Mike Mills

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For other uses, see Mike Mills (disambiguation).
Mike Mills
Mills performing with R.E.M. in 2008
Background information
Birth name Michael Edward Mills
Born (1958-12-17) December 17, 1958 (age 56)
Orange County, California
United States
Genres Alternative rock
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Bass
Years active 1980–present
Labels I.R.S.
Warner Bros.
Associated acts R.E.M.
Hindu Love Gods
The Backbeat Band
Automatic Baby
The Baseball Project
Big Star Third Live

Michael Edward "Mike" Mills (born December 17, 1958) is an American multi-instrumentalist and composer who was a founding member of the alternative rock band R.E.M.[1] Though known primarily as a bass guitarist, backing vocalist, and pianist, his musical repertoire includes also keyboards, guitar, and percussion instruments. He contributed to a majority of the band's musical compositions.

Early life[edit]

Michael Edward Mills was born in Orange County, California and moved to Macon, Georgia when he was 10 years old. Mills met Bill Berry, who would later be his bandmate in R.E.M., in Macon.[2]

Mills and Bill Berry started out in bands together. One early project, Mills said, "was called Shadowfax, and later we changed the name to The Back Door Band. When we changed guitar players, we also changed the name of the band. David Clark was in the band, who as far as I know is still in Cochran, Georgia." Mills said they "played at a place called Moe’s, which was near Westlake Mall. It was an all ages, no alcohol kind of place. We played there a lot, and where ever else we could. High schools, parties, stuff like that."[2]

Mills attended the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, which is where R.E.M. formed.[3]


Mills is credited with being the chief composer behind many of R.E.M.'s songs, including "Nightswimming",[4] "Find the River", "At My Most Beautiful", "Why Not Smile", "Let Me In", "Wendell Gee", "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville",[4] "Beat a Drum", "Be Mine" and "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?". In particular, R.E.M.'s 2004 album Around the Sun was heavily shaped by Mills' piano and keyboard contributions.

Mills is also responsible for the prominent backing vocal and harmony parts found within the band's back catalogue, with his vocal contributions arguably being most noticeable on 1986's Lifes Rich Pageant and 2008's Accelerate. In addition to providing backing melodies, he has also sung lead vocals on the songs "Texarkana", "Near Wild Heaven", The Clique cover "Superman" and The Troggs cover "Love is All Around".

Mills performing in 2004

On the possibility of an R.E.M. reunion, Mills said "We said we're done and we're done."[5] Mills described it as "31 wonderful years and the opportunity to end it on our own terms."[6] The band had been talking about disbanding since 2008.[7]

On recording records: "That's the reason we formed the band, to play live music. We didn't get together to make records. We made a record only to send it to promoters to club dates. That's the only reason the single was out there. Plus, we loved singles. That existed just to get us shows. As you grow as a band and start writing good songs, you turn to the other phase of being a musician and make a record."[8]

And on the record label R.E.M. was with for years: "Warner Bros. has been a great label for us. They were a label as much as any capitalist corporation could be. They were about artists, especially when Mo Ostin and Lenny Waronker were running the label. They had Neil Young and Van Dyke Parks on there, not because they were going to sell records, but because they were great artists to have on your label. It wasn't just about fucking shifting units. It was about art and music and creativity and you can have both. The industry gradually changed and the creativity went by the wayside. If you didn't sell units, you didn't have a job. That's sad. But selling was never a purpose of ours anyway."[8]

Mills continues to write music and perform with friends on various projects.[9] In 2012, Mills contributed piano playing to a Record Store Day single released by Drive-By Truckers member, Patterson Hood, in protest of a Walmart development being built in Athens, Georgia.[10]

Mills is a member, along with Steve Wynn, Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck, and Linda Pitmon, of The Baseball Project.[11]

Mills also performs as part of singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur's band.[12]On April 3, 2014, while performing with musical guest Joseph Arthur, Mills broke the news that David Letterman would be retiring in 2015.[13] Mills took a band selfie that he posted to Instagram[14] and did a short interview about "breaking" the story[15]

Since 2010, Mills has played with a rotating group of musicians for a series of concerts built around Big Star's seminal album, Third/Sister Lovers. Known as Big Star's Third, the concerts have taken place in London, Sydney, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York.[16]

A longtime Big Star fan, Mills wrote the liner notes for the 2014 reissue of the band's first two releases, 1972's #1 Record and 1974's Radio City.[17]


For releases with R.E.M., see R.E.M. discography.

Personal life[edit]

Annoyed at what he characterized "lazy journalism" surrounding comments about Michael Stipe (and whether he was out of the closet or not), Mills and guitarist Peter Buck "announced via YouTube that they were finally coming out too ... as straight."[20]

Mills is an avid fantasy sports player, with interest in NFL, NBA, and PGA teams, among others. He participates in leagues with friends -- two leagues that are full of fellow musicians -- and strangers.[21]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Mike Mills Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 November 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Evans, Brad (August 12, 2013). "An Interview with Mike Mills of REM". 11th Hour. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Kretsch, Ron (March 7, 2014). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills on 'Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee'" (YOUTUBE CLIP). Dangerous Minds. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Hyden, Steven (16 November 2011). "R.E.M.’s Mike Mills". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 25 November 2011. 
  5. ^ Greene, Andy (May 15, 2013). "R.E.M. Bassist Mike Mills: 'There Are Zero Plans For a Reunion'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  6. ^ Cruz, Gilbert (November 14, 2011). "R.E.M.’s Mike Mills on Saying Goodbye After Three Decades". Time. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Jarnow, Jesse. "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills Says Split Was Gestating Since '08". Spin. SpinMedia. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Jarnow, Jesse (November 16, 2011). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills on the Band's Most Underrated Record". Spin. SpinMedia. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Hyden, Steven (November 16, 2011). "R.E.M.’s Mike Mills". A.V. Club. Onion Inc. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Kane, Tyler (February 1, 2012). "Patterson Hood, Mike Mills of R.E.M. Record Walmart Protest Song". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  11. ^ Leggett, Steve. "The Baseball Project - Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  12. ^ Glide (November 14, 2013). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills Joins Joseph Arthur's Touring Band". Glide Magazine. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  13. ^ Testa, Jessica (3 April 2014). "David Letterman Is Retiring From “The Late Show”". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  14. ^ Ryan, Shane (3 April 2014). "David Letterman Will Retire in 2015". Paste Magazine. Paste Media Group. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  15. ^ Breihan, Tom (3 April 2014). "R.E.M.’s Mike Mills Announces David Letterman’s Retirement" (YOUTUBE VIDEO). Stereogum. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  16. ^ Matheson, Whitney (September 2, 2014). "Q&A: R.E.M.'s Mike Mills chats about Big Star reissues". USA Todaya. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  17. ^ News Staff. "Big Star’s first two albums to be remastered and reissued". uncut.co.uk. Uncut. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  18. ^ "Mike Guests on Jason Ringenberg's New Album Nature Jams". R.E.M. 2012-02-24. Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  19. ^ "Weekend Update: Record Store Day, Dresden, Will Rock 4 Food, Futurebirds, Finster, and Future Music". R.E.M. 2012-04-20. Retrieved 2012-04-22. 
  20. ^ Westhoff, Ben (June 16, 2008). "R.E.M.’s Mike Mills on ‘Accelerate,’ Obama, and His New Life As a Heterosexua l". Vulture - New York. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  21. ^ Tierney, Mike (April 20, 2013). "Mike Mills: A Rock Star of Fantasy Sports". New York Times. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 

External links[edit]