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The Guardian music team pick their most rewarding encounters with musicians from the last year
I had a startling October, during which I got to interview Bruce Springsteen and REM. The former was the one I had been waiting for – the chance to talk to the man who had soundtracked my early middle age. But the latter turned out to be the one I felt most deeply about. REM were one of the most important bands of my teens and early 20s – in my memory, at least, I fell asleep every night listening to either Murmur or Fables of the Reconstruction on headphones. I was awfully nervous about meeting Michael Stipe, not just because his music had meant so much to me, but also because so many latter-day interviews had turned out to be cantankerous affairs. In fact, he was delightful. You’re never going to mistake him for Peter Ustinov – there are no anecdotes beginning, “So, Zsa Zsa Gabor and I boarded the Orient Express with a case of very fine whisky, a pair of budgerigars and one passport between us… ” – but he was engaging and engaged company, forthright and as honest as a rock star will ever be. Before I travelled to the States to speak to him, my 16-year-old daughter had asked who I was going to meet. I told her. “Oh, they’re cool,” she said. I pointed out she had barely listened to REM; “Yeah, but people know they’re cool anyway.” I repeated that story to Stipe. “Cool? From a 16-year-old?” he said. “I’ll take that.” Then – to my astonishment and delight – he went hunting through REM HQ for memorabilia to sign for her. I have to admit, I was on the brink of tears. Rarely has an interviewee confounded me so completely.