R.E.M. are releasing a six-disc version of their 1994 LP Monster on November 1st, complete with a remaster of the original album, a new mix by producer Scott Litt and previously unheard demos. There’s also a complete concert from the Monster tour taped June 3rd, 1995 at the Rosemont Horizon near Chicago. Rolling Stone has the exclusive preview of “Welcome to the Occupation” from that night.
The song originally appeared on R.E.M.’s 1987 album Document. “It’s very sad that it has taken on an entirely new relevance,” bassist Mike Mills tells Rolling Stone. “That song was originally more about American misadventures abroad, but certainly there are plenty of misadventures going on right here at home. In many ways, America feels like it’s been occupied. It’s certainly as relevant now as it ever was. Also, this just a rocking mix. We were playing very loudly and aggressively on that tour and it shows in that song.”
When R.E.M. first entered the studio in late 1993 to begin work on Monster, they were one of the biggest bands on the planet thanks to their two most recent albums (1991’s Out of Time and 1992’s Automatic For The People) and massive radio hits like “Losing My Religion,” “Man on the Moon” and “Everybody Hurts.” But these were relatively stripped-down records and they wanted to go in a different direction.
“We felt like, ‘Let’s turn up the guitars,’” says Mills. “At that point. Peter [Buck], who had gotten away from the electric guitar for the bulk of Automatic For The People, had scratched that itch and was ready to crank it up on the electric guitar again.”
They also had been off the road since wrapping up their grueling, 137-date Green tour in 1989. “We all realized that for our general well-being, it would be best to take time off,” says Mills. “That gave us a certain freedom to make records in the studio without having to worry about touring them, which lead to a couple of pretty good records. But by the time of Monster we were like, ‘We’re ready to go back and play some music and this time we’re going to make it loud.’ We wanted to have fun with that record and have something that would come across well in a big arena.”
Producer Scott Lit honored their request by turning the guitars way up, but he’s never loved the sound of the final product. When plans for this new box set began coming together, he asked for the chance to remix it for a bonus disc.
“He had some second thoughts about it fairly quickly after it came out,” says Mills. “I thought it sounded great. I didn’t think the vocals were buried in the mix. I thought it was supposed to be a guitar-oriented record, so I was fine with the way it sounded. On the other hand, he was a big part of our sound for quite a while. And if he felt these songs would be better served by a different approach, we certainly had no problem allowing him to take that approach. And so he did this and we felt it would be fun for deep fans to see that there are other ways to look at a record.”
R.E.M. has released deluxe versions of their most popular records over the past few years and Mills says he imagines they will continue going through the catalog. “The record companies really enjoy it, let’s put it that way,” he says. “And since we aren’t creating new music, it’s nice to show fans some aspects of what we’ve done that they wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. Going forward, if we can find enough fun things, we’ll keep doing this. There’s no reason not to.”