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Michael Stipe: ‘The male idea of power is so dumb’

He was in the one of the most influential indie bands ever, but the songwriter prefers life as a visual artist. He talks presidents, parties and photographing his heroes

The last time I saw Michael Stipe, he had a beanie hat on and was wandering between the tents at the Extinction Rebellion camp in Trafalgar Square. It was early evening in October 2019, and we had just finished an interview at a nearby hotel. The fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu had arrived with his twin sister Sara, to take Stipe to dinner, but Stipe wanted to check out the protest first. The crowd-phobic Erdem wasn’t sure, but Stipe was almost skipping with excitement. Both scenes – heading off for a meal with his world-renowned artistic friend and mixing with young grungy activists – were exactly his thing.

We had met to discuss Stipe’s second book of photography, Our Interference Times, which he’d created with the author Douglas Coupland. It was a hefty tome that explored the dissonance between the analogue and the digital. (If that sounds pretentious, the book was very accessible.) It was a follow-up to Volume 1, published in 2018, made with curator Jonathan Berger. That book was more intimate: only 35 pictures, including ones of a young River Phoenix, and Kurt Cobain’s hands.

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