R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe Changed His Life With One Decision, Nathan December Share

Before he switched careers in the early 2000s, Nathan December was a touring guitarist who worked with R.E.M. between 1994 and 1995. So, when Rolling Stone had a chat with him for their ‘Unknown Legends’ series, he touched on his time with the band and revealed their frontman Michael Stipe’s relationship with fame.

The former guitarist recalled R.E.M.’s opening night at Perth Entertainment Centre in 1995 during the interview. Mentioning the crowd’s interest in the band’s performance and presence back then, he revealed how ‘people camped out trying to get a view of Michael.’

Then, the interviewer told him:

“Michael was so famous at that point, and he had a very distinct look. It must have been madness for him everywhere he went.”

To which he answered:

“Yes. It was the first time where he had shaved his head. He looked like this little alien. There was no blending in for him. It didn’t matter if he wore a hat, no hat, big jacket, no jacket, that was Michael fuckin’ Stipe. He’s one of the most enigmatic and charismatic people I’ve ever seen in my life. It was weird to see Michael try and have a coffee in a cafe on a day off. It was just impossible.”

Meanwhile, according to his words in a 2011 chat with Interview Magazine, Stipe was happy about being famous. Here’s what he said:

“I love it. With the difficult parts of fame, that alone makes it so worthwhile because of the doors it’s opened for me. I’ve worked really, really, really hard at what I do. I give the best I can possibly give at whatever moment in time. But it’s exciting to have been able to meet my heroes-being able to sit down with William S. Burroughs and have a conversation.”

After his run with R.E.M., December worked with Goo Goo Dolls for a while at the end of the ’90s. Then, he left the music industry and started to work as an electrician and lighting tech for Hollywood productions like ‘Iron Man.’

You can read his full interview here and watch R.E.M.’s 1995 show in Perth in the video below.