a piano or a guitar, I have to play. Sometimes [a song] happens, and sometimes it doesn't. We have a bunch of new ones that could make it on the new record, and we always have more ideas in the works."

Mills, dressed in a red and violet silk shirt, denied that the band has plans to release a live album, despite a number of radio and television recordings of performances from the current, five-week tour that has taken R.E.M. all over America and Europe.

"To me, a live album is almost like cheating," Mills said. "You have a record, and you have a live show, and they're two separate things. I imagine we'll do something, like [a collection of] B-sides, but it's hard to think about a whole live album. We're not really interested in that."

Stipe, wearing the same style of black glasses that he wore in the video for the "Daysleeper" single from Up, said he's working on his second major project as a photographer.

He recently published his first book of photos, Two Times Intro, based on his experiences on the road with his friend, poet and singer/songwriter Patti Smith.

"Especially in the U.S., if people think of you as a singer, they don't think of you as photographer or a writer or anything else," Stipe said. "So I have to be very careful how I present myself as photographer, because it means a great deal to me. I don't want it to be seen as 'Oh, the rock star has a hobby.' "