Mike Mills Addresses Led Zeppelin Bassist John Paul Jones’ Contribution To R.E.M.

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R.E.M.’s Mike Mills revealed that he had collaborated with Led Zeppelin‘s John Paul Jones for a R.E.M. track during a recent interview with VWMusic.

When a catchy tune comes to a musician, it takes a lot of teamwork to evolve the melody into a song. Each band member has their unique take on music and to create a song, there needs to be a system where bandmates can decide whose ideas would work best for the band’s sound. While talking about teamwork, it is also quite often that bands invite fellow musicians to do a collaboration.

As Mike Mills was working on a new song for R.E.M.; the creative process described above started taking place. Mills had a tune but to evolve it into a song with lyrics and proper arrangements, he needed his bandmates and another talented musician‘s help. The musician in question was Led Zeppelin’s bassist, John Paul Jones.

During a recent conversation, Mike Mills was asked about the composition of R.E.M.’s song ‘Nightswimming,’ and Mike explained how the tune came to him. The multi-instrumentalist stated that the melody originated with a piano riff and to call it a ‘composition’ would be an overstatement.

While Mills started playing the tune on the piano, Michael Stipe liked it and the vocalist started working on its lyrics. After Mills’ piano take, he decided that the song needed an intro. The musician composed a basic version of the riff, and the tune started to evolve.

Mills recalled:

”That was really just a piano riff that I started playing and worked on. To call it a composition is almost a bit of an overstatement; it’s really a nice piano riff. It goes around and around and around, and Michael heard it, really liked it, and began writing to it. And at one point, I said, ‘Okay, well, it needs an intro,’ and so I wrote the intro as a very simple version of the riff and then reused the intro with a couple of breaks.”

The musicians then disclosed John Paul Jones’ involvement with ‘Nightswimming.’ He explained that he collaborated with Jones in the making of the string arrangements. As the two musicians played together, Mike stated that the majority of the collaborated string parts were his.

He also revealed they had received another musician’s help, as the oboe parts of the track were attributed to Deborah Workman. R.E.M.’s bassist noted that describing this creative process as a ‘composition’ would be wrong since this song was the product of a ‘construction‘ of sorts.

Mike explained:

”I did the string parts with John Paul Jones, and the oboe was by Deborah Workman. John did some of the strings, but a lot of string parts were mine. Over time, it just became a song, and it was such an organic process. People think of it as a composition, but it’s really just like building a house in a way; you start with a little foundation, and then you add on all the other parts. Then you top it with a roof, and hopefully, you end up with something that keeps the rain out.”

Even though R.E.M called it quits eleven years ago and it seems like Mills has closed the door on a possible reunion with his former band, the bassist pursues a career as a solo musician. Mike is currently on a solo tour with his next performance set to take place in Atlanta.