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Talk About The Passion 

Twenty years ago, R.E.M.'s Murmur -- one of the most influential albums in rock history -- was recorded in Charlotte

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Don Dixon, Murmur co-producer: "Mitch asked me to help out. I had consulted with him a bit on the R.E.M. EP Chronic Town, and he felt like my added experience with big-time record companies might come in handy -- at this point I had already made a few albums for major labels either as artist or producer. . ."

Mike Mills: "It was the beginning of trying to not be afraid of the studio, since we knew nothing about all the knobs and buttons and blinking lights. It was a very intimidating process, which is why we wanted Mitch -- we felt it was someone we could trust. So that was just the beginning of a very long, ongoing learning process."

Mitch Easter: "I had been to Reflection a number of times as a visitor, and had even tape-opped for Dixon a time or two. Dixon got involved because the label wanted 24 tracks! I had 16 at my place. . .I wasn't confident at that point about walking into a "real" studio like Reflection and doing a session, so I asked him to get involved. He worked at Reflection all the time, so everything was familiar to him."

Don Dixon: "I thought the band was among the most interesting of the 80s choppy-headed crowd. They came with guitars in hand and a very specific vibe, a specific sound. . .Mitch and I liked this band. We liked its quirkiness. We liked the songs they made up. We liked Michael's animal noises. We liked Bill's relentless drumming style. We liked Peter's arpeggiated guitar riffs, and we liked Mike's lead bass approach. We were very happy that we were able to preserve these unique qualities of the band. We were also glad that we were allowed to augment the overall record with interesting sounds and textures."

Mike Mills: "The record business then was not the way it is now. You could still put out a record and grow as a band both touring-wise and record-wise, and we knew that IRS gave us that opportunity, which is why we signed with them. However, given that, IRS did want hits -- they are a record company -- so they put pressure on Dixon and Easter to give it a more contemporary 80s sound, which is exactly what we didn't want. In fact, when we listened to the mixes of a couple of songs, I think "Moral Kiosk" and "Radio Free Europe," they were so discofied relative to what we wanted that Peter and I went up back up there and made Don remix them. (IRS Records') Jay Boberg had leaned so heavily on Don to give us this sound, and it was so stupid. . .The whole point is to avoid making something that sounded like it was made in the 80s. It was exactly what we didn't want, and that was the beginning of our odyssey with the record company, and, I suppose, the pressures between commercialism and art."

Mitch Easter: "(IRS wasn't pressuring us, but) they weren't thrilled with anything, either. There was a famous visit later on in the session where Jay Boberg gave Dixon this sort of toughie speech about producing a "hit,' which we all ignored."

Don Dixon: "Though IRS was skeptical about a bunch of hayseeds -- a hayseed mafia, more or less -- creating this record, they ultimately were very cool about letting us have at it. I believe that they just wanted to make a big splash at college radio -- their investment was minimal. You should take note that the band was sharing one motel room while recording this thing. . .and not even a very nice motel."

Mitch Easter: "The songs were pretty well there and mostly had been played onstage. Exceptions included "Talk About the Passion," which got sort of edited and cleaned up, arrangement-wise, and "Perfect Circle," which totally evolved into its recorded form while we were recording it. I don't remember who thought of doing "Perfect Circle" with the starting point being Bill and Mike playing two pianos at once, but the fact that Reflection had the "nice" piano along with the "saloon" one was essential to the direction that song took. Onstage, that song had been only vocal and a little Casio keyboard!"

Don Dixon: "I don't recall much writing going on in the studio. We'd go through songs and think about the structure. . .(however,) sometimes we wouldn't think about it much, and just push the record button. Lots of the intros were created after the fact and added during the mix. . ."

Mitch Easter: "(We'd) start about midday, go "til 1 or so, very informal, but fairly production-line. We mostly did basic tracks early on and overdubs later, except "Pilgrimage," which was recorded and mixed in one day and never touched again."

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