Rockers R.E.M came so close to splitting up in 1998 it took an emergency meeting to keep the group together.

The summit meeting took place after tensions between the trio threatened to wreck the recording of the group's album UP!.

Singer MICHAEL STIPE says, "When we went into that meeting things were very fragile in the band. We hadn't talked in six months. Things has completely fallen apart.

"For the first time, I was forced to imagine life without R.E.M and it was terrifying.

"As we talked, I think each of us realised just how much the band meant to us. Getting back together was like church."

Stipe states the meeting helped cure him of writer's block. He adds, "The truth is, I need a huge amount of support from PETER (BUCK) and MIKE (MILLS) and BILL (BERRY), when he was in the band. I needed their approval and support and I didn't have it, and I lost it as a writer. I found out I was nothing without them."

Bandmate Mills claims the near-split came about partly because of punctuality problems in the studio.

He explains, "When Bill was there, he was more like Peter. He would get there on time for one thing, which Michael and I aren't very good at. Peter always had someone to talk to or work with in Bill."

02/06/2003 21:07