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A koala bear pissed on me in Australia; that was kind of cool.I got to hang out in Tokyo with Stephen [Dorff] and Courtney [Love], and that was really fun. I’d never had a second off there before, and this time I at least had one day when I could get out and wander around. Both my daughters are incredibly well-behaved 99 percent of the time, but they picked this one time to have a total meltdown.The kids were both sick; I almost had a nervous breakdown. But I don’t necessarily want to open at Madison Square Garden, just in case something terrible happens. You know, every criticism is valid, but I don’t have to agree with it. ” People think we must hate each other or be dying of AIDS or are drug addicts, because we didn’t go on the road and make a killing. Maybe not “Shiny Happy People.” [laughs] Stipe: Over the course of five years, though, everyone’s mood and attitude about it shifted. The basis of what we are is a live band, but we walked away from that for two albums.You do the hardest leg first so that you can keep telling yourself that it gets easier. Cheshire: I heard you got some negative reviews In Australia. In fact, I didn’t get into the business to make a killing. It is an imperative to do good creative work, and that period when we didn’t tour allowed us to make our three best records. What made us decide to tour again is that we singularly and collectively felt that if we didn’t we weren’t going to be a band anymore.We’re not even meeting the demand in a lot of cities we’re going to, because we don’t like to play stadiums. Buck: I don’t consider any market more important than another, but nobody would go to Australia at the end of a tour. One guy complained about feedback – not vocal feedback, guitar feedback. If you want pristine versions of the old hits exactly the way we used to do them, with real stage repartee – “Hello, Cleveland” – and a mega light show with flashing things and stuff, you’re going to the wrong show. wanting to communicate but not knowing what you say to 10,000 people that doesn’t sound stupid. Stipe: On this tour I wanted to just stand stock-still and sing. I just intersperse those when I feel like I don’t know what to do. I think it said a lot about American society and culture that nobody could understand or accept our reasons for not touring.Cheshire: Was starting the tour in the Far East something you all wanted to do? It took me – with my kids and the nannies and my wife and the luggage – thirty-six hours to get to Australia. Stipe: You’d be an idiot to start a tour in London or Los Angeles. I don’t think anybody in Perth is any less worthy of a good show than anybody in New York. Stipe: Most of the people who wrote those reviews were nimrods. I like to think I’m not reacting or responding to those points unless I feel the same way, but we talked about some of them: for example, my seeming aloofness on stage – which is more a kind of embarrassment than anything else – and my not knowing what to say between songs .  you completely slowed down and basically stood at the microphone and sang. I wanted to pull a Leonard Cohen and be a singer and not a performer. Cheshire: You were off the road for five years between tours. You always hear, “What about money and your career and success?SKYLARKING NOW IN 5.1: It's here, the one you've been hankering for.
On the way to Queen Elizabeth Stadium, the band members are agog at Hong Kong’s blizzard of neon and glittering New Year’s decorations. The culture is as different here from the culture we live in as any we’ve seen, except for maybe the Arab world. I enjoy seeing the people’s approach to life and their customs. Sitting in the cockpit of the plane and flying in at night in the rain and then driving through the city on Chinese New Year . Apparently there were instances when they were a little too lax, but I didn’t see that. He had a baguette that he’d wave at me every time I’d even glance in his direction. It looked like you were fighting with a guy over a loaf of bread in the middle of a song, but that didn’t make any sense. But my feeling in the matter is that anything over about four hundred people is too many.
[pauses] I don’t know – that focus and concentration is something that hasn’t quite come yet. Cheshire: Last night was the smallest place you’ve played? If we tried to do a club date it would wind up like the thing we did in London [at the Borderline, in 1991], where people were scalping tickets for upward of seven or eight hundred dollars, which is ridiculous. Some of those notes I’m hitting are very hard to hit, and I have to move in order to hit ‘em.