Michael Stipe Was a ‘Taskmaster’ in Producing Fischerspooner’s Album
Last year, we learned that former R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe was producing an album by the New York electronic duo Fischerspooner, his first musical project since the band's breakup. That record, SIR, was released last month and one half of the group, Casey Spooner, spoke about Stipe's role in a new interview.
"I asked Michael to come in and work on one song, which was supposed to be the last song," he told Yahoo! Entertainment. "We did one session on it, but then he started giving me notes on other songs. Warren [Fischer, the other half of the group] was like, 'Should we ask him to produce the record?' And Michael was like, 'No, no. I don’t work in music. I’m just a friend giving a friend advice. I’m not going to get that involved.' But then he’d redo another song with me. And a couple weeks later, he said, 'OK, I’ll consider being producer on the record. But I have final say on everything.' After we agreed to that, Michael threw out half the record."
From there, Spooner said, Stipe "was a taskmaster in this crazy way. He loved to work really intensely and very strange hours. Mostly we would work from 6PM until 6AM. We would have these recording sessions where we would work for two to three weeks, every day. He also put me on a physical regimen, where I would have some kind of bodywork or Pilates, or some kind of physical training, in the afternoons. ... It was kind of this celebrity songwriting spa / boot camp / prison. He controlled my schedule. He controlled my diet. He controlled my regimen. Sometimes I felt like I was delirious and losing my mind. And I think sometimes he did that intentionally, because it made me so super-vulnerable and super-emotional."
Stipe first met Spooner in Athens, Ga., in 1988, and the two began a relationship, Spooner's first with a man. They broke up after somewhere between nine months and a year together, but they remained friends over the next 30 years. He credited Stipe with instilling in him the confidence to become an artist, which continued during the sessions.
"I was willing to take on any sort of vocal challenge Michael gave me," Spooner continued. "Which was interesting, because he’s such a talented vocalist that there were times where I was like, 'I don’t know if I can perform this. I don’t know if I can do this part. I’m not that kind of a singer.' But he was like, 'No, you are.' He really pushed me to expand my vocal persona, almost like a director with an actor."
However, Spooner doesn't expect too many R.E.M. fans to gravitate towards SIR solely due to Stipe's involvement. "I think they’re going to scratch their heads," he said. "I mean, I’m not opposed to that, but I think it might be just a little too far of a stretch for them." But you can judge for yourself by checking out "Have Fun Tonight" and "Togetherness" below.