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R.E.M. Begins Rehearsals with New Drummer

R.E.M. is in the midst of preparations for its upcoming world tour, and according to a post by frontman Michael Stipe on the group’s official Web site (http://www.remhq.com), the band has already rehearsed 70 songs. The tour starts June 27 at the U.K.’s Glastonbury Festival and will wrap Oct. 11 in Atlanta, about 70 miles west of the group’s Athens, Ga., homebase.

R.E.M. is working with new drummer Bill Rieflin, an industrial/metal stickman who has manned the kit for the likes of Ministry, KMFDM, and Nine Inch Nails. R.E.M.’s three original members – Stipe, bassist Mike Mills, and guitarist Peter Buck – will also be augmented by longtime sidemen Scott McCaughey and Ken Stringfellow on the outing.

Stipe’s update finds the band in busy mode: rehearsing, doing press, mixing a new studio album, working on the package for a greatest-hits set due Sept. 30 from Warner Bros., creating the stage set for the tour, and designing new t-shirts.

The singer’s only hints as to the group’s new material are that “the mixes are getting wilder and louder,” and an aside about a new song: “today we played ‘Animal (The Whoa Song)’ for the first time all together. Massive.”

In March, the group posted a new song recorded during the new album sessions on its Web site. “The Final Straw” lyrically addresses the U.S. government’s decision to make war on Iraq, and joined the wave of posted protest songs by the likes of Beastie Boys, John Mellencamp, DJ Shadow and Zack de la Rocha, and Lenny Kravitz. The song may appear on R.E.M.’s next studio album, due in 2004.

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